By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes a pair of top centers on hot teams, Klefbom rolling in Edmonton, Forsberg out for a while, and early October’s flavor of the month now lacking in fantasy spice.
First Liners (Risers)
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL
The line of Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen continues to excel, powered by the man in the middle. MacKinnon played a part in both of Colorado’s goals Sunday, notching a goal and an assist, his seventh straight multiple-point effort. Up to 19 goals and 24 assists in 27 games, McKinnon is on pace to obliterate the career-high 97 points he tallied just last season.
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
Backstrom has been Robin to Alex Ovechkin’s Batman for most of his career. Evgeny Kuznetsov assumed that role last season, but Backstrom is back with Ovie and on a roll. He notched his second career hat trick Friday, giving him seven goals and 19 points in 15 games over the last month.
Clayton Keller, RW, ARI
Selected seventh overall in 2016, Keller had a great rookie campaign, notching 23 goals and 42 assists. Because Keller plays in Arizona, he may not get the attention he deserves. Those in fantasy leagues know just how good he is, however. After a slow start to the season where the 20-year-old phenom started out with just one point (an assist) through the first five games, Keller has notched eight goals and added nine assists in 20 contests. On the right of newcomer Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan, Keller should continue to excel and post strong numbers.
Gustav Nyquist, RW, DET
Nyquist has been far from consistent this season, mixing stretches where his production has lagged with those where he is red-hot. Right now, he looks to be on one of those hot streaks again. Nyquist has five points in his last three games and is up to four goals and 17 assists on the season. An unrestricted free agent after the season, Nyquist will be a nice trade target at the deadline as Detroit is unlikely to be in playoff contention.
Oscar Klefbom, D, EDM
Klefbom appeared to have that long-awaited breakthrough campaign with 38 points two years ago, but he fell off to just 21 points last season. His slow start this season — no goals and just eight assists his first 22 games of the season — made Klefbom’s 2016-17 campaign stick out like a major aberration. Klefbom has found his form recently, posting his first two goals of the season along with four assists in his past four games, so grab him now if you can.
Frederik Andersen, G, TOR
Andersen, profiled a month ago, gets another mention as he continues to rack up wins. The absence of Auston Matthews and William Nylander did little to slow the Maple Leafs and Andersen. The Dane went 8-3-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .924 save percentage in November. He is up to 15-7-0 with a 2.30 GAA and a .931 save percentage on the year.
Mikko Koskinen G, EDM
Koskinen looks to have grabbed the starting job in Edmonton and may not give it back. Playing in the KHL last season, Koskinen appeared in 29 games, posting a GAA of 1.57 and a .937 save percentage. That performance resulted in Edmonton signing Koskinen to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. After another fine performance Saturday, Koskinen has a 7-2-1 record, 2.15 GAA and .928 save percentage through 12 games while relegating Cam Talbot to backup duty.
Others include Brayden Point, Sean Monahan, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Getzlaf, Aleksander Barkov, William Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, Rickard Rakell, Frank Vatrano, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Pontus Aberg, Nikita Kucherov, Sam Reinhart, Patrik Laine, Tom Wilson, Alexander Radulov, Tomas Tatar, Jeff Skinner, Eeli Tolvanen, Elias Lindholm, Max Pacioretty, Ondrej Kase, Brent Burns, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot, Gavin Bayreuther, Samuel Girard, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Louis Domingue, Semyon Varlamov and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Kevin Fiala, LW, NAS
Fiala has had a very uneven season, mixing strong outings with stints in the press box. More is expected from the Swiss winger, especially after he seemingly took a major step forward with 48 points in his second full campaign last season. Fiala struggles in his own zone, but he has shown that he can be a productive scorer. Maybe he has turned the corner with six points in his last six games.
Scott Mayfield, D, NYI
Mayfield has very quietly been the Islanders’ most productive blueliner by a wide margin this year. I was all in on Ryan Pulock, but Mayfield has been the better defenseman thus far. Mayfield’s two assists Saturday gave the D-man five helpers in his last five games and 10 apples to go with his three markers in 23 contests. If you have been waiting to see if Mayfield is for real, it looks like the time to jump on board.
Training Room (Injuries)
Filip Forsberg, RW, NAS
Off to a brilliant start with 14 goals and 22 points in 24 games, Forsberg is expected to miss about 4-6 weeks with a hand injury. His absence resulted in Nashville promoting Eeli Tolvanen, who has slotted into Forsberg’s top-six role. Forsberg tallied at least 26 goals in each of the past four seasons, and despite the lengthy projected absence, he should be able to finish in that range again.
Ilya Kovalchuk, RW, L.A.
Kovalchuk got off to a fine start in L.A., notching 14 points — including six with the man advantage. The change in coaches from John Stevens to Willie Desjardins resulted in a change of fortune for Kovalchuk, who went scoreless his next 11 contests and was demoted to the fourth line. Now, Kovalchuk, who signed a three-year deal with a $6.25 million cap hit, will miss the next four weeks after undergoing an ankle procedure.
Others include Paul Stastny (lower body, still a couple weeks away), Robby Fabbri (separated shoulder Saturday, likely won’t need surgery, will be re-evaluated Dec. 25), Mats Zuccarello (groin, was out Sunday, has now missed nine of New York’s last 11 games), Michael Ferland (concussion, missed last two games), Alex Pietrangelo (injured left hand Friday, will likely need surgery and will be re-evaluated after Dec. 25), John Klingberg (hand, will return around Christmas), Charlie McAvoy (concussion, started contact practices), and Antti Raanta (lower body, could play Tuesday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Brett Howden, C, NYR
Howden, who came over to the Rangers at last year’s trading deadline from Tampa Bay, somewhat surprisingly earned a roster spot in training camp. Originally thought of as a checking center, Howden showed early on that he was much more, posting nine points in his first 14 games. He suffered an upper-body injury on Nov. 4 and has notched just four points in 12 games since. Part of this slump may solely be due to regression, but the injury might also be impacting Howden’s performance.
Kasperi Kapanen, RW, TOR
Your window to trade Kaspanen for “fair value” likely ended when William Nylander signed just before the deadline Saturday. Kaspanen’s production had waned a bit the past week, but he still was seeing top-six duty. Now with Nylander back in the fold, Kapanen may be moved to the third line with Nazem Kadri, which isn’t bad but not nearly the same as playing with Auston Matthews or John Tavares.
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
Can anyone explain what has happened to Dubnyk the past few weeks? After another strong start to the season, Dubnyk has hit the skids recently. Following the game on Nov. 15, Dubnyk was 9-4-2. Since then, Dubnyk has gone 0-4-0 in that span while allowing 19 goals on 120 shots, or an .842 save percentage, in his last five appearances. For Minnesota to have any chance of winning, Dubnyk needs to find his form and quickly.
Others include Bryan Little, Kevin Hayes, Derick Brassard, Joe Thornton, Richard Panik, James Neal, Miles Wood, Danton Heinen, Bryan Rust, Valentin Zykov, Tyler Myers, Ivan Provorov, Cam Talbot, and David Rittich (only because Mike Smith is on a roll).
Will Butcher, D, NJD
Selected 123rd overall in 2013, Butcher opted not to sign with Colorado and instead was inked as a free agent by New Jersey after the 2016-17 season. He hit the ground running as a rookie last year, posting 18 points in his first 23 games, and despite slowing down, he finished with 44 points. Butcher posted eight points his first 12 games but hit the skids thereafter, notching just one point his next 12 contests before he was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Jets. He returned to the active lineup Monday, but it’s best to look elsewhere for blue-line production until he starts producing more consistently.