By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes JT on a roll, Laine scoring at a record clip, EK65 settling in, several big name players sidelined long-term and a scuffling Hellebuyck.
First Liners (Risers)
John Tavares, C, TOR
Picking up the slack for the injured Auston Matthews and absent William Nylander, Tavares fired home his 15th goal of the season Saturday. The score put him on pace for 50-plus goals. Add in 13 assists and Tavares is averaging over a point per game. If he can stay healthy, Tavares could exceed the 86 points he scored in the 2014-15 campaign.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, CLM
Dubois was a hot sleeper candidate coming into the season. A mildly slow start likely cooled the ardor of some and resulted in Dubois getting dropped in shallower leagues. Those savvy owners who snatched up Columbus’ top center are reaping the benefits now. Dubois is up to 12 goals and 10 assists in 24 games while skating on a line with Artemi Panarin and the red-hot Cam Atkinson.
Patrik Laine, RW, WPG
Five goals in a game pretty much automatically nets you a spot on this side of the ledger. Laine potted that many lamp-lighters Saturday against the Blues. With that quintet of tallies, the Finnish winger now has a league-leading 19 for the season. Laine became just the fifth player since the 1996-97 season to have a five-goal game. He also became 14th in the modern era to score at least three hat tricks through a team’s opening 22 games of a season, continuing his stellar run over the first three seasons of his career.
Jeff Skinner, RW, BUF
Skinner notched his 18th goal of the year and his ninth in his last nine games Saturday against the Red Wings. An unrestricted free agent after the season, Skinner was acquired form Carolina this past offseason in a deal that looks to be a steal for the Sabres so far. Skinner is up to 26 points in 24 games and has helped Buffalo win nine straight games.
Josh Bailey, LW, NYI
Bailey doesn’t appear to have missed Tavares this season while building off last year’s success. His goal and assist Saturday upped him to seven goals and 14 assists in 23 games after he notched 71 points a year ago. Bailey has seen time with Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson but mainly has skated on New York’s top line with Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier.
Erik Karlsson, D, SJ
We all knew it was just a matter of time before Karlsson settled in as a Shark. His power-play goal and two assists gave Karlsson two goals and six assists in his last six contests. It snapped his seven-game scoring drought. Karlsson still likely hasn’t fully acclimated to the West Coast, but all signs are trending up for the stud Swedish blueliner.
Mathew Dumba, D, MIN
Dumba extended his point streak to six games with a pair of assists Friday. In that span, Dumba has posted five goals and nine points. After tallying a career-best 14 goals last season, Dumba has already lit the lamp 10 times this season. With 17 points in only 23 games, the 24-year-old blueliner seems intent on blowing by last year’s career-high of 50 points.
Marc-Andre Fleury G, SJ
Fleury’s save percentage is down from his magical first campaign in Las Vegas, but he’s still good. The Flower notched his league-leading fourth shutout Friday and matched that performance with his fifth shutout Saturday. After a slow start, Fleury is 5-1-0 in his last six contests and is up to 12-8-1 on the season. If Fleury can stay healthy, 30-plus wins should be in order.
Others include Bryan Little, Kevin Hayes, Nathan MacKinnon, Elias Pettersson, David Krejci, Sean Couturier, Matt Duchene, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Point, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Kerfoot, Filip Chytil, Rickard Rakell, Andreas Athanasiou, Josh Anderson, Kyle Connor, Jake Guentzel, Johnny Gaudreau, Travis Konecny, Andrew Shaw, Tomas Tatar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Tanner Pearson, Max Pacioretty, Mike Hoffman, Claude Giroux, Blake Wheeler, Nikita Kucherov, Micheal Ferland, Cam Atkinson, Matthew Tkachuk, Tom Wilson, Colin Miller, Miro Heiskanen, Tyson Barrie, Ryan McDonagh, Aaron Ekblad, John Carlson, Louis Domingue, Linus Ullmark, Tuukka Rask, Casey DeSmith and Thomas Greiss.
David Rittich, G, CGY
Mike Smith may have played his way out of the Calgary goaltending job with his slow start to the season. That loss of role has been aided by Rittich’s fine work while stepping in for the veteran. Rittich is now 6-1-0 with a .928 save percentage and 1.86 GAA in the last seven games. A formal changing of the guard hasn’t occurred, but it’s likely only a matter of time before Rittich is handed the starting reigns for good.
Training Room (Injuries)
Vincent Trocheck, C, FLA
Trocheck suffered a fractured ankle last Monday when his leg appeared to get caught behind him as he went into the boards. He underwent surgery Wednesday and will be sidelined indefinitely, though there is a good possibility he will return before the end of the season. Prior to being injured, Trocheck racked up 14 points in 18 games as he looked to build off the career-best 75 points he tallied last season. In his stead, Nick Bjugstad has moved up from the third to second line.
Others include Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body, missed sixth straight game Monday), Brock Boeser (groin, missed 13th consecutive game Saturday, might play Tuesday), Kyle Turris (undisclosed, injured Friday, placed on IR), Auston Matthews (shoulder, out since Oct. 27, could play Wednesday), Patrice Bergeron (ribs, placed on IR, expected to miss at least four weeks), Patric Hornqvist (concussion, missed Saturday’s game), Alex Steen (upper body, sat out his fifth straight game Saturday), Alex Edler (lower body, out since Oct. 24, returned to the lineup Saturday), Shea Weber (returning Tuesday), P.K. Subban (upper body, skating), Matt Murray (lower body injury, on IR, out long-term), Roberto Luongo (knee injury, same as prior, missed Saturday’s and Monday’s games), Brian Elliott (lower body, placed on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 15), Jonathan Quick (knee, could play during LA’s current road trip) and Antti Raanta (lower body, returned to action Friday, but banged up again).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Nolan Patrick, C, PHI
Patrick, unlike in his rookie season, started the campaign relatively strong. After not scoring in the first four games of the year, he went on a stretch where he tallied five goals and nine points in 10 games. As a newbie, the 2017 No. 2 overall pick took a while to get going, but he caught fire at the end of the season. He posted eight goals and 16 points in his final 24 games. That turned out to be more than half of his regular-season point total, as the 19-year-old finished the campaign with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 games. After that fine 10-game stretch, Patrick is scoreless in his last 10 contests. He is still receiving two more minutes a game of ice time, so don’t jump ship just yet.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
Tarasenko entered Saturday’s contest against Winnipeg with no goals, six assists and 26 shots on net in his prior eight games. Despite being rightly outshone by Laine, Tarasenko finally lit the lamp Sunday against the Jets. Maybe that tally or the switch in head coaches from Mike Yeo to Craig Berube will be the elixirs needed to kick-start Tarasenko’s game. After scoring 40 in 2015-16, Tarasenko “dipped” to 39 the following season and 33 last year. With only seven goals in 22 games, he is on pace to finish with less than 30 markers.
Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG
Lately, Hellebuyck has looked more like the goalie that struggled in 2016-17 rather than the netminder who helped carry the Jets to the Western Conference Finals last year. In 2016-17, Hellebuyck posted a 2.89 GAA and pedestrian .907 save percentage. He rebounded last year to cut his GAA by half-a-goal per game while upping his save percentage to .924; the best of his career. This year, the American netminder has been inconsistent, ranging from brilliant outings to ones that leave you shaking your head while posting ratios of 2.91 and .910.
Others include Oliver Bjorkstrand, Anders Bjork, David Backes, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Frk, Michael Dal Colle, David Perron, Shayne Gostisbehere, Nick Leddy, Vince Dunn, Troy Stecher, Chad Johnson, Scott Darling, Cory Schneider, Corey Crawford and Martin Jones.
Jake Muzzin, D, LA
Muzzin set a career high with 42 points last season and it was the third time in four years he reached the 40-point plateau. He also notched 100-plus hits and 100-plus blocked shots for the fourth season in a row, adding to his fantasy value. Unfortunately, so far this season, Muzzin is scoring like his 2016-17 season where he produced only 28 points, as he has just a goal and four assists in 23 games. The saving grace for those who use these categories is that Muzzin is on pace for well more than 100 hits and blocked shots again.