By Jan Levine, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes a no-name center producing in Carolina, a superstar pest in Beantown that’s hot again and a big-name bearded blueliner on a roll.
First Liners (Risers)
Derek Ryan, C, CAR – Ryan burst on the scene last year with 11 goals and 18 assists in 67 games. It took the third-line center until he was 29 to get a full-time role in the NHL. Ryan is making the most of the chances, building off last season’s success. His goal and assist Friday as well as the assist on Carolina’s game-winning goal Saturday give Ryan six goals and 12 assists on the year. That one-year, $1.42 million contract he signed in June of 2017 sure looks like a bargain.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS – Kuznetsov fell off from 20 goals and 57 assists in 2015-16 to 19 and 39 last season. That drop-off didn’t seem to change the Capitals’ view on the 25-year Russian pivot, as they signed him to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension in July 2017.Kuznetsov has rewarded Washington with 10 goals and 25 assists through 33 games.
Milan Lucic, LW, EDM – Lucic scored a goal and added an assist Saturday, giving him 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his last 10 games. In addition, Lucic has dished out 36 hits in that span, maintaining his power-forward status. Lucic lacks the foot speed to score off the rush, but his ability to carve out space and use his physical skills to create and take advantage of his chances still make him a dangerous weapon.
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS – Marchand extended his point-streak to eight games and 12 points with a goal in Boston’s 3-2 OT loss to the Rangers on Saturday. That streak began in the first game Marchand played after missing two weeks with an undisclosed injury. After scoring 39 goals and adding 46 assists last year, Marchand was off to a slow start prior to getting injured. However, his current hot streak now has him sitting at 13 goals and 14 assists in 22 contests.
Brent Burns, D, SJ – The slump is over. Burns, who lit the lamp 29 times last year and 27 the year before, had just one tally through the first 26 games. As a Burns owner, I was trying to figure out what was wrong and if I should cut bait. I’m glad I didn’t, as Burns has five lamp-lighters his last five games, so hopefully his production takes off from here.
Zach Werenski, D, CLM – Werenski posted 11 goals and 36 assists with a plus-17 rating as a rookie last season, and concerns that he would suffer a sophomore slump have been alleviated thanks his strong start this year. The 20-year old blueliner has already notched 10 goals and added eight assists in 32 games. His play has really picked him lately while paired with Seth Jones, a duo that should continue to remain together.
Brian Elliott, G, PHI – Elliott stopped 27 of 28 shots to pick up his sixth straight victory Saturday over the Stars. In that stretch, Elliott has allowed just nine goals on 178 shots. Elliott’s overall numbers still leave a lot to be desired, but it’s hard to argue with rolling with him nightly. One big caveat is that the Flyers are allowing close to 30 shots a game, which will likely eventually come back to bite them.
Corey Crawford, G, CHI – Crawford doesn’t always get a lot of respect and isn’t universally considered an elite goalie, but all he does is win. After missing three straight games with an undisclosed injury, Crawford has reeled off five straight impressive victories, allowing two or fewer goals in each start, and he’s now 16-7-2 on the season with a .935 save percentage. In his last full season, Crawford has put up between 30 and 35 wins and should at least match that total again this year.
Others include Tyler Johnson, John Tavares, Henrik Sedin, Mikael Granlund, Nathan MacKinnon, Brian Boyle, Brayden Point, Danton Heinen, Eric Staal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Marian Gaborik (400th goal, 1,000th game), Gabriel Landeskog, Nikolaj Ehlers, Anders Lee, Mats Zuccarello, Nikita Kucherov, Craig Smith, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Reilly Smith, Brandon Saad, Vladimir Tarasenko, Phil Kessel, Alexander Radulov, Josh Bailey, Tyler Toffoli, Matt Niskanen, Torey Krug, Rasmus Ristolainen, Shayne Gostisbehere, John Klingberg, Brady Skjei, Jacob Trouba, Mattias Ekholm, Dmitry Orlov, Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask, Alex Stalock, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Jake Allen and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Training Room (Injuries)
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN – Dubnyk suffered a lower-body injury last Tuesday against the Flames and is considered week-to-week. The good news is that Dubnyk is travelling with the Wild on a four-game road trip that started Sunday in Chicago. DD could be back just before of after Xmas, but Alex Stalock had played in his stead until Sunday’s loss to Chicago, so Minnesota may not need to rush their #1 netminder back into action.
Others include Logan Couture (in concussion protocol, day-to-day), Brandon Dubinsky (broken orbital bone in fight, could miss two months), Ryan Kesler (hip surgery, will return during Ducks’ six-game road trip, likely right after Xmas), Auston Matthews (upper-body, missed fourth straight game Friday), Mika Zibanejad (concussion, could play Tuesday against Anaheim), Sven Baertschi (hit by puck in the face last Saturday, broken jaw, out 4-6 weeks), Ryan Callahan (shoulder, will miss 3-4 weeks), Taylor Hall (knee contusion, day-to-day), T.J. Oshie (upper-body, could play Tuesday), Corey Perry (knee, placed on IR on Tuesday), Dustin Byfuglien (upper-body, week-to-week), Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion, returned to action Tuesday) and Cam Talbot (lower-body, returned to action Saturday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Derick Brassard, C, OTT – It’s been a nightmarish season in Ottawa, as the team has failed to meet expectations,, especially after acquiring Matt Duchene. Ownership is taking the brunt of the ire while management has asked players to provide their no-trade lists. One player who could be on the moved is Brassard, who is signed through next season at $5 million per year. As our recent update noted, after exploding out of the gate with six goals and 10 points through his first 10 games of the season, Brassard went 20 consecutive contests without finding the back of the net, collecting just seven assists during the drought. Maybe his goal this week will turn the tide, but I am less than sold on that happening.
Michael Frolik, LW, CGY – Frolik posted consecutive 42-point seasons his two years in Winnipeg after starting his career in Chicago. He parlayed those two good years into a five-year, $21.5 million contract with the Flames in July 2015. Frolik played just 64 games in 2015-16, his first in Calgary, posting 32 points, but rebounded to notch 44 points last year. He has yet to crack the 50-point barrier and his production has taken a nosedive, as he has just 13 points in 33 games.
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI – De Haan notched an assist Saturday, giving him four points his last 15 games — three of which have come in the last four. De Haan has 12 points in 33 games after posting 25 last season, so he is trending upwards. But with Johnny Boychuk back, de Haan takes a step back in the blue-line pecking order.
Robin Lehner, G, BUF – Lehner has played better lately, posting at least a .923 save percentage in each of his last five games, going 2-1-2 in that stretch. Overall, the poor play in front of him, coupled with Lehner’s own struggles, has resulted in the Buffalo netminder winning just three of his last 14 games. Playing in front of the league’s worst offense has hurt the Swedish backstop, so look elsewhere for a starting goalie.
Others include Jori Lehtera, Jason Spezza, Anders Bjork, David Booth, Jakob Silfverberg, Matt Beleskey, Travis Hamonic, Brad Hunt, Nick Holden, Ron Hainsey, Thomas Greiss, Scott Wedgewood and Martin Jones.