By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a pair of veteran centers on fire, Ovi moving up the career-goals list, Theodore rising, a hot netminder in Buffalo, Carolina losing their best blueliner and the Buds' netminder scuffling.
First Liners (Risers)
Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
Malkin stepped up his game when Sidney Crosby was sidelined and has shown no signs of slowing since Crosby has been back. He added two power-play assists Friday, giving Pittsburgh's "second line" center multi-point efforts in four of his last five games and seven goals and 22 points in the last 15 games. Overall, Malkin is up to 15 markers and 36 apples in just 36 games, as injuries have cost him nearly a quarter of the season to date.
Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews' production has been on the rise, aided by skating on a line with Dominik Kubalik. One of the faces of the Chicago franchise, Toews posted a pair of goals and as many assists Saturday, giving the 2007 third overall pick four goals and eight assists his last five games. Overall Toews is up to 14 markers and 29 apples in 49 games after jumping from 52 points two years ago to 81 last season. Ride the hot hand in the Windy City.
Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
It's almost oxymoronic to write about Ovi as a Riser, based upon his pedigree and production. But it seems like he raises the bar even higher every game. Saturday, for the second consecutive game, Ovechkin notched a hat trick, tying him with Maurice Richard for the eighth-most hat tricks in NHL history (26), and he has lit the lamp 10 times in his last six games. In the last week, Ovechkin passed Teemu Selanne (684 goals) for 11th in NHL history, Mario Lemieux (690) for 10th, and tied Steve Yzerman (692) for ninth. Next up: Mark Messier in eighth place with 694.
Taylor Hall, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Hall has been hot lately out in the Desert. His assist Thursday gave the winger six points in his last three games and 14 through 15 appearances with the Coyotes. He's at 39 points in 45 games overall to go with 155 shots on goal and a minus-10 rating. Hall's overall number still leaves a bit to be desired, but focus more on his overall production — especially recently — for the coyotes, and you get a better sense of why Arizona acquired his services from New Jersey.
Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres
Ristolainen's past production wasn't a true reflection of his play, as his advanced metrics displayed a blueliner who struggled in his own zone and whose value was propped up by his output. Despite scoring 40-plus points for the fourth consecutive season last year, even though plus-minus isn’t an accurate portrayal of one's worth, it was hard to ignore an unsightly minus-41 rating. That eyesore category was expected to pave the way for Risto's departure. But no deal emerged over the offseason, and Ristolainen has been markedly better in his own zone this year while chipping in offensively.
Shea Theodore, D, Vegas Golden Knights
Theodore potted three helpers Saturday, matching the season-high 25 he set just last season. Stolen by Vegas before the expansion draft in a deal with Anaheim, Theodore has morphed into the puck-moving, power-play-quarterback blueliner the Ducks hoped they were getting when they selected him 26th overall in 2013. Entrusted with consistent playing time, Theodore's game has grown annually as he moves into the next tier of defensemen in the league.
Anton Khudobin, G, Dallas Stars
Khudobin continues to provide solid goaltending in Dallas, backing up Ben Bishop. Heading into Saturday's start, Khudobin allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last four starts, going 3-1-0. That hot streak improved his season goals-against average and save percentage to 2.12 and .932, respectively. Of course, Khudobin then proceeded to allow four goals on 17 shots before being pulled Saturday vs. Minnesota. But despite the poor effort, Khudobin is still worth a look in DFS when he is in net.
Linus Ullmark, G, Buffalo Sabres
Ullmark has a firm hold on the netminder job in Buffalo. Heading into Saturday's start against Nashville, Ullmark — who failed to take advantage of his chances last season — was on a three-game winning streak, allowing just four goals on 77 shots during that span. He allowed just two goals on 37 shots against the Predators and has started 17 of the Sabres' last 19 games, relegating Carter Hutton to bench duty. For the season, Ullmark is 16-13-3 with a .914 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average.
Others include: Bo Horvat, Brock Nelson, Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sam Reinhart, Elias Pettersson, Dylan Larkin, Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, Anthony Beauvillier, Evgenii Dadonov, Patrick Kane, David Perron, Artemi Panarin, Kyle Connor, Tomas Tatar, Mark Stone, Dominik Kubalik, Zach Parise, Tanner Pearson, Blake Coleman, David Pastrnak Christian Dvorak, Bryan Rust, Jordan Eberle, Connor Brown, Claude Giroux, Drew Doughty, Ryan Suter, Cale Makar, Jonas Brodin, Rasmus Dahlin, James Reimer, Ilya Samsonov, Mike Smith, Philipp Grubauer, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Elvis Merzlikins.
Ilya Kovalchuk, RW, Montreal Canadiens
Like Hall, focus on Kovalchuk's production with his new team, not his overall numbers. A bust in LA, Kovalchuk has found a new lease on life since signing with Montreal. His goal Saturday gave the 2001 first overall selection four markers and as many assists in eight games for the Canadiens. Kovy is ensconced on the top line and power-play unit for the bleu blanc et rouge, a far cry from riding the press box as a healthy scratch for the Kings.
Training Room (Injuries)
Dougie Hamilton, D, Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes suffered a major blow Thursday when Hamilton took an awkward tumble while tangled with the Blue Jackets' Kevin Stenlund, resulting in a fractured left fibula. He underwent surgery Friday and is out indefinitely. According to coach Rod Brind'Amour, the injury is similar to one suffered by Jordan Staal in 2014, which wound up costing Staal three months. Hamilton was having a magical season with 14 goals, 26 assists and a plus-30 rating in 47 games.
Others include: William Karlsson (upper-body injury, injured Jan. 14, listed as week-to-week), Jeff Skinner (upper-body injury, out since Dec. 27, expected to miss 3-4 weeks, skated on his own this past week, could be back after All-Star break), David Krejci (upper-body injury, missed second straight game Saturday), Brendan Lemieux (broken hand, missed nine straight games, played Sunday), Oliver Bjorkstrand (rib/oblique, missed 13 games, returned to action with a pair of goals Sunday), Miro Heiskanen (concussion, missed Saturday's game), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches, out since end of 2017-18 season, activated Saturday), Morgan Rielly (foot, injured January 12, could miss eight weeks), Ryan Ellis (concussion, out since Corey Perry's hit Jan. 1, no timetable for return), Tuukka Rask (concussion, injured Jan. 14, out indefinitely) and Chris Driedger (groin, will miss several weeks).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Ryan Dzingel, C, Carolina Hurricanes
Dzingel's season has looked like the stock market during heavy volatility; spikes and dips. He is in the midst of a lull period. Dzingel has one goal and assist in eight games in the new year. Signed to a two-year, $6.75 million contract with the Hurricanes in July 2019, Dzingel has eight goals and 18 helpers in 48 contests. Skating on a line with Martin Necas and Erik Haula will hopefully eventually kickstart his game, but for now, plant Dzingel on your bench.
Calle Jarnkrok, LW, Nashville Predators
Jarnkrok, hot earlier in the year, extended his scoreless streak to eight games Thursday. He’s still seeing top-six minutes skating on a line with Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith, but his TOI numbers are starting to trend in the wrong direction. Jarnkrok likely will still hit career highs in goals and assists, but reaching those marks are no longer as much of a lead pipe cinch as they looked at the end of December.
Matt Niskanen, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Niskanen might be snapping out of his slump, as he has a pair of assists in his last three games. But those two helpers give him three over his last 12 outings. In addition, he hasn't lit the lamp in a month, as his last goal came Dec. 19. On the ice, his role has typically been defense-first despite his ability to generate solid offense from the blue line. The 33 year old has added 87 shots, 87 hits and 55 blocks in 2019-20.
Others include: Derick Brassard, Tyson Jost, Sebastian Aho, Nikita Gusev, Tyler Bertuzzi, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Foligno, Ryan Graves, Jonathan Quick, John Gibson, and Braden Holtby.
Frederik Andersen, G, Toronto Maple Leafs
Andersen's recent struggles continued Saturday, as he surrendered six goals to the Blackhawks. Prior to that start, January hadn't been an impressive month for Andersen, as he's recorded a .893 save percentage and 3.73 GAA, though oodles of offensive support have afforded him a 2-0-2 record. Michael Hutchinson has been better between the pipes lately, but the Maple Leafs haven't provided him additional playing time. If Andersen continues to slump, that could change.