By Jan Levine, RotoWire Senior NHL Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes a hot Blue, rolling rookies at wing and on defense, shutouts galore in St. Paul and the defending Norris Trophy winner struggling to score.
First Liners (Risers)
Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL – MacKinnon’s overtime winner Sunday against Detroit was the fifth-year center’s seventh tally of the season. With Matt Duchene now in Ottawa, MacKinnon is clearly the top dog down the middle for the Avalanche. His goal and assist Sunday gives MacKinnon 22 points in 19 games, and the main difference between this season and his last three campaigns can be seen in his shooting percentage. MacKinnon didn’t have a success rate above 8.6 per cent the past three years, but this year, he is motoring along at above a 12 percent clip; keep that in mind for a possible slight regression.
Brayden Schenn, C, STL – Schenn, who came over to St. Louis in what’s looking like a steal of a deal for Jori Lehtera, No. 27 overall in this past year’s draft and a conditional first-round pick, notched a point for the seventh straight game Saturday. The 26-year-old has racked up 26 points through 21 contests and is sporting a plus-15 rating. Schenn is skating between Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, a very tasty fantasy spot. He should be able to eclipse his career-high 59 points at this rate.
Teuvo Teravainen, RW, CAR – Teravainen scored twice and added an assist Sunday, his fourth multi-point effort in his past five contests. After a slow start, TT has five goals and seven assists in those five games, giving him eight and 11, respectively, on the year. Teravainen was dealt in July 2016 along with Bryan Bickell to Carolina in what was basically a salary dump, as the trade was an exchange for draft picks. He notched 35 points his final season as a Blackhawk and upped that total to 42 last year, but he looks to have taken a quantum leap forward this year while skating alongside Sebastian Aho.
Brock Boeser, RW, VAN – Boeser had a nine-game cup of coffee with the Canucks last year, tallying four goals and an assist. The 23rd overall pick in the 2015 draft has gotten off to a strong start with seven goals and 10 assists in 17 games while skating on the top line.
Josh Bailey, LW, NYI – Bailey, selected ninth overall in 2008, took several years to find his game. During that time, many Islanders fans wished that the team had moved on from Bailey, viewing him as a bust. Bailey finally had a breakout campaign last season, skating on the top line with John Tavares, notching 43 assists. He has shown to date that his 2016-17 was no fluke, posting four goals and 19 assists in 20 games.
Sami Vatanen, D, ANA – The Ducks’ defense has been plagued by injuries all season. Vatanen missed the first nine games recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, shortly after the return of Hampus Lindholm from a similar operation. Just before those two blueliners came back to game action, Anaheim lost Cam Fowler to a leg injury. Vatanen took a while to find his game, but now has a goal and three assists through his past five games and appears to be rounding into form.
Will Butcher, D, NJ – Butcher notched his first NHL goal Saturday and added an assist for good measure. Eventually, Butcher’s production will slow, but with a goal and 14 assists through his first 19 contests, the Devils and his fantasy owners are ecstatic about his performance. Butcher, selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, spent four seasons with the University of Denver and turned down signing with Colorado, instead inking a deal with New Jersey last summer.
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN – Despite allowing nearly an additional quarter goal per game this season, Dubnyk has still found a way to keep his save percentage in line with what he posted last year. His three straight shutouts have certainly helped. Dubnyk is seeing more shots per game and the rise in goals-against isn’t shocking given that scoring is up across the league. If Minnesota is to make a run this year, it will be Dubnyk who takes them there.
Frederik Andersen, G, TOR – Andersen notched his second straight shutout Saturday night. Those two whitewashes come on the heels of Andersen allowing just four goals his previous two starts and winning four of his last five. Andersen has been a stabilizing force between the pipes since joining Toronto from Anaheim. In the middle of a five-year, $25-million deal, Andersen will be the main man between the pipes for years to come.
Others include John Tavares, Mark Scheifele. Erik Haula, Eric Staal, Connor McDavid, Dylan Larkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mathew Barzal, Mika Zibanejad, Derek Grant, Anze Kopitar, Jack Eichel, Alex Kerfoot, Jamie Benn, Nico Hischier, Sean Couturier, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Monahan, William Karlsson, Sebastian Aho, Yanni Gourde, Gabriel Landeskog, Alexander Radulov, Filip Forsberg, Tyler Toffoli, Jakub Voracek, Reilly Smith, Johnny Gaudreau, Anders Lee, Mitch Marner, Kevin Fiala, Sven Baertschi, Conor Sheary, Kyle Connor, Anthony Duclair, Mattias Ekholm, Nick Leddy, Keith Yandle, Victor Hedman, Zach Werenski, Oscar Klefbom, T.J. Brodie, Mike Green, John Carlson, Mikhail Sergachev, Jake Allen, Connor Hellebuyck, Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Martin Jones, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anton Khudobin and Pekka Rinne.
Training Room (Injuries)
Carey Price, G, MON – Right now, your guess is as good as ours as to when Price will return to action. Out since Nov. 2 with a lower-body injury, Price is focusing on his off-ice recovery with his return to skating deemed “undetermined” by head coach Claude Julien. That lack of clarity and somewhat similar vagueness in 2015-16, when a knee injury ended Price’s season after 12 games, has to make his fantasy owners more than a bit nervous. Charlie Lindgren was solid early on standing in for Price, but the carriage may be turning back into a pumpkin after he’s allowed 10 goals his last two starts.
Others include Alexander Wennberg (upper body, missed his second consecutive game Friday against the Rangers), Auston Matthews (upper body, returned to action with a pair of goals Saturday), Marcus Johansson (concussion, missed last seven games, skating lightly on his own, no timeline for his return to practice), Brad Marchand (undisclosed, has missed last three games), Artturi Lehkonen (lower body, placed on injured reserve Saturday), Charlie Coyle (broke leg Oct. 12, returned to team practice for the first time last Tuesday), Jakob Chychrun (knee, joining team to practice this week), Torey Krug (upper body, missed last two games) and Ryan Miller (lower body, could return to practice this week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Sam Reinhart, C, BUF – Reinhart has moved from center to right wing, and from the third to first line, but that has done little to help him on the scoresheet. He raised hopes by producing a power-play goal, a power-play assist and an even-strength assist Tuesday against Pittsburgh. But that output looks to be an aberration, as he failed to notch a point the last two games and has just three goals and five assists this season.
Henrik Zetterberg, LW, DET – Zetterberg has recorded just three assists with a minus-5 rating over his last 12 games. Despite that slump, Z has four goals and nine assists this year. Detroit needs its captain to step up, because his slump has coincided with a rough patch in the standings for the Red Wings. After having a resurgence with 68 points a year ago, maybe that output was a last gasp for Zetterberg.
Brent Burns, D, SJ – After leading all defenseman with 29 goals en route to securing the Norris Trophy, Burns has yet to light the lamp through 75 shots in 18 games. This slump is perplexing, because Burns had 73 goals the past three seasons and at least 60 points in each of those campaigns. Maybe he’s gripping the stick a bit tighter than usual, possibly due to the absence of Patrick Marleau, but Burns is too good to be struggling this badly.
Others include Victor Rask, Jonathan Toews, Joe Pavelski, Wayne Simmonds, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nick Ritchie, Justin Faulk, Brent Burns, Duncan Keith, Francois Beauchemin, Jaroslav Halak, Mike Smith and Cam Talbot.