By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes Ottawa benefitting from the acquisition of a second-line winger, a sniper returning to prior form, a young blueliner in Tampa Bay, Rask rolling and a former Hart trophy winner off to a slow start.
First Liners (Risers)
Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar suffered through a miserable season last year, tallying just 60 points in 81 games, down from 92 points in 2017-18. His strong start to the current campaign is making his production in 2018-19 look more like an aberration than the beginning of a negative trend. Kopitar potted a goal and an assist Saturday and an assist Sunday, giving the Slovenian center a pair of markers and six assists in just five games this season. That pace will slow, but Kopitar should cross the 70-point barrier once again.
Laine racked up 36 goals his rookie season and 44 his sophomore campaign. He started his third season in the NHL like he would obliterate both marks. But 12- and 15-game goal droughts resulted in Laine finishing the season with 30 tallies, half of which came on the power play. Signed to a two-year bridge deal for $13.5 million just before the 2019-20 year started, the 21 year old has been on fire to start the year, collecting 11 points in the Jets' first seven games as he looks to show that he deserves a long-term contract.
James Neal, RW, Edmonton Oilers
Neal, mentioned last week in the others listing, gets bold treatment this week. Four goals in a game warrant mention on this side of the ledger. Neal only managed to total seven goals and 19 points in 63 games with the Flames after racking up 25 goals and 44 points with Vegas in 2017-18. Dealt to the Oilers for Milan Lucic in a salary dump, Neal is enjoying life on the power play with McDavid, notching six of his eight markers on the man-advantage.
Hamilton is one of several Hurricanes who could have been profiled this week. Saturday's marker was Hamilton's fourth in just six games this season. After Jake Gardiner signed with Carolina, Hamilton was mentioned as a possible trade candidate. Justin Faulk was the blueliner shipped out instead, leaving Hamilton on the top defensive pairing and power play in Carolina. He is seeing three-plus more minutes of ice time — including one-plus minutes more on the man-advantage — aiding in his hot start. His production dropped the prior two seasons, but he could hit the 50-point mark again, as he did in 2016-17 in Calgary.
Sergachev, fleeced by then-GM Steve Yzerman from Montreal for Jonathan Drouin, continued his hot start to the season Saturday. His assist against Ottawa gave the young blueliner six points — all assists — tying him for the team lead. That status won't continue all season, but he has matured into a top-pairing defenseman while seeing second line power-play duty. Sergachev could contend for the 50-point plateau as early as this season.
Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins
Rask stopped all 31 New Jersey shots Saturday to notch his first shutout of the season. After seeing his goals-against average rise the last two seasons, Rask has allowed just four goals on 100 shots his first three starts of the year. Jaroslav Halak will be used liberally between the pipes, affording Rask sufficient rest during the season. But expect Rask to get back to the 30-win level after finishing short of that number for the first time in six seasons last year.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Vancouver Canucks
Markstrom has a 2.23 GAA and a .926 save percentage through four starts this season. Thatcher Demko is up in Vancouver, but Markstrom is the clear No. 1 netminder for the Orcas. After winning 23 and 28 games, respectively, the last two seasons, Markstrom, who stopped 30 of 32 shots in a shootout win for his fourth victory of the season against the Flyers on Saturday, could cross the 30-win plateau for the first time in his career thanks to the better supporting cast around him. Markstrom was granted a leave of absence by the Canucks to tend to a family matter but will join the Canucks at some point on their upcoming four-game road trip, which starts Thursday in St. Louis.
Others include Sidney Crosby, Ryan Johansen, Jack Eichel, Anthony Cirelli, Mark Scheifele, Brock Nelson, Teuvo Teravainen, Max Domi, Erik Haula, Leon Draisaitl, Dustin Brown, Mark Stone, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tyler Bertuzzi, Patric Hornqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, David Perron, Mike Hoffman, Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Svechnikov, Ryan Ellis, Brent Burns, John Carlson, Sean Walker, Neal Pionk, Oscar Klefbom, Philipp Grubauer, Carter Hutton, Linus Ullmark, Mikko Koskinen and John Gibson.
Phillip Danault, C, Montreal Canadiens
Danault doesn't get much love in the fantasy community, but he is sneakily productive. He skates on the top line and centers the first power play unit for the bleu blanc et rouge. After tallying 25 points in 52 games in 2017-18, missing most of the season after suffering a concussion in January, Danault established career highs in assists (41) and points (53) last year. He figures to hold off Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and/or Ryan Poehling to maintain his first-line status, aiding his production.
Vladislav Namestnikov, LW, Ottawa Senators
Namestnikov, apparently destined for bottom-six deployment in New York, got a new lease on life with his trade to Ottawa this week. The Rangers were looking to free up cap space and create room for the kids while the Senators had available cap space and likely figure they can flip Nam for a higher return at the trade deadline. Namestnikov, skating on a line with ex-Ranger Artem Anisimov and at times, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, posted two goals and an assist against his former Tampa squad Saturday and has four points in three games in his new surroundings.
Training Room (Injuries)
Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Point, who had offseason hip surgery, made his season debut Thursday. Expected at one point to possibly miss all October, Point returned quicker than expected and notched a pair of goals and an assist in his season debut. Point inked a three-year, $20.25 million extension in the offseason after posting a 92-point campaign, rising from 40 to 66 to 92 points in his three seasons in the NHL.
Others include Cody Eakin (undisclosed, made season debut Saturday on line with Cody Glass), Bryan Little (concussion, still on injured reserve), Robert Thomas (upper-body injury, missed fifth straight game Monday), Josh Anderson (upper body, was placed on injured reserve), Jordan Eberle (lower-body injury, may miss a few more games), Corey Perry (broken foot, could return Wednesday) and Ian Cole (hip, close to returning to action) and Antti Raanta (lower body, made season debut Saturday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Nick Suzuki, C, Montreal Canadiens
Suzuki saw more than 16 minutes for the second straight game Saturday but has just one point on the season. Coach Claude Julien is using the neophyte on the second power play unit as well as on the second line. Suzuki was dropped to the fourth line briefly last week due to his unwillingness to battle along the boards and in the dirty areas. But Suzuki quickly got the message and improved his play in both areas. His value is mainly in keeper leagues, but he should improve as the year wears on, like Andrei Svechnikov last season, and gain fantasy relevance the second half of the season.
Taylor Hall, LW, New Jersey Devils
New Jersey is a mess, dropping to 0-4-2 with a 6-4 loss to Florida on Monday. Hall's poor production hasn't helped the situation, as the former Hart Trophy winner entered that game with just three assists on the year but did net his first goal and add a helper in the loss. Hall followed his MVP campaign with 37 points in 33 games last season before being shut down for arthroscopic knee surgery. He has yet to sign a long-term deal to remain in New Jersey and a poor season could partially impact his ability to receive a large contract.
Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals
Holtby took a step back in 2017-18 but rebounded in the playoffs to carry the Caps to their first Stanley Cup title. His regression continued last season and has shown no signs of abatement this year. Holtby surrendered six goals on just 38 shots Thursday and he has now given up nine goals on 76 shots for a .882 save percentage through his first three starts this season. He entered this season on the final year of his five-year, $30.5 million contract with heir apparent Ilya Samsonov waiting in the wings. A changeover could come sooner rather than later.
Others include Eric Staal, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Hertl (finally notched his first goal Sunday), Wayne Simmonds, Alexander Steen, Ryan McDonagh, Shayne Gostisbehere, Cory Schneider, Devan Dubnyk, and Juuse Saros.
Jared Spurgeon, D, Minnesota Wild
Spurgeon got off to a horrific start, posting a minus-eight rating and zero points his first three games of the season. He finally got on the scoreboard, notching a goal and two assists Saturday and added a helper in the first period Tuesday. As we noted in our pre-season outlook, "He enjoyed a career-best campaign while fellow defenseman Mathew Dumba nursed a torn pectoral, collecting 43 points — 11 on the power play — and 24:09 of average ice time." With Dumba healthy and Ryan Suter still on the blueline, Spurgeon will see less power play time, which could adversely impact his production.