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NHL Barometer: Edmonton's Fine Rookie Class

Jan Levine

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

ROTOWIRE NHL BAROMETER
By Jan Levine, RotoWire Hockey Writer

This week's article includes Detroit's top center back to form, the third member of the Edmonton fine rookie class on a roll, a possible setback for a Pittsburgh center that can't seem to get a break (no pun intended) this year and the Ottawa captain in a major slump.

First Liners (Risers)

David Krejci, C, BOS - Krejci notched an assist on the Bruins' sole goal Saturday, giving him eight points in his last six contests. Fantasy owners will wish he would shoot a bit more, but Krejci has a solid 16 assists in 21 games this season. Krejci has had a few sizable scoring droughts this season but produces in droves when he gets on the score sheet and has meshed well on a line with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic.

Pavel Datsyuk, C, DET - Datsyuk entered 2010-11 coming off a disappointing campaign in which he saw his point production fall from 97 to 70 points. One of the reasons given for that drop was the lack of secondary scoring options on Detroit. The Red Wings added Jiri Hudler and Mike Modano this offseason, though Hudler has struggled and Modano is now hurt, but Datsyuk is back to his old form while back on a line with Henrik Zetterberg. Datsyuk has seven points in his last three games and 20 in his last 13 games to give him 36 points in 28 games for the year.

Martin Havlat, RW, MIN - Last year, Havlat got off to a slow start with the Wild after groin and hamstring injuries early in the season and he had just eight points in his first 19 games. He got into a groove in the offense in the second half and scored 46 points in his final 54 games. Havlat has picked up right where he left off last year with 26 points in the first 28 games of the year. With Havlat comes substantial injury risk, as last season was just the second time in his seven seasons that he played over 70 games, but with great risk at times comes great reward, making Havlat a worthwhile bet.

James Neal, LW, DAL - Neal built off a solid rookie year by scoring 55 points - 27 goals and 28 assists - last year in his sophomore campaign. This season, Neal scored his 12th of the season in Dallas' 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Hurricanes Friday. With the goal, Neal extended his point streak to six games where he has tallied four times and chipped in with four assists. He is as hot as any in the NHL right now, so ride the offensive wave.

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, EDM - Paajarvi, selected 10th overall by the Oilers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, left Sweden after signing a three-year deal with Edmonton this past June. In terms of name recognition, his is clearly one that sticks out, yet he was likely was selected in fantasy leagues the least behind Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in terms of Oilers' rookies. Paajarvi scored a goal and added a power-play assist in Edmonton's 4-3 shootout win Friday and now has points in his last five games (1G, 5A). He looks much more comfortable on the ice and should continue to develop into a solid fantasy producer on this young Edmonton team.

Brent Burns, D, MIN - Burns returned to the ice quickly and productively after sustaining a nasty face injury, scoring his seventh goal of the season and going plus-two in the first period Minnesota's win over Phoenix Thursday. He then went on to add a game-winning, overtime goal Saturday against the Kings. Finally, after two injury-riddled and low-scoring years, Burns' offensive skills have returned, and assuming he stays healthy, he could score around 50 points this year.

Ryan Whitney, D, EDM - Whitney scored 59 points in 2006-07 while in Pittsburgh and looked to be set as one of the next wave of young, offensive-minded defensemen. He had offseason wrist surgery after the year, which slowed him a bit, yet he had another solid year. The blow in Whitney's career was an August 2008 foot surgery that seemed to take a way his burst and landed him on three teams in the past three seasons. Whitney seems to have regained his game with 21 points in 28 games in Edmonton while also averaging four-and-a-half minutes of power play time nightly. Roll with him with confidence.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT - After an unbelievably poor start and calls for Brent Johnson to take over as Pittsburgh's starting goalie, Fleury has retaken his role as the Penguins' top netminder with a vengeance. Fleury made 34 saves Saturday in Pittsburgh's 5-2 win over the Sabres, giving him 11 wins in a row. More remarkable is that Fleury has allowed just 18 goals in those 11 games and is clearly at the top of his game.

Carey Price, G, MTL - Despite giving up three goals and losing to Detroit 4-1 Friday, Price is having a tremendous year and to date has done his part to validate Montreal's decision to keep him and trade Jaroslav Halak. Price has started 27 of Montreal's 29 games, going 17-8-2 with a 1.96 goals against average (GAA) and .935 save percentage (SV%). To contrast that, Halak, after a strong start, is 12-7-3 with a 2.30 GAA and 91.3 SV%. If you took Price in your league, enjoy the ride as he appears to be back to his rookie campaign form.

Others include Logan Couture, Mikhail Grabovski, Rich Peverley, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Sam Gagner, Tomas Fleischmann, Taylor Hall, Corey Perry, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Malone, Ray Whitney, Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla, Lucic, Nathan Horton, Kris Versteeg, Chris Kunitz, Linus Omark, David Jones, Daniel Briere, Blake Comeau, Tomas Kaberle, Jason Demers, Kevin Shattenkirk, Erik Karlsson, Brett Clark, Roman Hamrlik, Cam Fowler, Alex Goligoski, Joe Corvo, Corey Crawford, Ondrej Pavelec, Jimmy Howard, Anders Lindback, Tim Thomas, Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Brodeur (back from injury).

Training Room (Injuries)

Tim Connolly, C, BUF - Connolly (groin) skated in a non-contact role Friday and did not play Saturday against the Penguins. This was game #8 missed by Connolly, who's having quite the disappointing season so far with just 13 points and 22 games played after 65 in 73 games last year. This is the issue with owning Connolly as despite his great talent, injuries have cut short his games played nearly every season.

Andy McDonald, C, STL - McDonald caught a rut near the offensive blue line in overtime on December 4 against Edmonton and as he fell forward, he was kneed in the head by the Shawn Horcoff. McDonald has not played since then and it was announced this week that he is suffering from effects of a concussion. McDonald is out indefinitely until his symptoms clear up.

Jordan Staal, C, PIT - Staal (hand) is set for further X-rays next week rather than a return to practice. Coach Dan Bylsma would only say that calcification of the bone was found when a pin was removed from his hand last week. "Jordan continues to progress in the timeline we had before," Bylsma said Friday. "He'll keep rehabbing on his current course." Staal broke his hand on Nov. 1 and the original prognosis was for him to miss six weeks. That would put him back in the lineup this coming week. Unfortunately, that no longer looks realistic, regardless of what Bylsma say and there is strong speculation that Staal re-broke the hand.

Ales Hemsky, LW, EDM - Hemsky, who missed with a week after suffering a groin injury in practice, returned to action on December 1, but has been sidelined since. Coach Tom Renney announced this week that Hemsky could miss up to a month with the injury, which might mean that Hemsky won't be back in action until sometime in January.

Shawn Horcoff, LW, EDM - Horcoff suffered a torn MCL Tuesday versus Anaheim after colliding with Corey Perry. The good news is that Horcoff will not require surgery. The bad news is that he will still miss at least the next two months with the injury.

Jeff Schultz, D, WAS - Schultz fractured his thumb in the second period of Washington's loss to Toronto Monday and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with the injury. Schulz is not a big point producer, but he was a plus-50 last season, which has tremendous value in most leagues, especially deeper ones.

Pekka Rinne, G, NAS - Rinne was first injured against Columbus on December 1 and finally had surgery to repair a left knee injury last Friday. He is expected to miss two-to-four weeks and while he sidelined, Anders Lindback is in line to get most of the starts in net for the Predators. Rinne was on a hot streak prior to the injury, giving up just 11 goals in his previous eight starts, so this injury came at an unfortunate time.

Others include Evgeni Malkin (knee injury), Peter Mueller, David Perron, Chris Drury, Teemu Selanne (groin), Patrick Kane, Mason Raymond, Vaclav Prospal (skating), Drew Stafford, Devin Setoguchi (mysterious ailment), Steve Downie, Kristian Huselius (possibly just a few weeks away), Andrei Markov, Brad Stuart, Bryan Allen and Kari Lehtonen (back soreness).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Mark Letestu, C, PIT - After a brilliant start, Letestu crashed back to earth with a thud with just three assists in his next 20 games. Letestu had a pair of assists on December 4; then had two goals Wednesday, but he still is skating on the Penguins "Buzz line." With Evgeni Malkin out, Letestu's been given the chance to serve as the team's net-front presence during the power play, but with Malkin due back this week, Letestu will lose that time and some of his value.

Wojtek Wolski, RW, PHX - After underperforming to the point of being inconsistent with the Avalanche, the change of scenery to Phoenix helped Wolski immensely. After being traded to the Coyotes, Wolski averaged a point per game and was slated to open the year on the Coyotes' top line. Unfortunately, he has struggled again, this time in his new environment as Wolski hasn't lit the lamp and has just one point in his last seven games.

Daniel Alfredsson, LW, OTT - Alfredsson's point production dropped for the second year in a row last season, though he still averaged more than a point-per-game. This season, Alfredsson is suffering through a nightmarish campaign, as he has not notched a point since November 22, a 10-game span, giving him just 18 in 31 contests. Alfredsson has the talent and ability to get hot but it's also possible we are starting to see a decline that will continue for the future.
 
Fedor Tyutin, D, CMB - Tyutin was a healthy scratch for Columbus' shootout win over the Stars Monday and then was in the press box again Thursday. He hasn't been playing badly but his numbers are down this season, with just four assists and a plus-1 rating in 25 games. With one more NHL-caliber defenseman at his disposal than he has spots on the blue line, Columbus coach Scott Arniel seems to be using the press box as a motivational tool and a way to keep all his guys fresh. Tyutin should be back in the lineup shortly, but his ceiling seems to be 35 points.

Michael Del Zotto, D, NYR - Despite a minus-20 rating last season, Del Zotto provided the Rangers with offense from the blue line with nine goals and 28 assists, with 22 assists on the power play. This year, like several other sophomore defensemen, Del Zotto has struggled at both ends of the ice. Coach John Tortorella made Del Zotto a healthy scratch Thursday in order to allow him to see the game slow down a bit and from a different perspective. Del Zotto was back in the lineup Saturday and should produce more as the year wears on, but temper your expectations somewhat given his struggles.

Brian Elliott, G, OTT - Elliott stopped just 23 of 27 shots Thursday in a loss to the Rangers, including allowing defenseman Mike Sauer's first NHL goal for the game-winner. Elliott has now lost six of his last seven starts, although he does have two shutouts over that period. If he keeps losing, however, Pascal Leclaire, who won Friday's game against New Jersey, could really push him for playing time.

Others include Mike Ribeiro, Tyler Ennis, Niclas Bergfors, Radek Dvorak, Nick Foligno, Hudler, Phil Kessel, Nikita Filatov, Evander Kane, Jussi Jokinen, Raffi Torres, Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, P.K. Subban, Jamie McBain, Michal Rozsival, Antero Niittymaki, Niklas Backstrom, Marty Turco and Peter Budaj.

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