This week’s article includes Joakim Who?, Big Ben in Tampa Bay, several top-six players out and a struggling No. 1 center in Canada’s Capital.
First Liners (Risers)
Mikael Backlund, C, CGY – Backlund has 11 goals and 19 assists in 58 games, which doesn’t look like anything special. But six of those goals have come in the last eight, meshing nicely on the second line with Michael Frolik and Joe Colborne. Calgary is playing out the string, so Backlund should continue to see solid playing time.
Joakim Nordstrom, C, CAR – Deeper leagues are won by finding diamonds in the rough and surprising production where you can. Nordstrom qualifies in both regards. He has six goals and five assists his last 13, giving him eight and 12 on the year. The Swede is still seeing third line minutes and basically no power-play time, but does have value in some leagues, especially ones with positional requirements.
Charlie Coyle, RW, MIN – Coyle went from 14 to 30 to 35 points the last three years but left you wanting and expecting more. The Wild may be getting that more now. Coyle, who was sent to Minnesota in the Brent Burns trade several years ago, has four goals in his last six with eight of his 18 markers coming in his last 13. He is skating on Minnesota’s top line and with 31 points, he's now just four shy of his career high from last year.
Phil Kessel, RW, PIT – Kessel hasn’t had the kind of season people expected when he came to Pittsburgh this offseason. He has just 19 goals and 19 assists in 58 after 80 and 61 points the past two years combined. But since the last day of 2015, Kessel has produced like the Penguins and fantasy owners assumed, with nine goals and nine assists in 22 while seeing time on the second line, although he has also skated on Sid the Kid’s trio.
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB – Callahan did his best to make the Rangers look bad for dealing him for Martin St. Louis by scoring 24 goals and adding 30 assists while helping lead Tampa to the Cup Finals after signing a six-year, $34.8 million contract in June of 2014. This season, things haven’t gone as well, as Cally has just eight goals and 14 assists. However, Callahan seems to be on the rise, notching three goals and six assists in his past 10.
Colton Parayko, D, STL – Parayko was the Golden Boy of fantasy leagues and a hot free agent pickup early on when he got off to a blazing start. Like many rookies, his performance leveled off and he likely ended up on many benches. Hopefully if you own Parayko, activate him as he has taken advantage of the hole left by Alex Pietrangelo’s absence with a goal and six assists in his past eight. Piet is likely back in the next 10 days or so, but if the Kevin Shattenkirk trade rumors come to fruition, Parayko will be the beneficiary.
Tyson Barrie, D, COL – Barrie has been on fire, notching two goals and five assists his last six. That production has upped his season totals to 10 goals and 40 points, 18 of those on the power play. It’s quite possible Barrie exceeds his career-high of 53 points, set last year, and 13 goals, from 2013-14.
Ben Bishop, G, TB – Forgive the double-dipping (selecting two players on a team) in the Risers category but that will happen twice this week. Bishop is coming off two marvelous campaigns but his numbers this year, at least in the non-wins category, are just as good. Big Ben had posted a 2.13 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, bettering those earlier marks from the past two seaons in GAA but just behind in SV%. If he and the Bolts get red-hot the next 23 games, maybe he can exceed the 37 or 40 wins from the last two years; but, even if not, he is having a fine campaign.
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN – Dubnyk and the Wild have really picked up their games since Mike Yeo was replaced with Jack Torchetti, winning four in a row (three with Dubnyk in net) until Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders. After a magical run last season after arriving in Minnesota, Dubnyk returned to earth this season, posting decent but not great numbers. If he can maintain his current level of play, the Wild should stay in the Western Conference Wild Card hunt.
Others include Derek Stepan, Connor McDavid, Ryan Getzlaf, David Krejci, Max Domi, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Zack Smith, Brandon Dubinsky, Derick Brassard, Anze Kopitar, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Staal, Ryan Kesler, Alexander Wennberg, Brad Marchand, Robby Fabbri, Erik Haula, Loui Eriksson, Jannik Hansen, Boone Jenner, Tomas Hertl, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Wayne Simmonds, Cam Atkinson, Kevin Hayes, Zach Parise, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, David Perron, Jamie Benn, Corey Perry, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dmitry Orlov, Kevin Connauton, T.J. Brodie, Kris Letang, Michael Stone, Shayne Gostisbehere, Mathew Dumba, John Klingberg, Braden Holtby, Henrik Lundqvist, Al Montoya and Craig Anderson.
Training Room (Injuries)
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT – Malkin, who has missed nine straight with a knee injury, practiced Tuesday for the first time since getting injured. While he will not play Wednesday, a return is closer. Prior to being sidelined, Malkin tallied five goals and seven assists in 10 and has 23 and 26 in 49 for the season.
Ryan O'Reilly, C, BUF – O'Reilly will miss three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury that is believed to be to his foot. ROR, who leads Buffalo in scoring with 49 in 59, is the team’s top center and his absence leaves a big gap in the lineup. Jack Eichel moves up to the top-line center spot while Sam Reinhart has shifted back to the middle.
Alexander Steen, LW, STL – Steen suffered a left arm/shoulder injury Saturday after getting checked into the boards by Kevin Connauton that will keep him out at least four weeks. His absence robs the Blues of their second leading scorer. Steen, with 47 in 61, tallied 62 and 64 points the last two seasons. St. Louis will need to find someone who can slide in next to Patrik Berglund and David Backes.
Brian Elliott, G, STL – Elliott was injured in a scramble of bodies in front the net Monday and suffered a lower-body injury. There is no definitive word on what the problem is or its extent but he will be evaluated in four weeks. The former Senator, 17-7-6 with a 2.14 GAA and a .929 SV%, had assumed the role of top netminder after Jake Allen was sidelined on January 8. Allen just returned and will now be the main man between the pipes for the Blues while Elliott is sidelined.
Others include Aleksander Barkov (upper-body injury, expected to play Thursday), Tyler Bozak (head, skated Tuesday, out a bit longer), Claude Giroux (upper-body, out second straight game Tuesday), Bryan Little (head, missed second straight Tuesday), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand, still not ready to practice), Nikita Kucherov (lower-body, day-to-day), Radim Vrbata (undisclosed, out a week), Niklas Kronwall (knee, activated Tuesday after missing 15 games), Alex Pietrangelo (knee, skated Tuesday), Ryan McDonagh (jaw/neck, could play against St. Louis or Dallas), Jason Garrison (upper-body, skated Tuesday) and Karri Ramo (torn ACL, done for the year).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Kyle Turris, C, OTT – Turris has been held off the scoresheet since returning to action after missing six with an ankle injury. Not only is Turris scoreless in those eight games, it’s been 12 since he notched a point and 23 without a goal in regulation. The center was rolling until he suffered a leg injury in December and it looks as though he is not back to 100 percent.
Troy Brouwer, RW, STL – The early returns show Washington fleecing St. Louis in the Brouwer-T.J. Oshie trade. The former has just 24 in 62 and currently on the Blues’ third line. Oshie, despite having a down year, has 35 points. A final decision on this trade can’t be determined until we see how each player and team performs in the playoffs, but for fantasy leagues, Brouwer has produced less than expected.
Justin Schultz, D, EDM – Schultz has a permanent place on the trade block, thanks to another subpar season in Edmonton. Schultz, making $3.9 million this season, has just three goals and seven assists and is minus-19 in 44 while also serving as a healthy scratch at times. Both sides need a parting of ways.
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR – When the Maple Leafs acquired Bernier, the hope was he would be both the preferred short and long-term goalie over James Reimer. Nearly three years later, the fan base now hopes he is gone sooner rather than later. Bernier has wilted in front of the spotlight in Toronto, failing to grab a hold of the job, albeit behind a porous defense.
Others include Brad Richards, Jori Lehtera, Mathieu Perreault, Bo Horvat, Antoine Roussel, Tanner Pearson, Alex Chiasson, Patrick Eaves, Patric Hornqvist, Patrick Sharp, Michael Frolik, David Savard, Danny DeKeyser, Tyler Myers, Jonas Hiller, Eddie Lack, Chad Johnson and Ben Scrivens.