This week’s article includes the other center in Toronto, Drouin doin’ in Tampa, another Tkachuk on a roll, Laine sidelined and the top dog in LA scuffling.
First Liners (Risers)
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR – It’s choose your poison in Toronto. If it’s not Auston Matthews that beats you, then it’s Mitch Marner or William Nylander or Kadri. The last name in that list scored for the third straight game and fourth in five contests Saturday to give him 16 on the year. Kadri is just four markers behind his career-high and halfway to his best showing of 50 points, both set in 2013-14.
Ryan Kesler, C, ANA – I admit that I highly discounted Kesler’s rebound last season, viewing it as a fluke. How wrong have I been? He tallied his 16th goal on Sunday to go with 19 assists through 42 games. His ice time has risen by over a minute per game and he is seeing three-plus minutes on the man-advantage while still playing a physical game. A 30-goal campaign, his first since 2011-12, seems highly likely.
Jonathan Drouin, RW, TB – The long-term absence of Steven Stamkos has created a major hole in the Tampa Bay offense. Stepping in to fill the breach, especially lately, has been Drouin. He notched a goal and assist Sunday, giving him 19 points – including nine goals – in his last 17 contests. Overall, Drouin, the third pick of 2013, has 12 goals and 26 points in 34 games, helping to partially put last year’s rough season and difficulties with team management in the rearview mirror.
Sebastian Aho, LW, CAR – Aho, who saw his four-game point streak end Thursday and then failed to score Friday, hit twice on Sunday, including the winner, to help defeat Boston. Those two points give the Finn 12 in his last 16 games, including six in his last eight contests. The 35th overall selection in the 2015 Draft played three years for Karpat in the Finnish League before coming over to Carolina this year, so he is not your typical 19-year old, inexperienced rookie.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW, CGY – Tkachuk saw his rookie and franchise-best nine-game point streak end Monday, as Calgary was shut out 2-0 by Winnipeg. In those nine games, Tkachuk had a goal and nine assists giving him seven goals and 25 points in 39 games. Tkachuk has star pedigree being the son of Keith Tkachuk, and was selected by the Flames sixth in last summer’s Draft following a stellar junior career. Get on board now before it’s too late.
Jeff Petry, D, MTL – The surprising offensive uprising from Petry continued Saturday, as he notched as pair of assists. Those points give him 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his last 13 games, as he continues to take advantage of Andrei Markov’s (groin) absence. Petry and Nathan Beaulieu have proven to be a highly effective second pairing for Montreal and the former is within four points of tying his career-high, set in 2011-12 with Edmonton.
Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN – Spurgeon’s career high is 29 points and a plus-11, but that may pale in comparison to what he posts this year if he can maintain his current pace. Spurgeon, who is either the first or second right-handed D-man, netted his fifth goal Sunday. Add in 12 assists, a plus-22 rating and 69 blocked shots through 35 games and you get a sense just how good and valuable Spurgeon is to Minnesota.
Cam Talbot, G, EDM – Talbot was an All-Star snub Tuesday, despite numbers that clearly warranted a spot. His solid start Sunday made it 12 straight games with a save percentage of at least .900. That stat is nice, but what is most impressive would be the fact Talbot owned a .931 save percentage during that stretch, losing just twice in regulation since the start of December. Naturally, Talbot threw all that out the window Tuesday, stopping just 26 of 31 shots in a loss to the Sharks. While the Edmonton defense is mildly better, he leads all goaltenders in games played, minutes, saves and shot attempts, further evidence of how much he deserved a spot in the annual exhibition.
John Gibson, G, ANA – Gibson, after a small rough patch, has found his game again in his last five starts. His 2.46 GAA is a far cry form the 2.38 he posted a year ago while his .918 save percentage is at least in reasonable range to last season’s .920 number. Anaheim is in the midst of a run with Gibson backstopping the side, as he did in posting a 34-save shutout Tuesday.
Others include Eric Staal, Mikael Backlund, Andreas Athanasiou, Sam Reinhart, Bo Horvat, Auston Matthews, Ryan Johansen, Mike Fisher, Sam Gagner, Joe Pavelski, Sidney Crosby, Mikko Koivu, Ryan O'Reilly, Michael Grabner, Alexander Radulov, Cam Atkinson, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan Hartman, Paul Byron, Anthony Mantha, Jakob Silfverberg, Nikolaj Ehlers, Max Pacioretty, J.T. Miller, Patrick Kane, Conor Sheary, Wayne Simmonds, Thomas Vanek, Mark Stone, Shea Weber, Victor Hedman, Nick Holden, Justin Schultz, Brent Burns, Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby, Martin Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Training Room (Injuries)
Patrik Laine, RW, WPG – Laine, profiled as a Riser last week, unfortunately lands on the Training Room side of the ledger. The cause for that placement was the huge – but clean hit – by the Sabres’ Jake McCabe, the result of which has sidelined the young star with a concussion. Prior to the injury, Laine extended his point streak to four with an assist, giving him 37 in 42 games. There is no timeframe for his return.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL – Gallagher underwent surgery Friday for a fractured left hand and is expected to be out at least eight weeks. Unfortunately the injury was friendly fire, as he was hit by teammate Shea Weber’s slap shot on Wednesday. Gallagher wasn’t having the type of breakthrough campaign predicted before the season, with just 18 points in 39 games, but his absence will remove a critical part of the Canadiens’ lineup.
Others include Nick Bjugstad (groin, out at least one more week), Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed, on injured reserve, out three more weeks), Ryan Getzlaf (lower-body injury, day-to-day), Jamie Benn (foot, day-to-day), Rick Nash (groin, out until at least Jan. 13), David Backes (concussion, returned to action), Pavel Buchnevich (back/core, sent to minors, could be back soon), Tyler Toffoli (lower-body, still not skating), P.K. Subban (groin, on IR, out at least one more week). Matt Murray (lower-body, practiced Monday) and Craig Anderson (wife’s illness, could be back at end of January/early February).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Anze Kopitar, C, LA – Kopitar posted just his fourth goal and 12th assist in 36 games Monday against the Stars. Those numbers are well short from what we are accustomed of seeing from him. The stud LA center has historically been an advanced stats guru favorite while also producing on the score sheet. This year, however, Kopitar’s output is way down, along with several other Kings.
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL – It's been a year to forget for Schwartz. Last year, a broken ankle cost him 49 games but he looked solid after returning to action, posting 22 points in 33 games. This year, a broken elbow sidelined him the first few weeks of the year and he has been unable to maintain a consistent level of performance. Schwartz had a hot November but regressed in December and was scoreless in his last six contests until notching an assist Tuesday. Eventually the worm will turn, but bench him until you see signs of life.
Damon Severson, D, NJ – Severson was counted on to make up for the absence of Adam Larsson following his trade to Edmonton. He more than met that burden, notching three goals and nine assists in the first 15 games of the year. Since then, the bloom has more than faded off the rose, as Severson has notched just eight assists over his past 27 games. Add in a minus-25 rating with just 61 shots through 42 games and you can see why owners in leagues with daily moves are sending him to the waiver wire.
Calvin Pickard, G, COL – Pickard ended a five-game losing streak by stopping 35 of 36 shots during a win over the Islanders on Friday. It's been a year to forget for the Avalanche as a whole, but Pickard has done his best filling in for Semyon Varlamov, even with the poor play in front of him. A 7-11-1 record with a 3.06 GAA and .902 save percentage only warrant a spot in your lineup as a bench or fill-in goalie.
Others include John Mitchell, Matt Cullen, Blake Comeau, Anthony DeAngelo, Fedor Tyutin, Jakub Kindl, Petr Mrazek, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mike Smith.