Sunday Daily Puck: Top Cat
Sunday Daily Puck: Top Cat

This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.

Around the Rink

First overall draft picks tend to get a lot of attention. They are the premiere prospects in the sport based on their lofty draft status, which also typically subjects them to extra scrutiny when they struggle. It's kind of amazing then that we don't hear more about the amazing rookie season Aaron Ekblad, 2014's first overall selection, is having.

It's not that Ekblad isn't getting any attention, in fact, one recent piece suggested he should be considered not for the Calder trohpy, as rookie of the year, but for the Norris, as the league's best defenseman. With 18 points in 30 games, Ekbald is pacing for 50 points on the nose, which is impressive enough, but it also ranks him a healthy 23rd overall among defensemen and third among all rookies. He's managed an equally impressive 60 shots through his first 30 games – and offense was supposed to be the part of his game that developed most slowly! Ekbald also has been able to keep a plus-5 rating and good puck possession numbers – 52.7 CF% – while playing more than 22:00 per game (one of only four rookies to see even 20 minutes).

The point here is obvious – at the tender age of 18 (he doesn't even turn 19 until February), Aaron Ekblad is a stud in both real and fantasy hockey. If you were lucky enough to get him in a keeper league you're holding him for the next decade or only trading him for top-tier talent. The rest of us will be cursing our luck (or short-sightedness) for just as long. A Norris would be tough this year considering all of the great defensemen in the league, but it's easy to imagine one (or more) in his future.

Now, onto the preview of Sunday's games.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)

For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.

Colorado Avalanche (Calvin Pickard*) at Detroit Red Wings (Petr Mrazek*), 6:00 PM
Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen) at Edmonton Oilers (Viktor Fasth), 6:00 PM
Buffalo Sabres (Michal Neuvirth) at Boston Bruins (Tuukka Rask), 7:00 PM
Carolina Hurricanes (Anton Khudobin) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs (James Reimer) at Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta), 7:00 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Ray Emery) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 9:00 PM

*Confirmed Starters

Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday

Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov, G - Varlamov (groin) joined the Avalanche on their three-game road trip and resumed practicing Saturday, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports. (12/20/2014)
Jamie McGinn, LW - McGinn (back) underwent surgery Wednesday and isn't expected to play again in 2014-15, Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. "It went really well," coach Patrick Roy said of McGinn's procedure, "But I would not be surprised if he's out for the season." (12/11/2014)
Jesse Winchester, LW - Winchester (concussion) resumed practicing with his Avalanche teammates during their ongoing three-game road trip, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reports. (12/20/2014)
Ben Street, C - Street has been placed on IR with a hand injury. (12/4/2014)

Detroit Red Wings
Jonas Gustavsson, G - Gustavsson (shoulder) was on the ice earlier this week for conditioning work, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (12/13/2014)
Stephen Weiss, C - Weiss (shoulder) will not be in the lineup Sunday, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports. (12/20/2014)
Jimmy Howard, G - Howard (lower body) is being evaluated by team doctors Saturday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (12/20/2014)

Dallas Stars
Patrick Eaves, RW - Eaves (ankle) will miss four-to-eight weeks but will not require surgery, Mark Stepneski of the Stars' official site reports. (12/10/2014)
Jordie Benn, D - Benn (illness) has been ruled out from playing Friday against the Flames, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. (12/19/2014)
Ryan Garbutt, RW - Garbutt was suspended three games Thursday for a slew-foot on Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien in Tuesday's game, USA Today reports. (12/11/2014)

Edmonton Oilers
Nikita Nikitin, D - Nikitin (back) resumed skating with the Oilers on Saturday, Jack Michaels of the Oilers Radio Network reports. (12/20/2014)

Buffalo Sabres
Mike Weber, D - Weber (knee) resumed skating Friday, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. (12/19/2014)
Matt Moulson, LW - Moulson will miss Saturday's game against Colorado with an illness, Paul Hamilton of WGR Sports Radio 550 reports. (12/20/2014)
Torrey Mitchell, RW - Mitchell's foot injury is considered to be a week-to-week concern, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. (12/18/2014)
Tyler Myers, D - Myers left Saturday's game against Colorado with a lower-body injury and will not return, Paul Hamilton of WGR Sports Radio 550 reports. (12/20/2014)
Tyson Strachan, D - Strachan (lower body) will not play in Saturday's game against the Avalanche, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. (12/20/2014)
Cody McCormick, C - McCormick (lower body) was able to get in a brief skate before Saturday's practice, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports. (12/20/2014)

Boston Bruins
Simon Gagne, LW - Gagne is away from the Bruins on a personal leave of absence, Joe Haggerty of csnne.com reports. (12/10/2014)

Carolina Hurricanes
Jordan Staal, C - Coach Bill Peters said after Tuesday's morning skate that he's hopeful Staal (leg) will be ready to play by the end of December, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (12/16/2014)
Jiri Tlusty, LW - Tlusty (upper body) will not play Thursday against the Maple Leafs. (12/17/2014)
Alexander Semin, LW - Semin (lower body) has been ruled out for a return to action Saturday against the Rangers, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports. (12/20/2014)
John-Michael Liles, D - Liles (illness) took part in Saturday's gameday skate, but appears unlikely to play later in the evening against the Rangers. (12/20/2014)
Andrej Nestrasil, C - The Hurricanes placed Nestrasil (upper body) on IR on Monday. (12/15/2014)

New York Rangers
Lee Stempniak, RW - Stempniak will undergo testing for the mumps virus and will be isolated from the Rangers for the next five days, Andrew Gross of The Record reports. (12/18/2014)
Joey Crabb, RW - Crabb is being isolated from his teammates at AHL Hartford on Thursday and will be evaluated for the mumps virus. (12/18/2014)

Toronto Maple Leafs
Leo Komarov, LW - Komarov (concussion) skated with the Leafs' strength and conditioning coach prior to Friday's practice, David Alter of MapleLeafs.com reports. (12/19/2014)

Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan White, RW - White (chest) is expected to report to AHL Lehigh Valley on a conditioning assignment next week, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (12/20/2014)
Steve Mason, G - Mason (upper body) will visit a back specialist Monday, Dave Issac of the South Jersey Courier Post reports. (12/20/2014)
Shayne Gostisbehere, D - Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday that Gostisbehere (knee) may resume skating next week, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (12/20/2014)
Ryan White, RW - White (chest) is expected to report to AHL Lehigh Valley on a conditioning assignment next week, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. (12/20/2014)
Steve Mason, G - Mason (upper body) will visit a back specialist Monday, Dave Issac of the South Jersey Courier Post reports. (12/20/2014)
Zac Rinaldo, LW - Rinaldo left Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury and will not return, the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac reports. (12/20/2014)

Winnipeg Jets
Zach Bogosian, D - Bogosian (lower body) isn't likely to skate until the middle of January, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. (12/18/2014)
Jacob Trouba, D - Trouba (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. (12/18/2014)
Mark Stuart, D - Coach Paul Maurice announced Thursday that Stuart will be out until February with a lower-body injury. (12/18/2014)
Toby Enstrom, D - Enstrom (lower body) won't resume skating until early January, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. (12/18/2014)

Hot

Marian Gaborik, RW – While Gaborik's season totals aren't especially impressive (14 points in 21 games going into Saturday) he has produced six of those points in his past three games. When he is healthy, Gaborik is still capable of high-end offense, but he has already missed more than a dozen games, which tells you all you need to know about the risk you take with him. See if his recent hot streak could bring back someone with a similar ceiling, but more reliability.

James van Riemsdyk, LW – Despite playing in Toronto, JVR seems to be a bit under the radar as he follows up a strong 2013-14 season in which he produced 30 goals and 60 points with a strong start that has produced 28 points in 32 games. He has put up 11 points in his last 10 games and continues to click with Phil Kessel. As long as he does, he has the upside to be your first or second left-winger.

Cold

Taylor Hall, LW – The Oilers are a mess; there is no doubt about it. As poor as the team's goaltending and defense has been, surely the team is worried about its young star winger too. After putting together a strong season last year with 80 points, he has just 18 points so far and he has just one assist in his past seven games. Perhaps the trade rumors or the team's unsettled coaching/management situation is affecting Hall, but for the moment he isn't doing much to help his owners.

Matt Duchene, C – Duchene seemed to take the leap last year right along with his team posting almost exactly a point per game in 70 games, but this year has been a tough go for both him and the Avs. He has just 20 points in 30 games and has seen his shot rate fall slightly while recording just two points on the power play. He has two points in his last five games following a relatively productive stretch before that. Has shown the ability to go off this year despite the low point total as he has produced five multi-point efforts, but a bit more consistency would help as he also has seven stretches of at least two games without a point.

Recommended Pickup

Adam Henrique, C – Players on the Devils are sometimes overlooked due to their historically defensive approach. As a result Henrique isn't going to be your top center, but the 24 year-old has 20 points in 27 games and has maintained his shot rate coming off a 43-point 2013-14. Henrique is also clicking well on the power play, having recorded nine of his points with the man advantage, yet somehow he is owner in just 22% of Yahoo leagues, which seems incredible. Henrique is skating with ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr and as long as he is he will maintain his value in medium and deep leagues.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Noel Baldwin
Noel Baldwin is a hockey and baseball beat writer, and writes about Sunday Daily Puck, for Rotowire.
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