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NHL Barometer: Young Blue Jacket on the Rise

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.

This week’s article includes a young pivot on a roll in Columbus, the move from Detroit to Philly paying major dividends for a Flyers winger, a major injury that will cost a member of the Blues at least three months and a Canadiens center struggling in Year 2 in Montreal.

First Liners (Risers)

Derick Brassard, C, CMB – Brassard, the sixth overall pick in 2006, had three assists Wednesday night in Columbus’ 8-1 defeat of St. Louis The three assists extended his point streak to eight straight games and gave him a total of 11 points (5 G, 6 A) over that span. Brassard opened the year on a youth line with Nikita Filatov and Jakub Voracek but was moved up to the top line alongside Rick Nash with Kristian Huselius sidelined and Antoine Vermette struggling, a move that has paid great dividends for both Brassard and Columbus.

Brian Boyle, C, NYR – Boyle scored twice in New York’s 4-3 loss to Washington Tuesday. The two goals gave Boyle seven for the year in just 16 games; already surpassing his previous career-high of four set last year. Boyle was a scorer in college and in the AHL, but until this year, he had struggled to translate those skills to the NHL. The ride will likely end son, but take advantage of it until then.

Michael Frolik, LW, FLA – I drafted Frolik in the last round of my home league, figuring I had a steal. Early in the year, he was far from a steal, and when deciding whom to waive to grab Ryan Callahan, I opted for Frolik. Lately he has made me look extremely foolish for that move, scoring four goals and four assists in his last five games to rebound from his benching at the end of October. Unlike Boyle, Frolik should remain hot for a while longer and is worth a look in nearly all formats

Daniel Cleary, RW, DET – Cleary scored in his fourth straight game, potting a pair Thursday against Edmonton. The Red Wings’ third line of Cleary, Mike Modano, and Todd Bertuzzi has been on a roll, with Cleary the hottest of the trio. In addition, Cleary has also seen some time with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, which only enhances his ability to produce. Cleary notched back-to-back 20-goal campaigns in 2006-07 and 07-08 and it wouldn’t be surprisingly to see him hit that total against this season.

Ville Leino, LW, PHI – Leino certainly didn't impress in Detroit before coming over to Philadelphia in a midseason trade; but after not doing much with Philly in the regular season either, he erupted to the tune of 21 points in the playoffs as Philadelphia marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. So far this season, Leino has built off his fine postseason, scoring 13 points in 16 games, including a goal and six assists in his last seven contests.

Erik Karlsson, D, OTT – After a slow start, rumors of a demotion, and more importantly, landing on the Fallers side of the column, Karlsson has turned it around. Karlsson notched two assists Tuesday – his second straight game multi-assist contest – and has eight points in his last 11 games. Karlsson is seeing copious amounts of ice time, including on the man advantage, and his 180 bodes well for future success this year.

Brent Burns, D, MIN – This is what we wrote in our pre-season outlook for Burns. “It was a lost season for Burns in 2009-10 as he missed two months with a concussion. He was supposed to be the primary beneficiary of the move from a defensive trap system to a more open attack, but he never got situated in the offense. He still scored 20 points in 47 games. He has the offensive skill set since he played wing early in his career while having the size to play defense. If he can stay healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, he could be a breakout candidate.” So far, we look somewhat prescient as Burns has eight points in 13 games and has shown no sign of the concussion issues that plagued him last year.

Carey Price, G, MTL – The pressure and bullseye were squarely on Price following the Canadiens’ offseason decision to deal playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and keep Price. That pressure has been ratcheted up a bit with Halak off to a sterling start, but so far, Price seems up to the task. Price notched his first shutout of the year Tuesday and is now 9-5-1 with a 2.28 goals against average and .918 save percentage. The latter two marks are the best in his career to date and he is showing no signs of wilting in the spotlight.

Anders Lindback, G, NAS – Lindback has been rock solid for the Predators. He sports a 2.76 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage through seven games, which is somewhat skewed by his one poor start in which he gave up five goals to Anaheim last Sunday. More importantly, his team is rewarding him with plenty of experience as the secondary goalie option behind Pekka Rinne. Lindback is worth owning in keeper leagues and deep fantasy pools at this time.

Others include: Peter Regin, Patrice Bergeron, Alexander Steen, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Burmistrov, Saku Koivu, Derek Roy, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov, Claude Giroux, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Justin Williams, Chris Stewart, Alexander Semin, Marian Hossa (back from injury), Raffi Torres, Brad Stuart, Sergei Gonchar, Joe Corvo, Andrei Markov, Alexander Edler, Nicklas Lidstrom, Alex Pietrangelo, Marc Methot, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonas Hiller, Niklas Backstrom, Peter Budaj, Antero Niittymaki, Dan Ellis and Brian Elliott.

Training Room (Injuries)

David Krejci, C, BOS – Krejci, who was knocked out of last Saturday's game against the Blues after hitting his head on the dasher board following a check from T.J. Oshie, continues to show improvement and was experiencing only "very mild" headaches as of Wednesday. From what we are hearing, it looks like Krejci will avoid the sort of long-term absence that Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron endured with their severe concussions. However, the Boston Globe speculates that the "moderate" concussion Krejci suffered will keep him out for at least 2-to-3 weeks. Hopefully that will be the extent of it, but as we have seen, diagnosing return dates from concussions is very tricky.

T.J. Oshie, LW, STL – Columbus forward Sammy Pahlsson got tangled up with Oshie during a scrum involving several players Wednesday. Oshie’s leg got caught underneath his body as he fell to the ice with Pahlsson landing on top of him, resulting in a broken ankle for Oshie. At the time of the injury, Oshie led the Blues with 10 points and was a key reason why the team was off to a 9-2-2 start. Oshie underwent surgery Thursday and will miss a minimum of three months, which is a major setback for both him and his team.

Shane Doan, RW, PHX – Doan landed on the Fallers side of the column last week due to his poor play and now has the ignominious delight of landing in the Training Room section. Doan suffered the dreaded LBI last Friday and has not played since. There has been no indication as to when Doan will return to the Coyotes lineup, and no word has been provided as to what the injury is, so all his owners can do is wait and hope he is back in action shortly.

Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR – Gaborik, who played in just three games before being sidelined with a separated left shoulder, returned to action Thursday. Gabby missed 12 games with the injury and returned at the tail end of the 2-to-4 week estimated absence. From all reports Gaborik is not 100 percent, so while there has to be some worry of further injury, get him back in your lineup immediately if you own him.

Willie Mitchell, D, LA – Mitchell, injured last Saturday, will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a fractured wrist. Previous reports were all over the board regarding the severity of Mitchell's injury and when the test results would be available, but the team revealed Monday afternoon that Mitchell is going to be out until December. Mitchell is not an offensive defenseman, but he did have five points and a solid plus-seven in 13 games.

Others include: David Perron, Matthew Lombardi, Guillaume Latendresse, Steve Downie, Kristian Huselius, Cory Stillman, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Shawn Horcoff, TJ Galiardi, Kyle Quincey, Carlo Colaiacovo and Craig Anderson (back in two weeks?).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Scott Gomez, C, MTL – Gomez has posted some of the worst numbers of his career through the first 15 games of the 2010-11 season. With only one goal and two assists through the first 15 games, Gomez has really struggled to produce; and the result has been the second line, consisting of Brian Gionta, Gomez and a plethora of others, has not had much success. Gionta and Gomez have identical stat lines and continue to search for the missing link that may provide an offensive spark. With three more years left on the seven-year, $51.5-million deal Gomez signed with the Rangers in July 2007, Montreal may either have to deal with a cap albatross or find a way to either buy Gomez out or dump him in the AHL to free up cap room this offseason.

Patric Hornqvist, RW, TB – Hornqvist has underachieved a bit this season with six points (5G, 2A) in 14 games, including just two goals in his last eight contests. This puts him on pace for 30-35 points this season, which would be well short of the 51 he registered last year. It's possible that losing Jason Arnott as his center year may be affecting Hornqvist’s totals. However, Hornqvist continues to see top-six minutes, averaging over 16 minutes of ice time per night, with over three minutes coming on the power play. Keep monitoring his performance, and don't hesitate to put him on your fantasy bench if you have someone else who is more productive.

Jussi Jokinen, LW, CAR – Jokinen is still seeing power play duty, but he has been working on the fourth line with Jon Matsumoto and Tom Kostopoulos. It has been a quick decline for Jokinen, who was moved off the top line in training camp. Jokinen is a minus-9 in the plus/minus category and is far off his 65-point pace from a year ago. We believe it will be tough sledding for Jokinen to get back to his scoring ways as long as he is this far from a scoring line, and with Jeffrey Skinner and Sergei Samsonov seeing duty on the top two lines, no changes are forthcoming.

Fedor Tyutin, D, CMB – Tyutin’s two assists are his only points this season despite averaging the third most time on ice - 20:23 - among Blue Jackets skaters. Tyutin's lack of production could lead to reduced playing time as fellow Columbus defensemen Marc Methot, Anton Stralman, and Rostislav Klesla all have more points than Tyutin, who had 32 and 34 points the last two seasons.

Brent Johnson, G, PIT – Early in the season, with Marc-Andre Fleury struggling, Johnson carried the load between the pipes for the Penguins. The carriage may be turning back into a pumpkin as Johnson has been blasted in two of his last three starts. Coach Dan Bylsma said he started Johnson on Wednesday over Fleury because Fleury lacks confidence, so it will be interesting to see who Bylsma turns to Friday. Regardless of who plays, Fleury still should be the long-term answer in Pittsburgh with Johnson remaining in the backup role.

Others include: Jordan Eberle, Tyler Bozak, Brayden Schenn, Joe Pavelski, Antoine Vermette, Ray Whitney, Josh Bailey, Taylor Hall, Ilya Kovalchuk, Blake Comeau, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Matthew Carle, Jamie McBain, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Keith Ballard, Cam Barker, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Nikolai Khabibulin, Pekka Rinne, Mike Smith and Brian Boucher.