By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a pair of veteran centers on fire, the return of the 'Canes captain, a young blueliner showing signs of rebounding, Detroit's sniper possibly lost for the season and a scuffling, big-offseason acquisition for the Devils.
First Liners (Risers)
Eric Staal, C, Minnesota Wild
Minnesota, despite several injuries and underperforming players, is just five points out of a wild-card spot with a pair of games in hand. A big reason for the Wild remaining in playoff contention has been the play of Staal. He ended the pre-All-Star break portion of the schedule with a four-game point streak and is up to 17 goals and 21 helpers in 50 games. Staal is first in games played and points amongst those selected in the amazing 2003 NHL draft.
David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins
Injuries have cost Krejci nine games this season, but when on the ice, he has been fairly productive, especially of late. Krejci, Boston's second- or third-line pivotman, has 12 goals and 22 assists in 42 games, with four of those markers and a pair of apples in his last six games. A healthy Krejci lengthens a strong Bruins offense, taking pressure off Patrice Bergeron and the elite first line. He won't match the 73 points he tallied last season, but a strong last couple of months could result in Krejci landing in the 60-point range.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets
The All-Star break likely comes at the worst possible time for Bjorkstrand. After missing 13 games with a rib injury, Bjorkstrand came back with a bang, notching a pair of goals in both games following his return. He is up to 16 goals and 27 points with 131 shots on goal in 38 games and looks to be a fixture on the top line in Columbus. Look for a big second half from the Danish winger.
Justin Williams, RW, Carolina Hurricanes
Williams sat out the first three months of the season before inking a one-year deal with a base salary of $700,000 and up to $1.3 million in performance bonuses to return to Carolina. The 38 year old, who was the captain of the Hurricanes last season, racked up 23 goals and 53 points in 82 games in 2018-19. He took off the first half of this season for rest purposes, making his season debut Jan. 19. He notched the shootout winner in his first game and then tallied a pair of goals in his second. Williams may stay in the bottom six but should see a healthy dose of power-play time, giving him some value.
Erik Gustafsson, D, Chicago Blackhawks
Gustafsson might have carried his managers to a fantasy title last season, earning a significant profit compared to his likely cost. Overvalued coming into the season, Gustafsson struggled right from the get-go but started to turn the tide in late December/early January, notching six points in a 10-game span. He experienced another five-game scoring drought but has recently rebounded, with three consecutive multi-point efforts heading into the break. The Swede is up to 24 points, 83 shots on goal, 69 hits and 43 blocked shots in 50 games.
Ryan Graves, D, Colorado Avalanche
Graves, all but stolen from the Rangers for Chris Bigras, has blossomed into a top-four defenseman. At the time of the trade, doubts existed whether Graves would ever be more than a Quad-A — to use a baseball term — player. Graves didn't show much in a 26-game stint last year, but earned a spot out of training camp and hasn't looked back. Offensively, Graves has produced far more than expected, posting 19 points, 97 shots, 96 blocks and a plus-34 rating in 48 games, including four points in his last four outings after a nine-game drought.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Florida Panthers
The Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract this offseason in an attempt to find their bridge between the retiring Roberto Luongo and Spencer Knight, whom they drafted 13th overall in 2019. The first three-plus months or so of Bobrovksy's season did not go as expected, but he might be rounding into form. Bobrovsky notched victories in his last four starts heading into the break, posting a .922 save percentage. Florida is making a run in the Atlantic Division, and its ultimate landing spot will be greatly influenced by Bobrovsky's play.
Thomas Greiss, G, New York Islanders
Greiss ceded several starts to Semyon Varlamov due to a rough December, but he has earned back his portion of the timeshare in net thanks to his fine play lately. In the last two weeks before the All-Star break, Greiss went 3-0-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. He headed into the All-Star break with similar numbers to last season when he posted a .927 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, both of which were career bests. He is 14-7-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .925 save percentage in 24 games this season.
Others include: Connor McDavid, Aleksander Barkov, Dylan Larkin, Teuvo Teravainen, Anthony Cirelli, Charlie Coyle, Jack Eichel, Nathan MacKinnon, Mika Zibanejad, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Vincent Trocheck, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Jakub Vrana, Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Ovechkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Beauvillier, Chris Kreider, Evgenii Dadonov, Patrik Laine, Zach Parise, Mike Hoffman, Tomas Tatar, Filip Zadina, Andre Burakovsky, Kyle Connor, Brad Marchand, Bryan Rust, T.J. Oshie, Ian Cole, Quinn Hughes, Aaron Ekblad, Ryan Suter, Torey Krug, Cale Makar, John Marino, Ilya Samsonov, Jacob Markstrom, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Matt Murray, Carey Price, and Elvis Merzlikins.
Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers
If the Rangers are unable to take advantage of their heavy schedule right after the All-Star break, New York might decide to deal Chris Kreider, who is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and/or Ryan Strome. If so, Kakko, moved up to the top line briefly before the break, could be the primary beneficiary. Kakko, drafted second overall last year (who went back to Finland for the break) has been a staple on the third line, producing 16 points, including 10 on the power play, and a minus-14 rating through 36 games. The hope is that he ends up like Andrei Svechnikov, who used last year's All-Star break to refresh his body and was brilliant the last six weeks or so of the season.
Training Room (Injuries)
Anthony Mantha, RW, Detroit Red Wings
Mantha, sidelined with a rib injury, will miss at least another month and could be sidelined the remainder of the regular season. After missing eight games from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12, Mantha suited up for four games before he landed on injured reserve again, resulting from a hit by Jake Muzzin. Mantha has 12 goals and 11 assists in 25 games prior to the first injury; his absence has removed a major part of an already weak Red Wings' offense.
Others include: Cody Glass (lower-body injury, missed last seven games, could be back after the All-Star break), Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder, on long-term injured reserve, recently began skating), Colton Parayko (upper body, missed last seven games, could play Monday), Justin Schultz (knee, out since Dec. 17, off injured reserve) and Tuukka Rask (concussion, injured Jan. 14, might play Jan. 31).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks
San Jose needs Thornton to raise his game with Logan Couture sidelined six weeks due to a fractured ankle. Since Couture went down, Thornton had one goal and no assists in five games heading into Monday's game. In a six-game stretch in late December/early January, Thornton, drafted first overall in 1997, notched a goal and five assists, but he has just one goal and 12 helpers in his other 44 games this season. Those numbers are a far cry from the 16 markers and 35 helpers he tallied last season.
Nick Schmaltz, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Schmaltz is riding a seven-game pointless streak heading into the All-Star break. Before this slump, the 23 year old winger generated seven goals and 28 helpers in 44 games. The good news is that Schmaltz is still in the top-six; the bad news is that Conor Garland is on the top line. Schmaltz has plenty of upside, as evidenced by his 21-goal 2017-18 campaign, so don't give up on him just yet, but do leave him on your bench until signs of fantasy life are visible.
P.K. Subban, D, New Jersey Devils
The Devils didn't give up much to acquire Subban from the Predators. But the salary assumed sure has looked like a waste of cap space in New Jersey. Subban notched his first power-play goal on Jan. 14, and with six goals, five assists and a minus-15 rating in 48 games, Subban has not provided much as a first-pair defenseman. Whispers exist that the Devils might like to move him, but with two more years at $9 million per, dealing him won't be easy.
Others include Jack Hughes, Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Buchnevich, Brett Connolly, Alex Tuch, Michal Kempny, John Gibson, Braden Holtby, and Connor Hellebuyck.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights
The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Flower. He limped into the open time in schedule: 1-5-0 in his last six starts, with a 3.18 goals-against average and .866 save percentage. Vegas' hold on the second wild card is tenuous, partially due to Fleury's struggles. His goals-against average has risen while his save percentage has dropped for the second straight season after his brilliant initial campaign in Sin City. Hopefully, the break makes the Flower bloom again.