By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes last year's No. 1 overall pick catching fire, Hertl the Turtle heating up, the Calder Trophy favorite rolling in Colorado, Marner out at least four weeks, Letang down for a while and a slumping Bob.
First Liners (Risers)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Ottawa Senators
Pageau entered November with three goals and as many assists in 11 games. This month, he's reeled off five goals and an assist in six games, lighting the lamp in four. Pageau benefitted recently from the absences of Logan Brown, who is close to returning, and Artem Anisimov, who could be sidelined long term. Besides, Colin White has just returned from his injury, so enjoy the ride while it lasts, but jump ship at the first sign of regression.
Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils
New Jersey has had the kind of start most pundits expected following its influx of talent this offseason. One of those players who came on board was Hughes, the first overall pick in June's NHL Entry Draft. Hughes has yet to set the league afire, but he has shown signs lately of why he went No. 1 and why most believe he will be a dominant force. Hughes has four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, skating on the second line while seeing more than four minutes of ice time on the man-advantage. The future is bright for the Devils' pivotman.
Tomas Hertl, LW, San Jose Sharks
Hertl started the season extremely slowly but has more than made up for it. He has three goals and six points in his last three games and is now up to a point-per-game in 18 contests. Hertl produced career highs in goals (35), assists (39) and power-play points (15) last season, taking a major step forward after tallying 46 points the year before. His recent hot streak has him on pace to exceed several of the career highs he set last season as a major cog in the San Jose attack.
Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche
Makar continues to excel in Colorado, helping the Avalanche withstand several injuries to front-line personnel. His two goals Saturday keeps the rookie blueliner on a point-per-game pace with four markers and 13 apples in 17 games, eight of those points coming on the man-advantage. Makar's pace will slow, but his substantive time-on-ice during Av's power plays means he will have a good chance of racking up relatively easy points to aid his Calder Trophy candidacy.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Tampa Bay Lightning
Shattenkirk was profiled little more than a month ago when he got off to a strong start for the Lightning. He took less money and years to sign with his hometown Rangers, but injuries and ineffective play — continuing a pattern that started his last season in St. Louis — wreaked havoc to that deal. After getting bought out Aug. 1, Shattenkirk inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with Tampa Bay four days later. Shattenkirk posted three goals and an assist through the first four games of the year and hasn't slowed much since. He is on another roll, riding a four-game, six-assist streak to give the New Rochelle, NY, native a remarkable 13 points in 15 games.
Anders Nilsson, G, Ottawa Senators
As I wrote last week, I usually like spreading out the love on this side of the ledger, avoiding selecting players from the same team where possible. But for the second column in a row, I’ve highlighted a forward and goalie from the same team. This week, it's Pageau and Nilsson, the latter named as First Star of the Week. While a formal changing of the guard has not yet happened, for all intents and purposes, Nilsson has taken over as the No. 1 netminder in Ottawa from Craig Anderson. Nilsson started three of the last four games and seven of the last 11, and this season he was 4-3-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average (GAA) and .930 save percentage.
Of course, all those numbers were prior to Monday, when he was pulled after giving up four goals on just 20 shots, but I still believe what I wrote earlier regarding Anderson and Nilsson is accurate. The Senators have played better than expected, so even though Nilsson's GAA and possibly save percentage may not be elite, he should rack up a healthy number of saves and wins by virtue of the volume of games played.
Mikko Koskinen, G, Edmonton Oilers
Last week, it was Mike Smith highlighted. This week, it's Koskinen. Coach Dave Tippett has been unpredictable as to which goalie will start nightly, though a fairly even platoon has been at hand. Koskinen posted a 29-save whitewash Friday versus the Devils for his first shutout of the year and the fifth of his career. Koskinen was 6-1-1 with a 2.18 GAA and a .927 save percentage through nine games, compared to Smith's 5-4-0 record, 2.22 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Those numbers improved with his 29-save performance in a 6-2 win over the Ducks on Sunday. Koskinen played for the Islanders in 2010-11 and then went back to Europe before signing with the Oilers prior to last season, where he played in 55 games. Even though he is in a timeshare, Koskinen's numbers warrant a roster spot and likely a place on your active team.
Others include Eric Staal, Aleksander Barkov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Auston Matthews, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jack Eichel, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Strome, Sam Reinhart, Artemi Panarin, Jonathan Drouin, Robert Thomas, David Perron, Patrick Kane, Max Pacioretty, Gustav Nyquist, J.T. Miller, Evgenii Dadonov, Joonas Donskoi, Brock Boeser, Anthony Duclair, Kevin Fiala, Tom Wilson, Elias Lindholm, Jaden Schwartz, Alex DeBrincat, Jakob Chychrun, Torey Krug, Anthony DeAngelo, Jared Spurgeon, Jeff Petry, Alex Pietrangelo, Connor Hellebuyck, Henrik Lundqvist, Frederik Andersen, Matt Murray, Jordan Binnington and Thomas Greiss.
Bryan Rust, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins
Rust might be traveling beneath the radar in medium-to-large leagues. But his recent production should make him a target in nearly all formats. Rust, who missed the first seven weeks of the season after blocking a shot with his hand in the preseason, has recorded at least one point in each of his six games played this year, including four goals in his last three outings. His scoring pace will cool, but Rust still should be productive skating on the second line with Evgeni Malkin.
Robby Fabbri, LW, Detroit Red Wings
In many instances, a player will benefit from a change of scenery, just to alter the narrative and shock the player. Fabbri, at least early on, looks to fit that narrative. Injuries, including a pair of torn ACLs, and rumors of personal issues plagued Fabbri in St. Louis, leading to his trade to Detroit last week. With a clean slate, a fresh start and on a team desperate for scoring, Fabbri, skating as the second-line left winger, tallied a pair of power-play goals in his debut Friday and an assist Sunday. A 2014 first-round pick, Fabbri should get every chance to succeed in Hockeytown, USA.
Training Room (Injuries)
Mitch Marner, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs nation held its collective breath that Marner's ankle injury, suffered Saturday, was not serious. An MRI revealed a sprained ankle, which will sideline Marner at least four weeks. After tallying 61 and 69 points his first two seasons in the league, Marner — the fourth overall pick in 2015 — broke through with 94 points last season. Signed to a six-year, $65.4 million contract in September 2019, Marner has 18 points in 18 games. Toronto has solid forward depth but Marner's extended absence could have a material impact on their offensive production.
Others include Sidney Crosby (lower-body injury, blocked a shot Saturday, missing Tuesday's and Friday's games), Mika Zibanejad (neck, missed last six games, missing next three games, possibly back Nov. 20), Bryan Little (perforated eardrum, sidelined long term), Vincent Trocheck (lower-body injury, out since Oct. 19, returned to action Sunday), Erik Haula (knee, missed fourth consecutive game Monday), Mikko Rantanen (lower-body injury, out since Oct. 21, skated by himself before Monday's practice with a non-contact jersey. Might be back in a week or so), Jake DeBrusk (lower-body injury, injured Nov. 5, out Tuesday), Alex Tuch (upper-body injury, suffered setback), Kris Letang (lower-body injury, termed as week-to-week), Torey Krug (upper-body injury, out Tuesday's game) and Nikita Zadorov (broken jaw, week-to-week).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Brock Nelson, C, New York Islanders
Nelson has failed to light the lamp the last eight games, though he does have four assists in that span. Signed to a six-year, $36 million contract extension with the Islanders in May 2019, Nelson has four markers and seven helpers in 16 games this season. Nelson recorded 25 goals and posted a career high in points (53), assists (28) and plus-minus (plus-20) in 2018-19, partially prompting New York to re-sign him to that long-term extension. Centering the second line, Nelson should re-find his scoring touch, but for now, he might warrant a place on your bench.
Craig Smith, RW, Nashville Predators
Smith scored his second goal of the season Thursday, his only other tally coming Oct. 24 against Minnesota. Add in just four assists and Smith has a meager six points in 17 games. The 30 year old eclipsed 20 goals in five of the previous six seasons, so there is some hope for a rebound. But he is seeing more than a minute-and-a-half less in ice time per game and his third line placement will make an increase in production difficult.
Erik Johnson, D, Colorado Avalanche
Johnson notched a pair of assists Thursday, giving the veteran defenseman three points this season. The 31 year old is coming off consecutive 25-point seasons, including a combined 16 goals, and he’s broken the 20-point mark in five of the last six seasons. But his very slow start puts that mark at risk. With Cale Makar and Samuel Girard manning the blueline for the Avalanche, Johnson's opportunities will be limited. But his hits and blocked shots — each category usually more than 100 — gives Johnson more value in leagues that follow that format.
Others include Frans Nielsen, Brandon Pirri, Tyler Bozak, Cody Glass, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Dustin Brown, Michael Frolik, Nino Niederreiter, Mike Hoffman, Josh Anderson, Jesse Puljujarvi, Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Dahlin, Craig Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo and Cam Talbot.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Florida Panthers
Bobrovsky has not even remotely come close to earning the seven-year, $70 million contract he signed with Florida this offseason. Through 14 games, Bobrovsky is 6-3-4 with a 3.39 GAA and .884 save percentage. If you believe that history repeats itself, then Bobrovsky should be in line for a rebound, as at the end of January, he had a disappointing 3.01 GAA and .901 save percentage. Once the calendar flipped to February, he put the team on his shoulders, winning 18 of his last 26 starts with a 2.01 GAA, .930 save percentage and seven of his nine shutouts. If you own him, you sure hope that this is the case.