Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s edition includes a word on the Rangers’ top cat, a buy-low candidate for one of the Blackhawks’ most-hyped prospects, the moving parts in the Panthers’ lineup due to injuries to key players, and a fall from grace from a player who figured to be part of the Flyers’ long-term core.
FIRST LINERS (RISERS)
Since his scoring streak began March 17, Fox has scored 14 points in seven games, nearly double the eight points Cale Makar and Tyson Barrie have collected during that span. There’s no doubt that he’s the Rangers’ best defenseman by far, and his point streak has also coincided with an offensive awakening from Mika Zibanejad, who torched the Flyers with two six-point games. Obviously, Fox’s pace is unsustainable, but it should be noted that, according to Natural Stat Trick, the spread between his GF and xGF of 2.83 at 5v5 since March 17 is significantly smaller than Makar’s 4.11 and Barrie’s 6.32, suggesting that it’s more likely Barrie or Makar take a significant step back in production relative to Fox.
OK, so the Flyers are losing games, but that’s because their defense and goaltending have been absolutely porous. Couturier is a strong two-way center, but there’s only so much he can do. Offensively, however, he seems to have found another gear, and after flirting with point-per-game status the last three seasons, he is averaging a career-high 1.13 points per game. He’s been saddled with injuries this season, and it’s doubtful he’s 100 percent healthy, but he remains a premier No. 1 center despite his team’s struggles.
Since taking over the second-line spot vacated by the injured Evgeni Malkin, McCann has scored three goals and six points in six games and ranks fifth on the team with 18 shots, two more than top sniper Jake Guentzel. His ice time remains limited because the Penguins lean on Sidney Crosby a lot, and also because McCann isn’t a reliable player. However, given the opportunity, he’s been quite productive and seems to be in no danger of ceding that second-line spot until Malkin returns.
Highlighted by a four-goal effort against Vancouver, Copp is starting to score again after a hot start and a midseason lull in February when he failed to score a single goal in 12 games. The Jets’ forward depth is underrated, and their third line of Copp with Mason Appleton (99 points in 120 AHL games) and Adam Lowry (team-leading 248 FOW) has been dependable all season. Copp doesn’t have the pedigree of a typical top-six forward, but he shoots a lot and the bounces are going his way at the moment.
Necas has blossomed into an excellent top-six winger with 17 points in 13 March games after scoring 11 points in his previous 17 games. He started the season on Jordan Staal’s line before getting moved to Vincent Trocheck’s, but lately, he’s been a fixture on Sebastian Aho’s wing, and the combo has paid big dividends. He skated a season-high 23:16 on Saturday against the Lightning and produced two goals and four points, extending his point streak to three games. He’s eight points away from equalling last year’s total despite playing 34 fewer games.
Martin Necas is shining for the Hurricanes. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Acciari’s been a Joel Quenneville favorite this season as their primary defensive-zone faceoff specialist. With Aleksander Barkov unavailable for the foreseeable future, Acciari seems to have settled in as the first-line center. Before the injury to Barkov, Acciari took just 23.5 percent of his faceoffs in the offensive zone, and since then it’s jumped up to 30.7 percent. By raw totals, he’s taken 27 faceoffs in the offensive zone to lead Panthers forwards, one more than Alex Wennberg, who takes nearly half his draws in the offensive zone. Acciari doesn’t profile as a No. 1 center, but he’s being deployed as such and that gives him some added fantasy value.
Phil Kessel, RW, ARI
It’s no coincidence the Coyotes have won three games in a row and Kessel has scored five goals during that span, including a hat trick against the Sharks on Saturday. Despite being 33, Kessel has dipped into the fountain of youth this season and leads all Coyotes with 14 goals and has already equaled last season’s total playing half the number of games. Consistency has never been Kessel’s strong suit and he’s as streaky as they come, but when he gets going, he’s one of the league’s best. Kessel has failed to score at least 20 goals just twice in his career, excluding his rookie season.
Roope Hintz, C, DAL
No question, the Stars would be so much better this season if they were healthy, and one of their key players is Hintz, one of three Stars to average a point per game. The 2015 second-round pick is breaking out in his third season in the NHL, and it’s really a shame that he’s battled injuries all season. His 22 points are tied for second on the team even though he’s played the 10th-highest number of games among Stars forwards. When healthy, Hintz is an immediate start in most fantasy lineups. He’s scored three goals and four assists in his last five games.
Adin Hill, G, ARI
Hill has been outstanding in his three consecutive starts, all of which were wins, including an impressive comeback win against the Avalanche. Even the staunchest Hill supporters should look at his recent performances with one eyebrow raised, but note his numbers were quite similar last season (.918 Sv%, 2.62 GAA). He has some potential with his ability and 6-foot-6 frame, but the Coyotes just aren’t very good nor very consistent.
Others include: Kris Letang, Pius Suter, Jason Robertson, Rocco Grimaldi, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Carter Verhaeghe, Chris Kreider, Anthony Beauvillier, Justin Holl, Ty Smith, Juuse Saros, Martin Jones, Filip Gustavsson, Alex Nedeljkovic.
TRADE FORKirby Dach, C, CHI
It’s very, very encouraging that Dach is playing 20 minutes a night right away after breaking his wrist. The immediate results haven’t been so good (zero points, minus-4 rating), but like any rookie in a high-pressure situation with the Blackhawks fighting for a playoff spot, the learning curve is steep, and keep in mind he’s just getting up to speed. The scoring will come sooner than later, and he’s an obvious candidate to play on the top line between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. The downside is that the Hawks have other options in Pius Suter, Dylan Strome, and sometimes Philipp Kurashev, so their center position is always a fluid situation.
TRAINING ROOM (INJURIES)Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
Boy, do the Bruins need him. The Perfection Line was definitely less potent with Trent Frederic taking his spot, putting the onus on a slightly above-average second line to provide offense. Marchand was cleared to play Tuesday morning and will draw in right away, barring any last-minute changes. The Bruins’ scoring woes have persisted all season, but getting Marchand back should be a huge shot in the arm. Defensive stalwart Brandon Carlo is also expected to return.
Vincent Trocheck C, CAR
The big news out of Carolina is Trocheck is set to return. When healthy, he gives the Hurricanes one of the best 1-2-3 punches down the middle. He’s having a resurgent season with 24 points in 24 games after struggling over the last two seasons, which eventually led to a trade out of Florida.
Speaking of Florida, Aaron Ekblad is expected to miss multiple months with a serious leg injury during a game against the Stars. Expect Keith Yandle to take all of the power-play opportunities and Gustav Forsling was moved up to the first pairing. … Former Duck Bobby Ryan and current Duck Rickard Rakell are both day-to-day with upper-body injuries. … Goalies Juuse Saros and John Gibson are day-to-day with injuries, which will force greybeard veterans Pekka Rinne and Ryan Miller into more action. … Filip Forsberg remains day-to-day with no return date set. And, as if this season couldn’t get any worse, Sabres top prospect Dylan Cozens is expected to miss time with an upper-body ailment, and Team Canada teammate Bowen Byram is day-to-day for the Avalanche. … Michael Dal Colle and Vince Dunn also will miss time due to injury for the Islanders and Blues, respectively.
FOURTH LINERS/PRESS BOXERS (FALLERS)Mike Hoffman, LW, STL
To be fair, Hoffman isn’t the only Blues player struggling, but he has been disappointing all season and was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Ducks. The message being sent was clear, though Hoffman surely will get a second chance given his pedigree as a goal scorer. In truth, we all knew this could happen at some point; despite his offensive production, no team was willing to commit term or dollars to a one-dimensional forward in free agency with a flat cap. The return of Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas makes Hoffman seem redundant, but the Blues should be all hands on deck as they try to claim the final playoff spot in a surprisingly competitive West Division.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, PHI
The news dropped Tuesday morning that the Flyers had waived the former Calder Trophy runner-up. With two more years on his contract at $4.5 million per season, the Flyers obviously couldn’t find a trade partner and ended up waiving him after he scored just 23 points in his past 67 games. It’s a big fall from grace from the once-heralded puck mover, but the reality is that his offense has dried up, his defense has never been good and the Flyers simply don’t have space for him on their blue line. It would be shocking, however, if Gostisbehere goes unclaimed; there are a few teams with cap space that could use a warm body, especially one who can skate and pass and is still young enough to get his career back on track.
Carter Hart, G, PHI
It’s one thing to struggle, it’s another to be asked to sit out games to get more practice. It’s like beating a dead horse, but Hart’s struggles this season have been quite alarming, to the point where you wonder if the Philly curse on goalies will ever be exorcised. Brian Elliott will start for now with Alex Lyon backing him up. The smart money is on Hart to return to form … next season.
Others include: Patrik Laine, Brayden Point, J.T. Miller, Logan Couture, Anze Kopitar, Zach Werenski, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Binnington, Jacob Markstrom
TRADE AWAYEeli Tolvanen, LW, NSH
Credit to Tolvanen, who has taken advantage of the opportunity and collected two helpers in Filip Forsberg’s absence. He earned the promotion with two goals and three assists in the three games prior, but excuse my skepticism after two seasons of hype with little to show for it. Tolvanen is only 21, so he has a ton of room to grow, but he’ll surely get bumped down the depth chart once Forsberg returns. The Preds are playing well thanks to surprisingly good goaltending and Tolvanen’s scoring (at a career-high pace, by the way), but their body of work throughout the season suggests this is more of a blip than a complete turnaround.
Published: 2021-03-30 21:26:41
Tags: #Whos #whos