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This week’s article includes Noel who?, a pair of hot veteran wingers, a young blueliner scorching in the Desert, the Bob’s replacement rolling, the return of a top winger in Nashville and the Flower slightly wilting in Sin City.
First Liners (Risers)
Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars
Seguin underachieved the beginning of the season but has found his sea-legs lately. The face of the Dallas franchise lit the lamp twice Friday, extending his point streak to five games, during which he has scored four times and dished out three helpers. That hot streak has given Seguin 10 goals and 30 points through 38 games after he went scoreless Sunday. That production is still under his output pace the last six seasons, but if he remains hot, he likely will end up between the 72 and 84 points he posted in those campaigns.
Noel Acciari, RW, Florida Panthers
If a pair of hat tricks in back-to-back games doesn’t earn the bold treatment, nothing will. Acciari has benefitted from skating to the right of Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau, but he has made the most of the opportunity. The 28 year old came into his first campaign with Florida having scored only 18 career goals in 180 games in four seasons for Boston. The six goals in two games plus the marker Saturday give Acciari a career-high 12 tallies on the season.
James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia Flyers
After basically being invisible the first part of the season, van Riemsdyk has awoken with a jolt. Of course, I am reaping none of the benefits in my home league, as I waived him due to his slow start. Van Riemsdyk tallied twice Saturday and added a pair of assists Monday, giving the winger 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last eight games. And 14 of those 23 points have come in the last 12 games (nine in the first 24). If you were smart enough to hold onto JVR (unlike me) pat yourself on the back.
Blake Wheeler, LW, Winnipeg Jets
Wheeler’s goal and assist Saturday enabled the Jets’ captain to become the franchise’s scoring leader. His two points gave Wheeler 616, allowing him to surpass Ilya Kovalchuk, who played for Winnipeg when they were the Atlanta Thrashers. Wheeler has five goals and 13 assists his last 14 games, moving his season numbers to 10 and 20, respectively, in 37 games. He is off-pace to match the 91 points he scored each of the last two campaigns, but his hot streak has shown no signs of abating, boding well for future success.
Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes
I debated whether to highlight Alex Goligoski or Chychrun but landed on the younger blueliner. Chychrun’s two power-play goals Saturday and tally Sunday give the 21 year old defenseman a career-high 10 already this season. Add his six assists, and his high of 20 points set as a rookie should fall before the end of January. In addition, Chychrun is on pace for more than 100 blocked shots and possibly as many hits, evidence that he provides production across the board.
Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jones, who broke into the league as an 18-year-old in 2013-14 after getting drafted fourth overall, is still just 25. We sometimes forget that because he is already in his seventh year. With five points in his last three games, Jones is up to four tallies and 18 helpers in 36 games with 38 hits and 74 blocked shots along with playing more than 25 minutes a night. He may never match the 57 points he scored two seasons ago, but another year in the 40s while stuffing the stat sheet sure looks to be in the cards.
Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
Korpisalo has grabbed ahold of the goaltending job in Columbus and is not giving it back any time soon. He stopped 21 of 22 shots Saturday to notch his fourth consecutive win of the season, improving his record to 16-10-3. That performance lowered his goals-against average to 2.56 and raised his save percentage to .910, numbers Korpi improved by allowing a pair of goals on 38 shots in his win Monday. Elvis Merzlikins was expected to challenge Korpisalo to see who would be the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 goalie following the departure of Sergei Bobrovsky, but it’s been all Korpisalo lately.
Ilya Samsonov, G, Washington Capitals
Samsonov notched his fourth straight win Friday, stopping 24 shots in a 6-3 win over the Devils. Braden Holtby is the No. 1 netminder in the US capital for now, but the 22-year-old Samsonov is the Caps’ goaltender of the future. Samsonov, drafted 22nd overall in 2015, is 9-2-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .916 save percentage, and his play, along with that of Holtby’s, is a major reason why Washington leads the Metro Division.
Others include: Aleksander Barkov, Eric Staal, Jack Eichel, Jared McCann, Clayton Keller, Nicklas Backstrom, Jeff Carter, Max Domi, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Auston Matthews, Elias Pettersson, Tyler Ennis, Sebastian Aho, Max Pacioretty, Mats Zuccarello, Jonathan Huberdeau, Antoine Roussel, Eric Robinson, Andrei Svechnikov, James Neal, Mikko Rantanen, Anthony Duclair, Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Ellis, Jaccob Slavin, Chris Tanev, Torey Krug, Erik Gustafsson, Ian Cole, Dmitry Orlov, John Klingberg, John Carlson, Roman Josi, Carter Hart, Frederik Andersen, Jonathan Quick, Jake Allen, and Tristan Jarry.
Kevin Hayes, C, Philadelphia Flyers
The time to buy low on Hayes might have passed in many formats, but he is still not rostered as much as he should be. Hayes is up to 22 points in 37 games, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize where his numbers were just a few weeks ago. His goal Saturday was his first in December, which he followed up with a pair against his former team, the Rangers, on Monday, and with six assists in his last 10 games, you can tell just how poor his production was. In fact, 15 of his points have come since Nov. 19, which clearly spells out how non-existent he was offensively the first part of the year.
Training Room (Injuries)
Viktor Arvidsson, LW, Nashville Predators
Arvidsson, sidelined for the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, was activated off the injured list and in the lineup Saturday for the Predators. The 26 year old Swede returned to a prominent role, skating on the Predators’ top line and first power-play unit against the Bruins. After scoring 61 points in consecutive seasons, Arvidsson tallied just 48 last season, largely because injuries limited him to just 58 games. Get him back in your lineup ASAP.
Others include: Cody Glass (concussion, out Sunday and Monday), Oliver Bjorkstrand (out 4-6 weeks due to rib/cartilage contusion and oblique strain suffered Saturday), Jason Zucker (fractured fibula, will miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery), Cam Atkinson (lower-body injury, out through the Christmas break), Cale Makar (upper-body injury, could return after the Christmas break), Devan Dubnyk (lower-body injury, started and posted a shutout Monday). Darcy Kuemper (lower-body injury, week-to-week) and Anders Nilsson (concussion, placed on injured reserve).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Kirby Dach, C, Chicago Blackhawks
I profiled Dach as a Riser a few weeks ago based on his hot streak. That decision was clearly premature as Dach, the third overall pick this year, has hit the skids. Heading into Saturday’s game, Dach had failed to register a point his last 15 games while skating just 13:03 per game. He broke that skid with a tally Saturday. Despite his lack of production, Chicago did not loan Dach to Team Canada for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Blackhawks clearly believe that his development will benefit most from continuing to play against men in the NHL rather than at the World Juniors.
Jake Muzzin, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Muzzin is no longer a scoring threat, but his complete lack of output is a bit surprising. He posted 16 points in 30 games after coming over to the Maple Leafs last season, so the 13 points he has tallied in 37 games shouldn’t be that shocking. But he hasn’t hit the scoresheet in 13 consecutive games after failing to notch a point Monday. One could say he is a buy-low candidate, but that seems like a bit of a stretch.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury has been serviceable in his last five games since returning from his father’s passing, allowing 15 goals in 147 shots in that stretch. Despite that so-so play, Fleury was still 3-1-1 in that stretch. Monday, he surrendered a career-high-tying seven goals on 38 shots in a loss to the Avalanche. Malcolm Subban stood in nicely for the Flower, which should allow Gerard Gallant to rest Fleury liberally to keep him fresh for the stretch run and playoffs. If that occurs, Fleury could be hard-pressed to match the 35 wins he had last season, but his GAA and SV% might benefit from a lessened workload.
Others include: Leo Komarov, Filip Chytil, Tyson Jost, Jeff Skinner, Jake Gardiner, Loui Eriksson, Colin Miller, Philipp Grubauer and Thomas Greiss.
Evgenii Dadonov, LW, Florida Panthers
Coach Joel Quenneville shook up the Florida lines last Monday. Dadonov is now on the third line with Mike Hoffman and Denis Malgin. Noel Acciari notched back-to-back hat tricks last week on the second line, so he is going nowhere. Maybe Brett Connolly or Frank Vatrano gets shifted away from Aleksander Barkov, but for now, the value of Dadonov, who did notch his 13th marker of the season Saturday, takes a big hit based on his line placement.
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