NHL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

NHL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

This week's article includes COVID wreaking havoc on the league's schedule, a hot center in the Desert, EK65 rolling, Buffalo's new No. 1 netminder, Igor activated off injured reserve and a veteran blueliner scuffling a bit in Big D.

First Liners (Risers)

Clayton Keller, C, AZ – Keller continued his recent roll by notching a pair of goals and an assist Friday. He has been fantastic since mid-November, ringing up 16 points in 13 games while averaging a whopping 21:15 of ice time. Overall, Keller is up to 22 points in 29 games this season and could break the streak of three consecutive years with declining production. Arizona is leading the Shane Wright sweepstakes, but Keller looks to also be a building block piece after signing an eight-year, $57.2 million contract extension with the Coyotes in September 2019.

Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR – Zibanejad seems to have finally turned the corner, notching back-to-back, multi-point efforts Wednesday and Friday. The 28-year-old has seven goals and 25 points in 30 games, with 11 points (four goals and seven helpers) coming on the power play. As we saw the last two seasons, when Zib gets hot, he can carry the team offensively. This season, Zibanejad has struggled to find his footing but might be back on the beam. 

Valeri Nichushkin, LW, COL – Nichushkin still might set a career high in points, exceeding the 34 he posted in 79 games as an 18-year rookie for Dallas in 2013-14. If

This week's article includes COVID wreaking havoc on the league's schedule, a hot center in the Desert, EK65 rolling, Buffalo's new No. 1 netminder, Igor activated off injured reserve and a veteran blueliner scuffling a bit in Big D.

First Liners (Risers)

Clayton Keller, C, AZ – Keller continued his recent roll by notching a pair of goals and an assist Friday. He has been fantastic since mid-November, ringing up 16 points in 13 games while averaging a whopping 21:15 of ice time. Overall, Keller is up to 22 points in 29 games this season and could break the streak of three consecutive years with declining production. Arizona is leading the Shane Wright sweepstakes, but Keller looks to also be a building block piece after signing an eight-year, $57.2 million contract extension with the Coyotes in September 2019.

Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR – Zibanejad seems to have finally turned the corner, notching back-to-back, multi-point efforts Wednesday and Friday. The 28-year-old has seven goals and 25 points in 30 games, with 11 points (four goals and seven helpers) coming on the power play. As we saw the last two seasons, when Zib gets hot, he can carry the team offensively. This season, Zibanejad has struggled to find his footing but might be back on the beam. 

Valeri Nichushkin, LW, COL – Nichushkin still might set a career high in points, exceeding the 34 he posted in 79 games as an 18-year rookie for Dallas in 2013-14. If he fails, it likely will be due to the nine games he missed with an upper-body injury in October and November. The Russian winger has 10 tallies, six assists and 47 shots on net in 18 games this season. He's often played in a middle-six role but has been deployed in a top-six role, including on the first line, due to injuries and COVID-19 absences.

Jason Robertson, LW, DAL – Robertson, selected in the second round, 39th overall, in 2019, is one of my favorite players in the league, but that is not why he is on the list. After a relatively slow start, the sophomore left winger is up to 25 points (10 goals and 15 helpers)  in 25 games. Of those 25 points, 16 have come in the last 13 games as Robertson is excelling on the top line. Deployed next to Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, barring injury or catastrophic collapse, Robertson should exceed the 45 points he tallied in 51 games as a rookie last season.

Erik Karlsson, D, SJ – Karlsson has been on a roll lately, with five goals and six assists in his last 12 games. The Swede is up to 19 points, 58 shots on net, a plus-3 rating and 27 blocked shots in 24 outings. This has been an encouraging bounce-back season after he was limited to just 22 points in 52 outings last year. Karlsson still averages more than 22:30 of ice time a game, down a minute from last year, most of that on the man-advantage, where he averages 2:01 this year after 2:56 last season. 

Matt Dumba, D, MIN – Dumba, after three consecutive down years, has turned back the clock somewhat to 2017-18 when put up 50 points. Despite his four-game assist streak ending Thursday, Dumba has three goals and 12 assists in 29 games. His ice time is up a minute per game, though that has come with a slight decline on power play time on ice. Dumba is manning the point on the second man-advantage unit while also skating on the top defensive pairing, boding well for continued success.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, BUF – Buffalo looks to have found its goalie of the future in Luukkonen. Selected in the second round, 54th overall, in 2017, Luukkonen got a cup of coffee last year. Finn has now won two games in a row, and he's started in five consecutive games since Dec. 7. With Buffalo building for the future and the other options in net Malcolm Subban or two aging veterans in Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski, look for Luukkonen to see the lion's share of the playing time in goal for the Sabres.

Tristan Jarry, G, PIT – Jarry continues to put other-worldly numbers in net for the Penguins. With the victory Sunday, Jarry now has won five consecutive starts, boosting his record to 15-5-4 this season with a 1.93 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Jarry struggled last year in his second season as the main starter for Pittsburgh but looks like the goalie who won the starting job thanks to a solid 2019-20 campaign. Roll with Jarry as the first or second goalie in your fantasy leagues.

Others include Trevor Zegras, Josh Norris, Ryan Strome, Bo Horvat, Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, Dylan Larkin, Jonathan Drouin, Pavel Buchnevich, Troy Terry, Brock Boeser, Jordan Eberle, Patrick Maroon, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Brandon Hagel, Alex Formenton, Alex Ovechkin, Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot, Phil Kessel, Ivan Barbashev, Conor Sheary, Evan Rodrigues, Drake Batherson, Travis Konecny, Max Domi, Max Pacioretty, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kris Letang, Victor Hedman, Alex Goligoski, Roman Josi, Rasmus Dahlin, John Klingberg, Anton Forsberg, Charlie Lindgren, Jonathan Quick and Thatcher Demko.

Buy Low

James van Riemsdyk, RW, PHI – Van Riemsdyk is added to this side of the ledger somewhat reluctantly due to his third-line placement. But he hit the scoresheet in four consecutive games, which ended Saturday, after going 11 games without adding to his point stats. JVR is still seeing first-unit, left-wing power play duty, averaging 2:18 on the man-advantage. Van Riemsdyk has only five goals and six helpers in 29 games, so tread carefully with this recommendation. 

Training Room (Injuries) 

Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR – Shesterkin, who missed eight games due to a lower-body injury, was activated off injured reserve Saturday. The Russian goalie is 13-3-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .937 save percentage this season. Even though "the Czar" was activated, the Rangers might have opted to have Alexandar Georgiev start Wednesday against Montreal before that game was canceled, affording Shesterkin four more full days of rest to make sure he is 100 percent healthy. Now with the game vs. the Habs no longer on the docket, Shesterkin, who returned to practice Monday, gets an extended break until Dec. 27 when New York faces Detroit. Prior to being sidelined, Shesterkin owned a five-game winning streak and had won eight of his last nine games. 

Others include the more than 70 players who are on the COVID-19 protocol list and league starting their holiday break Wednesday, as opposed to Friday, as well as Evgeni Malkin (knee, skated in regular jersey Saturday, close to returning), Brayden Schenn (upper body, injured Dec. 12, played on IR on Dec. 13), Martin Necas (upper body, left Saturday's game), Joel Farabee (upper body, missed seven games, activated and in lineup Saturday), Nicklas Backstrom (hip, returned to action Wednesday, now on the COVID-19 protocol list), Artemi Panarin (lower body, injured Dec. 15, missed Friday's game, practiced Monday), Zach Hyman (shoulder, injured Dec. 11, missed last two games), Josh Anderson (upper body, recovery timetable extended to eight weeks from his initial injury date of Dec. 2), Jared Spurgeon (lower body, aggravated the injury Thursday that kept out of the prior eight games) and Mackenzie Blackwood (neck, sidelined Saturday). 

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Filip Chytil, C, NYR – Chytil continues to show snippets of developing into a consistent threat, but those displays have been way too few and far between. In addition, signs point to him being better suited to play on the wing rather than at center. Chytil was moved to wing opposite Ryan Strome for part of Friday's game with Artemi Panarin (lower body) sidelined Friday. With New York off until Dec. 22 followed by the league's four-day Christmas break, Chytil, a healthy scratch last Wednesday vs. Arizona due to his poor production and play, likely will slide back to the third line. 

Dominik Kubalik, LW, CHI – Kubalik, a seventh-round pick, 191st overall, in 2013, burst on the scene almost out of nowhere two years ago, posting 30 goals and 16 assists as a rookie. He fell back to earth a bit last season, dropping to 17 goals and 21 assists, as he slid down the line pecking order, though 14 of those points came on the man-advantage. Kubalik's struggles have continued this season, skating on the third line, with 12 points, 63 shots on net, 44 hits and a minus-11 rating through 30 appearances. What might indicate a turnaround, Kubalik has a goal and three assists in his last four games, so jump on board as a Buy Low if a believer. 

Jeremy Swayman, G, BOS – Swayman, who landed on the COVID-19 protocol list Thursday, is 7-5-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. After a hot start, Swayman has returned to earth, allowing at least three goals in four his last seven starts stretching back a month. In addition, Swayman has ceded starts between the pipes to Linus Ullmark, reducing his value in season and weekly leagues. The upside still remains, but the luster has dimmed a little on Swayman's value this season.                                                                                                                       

Others include Jordan Staal, Paul Stastny, Sonny Milano, Gustav Nyquist, Brandon Saad, Mikhail Sergachev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kevin Shattenkirk, John Gibson and Sergei Bobrovsky

Sell High

Ryan Suter, D, DAL – Suter is having a solid campaign, though his production has tailed off recently. He has been held off the scoresheet the last six games and last notched a goal on Nov. 20, but he still has three goals and 11 helpers in 29 games after posting 19 points in 56 games last year. The playing time, both overall and on the power play, is still there, so don't jettison Suter, but he likely deserves a spot on your bench until he gets hot as he was just a few weeks ago. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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