By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s article includes Chicago’s hot captain, a rookie Duck winger, a sophomore D-man in Canada’s capital, a big absence in the Sunshine State, and goaltending woes again in St. Louis.
First Liners (Risers)
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI – In my home draft keeper league, Toews slid all the way down to the 25th round. Granted, it’s an eight-team league with seven keepers, but that drop looks even more outrageous following Toews’ hot start. He entered the year coming off a 52-point season, which was the fourth consecutive time his output had declined or remained static, and it was the lowest total of his career (lockout-shortened campaign notwithstanding). Two games in and Toews already has five goals.
Max Domi, C, MTL – Domi needed a change of scenery and received one with his trade to the Canadiens for Alex Galchenyuk. Sucker punching Aaron Ekblad in the preseason and receiving a five-game suspension — which potentially should have been more — was not the best way to ingratiate himself with his new team. Domi somewhat erased the memory of that incident in Montreal, notching a pair of assists on opening night followed by another helper in his second game. He centers the third line, which may hurt his numbers, but he gets a boost in value on the second power-play unit.
Maxime Comtois, LW, ANA – Comtois, drafted 50th overall by the Ducks in 2017, was a long-shot to make the team out of camp, but the injury to Corey Perry opened the door. So far, Comtois has taken advantage of that opportunity, notching goals in each of his first two games while seeing his ice time rise from 11:51 to 16:05. In his three years in the QMJHL, Comtois tallied 87 goals and 184 points in 175 games, and at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, he projects as a power forward in the NHL.
T.J. Oshie, LW, WAS – Oshie notched just 47 points last season, his lowest total since 2011-12. Any concerns that he was starting to decline have been answered to a certain extent early this year, as Oshie tallied three goals and two assists his first two contests of the season. Some of that output has to be discounted, as the Capitals posted 13 markers in those games, but seeing Oshie’s name frequently on the scoresheet has to make owners happy.
Thomas Chabot, D, OTT – Erik Karlsson’s trade to San Jose removed Ottawa’s main threat from the blue line. That also created an opportunity for Chabot, who had 25 points in 63 games while averaging 17:31 of ice time as a rookie a year ago. With Karlsson gone, Chabot will be skating in all situations and should see a major spike in ice time, especially with the man advantage. Look for a solid increase in production as a result.
Carter Hutton, G, BUF – Hutton parlayed a second straight solid season as Jake Allen’s backup into a three-year contract worth $2.75 million annually with Buffalo. He led the league with a .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA despite making just 26 starts, a number he should double at a minimum as a Sabre. The team in front of Hutton is a work-in-progress, so expect lots of shots against and a rise in his ancillary numbers, but that should be offset by a rise in wins.
Others include Elias Pettersson, Sean Monahan, Tyler Seguin, Adam Henrique, Anze Kopitar, Mitch Marner, Bo Horvat, David Krejci, Ryan O’Reilly, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Howden, Kyle Palmieri, Jakob Silfverberg, Justin Williams, Milan Lucic, Jonathan Marchessault, Elias Lindholm, Conor Sheary, Matthew Tkachuk, Paul Byron, Rickard Rakell, Mikko Rantanen, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Connor, Warren Foegele, Max Lajoie, John Carlson, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Pulock, Charlie McAvoy, Erik Johnson, Henri Jokiharju, Vince Dunn, Jeff Petry, Dennis Cholowski, Dylan DeMelo, Kris Letang, Antti Raanta, Henrik Lundqvist, James Reimer, Jacob Markstrom, Jaroslav Halak, John Gibson and Keith Kinkaid.
Mathew Barzal, C, NYI – How could the Calder Trophy winner be a buy-low candidate? In many leagues, the concern over the quality of linemates following the departure of John Tavares may have dropped Barzal down draft lists.
Early this season, he is showing that concern was misplaced, posting a goal and three assists in three games. If for some reason an owner in your league still has that worry, pounce now and don’t look back.
Micheal Ferland, LW, CAR – Ferland, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, went from 18 to 25 to 41 points in his three full seasons in Calgary. This offseason, Ferland was dealt with Dougie Hamilton and prospect Adam Fox to Carolina, while Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm went to Calgary. Ferland moved away from Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau but is skating with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, which should enable him to remain productive in his new surroundings. In his first three games as a Cane, Ferland has notched a pair of goals and two assists.
Alexander Edler, D, VAN – Edler saw his production rise from 21 to 34 points and also dished out 157 hits and blocked 203 shots. That overall type of production gives Edler excellent value in leagues that use the latter two categories. This season, with Brock Boeser and Elias Pattersson in the lineup, the Vancouver power play should be more potent, resulting in a likely rise in man-advantage points for Edler.
Training Room (Injuries)
Roberto Luongo, G, FLA – Luongo, injured Saturday against Tampa Bay when a teammate fell on his knee, was placed on injured reserve Sunday. He was diagnosed with a strained MCL and will miss 2-4 weeks. While he is sidelined, James Reimer will likely see most of the action while Michael Hutchinson was recalled from AHL Springfield to serve as the backup. This is the third straight season that an injury has limited Luongo’s playing time.
Others include Ryan Getzlaf (lower-body injury, left Saturday’s game, out Monday), Joe Thornton (infection, out indefinitely, but not expected to be sidelined long), James van Riemsdyk (lower-body injury, out 5-6 weeks) Dustin Brown (finger, will be out weeks not months), Jesper Bratt (fractured jaw, out 2-3 weeks), Corey Perry (knee, out five months), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches, suffered setback Friday). Torey Krug (ankle, in walking boot for three weeks), Corey Crawford (concussion, may be back Oct. 16) and Jonathan Quick (lower body, on IR)
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Jan Kovar, C, NYI – Like Vadim Shipachyov, who was among the KHL scoring leaders with 76 points in 50 games last season when he came over to the NHL, Kovar was expected to fill a key role on the team he joined. But like Shipachyov, Kovar failed to impress in training camp and could be heading back to the KHL. Kovar, who the Islanders hoped would make up for the some of the offense lost when John Tavares signed with Toronto, was assigned to Bridgeport of the AHL, but has yet to report and is “taking some time to figure out his next move.”
Vladislav Namestnikov, LW, NYR – Namestnikov’s value cratered when he was dealt from Tampa Bay to the Rangers at the trade deadline last year. The belief that his production was due to him skating with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov was proven to be true, as he notched just two goals and four points in 19 games on Broadway. New York signed Namestnikov to a two-year, $8 million deal as a restricted free agent last summer, but he’s skating on the fourth line and has already been a healthy scratch this season.
Olli Maatta, D, NYI – Maatta played all 82 games last season, shedding the injury-prone label that hung around his neck. Unfortunately, the power-play time that Maatta received last season appears to have all been lost, as he has skated just 10 seconds with the man advantage after averaging 1:23 last year. The acquisition and insertion of Jack Johnson on the second power-play unit adversely impacts Maatta, which likely will cause a drop in production. In addition, he is danger of being of a healthy scratch.
Jake Allen, G, STL – St. Louis lost its safety net between the pipes when Carter Hutton headed to Buffalo. With that move, the pressure on Allen, who signed a four-year extension (taking him through 2020-21) worth $4.35 million annually with the Blues after he led the team to the conference final in 2015-16, rose substantially.
Through two games, the questions surrounding Allen have not dissipated, as he allowed five goals in each of his first two starts. Chad Johnson and prospect Ville Husso could take turns replacing Allen if he continues to struggle.
Others include Dylan Strome, Reilly Smith, Brandon Saad, Ty Rattie, Charlie Coyle, Alex Killorn, Alexander Steen, Andre Burakovsky, Johnny Boychuk and Brian Elliott.
Mats Zuccarello, LW, NYR – Zuccarello, an unrestricted free agent after the season, has gotten off to a slow start. Despite averaging 18:55 of ice time, he’s posted a minus-4 rating and just one assist in his first three games of the year. With New York “rebuilding” or “retooling,” the focus will be on the kids, which means that Zuccarello could see a decline in ice time — especially on the power play — and a change of line placement; each would adversely impact his production.
Cam Ward, G, CHI – Ward’s inclusion on this side of the ledger is solely due to his increased playing time after Corey Crawford’s injury absence. Crawford may be back in a week, at which point Ward would turn back into a pumpkin. For now, though, he is Chicago’s No. 1 netminder and notched wins in each of his first two starts, albeit with a 3.41 GAA and .873 save percentage thanks to a loss to Toronto on Sunday where he allowed seven goals.