Week 5 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
This week's article includes a hot Swede in the Hub, a winger showing last year's breakout wasn't a fluke, a pair of top wingers down for a while and a rookie expected to contend for the Calder watching from the press box.
First Liners (Risers)
Derick Brassard , C, Rangers: Brassard was the biggest name of the three players the Rangers acquired when they traded Marian Gaborik to Columbus at the 2013 trade deadline. After being considered somewhat of a bust following his selection sixth overall in the 2006 draft, Brassard has played well as the second or third center in New York. This season, with Derek Stepan sidelined and Brad Richards gone, someone had to step up as the top pivotman and Brassard has ably fit the bill. His game-winning goal and assist Wednesday gives Brassard five goals and six assists, all of which have come the past 10 games. Stepan is expected back this weekend, but it looks like Brassard will remain on a line with Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis .
Carl Soderberg , C, Bruins: Soderberg is not the top center in Boston, but he has been the most productive one so far this season. Last year, in his first full year, Soderberg had 16 goals and 32 assists while seeing mainly third-line duty following a move back to center. To date, Soderberg has quietly put up 12 points, including seven assists, in 15 games while also standing in at times for David Krejci , who returned to action Thursday. Soderberg, who had a goal and an assist Thursday, is seeing two more minutes of ice time nightly, which should benefit him, while receiving similar PP TOI to 2013-14.
Clarke MacArthur , LW, Senators: MacArthur continued his hot play Thursday, notching a power-play goal. That marker gave him five goals and six points in the last four games, keeping him in the team lead for the season in both categories. MacArthur had a rebound campaign last season for the Senators, after wearing out his welcome in Toronto, meshing well with Kyle Turris . He now is on the top line in the Canadian Capital and should be good for another big season.
Kyle Okposo , RW, Islanders: Okposo had 52 points as a 21-year old and looked prime to take the next step as a top right winger. The adage of the best laid plans of mice and men applies here, as Okposo's game went south to the point where the top-winger status was no longer in the conversation. Okposo rebounded to have a career-year last season alongside John Tavares , scoring 27 goals and 42 assists. He has shown no signs of slowing, adding a goal and an assist Wednesday against Anaheim, giving him seven points in his last seven games and 14 in 12 overall.
Andrew Ladd , LW, Jets: The Jets are off to a surprising 7-5-1 start, including 6-3-1 in their last 10, heading into Thursday's game against the Penguins. A big reason for that fine record has been the play of Ladd, Winnipeg's captain. Ladd, who had 54 points last season, has six goals and four assists along with 30+ hits in 14 games while playing over 20 minutes nightly.
Kris Letang , D, Penguins: Letang has tantalized his owners and the Penguins with his talent, but unfortunately, has been injured and missed time the past three seasons. When healthy, he is an elite scoring blue-liner, and to date this season he has been both. Letang has eight points -- all on the power play -- in Pittsburgh's first 12 games of the season, playing 24+ minutes, including 4+ minutes on the power play, nightly. If Letang, who is in the midst of a seven-year, $58 million deal, can stay on the ice, 50 points (as he scored in 2010-11) could be in the offing.
Keith Yandle , D, Coyotes: It's pick your poison in the Desert; Yandle and Oliver-Ekman Larsson are 1 and 1a for Arizona. This season, Yandle has surged way ahead, as he has one goal and nine assists, with nine of those points on the man-advantage, while OEL has eight points in 12 games. Yandle is playing two more minutes a game nightly than he did last season, seeing 26+ minutes, while posting a plus-two compared to OEL, who is a minus-11.
Jonas Hiller , G, Flames: Hiller was brought in to provide some stability in net for Calgary and he has certainly fit the bill. Prior to falling Thursday against Tampa, Hiller, who was making his fifth consecutive start in the net, had a 6-0-1 record and .946 save percentage over his previous seven starts, He was splitting time early on, but Hiller, who was OK not great in Anaheim, looks to have wrested the No. 1 job from Karri Ramo .
Jake Allen , G, Blues: I was very high on Allen before the season started, as I expected him to end up as the top netminder in St. Louis. Even though Elliott is 5-2-1 with a 2.06 goals against average (GAA) and .920 save percentage, including four wins in a row with a .916 save percentage (110 saves on 120 shots) during that span, Allen was given back-to-back starts against New Jersey. He earned that nod after shutting out the Devils on Tuesday on the heels of a shutout of Anaheim on Oct. 30. All he did was shut out the Devils for 53:25 before Michael Ryder scored, snapping his shutout streak at just under 181 minutes.
Others include Sean Monahan , Ryan Kesler , Craig Smith , Linden Vey , Nick Bonino , Niklas Backstrom , Ryan Johansen , Pavel Datsyuk , Steven Stamkos , Valtteri Filppula , Tyler Johnson , Jori Lehtera , Martin Hanzal , Joel Ward , Filip Forsberg , Rick Nash , Vladimir Tarasenko , Justin Abdelkader , Chris Kunitz , Jakub Voracek , Nick Foligno , Jussi Jokinen , Henrik Zetterberg , Martin St. Louis, Matt Hunwick , Niklas Kronwall , Marc Giordano, Kevin Shattenkirk , Trevor Daley , Mark Streit , T.J. Brodie, Tyson Barrie , Dougie Hamilton , Marc-Andre Fleury , Henrik Lundqvist , Tuukka Rask , Jonathan Quick , Craig Anderson and Frederik Andersen .
Training Room (Injuries)
Michael Raffl , LW, Flyers: Raffl suffered a foot injury while blocking a shot Tuesday against the Oilers that will sideline him six weeks, putting him out until mid-December. The injury comes at a horrible time for Raffl, who had solidified a spot on the Flyers' top line with a team-leading six goals before the injury. Chris Vande Velde received the first shot at replacing Raffl, though that may only be temporary, as Brayden Schenn or Wayne Simmonds could skate alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek .
Patrick Sharp , RW, Blackhawks: Sharp suffered a right knee injury Tuesday against Montreal when he was hit into the boards by the Alexei Emelin . He is expected to miss three to four weeks, according to coach Joel Quenneville. Sharp has scored at least 33 goals his past three full seasons, so his absence leaves a substantial hole in the Blackhawks' lineup.
John Gibson , G, Ducks: Gibson was scratched from last Sunday's start against the Avalanche due to an injury sustained during pregame warmups. That injury proved to be to Gibson's groin, but fortunately, he avoided a tear. However, he will be sidelined six weeks, which may enable Frederik Andersen to really grab a hold of the No. 1 job in Anaheim. Before getting injured, Gibson was 2-2 with a 2.28 GAA and .927 save percentage, which includes a poor first start against Pittsburgh.
Others include Derek Stepan (non-displaced fractured fibula, will return to lineup Saturday against Toronto); Paul Stastny (UBI, activated off IR on Thursday); Artem Anisimov (concussion, IR); Brandon Dubinsky (LBI, skating, could be back in a week or so); Zach Parise (concussion, will miss Wild's three-game road trip); Zdeno Chara (torn left PCL, could be out longer than 4-to-6 estimated absence); James Wisniewski (broken finger, activated off IR); Victor Hedman (hand, may not be back until December); Jonas Gustavsson (separated shoulder Wednesday against New York; out several weeks); Sergei Bobrovsky (broken finger, IR, started light puck-catching).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Evgeny Kuznetsov , C, Capitals: Kuznetsov will be a healthy scratch Friday, sitting to make room for the return of Brooks Laich (shoulder) to the lineup. Despite points in three of his past four games, and ironically, three of his first four, Kuznetsov has been playing on the third and fourth lines in Washington. He burst on the scene last year with nine points in 17 games and looking like he would be a Calder Trophy candidate this season. But he failed to have a strong camp and now Kuznetsov, a first round pick in 2010, will watch from the press box.
Dustin Brown , LW, Kings: Brown has two goals and a minus-3 rating through the Kings' first 13 games. From 2007-08 to 2011-12, Brown scored at least 54 points in each of those five seasons. Cracks in the armor started in 2012-13, got wider last year and have hit gaping-hole proportions this season. Maybe all the hits and extra games in the playoffs have taken their toll, but whatever the reason, the six years left after this season on Brown's eight-year deal signed in July 2013 look like it will become an albatross around the Kings' neck.
Jacob Trouba , D, Jets: Super Trouba has been anything but that this year. After totaling 29 points in 65 games for the Jets as a 19-year-old, much was expected of him, but Trouba is showing that defensemen growth clearly is not linear. Trouba had a goal Thursday but he has just two goals and an assist in 13 games and been soundly outplayed by Tobias Enstrom . I am not advocating giving up on him, but temper your expectations.
Semyon Varlamov , G, Avalanche: Varlamov has had a very uneven season, mixing good and bad games while also missing time with an injury. A look behind what we wrote in our preseason outlook shows some concerning signs, which are coming to the fore again this season. "Playing in his sixth NHL season, Varlamov broke out in a big way in 2013-14, leading all NHL goalies in wins (41), saves (1867) and shots faced (2,013) while breaking Colorado's franchise record and finishing third in the league with a .927 save percentage." The 2,013 shots are evidence that Colorado struggles with puck possession, which has been the case again this year. Varly has a .925 save percentage, but has faced 358 shots in 10 games and has one win in his last six starts. It's gotten to the point where many believe that Colorado won't make the playoffs and Varly will sag from the weight of all that work.
Others include Chris Mueller ; Ryan O'Reilly ; Cory Conacher ; Alex Galchenyuk ; Jeff Skinner ; Mats Zuccarello ; Tyler Myers ; Christian Ehrhoff ; Anton Khudobin ; Braden Holtby .