By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a young center in Big D, an acquired pivotman in Vancouver, a possible new No. 1 netminder at the Rock, Toronto's center out at least two weeks, and a big-money free agent signing off to a slow start.
First Liners (Risers)
Roope Hintz, C, Dallas Stars
Hintz was a popular sleeper entering the season, and so far, he has delivered on that potential. He notched his sixth goal of the season Saturday, leaving him just three short of his total from last year. Hintz centers Dallas' second line, flanked by Jamie Benn and Corey Perry, giving him a pair of decent scoring wings. He is seeing two-and-a-half more minutes of ice time per game, including 30 seconds more on the man-advantage. Hintz has shown no signs of slowing, so ride the wave for as long as it lasts.
Eichel's output rose each of the last three seasons, capped by an 82-point performance last year. He tallied 56 points as an 18 year old rookie, then added 57 and 64 points his next two campaigns before last year's explosion. Eichel has four goals and six assists his first nine games of the season, helping lead the Sabres to a 6-1-1 start. He has matured into his role as the face of the franchise and could take that next step forward this season.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Montreal Canadiens
Drouin notched his third goal of the season — his first on the power play — Saturday. That point gave him eight on the year with Drouin hitting the scoresheet in seven of his first eight games of the season. Drouin is skating on the third line but seeing more than three minutes of power-play time in each game. After scoring 46 points in his first 55 games, Drouin finished with just seven points in the final 26 games of the season, resulting in only his career-high set two years prior. Keep in mind his line placement when evaluating whether to add him.
J.T. Miller, LW, Vancouver Canucks
Miller has flashed his potential but always seems to leave his fantasy gamers a bit short. He took a step forward in 2016-17 with the Rangers and enjoyed life in Tampa Bay after the trade deadline in 2018. The Lightning signed Miller to a five-year, $26.25 million contract in June 2018, but he failed to live up to that deal, dropping to 47 points while skating on the third line. Now in Vancouver, he is back in a top-six role, skating on the first line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser while scoring seven points his last five games.
Fowler saw his output fall the last two seasons, impacted by injuries each season, though last year was also due to the Ducks' overall poor performance. The team has been slightly better than expected this year, aided by Fowler's five points in his first eight games with four of those coming in his four-game point streak. One stat point to monitor is that Fowler is seeing an average of three minutes less of ice time in each game, which should keep him fresher, but his power-play time on ice has remained consistent, which might allow him to retain his current level of value.
Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Rielly's two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, gave the 25 year old blueliner 11 points in nine games. His hot start is further evidence that the 72 points he tallied last year were no fluke and he is a top-blueliner in just about all formats. Rielly is hurt defensively by having Cody Ceci as a pair mate, so look for a change in the future when Travis Dermott is ready to return from his injury. Tyson Barrie is on the second line and power-play unit, allowing Rielly to remain in scoring mode.
MacKenzie Blackwood, G, New Jersey Devils
The changing of the guard between the pipes for the Devils may have already occurred. Cory Schneider has struggled mightily and Blackwood won his second in a row, stopping 25 shots in a shutout Saturday. Blackwood showed promise last year, standing in for an ineffective and injured Schneider, finishing with 10 wins, a 2.61 goals-against average (GAA) and .918 save percentage in 23 appearances. With New Jersey having playoff aspirations, Blackwood may get consistent run at holding the job.
Others include Mitch Marner, Mathew Barzal, Sidney Crosby, Kyle Turris, Teuvo Teravainen, Anze Kopitar, Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher, Joonas Donskoi, Josh Bailey, David Pastrnak, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nick Schmaltz, Marcus Johansson, Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky, Conor Garland, Victor Olofsson, Patric Hornqvist, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Huberdeau, Rickard Rakell, James Neal, Timo Meier, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Neal Pionk, Rasmus Dahlin, Dougie Hamilton, Miro Heiskanen, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Ellis, Alex Goligoski, Thomas Greiss, Mikko Koskinen, Ilya Samsonov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper, Ryan Miller and Carey Price.
Jaden Schwartz, LW, St. Louis Blues
Schwartz got off to a slow start but has recently rounded into form. His goal Saturday — his first of the season — extended his point streak to four. Schwartz is skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn, which bodes well for sustained success. He is a talented scorer whose career has been more about injuries than success. But as we noted in our recent update, at 27, he's still a legitimate 50-60 point forward, which is why he was a buy-low candidate in the first column of the year and gets the repeat treatment this week.
Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks
Last week, Jacob Markstrom was on the Risers side of the column. This week, it's Demko, who took advantage of Markstrom's absence to deal with a family issue to potentially earn more playing time, even though Markstrom is back. Demko lost 1-0 on Saturday, making 23 saves, and is now 2-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. Markstrom signed a three-year, $11.01 million extension with the Canucks in July 2016, so his term with the team could end after this season, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, turning the net over to Demko.
Training Room (Injuries)
John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Tavares will be sidelined a minimum of two weeks, comprising at least six games, with a broken finger. The 29 year old pivot, who was named the Buds' captain recently, had enjoyed a strong start to the season, racking up three goals and seven points through his first eight games. In Tavares' absence, Alex Kerfoot has moved up to center Toronto's second line. Tavares had played all 82 games the last two seasons, tallying a career-high 47 goals and 88 points last year.
Others include Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed, left Saturday's game early), David Krejci (upper-body injury, missed second straight game Saturday), Filip Forsberg (lower-body injury, missed second straight game Saturday), Jordan Eberle (lower-body injury, landed on injured reserve Saturday), Mats Zuccarello (lower-body injury, placed on injured reserve) and Will Butcher (upper body, placed on injured reserve).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Kevin Hayes, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Hayes, signed to a seven-year, $50 million deal by the Flyers as a free agent, is off to a horrific start in Philly. He has one goal and no assists with a minus-4 rating in six games to begin his career with the Flyers. Hayes showed the ability to score when moved up from the third to the second line with the Rangers, but while centering Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek, Hayes and the Flyers as a whole are struggling to score, so the hope is that it will just take time for him and his teammates to mesh.
Anthony Duclair, LW, Ottawa Senators
Duclair has just one point — a goal — in six games this season. Coming into the season, there was some thought that Duclair could take another step forward after scoring 19 goals last season between Columbus and Ottawa. That has yet to be the case, but the good news is that Duclair hasn't had fewer than 23 shifts this season, so there is still hope that he could be a solid producer this year.
Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings
Quick was horrific to begin the season, going winless in three starts while posting an unsightly 6.43 GAA and .793 save percentage. After being a stalwart between the pipes for the Kings for a decade, Quick — impacted somewhat by the poor defense in front of him — cratered last season, posting a 3.38 GAA and .888 save percentage. His slow start this year could result in LA turning to Jack Campbell more, though he turned back the clock Saturday, stopping 23 of 24 shots in a 4-1 win over the Flames. With three more seasons after this year remaining on the 10-year, $58 million contract extension he signed with the Kings in June 2012, LA may have to decide whether they’ll need to buyout Quick if his difficulties persist.
Others include Colin White, Chris Kreider, Yanni Gourde, James van Riemsdyk, Erik Karlsson, Jake Allen and Henrik Lundqvist.
Jake Gardiner, D, Carolina Hurricanes
Gardiner, signed to a four-year, $16.2 million deal by Carolina in September, has a goal and an assist in eight games this season, playing primarily on the third defensive pairing. His acquisition resulted in the Canes dealing Justin Faulk to St. Louis to clear cap room. Nagging injuries resulted in a drop in production last season but he’s now healthy, with three-plus minutes less of ice time and his current deployment has impacted Gardiner on the scoresheet. He is still seeing a good chunk of time on the power play — about 2:11 per game — so don't completely jump ship if you haven't yet.