By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes Kopi turning back the clock, Hall thriving in a new locale, a hot winger making the most of his new home in the Sunshine State, Kevin (who?) in Chicago, Pasta’s return, and Pittsburgh's 1b pivot slumping.
FIRST LINERS (RISERS)
Anze Kopitar, C, LA
Kopitar posted a surprising 92 points in 2017-18, then fell thudding back to earth with 60 points the following season. He rebounded somewhat last year, staying in the 60-point range despite the games lost to the shutdown. Coming into the season, with LA expected to continue to incorporate several youngsters into the lineup and a pipeline of pivotmen, the burden was on Kopi to show he can remain the top-line center. He is doing that and more, posting one goal and 11 assists, and it should only be a matter of time before he lights the lamp consistently.
Jonathan Drouin, C, MTL
Drouin's placement here depends on two factors: First, what position he is listed at your league, since he moved from center to left wing, skating on the second line. Second, do you believe he keeps his spot on one of the two power-play units? If the answer to the first question is center and yes to the second, then by all means grab Drouin, who came to the Habs from the Lightning for Mikhail Sergachev in a somewhat one-sided deal. If he continues to produce as he has, maybe some of the consternation over that trade will dissipate slightly, at least for this season (though likely not).
Taylor Hall, LW, BUF
Hall entered the 2020 offseason as the likely top forward free agent. Looking for a big-money, long-term deal, the veteran left winger did not find any offers to his liking, finally signing a one-year, $8 million contract with Buffalo to play with Jack Eichel. Hall may re-sign with the Sabres, but his pairing with Eichel should be a perfect match, which has been the case to date, as he has a goal and eight assists in 10 games, despite some line shuffling.
Carter Verhaeghe, LW, FLA
Verhaeghe won a Cup with the Lightning last year, then basically became a cap casualty, staying in the Sunshine State with the Panthers. A former big-time scorer in the AHL, Verhaeghe filled a checking line role with Tampa Bay. Coach Joel Quenneville has restored Verhaeghe to a top-six role, having him skate on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair. With five goals and a pair of assists in six games, that move has more than paid dividends early this season.
James van Riemsdyk, LW, PHI
JVR's production has fallen off precipitously the last few seasons. Despite scoring 36 goals in 2017-18 as a member of the Maple Leafs, his total output dropped by eight points. That fall continued the next two years, as his output declined by six and eight points, respectively. Also, van Riemsdyk's ice time declined, contributing to that drop. This season, van Riemsdyk is off to a strong start, tallying five goals (four on the man-advantage) and seven helpers, including one on each of the three goals scored by Philly on Sunday.
John Klingberg, D, DAL
Klingberg may have peaked in 2017-18 when he scored 28 goals and added 39 assists. His output dropped to 45 points in 64 the following season and plummeted to just 32 points last season. The presence and growth of Miro Heiskanen played a large part in Klingberg's slight change in role and usage. But the 28-year-old is enjoying a strong start offensively in 2020-21, picking up two goals and six assists in his first six games. If he continues to man the top power-play unit, Klingberg's overall production should exceed original expectations.
Joonas Korpisalo, G, CLM
Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins are splitting time in the Columbus net, alternating games. So far, Korpi has been the better of the two, going 2-1-2 with a 2.17 GAA and a .936 save percentage through five starts. The Finnish goaltender sparkled in the playoffs after getting outplayed for long stretches in the regular season by Merzlikins. Coach John Tortorella is likely to stick with the current plan, but if Korpisalo continues to shine, a slight tweak in playing time allotment might occur, benefitting Korpi.
Kevin Lankinen, G, CHI
Chicago decided this offseason to move on from Corey Crawford, turning the net over to Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban which, if you recall, was met with scorn and skepticism in the hockey and fantasy communities. Out of the blue, the Blackhawks appear to have found a new No. 1 goalie in Lankinen. The Finnish netminder appeared in 21 games with AHL Rockford last season, compiling an 8-10-2 record while posting a 3.03 GAA and .909 save percentage, so little was expected of him this year. But Delia and Subban were not up to the task, forcing coach Jeremy Colliton to turn to Lankinen, who has made the most of his opportunity, going 3-1-2 with a 1.97 GAA and a .937 save percentage through five appearances
Others include: Dylan Strome, Andrew Copp, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrice Bergeron, Vincent Trocheck, Eric Staal, Mitch Marner, J.T. Miller, Brayden Schenn, Leon Draisaitl, Joshua Norris, Joe Pavelski, Jack Eichel, Elias Lindholm, Denis Gurianov, Mikko Rantanen, Brock Boeser, Bryan Rust, Tyler Bertuzzi, Tom Wilson, Tyler Toffoli, Jordan Greenway, Andre Burakovsky, Jordan Kyrou, Brandon Saad, Joonas Donskoi, Quinn Hughes, Keith Yandle, Ty Smith, Rasmus Ristolainen, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Bowen Byram (sticking with big league squad), Alec Martinez, Cal Petersen, John Gibson, Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko, Jaroslav Halak, Vitek Vanecek, James Reimer (manning nets with Petr Mrazek injured) and Philipp Grubauer.
Josh Morrissey, D, WPG
The numbers so far don't stand, which is why Morrissey lands in the Trade For part of the column. Morrissey has posted four points in eight games, but that is not the story. He is skating on the first defensive pair while manning the point on the Jets' first power-play unit, averaging more than 4:15 a game on the man advantage. Neal Pionk had a big year in a similar role last season and the hope was that Morrissey would eventually put it all together. Maybe this is the season.
TRAINING ROOM (Injuries)
David Pastrnak, LW, BOS
Pasta is back.
After undergoing offseason hip surgery and missing the first seven games of the season, Pastrnak returned to action Saturday versus the Capitals. Despite missing the first few weeks of the season, Pastrnak resumed handling a full workload while skating on Boston's top line and first power-play unit Saturday, adding an assist and a pair of goals Monday. The 24-year-old winger is coming off a big 2019-20 campaign in which he racked up 48 goals and 47 assists in just 70 contests. Hopefully, you activated him on the day he returned.
Others include: Jamie Benn (lower body, injured in Dallas' opening game, activated and scored Sunday), Nathan MacKinnon (lower body, injured Sunday, will miss several games), Filip Chytil (upper body, shoulder or wrist, will miss 4-6 weeks), Marco Rossi (COVID-19, returned to Austria) Alex Ovechkin (COVID-19, activated, in lineup Saturday, potting GWG in overtime), Teuvo Teravainen (cleared COVID-19 on Friday, missed 10 days, conditioning an issue, possibly back this week), Vladimir Tarasenko (offseason shoulder surgery, skated Saturday, possible February return), Devon Toews (foot, injured Jan. 28, could be sidelined long term), Matt Grzelcyk (lower body, has been banged up all season, sat Saturday against the Capitals), Matt Dumba (lower body, placed on injured reserve Sunday), Kris Letang (lower body, left Saturday's game), Cam Talbot (lower body, missed a week of action, dressed a backup Saturday and started Sunday), Petr Mrazek (wrist, left Saturday's game against the Stars, may require surgery) and Pavel Francouz (lower body, out all season, remains without a timetable for his return).
FOURTH LINERS/PRESS BOXERS (Fallers)
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
Malkin contributed an assist Saturday and Monday against the Rangers, but it's been a subpar start to the season for the future Hall of Famer. He admitted that his game is not where it needs to be. The good news is that we are barely 20 percent into the campaign. Malkin had a bounce-back season last year, so I expect him to find his way. Although with the Pittsburgh blueline banged up and Kris Letang out as well, the power play might suffer.
Cam Fowler, D, ANA
Fowler averaged 34 points a season from 2013-14 to 2017-18, tallying 28 to 39 points each year during that stretch. Not elite, but more than serviceable in fantasy leagues. His output tailed off the last two seasons, even though Anaheim moved out several members of their blueline. Kevin Shattenkirk is now a Duck, which will adversely impact Fowler's production. Fowler has just two points on the year and Anaheim — at least until Trevor Zegras is called up — will be offensively challenged.
Mikko Koskinen, G, EDM
The injury to Mike Smith coupled with the lack of reliable backup netminders has forced Koskinen to be between the pipes almost every game for the Oilers. Coming into Saturday's rematch against the Maple Leafs, Koskinen sported a 3.17 goals-against average, .895 save percentage, and a 3-6-0 record through nine contests. Edmonton's blueline, especially without Oscar Klefbom for the season, has disappointed. When/if Smith returns, unless Koskinen gets on a hot streak, look for a close to even split between the pipes, though Stuart Skinner did win in his debut Sunday, albeit after allowing five markers.
Others include: Clayton Keller, Anthony Mantha, Travis Konecny (healthy scratch Saturday, but in the lineup the next game), Kevin Shattenkirk, Jonathan Quick, Semyon Varlamov, and Ilya Sorokin.
Joe Pavelski, RW, DAL
Dallas' first game was delayed for COVID. The extra time clearly benefited Pavelski, who notched four points in the team's season-opener and seven in the first two games. Pavelski saw his point streak — during which he tallied five goals and the same number of assists — end at five, Sunday. Pavelski managed only 14 goals and 31 points in 67 games last year, his first in Big D, partially due to his decline in ice time. He found his game in the bubble and the absence of Tyler Seguin (hip) has him playing top-six minutes. But if someone wants to blow you away in a deal, listen, but don't sell expecting a major drop-off.