NHL Barometer: Risers and Fallers

NHL Barometer: Risers and Fallers

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

This week's article includes a pair of rookie centers, a winger getting a fresh start in Boston, a blueliner receiving the same in Big D, Quick still the man between the pipes in LA, the Rat working his way back and a former fourth overall pick possibly looking at a tough year.

First Liners (Risers) 

Matty Beniers, C, SEA – Beniers, the second-overall pick in last season's NHL draft, made an immediate impact after joining the Kraken last year from the University of Michigan. In 10 games for Seattle, Beniers potted three goals and six helpers, with four of those points coming on the man advantage. Known for his mature two-way game and supreme attacking-zone instincts, the former Wolverine seamlessly stepped into the league with the few signs of apprehension or adjustment. Look for Beniers to be Seattle's first-line center to start this season.

Marco Rossi, C, MIN – I continue the rookie theme at center with a focus on Rossi, who I dealt last year in both of my leagues at the trade deadline to try to win. It didn't work, as I finished in the money but not first. Those moves may come back to bite me, as Rossi is receiving an opportunity on the second power-play unit and has the pedigree and talent to skate in a top-six role at some point. For now, he is down the depth chart, but a flier on Rossi — who posted 18 goals and 53 points in

This week's article includes a pair of rookie centers, a winger getting a fresh start in Boston, a blueliner receiving the same in Big D, Quick still the man between the pipes in LA, the Rat working his way back and a former fourth overall pick possibly looking at a tough year.

First Liners (Risers) 

Matty Beniers, C, SEA – Beniers, the second-overall pick in last season's NHL draft, made an immediate impact after joining the Kraken last year from the University of Michigan. In 10 games for Seattle, Beniers potted three goals and six helpers, with four of those points coming on the man advantage. Known for his mature two-way game and supreme attacking-zone instincts, the former Wolverine seamlessly stepped into the league with the few signs of apprehension or adjustment. Look for Beniers to be Seattle's first-line center to start this season.

Marco Rossi, C, MIN – I continue the rookie theme at center with a focus on Rossi, who I dealt last year in both of my leagues at the trade deadline to try to win. It didn't work, as I finished in the money but not first. Those moves may come back to bite me, as Rossi is receiving an opportunity on the second power-play unit and has the pedigree and talent to skate in a top-six role at some point. For now, he is down the depth chart, but a flier on Rossi — who posted 18 goals and 53 points in 63 contests for Iowa of the AHL in 2021-22 — could pay huge dividends. 

Pavel Zacha, LW, BOS – Despite notching a career-high 36 points — 15 goals and 21 assists — on 70 games for New Jersey, 2021-22 can be viewed as a disappointing one from Zacha after he potted 35 points in 50 games the prior season. The Devils opted to deal the Czech winger to Boston this past July in exchange for Erik Haula. Zacha, who will be a top-six forward and see time on the second power play, has impressed new coach Jim Montgomery to date, giving him the chance to set a new mark in production this season. 

Yegor Chinakhov, LW, CLM – Chinakhov, a surprise pick at 21 for the Blue Jackets in 2020, had an up-and-down rookie campaign last season. The 21-year-old played 62 games for Columbus, scoring just seven goals and 14 points with a minus-27 rating, but he has the talent to take a big step forward if he gets an opportunity. Chinakhov has prospects Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger and Kirill Marchenko possibly ahead of him on the depth chart, but he has shown his wares this preseason, skating on the second line with Jack Roslovic and Jakub Voracek. Chinakhov scored his league-leading sixth goal of the preseason in Columbus' overtime loss to the Capitals on Saturday. 

Bowen Byram, D, COL – Finally healthy for last year's playoffs, Byram showed why he was the fourth-overall pick in 2019. Beset by injuries, which limited him to just 30 regular-season games, Byram caught fire late in the season and carried that play into the postseason, skating as a second-pair blueliner. With good health now in his tool belt, Byram is primed for a step forward this season as he fills a similar role, both at even strength and on the man-advantage. 

Nils Lundkvist D, DAL – A fresh new start is sometimes all that is needed. In the case of Lundkvist, he moves from the bright lights of the big Apple to Big D. Lundkvist struggled in his first exposure to the NHL and was down the depth chart in New York, stuck behind Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and Braden Schneider on the right side of the Rangers blue line. Lundkvist and his agent, Claude Lemieux, request a trade and threatened not to report for camp. GM Chris Drury dealt Lundkvist for a pair of picks to Dallas, where he'll skate on the second line, both at even strength and on the power play.

Jonathan Quick, G, LA – Quick showed last season that he wasn't ready to go quietly into that good night. He had a resurgent 2021-22 season, going 23-13-9 with a .910 save percentage. Los Angeles has what looks to be an improved team in front of their netminders this season, boding well for goalie production. Quick will likely split goaltending duties with Cal Petersen again going into his age-36 season but could grab the reins and see more of the game action if he gets on a roll. 

Matt Murray, G, TOR – Winning fantasy leagues requires a willingness to gamble and take a bet on players. GM Kyle Dubas' acquisition of Murray was panned at the time of the deal, largely due to Ottawa only eating 25 percent of his cap hit. A good portion of that criticism was also due to Murray's declining production since his 2017-18 season with Pittsburgh, including a 5-12-2 record, 3.05 GAA, and .906 save percentage in 20 starts for Sens last season. Murray gets a chance at redemption but will have to fend off Ilya Samsonov, who also has something to prove.           

Others include Dylan Strome, Kent Johnson, Alex Newhook, Lucas Raymond, Andrei Kuzmenko, Nick Robertson, Cole Caufield, Nils Hoglander, Patrik Laine, John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, Logan Thompson, Vitek Vanecek and Alexandar Georgiev

Buy Low

Brandon Hagel, LW, TB – Hagel saw his role diminish upon his arrival in Tampa Bay compared to his usage in Chicago. He posted 21 goals and 16 assists in 55 games as a Blackhawk but tallied just three maskers and four helpers in 22 games in the Sunshine State. Hagel has been skating on the second line with Brayden Point in training camp, making him a possible deep sleeper in some formats if he's able to maintain that positioning. 

Training Room (Injuries) 

Brad Marchand, C, BOS – Marchand underwent double hip surgery on May 25, a procedure that was expected to sideline him for six months. Despite playing through the injury for part of the season, the veteran winger racked up 80 points through 70 games during the regular season before adding 11 points in seven postseason appearance. Marchand has started to increase intensity on the ice and is feeling good, putting him on pace to meet or possibly beat his late-November return date.

Others include Trevor Zegras (upper body, returned to action Saturday and should be good to go to start the season), John Tavares (oblique, skated at practice Friday, could play Opening Night), Brock Boeser (hand surgery, operation was Sept. 26, slated to miss 3-4 weeks), Taylor Hall (UBI, week-to-week, practiced Thursday, still unclear if he will be ready to start the season), Scott Perunovich (shoulder surgery, will miss six months), and Jakob Chychrun (offseason wrist surgery, no return date set). 

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, CAR – Kotkaniemi, inked to an eight-year, $38.5 million extension this past March, posted 12 goals and 29 points in 66 games last season. When the year ended and Vincent Trocheck left in free agency, signs pointed to Kotkaniemi possibly slotting in as the second-line center. Instead, the Hurricanes signed Paul Stastny to a one-year deal and still have Jordan Staal as their third-line pivot man. Unless Staal or Kotkaniemi move to the wing, Kotkaniemi could open the year as the fourth center. Keep an eye on this situation, as Stastny may end up on a line with Staal and Jesper Fast, moving Kotkaniemi up.

Jesse Puljujarvi, LW, EDM – Puljujarvi will produce in Edmonton, though he may never take that material jump forward or reach the level hoped for him when he was drafted fourth overall in 2016. The 24-year-old winger tallied 14 goals and 36 points in 65 regular-season contests last year. Puljujarvi may slot in as the Oilers' third-line right winger, and if that happens, his output may only end up around what he provided last season.

Ryan Pulock, D, NYI – Pulock signed an eight-year, $49.2 million contract extension with the Islanders last October. Injuries limited to Pulock to 56 games for the second straight year, and his overall production was below expectations again, as he tallied just 21 points on the year. Noah Dobson has surpassed Pulock as the Isles' top power-play point option, with Alexander Romanov and Robin Salo also possibly in the mix. Pulock still has solid value in leagues that use blocked shots and hits.

Others include Jonathan Toews, Vitali Kravtsov, Patric Hornqvist, Ty Smith and Ilya Samsonov

Sell High

Linus Ullmark, G, BOS – Ullmark's placement here is less because of anything he did and more due to the situation he is in. Jeremy Swayman is scheduled to split time with Ullmark to start the season. My view is that Ullmark, who had a 26-10-2 record, 2.45 GAA, and .917 save percentage in 41 contests last season, ends up ceding time between the pipes as the season wears on. This doesn't mean Ullmark doesn't still have value, it's just less than he provided last year. Be aware, though, that others have an inverse view of the situation.

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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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