NHL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

NHL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

This week's article includes a new No. 1 center in the Windy City, a hot winger in the Desert, a young blueliner growing rapidly in LA LA Land, the return of the Nuge for the Oil and a Cup-winning goalie falling on hard times. 

First Liners (Risers)

Dylan Strome, C, CHI – Strome, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft by Arizona, looked to have taken that major step forward in 2018-19 when he posted 20 goals and 37 assists in 78 games. Fifty-one of those 58 points came after arriving in the Windy City, but he has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since. Strome was below average at best the first four-plus months of the season, but his game has rocketed since March arrived. In 13 games this month, the 25-year-old center, who is seeing top-line duty, has 10 goals and as many assists, increasing his season total to 41 points in 54 games.

Erik Haula, C, BOS – Hockey mirrors life in that timing is everything. But in the sport played on ice, line placement is just as important, maybe more so. For Haula, this is certainly the case. Early in the season, Haula was skating on the B's third line. About 15 games or so ago, Haula was moved between David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall on Boston's second line. Since then, Haula's accounted for almost half his production on the season, recording four goals and 15 points. 

Evgenii Dadonov, RW, LV –

This week's article includes a new No. 1 center in the Windy City, a hot winger in the Desert, a young blueliner growing rapidly in LA LA Land, the return of the Nuge for the Oil and a Cup-winning goalie falling on hard times. 

First Liners (Risers)

Dylan Strome, C, CHI – Strome, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft by Arizona, looked to have taken that major step forward in 2018-19 when he posted 20 goals and 37 assists in 78 games. Fifty-one of those 58 points came after arriving in the Windy City, but he has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since. Strome was below average at best the first four-plus months of the season, but his game has rocketed since March arrived. In 13 games this month, the 25-year-old center, who is seeing top-line duty, has 10 goals and as many assists, increasing his season total to 41 points in 54 games.

Erik Haula, C, BOS – Hockey mirrors life in that timing is everything. But in the sport played on ice, line placement is just as important, maybe more so. For Haula, this is certainly the case. Early in the season, Haula was skating on the B's third line. About 15 games or so ago, Haula was moved between David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall on Boston's second line. Since then, Haula's accounted for almost half his production on the season, recording four goals and 15 points. 

Evgenii Dadonov, RW, LV – How ironic would it be if the man outcast from Vegas helped carry that team to the playoffs? The whole trade/non-trade of Dadonov was handled so poorly by Vegas, a script writer would not have even taken on the job saying the story was too far fetched. Yet, Dadonov is still a Knight, posting multiple points in both games since the deal was vetoed by the league, including the game-winner Saturday. Dadonov has been streaky all season, but the roller coaster is on the climb, as he thumbs his nose at team brass, notching seven goals and 11 points in his last 11 games.

Alexander Barabanov, RW, SJ – The Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl types of the world most certainly help you win titles. But it's the Barabanov class of player, those with little name recognition but produce and provide well more than their cost to roster, who propel fantasy teams to championships. Barabanov has two goals and seven assists in his nine games, serving as playmaking complement to Meier and Hertl on the Sharks' top line. Barabanov has 36 points (eight on the power play), 78 shots on net and a plus-4 rating in 57 games. 

Sean Durzi, D, LA – Durzi just continues to quietly — and not so quietly — produce. A second-round pick in 2018, Durzi has a goal and six assists in his last seven games, highlighted by a three-helper performance last Thursday. Durzi has stepped up to play top-pair minutes while Drew Doughty (undisclosed) has been sidelined. He has thrived with the increased minutes and responsibility, boding well for his future. All the attention has rightly been given to Moritz Seider, but Durzi is having the second-best campaign among rookie blueliners. 

Carson Soucy D, SEA – Soucy, selected by Seattle in the expansion draft, has been a steady blueliner for the Kraken while skating on the second or third pair. The trade of Mark Giordano to the Maple Leafs has thrust Soucy into a top-duo role. Soucy has three points in his last two games since the change, which is likely to last through the remainder of the season. The blueliner has matched his career high with 17 points in 48 outings. He's added 73 shots on net, 89 hits, 54 blocked shots, a plus-12 rating and 29 PIM, displaying his complete game in the Pacific Northwest.

Jake Allen, G, MON – When Allen returned March 15 from the lower-body injury that sidelined him two months, little was expected. To say he has surprised while between the pipes is a mild understatement. Allen is 2-1-2 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in his last five games, with both numbers far better than what he posted earlier this year. Coach Martin St. Louis rolled with Allen for five consecutive starts before giving the veteran netminder the night off Sunday on the tail end of the back-to-back. Expect more of the same the rest of the way. 

Darcy Kuemper, G, COL – Colorado management made a big push to acquire Claude Giroux, and when that fell through, team brass added several pieces to bolster the lineup. Kuemper has been the beneficiary of the team around him, posting a 30-9-2 record with a 2.39 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, prior to Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Wild. The 30 wins are a career high for Kuemper, who should be well-rested down the stretch with Pavel Francouz a solid back up. Colorado will need Kuemper to be at his best to get out of the loaded Central Division and Western Conference.   

Others include Adrian Kempe, John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Nick Suzuki, Jack Hughes, Kevin Hayes, Mark Scheifele, Nicklas Backstrom, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Seguin, Craig Smith, Seth Jarvis, Timo Meier, Patrick Kane, Evander Kane, Brandon Saad, Joel Farabee, Cole Caufield, Andrei Svechnikov, Chris Kreider, Nicolas Roy, Taylor Raddysh, Jesper Fast, Joe Pavelski, Cody Ceci, Noah Hanifin, Josh Morrissey, Cam York, John Klingberg, Logan Thompson, James Reimer, Anton Forsberg, Connor Hellebuyck, Cam Talbot and Kevin Lankinen.

Buy Low

Frank Vatrano, RW, NYR – Vatrano, acquired March 16 from the Panthers, who were clearing cap room to make a run at and trade for Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux, has fit in seamlessly in New York. Originally slotted onto the third line, Vatrano was moved up to the top trio opposite Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad for Friday's game. That swap has paid immediate dividends, as Vatrano tallied a goal in that contest and then a pair of markers 18 seconds apart Sunday. His speed provides opportunities, and while you could ride the wave as long as it lasts, four goals in six games isn't a sustainable pace for anyone.

Training Room (Injuries)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, LW, EDM – Nugent-Hopkins returned to the Edmonton lineup Thursday after missing 12 games due to a shoulder injury. It didn't take him long to make his presence felt, as RNH notched a power-play goal on three shots and added three assists Saturday. Nugent-Hopkins has shifted from wing back to center, serving as the pivot for the third line while also still seeing top-unit power-play action. The Oilers have a deeper and more talented lineup than in the recent past thanks to the offseason acquisition of Zach Hyman and in-season add of Evander Kane, affording RNH solid wingers on the third line. 

Others include Ryan Strome (lower body, left Sunday's game), Patrice Bergeron (arm, returned to action Saturday after missing four games), Drake Batherson (ankle, retuned Saturday with an assist after missing 28 games), Brendan Gallagher (lower body, expected to miss at least a week), Max Pacioretty (undisclosed, suffered a setback last Thursday in the morning skate, out indefinitely), Ryan McDonagh (upper body, sidelined indefinitely), Mackenzie Blackwood (heel, missed last 27 games, has started skating) and Ilya Sorokin (upper body, left Sunday's game),

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Max Domi, C, CAR – Domi received a new lease on life with a last-second trade from Columbus to Carolina. The early returns have not shown a material change in his game based on location, though he did have a pair of assists Monday. Domi might just need time to get up to speed with the Canes system after tallying nine goals and 21 assists in 53 games as a Blue Jacket. But call me skeptical, as Domi is now buried on the third and fourth lines, likely adversely impacting his potential future output. 

Kevin Shattenkirk, D, ANA – Shattenkirk started the season on fire but has more than come down to earth. On the year, 'Kirk has seven goals and 22 assists in 67 games, but in his last 21 games, he has tallied just three helpers. That decline in output provides a strong sense on just how good Shattenkirk was early and how much the train has gone off the rails.           

Jordan Binnington, G, STL – Binnington was the belle of the ball after he was promoted in the middle of the 2018-19 season and helped lead the Blues to a Stanley Cup win. Since then, his goals-against average (GAA) has risen and save percentage (SV%) fallen each of the last three seasons. This year, each number has cratered as Binnington is 2-6-1 in his last nine decisions and sits with a 3.01 GAA and .901 SV%. St. Louis rewarded Binnington with a six-year, $36 million contract in March 2021, a decision that now looks foolhardy, especially with Ville Husso grabbing a hold of the reins in net. 

Jake DeBrusk, LW, BOS – Debrusk signed a two-year, $8 million extension with the Bruins on trade deadline day. But just because he inked that deal doesn't mean he will remain a B, since the longer-term contract makes it easier to deal him elsewhere. On the ice, DeBrusk has slumped lately, notching just one goal and an assist in the nine March games after a hot streak in late  February. DeBrusk is still skating on the top line, making him a prime candidate to rebound, but for now, place him on your bench.

Others include Alex Newhook, Kirby Dach, Josh Bailey, Matthew Boldy, Vasili Podkolzin, MacKenzie Weegar, Ty Smith, Mikko Koskinen and John Gibson.

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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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