By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes the Stammer's return, this year's possible Calder Trophy winner, a blueliner blossoming in the Desert, a hot goalie in the City of Brotherly Love, Chicago's Hall of Fame center out indefinitely, and ADA in the doghouse.
First Liners (Risers)
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
Stamkos missed 13 regular-season games last season and all but three minutes of one game in the Stanley Cup Finals. But he made his brief appearance in the playoffs count, scoring a key goal that helped catapult Tampa Bay to its second title. Early this season, he is more than helping the Lightning thrive without Nikita Kucherov (hip surgery), tallying a pair of goals and three assists in his first two games of the year.
Kirill Kaprizov, RW, MIN
Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick in 2015, kept Minnesota fans salivating for his arrival for several years. His debut showed that he was more than worth the wait, as after notching a pair of assists in regulation, he potted the game-winning goal in overtime. Kaprizov put up 33 goals and 62 points in 57 appearances with CSKA Moscow of the KHL last year and is now physically ready to play at the NHL level. He has been widely touted as one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy, a notion he did little to dispel in his debut contest or his next game when he set up the game-winner in overtime.
Brady Tkachuk, RW, OTT
Tkachuk's first and second seasons were almost mirror images of each other, save for the drop in shooting percentage from 10.6 in his rookie campaign to 8.3 last year. Ottawa has done well in the draft the last few seasons and should start taking a step forward this year, thanks to an improved blue line and Matt Murray between the pipes. Aiding in that rise will be Tkachuk, who is expected to be the face of the Senators and potential All-Star winger. He got off to a good start with a goal and two assists in an Opening Night win over the Maple Leafs.
Jakob Chychrun, D, AZ
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still the top dog in the desert, but Chychrun is making a case for greater rostered percentage, as he has gotten off to a strong start, building off his step forward last year. In his fourth NHL season, Chychrun netted 12 goals, 14 assists, and 149 shots on goal in 63 appearances in 2019-20. Through two games, the 16th overall pick in 2016 already has a goal and a trio of helpers, skating more than 20 minutes in each contest, including at least three minutes nightly on the man-advantage.
Jeff Petry, D, MTL
When you think of solid-to-top defensemen in the NHL, Petry gets lost in the mix because he doesn't have that "name recognition," nor is he flashy. Ignore him at your own risk. "Petry hasn't missed a single contest over the last three campaigns, and a double-digit goal, 40-plus point pace with more than two shots per game has become the norm for the 10-year-vet." Petry is off to another strong start with three apples and a pair of goals through three games.
Carter Hart, G, PHI
Hart, a 2016 third-round pick, took a step forward last season, then stamped his place as one of the elite young netminders with his performance in the bubble. Philly looks to be one of the upper-echelon teams in the league (though part of that might be Pittsburgh not looking particularly good). A key component in the strong start this season by the Flyers is the play of Hart, who showed the capacity to overlook a bad goal or mistake and rebound to shut the door last season — a key for any young goalie. He and the team struggled Monday versus Buffalo, but that is likely just a blip on the radar, and the team won Tuesday against the Sabres in the second of a back-to-back, though Brian Elliott was in goal for the Flyers.
Juuse Saros, G, NAS
The changing of the guard between the pipes in Nashville began last season. Pekka Rinne is entering the final year of his contract, and he struggled to the tune of a 3.17 GAA and .895 save percentage in 36 appearances, while Saros finished 17-12-4 with a 2.70 GAA, a .914 save percentage, and four shutouts. There is little question who the No. 1 netminder is for the Predators, as they will roll with Saros, who is signed through this year and then will be an RFA with arb rights.
Others include: Nick Suzuki, John Tavares, Dillon Dube, Brayden Point, Dylan Strome, Leon Draisaitl, Eetu Luostarinen, Timo Meier, Connor McDavid, Tomas Tatar, Travis Konecny, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Maxime Comtois, Ondrej Palat, Taylor Hall, Tomas Hertl, Pavel Buchnevich, Tomas Tatar, Kyle Connor, Jakub Vrana, Filip Forsberg, Joel Farabee, Josh Anderson, Cale Makar, Nikita Zaitsev, John Carlson, Quinn Hughes, Josh Morrissey, Rasmus Andersson, Vitek Vanecek, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Cam Talbot and MacKenzie Blackwood.
Jack Hughes, C, NJ
Hughes, the 2019 first overall pick, struggled as a rookie, finishing last year with seven goals, 14 assists, nine power-play points, and an ugly minus-26 rating in 61 games. He benefitted from the extra time off due to the pandemic, playoff bubble, and delayed start to this season, adding 14 pounds of muscle this offseason. Hughes, who is on this list solely because of the perception of him from last year's output, has looked much more comfortable on the ice, potting a pair of assists Opening Night, then adding an apple on the overtime game-winner Saturday before posting two goals and an assist Tuesday.
Andre Burakovsky, LW, COL
With all the offensive weapons in the Rocky Mountains, sometimes Burakovsky can get lost in the mix. Do so at your own peril. After five years in the U.S. capital, Burakovsky finished his first campaign in Colorado with career highs in goals (20) and points (45). A fixture on the second line, both at even-strength and the power-play, the 2013 first-round pick, Burakovsky is already off to a hot start with a pair of markers and assist. He missed Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury but is day-to-day.
Training Room (Injuries)
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
Toews announced at the end of December that he will be sidelined due to fatigue. He was placed on the Long Term Injured List just before the start of the season with no timeframe announced for his return. After a rebound campaign in 2018-19, Toews' production took a step back last year. With Toews and Kirby Dach (wrist surgery) both sidelined, Dylan Strome is the new No. 1 pivotman in the Windy City.
Others include: Kirby Dach (injured in World Juniors, wrist surgery end of December, expected to miss 4-5 months), Sean Couturier (Costochondral separation, injured Friday, will miss two weeks), David Pastrnak (hip, could practice after Boston's opening three-game road trip, but still weeks away), J.T. Miller (COVID, missing first few games of the year, played Monday), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (lower body, injured Saturday, placed on injured reserve Sunday, out at least three games), Mike Smith (undisclosed, landed on LTIR on Friday, will miss two weeks), In general, look for lots of absences due to COVID-19 protocols, which could mean missing up to 10 days depending on exposure and/or positive tests.
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
Getzlaf, Anaheim's captain, saw his production drop each of the last three seasons. He still is the team's No. 1 center, but he no longer is the offensive threat he was in years past. Getzlaf could be rejuvenated by the youth around him in Orange County, but be careful not to overrate or expect a rebound to 2016-17 levels. Just 34 points shy of 1,000 for his career and in possession of a Stanley Cup, you wonder if Getzlaf will make the Hall of Fame when he retires.
Jeff Skinner, RW, BUF
Our preseason outlook on Skinner should have told you all you needed to know. "Skinner racked up 40 goals and 63 points in 82 games in 2018-19, a showing that persuaded the Sabres to sign him to a monster eight-year, $72 million contract ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. He rewarded Buffalo's commitment by notching just 14 goals and 23 points while posting a minus-22 rating in 59 games last campaign." Skinner opened this season on Buffalo's fourth line, playing 14:25 and 14:28 in his first two games while skating on the second power-play unit. In addition, he failed to hit the scoresheet Monday and Tuesday against the Flyers. Maybe he finds his touch on the man-advantage and lands back on the second line, but for now, stay away.
Tristan Jarry, G, PIT
Pittsburgh moved Matt Murray to Ottawa this offseason, turning its net over to Jarry. Part of the reason for that move was cap related, with the other due to the pending expansion draft for Seattle next offseason where only one netminder could be protected. Jarry has not inspired confidence so far, getting beaten nine times in only 70 minutes of ice time, though most of those goals were a team effort. His and Pittsburgh's play should pick up, but their defense does leave a lot to be desired. Casey DeSmith started between the pipes and earned victories for Pittsburgh on Sunday and Tuesday.
Others include: Adam Henrique, Sam Bennett, Joonas Donskoi, Sam Gagner, Tyler Toffoli, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Collin Delia.
Anthony DeAngelo, D, NYR
Already in the doghouse in the organization due to social media interaction, DeAngelo landed back in coach David Quinn's bad graces with a bad holding penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike one last Thursday versus the Islanders. The combination of all of the above resulted in ADA serving as a healthy scratch Saturday with the Rangers posting a shutout in their revenge match versus the Islanders. DeAngelo was scratched again Tuesday, but with New York losing, should be back in the lineup for the team's next game. He is on thin ice however, despite his offensive skill, especially on the power play.