By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a young centerman on the upswing, a winger in Columbus taking the next step, one of San Jose's big money blueliners re-finding his game, 2019's first overall pick on the shelf, and a D-man struggling in his new surroundings.
First Liners (Risers)
Anton Lundell, C, FLA
The Kid is Alright. Lundell, selected 12th overall in 2020, is now riding a three-game scoring streak after getting shut out in his first two games in the NHL. He's known as a defensively responsible center who can also chip in offensively — a skill set that has helped fast-track Lundell to a role with the big club, a role of which is now the third-line center behind Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett. Lundell racked up 16 goals and 25 points in just 26 games with HIFK of Finland's Liiga last season, showing he can score as well as play a strong defensive game. Check his status, though, as he missed Monday's game with an upper-body injury.
Jonathan Dahlen, LW, SJ
Dahlen has found tremendous chemistry on a line with Timo Meier and Logan Couture. After lighting the lamp again Friday, Dahlen has three goals in four games while offering multi-position eligibility. A second-round pick in 2016, Dahlen dominated in Sweden the last two seasons, racking up 61 goals and 148 points through 96 games, before joining the Sharks this fall. With Evander Kane out, San Jose needed a boost offensively, which Dahlen has surprisingly provided.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, CLM
Bjorkstrand notched a goal and an assist Monday, giving him a trio of goals and six assists in six games. This early performance builds off the fine season he had last year. The third-round pick from the 2013 draft, Bjorkstrand posted a career-high 44 points in 56 games — although a paltry minus-15 rating certainly cast a shadow on the offensive production. Skating on the second line but first power-play unit, Bjorkstrand is in a fine position to exceed his 2020-21 numbers for the Blue Jackets.
Troy Terry, RW, ANA
Terry, drafted in the fifth round — 148th overall in 2015 — continued to take steps forward last season, as he posted a career-high 20 points in 48 games. After bouncing up and down the lineup, Terry has staked claim to the second-line right-wing spot opposite Ryan Getzlaf and Maxime Comtois. Terry scored his second of the season Saturday, extending his point streak to four games, during which he notched both markers and four assists since returning from an illness.
Nate Schmidt, D, WPG
Saying Schmidt struggled mightily in Vancouver last year is a mild understatement. Schmidt posted the lowest point total (15) and plus-minus rating (minus-7) of his career since establishing himself as a full-time NHLer in 2015-16. The move to Winnipeg has more than agreed with the veteran blueliner, who notched three assists Saturday, giving him six helpers in five games. Schmidt is seeing second-unit power-play duty and also should rack up more than a blocked shot per game, adding to his value.
Erik Karlsson, D, SJ
Those who regularly read this column know that I don't normally profile two players from the same team. But it's impossible to ignore that Karlsson has somewhat turned back the clock early this season. The former Norris Trophy candidate for several seasons, Karlsson has six points, including four helpers with the man advantage, through San Jose's first five games — an impressive start considering he only managed eight power-play points in 52 games last season. If you're rostering him, ride the wave for however long it lasts.
Braden Holtby, G, DAL
Holtby took a step back his final season in Washington in 2019-20 and was brutal last year in Vancouver, going 7-11-3 while posting an ugly 3.67 GAA and .889 save percentage in 31 appearances. Bought out by the Canucks, Holtby signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Stars. He has looked like his vintage self to begin 2021-22, yielding no more than two goals in four of his five appearances. Holtby is now 2-2-0 with a .939 save percentage and has established himself as the Stars' No. 1 option in net.
Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR
The Czar as he is called by Rangers fans has been doing his best Henrik-Lundqvist-in-his-prime impersonation. After allowing three goals in his first start, an overtime loss, Shesterkin allowed just three tallies on 102 shots during his three-game winning streak, which came to a crashing halt Monday. Alexandar Georgiev will see starts, but it's clear that Shesterkin is the No. 1 goalie on Broadway for the Blueshirts. A Vezina Trophy season could be in the cards for Shesterkin, who has looked calm between the pipes, limiting rebounds while challenging shooters.
Others include: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Logan Couture, Anze Kopitar, Dylan Larkin, Elias Lindholm, Sean Couturier, Tyler Seguin, Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Derick Brassard, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Johansen, Jonathan Drouin, Chris Kreider, Kyle Connor, Zach Hyman, Viktor Arvidsson, David Perron, Patrik Laine, Lucas Raymond, Timo Meier, Kyle Connor, Mats Zuccarello, Cam Atkinson, Andrei Svechnikov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Boone Jenner, Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Graves, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Orlov, Keith Yandle, Miro Heiskanen, Roman Josi, Adin Hill, Mikko Koskinen, Sergei Bobrovsky, Thatcher Demko, Frederik Andersen and Linus Ullmark.
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
The Blackhawks have been brutal this season and Toews has been no different in that regard. No points and a minus-six rating in five games are evidence of that. After missing all of the 2020-21 season with chronic immune response syndrome, it's not surprising that Toews has struggled to start the year, though he is believed to be fully healthy. If he is available in your league, and his two assists Sunday may make that doubtful, and you can get him cheap, his history and pedigree make Toews worth acquiring, though he is a far cry from the pivotman who scored 81 points in 2018-19.
Training Room (Injuries)
Jack Hughes, C, NJD
Hughes suffered a dislocated left shoulder against Seattle last Tuesday but won't need surgery. The center was placed on injured reserve and will be evaluated in another week. Hughes was off to a hot start, scoring twice, including the game-winner Opening Night, while also adding an assist in the game he was injured. No timetable has been set for his return to action, but a several-week absence at a minimum would not be surprising.
Others include Matt Murray (head, injured Saturday after making contact with Chris Kreider knee), Mark Stone (lower body, injured Oct. 14, on injured reserve), Drew Doughty (mild knee sprain, injured Friday, day-to-day), Devon Toews (undisclosed, could make season debut Tuesday) and Semyon Varlamov (undisclosed, yet to play this season, unavailable Sunday).
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Sean Monahan, C, CGY
Monahan could have been the Trade For candidate, but I opted for Jonathan Toews, though you could have easily swapped the two. Hip surgery brought an early end to Monahan's 2020-21 season in which he produced career lows in goals (10) and points (28) in just 50 games. This came after a 48-point effort in 70 games the year before, so the veteran center has now seen consecutive years of decline. Monahan made an earlier expected return to the Flames lineup, but he is skating on the fourth line and has shown little to date, but maybe he finds his game as the season wears on; that's the hope.
Seth Jones, D, CHI
Jones has four assists in six games, but given the contract he received, expectations were somewhat unfairly raised as to what his production should be. After getting traded to Chicago from Columbus, Jones signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension with the Blackhawks in July. After scoring 57 points in 2017-18, Jones' output had declined the last three seasons before the trade. Maybe the change of scenery will help, but his defense has been weak, as evidenced by a minus-9 rating, though he's offset some of his struggles with nine blocked shots and 18 shots on net.
Robin Lehner, G, LV
With Marc-Andre Fleury in Chicago, Lehner is now the main man between the pipes for Las Vegas. It's been a rough start for the Swede, as he has allowed 15 tallies in five appearances while going 1-4-0. Lehner has not been aided by his defense, as he has faced 157 shots in those five contests, a significant uptick compared to the prior season. In addition, the Golden Knights are missing both Max Pacioretty (lower body) and Mark Stone (lower body) up front, which has adversely impacted their offensive production.
Others include Brock Nelson, Mitch Marner, Artemi Panarin, Andre Burakovsky, Jaden Schwartz, Cole Caufield (notched his first point of the season Saturday), Filip Hronek, Alex Pietrangelo, Cale Makar, Jeff Petry, and Darcy Kuemper.
Jordan Kyrou, LW, STL
It's not that I don't believe in Kyrou, but I believe fantasy managers might be over-inflating what we can expect from him — which might net more in a trade. Through five games, Kyrou is up to two goals, six assists, 12 shots on net, and a plus-5 rating while skating on the second line, at least while Brandon Saad is sidelined. Fantasy managers might remember Kyrou's season-opening stretch last year when he had 12 points in 10 games before cooling off with 23 points in his last 45 games. Keep that in mind when evaluating Kyrou, though I expect his performance to be steadier and better this season.