By Jan Levine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This week's article includes a solid rookie in Ottawa, a Finnish flash in the Rockies, the top goaltender in the Steel City, Carolina's No. 1 goalie close to returning, and the Isles' big 2020 trade-deadline acquisition scuffling.
FIRST LINERS (RISERS)
Joshua Norris, C, OTT
Norris, drafted 19th overall in 2017, appeared in three games with the parent club last season. Getting a chance at consistent ice time, the 21-year-old has seven goals and 10 assists in 34 games as a rookie. Norris was electric last season with AHL Belleville, racking up 31 goals and 61 points in 56 games en route to being named the league's most outstanding rookie. He has shown this season that his future is bright while centering Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson.
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
With Evgeni Malkin sidelined possibly long term, the burden to carry the Penguins offense falls on Crosby, and he has been up to the task. Sid the Kid — no longer young but the moniker has stuck — potted his 12th tally of the season Sunday. He has been remarkably consistent all season, turning up his play this month with five goals and nine helpers in 11 games to give him 32 points in 31 games. He may no longer be an elite scorer, but Crosby does so many other aspects of the game well and can rise to the occasion when needed.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, MTL
Quickly, who leads the Canadiens in apples? No peeking.
Does it surprise you to know that it's Drouin with 19 assists? His helper Saturday gave Drouin eight assists in the last 10 games, moving him into the team lead in that category. On the flip side, Drouin only has two goals, but his assists have made him a roster option in nearly all formats, despite that lack of lamp lighting. Montreal still overpaid in dealing Mikhail Sergachev for Drouin, but at least the Habs are getting some return on their trade investment.
Mikko Rantanen, RW, COL
Rantanen, one of my favorite players in the league, has been tearing it lately. His tally Monday was Rantanen's 18th goal of the season and fourth straight game with a score. Colorado's alternate captain has points in six consecutive contests, during which he has racked up six markers and five apples. Despite playing with offensive talent like linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon and blueliner Cale Makar, the Finnish forward leads the Avalanche with 36 points. Enjoy the production if you have him.
Brock Boeser, RW, VAN
Boeser posted 55 and 56 points his first two full seasons in the NHL, and with 45 points in 57 games last year, he might have finished in that range despite less than an eighth of the regular remaining before the pandemic hit. With just 56 games this season, matching that total will be tough. But Boeser already notched his team-leading 16th goal of the year Saturday, matching his 57-game total from last season. The 23-year-old also tops Vancouver with 32 points in 35 games, so 50 could be reachable, and he would probably be a good bet for his first 30-goal campaign if not for the abbreviated schedule in 2020-21.
Noah Hanifin, D, CGY
Leagues with daily moves are won by reading the tea leaves, jumping in when a player is getting hot or is hot, and then jumping off when the ride ends. Hanifin is probably at the tail end of that ride, but likely worth a few more passengers on his journey. Overall, Hanifin has eight points, 60 shots on goal, 30 blocked shots, 25 hits, and a plus-5 rating in 33 appearances, but he has benefitted from the change in coaches to Darryl Sutter. That swap has led to his uptick in offense, with Hanifin picking up three goals and two helpers in his last nine games, though he is scoreless in his last three.
Tristan Jarry, G, PIT
Jarry has had an uneven season, his first in replacing Matt Murray between the pipes for the Penguins. The calendar switching to March, though, has brought out the best in Jarry. Heading into Sunday's contest, Jarry had put up a 2.45 goals-against average (GAA), 928 save percentage, and a 5-2-0 record. He improved all those numbers, save for his record, registering 33 saves on 35 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils. Casey DeSmith will still see starts, but Jarry is the clear No. 1 netminder in the Steel City and is on pace to break his career-high 20 wins, set just last season.
Philipp Grubauer, G, COL
As I have mentioned before, I am a firm believer that if Grubauer had not gotten injured in the playoffs, Colorado would have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Grubauer is showing why he is the clear No. 1 goalie for the Avs, and why Pavel Francouz, whenever he returns from his injury, will be a backup. Grubauer leads the NHL with a 1.71 GAA and five shutouts while ranking second in wins (19) and third in save percentage (.930).
Can you say, Vezina candidate, and probably favorite?
Others include: Adam Henrique, Ryan Strome, Alex Killorn, Bo Horvat, Anze Kopitar, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan O'Reilly, Trevor Zegras, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Steven Stamkos, Pavel Buchnevich, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Artemi Panarin, Jesse Puljujarvi, Troy Terry, Elias Lindholm, Tomas Hertl, Eeli Tolvanen, Oliver Wahlstrom, Alec Martinez, Jeff Petry, Adam Fox, Drew Doughty, Ryan Graves. Nick Leddy, Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Andersson, Mike Smith, Jack Campbell (spec hedge with Frederik Andersen out), Ilya Samsonov, Ilya Sorokin, and Thatcher Demko.
Jamie Drysdale, D, ANA
Drysdale "fell" to the Ducks at sixth overall in last year's draft, as the Senators selected Jake Sanderson at five. Anaheim added substantive talent to their young pipeline — which includes Trevor Zegras — by selecting Drysdale, who made his NHL debut last week. Not a bad first game for the 18-year-old, as he tallied a goal and an assist on Zegras' equalizer. Drysdale showed he is ready for the big show by notching 10 points in 14 games with AHL San Diego. Get in now while you can.
TRAINING ROOM (INJURIES)
Petr Mrazek, G, CAR
Mrazek, out since Feb. 3 due to thumb surgery, joined the team at practice Sunday. James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic have held the fort down while Mrazek was sidelined. Before the injury, the 29-year-old posted a .955 save percentage and a 2-1-0 record across four appearances. When Reimer is active, coach Rod Brind'Amour will need to determine how to divvy up the starts the remainder of the regular season, along with who is the best option between the pipes for the playoffs.
Others include: Evgeni Malkin (lower body, injured March 16, week-to-week, but expected back before the end of the regular season), Kirby Dach (wrist, practiced fully Monday but still doesn't have a clear timeline to return, though he is expected back in early to mid-April), Vincent Trocheck (upper body, out since March 9, practiced in a no-contact jersey Sunday), Elias Pettersson (upper body, out since March 2, shifted to long-term injured reserve Friday, meaning he will now be out until at least March 31), Teuvo Teravainen (upper body, out last two weeks, skated prior to practice Saturday), Sean Couturier (lower body, missed Saturday's game), Max Pacioretty, (lower body, missed second straight game Monday), Alexander Radulov (lower body, will be a game-day decision the remainder of the season), John Gibson (lower body, missed fifth straight game Monday), Matt Murray (upper body, now considered week-to-week and was placed on IR on Monday) and Frederik Andersen (unavailable to suit up Saturday due to a lower-body injury).
FOURTH LINERS/PRESS BOXERS (FALLERS)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, NYI
The Islanders really took off last season when they acquired JGP, as he lengthened their lineup — especially down the middle — and scored big goals on their playoff run. While he has had an OK season this year, that big-time output is lacking. His goal Saturday, Pageau's first during March, snapped his nine-game drought and was his first point in the last five. With Anders Lee done for the season with a torn ACL, the Isles will need the Pageau of last year to help make up for the loss on offense.
Jake Virtanen, LW, VAN
Virtanen entered 2020-21 off a promising 18-goal, 36-point campaign in 2019-20, but this season has gone off the rails for the 24-year-old winger. He has followed up that breakout season with just four goals and no assists in 30 games this season, landing on the trade block. Strong rumors persisted about a week or so ago that Virtanen was on his way out of town, but nothing transpired. Virtanen is still seeing second-line duty, but his PP TOI is sporadic at best, so tread carefully if wading back in.
Jake Allen, G, MTL
About a month ago, Canadiens' fans were clamoring for Carey Price's head, desiring Allen to get more starts. Those faithful might have been correct, but unfortunately, Allen is not being helped much by the team around him when he is between the pipes. Allen hasn't gotten into the win column in six consecutive starts, going 0-2-4 over that stretch, but on the season, he still sports a strong 2.34 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Others include: Phillip Danault, Phil Kessel, Patrik Laine, Chandler Stephenson, Brock McGinn, Christian Fischer, Ryan Suter, Carter Hart, and Devan Dubnyk
Mark Giordano, D, CGY
Giordano has shown the last year and a half that his Norris Trophy campaign in 2018-19 was an aberration and not the norm. He regressed particularly hard in 2019-20, following his Norris Trophy campaign with just five goals and 31 points in 60 appearances. Giordano has actually taken another step back this year, posting four goals and 10 assists, putting him on pace to finish with fewer points-per-game than he did in his rough campaign a year ago. Gio is still a solid blueliner, but clearly not an elite offensive one.