Which players are trending up and which players are trending down (LAK, MIN, SJS, STL, NSH, VAN, WPG)?
Part two of this series features 14 players, 10 trending up and four trending down, for the stretch run. This section is very apropos given the timing of the upcoming trade deadline in that it shows how trades, and injuries, can affect teams as much by addition as by subtraction. Trades, like injuries, can open doors within a team when a player is moved out but they can also close a door when a player is brought in.
Up: Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown does not get a love in this column but he is starting to heat up a little largely because he is getting time on the first line with Kopitar and Lucic. To that end February has been his best month of the season, as his seven points matched his December total in two fewer games. Not surprisingly offensive outburst came in concert with Brown averaging three shots per game for the first time since October. He still does not get any power play time and if the Kings bring in a top six forward Brown will almost undoubtedly be dropped down the lineup.
Up: Jeff Carter
Carter took almost four shots a game in February, taking more than 40 shots in a month for the second time this season. In each of the last three months Carter has had an abnormally low shooting percentage. The low shooting percentage in February is especially surprising as his scoring chance rate as risen along with his shot rate. The elevated shot and scoring chance look like the start of some big things for Carter, especially given that in February he averaged his most power play to date this season.
Up: Matt Dumba
Dumba has 45% of his points this season in February. That is also the same month in which he almost played four minutes per game on the power play. With the absence of Jonas Brodin he also broke 18 minutes per game for the first time this season. Brodin’s eventual return might hinder Dumba’s ability to continue to draw those overall minutes but it should have any effect on his power play usage. Dumba has been trending in the right direction for much of this season as his shot rate almost hit three per game this month. He also provides something, dynamism, which the rest of the Wild defense corps does not possess. That makes him a potentially dangerous weapon, one which new coach John Torchetti is familiar with from their days in the AHL.
Up: Mattias Ekholm
The departure of Seth Jones opened up a spot for Mattias Ekholm on the Nashville power play and the ‘Wild West’ favourite has certainly run with the opportunity. He has gone from less than a minute of power play time per game before January to two and a half minutes per game in February. His overall minutes, since January, are now also up over 20 minutes per game as well. There has not been a significant uptick in Ekholm’s hot rate but he has been involved more in the offense, and while his point-per-game January will not be a regular occurrence something close to half a point-per-game down the stretch is very doable.
Down: Colin Wilson
The acquisition of Ryan Johansen has all but destroyed Wilson’s fantasy value. His overall ice-time has fallen by three minutes per game in February and he now receives less than a minute per game on the power play. As a result he is now averaging barely a shot per game and is being used in more of a checking role.
Up: Tomas Hertl
Hertl has played most of this season as the Sharks’ third line center with the likes of Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. Recently though he has been bumped up to the first line with the Joe’s, Pavelski and Thornton. Hertl is on for an extra goal and half per 60 even-strength minutes when he playing with Thronton. He has been on for four fewer with Thornton than without, despite playing less than half his minutes with the jumbo one. His usage also improves drastically as he goes from 25% o-zone starts to 34% o-zone starts. Those who remember Hertl’s rookie season will know the type of damage he is capable of when playing with these high-end linemates. With Couture now being used as the third line center Hertl looks to be safe on this line and thus there is the tremendous opportunity for a late season outburst from this minion enthusiast.
Down: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
After having never before been involved in more than 31% of the Sharks’ goals at even-strength Vlasic has suddenly found a way to be involved in 42% of the Sharks’ even-strength goals this season. His elevated IPP has no doubt been buoyed by his 19 point in 24 games over the last two months. Beware though as Vlasic’s two month hot streak has coincided with his on-ice shooting percentage hovering between 12 and 16 percent over that same period. As such it makes sense that this season Vlasic boasts his second highest on-ice shooting percentage of his career. It is only the second time in his career that he has had an on-ice shooting percentage over 10 percent since 2006/07. This confluence of events that has Vlasic more involved in the offense than ever before with the Sharks scoring on an unusually high percentage of their shots means Vlasic is already one point off his career high point total.
Also – see Part 1 here (ANA, ARI, CGY, CHI, COL, DAL, EDM)
And – Part 1 for the East here (BOS, BUF, CAR, CBJ, DET, FLA, MTL, NJD)
With the recent injuries to the Blues forward corps, and the return of Jaden Schwartz, the ‘STL’ line has been re-united. Of course that is all contingent on Jori Lehtera’s recent injury being of the short-term variety. Poolies will remember the magnificence that was this line last season. They even started strong this year before the injury to Schwartz. Given Lehtera’s history with Tarasenko there will always be a basis for this line to click and there is enough of a track record to jump in now that the band is back together.
Down: Colton Parayko
Parayko has shown that he is capable of producing at a 40-point pace when given the opportunity but this year that has required an injury to Shattenkirk or Pietrangelo. With the Pietrangelo’s injury Parayko started to rack up the points again but the joy will be short lived as the Pietrangelo is well on his way back to health. Parayko does not get the usage or the minutes to put up big numbers with the big two healthy so avoid him if the Blues defense corps is healthy.
Up: Radim Vrbata
Vrbata is not shooting as much as he was when he was given a ‘buy’ recommendation earlier this season in this column, but his shooting percentage has remained abnormally low. That is largely because the Canucks have a serious dearth of high-end talent outside of the Sedins and Vrbata. Bo Horvat has not proven himself to be more than a third line center, which the Canucks have an abundance of in Horvat, McCann, Vey and Sutter. Vrbata is more of a shooter than a creator and as such the lack of a legitimate second line center is hurting Vrbata. It is also detrimental to his production that he has been replaced by Baertschi on the power play unit. The reason for giving expecting Vrbata to trend upward is the likelihood that he gets traded by the trade deadline, if not he will continue to wallow in shooting misery.
The injury to Bryan Little has opened up a major opportunity for Scheifele to prove that he is capable of being a number one center. In the last three games Scheifele has averaged 21 minutes per game and is now receiving first unit power play minutes. In the four games that Little has missed he has five points and had two points in the Tamps game in which Little got injured. With the departure of Andrew Ladd Scheifele has been re-united with early-season linemate Nikolaj Ehlers and Jets’ leading scorer Blake Wheeler. This is a major upgrade for Ehlers who until very recently was skating with Burmistrov and Lowry.
Down: Mathieu Perreault
Where Scheifele have seen a major upgrade in their linemates Perreault cannot say the same. Scheifele has been replaced by Alex Burmistrov which puts Perreault on a line with linemates that are complementary at best, where has Scheifele helped to drive play. This season the Jets have averaged nearly three goals per 60 minutes at even-strength when Perreault and Scheifele are on together as opposed to the 1.63 goals per 60 minutes they average when Perreault does not play with Scheifele. This is more a signifier of the quality of linemates Perreault gets when Scheifele is injured or when Little is injured but the effect is the same none the less.