Ramblings: Rantanen, Backstrom, Wilson, McElhinney, Lindholm, & The Calder Race (Dec. 1)

Cam Robinson



Carolina placed a couple of interesting names on the real-life waiver wire on Thursday. As predicted, Scott Darling, his terrible save percentage and equally ugly contract made it’s way through without a hitch. Valentin Zykov did not.


The 23-year-old winger was snatched by the Oilers on Friday morning in a move widely celebrated by the masses. Zykov was an early second round pick of the Kings back in 2013 and has three assists in 13 NHL games this season.


His goal-scoring was non-existent, despite that being his “specialty”. While with the Checkers last season, he led the American League with 33 goals in 63 games. He did so on a highly-unsustainable 30 percent conversion rate. But nonetheless, he had promise.


Zykov was a sexy pick for a sleeper/breakout candidate last summer. The expectation and early indications had the Russian playing on the top line with Sebastian Aho. That didn’t happen. He found himself playing under-10 minutes per night before being a healthy scratch the last three weeks.


In Edmonton, he gets a quick chance to rejuvenate his career. There’s a revolving door beside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the top line that he’ll surely get a sniff at. Drake Caggula and Alex Chiasson were good enough for their turns.


It’ll be a situation to watch. If he finds lighting in a bottle, he has nice upside. If not, he could quickly find himself back on the wire.



Washington took down the Devils 6-3 in one of the early affairs. They were led by the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Wilson. That trio counted for five goals and three assists on the night. 


Backstrom posted his second career hat trick and tacked on an assist for good measure. The 31-year-old has seven points in his last two contests and 32 on the season. That vaults him into the top 10 in league scoring. Not bad for a guy who's been playing the role of second line centre for much of the season. 


Ovechkin tallied a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to seven games and 11 points. His 19 goals put him third in the league and you just know he'll be right there at the end battling for the Rocket. 


Meanwhile, Wilson has been bringing the heat for those who scooped him up off the wire recently. The power forward scored a shorthanded tally on Friday to extend his point streak to six games and 11 points. He also, big surprise, laid another questionable hit that earned him a match penalty. 



This guy just can't figure it out. It's a damn shame because when he's not doing idiotic things, he's an impactful player. His 1.44 points-per-game sit fourth in the NHL. 




A couple of assists for Taylor Hall in the loss. The 27-year-old is off his Hart Trophy pace from a season ago but is still bringing strong metrics. He's shooting below his average conversion rate so expect some more goals to be coming. 


Jesper Bratt held his new spot on the Devils’ top line on Friday evening. The 20-year-old came into the night with seven points in 10 games and five in his last six. He’s still not getting top unit power play deployment which will mute his ceiling, but he’s one to watch right now.


Bratt skated 16:17 on the evening, with 4:12 coming on the man-advantage. He posted three shots on net. 



The Ducks took down the Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime. It was Curtis McElhinney's fifth consecutive start with a 0.930-plus save percentage. He had won the four previous. The 35-year-old journeyman looks like the starter in Carolina for the time being. That holds significant fantasy value. 


Petr Mrazek is younger and I'm sure the team is hoping he can regain the form that earned him the label of goaltender of the future in Detroit, but until he figures out how to play even remotely close to league-average, McElhinney is the man. He's owned in 39 percent of Yahoo leagues. 


Andrei Svechnikov tallied his sixth goal of the season. He's buried on a line with Lucas Wallmark and Jordan Martinook at even strength but is getting to ride on the top power-play unit. His counting stats will likely remain somewhat dim this season, but this kid has a big-time ceiling. Think Tarasenko. 


The days of Ryan Kelser being fantasy relevant are officially over. The 34-year-old has just five points in 26 contests He's pointless in his last 12, with a single assist in his last 21 contests. 




Jeff Skinner is the second player to hit the 20-goal mark this season with his first-period tally on Friday. The former Hurricane is loving life next to Jack Eichel, and we can only assume Eichel is having a good time as well. The two have formed a deadly top line option. 


It will be very interesting to see the type of contract Skinner garners if he can keep this up. Here's hoping he doesn't price himself out of Buffalo. Eichel has been waiting for a serious mate and he's got him now. 


It was Sasha Barkov who played the hero tallying the 3-2 overtime winner. Jonathan Huberdeau chipped in with two assists – including one on the power play. His 26 points lead the squad and his 12 PPPs has him on pace for 41 this season. That's the type of man-advantage results that are reserved for the truly elite. 


The big news is that he was back up on the top line on Friday. If he can hang out there, and continue the torrid man-advantage action, watch out.







The Flames beat up on the Kings 4-1 in one of the later games. The score may not sound like it was a total beat down, but Calgary outshot the bottom-feeding LA squad 37-14. You read that right. LA mustered 14 shots on goal. 


This is a team that plays at the cap and went out and made win-now moves last summer. Embarrassing stuff. 


Elias Lindholm popped two assists to get back up to the point-per-game mark. What a turnaround its been for him in Calgary. The 23-year-old is a serious keeper asset now and his home next to Gaudreau and Monahan doesn't have any challengers. Wait for a lull and try to buy if you want to get involved. 




Mikko Rantanen is on another planet right now. The 22-year-old had posted multi-point efforts in his last six games and eight of the previous nine. Gross stuff. He extended his league-leading point total to 43 in 26 games with an unassisted tally. 



I've run out of superlatives. This guy is not a product of Nate MacKinnon (although it sure as shit doesn't hurt that they have amazing chemistry). Rantanen should be considered a locked in top-10 keeper asset. 


It was Samuel Girard who was out with MacKinnon and Rantanen in the three-on-three overtime shifts. What a spot for the kid. He's been very good this season.


He wasn't so good on the overtime tally by Colton Parayko though. Talk about a one-handed effort. 




It sure seemed like Elias Pettersson was awarded the Calder Trophy after his five-point effort a month ago. The race never had a chance to get started. The Alien had landed and had mesmerized the media and fans from coast-to-coast.


Well, we’re not even a third of the way through this season and guess what, there’s actually a race brewing.


Brady Tkachuk has made it his mission to join the conversation. Rasmus Dahlin is doing his part. Hell, even Miro Heiskanen, Brett Howden and Colin White aren’t miles behind with 55 games left to play. I mean they sort of are, but let’s give them this.


Let’s focus on the top three.


I’ve dedicated an inordinate amount of virtual ink on the recently-turned 20-year-old. That has to do with my open passion for the Canucks as well as the ridiculousness of his immediate impact. It’s easy to see the Gifs on Twitter or watch the highlight packs the next morning and be impressed with his flash and dash. But watching this guy play in all three zones, chew up and spit out takeaways in Datsyuk-ian fashion, do his dekes, and set up linemates with passes that few on the planet would even consider let alone pull off.


His impact is without question, even though the Canucks are destined for another top-10 selection when they host the draft next June.


EP40 had one of those plays on Thursday night.



From another angle



It’s just another clip to add to the ever-lengthening highlight reel the Swedish pivot is building.


That assist kept Pettersson on a point-per-game trajectory with 13 goals and 23 points in as many games. Of those 23 points, 19 have been primary points. He’s skating 14:16 of even-strength action per night. 18:16 overall. Both those numbers lead all first-year forwards by a sizable margin.


Frankly, he leads rookies in most offensive categories despite missing two weeks with a concussion:


  • Goals – 13
  • Points – 22
  • Power-play points – 8
  • Power-play TOI – 3:54


He’s also second in penalties drawn. Might’ve even been first if Boeser didn’t score on that delayed one in the above clip.


While Pettersson can beat you with his pass, shot, and elusiveness, Tkachuk will go right through you. The third overall pick from last June is a physical force despite being just 19 years old. He’s been limited to just 15 games thus far, but his impact has been palpable.


Nine goals, 16 points, 12 primary points, 12 even-strength points, and he’s done this while being deployed on a split power-play design and skating with a fellow-rookie centre. Tkachuk leads all first-year players in points-per-game (1.07), points-per-60 (4.2), and shots-per-game with 3.13.


As Sean Tierney said, he’s been a terror.





Rasmus Dahlin is receiving the least attention of the big three. But he’s positively impacted his team on a large scale. His team, by the way, sits third in the overall standings. Dahlin leads all first-year defenders in assists (12) and points (14) while skating just shy of 20 minutes a night.


In nine games over the last two weeks, he’s recorded seven points, 13 hits, seven blocks and 20 shots, while skating 22:39 per contest. Those are big boy numbers.


He’s on pace for 43 points in a full season, but from all indications, the reins have been loosened and the Sabres are letting the thoroughbred out of the stables. He’s just scratching the surface. And if Buffalo is going to be scoring goals like a top-10 team this season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him hit the magical 50-point barrier.



Dahlin is still figuring things out on the defensive side of things, but the Sabres have gone from a bottom-three team in goals-against in 2017-18, to the 11th best mark this year. His puck-possession style isn’t hurting that trajectory.




Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson




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