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NHL Barometer: Tavares Showing Why He Went First

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

This week’s article includes last year’s top pick showing why he was taken first, a Calgary winger – not named Iginla – on a roll, Colorado’s top scorer sidelined and not so Super Joe.

First Liners (Risers)

John Tavares, C, NYI – Tavares remained hot Thursday, notching two markers in the Islanders’ 6-3 loss to the Bruins. Tavares has recorded at least one point in six of his last seven contests, a span over which he has posted 11 points. After a mini-slump in December, Tavares has picked up his game and now has 23 goals and 49 points, albeit with an unsightly minus-22 rating. He is just seven points away from tying the 54 points he scored as a rookie last season and is doing his best to prove to the Islanders faithful that he was worthy of being the top pick in the 2009 draft.

Patrik Berglund, C, STL – Berglund scored in his third straight game Monday night when he deposited a power play goal in the second period of St. Louis' win over Vancouver. Berglund has scored four goals in the last five games and has 13 points (7G, 6A) in the last 13. Prior to this streak Berglund had been ice cold, but something lit a fire in him in mid-January, rewarding his owners and the Blues alike. Berglund had a solid rookie campaign two years ago but disappointed last year. He appeared on the verge of repeating that disappointment, but his latest streak may have turned his season around.

Jakub Voracek, LW, CMB – Voracek had a goal and an assist in Columbus’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Kings Wednesday. He has picked up six points (2G, 4A) in his last five games and 16 points in 19 games since the calendar flipped to 2011. Overall, Voracek has 38 points in 55 games and he has a good chance of exceeding the career-high 50 he posted last season. With Derick Brassard out a couple of weeks due to a hand injury though, the Blue Jackets may need Voracek to find another gear if they want to stay in the playoff race.

Daniel Cleary, RW, DET – Cleary had a goal and two assists in Detroit’s 6-2 win over Tampa Bay Thursday. Cleary scored a goal on December 26, giving him 16 on the year and putting him on pace for 30-plus goals and 50-plus points, each of which would have been a career high. Unfortunately, he suffered a fractured ankle in that same game and was sidelined him for 14 contests. Cleary struggled for a few games upon his return, but he is back on the beam with seven points in his last four games.

Curtis Glencross, RW, CGY – Glencross saw his five-game goal-scoring streak come to an end Wednesday, but he extended his point streak to six with an assist. We have spoken in the past about evaluating players based on recent performance rather than simply looking at their season stats – Glencross is a good example of this. In the first 38 games of the season he had just 12 points (.32 PPG); but since then, he has 19 points in 19 contests (1.00 PPG). Glencross is largely invisible on fantasy radars because forwards with just 30 points in mid-February are nowhere near the top of the scoring charts. However, as you evaluate your roster for the stretch drive, consider Glencross’ recent hot streak and the value those numbers could add to your squad.

Joni Pitkanen, D, CAR – Pitkanen has had an up-and-down season, but he is back on the right side of the ledger. Pitkanen has six assists in his last five games, giving him 24 for the year. He is not having as good a season as he had in 2009-10 – when he scored 46 points – but he has still been a productive d-man, With Joe Corvo and Jamie McBain in Carolina, there have been some rumors that Pitkanen might be dealt. Regardless of where he ends up, he should still see quality ice time – especially on the man advantage – and at least retain his current value.

Tobias Enstrom, D, ATL – Enstrom missed six games with a broken finger, but he has not missed a beat upon his return. He had two assists Thursday, giving him three since returning and 36 on the year. Enstrom is outplaying his partner, Dustin Byfuglien, and is just six points shy of tying his career-high 50 that he set just last season. Enjoy the production.

James Reimer, G, TOR – The RotoWire outlook on Reimer read as follows: “Reimer used to be the Leafs' top netminding prospect; that was until they signed Finnish phenom Jussi Rynnas. Reimer is big, plays his angles well and turned a lot of heads last season with a 14-8-2 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.” Flip the calendar forward five months, and it is Reimer, not Rynnas, who may be Toronto’s starter for the rest of the season. Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere have both struggled with injury and ineffectiveness, and with each now out with an injury, Reimer may be the last man standing for the Buds. He is 8-4-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .928 save percentage; and though he plays for a sub-par team, he is worth at least a look.

Jonathan Quick, G, LA – Talk at the beginning of the season centered on whether Quick would be able to put last-year’s late-season struggles behind him and hold off Jonathan Bernier for the Kings’ starting goalie spot. We now know the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Quick is on a roll right now, going 7-0-1 since January 22 while surrendering just 14 goals on 242 shots during that stretch. For the season, he is 26-14-2 with a 2.10 GAA and .923 SV%, numbers that better his marks of a year ago, when he had 39 wins. Bernier may be the future for LA, but Quick is the here and now.

Others include: Derek MacKenzie, Mike Fisher, Vincent Lecavalier, David Desharnais, Joe Pavelski, Jeff Skinner, Kyle Brodziak, Olli Jokinen, Andy McDonald, Brett Sterling, Martin Erat, Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, Andrew Ladd, Ray Whitney, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Kyle Okposo, Bobby Ryan, Michael Grabner, Todd Bertuzzi, Max Pacioretty, Alexei Kovalev, Corvo, Alex Pietrangelo, Tomas Kaberle (heading to the Hub), Bryan McCabe (may play Friday), Zach Bogosian, Milan Jurcina, Robin Regehr, Brian Elliott (the trade to Colorado might help), Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi, Johan Hedberg and Robin Lehner (no more Elliott; expect Chris Anderson to be moved).

Training Room (Injuries)

Derick Brassard, C, CMB – Brassard, who hurt his hand Wednesday, was placed on injured reserve Thursday and will miss 2-to-3 weeks. This is a bad break for Brassard owners since he had played very well since the New Year, tallying 16 points in 19 games. It sounds like his hand isn't broken though, so at least he won't be out too long.

Matt Duchene, C, COL – Duchene suffered a hand injury Tuesday and is out indefinitely. The Avs declined to specify the exact nature of Duchene's hand injury, but 'out indefinitely' sounds a lot worse to than 'day-to-day.’ Don't get your hopes for a quick return from Duchene, who leads Colorado with 21 goals and 47 points. Reserve him immediately if you haven't already.

Mike Modano, C, DET – Modano, who underwent wrist surgery in November, was originally expected to be back in mid-March. However, he has progressed faster than expected and is planning on returning to the lineup February 26 in Buffalo. Modano should slide back in to the third-line center role he held previously.

Brad Stuart, D, DET – Stuart returned to the ice Thursday following a 15-game absence due to a broken jaw. He jumped right back in with Nicklas Lidstrom and skated 21:10 in a win over the Lightning. Much of his value is in the plus-minus category, but he will chip in enough points to have some value in deeper leagues

Kevin Bieksa, D, VAN– Last week it was Keith Ballard landing on IR with an injured right knee. This week, it’s Bieksa’s turn. Bieksa is expected to be sidelined 3-to-4 weeks with a fractured foot suffered when he blocked a shot Tuesday. Prior to the injury, Bieksa was second in the league in plus-minus and was being relied on to provide more offense with Alexander Edler also out. The Canucks, with six defensemen out, will try to tread water until Bieksa and the other blueliners make their way back. Don’t be surprised Vancouver makes a trade to help out.

Jaroslav Halak, G, STL – Halak, who has struggled mightily since a hot start, was placed on injured reserve with an right (blocker) hand injury he suffered in practice Wednesday. Halak has to miss at least three games, so Ty Conklin and Ben Bishop will split the action between the pipes for the Blues over the next few days.

Others include: Michael Cammalleri (shoulder, expected to be back soon), Jussi Jokinen (LBI, returned from injury Wednesday), Guillaume Latendresse (groin, out since October 25, will be examined by hip specialist on Feb. 21 and hopes to get clearance to skate), Ville Leino (lower body, day-to-day, likely close to returning), Ed Jovanovski (LBI, injured Thursday after just coming back from upper-body injury, day-to-day), James Wisniewski (HBP – hit by puck – in face, day-to-day), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (lower-body injury, may be groin, no timetable for return) and Martin Brodeur (knee, returned to practice).

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Joe Thornton, C, SJ – Thornton, customarily a first-round pick in fantasy drafts, has played anything like one this season. Thornton has assists in back-to-back contests, but that comes on the heels of a five-game scoreless streak. In addition, he has just 14 goals and 34 assists in 57 games, a far cry from the pace that left him with 89 points last season. All signs point to his goal output declining for the third straight season; so despite his past playoff struggles, if he doesn’t turn it around then, it will be a lost year for the formerly Super Joe.

David Booth, LW, FLA – Booth notched his 16th goal of the season Wednesday against the Flyers, but it was only his second in his past 11 games. Booth entered last season coming off a breakthrough campaign in which he scored 31 goals and tallied 60 points. A nasty concussion cut short his 2009-10 season, but he was still expected to pick up where he left off two seasons ago. However, Booth has been very inconsistent this year. In addition, he has also been the subject of trade rumors. If dealt, monitor where he lands to see if a change of location is the spark he needs.

James Neal, LW, DAL – Neal has just one point in February, continuing his season-long pattern of inconsistency. The talented left winger took a step up last year when he scored 27 goals and added 28 assists after tallying 37 points as a rookie. He is averaging more shots than he took last year, but that has been offset by a slight drop in ice time, both total and with the man advantage. Neal may still end up close to his prior year’s production, but overall, the year may be viewed as a disappointment due to the lack of growth.

Sergei Gonchar, D, OTT – After signing a three-year, $16.5 million deal with Ottawa this past offseason, Goncar was expected to mentor Erik Karlsson and provide scoring from the blueline. While he may be doing the former, he has struggled mightily with the latter. Gonchar has just 22 points and an unsightly minus-16 rating in 57 games and is now dealing with a lower-body injury. If the trade rumors become true Gonchar could receive a boost in value; but for now, stay far away.

Jay Bouwmeester, D, CGY – Bouwmeester has just one goal in his last 33 games, the second straight year he has endured a similar drought. For those that thought last year’s 29 points were a disappointment, Bouwmeester’s 17 in 60 games makes that performance look sterling. After totaling at least 40 points in three of four seasons, the move from Florida to Calgary has been a resounding dud for the Bow.

Marty Turco, G, CHI – Turco had a poor showing in his last campaign with Dallas, but there was some hope for a resurgence in the Windy City. Unfortunately, Turco struggled early and Corey Crawford swooped in to wrest away the top spot in net. Turco recently received another chance to earn more time with Crawford struggling, but he was unable to take advantage and has again been relegated to spot duty.

Others include: Peter Forsberg (short-lived comeback), Stephen Weiss, Sam Gagner, Wojtek Wolski, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jamie Langenbrunner, John-Michael Liles, Kevin Shattenkirk, Kyle Alzner, Jaroslav Spacek, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Michael Del Zotto, Pavel Kubina, Mikko Koskinen, Jimmy Howard, Nikolai Khabibulin, Bernier and Jonas Hiller (out a minimum of three games).