Special to Yahoo Sports
Our final fantasy value article of the 2022-23 season includes Dallas’ No. 2 center, a winger rolling in Colorado, Washington’s and Vegas’ trade acquisitions making their mark and a slumping Norris Trophy winner.
Next week, we’ll move onto a playoff-specific column on Tuesdays to provide tips for the NHL slates therein.
First Liners (Risers)
Wyatt Johnston, C, DAL
Johnston hasn’t hit a rookie wall. In fact, he’s gotten better as the season has worn on, especially in the last two months. Johnston hasn’t gone more than two games without a point since mid-January. The 19-year-old continues to chip in regularly on offense with 10 points over 16 games since the All-Star break. For the season, Johnston, selected 23rd overall in 2021, has 17 goals, 32 points, 127 shots on net and a plus-10 rating through 67 appearances while skating as the second-line center in Dallas.
Anze Kopitar, C, LA
Kopitar shows no signs of aging. After notching four goals on February 28, Kopitar decided to share the wealth, distributing three assists Thursday. Those three points gave Kopitar 61 in 67 games on the season. The 35-year-old has reached the 60-point mark in all but one of the full-length campaigns in his career. He’s at 25 goals, 36 helpers, 140 shots on net, a plus-15 rating, 76 blocked shots and 61 hits through 67 outings. With 390 tallies, Kopitar sits just 10 shy of 400 in his Hall of Fame career.
Valeri Nichushkin, RW, COL
Despite being limited to just 36 games due to being sidelined by injury twice this season, Nichushkin has shown that his rise in production last season was no fluke. His eight-game point streak ended Thursday, but Nichushkin has posted 13 goals and 22 assists in those 36 contests played. Nichushkin potted a career-high 51 points last season, earning an eight-year, $49 million contract from the Avalanche. Don’t look for Nichushkin to slow down any time soon as he has five goals and 16 points over his last 11 contests as Colorado’s second-line right winger.
Patrick Kane RW, NYR
Kane struggled his first two games on Broadway, but he found his way in his next two contests. After going scoreless with a minus-four rating following his arrival in New York, Kane lit the lamp the next two games while adding an assist.
Kane had a rough season (by his standards) in Chicago but posted seven goals and three helpers in his last four games in the black, white and red of the Blackhawks. Concern over his hip still exists, but it hasn’t limited him since the trade, which has allowed him to play alongside Artemi Panarin, his former teammate in Chicago.
Darnell Nurse, D, EDM
The goals have not come easy for Nurse, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been productive. Thursday’s marker was the first in 29 games for Nurse, who also added six helpers his last 11 games. For the fifth straight season, Nurse has tallied at least 33 points, and he sits just seven shy of the career-best 41 points he notched in 2018-19. Add in a plus-19 rating, 117 hits and 136 blocked shots and Nurse is contributing across the board, as usual.
Rasmus Sandin, D, WAS
Sandin continued the heater he has been on since arriving in the US Capital, notching three more assists Saturday. Acquired from Toronto on Feb. 28, Sandin has gotten off to a tremendous start offensively with the Capitals, contributing a goal and eight points over four games since the trade. With John Carlson still sidelined, Sandin has taken over as the team’s primary offensive weapon from the blueline. Overall, Sandin has five goals and 28 points in 56 contests this season.
Thatcher Demko, G, LV
Demko, who missed nearly three months with a groin injury, has hit the ground running since his return. He has won four of five starts since returning to action, looking pretty good in doing so with just 11 goals allowed on 153 shots in that span. Overall, Demko is up to 7-11-2 with a 3.48 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 20 games played, numbers that show how mightily he had struggled before being sidelined with the injury.
Jonathan Quick, G, LV
Adin Hill received the bold treatment last week. This week it’s Quick, aided by a slight injury to Hill opening the door. Quick has taken advantage of the opportunity, notching his third win in three starts Saturday as a member of the Golden Knights. It was Quick’s 58th NHL shutout and his first for Vegas. He tied John Ross Roach (1921-1935) for 21st on the NHL’s all-time shutout list and moved past Andy Moog into 18th on the NHL’s all-time win list (373).
Others include Clayton Keller, Nathan MacKinnon, Brock Nelson, Elias Pettersson, Troy Terry, Matthew Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Adrian Kempe, Dawson Mercer, Matias Maccelli, Vince Dunn, Ryan Suter, Mikhail Sergachev, Evan Bouchard, John Gibson, Linus Ullmark, Akira Schmid and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)
Kevin Hayes, C, PHI
Hayes’ slump has shown no signs of abatement. He is scoreless in his last four contests and has just two assists in his last 12 games. On the year, Hayes has 17 goals and 32 assists in 65 contests, which evidences just how good he was prior to his recent skid. Hayes is now centering the second line, but until he shows any signs of breaking out of his slump, he should be firmly planted on your reserves and is a candidate for the waiver wire down the stretch.
Victor Olofsson, LW, BUF
Olofsson has had a very up-and-down season, but lately, he has seen his season completely crater. He broke an 11-game pointless streak Thursday by lighting the lamp but was shut out again Saturday. After taking a step forward with 20 goals and 29 assists last season, Olofsson has lit the lamp 24 times this year but contributed just nine helpers. His slump resulted in a demotion to the third line and a visit to the press box as a healthy scratch Monday.
Adam Fox, D, NYR
Fox is still producing, though not at the rate we saw earlier in the season. Overall, Fox has 10 goals and 49 assists with a plus-19 rating in 66 games. But, if you just look at his numbers from January 23 forward, Fox has notched just 11 assists — and no goals — with a minus-three rating in 19 games. In addition, his defensive play, especially while Ryan Lindgren was sidelined, left a lot to be desired. Fox is still a Norris Trophy candidate, but a deeper look at his recent play shows a D-man scuffling just a little bit.
Kaapo Kahkonen G, SJ
Last week, James Reimer received the bold Faller treatment. This week, Kahkonen gets the dubious honor. Reimer’s struggles between the pipes opened the door for Kahkonen to grab a hold of the netminding job in San Jose. But the play of Kahkonen between the pipes may have been even worse than that of Reimer, resulting in no change. Kahkonen has lost each of his last seven outings, allowing 17 goals on 84 shots over his last three games. As a result of this poor stretch, Kahkonen dropped to 8-16-5 with a 3.82 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage in 30 contests this season.
Others include Nicklas Backstrom, J.T. Compher, Mikael Backlund, Joel Farabee, Ryan Pulock, Erik Brannstrom, Mads Sogaard and Carter Hart.