Two Weeks Notice: Checking in on Six of the Hottest Players in the Eastern Conference

by Russ on November 14, 2017 | (0 Comments)
  • Eastern Edge
  • Two Weeks Notice: Checking in on Six of the Hottest Players in the Eastern Conference

A quick search of the top scorers in the Eastern Conference over the last two weeks yields a list of the usual suspects; Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, along with quite a few of those that I have mentioned over the past few articles. This week, I’ll bring forward some names that you may not realize have been putting up some very good numbers of late, especially over the last two weeks.

 

Yanni Gourde

 

Gourde is an under-sized, undrafted 25-year-old who, heading into this season, had all the makings of a career minor leaguer. In his last year of junior hockey, he scored 37 goals and 124 points in 68 QMJHL contests. Early in his professional career, he split a couple of seasons between the AHL and ECHL.

 

Last season, he split the year between the AHL and NHL, recording eight points in 20 NHL matches and 22 goals, 48 points in 56 AHL contests. He really stood out in the AHL post season, where he registered 27 points in 22 games.

 

Most of us, me included, were thinking Vladislav Namestnikov as the sleeper pick in Tampa, and he has performed very nicely himself, but it’s Gourde who is showing us that he too can play with the big boys. Gourde has been lining up with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point as well as receiving solid second unit power play ice time. He has seven points in his last six games and 12 points in 18 games on the season. The guy has the offensive chops to keep the pace, but if he loses his plum spot on the second line, he would see a drop in ice time and subsequently points.

 

Max Pacioretty

 

Good old Lotto Maxamillion got off to another slow start this season with one point in his first eight matches. Since then, he’s reeled off 11 points in 10 games. Over the last six NHL campaigns, Pacioretty has averaged 67.6 points for every 82 games played and has only missed three games over the last three seasons.

 

Max Pac is playing most of his even-strength shifts with Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw, both of whom are showing signs of life as well…funny how that works. In multi-category rotisserie leagues, Pacioretty also contributes with a league leading 85 shots on goal and 28 hits. We can expect him to finish with 35 goals and mid-60’s for points once again, when all is said and done.

 

Ryan McDonagh

 

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I thought that when the Rangers signed Kevin Shattenkirk to a long-term deal this summer, that McDonagh’s offensive numbers would suffer. Well, 18 games into the season, the Rangers top producing defenseman is indeed Shattenkirk with 17 points in 18 games, including 10 points in his last seven games. However, McDonagh isn’t too far off the pace with 12 points.

 

After starting the season with three points in his first 10 games, McDonagh has recorded nine points over his last eight contests. He’s clearly receiving second string power play minutes, but no Ranger averages more time on ice than McDonagh’s 23:07 minutes per game. Overall, he’s on pace for 55 points, so it does look as though he’ll beat the odds and surpass the 40-point mark again this year.

 

Phil Kessel

 

Okay, hands up, who thought that at any point in the season that Kessel would have more points than both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? It really looks like the old Phil is back. You remember, the guy who likes shooting the puck.

 

On the season, Kessel has 22 points, tied for fourth overall in scoring with Johnny Gaudreau and Jaden Schwartz. Half of those points have come via the power play, good for the third most power-play points in the league. His 78 shots on goal rank fourth, behind only Pacioretty, Evander Kane and some guy named Alexander Ovechkin. Last year’s 229 shots were well off his previous two seasons of 274 and 280. This year, he is on pace for over 330 shots.

 

Kessel is playing the vast majority of his even-strength shifts beside Malkin and a rotating cast of port-siders. No surprise that he continues to play on a stacked Pens power play. Pittsburgh has the fourth ranked power play, but also the second most number of goals with the man advantage. You may not like some things about the hot dog muncher, but you have to admit, he is getting results.

 

Morgan Rielly

 

After four NHL seasons of 27, 29, 36 and last year’s 27 points, it looks as though Rielly is breaking out in a big way. He has 16 points in 19 games. I’ll admit, I was surprised at how consistent he has been in his scoring this season; he has yet to put up back-to-back goose eggs.

 

The Leafs power play ice time is being evenly distributed, with the top 10 players averaging between 2:25-2:40 minutes per game. With seven power-play points in only 19 games, Rielly is on pace for 30 on the season, easily besting his previous high of 12. Another interesting statistic is how he has seemingly turned four straight seasons of minuses (minus-13, 16, 17 and 20) into an even rating. I still think it’s a junk individual statistic, however, as a team, it’s always better to be on the positive side of that ledger.

 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

 

There were some doubters heading into the season that Vasilevskiy could be a top goalie on a top team this year. His 13-1-1 record refutes that thought solidly. Vasilevskiy’s 464 saves are second only to the Leafs Frederik Andersen and his 0.930 save percentage ties him with the resurgent Jimmy Howard for fourth in the NHL. He also owns the eighth best goals-against average in the league.

 

After starting the season with less than stellar numbers (outside of wins and losses), Vasilevskiy has really come on strong. This table shows what I’m talking about:

 

 

Record

Goals-Against Average

Save Percentage

First 4 Games

3-1-0

3.74

0.900

Next 11 Games

10-0-1

1.80

0.943

Overall

13-1-1

2.32

0.930

 

I’m just glad that I was able to snag him in one of my two non-keeper leagues. In the one where I own Vasilevskiy (and Sergei Bobrovsky), the Rocky Horror Roto Show, I am tied or outright in first place in three of the four goaltending categories. The only category that lags behind is saves. I can live with that.

 

Thanks for reading.