Fantasy Hockey Values: The Caps risers contributing to Washington's hot streak

By Jan Levine, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

In this space, we'll look at which NHL players are seeing their fantasy hockey values rise or fall on a week-to-week basis.

This week's article includes a Kuz cruising, Hagel on a roll, a Washington blueliner doing his best Carlson impersonation, Helly staying hot and Seattle's first draft pick in a mild slump.

First Liners (Risers)

Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH

Washington's current hot streak is not solely due to the play of Charlie Lindgren and Alex Ovechkin. Several others, including a pair of Caps to be highlighted this week, have contributed. Kuznetsov had 17 points, including 14 helpers, in 15 games in December. He was held off the scoresheet just three times all month and closed out December on a five-game, eight-point streak that included six assists. After posting 78 points in 79 games last season, Kuz is up to 33 points in 38 contests this season.

Elias Pettersson, C, VAN

Pettersson extended his point streak with a goal Saturday. With four goals and six assists over his last 10 outings, Pettersson is red-hot as the calendar flips from December to January. The 24-year-old center is up to 17 tallies, 44 points, 107 shots on net, 36 blocked shots, 29 hits and a plus-11 rating through 34 appearances this season. Pettersson has tallied at least 66 points in three of his first four seasons in the NHL, and his 44 points through 34 games put him on an early pace to exceed that total.

Michael Rasmussen, LW, DET

Rasmussen, selected ninth overall in 2017, showed some signs last year of living up to his draft placement. His 15 goals and 27 points in 80 games a season ago were both career-high marks and an indication that Rasmussen was starting to figure it out, though those numbers were offset by a minus-25 rating. Rasmussen has thrived since being moved to left wing on Detroit's first line, collecting three goals and four assists in his past five outings and 17 points overall in 33 contests.

Brandon Hagel, LW, TBL

Hagel's continued ascent last year came mainly while he was a member of the Blackhawks. The Lightning sent a pair of first-round picks and a couple of prospects to Chicago in March to obtain Hagel's services, after which his numbers cratered, as he managed just seven points in 22 games for his new team. This season, Hagel is up to 14 goals and as many assists in 35 games, with six goals in his last seven games and 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in his last 10. Hagel is benefitting by skating to the left of Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

Erik Gustafsson, D, WSH

Gustafsson has more than helped pick up the slack while John Carlson (face) has been sidelined. He tallied a goal and a pair of assists Saturday and is now on a seven-game, 13-point streak (six goals, seven assists). Gustafsson recorded 60 points in 2018-19 as a member of the Blackhawks but posted only 59 points across the following three seasons combined. Gustafsson's current hot streak has him up to 23 points, indicating how light his output was prior to this streak.

Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson is a riser in fantasy hockey while he rides a long point streak.
Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson is a riser in fantasy hockey while he rides a long point streak. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN

Spurgeon closed 2022 relatively hot, notching three goals and four assists across the last eight games of December. In addition, he added 25 blocks and 10 hits while averaging 20:41 in ice time, helping out in those categories in leagues that utilize non-standard scoring stats. Spurgeon is still skating on the second power-play unit but is the first-pair, right-handed blueliner, contributing to his plus-19 rating. He isn't a No. 1 D-man on most rosters but has substantive value in nearly all formats.

Jake Oettinger, G, DAL

Oettinger quietly continues to rack up wins. Saturday, he notched his fourth straight victory, a streak that's seen him allow just seven goals. On the year, the 24-year-old Minnesota native has a 17-5-3 record, 2.36 goals-against average (GAA) and .921 save percentage (SV%) in 28 games this season. The wins put him on pace to exceed the career-high 30 victories he notched a year ago, while his GAA and SV% both are improvements over his fine sophomore campaign. Oettinger's strong season is a major reason why Dallas leads the Central Division and is second in the Western Conference.

Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG

After seeing his goals-against average and save percentage stumble the last two seasons — at least partially due to the poor defense in front of him — Hellebuyck has been back on the beam this year. Saturday was Helly's seventh win in 11 starts in December. He improved to 18-9-1 with a 2.32 GAA and a .928 save percentage through 28 outings. While there's still more than half a season to go, as of now, the GAA and SV% would be career-bests for the Michigan native. The 18 wins put him on pace to exceed 30 victories for the fourth time in his career.

Others include Pierre-Luc Dubois, William Nylander, Phillip Danault, Brayden Point, Lawson Crouse, Alex Tuch, Marcus Johansson, Michael Amadio, Zach Hyman, Conor Timmins, Victor Hedman, Miro Heiskanen, Hampus Lindholm, Pheonix Copley, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Antti Raanta, Cam Talbot and Matt Murray.

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Matty Beniers, C, SEA

Beniers is having a fine rookie season with 11 goals and 14 assists in 35 games, but a look beyond the overall numbers shows a center whose production has tailed off lately. Beniers has just two helpers in his last eight games and one goal in his last 12 contests. This is more than likely just the ebb and flow of a season, especially for a first-year player, meaning if you can make a deal for him cheaply in your leagues, go for it. Jared McCann has picked up some of the slack while Beniers has scuffled, but Beniers is still the top-line center for the Kraken.

Neal Pionk, D, WPG

Pionk closed out December with a goal and an assist, but he had a rough month overall. In 16 games, Pionk had a pair of goals and three assists along with a minus-nine rating. On the season, Pionk has six goals and 10 helpers in 37 games, putting him in line with his prior production, but his current level of play and output make 2019-20 — when he posted 45 points in 71 games — look like a slight aberration. In addition, Josh Morrissey has taken a major step forward, pushing Pionk down the defensive pecking list in Winnipeg.

Philipp Grubauer, G, SEA

Grubauer had a brutal first year in Seattle and got off to a poor start before landing on injured reserve. After missing a month, he returned with a few solid efforts and looked to be in a position to possibly take the top goalie spot from Martin Jones. That level of play proved to be an aberration, as he's reverted to his rough previous level of performance recently. After allowing three goals on five shots and taking the loss Friday against the Oilers, Grubauer fell to 3-7-1 with a 3.53 GAA and an .881 save percentage through 13 appearances. He's lost six of his last seven outings, and this ugly start could lead to more playing time for Jones early in January.

Others include Alex Newhook, Patrick Kane, Dawson Mercer, Alexander Romanov, Ville Husso and Alexandar Georgiev.