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Fantasy Hockey Week 8 Risers and Fallers: It's just not working with Jeff Skinner

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By Jan Levine, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

This week's article includes a Kings' first-round pick producing, another Canadian Drake rolling, the Ghost showing signs of life, Rask resurrecting his career, the Tank returning soon, and several veterans scuffling.

FIRST LINERS (Risers)

Gabriel Vilardi, C, LA

Vilardi, drafted 11th overall in 2017, battled back problems that threatened to cut his career short. Finally healthy, Vilardi had a cup of coffee with the Kings, playing 10 games last season and tallying three goals and four assists. Starting this season on the third line, Vilardi, who possesses a lightning-fast trigger on his shots, started slowly but has found his groove recently, picking up two goals and three apples in his last seven games as he settles into a top-six role.

Andrew Mangiapane, LW, CGY

Mangiapane took a major step forward with 17 goals and 15 assists last season, skating opposite Matthew Tkachuk on the second line. He is proving that breakthrough was no fluke, notching his sixth goal in the last 12 games with a shorthanded marker and an assist Saturday. This season, Mangiapane has a solid eight goals and 12 points in 23 games, putting him on pace to see career highs in goals and points. Continue to roll with him with confidence, especially in deeper leagues, as he also has 18 hits and 17 blocked shots.

Drake Batherson, RW, OTT

It's Batherson's world and we are all just living in it, as he extended his goal streak to six with a pair of markers Monday. Those two points gave the 2017 fourth-round pick nine goals and 17 points through 24 games, setting career highs in each category in one more game than he played in last season. Ottawa is in growth and evaluation mode and Batherson is showing that he is a key piece to the future as a second-or third-line player who could continue to see time on the power-play point.

Patric Hornqvist, LW, FLA

Hornqvist's production fell off slightly the last two seasons, impacted by injuries. Pittsburgh was looking to free up some cap room and found a taker in Florida, who was hoping the Sunshine State would be the Fountain of Youth for the aging winger. The Panthers have been somewhat of an elixir for Hornqvist, who tallied Saturday, giving him nine markers along with eight assists in 21 games this season. Of those 17 points, eight have come on the power-play, which is where Hornqvist does much of his damage.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, PHI

Placing Ghost on this list might be a mistake by the time this column is read. Gostisbehere notched a goal and assist against the Rangers on Feb. 24 and followed that strong game with another marker Saturday. He went from the penthouse to the outhouse in the last few years, topping out at 65 points in 2017-18 before plummeting to 12 points in 42 games last year. Ghost got off to a poor start this year, but maybe these back-to-back strong games will propel him.

Kris Letang, D, PIT

I got into an interesting debate with a colleague on whether Letang is a Hall of Famer. His production per game and impact when on the ice is clear, but the numerous games he has missed make his case harder. Letang had a pair of goals and an assist Saturday, giving the veteran blueliner four goals and 10 helpers in 18 games. He plays more than 24 minutes a game, including three on the man-advantage, while blocking a shot and dishing out two hits per game, adding to his already strong value in leagues that use those categories.

Brian Elliott, G, PHI

Elliott may be playing his way into a timeshare, at least for the time being, with Carter Hart between the pipes for the Flyers. His 23-save shutout Saturday improved his season record to a dazzling 6-1-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average (GAA) and .931 save percentage. Hart has struggled this season, paving the way for a split in time in net, at least until Hart finds his game. Elliott seems to be able to manage with a somewhat subpar Philly defense better than Hart, who thrives with structure in front of him. However, Hart posted a shutout Sunday against those same Sabres, so we may need to wait to see how this pans out.

Kaapo Kahkonen, G, MIN

Kahkonen did yeoman's work between the pipes for Minnesota while Cam Talbot was sidelined, picking up four consecutive wins while posting an impressive 1.51 GAA and .945 save percentage. Talbot returned to action this week, but Kahkonen's fine play has earned him a larger share of the time in net, splitting game action, as he did notching the win Saturday following a start and win by Talbot on Thursday. A fourth-round pick in 2014, the Finnish native excelled in the minors last season, compiling a 25-6-5 record while posting an impressive 2.07 GAA and .927 save percentage in 34 appearances and was solid in five appearances for the Wild, paving the way for his step forward in 2020-21.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen
Kaapo Kahkonen has been excellent for the Minnesota Wild this season. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Others include: Vincent Trocheck, Carl Soderberg, Steven Stamkos, William Karlsson, Logan Couture, Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome, Mathew Barzal, Johnny Gaudreau, Phil Kessel, Alex Chiasson. Jake Guentzel, Mats Zuccarello, Andre Burakovsky, Matthew Tkachuk, Evander Kane, Kirill Kaprizov, Chris Kreider, Thomas Chabot, Jake Bean, John Klingberg, John Carlson, Brett Pesce, Rasmus Andersson, Jakob Chychrun, Brett Pesce. Mike Smith, Alex Nedeljkovic, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jack Campbell, Jonathan Bernier, Malcolm Subban, and Vitek Vanecek.

TRADE FOR

Victor Rask, C, MIN

In one of the more improbable stories of the season, Rask is fantasy relevant — actually just relevant — again. Rask had a solid rookie campaign in 2014-15 before breaking through slightly the following two seasons. His decline began in 2017-18 before he was dealt the following year to Minnesota and spent copious time in the press box, either injured or, more often, as a healthy scratch. The return of Mats Zuccarello and pairing of Zucc with Kirill Kaprizov has sparked Rask's season, as he has notched two goals and four assists the last five games since that trio was created.

TRAINING ROOM (Injuries)

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL

Tarasenko, recovering from his third shoulder surgery in 28 months, will make his season debut during the Blues' upcoming six-game road trip. He practiced fully Friday, skating on a line with Brayden Schenn and David Perron, showing that he is close to rejoining the active lineup. When Tarasenko returned from his second surgery in August, he lasted four games before aggravating the injury and going back under the knife, so there is some question as to how well his shoulder will hold up again. But the upside is too great to leave him on the waiver wire if he for some reason is available.

Others include: Auston Matthews (wrist, missed Saturday's game), Nico Hischier (puck to the face Saturday, timetable for return not clear), Dylan Larkin (upper body, sat out Saturday and Sunday), Anthony Cirelli (upper body, missed six games, returned with a goal and an assist Saturday), Jaden Schwartz (lower body, out since Feb. 12, not traveling with the Blues and is expected to miss the next six games, putting his return possibly on March 12), Conor Garland (lower body, missed Saturday's game), Rasmus Ristolainen (missed seven games due to COVID, activated Saturday), Cale Makar (upper body, missed Saturday's and Monday's games, expected to be out for the remainder of the Avalanche's road trip, keeping him out until at least Friday), Erik Karlsson (lower body, missed four games, activated off injured reserve for Saturday's game versus the Blues), Colton Parayko (back, won't return until at least March 12) and Linus Ullmark (lower body, placed on injured reserve, will be sidelined for at least a month).

FOURTH LINERS/PRESS BOXERS (Fallers)

Barrett Hayton, C, AZ

Hayton was a mildly surprising selection at fifth overall in 2017, rising quickly just before the draft. While rookie growth is far from linear, Hayton to date is looking like a mild bust, though the jury is far from out on a final decision on his status. Hayton was assigned to the AHL on Feb. 21 after posting four points in 20 games last year and adding just three points through 14 games this year. He has averaged just 11:29 of ice time per game, so his development is best served by handling top-six minutes in the AHL. If he is productive there, look for Hayton to be back up sometime this year.

Jeff Skinner, LW, BUF

Skinner signed an eight-year, $72 million contract with the Sabres in June 2019 after tallying 40 goals his first season in Buffalo following eight years in Carolina. After Skinner signed, the Sabres brought in Krueger to coach the team, but the combination of coach and player has been oil and water. Skinner's production plummeted last year, and amazingly, he has been worse this year, landing as a healthy scratch for consecutive games before rejoining the active lineup Saturday.

Carey Price, G, MTL

Hopes were high in Montreal, especially when they started 5-1-1. But the Canadiens have struggled a bit lately, largely due to Price's difficulties between the pipes. Price allowed five goals on 29 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Jets on Thursday and has surrendered 14 goals in his last three contests. Those poor performances dropped Price's record to 5-4-3 with a 3.13 GAA and an .888 save percentage in 12 outings and increased the calls for Jake Allen to see more time in net.

Others include: Nick Bjugstad, Taylor Hall, Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Morrissey, Tuukka Rask, and Martin Jones.

TRADE AWAY

Brent Burns, D, SJ

The Robin (Erik Karlsson) to Burns' Batman in San Jose, was profiled a few weeks ago in this side of the ledger. Now, it's Burns' turn. Once a possible first-round pick, Burns' production dropped off a cliff last season, dropping from 83 to 45 points. That drop-off has continued this year, as Burns has notched just 11 points in 19 games along with a minus-six rating, making him a risky bet in leagues, especially if you counted on Burns being one of your top producing blueliners.