This week, The Journey examines which 2015-16 rookies could star in their sophomore seasons and who might slightly regress in Year 2.
Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
It’s unlikely that you will find anyone in the hockey world expecting McDavid to take a step backwards next year, and I am certainly not one who sees a sophomore slump coming. If anything, he could jump to an even higher level then we expect.
For reference, Sidney Crosby averaged 1.26 points per game in his rookie season, a number that jumped to 1.52 in his sophomore campaign despite relatively no change in shooting percentage.
McDavid scored 1.07 points per game in a smaller sample size in his rookie season. If you expect that same growth from McDavid in Year 2, and project it across a 78-82 game season, we could see him post a year of 100-plus points.
Robby Fabbri – St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis forward has been a revelation in this years playoffs and is currently tied for the team lead with 13 points in the Blues 17 playoff contests. His breakout has occurred in the playoffs, but his coming out party actually started in the second half of the regular season.
After posting just 18 points in the first 46 games of his rookie campaign, Fabbri scored 19 points in his last 26 games. Seven of those 19 points came on the power play after recording just one power-play point in the first four months of the season.
With David Backes and Troy Brouwer entering the offseason as unrestricted free agents, Fabbri could carve out a bigger role in St. Louis next season. Expect an uptick on his 13 minutes of ice time per game next year, which could lead to more offense.
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets
Ehlers had a very strong rookie season where he put up 38 points in 72 games, but a deeper dig into the numbers shows that it could have been even better.
Of the top-1o rookie scorers this season, Ehlers was the only one who had a shooting percentage below 10 percent (9.0 percent) despite taking the fourth most shots among all first-year players.
The additions of elite prospects Kyle Connor and (likely) Patrik Laine next season will provide even more offensive firepower for the Jets and could affect Ehlers positively both at even strength and on the power-play.
Expect the explosive forward to score more goals next season and easily soar past the 15 he potted this year.
Artemi Panarin – Chicago Blackhawks
Panarin was terrific all year and with some luck from the injury bug it will likely net him a Calder Trophy.
Looking at next year, I still fully expect the Russian dynamo to pile up the points, but his goal scoring may drop from his rookie campaign.
This season, his shooting percentage was 16.0 percent and his offensive zone start percentage was nearly 76 percent, a number that was fourth highest among NHL players who played 75 games or more. Both of these numbers should regress a bit in 2016-17, which could cause a drop in goals and points.
Shayne Gostisbehere – Philadelphia Flyers
Gostisbehere put up a staggering amount of points after making his NHL debut in mid-November and was an integral reason that the Flyers snuck into the playoffs. The rookie blueliner had 46 points in 64 games, scoring 17 goals, which was good for sixth among all NHL defenseman.
The former third-round pick finished with a 11.2 percent shooting percentage, the highest among all rookie defensemen who played more than 60 games. For reference, Ottawa’s Chris Wideman was second with a shooting percentage of just 6.9 percent. Gostisbehere also cashed in with four overtime game winners, tied for second among all NHL players.
I fully expect Ghost to have a good second season, but it may not be as perfect as his rookie season was given all the things that went right for him this year.
Anthony Duclair – Arizona Coyotes
Duclair finished with the third highest shooting percentage among NHL players who played over 80 games at 19.0 percent, and he recorded an incredibly high PDO of 103.9 in his rookie season. Duclair also led all NHL rookies with eight power-play goals on the season, and there is definitely some room for regression in Year 2.
The Coyotes rookies were leaned on heavily this season, and that likely wont change too much in the 2016-17, but Duclair could take a step back in his sophomore season due to increased responsibility in all three zones, as his game continues to evolve.
In his rookie year he was extremely sheltered by starting his shifts in the offensive zone nearly 61 percent of the time. That could also change.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.