Eastern Edge – Strong Finishers in the East

Russ

2017-09-05

Brayden Point - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Sometimes players get off to bad starts. It can happen to even the best players. What I’d like to focus on this week are the players that finished 2016-17 strong. I’ve looked at two periods of time that overlap, one from March 1st until the end of the regular season, and the other is from February 1st to the conclusion of the campaign.

Below are a selection players from Eastern Conference teams that made a big push from the first day of March until the end of the regular season:

 

No. 1 on the list shouldn’t come as a big surprise, Connor McDavid, who had 28 points in 18 games, but Nikita Kucherov finished with only one less point over the final 20 contests. Another Tampa player went along for the ride; Ondrej Palat scored 22 points in 21 matches. That was the same number of points as Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom had over the same period.

Brayden Point played more than 75 percent of his even-strength shifts beside Kucherov and Palat at the end of the season, and the rookie rewarded his fantasy owners with 16 points in 21 games. Victor Hedman finished the season on a hot streak as well, recording 21 points in as many games.

Even though the team traded away a very good offensive player in Johnathan Drouin, it’s not hard to envision the Lightning making a return to the playoffs, especially with a healthy Steven Stamkos leading the way.

 

A surprising name No. 1 on the list, at least for me, was Jeff Skinner. Of course, he’s a very good player, but his numbers were off the charts from the beginning of March until the end of the season. He led the league with 17 goals and had 23 points in 22 games. Of those 23 points, surprisingly only one came with the man advantage.

Skinner had 81 shots on goal during that period, bested only by Evander Kane (88), Alexander Ovechkin (86), Vladimir Tarasenko (85) and Jack Eichel (82). Skinner's shooting percentage of 21.0 was quite a bit over the 13.2 percent he had on the season.

It’s hard to believe Skinner’s only 25 years of age. He just had a career year registering 37 goals and 281 shots on goal and tied his best point total with 63 markers. He’s also missed only a total of eight games over the past three seasons. Many people still see Skinner as a band-aid boy.

With Carolina’s offense improving, can Skinner push it to the next level? I could see him maintaining this level with maybe a five-point bump. I don’t see much more than 40-goal, 70-point upside, however, he is a little underrated in rotisserie leagues that count goals and shots on goal, where he finished s