Frozen Pool Forensics: Bounce-Back Candidates – Part 1
There’s plenty of fantasy heroes season after season but we also see disappointment from others to accompany the positives. It can’t always be cheery when discussing players who did not perform to expectations, though many of the following players have valid reasons for down campaigns in 2017-18. Indeed, some just plain and simply did not bring it and looking to their advanced statistics they stand reason to turn the tide in the coming year. A lot of variables outside player control also came into play with a couple of the following; hence they stand a good chance to turn things around. Capitalizing on drops in value is always a savvy way to go about building a well-rounded roster, so here’s a few guys who may very well see their market price dip thanks to their shortcomings in the prior campaign.
This coming draft will be the latest you’ll ever see Wayne Simmonds selected after his down season due to a laundry list of injuries. The definition of a trooper, the power forward played through a broken ankle, torn thumb ligaments, a pelvis tear, and a pulled groin. On top of this, he also just so happened to lose six teeth as a side note. As a Simmonds owner in a keeper setting, this past campaign was worrisome as he hurdles towards age 30 with decline on the mind. Power forwards of this mold tend to fade fast due to their style of play, case in point Corey Perry. Alas, when the injuries were reported the down statistics across the board are more than understandable. Now the fact he almost scored 25 goals with all these impairments seems astounding. More so than anything, Simmonds is a likely bounce back candidate for 2018-19 is a contract year for the Flyers gritty scorer. If you’ve followed my writing at all you know how vital I feel securing players in this scenario can be to fantasy success. Look for the lanky forward to re-establish himself as the elite multi-category cog he is next year on an offensively gifted Philadelphia squad.
Though I did not foresee the likes of Noah Hanifin and Dougie Hamilton changing zip codes anytime soon, Jeff Skinner is still probably waiting on the phone call telling him he’s been dealt. If I’m him, I cannot wait to leave Raleigh, North Carolina, as he just may be the worst utilized forward in the game today. Why Skinner sees third line assignment dumbfounds me as does his second power play duty being the sniper he is. A down year yes but still only one short of 25 goals with a 2.1 PTS/60 seeing Derek Ryan as his center most frequently. You can forgive the 26-year old Toronto native somewhat for not matching last year’s 37 goals. Despite the lesser players he sees time with, Skinner drives play when on the ice as evident in his strong 55.01 CF%. I am basically begging for the Hurricanes to deal the former figure skater to a stronger contender that will actually utilize him in the correct fashion. By that I mean in the top six where his skills are best served. Skinner shot two percent below his career average 10.9% in 2017-18 while still putting a healthy dose of shots on net with 277. Look for positive regression towards the mean whether he stays with Carolina or changes uniform in 2018-19.
Jeff Carter does not find himself here because he is need of redemption but more so because his very lengthy injury with low offense overall may drop his draft rank. Only appearing in 27 games total, it was business as usual for the veteran center scoring 13 goals in that time while setting up nine. Carter is cemented into the second line pivot position and a role on the primary power play in Los Angeles. Now with the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, this top six just became a lot more interesting. Though a fan of the That 70’s line Carter centers with wings Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, the thought of adding the KHL leading scorer to his side is tantalizing. He will surely see time with him on the top power play but if the Russian does not work out with Anze Kopitar, seemingly Carter would be next in line to try to ignite chemistry with Kovalchuk. Most important to note regarding Carter is that he essentially had a season off and will be incredibly fresh for the coming campaign. Though he has shown no age-related decline, a 33-year old being afforded this sort of break will do wonders for the swift skater. Look for Carter to get off to a quick start in 2018-19 and continue being a consistent source of goals as always.
Bryan Little really got the short end of the stick when Paul Stastny was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. The 30-year old center was the second line center on this squad for some time and had the cushy role of feeding Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine yet never seemingly got it going as in seasons past. His first full campaign since 2013-14, Little only managed 43 points and the second-lowest points per game of his career. As someone who rostered him all season because of his face-offs won, it was a shame to see the generally consistent scorer not capitalize on a season that saw him play more than 60 games for the first time since 2014-15. There are no excuses to be made for his inability to produce at least assists centering two dangerous wingers, so when Stastny was brought into the fold he received the boot from the top six thus killing any shot to finish strong. With no guarantee Stastny returns, Little finds himself likely to be at the helm of the second line should he sign elsewhere. Before this season, Little was a consistent source of points from 2013-14 onward, with point per game marks of .78/.74/.74/.80 respectively. Very much still in his prime, bank on last year being a blip on the radar and capitalize on him proving he still has what it takes.
The fact I won my redraft league taking this man in the first round deserves a drink in itself. There’s no reason to dwell on what we all know was a nightmare campaign though he still managed a 30-plus win season. Sneakily, Talbot finished the fantasy season strong with 7 wins in the last 13 starts to go with a 2.81 GAA and .919 SV%. Most may be aware that Talbot also welcomed twins into the world during the previous campaign and that could easily have had negative effects on his performance. After the Jekyll and Hyde act of the Oilers in the two seasons past, one can foresee draft stock falling for those not named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. If there is one positive to Edmonton’s 2017-18, it’s that they can only go up from here. If having a 30-win season in a down year albeit with mediocre ratios is bad for the workhorse goaltender, then he’s worthy of number two consideration without question still. If the Oilers can just get some offense from young players such as Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Strome, and Jesse Puljujarvi, on top of their two star forwards, then things should turn around for Talbot. The Oilers defense is still spotty but the real killer for them last season was the inadequate forward depth at the NHL level. There is too much what if involved with Edmonton currently, so investing in Talbot as your number one isn’t advisable. Don’t be scared off entirely for he is surely a strong compliment to a more reliable number one.
Much like the team discussed above, the Chicago Blackhawks also served as example of the struggle to compete when you are inadequate overall at the forward position. No longer the championship juggernaut they once were, this team was awfully top heavy with a weak bottom six that did not generate offense. In what may one day go down as Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade larceny, the Artemi Panarin–Brandon Saad swap looks quite wretched on Stan Bowman’s resume. These are dark times in the windy city, with Jonathan Toews not touching the 60-point plateau in three years and Duncan Keith matching his rookie point output albeit with ten fewer goals this time. There’s promise in young Alex DeBrincat but for how long can this team sit on Patrick Kane’s back as he heads into his age-30 campaign. Saad absolutely must rebound in 2018-19 for the Blackhawks to have any hope of attaining a postseason berth. Matching a career best 233 shots on goal last year, he just could not bury the chances shooting 7.3% compared to 11.4% in 2016-17. Like Skinner expect positive regression towards the mean leading to Saad rediscovering the 20-goal plateau in 2018-19. Do not expect astounding offense from the American on this team though he should serve you well as solid goal scoring depth.
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