When you’re trying to figure out good candidates for bounce-back seasons, one of the simplest ways is to look at shooting percentage.
After all, a player who experienced a sudden, massive drop in shooting percentage would have also seen a massive drop in goals and points. A return back to a normal shooting percentage would also mean a return to normal production.
Now, this isn’t a universal belief among all players. For some players, there is no bouncing back. James Neal is a good example. He went from a career 12.1 shooting percentage to five per cent with Calgary. However, I wouldn’t bet on a bounce-back season since it’s tough for him to get top-six minutes (or even into the lineup).
Below are 10 forwards who saw a significant decrease in shooting percentage this past season that could bounce back next year. Obviously, there are other factors (such as linemates, deployment and shot quality), but to keep it simple for this column, we’re just going to focus on shooting percentage. Keep in mind that we’re looking solely at players that have at least three years in the NHL to create more of a baseline.
On to the list.
10. Charlie Coyle
Coyle’s goal production has been dropping each year, which is unusual for a player in his early-to-mid 20s that is generally always seeing the same deployment and ice time. His shooting percentage has also done down each year, from 15 per cent in 2015-16, to 11.3 per cent to 9.4 per cent to 7.7 per cent this past season. A new team was actually worse for Coyle, as he shot just 4.8 per cent with the Bruins in 21 games. However, there could be a little bit of hope after he scored nine goals in the postseason on 23.1 percent shooting.
His shooting percentage has declined every year for the last few years, but this year’s 5.8 per cent is almost half of his career 11.1 per cent he was averaging going into the season. It will be interesting to see how the Kings treat Toffoli in the future. He’s been disappointing throughout most of his career, and you have to expect that the Kings will want to go with a youth movement at some point. In the meantime, he can still get top-six minutes with some decent power-play time.
8. Nazem Kadri
Many people may now saw they say Kadri’s production drop coming, but it would have been tough to project he would have fallen this far. After all, his ice time this season was on par with previous years, and his power-play time was up half a minute per game. Yet he dropped from 32 goals and 55 points to 16 goals and 44 points. Kadri shot just 8.7 per cent this year, his second lowest since becoming a full-time NHLer. It’s also a far drop from the 15.2 per cent he had in the 2017-18 campaign.
Only twice in his 21-year career has Marleau had a shooting percentage under 10 per cent: 2014-15 and this year. He came into this season averaging 13.4 per cent in his career, and had just 9.9 per cent this season. That’s part of the reason why he only scored 16 goals. Of course, seeing much less ice time and power play time will also hurt.
6. J.T. Miller
Some may believe that the reason behind Miller’s previous high shooting percentage is because of his time playing with superstars in Tampa, but Miller also had a high shooting percentage with the Rangers as well. In fact, he ranged from 16.1 per cent to 16.7 per cent in the three years previous to this one. This year he dropped down to 12 per cent while also reducing his shot total, which is never a good combination. It’s no wonder that he went from his usual 22 goals to 12 goals. Now in Vancouver, he has a better chance to get back into a top-six role to go along with more power-play time.
There were plenty of reasons why Schwartz had such a poor season, but a much lower than normal shooting percentage sums it all up. Going into this season, Schwartz averaged 13.7 per cent shooting for his career and had 15.3 per cent in 2017-18. This year, that dropped all the way down to six per cent. Hence the 11 goals despite taking a near-career high number of shots. Good luck buying low now, however, after he potted 12 postseason goals on 19 percent shooting.
4. Jeff Carter
We have seen unbelievable bounce-back seasons before from older players (just look at Zach Parise this past year), and there’s no reason to doubt that Carter can be the next player to be added to that list. Carter is only a couple of years removed from a 32-goal campaign. Plus, in 2017-18, he had 13 goals in 27 games. This past year, however, he had 13 in 76. That was partially thanks to a woeful 7.5 per cent, the lowest since 2006-07 when he was a sophomore. He’s averaged 12.7 per cent in his time with the Kings.
This was the first season since his rookie campaign in 2014-15 that Rakell didn’t finish with a shooting percentage in double digits. In fact, in his previous three seasons, he averaged 15.1 per cent. That goes a long way to getting you 30-plus goals a year. This year, he averaged 9.3 per cent, a significant drop. Of course, Anaheim struggled all season, but you can’t expect them to be as poor next year as they were this year.
For the first few years of his career, Malkin’s shooting percentage ran the gamut from 8.2 per cent to 17.3 per cent. However, the last few years, he’s averaged 17.2 per cent and 0.51 goals per game. This year he averaged 0.31 goals per game on 11.2 shooting percentage. Most fantasy general managers may have been disappointed with Malkin’s season, but it hurt even more that he had one of the worst goal totals of his career.
1. Patrik Laine
Laine will be one of those sexy bounce-back picks that you’ll see in many guides leading into next season. He’s also going to be under a lot more scrutiny depending on his new contract. Regardless, his shooting percentage took a big dip this season, from 17.6 per cent and 18.3 per cent in his first two seasons to 12.2 per cent this year. That 6.1 drop in percentage points for Laine equalled 15 fewer goals. Imagine what the talk about Laine would be if he finished the season with 45 goals and 65 points instead of 30 goals and 50 points.