Eastern Conference Bounce-Back Candidates

by Eric Daoust on September 22, 2015
David Krejci - USA Today Sports Images

Six players to buy low on for the upcoming season.

Mastering the art of buying low is one of the keys to winning fantasy league championships. The idea is to acquire players for less than they are worth which in the end will improve your team. This is seen very frequently in trades when proven players going through slumps suddenly hit the trade block and can be had at bargain prices. This also applies to fantasy league drafts, especially in one-year leagues where players coming off a down year find themselves far down most people’s draft boards if they are ranked at all. Not only do you have a chance to acquire these forgotten producers, you can often select them later in the draft which can give your squad a big boost from the depth spots.

The six players covered here offer varying degrees of fantasy appeal. Some are potential stars while others are simply good depth options that are better suited for deeper leagues. Nevertheless, you should not ignore these players on draft day.

Experts League

On Sunday the DobberHockey Experts League draft was held. There is a discussion thread on the forum containing the draft results along with some chatter. Even in a league like this there are plenty of examples of players falling in the draft and becoming excellent value picks.

Other bounce-back candidates covered recently:

Victor Hedman
Chris Kunitz
Bobby Ryan

Eric Gelinas (D – New Jersey)

The 24-year-old Gelinas showed a ton of promise when he had 29 points in 60 games in 2013-14 as a rookie. However, he suffered from the sophomore slump as his production fell to 19 points in 61 contests last year. The setback is enough for Gelinas to fall under the radar and the Devils as a team are rather unappealing.

There are signs of optimism moving forward. Now that power play quarterback Marek Zidlcky has moved on, Gelinas and Damon Severson are the only two remaining Devils’ blueliners that averaged more than two minutes of power play time on ice last year. Of course, Adam Larsson is a major threat to jump to the top power play unit but with things so unsettled in New Jersey there is an opportunity for Gelinas to establish himself in his third year.

Over his career, Gelinas has averaged just fewer than two shots per game despite seeing just 16 minutes per outing on the ice. The shooter’s mentality will help keep his goal totals up and also creates chances for deflections. The forward group as a whole is not very good but the additions of Kyle Palmier and Jiri Tlusty offers the team some younger legs which should help.

As with many young unproven offensive defensemen, Gelinas is at a crossroads. Some manage to take the next step and become stable producers while others remain stuck in depth with up-and-down numbers. Gelinas is a risk but one worth taking in a decent-size league. If he can get back on track you could see him up in the 30-35-point range.

David Krejci (F – Boston)

Last year was a write-off for Krejci as he missed 35 games to injury after being an extremely durable 60-point guy over the years. Assuming he can get back to playing just about every game, it is safe to assume he will get back to being a solid fantasy option. What remains to be seen is how productive he can be with the new-look Bruins. Will he reach 69 points like he did in 2013-14 or will he fall closer to the 52 points he had back in 2009-10?

Obviously, the Bruins are not the powerhouse they were in years past. Even more concerning from a fantasy perspective is the losses of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton in addition to their 23rd-best 213 goals scored last season. To make matters worse Krejci managed just 70 shots in 47 games last year after averaging close to two shots per game over the past several years. Unless he can get more pucks on net his goal-scoring upside will be very limited.

With that said, look for Krejci to fall in the 50-55-point range. This would be a repeat of last year’s scoring pace. His environment is not as strong but he should be healthier this year which will allow him to get into more of a rhythm. With the center position being so deep, Krejci might be available later in the draft while players providing only a few extra points get picked much earlier.

Matt Moulson (F – Buffalo)

Moulson became a fantasy beast by seizing his opportunity with the New York Islanders at a time when young superstar John Tavares was beginning his rise to elite status. In particular, he had a two-year stretch where he had 51 goals and 113 points in 129 total games. Things have not gone so well for Moulson without a top center setting him up as he managed just 41 points for the Sabres last year. This included fewer power play points than we are used to seeing and an unlucky shooting percentage (8.3 percent). To put it in perspective, with his shooting percentage adjusted to his career mark of 13 percent, he would have scored seven more goals.

Help has arrived in Buffalo as the Sabres will be significantly improved down the middle this year. In addition to second-overall pick Jack Eichel, the team also acquired Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche while 19-year-old Sam Reinhart is also in the mix. Moulson’s ability to finish around the net is a great fit alongside such talented centers.

With the possibility of Eichel starting the year on Jack Eichel’s wing, Moulson’s outlook for this year is very good. With the shooting percentage hopefully closer to his career 13 percent and a better environment, he should finish with at least 50 points with an outside chance of approaching 60. With the wing positions being shallower, Moulson is a nice depth option that should be available later in the draft.

Dmitry Orlov (D – Washington)

Orlov has had his young NHL career ravaged by injuries. After showing some decent signs over the last few years, he failed to play a single game for the Capitals last year due to a broken wrist. As a result, it is very likely Orlov will not be on many draft lists.

As mentioned, Orlov has been able to show some glimpses of progression when healthy. This includes seasons of 11 points (54 games) and 19 points (62 games). He has also done very well at the AHL level with 47 points in 79 career minor league games.

With the departure of Mike Green, there are opportunities on the blueline in Wasington. John Carlson and Matt Niskanen figure to lead the defenders in power play time but beyond them Orlov is in the mix for some secondary minutes on the man advantage. With a cap hit of $2 million you have to think Orlov will get a fair chance to make his mark.

At this point you might be better off letting Orlov go undrafted and scoop him up early if he can produce out of the gate. If all goes well he could push the 30-point mark while offering a solid combination of hits, blocks and shots along with a few power play points.

Matt Read (F – Philadelphia)

After three years finishing just above 0.5-points-per-game, Read had a disastrous year highlighted by his meager eight goals. His ice time being down by one minute per contest did not help matters but it turns out Read was very unlucky as a shooter last year, scoring on just 5.6 percent of shots. If we adjust that to his career average of 12.5 percent, Read would have finished with 18 goals. This would have brought him up to 40 points, identical to his 2013-14 totals.

Where Read goes from here remains to be seen. His versatility and two-way talents cause him to move around the lineup a lot as he plays a variety of roles. But with a new coach in town comes a new chance for Read to prove himself and land a more steady top-six spot. He will be in competition with Sam Gagner and Michael Raffl, two very different players with deficiencies in their games that could easily push them off the scoring lines.

It would be safe to assume Read gets luckier as a shooter this year while his point total gets back to the 40-point mark with the upside to get more if he can find himself next to Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek for long stretches. He has extra value in leagues that count hits and blocks but not PIM.

Jeff Skinner (F – Carolina)

One cannot emphasize enough how much Skinner’s 2014-15 campaign was a bust for fantasy owners. His 31 points represented an awful total for a player with so much upside. While the Hurricanes are still not a good team, there is optimism for Skinner heading into this year.

It should not be a surprise that the numbers indicate Skinner should have been more productive last year. His career pattern of shooting more than three shots per game continued but only 7.7 percent of his shots found the back of the net. Adjusting his percentage to his career mark of 10.5 Skinner would have scored 25 goals. Furthermore, his PDO and five-on-five shooting percentage were very low last year. Not only was he unlucky, his line as a whole was as well. If his linemates can correct course, there will be more assist opportunities for Skinner.

One hidden fact in Skinner’s awful year was him suiting up for 77 games, including just one game missed to illness after sitting out the first four while recovering from a previous concussion. If he can stay continue staying in the lineup more consistently he will become a much less frustrating fantasy player once he gets his production back in line.

Given his injury and concussion history, there is a wide range of possibilities for Skinner points-wise this year. He should be good for at least 40 but if he can stay healthy it would not be a surprise if he pushed the 50-point mark. This makes him a great boom/bust player in leagues that allow adds and drops in the event Skinner is back on the sidelines or is simply not productive enough.

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