Eastern Edge – Bounce-back candidates from the Eastern Conference

by Eric Daoust on September 13, 2016
  • Eastern Edge
  • Eastern Edge – Bounce-back candidates from the Eastern Conference
Rick Nash - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

All players experience ups and downs throughout their careers. Examples of factors influencing setbacks include injuries, ice time and line combinations. Regardless of the reason, sometimes things just do not work out for a player and as a result his numbers suffer greatly. In fantasy land, the effects are significant because poolies are left disappointed when they fail to get full value out of someone. Sometimes this can cost you a championship.

 

Often times the stench of an off year impacts the player’s value for a while and will even impact his draft position the next fall. Even experienced managers tend to put more stock into recent events and will overlook the player’s overall history. This gives you an opportunity to acquire good value, either by trade or at the draft table, at a lower cost than usual. You can never say it often enough: buy low, sell high.

Today we will look at 12 bounce-back candidates in the Eastern Conference and why they are in a position to offer good value to your roster this year.

 

FORWARD

Tyler Ennis (Buffalo)

Ennis lost most of last season to injury and in the process was pushed down the depth chart with the emergence of Sam Reinhart and the acquisition of Kyle Okposo. With that said, there is a chance for him to post solid numbers, especially if he can somehow land on the top power-play unit. After all, there is more talent in Buffalo than there has been over the past several years and Ennis has already approached 50 points on multiple occasions.

Ultimately, opportunity will decide Ennis’ fate this year. As such, the risk is high. He could easily clear 50 points but will likely be more of a secondary scorer who is valuable in deeper leagues. Given the games missed last year and his ugly numbers when he did suit up, he will likely be overlooked on draft day. You should be able to wait a couple extra rounds before pulling the trigger which will help minimize the risk.

 

Nick Foligno (Columbus)

Foligno followed up a 73-point effort in 2014-15 — which earned him a fat long-term contract — with a disappointing 37 last year. Everyone knew he would come back down to earth, but the campaign was definitely worse than expected. He still played a key role for the Blue Jackets and was effective on the power play, but his personal shooting percentage and on-ice five-on-five shooting percentage were both quite low. Clearly, he was a victim of some bad luck.

With the big contract in hand, Foligno will continue to get opportunities to shine. The Blue Jackets have improved their puck-moving on the back end with the addition of Seth Jones and might get additional help in Zach Werenski. This will help the forward group including Foligno. He will not come anywhere near his career-high total but could push 50 points this year while also offering great multi-category value.

 

Evander Kane (Buffalo)

It goes without saying, Kane is not a popular player among fantasy GMs and hockey fans in general. On top of his injuries and inconsistent play, he has been plagued with multiple off-ice incidents which make him as risky as anyone moving forward. However, this is an example where going against the grain can pay dividends.

Kane can be a decent performer in points-only leagues when healthy, but his true value lies in multi-category leagues that include goals, PIM, hits and shots. In those setups, he has the potential to be one of the best forwards in terms of value per game. Even with the risk factor, this upside is too good to pass up. Most leagues have IR slots and allow you to add replacements so you should be fine even when he finds himself out of the lineup. As mentioned, do whatever you can when acquiring such a player to minimize the damage if things do not go as planned.

 

Andrew Ladd (New York Islanders)

Ladd is coming off a 46-point campaign which is his worst total in a non-lockout season since 2009-10. Considering he is now 30 years old, many are going to think this is the beginning of a decline. Although players do decline late in their careers most poolies will overreact to a player in his 30s and want nothing to do with him. This alone gives you an opportunity to buy low on draft day.

The other factor to keep in mind is his move to the Islanders. He signed a long, rich contract and the team did not potentially overpay for Ladd to play a secondary role. This means plenty of opportunities lining up next to John Tavares both at even strength and on the power play. Sharing the ice with an elite center should be enough to keep his numbers up for a few years, starting with this year as he will be back to his usual self while pushing the 60-point mark.

 

Rick Nash (New York Rangers)

Nash has been an enigma his entire career. On a few occasions he has lived up to his potential but most of the time he leaves us wanting more. Last year was yet another example of Nash underwhelming as he posted just 36 points in 60 games. He was a victim of a poor shooting percentage (8.2 percent) which caused him to perform at a 20-goal pace. Looking at his chart of the last five years courtesy of his player profile page in Frozen Pool will help us determine what might be coming for Nash in the future:

Clearly Nash has been very inconsistent over the last five years. Twice he approached the point-per-game mark and twice he finished with 0.6 points per game. Last year should be as bad as it gets for Nash even with the growing concern about his durability. While a year owning Nash could be frustrating, one must remember he has tremendous upside which he can reach from time to time. If he can hit his stride this year he could be a difference-maker for your fantasy team.

 

Ryan Strome (New York Islanders)

Prior to last year, Strome notched 50 points in his first full NHL campaign. The former fifth-overall pick appeared headed for stardom in the near future. He followed up with a disastrous eight goals and 28 points which included an eight-game stint in the AHL while his game was suffering. This raises some red flags as real star-level players rarely slip this badly at any point in their careers.

With that said, there is still a lot of hope for Strome. Beyond Ladd, there is no forward nearly guaranteed a spot on the top line. Most likely, the third forward spot will be a revolving door with many players enjoying stretches of time there, but Strome is by far the most talented of the bunch. If he can land the spot permanently he could have a breakout year. Otherwise, he can still do a lot of damage from the second unit but his upside will be more limited.

 

Kyle Turris (Ottawa)

Last year, Turris started the year on fire but ended up playing through an ankle injury before eventually getting shut down for the season. The final numbers look bad – just 30 points in 57 games – which puts him in buy-low territory. After all, the previous two years he finished with 64 and 57 points respectively which are strong totals in today’s NHL.

Although the arrival of Derrick Brassard should not affect Turris much overall, both will be competing on separate lines for minutes on the power play. Depending on how things play out, Turris could find himself less productive in that situation which could cause him to fall on the wrong side of the 60-point mark this year.

 

Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia)

Last year’s disappointing outcome happened for two main reasons: Voracek was incredibly snake-bitten in the goal-scoring department and he also spent extensive time off of Claude Giroux’s line. The former should easily correct itself this year as Voracek should come close to doubling last year’s 11 goals. This would put him back around 65 points.

Far more important will be Voracek’s linemates moving forward. Giroux found some chemistry with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, leaving Voracek on the outside looking in. His upside this year will be limited if this continues as playing with Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl is far less appealing. Depending on who ends up playing with Giroux, Voracek should end up somewhere between 60 and 70 points.

 

DEFENSE

Cody Franson (Buffalo)

A former multi-category stud, Franson has been a shell of his former self since leaving Toronto. Not only has his production dried up, his ice time has also dropped to third-pairing minutes. To make matters worse, his peripheral stats also took a big hit, most notably in hits, blocks and shots on goal. Essentially, he has all but fallen off the fantasy radar but once again this puts him in buy-low territory.

After Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres lack a true offensive-minded defenseman capable of putting up points. If Franson is able to get back on track he could see time on the top power-play unit should the team opt to go with two defensemen. Otherwise, even if he is able to maintain a spot on the second unit he should easily out-produce last year’s 17 points. Plus, his history in peripheral categories gives hope that he could regain some of that form this year. Consider him a nice late-round sleeper pick in leagues large enough to roster players of his caliber.

 

Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers)

The departure of Keith Yandle opens the door for McDonagh to play a more offensive role this year. In fact, the Rangers have no other defenseman worthy of playing on a top power-play unit at the moment. Last time he was in this type of role he produced 43 points in 2013-14 which gives an indication of what he will be capable of this year.

As an added bonus for those in multi-category leagues, in his career year McDonagh had 177 shots on goal. Last year he had 113 while playing a more defensive-minded role. Look for his shot total to climb up again and further boost his value. Every boost counts in those leagues and most of your rivals will not be taking this, let alone the likely increase in points, into account.

 

Mark Streit (Philadelphia)

Streit’s fantasy value took a major hit last year when he lost his spot as the Flyers’ top power-play quarterback to Shayne Gostisbehere. The end result was disappointing – just 23 points in 62 games. At age 38, he is clearly on the downside of his career but that does not mean he is done just yet. Prior to last year Streit notched 52 points, an incredible total for a defenseman in today’s NHL.

At this point, Streit should be looked at as a defenseman on the second power-play unit with limited upside. After all, the Flyers use one blueliner on the top unit. Plus, his production last year put him on pace for 30 points which still holds value in some leagues. And prior to missing 20 games last year Streit’s durability was almost perfect. The risk factor is growing here but you should be able to draft Streit late and expect 30 points with the upside for more if something happens with Gostisbehere.

 

GOALIE

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus)

Over the last few years, Bobrovsky has shown a real proneness to getting hurt. The lack of starts per year has been the only thing separating him from the elite fantasy goaltenders as he already has two years under his belt with 30 wins and a save percentage of .920 or better. Last year things went from bad to worse as Bobrovsky suited up just 37 times and his save percentage plummeted to .908.

This year a fresh start and an improved blueline should help Bobrovsky get back on track. But his ugly year, lack of durability and the presence of Joonas Korpisalo might scare your rivals away from drafting Bobrovsky. Use this to your advantage and snag him in the later rounds. He has proven to be a solid goaltender over the years when healthy.

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