Eastern Edge: Looking back to look ahead – 2015-16 Recap

by Eric Daoust on April 26, 2016
  • Eastern Edge
  • Eastern Edge: Looking back to look ahead – 2015-16 Recap
Evgeny Kuznetsov - USA TODAY Sports Images


Checking back on how our preseason hits and misses panned out during the 2015-16 season …


Before moving on to offseason fantasy hockey topics, we will take a look back at some recommendations made in the preseason for one-year leagues to see what went right and what went wrong. Of course, through the hits and misses there are always lessons we can learn to help us make better decisions in the future.


Candidates to decline

Andrew Hammond (OTT) – Not many were expecting Hammond to duplicate the magical run that earned him a full-time gig in the NHL. However, some were still banking on him to be a factor this year. He posted a decent .914 save percentage, but with a GAA of 2.65 and only seven wins, he failed to provide any fantasy impact this year.

Eddie Lack (CAR) – It was going to be very difficult for Lack to repeat the .921 save percentage he posted in 2014-15 going to a Carolina squad without much hope and a ton of uncertainty. How far he fell this year was still a shock as his save percentage dropped to .901, which even made Cam Ward look good.

Steve Mason (PHI) – Putting Mason on this list was not overly difficult, as he set the bar very high in 2014-15 with a .928 save percentage. This year he actually upped his win total from 18 to 23 while taking an expected hit in the peripheral categories with a 2.51 GAA and a .918 Sv%.

Cody Franson (BUF) – Franson’s fantasy-relevance has fallen off a cliff since leaving Toronto with a combined five goals and 21 points in 82 games split between Nashville and Buffalo. Making matters worse, he has disappeared as a multi-category beast with just 85 hits and 79 blocks during that span. With a year left on his contract, look for more of the same next year in a reduced role.

Damon Severson (NJ) – While Severson did post a career-high 21 points, he did not take a big step forward like many were hoping. He logged decent minutes on the power play, but his overall ice time (18:10) was quite disappointing, and the Devils’ last-place offense was not going to provide any support to help pad Severson’s point total.

Marek Zidlicky (NYI) – Zidlicky has been a highly-underrated fantasy asset for years, but upon his arrival in New York, his outlook was much bleaker. The Islanders have identified their primary defensemen which left the veteran in a more limited depth role. The end result was just 16 points paired with a bunch of healthy scratches along the way.

Tyler Bozak (TOR) – Bozak’s production held up surprisingly well despite reduced ice time and weaker linemates. Obviously, his increase in offensive-zone starts (57 percent) helped a lot after being under 50 percent in each of the previous three years. Be wary about drafting him for next year, though, as the same dangers might remain in place.

David Desharnais (MTL) – With Alex Galchenyuk making the move semi-permanently to center this year, Desharnais’ stock was on the decline prior to the season. In addition to less ice time on the third line, he also battled injuries in what ultimately became his worst NHL campaign. Without his cushy spot centering Max Pacioretty, Desharnais faces a tough road ahead.

Johan Franzen (DET) – Already a candidate for a decline at the age of 36, Franzen’s career may be over due to ongoing concussion problems, as he suited up for just two games this year. Meanwhile, as mentioned in the pre-season recommendations column, Justin Abdelkader has done a fine job filling in for Franzen and has become a solid contributor in multi-category leagues.

Michael Raffl (PHI) – Raffl enjoyed another successful year setting a career-high with 31 points while continuing to get a lot of looks on the Flyers’ top line. However, he took a big step backwards in the goal-scoring department with just 13 after the 21 he potted in 2014-15 was considered a red flag due to an inflated shooting percentage. Even with good linemates, Raffl’s upside is limited and his average of 14 minutes per game further limiting his production.


Bounce-back candidates

Eric Gelinas (COL) – Many were hoping for Gelinas to re-discover his rookie form when he put up 29 points in 60 games. Instead, he took another step in the wrong direction. Not only did his ice time drop to the 14-minute range, so did his power-play minutes and shot volume. Gelinas has a year left on his contract which will give him one last chance to get out of his funk.

David Krejci (BOS) – After an off-year battling injuries in 2014-15, it is not surprising to see Krejci bounce back for his fifth campaign of 60 or more points. His rebound was helped along by averages of 20:18 overall and 3:13 on the power play, both career-highs. The Bruins finished fifth in goals this year and had a strong power-play unit creating a perfect storm for Krejci’s gaudy numbers.

Matt Moulson (BUF) – Swing and a miss! Moulson has historically done well flanking top centers so it was natural to think he would benefit from the arrival of Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel. Unfortunately, Moulson fell out of favor and spent a lot of time in the bottom-six and his point total slipped to its lowest mark since he became a full-time NHL player. With three years left on his contract, he is a candidate to be bought out this summer.

Dmitry Orlov (WSH) – Orlov actually fell one point short than the indicated 30-point mark and did so despite unfavorable conditions. His ice time was minimal, and he was not a factor on the power play. No doubt the Capitals firing on all cylinders as a team helped get the most out of Orlov this year.

Matt Read (PHI) – With two straight years of 30 or fewer points, Read’s fantasy-relevance is all but gone. His ice time dropped to a career-low 15 minutes per contest this year which indicates he is settling primarily into a bottom-six role. With the Flyers’ top-six mostly set, it would take a major injury for Read to get back on the fantasy radar.

Jeff Skinner (CAR) – Skinner’s high shot volume has been pretty reliable but his goal-scoring has varied wildly from year to year. That said, he has yet to eclipse 24 assists in any year since his rookie campaign, so his value hinges on finding the back of the net. This makes him a high-risk pick at the draft table. Coming off a strong year, odds are someone will reach for him this fall.


Breakout candidates

Tyler Ennis (BUF) – The infusion of talent up front in Buffalo made Ennis a strong candidate to exceed his previous career-high 49 points. Unfortunately, he suited up for just 23 games after being hit by the injury bug. Of course, his absence created an opportunity seized by Sam Reinhart who emerged as a viable top-six option. This adds an obstacle in Ennis’ way, as he competes for time on the top power-play unit moving forward.

Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) – Galchenyuk shifted from center to wing throughout the year and averaged just 16 minutes per game but still managed a career-high 30 goals and 56 points. His shooting percentage was a bit high but an expected increase in ice time next year should more than offset any reduction in goal-scoring efficiency.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH) – It was not unexpected for Kuznetsov to take a big step forward this year but emerging as one of the NHL’s elite point producers right away was certainly a surprise. Amazingly, he did this without spending much time on Alexander Ovechkin’s line at even strength – his primary wingers were Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams.

Olli Maatta (PIT) – Maatta is immensely talented and will always be a breakout candidate. However, we have to be careful with young unproven players, especially defensemen who have experienced setbacks due to injury.  This year he logged a lot of minutes down the stretch but averaged just 20 minutes overall and did not see much time on the power play. In the end, he still had a respectable year with 19 points in 67 games but it was not enough to satisfy fantasy owners.


Top newcomers

Seth Griffith (BOS) – Surprisingly, Griffith was not able to stick with the Bruins this season but he had an outstanding campaign in the AHL with 77 points. Unfortunately, his 10 points in 30 games in Boston last year were not enough to assure his spot on the main roster. Had he been able to show more while the team was struggling that year, his chances of sticking would have been much better.

Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) – Grimaldi was able to suit up for 20 games with the Panthers, but it was a write-off from a fantasy perspective. Instead, he spent most of the year in the AHL. This is another example of rookies being very difficult to project in one-year leagues.

Pavel Zacha (NJ) – Zacha was labeled a gamble as the Devils’ lack of goal-scoring presented opportunities for newcomers to step in and contribute. Ultimately, he was sent back to junior but offers a ton of promise for the future.

Zach Hyman (TOR) – A former college star, Hyman played a good stretch of games for the Leafs in March but spent most of his first pro campaign in the AHL. With the Leafs absorbing various veteran contracts, and with some potential signings this summer, it remains to be seen how much space there will be for the team’s young crop of players this fall.

Colin Miller (BOS) – A key part of the return in the Milan Lucic trade, Miller started the year strong and was a good depth addition for owners in deep leagues. Eventually, he faded away, though, and found a home in the press box before getting shipped to the AHL.

Joe Morrow (BOS) – Morrow stuck with the Bruins all year but was scratched most nights. The loss of momentum from a lack of consistent game action prevented him from potentially making an impact. A former first-round pick, it appears highly unlikely Morrow will do much in fantasy land anytime soon.

Noah Hanifin (CAR) – Hanifin had a solid rookie campaign in the NHL and his increase in ice time down the stretch is certainly a good sign moving forward. However, with just 22 points he did not do enough to be relevant outside of deep leagues.

Mike Matheson (FLA) – Matheson has a lot of potential but ultimately his first year as a pro was mostly spent in the AHL. With the Panthers having such a young roster, it made sense to have veterans like Steven Kampfer and Jakub Kindl around while allowing the young blueliner time to develop outside of the spotlight.

Scott Mayfield (NYI) – The late addition of Marek Zidlicky allowed the Islanders to keep Mayfield down in the minors for another year. While he did not play much on the main roster, Mayfield showed his immense multi-category potential with 11 PIM, 12 hits and 15 blocks in just six games with the Islanders.

Ryan Pulock (NYI) – Like Mayfield, Pulock was ultimately kept down in the minors, as the Islanders assigned veterans to their depth spots on the blueline. Pulock was able to show some of his offensive talent with four points in 15 games and has impressed in postseason play with three points in four appearances. At this point, he is close to being ready for full-time NHL duty.

Nikita Nesterov (TB) – Used mostly as a power-play specialist with limited ice time, Nesterov’s lack of production is concerning. In addition to a secondary role with the man advantage, he also started almost 65 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone and still managed just 10 points along with some press-box duty and a demotion to the minors. Most alarming is former first-round picks Slater Koekkoek and Anthony Deangelo starting to make a push for a role at the NHL level.




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