Tom Collins offers up his Top 10 bounceback candidates for the 2015-16 NHL season
With most fantasy hockey drafts set to take place over the next 10 days, poolies are looking through reams of data to find out who is a candidate to have a bounceback season.
And with good reason. Picking up the player that many have lost faith in could go a long way to winning your pool.
Below you'll find 10 players due for a bounceback season. Note that I'm not including guys who missed a tremendous amount of time due to injury (like Patrick Kane or Pascal Dupuis). Injuries won't play a role in this list, but a guy who was injured isn't necessarily excluded. If the player had a poor year when he was in the lineup, he counts.
10. Marian Gaborik
What was more surprising? That Gaborik was able to play more than 50 games (the first time that he has played that many since 2011-12) or that his points-per-game was one of the lowest of his career? There were plenty of positives last year though. He averaged 2.5 shots a game and potted 27 goals. His shooting percentage was two points above his career average. This year he'll be playing with Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic, two players looking for bounceback seasons of their own. That's a lot of positive signs for Gaborik.
9. Cody Hodgson
Thirteen points. One power-play point. A minus-28. That's all Hodgson managed to net in Buffalo last season. Buffalo was horrible, but guys like Andrej Meszaros, Nicolas Deslauriers and Johan Larsson managed to outscore Hodgson last year. Hodgson now has another chance in Nashville. But this listing comes with the caveat that Hodgson is currently out with an upper body injury. He's missed all of training camp so far. If he gets back early, then he'll be on the third line and has a chance to bounce back. But a long-term injury would allow someone else the opportunity to centre the third line and Hodgson will struggle to make the lineup when he does return.
The sophomore slump hit the former rookie phenom hard. MacKinnon went from a most-sought after player to almost an afterthought. He saw a decrease in goals, assists, plus-minus, power play goals and shooting percentage. But let's not give up hope on MacKinnon just yet. He just turned 20, is on a superbly talented team, and should have extra motivation this season.
7. Chris Kunitz
It's no secret that many of the Penguins were bad fantasy assets last year. Only two players had more than 55 points despite all of the offensive talent in Pittsburgh. Nowhere was it worse than with Kunitz. Pegged by many to reach a minimum of 60 points, Kunitz had just 40. Last season was a blip though. With Phil Kessel on the wing, the team should be better this year. Kunitz should continue to have a regular spot on Sidney Crosby's line, so I expect him to be just as good this year as we expected him to be last year.
6. Paul Stastny
Stastny's first year with the Blues after signing a massive four-year, $28 million deal was a massive disappointment. He scored just 16 goals and 46 points. This preseason has been a bit better, with three goals and an assist in two games. Of course, the preseason means nothing. But he is in a good place to succeed, and with his contract, he will be given every opportunity to perform.
5. Tyler Ennis
What was once a promising career has turned a little bit to mush the last couple of years. Playing with the Sabres will do that to anyone. Ennis had just 46 points last year. But Ennis is having great preseason chemistry with rookie extraordinaire Jack Eichel, picking up five points in two games. That is a small sample size, but instant chemistry is a good thing. He should also see an improvement in his plus-minus this campaign (he was a combined minus-44 the last two years).
4. Matt Duchene
Last year, Duchene had 55 points, two power play goals and was just a plus-3. That was ugly, especially for owners who drafted him high after a 70-point campaign in 2013-14. Most of the Avalanche struggled last year, so a rebound from a few of his teammates will go a long way to help Duchene bounce back (and vice versa). Just keep in mind he probably won't see an huge increase in goals as he's never been much of a goal scorer.
Despite finishing with a Stanley Cup, last year wasn't great for Sharp when it came to fantasy hockey. His 16 goals was his lowest in a full season since 2005-06. His 43 points and minus-eight were his worst full season since 2006-07. But he will no longer be on a defense-first line in Dallas. It's going to be all offence, all the time. This bodes well for most fantasy categories (although his shots may take a hit if he's playing with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn).
2. Taylor Hall
Forget about the injuries last year. Hall was brutal when he was in the lineup. Hall struggled mightily last year after back-to-back seasons of finishing in the top 10 in points. We already know he can be a point-per-game player on his own. Imagine how much better he will be with wonder kid Connor McDavid on his line. He should be better than his 0.72 points-per-game average, that's for sure.
1. Phil Kessel
What left is there to say about Kessel? Many say he has a good chance to score 50 goals. Some think 90 points is a possibility. His plus-minus should see a tremendous improvement. His shots will continue to be high. His power play goals should increase. He had an overall brutal year last year with Toronto, and going to Pittsburgh must seem like he is going to the promised land. Just drop the puck already, and let's see what he can do in the regular season with the Penguins.
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