One of the biggest stories from last season was the ability of some older players to post rebound seasons that no one saw coming.
Claude Giroux was shifted to the wing and notched 102 points. Anze Kopitar notched 92. Eric Staal scored 42 goals. Dustin Brown started the season with 19 points in 20 games and finished with 61 points. That begs the question of which older player can do the same this upcoming season. Maybe not get 90-plus points, but get back to a level that makes them even more fantasy relevant.
Obviously, not everyone on this list is going to have a great rebound season. Instead, these are the players that have the best opportunity.
10. Bobby Ryan
Ryan’s career has declined ever since he became an Ottawa Senator. He’s never posted more than 56 points nor hit the 25-goal mark with Ottawa, and has back-to-back seasons of 25 and 33 points with some of the lowest ice time he’s seen in seven years. So why can Ryan bounce back? To start, someone on Ottawa needs to. This team’s talent level is getting decimated, and it could get even worse if Erik Karlson and Mark Stone are dealt. Ottawa has said they are going to rely on their youth more next season, but Ryan could still get lots of top power-play time.
9. Corey Perry
There’s no doubt that Perry’s skills are declining, but I’m not ready to believe that he doesn’t have one more 70-point season. He’s managed to stay relatively healthy throughout his career, is a fixture on the top power play, and plays mainly with Ryan Getzlaf — still an elite player — and Rickard Rakell, who could be threatening for 70 points this year.
8. Bryan Little
Little was healthy for only the second time in five years last season, but put up one of his worst seasons ever with 43 points. From 2010-11 to 2016-17-18, he averaged 0.71 points per game. Last year, that dropped to 0.52. He started the season playing with the young guns but for some reason couldn’t get it going. Once Paul Stastny was traded to the Peg, Little found himself further down the lineup and with less talented players. Stastny is now in Vegas, so Little should get the second-line gig to start the season again, playing with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
7. Duncan Keith
Keith has topped 50 points just once in the last four years. He had some tough luck last year, netting only two goals. However, it’s important to remember that while his skills are declining, he’s still the man in Chicago when it comes to power play time. And try as they might, no one else was able to prove to be better than him last season on the Hawks blue line. That could change in a couple of years, but for now, he’s still the man back there.
6. Joe Thornton
After missing out on Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares, San Jose ended up staying pretty pat this summer. This is good news for whoever owns Joe Thornton, as it solidifies his spot in a top-six role. He’s been struggling the last couple of years, notching 50 points in 2016-17 and 36 points (in 47 games) in 2017-18. Remember that he had 26 points in his last 28 games before getting injured.
5. Kyle Okposo
Although he didn’t miss a lot of time last year, injuries could have played a factor in his continuing declining play. At the start of last summer, Okposo was just getting out of the intensive care unit after issues with medication he was taking after a slight bump during a practice caused a concussion. He lost a lot of weight and admitted to being tired all the time at the end of the previous season. I’m sure that played a big role in his conditioning last year. It will be tough to gauge where Okposo slots in this year (his three most frequent linemates last year — Ryan O’Reilly, Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane — are no longer with the Sabres). Odds are he’ll be in a top-six role and possibly with Jack Eichel. That, along with another summer of recovery, could go a long way to a rebound.
4. Zach Parise
Lost in another-injury plagued season for Parise was the fact he actually finished the campaign off pretty well. He missed the first 39 games because of a microdiscectomy surgery for his back, and when he got back into the lineup, he started slowly with seven points in 21 games. He did finish with 12 goals and 17 points in his final 21 games despite getting just two power-play points. He still has the talent, but he just needs the health to co-operate.
The now 30-year-old Toews has had a rough few seasons, as his points have dropped from 68 to 66 to 58 to 58 to 52. This is after a few years of being almost a point-per-game. Why would Toews bounce back? For the first time in a long time, he’ll have a talented point-producing player on his wing in either Patrick Kane or Alex Debrincat.
2. Jason Spezza
Spezza’s fantasy relevance has dwindled the last couple of years. Two years ago, he had a respectable 50 points in 68 games. Last year he had 26 points in 78 games. Ouch. Some of it was bad luck to go along with former coach Ken Hitchcock often playing him on the third line with Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie. New coach Jim Montgomery said last week that he expects to rotate Spezza onto the top power-play unit and to be a big part of a balanced scoring attack.
1. Joe Pavelski
I’ve written about Pavelski quite often over the last few months, and he’s the best bet to have a strong rebound season. He started last year injured, and had eight points in his first 19 games. After that, he had 58 in 63. He also had great chemistry with Evander Kane (20 points in 19 games) and should benefit from a healthier Joe Thornton. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him reach 80 points for the first time in his career.
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