Taking a look at the Top 10 NHL players ready to rebound…
As we start into 2015 in a few days, fantasy owners should be taking stock of their teams and figuring out if they are going to make a run for the championship or wait until next year.
For those going for the trophy, it’s a good time to look at other teams and figure out who to target in trades. What player is going to rebound after a slow start that could help you with your shot at glory?
For this list, we’re just going to focus on points, although an improvement in that category would help out other categories, such as power play points, plus-minus, shooting percentage, etc.
Here are the top 10 guys who will rebound, along with three reasons for optimism for each.
10. Jeff Skinner
Skinner is on pace for one of his worst seasons in the NHL, and has just eight goals and 16 points in 31 games. Three reasons for optimism: 1) His 7.7 shooting percentage is the worst of his career, and can probably be attributed to puck luck. As his luck increases, the shooting percentage will go up and so will the points. 2) He has just two power play points, even though Carolina is middle-of-the-pack on the power play. That number should also increase as his luck changes. 3) He’s on pace for 261 shots, which would be his second-highest season total ever. Taking that many shots, some of them are bound to go in eventually.
9. Marian Hossa
With just 23 points in 36 games, Hossa is on pace for 52 points, which would be his lowest for a full season since 1998-99. Three reasons for optimism: 1) He’s fully healthy, and hasn’t really missed a lot of time the last few years (just 17 games in the last three and a bit seasons). 2) He’s been snake bitten this year, with a shooting percentage of just 6.4 per cent (almost half his 12.6 per cent career average), despite averaging three shots a game. Expect that number to increase. 3) According to Frozen Pool, Hossa is playing mostly with Jonathan Toews at even strength. That’s probably rule number one for putting up points: play with a superstar.
8. T.J. Oshie
The whole line of Oshie-Backes-Steen has been subpar this year. Oshie was supposed to break through this season after a 60-point campaign last year, but has just 13 points in 27 games and has been usurped by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera. Three reasons for optimism: 1) Oshie has been brutal on the road this year, with just three points in 16 games. He should start seeing easier line matchups as teams start focusing on the Tarasenko line. 2) He’s still seeing plenty of power play time, despite just four power play points, so the coach still has faith in him. 3) He’s actually been playing much better the past month, with seven points in 10 December games. Look for that to continue.
7. Taylor Hall
After a point-per-game season last year that saw him finish in the top 10 in the league in points, Hall is struggling mightily with the Oilers this season with just 10 goals and 21 points in 30 games. Three reasons for optimism: 1) The whole Oilers are horrible, and you can’t expect them to stay this bad all season, can you? 2) He’s still playing plenty on the power play, which you would also expect has to get better. 3) And he had a rough stretch in December (just six points in 12 games). But in the first two months, he had 15 points in 18 games. So it’s not a big leap of faith to think he can get back to that pace and get 40 points in the team’s last 42 games.
After a Vezina-nominated season last year, poolies expected the Avalanche goalie to regress a little, but not this much. Three reasons for optimism: 1) Colorado has had the third-toughest schedule so far this season. So they have a lot of easier competition coming up. 2) He’s been battling injuries, and it’s caused him to play in bits and pieces here and there. Varlamov’s best seasons with Colorado have been when he’s played lots of games. 3) There’s no great backup that has a chance of stealing starts. So as long as he is healthy, he’ll get the majority of games. Combine that with an easier schedule, and wins should soon start piling up.
5. Mikko Koivu
Koivu is on pace 40 points, which would be his lowest-scoring season since his rookie year. Three reasons for optimism: 1) He struggled bigtime at the beginning of the season, especially when Zach Parise was injured, and had just three points in his first 14 games. Since then, he has 13 points in 19 games, much closer to his career points-per-game average. 2) He has just four power play points (his last three full seasons he’s averaged 18, and even had 13 in the lockout-shortened season). 3) His shooting percentage is just 6.0, his lowest season ever. As all those start to trend back to his career average, his overall points should also trend back to average.
To be fair, no one on the Sharks is lighting it up, as Joe Thornton leads the teams with 31 points in 36 games. But Marleau is especially having a down year, with just seven goals and 27 points. Three reasons for optimism: 1) He’s the best fantasy iron man in the league, so there’s little chance he misses any time this year. 2) His shooting percentage is at 6.5 per cent, the worst season of his career and less than half of his career 13.6 per cent. 3) He’s going through a bit of a rough patch now (zero points in six games, the second time this season he’s gone five straight games without a point) which is hurting his per-game statistics. But for the rest of the season, he’s been a point-per-game player. As long as he can avoid more long scoreless streaks, he should be fine.
3. David Krejci
There were many poolies who were expecting Krejci to have a big season this year. After all, last year he had 69 points, the fourth time in five full seasons he hit at least 62. But injuries have done him in so far, and he has 11 points in 16 games. Three reasons for optimism: 1) He seems to be fully healthy for the first time in a few months. He’s played five games in a row since returning from injury on Dec. 17, the first time he’s done so since October. 2) He started off the season with nine points in nine games, so at this stage it’s just a matter of getting back into the groove of things after an extended layoff. 3) Krejci is averaging 2:14 of power play ice time per game, tops on the team among forwards. Expect that to continue as he’s the team’s best offensive threat at forward.
2. Tuukka Rask
Rask has been average so far this season, with just 14 wins, and is 30th in the league in save percentage and 26th in goals against average, which isn’t great for people who drafted him in the first round. Three reasons for optimism: 1) The Bruins are surprisingly fighting just to make the playoffs, and are currently three points back of a spot. The team is going to have to start leaning on its studs more often instead of the usual rest-the-players-before-the-playoffs strategy. 2) The Bruins have struggled with their defence corps this since, trading away Johnny Boychuk because of cap problems and losing Zdeno Chara for 19 games to injury. As the defence starts to gel better, it will cut down on scoring chances. 3) Rask has actually been better lately. His record in his last seven starts is 3-2-2, with two of the losses coming in the shootout. With just two regulation losses in those seven games, he’s giving his team a chance to win.
Maybe slow starts will become an annual thing for MacKinnon. Last year, MacKinnon had just 24 points in 39 games before Jan. 1, before finishing the season with 39 points in his last 43 games to win the Calder trophy. This season seems to be more of the same, as MacKinnon has 22 points in his first 35 games. Three reasons for optimism: 1) His shooting percentage is just 5.6 per cent this season, so you would expect that to go up a couple of points and he gets a few more goals. 2) He’s playing regularly with Jarome Iginla, who has a reputation as a slow starter. As Iggy gets it going, so will MacKinnon. 3) As mentioned in the Varlamov section, the Avalanche have had a tough schedule so far, but now they have some easy opponents coming up. They still have three games against the Oilers, four against the Stars, one against the Sabres, two against the Blue Jackets, and two against the Coyotes. Those five teams are the only ones giving up more than three goals a game this season, and Mackinnon will play them 12 times still.
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