Frozen Tools Forensics: Bounce back candidates, part 1

by Grant Campbell on June 28, 2019

 

Some players are prime candidates to bounce back from sub-par years or injury-plagued campaigns. The value of these players could be at a low point, so it could be a good time to take a chance on them improving next season. I’m not convinced that all of these players we will list in the next few weeks will bounce back as much as might be hoped, but they are still worth looking at.

In no particular order, our first six are:

 

Willam Nylander

There is no reason why Nylander can’t get back to the 20-goal and 40-assist level he was at for his first two full seasons in the NHL.  Not many players can sit out for the first two months of the season and then hit the ground running, so it was not surprising that he struggled. His shots per game of 2.41 was well in line with what he had averaged in his first two seasons (2.39). His TOI of 15:31 was below the 16:45 he is used to, but he did manage over 16 minutes in the last quarter of the season and was very close to that in the playoffs. His shooting percentages of 5.4 percent should improve to match his career average of around 11 percent and get him 20-25 goals. It is interesting that he only played with Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews three percent of the time at regular strength in 2018-2019 after being with them 56.4 percent of the time in 2017-2018 and 48.3 percent in 2016-2017. Will Babcock reunite the line at some point? In my opinion, not only will Nylander rebound to 60 points, but he is a breakout candidate who could reach 75-85 points.

 

Alex Galchenyuk

Galchenyuk has played seven seasons in the NHL with a career high of 56 points, and is coming off a season of 41 points in 72 games in his first season with Arizona after being dealt from Montreal for Max Domi. The acquisition of Carl Soderberg by Arizona suggests that they must have come to the same conclusion that Montreal did: Galchenyuk is not an NHL center. His best hope from a statistical standpoint is to play with Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz over 40 percent of the time — if that happens, Galchenyuk might reach 55-60 points. We need to face the fact that he will never be the 80-point player he was expected to be when drafted 3rd overall in 2012. He is a 50-to 60-point player who struggles in his own end and who doesn’t add much in multi-category pools.

 

Tyler Toffoli

I’m going to subscribe to the theory that a few players in LA can’t get much worse from a fantasy standpoint than they were last season. Toffoli needs to score 20-25 goals and 45-50 points to have any fantasy value as he doesn’t contribute elsewhere. He is still generating a lot of shots on goal (226 in 2018-2019), but his conversion rate dipped to 5.8 percent, and with a PDO of 979, it stands to reason that this will increase next season and should get him back to 20 goals or more if it gets back to 10 or 11 percent. Toffoli will be a UFA at the end of the 2019-2020 season and will be playing for a new contract. There is a good chance he’ll be dealt to another team and could prosper with a playoff-bound team at or before the trade deadline. I can see him bouncing back to 25 goals and 25 assists whether with LA or not.

 

Ilya Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk’s first season with LA was an abysmal failure and he was a healthy scratch for a stretch of games under prior head coach Willie Desjardins. He’s now entering his second year of a three-year contract. On paper, he should be the Kings’ first line RW and be on the PP1, as they aren’t exactly loaded on the wing. He has a no-movement clause until 2020-2021, and his 35+ age contract is not attractive for LA to buy out, so they are pretty much stuck with him for this coming season. With Todd McLellan as the new coach in LA, this might provide Kovalchuk with a fresh new opportunity. At 36 years of age, there is very little chance he will regain his former 40-goal and 80-point seasons, but he might bounce back to 25 goals and 25 assists. Or he might go back to Russia, again.

 

Dustin Byfuglien

Byfuglien is a possible bounce back only because he missed 40 games because of injury and put up 31 points in the 42 games he played. Although injured for much of the year, he had one of his best seasons at the age of 34 and contributed eight points in six playoff games. If Byfuglien can play 70 games next season, I think he will put up 50 points. In multi-category pools, he gets PIMs, hits and shots, and he is becoming a better defenceman the older he gets. In salary cap keeper leagues, I think that Byfuglien might be acquired in trade for a younger roster player or prospect if you are challenging for a top five spot and have the cap space.

 

James Neal

I’m going to include Neal as a bounce back candidate, but the ceiling will be quite low. He had the worst year of his career last season with only seven goals and 12 assists in 63 games (his first year in Calgary on a five year $5.75 million AAV deal). He still averaged 2.24 shots/g and only managed five percent shooting. There is a chance that he could get back into the 20-goal range and get some PP points if he is afforded the opportunity. I’m not confident he will get back there, but he could be a waiver add in most pools at this point. He doesn’t have a no-trade or no-movement clause, so there is a chance that Calgary could find a team to trade him to. If that were to happen, he might be a little more attractive for fantasy teams.

 

There are plenty of players who had sub-par seasons, and we will include more next week and the week after. I’m going to go make a trade offer for Byfuglien now in my keeper pool. Enjoy the July 1st weekend and the free agent frenzy!

 

As always, please send any column suggestions to me on Twitter @gampbler15