Taking a look at the Top 10 bounce-back candidates in fantasy hockey...
Every year, there’s a group of players for have a bad season and fantasy managers are ready to discard and never hear from again.
However, not all these player deserve the scorn of poolies. Many of them are going to have bounce-back seasons. Identifying them and drafting them accordingly could be key to helping you win your pool.
For this list, I looked at it from a points-only perspective. Also, guys who were injured don’t count, unless they didn’t play well when they were in the lineup. So you won’t find someone like Stamkos on the list.
Here are the top 10 bounce-back candidates.
10. Dion Phaneuf
While he’s not worthy of his $7 million a year contract, he’s still better than his 31 points last season (a career low for a full season). Strangely enough, the young guys playing for the Leafs will only help Phaneuf. Last season, Phaneuf played 23:33 minutes a game, which is too much for him. Guys like Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly will take some of the pressure off Phaneuf and reduce his ice time. This is actually a good thing, since he won’t wear out as much and will stay fresher as the game wears on.
After averaging about 62 points a season with Crosby the previous two seasons, Dupuis took a major step back last year. Yes, he was injured, but when he was healthy, he wasn’t good. Just seven goals and 20 points in 39 games, with a shooting percentage of 7.2 per cent (his lowest since 2005-06). But he’s still expected to be one of Crosby’s main wingers, and that should be good for about 50 points alone. A healthy year will be helpful too.
For a couple of years, Lupul teased us with his point-per-game production, although injuries were a concern. From 2011-2013, Lupul had 85 points in 82 games over two seasons. Last year, Lupul managed just 44 points in 69 games, far less than many poolies were hoping for. While a point-per-game pace may be too much to expect from Lupul for this upcoming season, but 60 points is doable if Lupul can stay healthy all season.
7. Mike Ribeiro
It didn’t take long for Ribeiro to wear out his welcome in Phoenix, and it was even shorter for him to wear out his welcome with fantasy owners. Last season, he had just 47 points in 80 games, which was his worst season since 2002-03. But he’s still only a season away from being a point-per-game player. This upcoming season, he’s going to Nashville, where he’ll be the team’s number one centre and will have a chance to set up James Neal. Sixty points is very doable.
6. Dustin Brown
It hasn’t come out, but the general feeling is the Kings captain was dealing with some sort of injury last season. Brown somehow had just 27 points, despite averaging 15:50 and 2:07 power play ice time a game. Brown had a career low 7.7 shooting percentage, and just one power play goal. If those come up to his career average (almost nine power play goals a season and a 10.1 per cent shooting percentage), then his point total should rebound.
5. Bobby Ryan
Remember about a year ago, when Ryan was traded to Ottawa? He and Spezza were supposed to work magic together. Some thought Ryan could be a 40-goal guy with Spezza feeding him passes. A year later, Spezza is in Dallas, and Ryan is coming off his worst full NHL season ever. However, there is reason for optimism. Ryan started last season on fire with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur before an injury slowed him down. With a full healthy season with those two players, Ryan should be able to bounce back to at least a 30-goal, 60-point season.
After his worst season as a full-time NHL starter, it’s almost impossible to think that Pavelec can’t rebound. However, a lot of fantasy owners have soured on him lately (a 22-26-7 record will do that). But there are some encouraging signs. After Paul Maurice became the new head coach of the Jets on Jan. 12, Pavelec finished the season with an 11-7-3 record, and allowed two or less goals in 12 of those 21 games. Pavelec is still the number one guy in Winnipeg, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge to his throne. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got 35 wins this year.
Gonchar had a horrible year last season. Once seen as the guy who could provide leadership, Gonchar scored just two goals and 22 points last year (his worst season since 1997-98), and is now on the second defence unit (and maybe the second powerplay unit). But that may actually help this season. The Stars have made an effort to make their second unit better, and Gonchar will now be playing with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky on that second line. Those two guys will post better numbers than the Stars second line last season, and that means Gonchar will also post better numbers as a result. And don’t underestimate Gonchar’s familiarity with Spezza, who played together for three seasons in Ottawa.
Like pretty much everyone on Vancouver, Edler had a horrible season last year. The whole team just seemed to be off. But things have happened to the Canucks that bode well for Edler. A new coach and GM could be a big boost, but most importantly, the Canucks traded Jason Garrison to Tampa. Edler is now the clear-cut number one power play defenceman on Vancouver, which should help boost his numbers.
A lot went wrong for Holtby last season, including him to lose his starting job to two different goalies at various points of the season. But things are looking up for the 24-year-old netminder. To start, the Caps didn’t sign or trade for a new goalie in the offseason, giving Holtby the vote of confidence he needs. A coaching and GM change may help him as well. The new regime also brought in a new goalie coach, Mitch Korn, who can hopefully get Holtby back to the style he played that brought him NHL success that former goalie coach Olaf Kolzig tried to change.