Bounce Back Candidates: NHL Fantasy Hockey

 

Just like there are many players who have turned out to be fantasy hockey sleepers (https://4fandfurther.com/2016/12/29/under-owned-fantasy-hockey-players-christmas-2016-update and https://4fandfurther.com/2016/12/21/update-7-fantasy-hockey-sleepers-2016-2017), there is also a large group who have underperformed their pre-season expectations. I have forecasted that some of these under performers will not meet expectations for the remainder of the season (https://4fandfurther.com/2016/12/31/over-owned-fantasy-hockey-players-christmas-2016-update) while others I see having the potential to bounceback and turn their seasons around. Here are several bounceback candidates for the 2016-2017 season.

EDIT: Added Gostisbehere and MacKinnon

Evgeny Kuznetsov (pre-season rank #17, current rank #142, 90% owned)

Kuznetsov emerged last season with a brilliant performance by generating 77 points in 82 games played with the Capitals. Fantasy experts at Yahoo believed the trend would continue and assigned the Russian center an aggressively high pre-season ranking. It will take a miracle for Kuznetsov to finish the season among the top-20 fantasy players, but that does not mean owners should give up hope. He is a very important puzzle piece in Washington – his skillset and development potential create a very high offensive ceiling which is perfect for fantasy hockey owners who have maintained hope (despite drafting him too early). Despite his “struggles” so far, Kuznetsov has 11 points in his last 12 games and his four point performance on Tuesday night is a perfect example of his ability to produce. I’m projecting a point total in the high 50s to low 60s if he can remain healthy for the remainder of the season.

Patrice Bergeron (pre-season rank #35, current rank #194, 86% owned)

Bergeron has scored more than 60 points in a season 5 times in his career and has generated 50+ in 8 seasons. In 37 games this season, the Bruin’s center has only 7 goals and 5 assists despite 130 shots (5.4% shooting percentage compared to 10% on his career) on goal and over 19 minutes in ice-time per game. Furthermore, Boston’s powerplay is currently ranked 27th in the league – significantly lower than their 13th place ranking among all NHL teams in the past 5 years (cumulative). With only 4 PPPs this year on 113:44 of powerplay ice-time, Bergeron’s shooting percentage and the Bruins’ powerplay efficiency should regress back to the mean in the second half of the season. The 31-year old isn’t getting any younger, but don’t give up on him yet.

Nathan MacKinnon (pre-season rank #52, current rank #99, 94% owned)

6% of leagues out there have given up on MacKinnon – which I think is absolutely crazy. He is undeniably under performing, but he still leads the team with 25 points and 126 shots on goal in 38 games. The Avalanche are awful but MacKinnon remains very talented – owners need to have long leashes for guys like this who can quickly make you regret a drop decision. His 7.14% shooting percentage and meager 6 PPPs can only improve in the second half of the season; EVEN if Bednar remains in place as head coach and Colorado continues their poor play at the bottom of the league, MacKinnon should register over 50 points which is not terrible. You just need to live with his -13 rating which will continue to fall if Colorado cannot improve their Corsi, PDO, and everything else in between.

Shane Gostisbehere (pre-season rank #53, current rank #130, 95% owned)

In his rookie season, Gostisbehere was an absolute stud, scoring 46 points in only 64 games played. Expectations were thus sky high for his sophomore season. Unfortunately, he has left many fantasy owners disappointed so far this year. He only has 4 goals and 15 assists (and a -11 rating) in 38 games played which puts him on pace for around 40 points for the full season if he remains healthy. Seems like Voracek is hogging all of the points so far. If Gostisbehere can increase production at even-strength (12 PPPs vs. 19 points), the second half of the season could show an uptick in production. His 4% shooting percentage shoot also trend upwards – however, the 11.2% Ghost achieved last year was pretty high for a defenseman.

John Klingberg (pre-season rank #60, current rank #165, 91% owned)

The Stars have well-documented defensive issues but not many people have been highlighting their mediocre offense – they sit 18th in NHL in GF/GP at 2.56. This compares poorly to 3.23 per game last season where they were 1st in the NHL. At even strength this season they rank 8th in Corsi (for), 25th in Sh% and 14th in PDO at 99.8. Last season they were 2nd in Corsi (for) with only Los Angeles ahead of them. Their shooting percentage was over 1% higher and they were ranked 8th in this category – ultimately with a similar PDO at 99.5. Their 22.1% powerplay in 2015-2016 was a huge strength that has tapered off this year to 17.0%. Now we just need to ask whether Dallas’s production last season (and thus Klingberg’s) was repeatable. I’m looking to see a stronger second half from the Stars and their leading defenseman. He has 6 points in his last 7 games (2 PPPs) and may just be starting to heat things up.  Things could improve further if Jamie Benn returns from injury on the 9th when he becomes eligible (if he is healthy).

Gabriel Landeskog (pre-season rank #68, current rank #371, 76% owned) and Tyson Barrie (pre-season rank #92, current rank #196, 75% owned)

What’s the deal with Colorado? They are dead last in the NHL at 12-24-1 and a goal differential of -49. They rank 30th in GF/GP at 2.05 and 30th in GA/GP at 3.35. Why has the new head coach, Jared Bednar, not been fired yet? Perhaps I’m naive but it boggles my mind how such an offensively talented team can be so absolutely miserable. The coaching systems need to change in order to pull the Avalanche out of dead-last in team Corsi so that their forwards can actually have an opportunity to use their skills in the other team’s defensive end. Things cannot get worse for the Avalanche, buy low or stay patient on these two core players – rumor has it that a trade could also be in the works which can only result in a move to a better team for Gabe or Ty.

*Did you know the Aves are 4th in the league in face off win percentage? Guess they know how to start with the puck but are incredibly poor and maintaining that possession.

TJ Brodie (pre-season rank #190, current rank #326, 32% owned)

The Flames had a very disappointing start to the season and the most disturbing observation over the first two months of the year was how bad Brodie looked. He looked lost, out of sync, fatigued, and lacking confidence. He is tied for a league-worst -17 (it doesn’t help when your defense partner, Dennis Wideman, is a pylon with a slap shot) despite Calgary’s modest -6 overall goal differential. That is a gloomy stat, but have some hope: Brodie has a +3 rating and 4 points in his last 4 games. He appears to be back in regular form as a speedy, talented offensive defenseman. Calgary, as a team, is also playing much better hockey while currently sitting in a playoff spot. If the Flames can play the rest of the season at the same level as their December hockey, all players (especially Brodie who ranks second in ice-time at 23:19 per game), are set to benefit.

Brian Elliott (pre-season rank #71, current rank #434, 64% owned)

As mentioned in the TJ Brodie paragraph, the Flames have significantly improved their play of late and have won 10 of their last 14 games. Elliott has won his last 4 starts (4 of the Flames’ last 6 games) as he makes his way back into the starting role. Chad Johnson had a great stretch in December but has lost 4 straight starts. Elliott’s early season struggles could potentially be blamed on a lethargic team in front of him, a pathetic early season penalty kill (which has since improved drastically), and a personal adjustment period where Elliott became a first-time father in October all within a year of moving to a new city and signing a contract as a team’s number one goalie. Look for Elliott to get back into form and return to his winning ways alongside an improved team in Calgary.

BONUS – Johnathan Quick (pre-season rank #19, 89% owned)

Reports should come in soon on Quick indicating he is nearing a return. After all, it has been almost 3 months since he suffered his injury which had a 3-4 month projected recovery. In the 11% of leagues where Quick is available on the waiver wire, pick him up and seek to benefit from the Kings’ second-half playoff run where they will lean heavily on Quick once he is healthy.

 

image source: novacapsfans.com

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