To truly be considered a candidate for a candidate for a bounce-back season, a player needs to have a profile to bounce back from.
While expectations are one thing, I wanted to quantify exactly what we are looking for here. Taking the fantasy production put up by all NHLers over the past three years, I took the average fantasy points per game (FPPG) and per 60 minutes (FPP60) from the first two years and looked at the difference compared to last year.
Simple? Yes. But effective.
The players that popped the most are included below, though I have skipped past most goaltenders as they dominated this list and are in a different category when it comes to bouncing back. Goaltenders are very much a product of their environment. There was one tandem I wanted to include, however, so I made an exception. Players are divided up into impact and periphery below.
Jakob Chychrun, D Arizona Coyotes (2.07 FPPG 2019-21; 1.72 FPPG 2021-22): We start this list with the player that has both the biggest potential impact and the biggest potential to still fall flat. The Coyotes are in a race to the bottom and still have Chychrun on a bargain contract through this season and the next two after. They absolutely do not have to trade him. But if they do and if Chychrun gets back into a position to do some damage, look out. Before the wheels really starting coming off for the Coyotes last season, Chychrun was the second best fantasy defenseman of the 2020-21 season, finishing seventh among all skaters for total fantasy points. He did it all: goals, assists, modest power-play production, heavy shot volume and even decent hits and blocked shots. Injuries didn't help last season with his totals, but it's notable that his rates also dropped. A trade would surely kick-start the bounceback, but there's a world where he manages to return to form on the cellar-dwelling Coyotes club.
Verdict: Bounceback predicated on a trade.
Travis Konecny, F, Philadelphia Flyers (1.78 FPPG 2019-21; 1.52 FPPG 2021-22): Chalk this one up to Sean Couturier missing the better part of the season. But with Couturier healed up and a slightly rosier outlook on tap for the Flyers, Konecny should return to form in spades. For the time being, he remains the Flyers' best scoring winger and will occupy one of the spots on the top line and top power play with Couturier. The duo have a 58.6 percent Corsi for at five-on-five during the past three seasons, which is quite solid at showing their dominance together (Elias Lindholm doesn't have that high a Corsi for percentage over the last three seasons with Matthew Tkachuk or Johnny Gaudreau, for example).
Verdict: Great bounceback candidate.
Mika Zibanejad, F, New York Rangers (2.76 FPPG 2019-21; 2.20 FPPG 2021-22): I mean, if he doesn't bounce back to his gaudy heights you aren't going to complain about another season of 2.20 FPPG from Zibanejad. But there is another level lurking here that we saw in 2019-20 when Zibanejad posted a McDavid-esque 3.20 FPPG over 57 games. A leap forward from Alexis Lafreniere might help push Zibanejad back toward those lofty rates.
Verdict: Not that he needs to, but bouncing back a little.
David Pastrnak, F, Boston Bruins (2.61 FPPG 2019-21; 2.42 FPPG 2021-22): After a slow start with his longtime linemates of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Pastrnak found more success last season with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. But it wasn't enough to find his higher gears from prior seasons. Pastrnak had his explosive campaigns alongside Bergeron and Marchand, but that doesn't appear to be an option on the table anymore. Settling for 2.40 FPPG will likely have to do, with the window on Pastrnak pushing for 3.00 FPPG looking to be closed.
Verdict: No bounceback. This is the new normal.
Mark Stone, F, Vegas Golden Knights (2.18 FPPG 2019-21; 1.72 FPPG 2021-22): Injuries can take much of the blame for Stone's pedestrian 2020-21 campaign. And the outlook is much brighter despite the departure of Max Pacioretty. With a healthy Jack Eichel ready to center the top line, this could be Stone's most productive season to date. A consistent producer of more than 2.00 FPPG, having Eichel at his disposal should easily return Stone to the 30-goal threshold and push him to his first 80-point season.
Verdict: Eichel-induced bounceback.
Sign up for free today and be the commissioner of your very own ESPN Fantasy Hockey league! Set the rules, invite your friends, and battle it out all season long.
Dougie Hamilton, D, New Jersey Devils (2.26 FPPG 2019-21; 1.89 FPPG 2021-22): Was last year a season of adjustment? Not just for Hamilton, but for the Devils as a whole? That is a fair mindset as the team looks balanced enough to be an outside contender for a postseason berth with the development of its young stars and the addition of some veteran sprinkles. Currently going 27th among defensemen in average draft position, Hamilton is only one year removed from finishing sixth among defensemen for fantasy points.
Verdict: Even a small bounceback makes him a great value pick. A big bounceback can help win leagues.
Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars (1.80 FPPG 2019-21; 1.57 FPPG 2021-22): I will admit to being heavily invested in the narrative of Seguin returning from a season-long injury absence and surgery to find his form as one of the elite goal scorers of the NHL again. I no longer envision that future, but I can see one where he gets back to solid, roster-worthy fantasy production. If Seguin just needed a mulligan campaign to get his legs back, we could be in for a surprise. Seguin handed in seasons of 2.37 FPPG and 2.33 FPPG in 2017-18 and 2018-19 before the knee and hip issues began. I won't be as bold to forecast that kind of production again, but I wouldn't be shocked if he topped 1.80 FPPG. Count me in for a bounceback season, just not quite as high as I expected last year.
Verdict: Will have his form back and be worthy of your roster.
Mathew Barzal, F, New York Islanders (1.74 FPPG 2019-21; 1.54 FPPG 2021-22): It's wise to remember that Barzal is still only 25 years old and is yet to reach his ultimate potential. He's also not been surrounded consistently by traditional, scoring wingers. That doesn't appear to be changing this season, so banking on a bounceback from Barzal is akin to doing the same thing over and expecting a different result.
Verdict: Nope. Not until they get this man a winger.
Ryan Strome, F, Anaheim Ducks (1.74 FPPG 2019-21; 1.52 FPPG 2021-22): It's unclear exactly what kind of line and role is awaiting Strome with the Ducks. Did they sign him to be the No. 1 center and shield Trevor Zegras for another season? Or is he there to be the second-line pivot in support? Does Zegras play the wing so they can be together? Where do we slot in Adam Henrique, Troy Terry and Mason McTavish?
Could I ask anymore questions about the Ducks top six?
Strome has plenty of talent and can be a power-play contributor. He might be the best forward on the Ducks roster in the here and now, so the team should find a way to feature him. But the team is also building to be more competitive in the 2024-25 campaign than the current one, so it's not a guarantee. But if you see Strome as the team's No. 1 center on opening night and featured prominently on the power play, you can bet he'll be fantasy relevant out of the gate.
Verdict: Probably, but it's a a struggle to envision the Ducks lineup.
New faces in new places? Catch up on all the offseason moves, and fantasy hockey analysis, with out transactions tracker!
Alec Martinez, D, Vegas Golden Knights (2.25 FPPG 2019-21; 1.95 FPPG 2021-22): Martinez never got his engine running before a skate to the face and 50-plus stitches cut his season significantly short. He would return to a Golden Knights team that limped toward the finish and missed the postseason. Remember how Chychrun was the second best defenseman in 2020-21? That's because Martinez was the best. His fantasy production was off-the-charts good thanks to astronomical blocked shots. The question here: Does a 35-year-old defenseman who paid the price for his physical play with a skate blade to the face still want to lie down in front of 200 pucks in a season? His shot blocking at the tail end of last season suggests he does. With 21 defensemen ranking ahead of him in average draft position (ADP) at the start of September, he's looking like a value pick.
Verdict: Should have another solid year in him.
Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (Murray: 3.52 FPP60 2018-19; 1.07 FPP60 2021-22 -- Samsonov: 3.18 FPP60 2019-20; 1.86 FPP60 2021-22): This goalie tandem gets highlighted because they were added by the Maple Leads specifically for the purpose of bouncing back to their former selves/potential. A clean slate and a rock solid team in front of them should be enough to make sure one, if not both of these goaltenders can find their form. Their ADP is 20th and 25th among goaltenders, respectively, so securing the services of them to your bench will be an option.
Verdict: Both of them bounce back and Toronto has some decisions to make at the end of the season.
Ondrej Palat, F, New Jersey Devils (1.87 FPPG 2019-21; 1.53 FPPG 2021-22): Essentially guaranteed a plum spot at even strength, the big question here is whether Palat gets a taste of power-play life with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. If he does, bank on the bounceback.
Verdict: Bounceback predicated on power-play time.
Phil Kessel, F, Vegas Golden Knights (1.37 FPPG 2019-21; 1.17 FPPG 2021-22): After being stranded virtually alone in the desert for two years, there is a very big opportunity for Kessel to start producing again with the Golden Knights.
Verdict: Of course he bounces back. Thirty goals and 40 helpers flanking Eichel and Stone.
Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago Blackhawks (1.75 FPPG 2019-21; 1.11 FPPG 2021-22): Refreshed but not necessarily reinvigorated by the teardown around him, Toews needed last year to get reacclimatized to the NHL after taking a year off. Whether he's flipped to a contender by the deconstructing Blackhawks or not, he should push to fantasy relevance once again.
Verdict: For Toews' sake, let's hope he bounces back and can find a landing place at the deadline.
Ready to play? Sign up for free at ESPN!