Odds Each of Last Year's NHL Rookie Standouts Will Have Sophomore Slump

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJuly 31, 2013

Odds Each of Last Year's NHL Rookie Standouts Will Have Sophomore Slump

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    The dreaded sophomore slump ailed second-year player Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers this past season, and what are the odds that top rookies such as Nail Yakupov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Brandon Saad will also fall victim to the slump?

    Sophomore slumps are normal occurrences, because talented rookies are no longer unknowns. Their games have been broken down, they often face tougher competition and it can be an overwhelming experience for a young player.

    Most of these have a solid head on their shoulders, but here are the odds in percent form that each of last year's rookie standouts will have a sophomore slump.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 15 percent

    Nail Yakupov led all rookies in scoring last season, and it is unlikely he will endure a sophomore slump. As the year went on Yakupov got more opportunities and he always rose to the occasion.

    New bench boss Dallas Eakins is great at handling young talent, and he will be crucial to the success of Yakupov and Justin Schultz this season.

    According to NHL.com, Eakins is a big reason why Nazem Kadri turned into a successful pivot for the Toronto Marlies. Current Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Jake Gardiner even raved about Eakins' teaching style.

    All I can say is that if he goes to Edmonton, those Oilers players are getting a great coach, Gardiner told the Toronto Sun prior to Eakins' hiring by Edmonton. With Dallas, you always know where you stand. He teaches you about the game. And he treats his players like adults.

    Expect Eakins to put Yakupov in ideal situations to succeed, and that should prevent Yakupov from going through a sophomore slump.

Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 5 percent

    Brendan Gallagher played in all situations last year for the Montreal Canadiens. He had average ice time, but he was a crucial part of the Habs' special teams units. Gallagher will likely have a normal year because he will not be taking on any extra responsibilities in 2013-14.

    He is also a very determined player, and according to CBC, his determination makes him a better player.

    It was the 5-foot-9, 178-pound Gallagher's third NHL game. He already had endeared himself to the Habs faithful with his robust play and willingness to take on opponents of any size.


    Gallagher has found a way to play with the big boys despite his diminutive size. There was a concern that the 20-year-old Edmonton-born, Delta, B.C-raised right wing would wear down as a pro because of the way he plays.

    Gallagher is a tough player who gained experience in all situations last season, and increase roles should only help him grow as a player.

Cory Conacher, Ottawa Senators

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 35 percent

    Cory Conacher produced in spurts last season, and he could go through a bit of a sophomore slump next season.

    With the addition of Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur, Conacher will move down the Ottawa Senators' depth chart at wing. The loss of ice time and the drop in quality of linemates could throw off Conacher.

    It was evident this past season once he was traded to the Senators. 

    With the Lightning he had 24 points in his first 35 games playing with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. But with the Senators he tallied only five points in the 12 games played.

    If Conacher doesn't adjust and take the next step, he could endure a sophomore slump in 2013-14.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 40 percent

    Brandon Saad was a fixture on the Chicago Blackhawks top line for most of the season, but that changed during the postseason. Saad was relegated to the third line, and he struggled to produce.

    In 23 playoff games, Saad registered a meager six points.

    The emergence of Bryan Bickell made him a valuable asset, and he earned a four-year contract extension. It currently appears that Saad will start on the third line, and he could struggle as he starts the year away from Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 15 percent

    Jonathan Huberdeau was the Florida Panthers' top line center last season, so he isn't going to have a new role next season. He will probably have increased ice time, and that will increase the number of shifts he goes out against the opposition's top defense pairing.

    Huberdeau is a talented player with a ton of heart, but he may meet some resistance at the start of the season. He will have some help at center with Nick Bjugstad now on the team, and that is something that could help him limit a sophomore slump.

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 5 percent

    Jonas Brodin is a defensive stud who had a great 2012-13 season. According to Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, the dynamic rookie should have garnered more consideration for Rookie of the Year last season.

    You can arguably say no NHL rookie made as much of an impact as Brodin. Paired for most the season with veteran Ryan Suter, Brodin led all rookies in average ice time per game -- 23 minutes, 12 seconds, nearly two minutes over the next guy. He was fourth among Wild blue liners with 11 points in 45 games.

    Brodin was paired with Ryan Suter, and he more than held his own against some of the toughest forwards in the Western Conference.

    Defensemen get better and mature with age, so there is a slim to none chance that Brodin regresses next season. He has the tools and potential to become a Norris Trophy winner and he is currently learning from one of the league's best defenders.

Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 20 percent

    Justin Schultz averaged 21:26 a game last season with the Edmonton Oilers. It is a modest number for a rookie, and he will likely handle more opportunities next season. Schultz tallied 27 points last season, and that projects to about 48 points during an 82-game season.

    Schultz will unlikely be impacted by a sophomore slump for a number of reasons. He is an older player, and at age 23 he has more maturity than most defenders. He will be able to handle more pressure and stress, and he can be more valuable to the Oilers.

    However, if Dallas Eakins implements a new system, there could be a learning curve for the Oilers' top blueliner.

Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 25 percent

    Dougie Hamilton had an average debut season with the Boston Bruins. He finished outside the top five in Calder Trophy voting and was a healthy scratch at times.

    To enhance Hamilton's growth the Bruins will likely put him in a more important role next season. With the loss of Andrew Ference, Hamilton can slot into the top four.

    However, Hamilton will have to hold his own away from Zdeno Chara, and there could be an adjustment period. Hamilton is a solid defender with great potential, but it wouldn't be the first time a young defender struggled early in his career.

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 30 percent

    Vladimir Tarasenko is a rookie with great talent, but his concussion knocked him off track last season.

    12 Points in 17 GamesSeven Points in 21 Games

    Even worse than that, bench boss Ken Hitchcock reduced Tarasenko's role upon return, and he even was a healthy scratch during the playoffs. 

    For three games against the Los Angeles Kings Tarasenko rode the pine. When he got his chance it was already too late, and the defending Cup champs quickly dispatched the Blues.

    While Tarasenko has no reason to struggle, lack of opportunity could cause him to dip in production.

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

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    Chance of Sophomore Slump: 50 percent

    Alex Galchenyuk is a talented player but there is a 50/50 chance he could struggle next season. While averaging 12:19 a game, Galchenyuk tallied 27 points. That is a fair number for a rookie in a shortened season, but he accomplished this against bottom-pairing defenders.

    That isn't his fault, because he was producing during the time he allowed on the ice. So next season when Galchenyuk gets more ice time; what will happen?

    Two things could happen next season, and that is why the odds are 50/50. Galchenyuk could receive more ice time and can prove that he truly is a talented player or he can crack under the pressure against tougher defense pairings.

    Galchenyuk obviously has a ton of skill, but how he fares against tougher competition remains to be seen.