10 NHL Players Whose Production Will Drop in 2017

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2016

10 NHL Players Whose Production Will Drop in 2017

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    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa tore through the first two months of the 2016-17 season. With 16 goals in 33 games, he's on pace for 40 goals this season. Unfortunately, Hossa's among several players whose production could drop over the remainder of this season. 

    For veterans such as Hossa, age and injury history could catch up with them. Players putting up unusually high numbers—such as Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Marchessault—could struggle to maintain their present levels of production. Rookies such as Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine could find it difficult adjusting to the grueling demands of their first NHL campaigns. 

    Here's a look at 10 NHL players whose production will decline in 2017.  Feel free to express your opinion on this topic in the comments section. 

10. Paul Byron, Montreal Canadiens

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    Montreal Canadiens left wing Paul Byron is enjoying a terrific season thus far. With 10 goals and 17 points in 31 games, the 27-year-old is on pace for a career-best 25 goals and 45 points. He's second among Canadiens goal scorers and sits among their points leaders. 

    Byron's role as a defensive forward and penalty-killing specialist, however, will likely affect his production over the remainder of this season. He skates on the Habs' third line, averaging only 14 minutes, 46 seconds per game.

    As a checking-line forward, it's doubtful Byron can maintain his present offensive output. He is, however, already on pace for a career season. He's only one goal away from matching his career-high 11 goals and four points from his previous high of 21. 

9. Patrick Eaves, Dallas Stars

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    Dallas Stars right wing Patrick Eaves is on track for the best season of his 12-year NHL career. With 11 goals and 19 points in 32 games, he's the Stars' leading goal scorer and ranks among their leaders in points. The 32-year-old is on pace to reach career highs of 30 goals and 50 points.

    Eaves, however, could face an uphill battle maintaining his current pace. Since Nov. 23, he's managed only two goals and one assist in 13 games. He also has a long history of serious injuries, never playing a full 82 games. 2010-11 was the last season he played over 60 games.

    Given the current downturn in Eaves' production, he's unlikely to see 30 goals or 50 points. If he can avoid injury and regain some offensive consistency, he could be in range of exceeding his current career highs of 20 goals and 32 points. 

8. Michael Grabner, New York Rangers

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    A 34-goal scorer with the New York Islanders in 2010-11, left wing Michael Grabner is on pace to exceed 30 goals this season. With 13 goals through 32 games, Grabner is tied with Rick Nash for the Rangers' goal-scoring lead. His 18 points put him seventh among their points leaders.

    Reaching that 30-goal plateau, however, could prove difficult.  Since Nov. 23, Grabner's managed only a goal and an assist in 13 games. Averaging 13:18 of ice time per contest, he won't get many opportunities for quality scoring chances. 

    Given Grabner's reputation as a streaky scorer and his current level of production, it's doubtful he'll hit the 30-goal mark by season's end. He has a more realistic shot of matching his second-highest career numbers of 20 goals and 32 points. 

7. Sam Gagner, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    After tallying only eight goals and 16 points in 53 games last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, forward Sam Gagner is enjoying a bounce-back performance with the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 13 goals and 22 points in 28 games, the 27-year-old is the Jackets' leading goal scorer and is among their points leaders.

    Despite Gagner's impressive numbers thus far, it's unlikely he can maintain this output over the remainder of this season. He's skating on the Jackets' checking lines, averaging just 13:35 of ice time. If this continues, it's only a matter of time until his numbers decline. 

    At Gagner's current level of production, he's on pace for a career-best 35 goals and 65 points. A more realistic expectation is perhaps 45 points, as he's exceeded the 40-point mark six times in his career. He should reach the 20-goal mark for the first time, though. 

6. Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals

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    With 12 goals and 22 points in 30 games. left wing Marcus Johansson is second on the Washington Capitals in goals and third in points. While on pace for a career-high 33-goal, 60-point season, Johansson could struggle to maintain that level of production. 

    Now in his seventh NHL campaign, the 26-year-old has one 20-goal performance in his career. He's also exceeded 40 points three times. In the past, he's shown flashes of taking his production to a higher level but always fell short.

    Perhaps Johansson can maintain his current offensive output. His history, however, suggests he should finish in the 20-goal, 45-point range. 

5. Jonathan Marchessault, Florida Panthers

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    Prior to 2016-17, Marchessault had tallied only 19 points in 49 NHL games over three seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning. In his first season with the Panthers, he's already netted 20 points in 28 games. The 25-year-old is among the Panthers' leading scorers

    While Marchessault's been reliably consistent thus far, it remains to be seen if he can maintain this pace. He's never put up these kind of single-season numbers before. A lower-body injury sidelined him for four of the Panthers' last five games. This could be a nagging ailment that hampers him the rest of the way. 

    Skating on the Panthers' top line with center Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr also boosts Marchessault's production. He'll likely lose that spot, however, when left wing Jonathan Huberdeau returns from injury in January. That could adversely affect his numbers over the remainder of 2016-17.

4. Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski is having a strong NHL debut. With 21 points in 29 games, he's one of the NHL's highest-scoring blueliners. He's also among Jackets points leaders and one of this season's leading rookie scorers

    Werenski has impressed in the opening two months of 2016-17. However, he still has to withstand the rigors of a long NHL season. Werenski is second on the Jackets in ice time, averaging 21:43 per night. That's a heavy workload for a rookie blueliner, and it could eventually take its toll. 

    In early November, Werenski was producing at a 70-point pace. He's now on target for 60 points. He'll likely finish with around 45. That would still be a satisfactory total for a rookie defenseman. 

3. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

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    The Winnipeg Jets' first-round pick (second overall) in the 2016 NHL draft, Patrik Laine is putting on a dazzling display of goal scoring in his rookie season. With 18 goals in 34 games, the 18-year-old Finn leads the Jets and all rookies in that category. He's also among the league's goal-scoring leaders

    Laine has the skills to become a high-scoring NHL superstar, but he could find it difficult maintaining his present pace. He has to adjust to the grind of an 82-game schedule. He's also a streaky scorer, with 10 of his goals coming in just four games. He's also only scored three times on the road. 

    By Nov. 8, it appeared Laine could flirt with the vaunted 50-goal mark. In the 20 games since then, he's scored only seven times. Reaching 35 goals seems like a more realistic target, which is still a respectable number for a first-year NHL player.  

2. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    At an age when NHL scorers tend to decline, 37-year-old Marian Hossa is off to one of the best starts of his long career. With 16 goals in 31 games, he's among this season's leading goal scorers. He could crack the 40-goal plateau for the first time since 2008-09

    Despite Hossa's impressive performance thus far, it's unlikely he'll maintain his current output over the remainder of this season. At his age, the physical demands of his two-way game will likely catch up with him. He also has a history of back injuries.

    That's not to suggest Hossa won't remain an effective player for the Blackhawks. While a 40-goal campaign is probably out of the question, he has a good shot at reaching 30 goals. For someone in the twilight years of his NHL career, that would be a worthy accomplishment. 

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is renowned for his playmaking skills. This season, however, he's scoring at a torrid pace. The 29-year-old captain has 21 goals and 34 points in 26 games. He's the NHL's leading goal scorer. However, his goal scoring could be heading toward a decline. 

    Now in his 12th NHL season, Crosby's only reached the 50-goal plateau once. His shooting percentage (25.0) in 2016-17 is much higher than in previous seasons. His highest level was 19.9 in 2010-11. During his sole 50-goal campaign (2009-10), that number was 17.1. This suggests his shooting percentage should drop as the season progresses.

    At his current level, Crosby's on track to score 60 goals. A month ago, however, he was close to a 70-goal pace. Expect his rate of goal scoring and shooting percentage to slowly decline as the season wears on. Reaching the 50-goal mark for the second time in his career remains possible, but it won't get any easier the rest of the way.


    Players stats current as of Dec. 18 and courtesy of NHL.com