10 NHL Players Who Will Have Bounce-Back Performances in 2017-18
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle struggled through the NHL's 2016-17 season. They are among several players who should regain their form in 2017-18.
Duchene will attempt to reach the level that saw him tally a career-best 30 goals in 2015-16. Eberle hopes a trade to the Islanders in June by the Edmonton Oilers provides him with the opportunity to improve his game.
Some on this list, such as Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, are promising players hoping to overcome poor sophomore campaigns. Others, such as Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan, are looking to snap back from injury-hampered performances.
The following article lists the 10 NHL players who will have bounce-back performances in the upcoming NHL season, which begins October 4. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
10. Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks
After tallying 30 goals with the Boston Bruins in 2015-16, left wing Loui Eriksson managed just 11 goals and 24 points in his first season with the Vancouver Canucks. The 31-year-old will attempt to rally in 2017-18.
In his 11 NHL seasons, Eriksson has exceeded 50 points five times and 20 goals six times. Skating with fellow Swedes the Sedin twins on the Canucks' top line, he was expected to maintain that level of production. However, he had difficulty establishing chemistry with them last season.
Eriksson's 2016-17 stats were his lowest in a non-lockout year since his six-goal, 19-point rookie effort in 2006-07. His shooting percentage (8.3) was well below the 16.3 of the previous season. Missing 17 games with a lower-body injury didn't help matters.
Given Eriksson's previous offensive consistency, a bounce-back performance seems likely in 2017-18. An improvement in his shooting percentage should elevate his production back to the 20-goal, 50-point range. The Canucks hiring Travis Green as their new head coach could also bolster Eriksson's game.
9. Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders
Once considered a key part of the Oilers' rebuild, the 27-year-old right wing gets a fresh start with a new club after seven seasons in Edmonton.
While Eberle tallied 20 goals and 51 points in 2016-17, he was off his usual pace. Having exceeded 60 points three times in his career, more was expected from him.
After failing to generate on-ice chemistry with superstar center Connor McDavid, Eberle was taken off the Oilers' top line last season. That affected his production and consistency. His 9.6 shooting percentage was a career low. During the 2017 playoffs, he managed just two assists in 13 games.
Eberle should have a great opportunity to regain his scoring touch with the Islanders. He could be skating alongside center John Tavares on their top line, and if they click, Eberle should regain his 60-plus-point form.
8. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens
For the second straight season, an injured left hand forced Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher to miss a significant number of games. His absence affected the Habs offense in 2016-17. The 25-year-old will attempt to put his injury woes behind him.
In 2014-15, Gallagher netted a career-best 24 goals and 47 points in 82 games. Despite missing 29 games the following season with an injured left hand, he tallied a promising 19 goals and 40 points. It appeared he was on the verge of bigger things heading into last season.
Reinjuring his left hand, however, significantly affected Gallagher's production. In 64 games, he managed just 10 goals and 29 points. Those were his worst stats since his 15-goal, 28-point rookie campaign during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Earlier in his career, Gallagher demonstrated his effectiveness as a pesky, tenacious forechecking winger. If there's no lasting damage to his hand, he should regain his promising offensive form. Now in the prime of his career, he has the potential to reach 50 points in 2017-18.
7. Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Ryan had his difficulties with the Ottawa Senators in 2016-17. Scoring only 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games, it was his worst performance over a full NHL season. However, the 30-year-old should bounce back in 2017-18.
In 10 NHL seasons, Ryan has tallied over 20 goals and 50 points six times, including twice with the Senators. A finger injury sidelined him for 20 games last season, hampering his effectiveness as a scoring winger.
Ryan also had difficulty last season adjusting to Senators head coach Guy Boucher's defensive system. During the 2017 playoffs, a healthy Ryan regained his scoring ways. Playing a two-way style, he tallied 15 points in 19 games to finish second among the Sens' postseason scorers. Should Ryan carry over that effort into this season, he should once again surpass 20 goals and 50 points.
6. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin made a promising NHL debut in 2015-16 but endured a disappointing follow-up season. Entering his third NHL campaign, the 21-year-old should regain his promising style.
A speedy, hardworking two-way player, the versatile Larkin can skate at all three forward positions. Netting 23 goals and 45 points as a rookie, he led the Red Wings in goals and finished third in points.
Expectations were high for Larkin in 2016-17, but he was unable to build upon his rookie performance. His production dropped to 17 goals and 32 points, sliding to eighth among the Wings' leading scorers.
It's not unusual for a young player to struggle during his sophomore campaign. Given Larkin's skills and upside, he should learn and mature from last season's difficulties. He could see more playing time centering the rebuilding Wings' second line, giving him a great opportunity to get back on track.
5. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
A 2016 finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's top rookie, Gostisbehere struggled to regain his form following offseason hip and abdominal surgery. Now fully recovered, the 24-year-old should have a better performance in 2017-18.
In his rookie season, Gostisbehere displayed his skills as a mobile offensive blueliner. In 64 games, he tallied an impressive 17 goals and 46 points. That included setting an NHL record for the longest points streak (15 games) by a rookie defenseman and setting the team record for most goals by a rookie rearguard.
Expectations were understandably high for Gostisbehere last season. While he finished with a respectable 39 points, he tallied just seven goals. His plus/minus of minus-21 was the worst among Flyers defensemen.
Despite that disappointing effort, Gostisbehere still has solid offensive and skating ability. A healthy offseason allowed him more time to improve his strength and skills. He remains a key part of the Flyers' rebuilding blue line and should see an improvement in his stats this season.
4. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Goaltender Cory Schneider's unexpected poor play last season contributed the New Jersey Devils once again missing the postseason. However, the durable 31-year-old should regain his usually reliable form in 2017-18.
While the Devils missed the playoffs four straight seasons prior to 2016-17, Schneider performed well. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, his goals-against average was never worse than 2.26 and his save percentage never dipped below .921. Those stats put him among the league's elite netminders.
In 2016-17, however, Schneider struggled through his worst performance as a full-time starter. He won only 20 games, posting a 2.82 GAA and .908 SP. He wasn't helped by the Devils' popgun offense and thin defense, but the downturn in his game still came as a surprise.
Writing off Schneider as past his prime, however, could be premature. Bringing in Roland Melanson, Schneider's former goalie coach with the Vancouver Canucks, could bolster his game. While the New Jersey blue line still needs work, the additions of forwards Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle and Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, could boost their offense.
3. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Injuries hampered Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad last season. The 21-year-old will attempt to get back on track on 2017-18.
During his first two NHL seasons, Ekblad quickly established himself as a top-two defenseman. Tallying 39 points in 2014-15, he won the Calder as rookie of the year. Ekblad followed up with 36 points and a plus/minus of plus-18 in 2015-16, helping the Panthers reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Two concussions and a neck injury, however, limited Ekblad to just 68 games last season. He also struggled to adjust to the absence of former defense partner Brian Campbell, who departed for the Chicago Blackhawks the previous summer via free agency. His production fell to just 29 points, and his plus/minus was minus-23.
Ekblad is a skilled all-around defenseman whose best seasons remain ahead of him. With maturity and good health, his numbers should significantly improve this season. On June 12, the Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov reported Ekblad grew up as a family friend of new Panthers head coach Bob Boughner in Ontario. That familiarity could also improve his game.
2. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
After netting a career-best 30 goals in 2015-16, Duchene struggled through last season. In 77 games, he netted only 18 goals and 41 points. It was his worst performance since tallying 14 goals and 28 points in an injury-shortened 2011-12.
Duchene was frequently the subject of offseason trade speculation. However, his disappointing play in 2016-17 may have hurt his value in the trade market. That could hamper efforts by Avalanche management to find a suitable return.
The 26-year-old Duchene is in his prime and should be able to rebound from last season's frustration. Having reached 20 goals and 50 points five times in his eight NHL seasons, Duchene is capable of putting up better numbers.
A stronger effort on Duchene's part should significantly improve the Avalanche's offense this season. It would also make him more attractive to rival clubs seeking scoring punch at center.
1. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Following a career-high performance (41 goals, 89 points) in 2015-16, Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn suffered a significant drop in his production last season. However, the 28-year-old Stars captain should regain his place among the league's elite scorers in 2017-18.
Since his NHL debut in 2009-10, Benn has steadily blossomed into a powerful offensive threat. In 2014-15, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer, with 87 points. Benn was among the key reasons the Stars topped the Western Conference standings in 2015-16.
Dallas, however, struggled through last season and missed the playoffs. Benn's production suffered, falling to 26 goals and 69 points in 77 games. While those are respectable totals, they were well below those of last season's league leaders. Injuries also contributed to that decline.
A better effort is expected from the Stars and their captain this season. Benn remains their top left wing and has the skills to once again reach 40 goals and 80 points. The offseason addition of slick playmaker Alexander Radulov could prove significant to Benn's line.