In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at 15 bounce back candidates for the 2021-22 season.
There can be any number of reasons for a player to have a down year, but it is not necessarily a sign of a long-term problem or that their time as a productive player is finished. Maybe it is due to an injury, maybe some bad puck luck, or maybe just playing in a tough situation on the wrong team or the wrong line. Either way, players bounce back all the time from those types of seasons and we are going to take a look at some options for next season.
Who all makes this week’s NHL Power Rankings list?
To the NHL Power Rankings!
1. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers. What on earth happened here? For the first two years of his career Hart looked like he was going to finally be the long-term answer to the Flyers’ biggest problem spot. He was one of the biggest reasons for optimism heading into this season. Then he completely faceplanted with one of the worst individual performances in the league. He is much better than he showed this season, and the Flyers should be expecting a lot more in 2021-22. At least, that is what they have to be hoping for. His play will determine a lot of the future success of the Flyers.
2. Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets. It was pretty quickly obvious that his style of player did not mesh with what John Tortorella envisioned. Will a new coach and a fresh start to the season (not to mention playing for a new contract) kickstart something for him this season? The talent is certainly there.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues. Injuries have limited him to just 42 total games (regular season and playoffs) over the past two seasons, and when he has played he has clearly not been 100 percent. He will be turning 30 years old in December, but a fully healthy Tarasenko should still be capable of 30-plus goals over a full season. That will help the Blues a lot.
4. Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames. A lot of people in Calgary had a bad season, but Monahan’s drop in production was especially obvious. Maybe you should not expect him to be the point per game player he was a couple of years ago, but his 82-game pace this year would have been a 16-goal, 45-point season. He is better than that.
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5. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres. He looked like a different player in Buffalo after the coaching change. That is a good sign that whatever was holding him back early in the season can be fixed. A massive talent that the Sabres need to be a star.
6. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings. He has been a bright spot in Detroit during this rebuild, but his production dipped a bit during the 2020-21 season. One of the fastest players in the league, Larkin is entering his age 25 season (should be his peak year) and is coming off a career-low shooting percentage season. Expect a bounce back.
7. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals. The question here is will this bounce back season happen in Washington, or somewhere else via trade? He missed time due to COVID on two separate occasions, and just struggled through the worst individual season of his career. Still an outstanding talent and playmaker. Think he has another couple of really productive years ahead.
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8. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks. Gibson is regarded as one of the best goalies in the NHL (and he is), but his numbers the past two seasons have dropped dramatically. A lot of that is probably a function of playing behind one of the league’s worst teams.
9. Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators. Only 10 goals in 50 games is a sharp decline for Arvidsson, and it was driven almost entirely by a massive drop in shooting percentage. If he maintains the same ability to generate shots and that puck luck rebounds he could be in line for a nice season next year.
10. Stars trio of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop. These three are simply about injury bounce backs and nothing at all related to performance. They combined for just 14 man games during the 2020-21 season (only 11 for Radulov and only three for Seguin; zero for Bishop) and that played a huge role in the Stars going from the Stanley Cup Final to missing the playoffs. Get them back and healthy and the Stars should be a playoff team again.
11. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets. Jones has regressed a bit the past two seasons, but like Laine, I want to see what happens with a coaching change. Also you can not discount the possibility of a contract year bump, especially given his apparent desire to test the open market.
12. Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins. This was a tough year for Zucker. He missed some time due to injury and never really seemed to find a permanent spot on any line. He is still a good player and the Penguins could really use a bounce back year given the contract and price they paid for him in a trade.
13. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres. I want to think that he did not just forget how to score goals. That surely a better system, an increased role, and maybe some luck can get him back on track. I want to think that. Buffalo probably does as well.
14. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks. Is this really how his career is going to fizzle out? Injuries have taken a toll, but he is still only 31 years old. Maybe that is not his prime, but he should still have some good years ahead of him.
15. Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames. The Flames paid big money for Markstrom to solve their revolving door of goalies, and his debut season was a mixed bag. Some good, so not so good. He may not be an elite goalie, but he has a pretty lengthy track record of being a steady, durable goalie that can play a big workload and play it well. He should be better than he was this season.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.