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Fantasy injury bounce-back candidates for 2017-18

Stamkos, Quick, Letang trying to return to form after difficult season

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

Injuries always play a big part in fantasy hockey. Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick sustained a groin injury on opening night of the 2016-17 season and missed five months; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos injured his knee Nov. 15 and didn't play another game all season. Owners who drafted either one had to scramble to replace a player likely selected in the first two rounds. Quick and Stamkos were two of many players who were injured last season and are hoping to make up for missed time.

Here are some injury bounce-back candidates for the 2017-18 season, listed in order of their Yahoo average draft position.

 

[RELATED: Fantasy Top 250 for 2017-18 | Cheat Sheet | Fantasy breakout candidates]

 

NOTE: Non-injury bounce-back candidates were identified in a separate list and can be read here.

 

FORWARDS

Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (average draft position: 29.5)
 

Stamkos' injury forced him to miss the final 65 games of the season, but he recently said he planned to play in the Lightning's first preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 19. Assuming he doesn't have any setbacks, he could be a bargain. Stamkos was tied for third in points (20) and tied for sixth in goals (nine) in the NHL at the time of the injury and was averaging 1.17 points per game. He also had seven power-play points and five multipoint games, and was on pace for 96 points, which would have been his highest total since he had 97 in 2011-12. He had 64 points (36 goals, 28 assists) in 77 games in 2015-16, but Stamkos, 27, could slip to the third round because of health concerns.

Video: TBL@DET: Stamkos slams in a rebound on the doorstep

 

Jason Spezza, C/RW, DAL (ADP: 116.5)
 

Spezza had two stretches when he missed five games each, one because of a lower-body injury, the other because of an upper-body injury. He played 68 games with the Dallas Stars last season, finishing with 50 points (15 goals, 35 assists), his fewest in a full season since he had 21 during his rookie season in 2002-03 with the Ottawa Senators. Spezza, 34, who played wing at times in 2016-17, will do that again, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said, after saying earlier he would only play center; that should increase his production. Spezza, a nine-time 20-goal scorer and five-time 30-goal scorer, could center a line with Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, which would be a boon to fantasy owners.

 

Tyler Toffoli, C/RW, LAK (ADP: 132.0)
 

Toffoli missed 19 games with a lower-body injury. The loss was felt by the Kings, who tied for 24th in goals per game (2.43). He had knee surgery in April but is skating at training camp and will look to show the Kings they made the right decision by signing the restricted free agent to a three-year contract. Toffoli had 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 63 games, but had NHL career highs of 31 goals, 27 assists and 58 points and was plus-35 in 82 games in 2015-16. Prior to last season, Toffoli, 25, missed six games in two seasons and averaged 27 goals, 53 points, a plus-30 rating, and 207 shots on goal during that time, so a rebound season is to be expected.

Video: CHI@LAK: Toffoli rips one-timer past Crawford for PPG

 

Max Domi, LW, ARI (ADP: 159.3)
 

Domi was on pace to challenge his points from his rookie season (51 in 2015-16) before sustaining a hand injury in December that kept him out of the Arizona Coyotes' lineup for almost two months. He had 16 points in 26 games before the injury and had 22 in 33 games after returning, including five assists in his final six games. Domi, 22, ended up with 38 points (nine goals, 29 assists) and eight power-play points in 59 games. He's likely to play with longtime friend and linemate Anthony Duclair and recently acquired center Derek Stepan.

 

Patrick Sharp, LW/RW, CHI (ADP: 162.8)
 

Sharp is perhaps the biggest candidate for a bounce-back season among injured players because of his new team. With the Stars in 2016-17, Sharp was limited to 48 games because of concussion and hip injuries and had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists), his fewest since he had seven points in 41 games with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003-04. He signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, who he helped win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The 35-year-old is an eight-time 20-goal scorer and a four-time 30-goal scorer and has looked good early in camp. Sharp should help the power play (he had at least 24 power-play points in two of the three seasons prior to 2016-17) and no doubt will improve his minus-22 rating from last season. Sharp should be available in the late rounds; he's currently outside the top 200 in NHL.com's overall rankings.

 

Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (ADP: 170:5)
 

Johnson, 27, has been an injury concern, missing 16 games last season and 13 in 2015-16. However, he's been productive when he's been on the ice, with 211 points (89 goals, 122 assists) in 308 NHL games. Johnson had 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 66 games last season, including 17 power-play points and an NHL career-high 28 penalty minutes. Johnson also has 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 47 Stanley Cup Playoff games, so his talent is obvious. He signed a seven-year, $35 million contract this offseason; now that he doesn't have to worry about playing for a contract for a while, perhaps Johnson can regain the form he had in 2014-15, when he finished with 72 points (29 goals, 43 assists) in 77 games and helped the Lightning get to the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Bryan Little, C, WPG (ADP: 173.9)
 

The Winnipeg Jets' center sustained a lower-body injury in his first game of the season and missed the next 23 but returned to score three goals in four games and finished with 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games. It's worth noting that Little missed the final 25 games of the 2015-16 season with a fractured vertebrae (he had 42 points in 57 games) but didn't miss a game the previous two seasons when he combined for 116 points (47 goals, 69 assists) including 33 power-play points. It's always risky drafting a skater who hasn't played more than 60 games in each of his past two seasons, but Little, 29, is a five-time 20-goal scorer who could center Patrick Laine (36 goals) and Nikolaj Ehlers (25 goals) as he did for parts of last season, or Blake Wheeler (26 goals) and Matthieu Perreault (13 goals). Either way, Little should be in line for some points. The Jets showed faith in Little by signing him to a six-year contract extension, and being selected on average as the 76th center is way too low.

Video: WPG@CBJ: Little cuts to the net a roofs nice backhand

 

DEFENSEMEN

Kris Letang, PIT (ADP: 39.0)
 

Letang had neck surgery last season but has been cleared for contact and could be ready by opening night. He played in half of the games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and had 34 points (five goals, 29 assists), on pace for an NHL career-high 68 points. He runs the power play, with 156 of his 386 NHL points coming with the man-advantage, and was fourth on the Penguins in hits (70) and sixth in blocks (70) playing 41 games. Letang is right behind Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman in terms of offense, and if (it's a big "if") the 30-year-old can stay healthy, he could reach 60 points again after finishing with an NHL career-high 67 in 71 games in 2015-16.

 

P.K. Subban, NSH (ADP: 41.4)
 

Subban had 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) and was minus-8 in 66 games last season with the Nashville Predators, missing 16 games with an upper-body injury. Although his first season in Nashville was a struggle at times, he turned up his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 22 games and was plus-5 with six power-play points. The 28-year-old has plenty of talent around him and should fare better in his second season in Nashville.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Subban rips a goal through screen

 

Trevor Daley, DET (ADP: 162.5)
 

Daley is unranked on NHL.com's top 250 after an injury-plagued season, but that could change soon. After winning his second straight Stanley Cup with the Penguins, he signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings, which should be a good fit for him. Daley, 33, had five points (one goal, four assists) in 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games and 19 points (five goals, four assists) in 56 regular-season games (missing time because of a knee injury), including 84 shots on goal. He should see extended time with the Red Wings' first (or more likely, second) power-play unit. His shots and goals should rise also; he may be more apt to shoot without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on his team.

 

GOALTENDERS

Jonathan Quick, LAK (ADP: 55.6)
 

Quick, 31, was 8-5-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts but was limited to 17 games after sustaining a groin injury in his first game of the season on Oct. 12. Quick had at least 35 wins five times and made 60 or more starts five times in the past six full seasons before 2016-17. He hasn't had a goals-against average above 2.50 or a save percentage lower than .910 since 2009-10 (2.54 GAA, .907 save percentage). Quick is a workhorse and is likely to start 65-70 games again if healthy. He has the fourth-most starts (442) and wins (238) since the 2009-10 season. He's being selected outside the top 10 among goalies (13) and could very well finish in the top five at season's end.

Video: Jonathan Quick lands at No. 6 on the list

 

Ben Bishop, DAL (ADP: 59.1)
 

Bishop was 18-15-5 with a 2.54 GAA, .910 save percentage and one shutout in 39 games (37 starts) with the Lightning and Kings last season, missing three weeks because of a lower-body injury. It was the fewest starts he's made since he made 21 with the Lightning and Ottawa Senators in 2012-13. Bishop had made at least 60 starts, won at least 35 games, and had at least four shutouts in each of the past three seasons, and was a Vezina Trophy finalist in two of them. The 30-year-old signed a six-year, $29.5 million contract with the Stars on May 12, so he won't be challenged for the No. 1 job and should receive plenty of offensive support. If the defense can fare better than last season (3.17 goals-per game, 29th), Bishop could put up another Vezina-worthy season.

Other injury bounce-back candidates for this season: Rick Nash (LW/RW, NYR; 166.6); Kyle Okposo (RW, BUF; 170.0); Bobby Ryan (RW, OTT; 172.7); Roberto Luongo (G, FLA; 173.4); Semyon Varlamov (G, COL; 185.3); Michael Cammalleri (LW/RW, LAK; NR); Alexander Edler (D, VAN; NR)

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