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Fantasy bounce-back candidates for 2019-20

Laine, Gostisbehere can rebound from disappointing seasons; Gibson should finish among elite goalies

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com identifies bounce-back candidates for the 2019-20 season: players who did not live up to expectations last season but have factors in their favor for a return to previous or new levels of production. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

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NOTE: Injury bounce-back candidates have been identified in a separate list.

 

Anze Kopitar, C, and Drew Doughty, D, LAK -- He led the Kings in scoring for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons, but his 60 points in 81 games were 32 fewer than 2017-18, when he was a Hart Trophy finalist. Doughty also struggled last season; his eight goals were the fewest since 2014-15 (seven), and his minus-34 derailed fantasy owners. However, Doughty is annually among the NHL leaders in ice time, has a floor of 40 points and is always a threat on the power play (24 power-play points last season). Doughty remains a top 25 fantasy defenseman and shouldn't be avoided because of one outlying season. Kopitar and Doughty should also benefit from a fresh start under new coach Todd McLellan.

 

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Mathew Barzal, C, NYI -- The 2018 Calder Trophy winner saw a decline in goals, assists, points and plus/minus but did have more SOG (179; up from 170) in his second season. The New York Islanders put an emphasis on defense first under new coach Barry Trotz, but Barzal still led them in points (62 in 82 games) for the second consecutive season and had 18 PPP despite New York having the third worst power play in the NHL (14.5 percent). Barzal is one of the most dynamic young players in the game and should be closer to his point-per-game pace this season, regardless of linemates. It's good for Barzal's fantasy value that the Islanders re-signed right wing Jordan Eberle, who scored nine points (four goals, five assists) in eight postseason games on Barzal's line, and top left wing Anders Lee this offseason.

 

Jamie Benn, C/LW, DAL -- He had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games after his worst scoring total in a full season (53 points in 78 games) since he was a rookie in 2009-10. Benn has four seasons of at least 34 goals, led the NHL with 87 points in 2014-15 and is likely to rebound on the top line and power play with elite forwards Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. The signing of valuable forward Joe Pavelski should have a positive impact on Benn, who could play with his new teammate at even strength and/or on the first power play.

 

Patrik Laine, LW/RW, WPG -- The 21-year-old is coming off a down season but should still be drafted in the late second or early third round. If you take out his 18 goals in 12 games in November, Laine had 12 goals in the other 70 games. His 50 points and minus-24 were the lowest in his three NHL seasons, but he could bounce back to rejoin the NHL leaders in goals this season given his high shot volume (at least 240 SOG in past two seasons) and the Winnipeg Jets' elite offense. It's worth noting he was dealing with back and groin injuries.

 

Rickard Rakell, C/LW/RW, and Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA -- Rakell had 18 goals in 69 games after leading the Anaheim Ducks in the category in each of the prior two seasons (34 in 2017-18; 33 in 2016-17). Getzlaf had 48 points in 67 games but has scored 0.94 points-per game over his 14 NHL seasons. The Ducks have a new coach in Dallas Eakins after scoring the fewest goals (196) in the League this season, and fantasy owners should expect Rakell and Getzlaf to be the anchors to a young forward group, possibly on separate lines.

 

Clayton Keller, C/LW/RW, ARI -- The Arizona Coyotes barely missed the playoffs, and a better season from Keller could have helped them qualify. Keller, a Calder Trophy finalist in 2017-18, saw his numbers go down across the board and became droppable in standard leagues. That said, he hasn't missed a game in his first two seasons, covered PPP (19) and SOG (200), and is a lock for the top six and power play in Arizona. Keller should benefit from exposure to elite right wing Phil Kessel, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 29, and other fantasy-relevant skaters Nick Schmaltz and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

 

William Nylander, C/RW, TOR -- After not playing his first game until Dec. 6 because of a contract holdout, Nylander did not score a goal in his first 11 games and had only seven goals and 27 points in 54 games. However, he had 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) and was plus-5 in his final 34 games of the regular season and had three points in seven playoff games. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward group is too talented for Nylander to have another subpar season, and he could score at least 65 points if he plays more often with elite center Auston Matthews. The acquisition of high-scoring defenseman Tyson Barrie should benefit Toronto's secondary forwards like Nylander, who should now get first power-play usage after center Nazem Kadri was traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

 

Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, D, PHI -- Each Philadelphia Flyers defenseman experienced a severe drop in production; Gostisbehere had 37 points, 28 fewer than in 2017-18, 14 power-play points (down from 33), 180 SOG (down from 221) and was minus-20 (down from plus-10) in 78 games. Provorov hasn't missed a game in his first three NHL seasons but his offense took a hit (seven goals, 26 points; down from 17 goals, 41 points in 2017-18) during the Flyers' inconsistent season. With a new system in place under coach Alain Vigneault, Gostisbehere and Provorov should be available much later than they were last season and are likely to return value. The Flyers have acquired defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun in separate trades, which could take pressure off Gostisbehere and Provorov and improve Philadelphia's overall outlook at the position.

 

John Gibson, G, ANA -- After the highest goals-against average (2.84) and second worst save percentage (.917) of his NHL career, Gibson, who had 26 wins in 58 games, should vastly improve all of those numbers. His career GAA (.242) and save percentage (.921) are more indicative of his play than last season, when the Ducks were the lowest-scoring team in the League and had a 12-game losing streak. Gibson, who allowed two goals or fewer in 32 games but lost 10 of them, reunites with Eakins, who coached Gibson with San Diego of the American Hockey League.

 

Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR -- His 18 wins, 3.07 GAA and .907 save percentage were each the worst marks of his 14-year NHL career. He also had no shutouts in a season for the first time. However, Lundqvist has had at least 26 wins in his 12 prior full seasons and has a much-improved roster in front of him. The 37-year-old has rejoined the top 20 fantasy goalies after elite left wing Artemi Panarin signed with the Rangers in free agency, defenseman Jacob Trouba was acquired from the Jets and wing Kaapo Kakko was selected with the No. 2 pick in 2019 NHL Draft. New York was tied for the most overtime/shootout losses (14) in the NHL last season, leaving plenty of room for improvement.

 

Other bounce-back candidates for 2019-20 (with NHL.com rank): Martin Jones, G, SJS (95); Semyon Varlamov, G, NYI (117); William Karlsson, C/LW, VGK (132); Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF (137); Mikael Granlund, C/LW/RW, NSH (164); Jordan Eberle, C/RW, NYI (165); Wayne Simmonds, RW, NJD (234); Tyler Toffoli, RW, LAK (N/A)

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