Fantasy hockey top 10 bounce-back candidates

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NOTES: Bounce-back candidates are players who have had past success in the NHL, underachieved compared to fantasy expectations last season (because of injury and/or other factors) but can outperform their average draft position this season.

 

1. Darcy Kuemper, G, COL 
NHL.com rank: 25

The Colorado Avalanche goalie has one of the highest fantasy ceilings at the position after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on July 28. Kuemper, now third among goalies and 25th overall in NHL.com’s fantasy rankings, was 10-11-3 with a .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 27 games with the Coyotes last season but should have peripherals similar to his previous two seasons combined (.926 SV%, seven shutouts in 84 games from 2018-19 to 2019-20). Kuemper’s win total should be among NHL leaders if healthy given the Avalanche’s elite supporting cast (No. 2 team in fantasy power rankings), featuring top 20 overall players in forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and defenseman Cale Makar.

 

2. Frederik Andersen, G, CAR 
NHL.com rank: 58

The goalie, who signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 28, should benefit from a change of scenery after going 13-8-3 including a .895 SV% and no shutouts in 24 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. Andersen has been a consistent fantasy workhorse, starting at least 60 games with at least 33 wins for three straight seasons from 2016-17 to 2018-19, and is expected to be the outright No. 1 option for the Hurricanes over new teammate Antti Raanta. Andersen is ranked among the top 10 at the position and, even after the Hurricanes lost Dougie Hamilton in free agency (signed with New Jersey Devils), is joining a better defensive team than the Maple Leafs with Carolina still having Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and strong two-way forwards Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal.

 

3. Seth Jones, D, CHI
NHL.com rank: 62

The defenseman has rejoined the top 10 fantasy rankings at the position after being acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks on July 23. Jones scored 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 56 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season but has a much higher floor with new exposure to valuable forwards Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Jones should skate on the top pair at even strength and first power-play unit, giving him the ceiling of matching his NHL career high in points (57 in 2017-18).

 

4. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WSH
NHL.com rank: 68

The Washington Capitals center scored 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 41 games last season and missed time in the NHL COVID-19 protocol, marking the third straight season his points-per-game average has declined (0.71 last season; 0.83 in 2019-20; 0.95 in 2018-19; 1.05 in 2017-18). That said, last season was likely an anomaly for Kuznetsov, who ranked 12th among NHL centers in points (343 in 382 games) from 2015-16 to 2019-20, a scoring rate (0.90) that is attainable with exposure to elite left wing Alex Ovechkin on the first line or valuable wings T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha on the second unit and also as a first power-play fixture.

 

5. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL
NHL.com rank: 110

The Dallas Stars forward missed most of last season because of injury, returning down the stretch to score two goals on eight shots on goal in three games. The Stars have a strong mix of young (Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson) and veteran (Seguin, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, Jamie Benn) forward talent, so the challenge, in addition to staying healthy, will be finding the right line and power-play combinations. That said, Seguin has an elite track record; since joining Dallas in 2013-14, he ranks 10th in the NHL in goals (225), 16th in points (516 in 541 games), tied for 16th in power-play points (174) and fifth in SOG (2,075).

 

6. Carter Hart, G, PHI
NHL.com rank: 141

The Philadelphia Flyers goalie had by far the worst season of his NHL career, going 9-11-5 with a .877 SV% and one shutout in 27 games. Hart’s SV% was strong over his prior two seasons (.915 in 74 games), and he has a chance to rebound after the Flyers bolstered their defense by adding Ryan Ellis (from Nashville Predators) and Rasmus Ristolainen (from Buffalo Sabres) this offseason. Other notable moves to bring in goal-scoring right wing Cam Atkinson, defenseman Keith Yandle and goalie Martin Jones (to be the backup) could help give Hart a fresh start for Philadelphia, a boom-or-bust team in fantasy.

 

7. Viktor Arvidsson, LW/RW, LAK
NHL.com rank: 153

Arvidsson, acquired by the Los Angeles Kings on July 1, scored 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 50 games for the Nashville Predators last season but has a history of far greater fantasy prowess. He had three straight seasons of at least 29 goals from 2016-17 to 2018-19 and reached at least 31 goals, 60 points and 246 SOG twice each in that span. Arvidsson has renewed fantasy appeal with the potential to play on the first line with elite center Anze Kopitar and also factor into the first power play with exposure to valuable defenseman Drew Doughty.

 

8. Patrik Laine, LW/RW, CBJ
NHL.com rank: 157

The Columbus Blue Jackets forward should benefit from their coaching change (hired Brad Larsen to replace John Tortorella) and also the acquisition of valuable wing Jakub Voracek (from Flyers; two-time 80-point producer). Laine scored 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and was minus-29 in 45 games last season after being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets but found chemistry with center Jack Roslovic (34 points in 48 games with Blue Jackets). Laine still has an elite pedigree (11th in NHL with 150 goals since entering League in 2016-17), so Columbus’ top-line and power-play forwards have sneaky fantasy upside if available in late rounds.

 

9. Dylan Larkin, C, DET
NHL.com rank: 166

The Detroit Red Wings center was limited to 44 games last season because of injury but only scored 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists). Larkin had his lowest shooting percentage (6.7) and second lowest points-per-game average (0.52; 0.40 in 2016-17) in six NHL seasons prior to his injury, but the Red Wings have since accelerated their rebuild by acquiring valuable wing Jakub Vrana (11 points in 11 games with Detroit) last season and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (from Carolina Hurricanes; led NHL with .932 save percentage as rookie last season) this offseason. Larkin can bounce back to score nearly a point per game (73 in 76 games in 2018-19), especially with Vrana (T-7th with 66 even-strength goals since 2018-19) as his linemate.

 

10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, VAN
NHL.com rank: 176

The Vancouver Canucks defenseman, acquired from the Coyotes on July 23, has not been fantasy relevant in recent seasons but has covered some key categories at a high level in the past. He scored more than 20 goals in consecutive seasons (2014-15, 2015-16) as part of a stretch with six straight seasons of double-digit goal totals (2013-14 to 2018-19) and also covers hits (1.75 per game in NHL career). Ekman-Larsson will play on the second pair for Vancouver behind elite defenseman Quinn Hughes but still bring exposure to forwards Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Conor Garland at even strength for a more potent offense than he ever had in Arizona.

 

Other bounce-back candidates: Ryan Ellis, D (NHL.com fantasy rank: 123), and Cam Atkinson, RW (190), PHI; Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (147); Brent Burns (178) and Erik Karlsson (179), D, SJS; Nazem Kadri, C, COL (197); Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, WPG (217)

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