Top 10 NHL Bounce-Back Candidates For 2023-2024

Top 10 NHL Bounce Back Candidates - Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers

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Top 10 NHL Bounce-Back Candidates For 2023-2024

Whether it was purely performance based, circumstantial, or injury-related; these players did not live up to expectations last season. However, we do believe that these ten players will bounce-back next season, and savvy fantasy managers should be able to take advantage of depressed ADPs in the Fall. Read on for the complete breakdown and our player projections.

#1 Bryan Rust (RW)
Pittsburgh Penguins
2023-2024 Projection: Top 6, PP1, 71 Pts/31 G

Fantasy Outlook: The 2022-2023 season was not kind to the Pittsburgh Penguins, having missed the playoffs after failing to beat either of Columbus or Chicago to secure a playoff spot. Kris Letang suffered another stroke, Tristan Jarry was injured or awful, and Bryan Rust had a down season by his recent standards. For Rust, there are a number of contributing factors to what was his worst offensive season since 2020. First, and possibly most important, Rust saw a decline in even-strength and power play minutes. In total, the Pens winger saw just 38.2% PP Share, his lowest since 2018-2019. In terms of PP SH%, Rust’s 8% last year was BY FAR his lowest over the past 5 seasons. Looking at the LWL regression meter, Rust is primed for positive regression in all 5 categories – 2A/60 (0.39), tEVSH% (7.6%), iSH% (9.5%), IPP (59), PP SH% (8%). 

HM – Tristan Jarry (G). Jarry and the Penguins went out with a whimper, finishing the final 15 games of the season with a 5-6-2 record with a 3.21 GAA and .891 SV%. The 28-year old’s .915 SV% was his lowest since 2018-2019, do we see that improve? 

#2 Jonathan Huberdeau (LW)
Calgary Flames
2023-2024 Projection: Top 6, PP1, 73 Pts/22 G

Fantasy Outlook: Jonathan Huberdeau’s first year as a Flame did not go as planned. With only 55 points (15G, 40A) in 79 games he was well below his offensive output from his previous season in Florida (115 points). He was seeing 2.5 minutes a game less in ice time and a %16 drop in powerplay share. His shooting percent was down 2.5% from last year and his shots per game were also down 1.2 per game last season. Playing in a Darryl Sutter system was a recipe for disaster for Huberdeau. 

This season Huberdeau is projected to be on the 2nd line with Nazem Kadri and Jakob Pelletier, he will see PP1 time as well. His line mates are not going to improve from last year, but not playing in a Daryl Sutter system should allow his creativity to return and projects to be almost a point per game output for the season. 

#3 Jacob Markstrom (G)
Calgary Flames
2023-2024 Projection: Starter – 67% Net Share (55 Games)

Fantasy Outlook: Jacob Markstrom had a rough 2022-2023 season. In 59 games, Markstrom had a record of 23 wins, 21 losses with 12 overtime losses. His GAA of 2.92 and SV% of 0.892 is well off his 3 year averages of 2.59 and 0.907. His goals saved above expected was -17.97 (OUCH) He looked uncomfortable in net for most of the season – maybe ghosts of the playoff loss to the Oilers the previous season still haunting him?

Markstrom will come into camp for the 2023-2024 season as the starting goalie based on his $6M AAV. With a new coach he will start with a clean slate and a chance to show that he can be the starting goalie for the Flames. His supporting cast could still change before the season starts and not for the better. This will add to the pressure on him to return to the form he showed in the 21-22 season. Will he be up to the challenge?

#4 Zach Werenski (D)
Columbus Blue Jackets
2023-2024 Projection: Top Pair, PP1, 54 Pts/15 G

Fantasy Outlook: After injury derailed Zach’s 2022-2023 season he is hoping to bounce back with another good season. With a much improved supporting cast he should see some easier minutes as Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson will take some 5v5 and PK time off his hands. This will allow him to be included in the offense more and should be able to put up some good numbers this season.

#5 Jack Campbell (G)
Edmonton Oilers 
2023-2024 Projection: Tandem – 50% Net Share (42 Games)

Fantasy Outlook: Year one in Oil Country was not a pleasant one for Jack Campbell. Although his record was good at 21-9, his SV% of 0.888 and a GAA of 3.41 was not good. Most of Campbell’s wins this season came agaisnt non-playoff teams, and he was eventually benched in favour of rookie Stuart Skinner down the stretch and into the post-season. 

Based on Campbell’s performance in the playoffs, he will come to camp and challenge for the starters spot, or at the very least a 50% net share. If he can continue his post-season level of play, a bounce back year could be in the cards for Jack Campbell. In 4 appearances, Campbell was credited with one win, while sporting a 1.01 GAA and a .961 SV% on 51 shots against. 

#6 Alex Debrincat
Detroit Red Wings
2023-2024 Projection: Top 6, PP1, 78 Pts/42 G

Fantasy Outlook: For most players, 66 points and 27 goals would be a wonderful stat line. For the newest Red Wing though, those numbers represent a step back from the 78 points and 41 goals he posted in 2021-2022; and the 88 point, 50 goal pace he was on in 2020-2021. So what the hell happened? Looking at the regression metrics, DeBrincat is due for positive regression nearly across the board – 2A/60 (0.21), tEVSH% (6.7%), iSH% (10.3%), and PPSH% (13.7%). 

Expect to see more secondary assists, even-strength goals and PPGs from DeBrincat next season. At 0.21 2A/60, there should be some serious positive regression in secondary assists. A shooting percentage of 13.7% on the power play was by far the lowest of DeBrincat’s career (very consistently between 20-25%). Had the 25-year old converted closer to his norm on the PP, say 22.5%, the difference would have been another SEVEN PPGs; at which point we’re looking at a 34 goal season overall. Looking at the 10.3 iSH%, this was the second-lowest mark of Debrincat’s career to date, who is averaging 14.5% through 449 regular season contests.

It’s also worth noting that DeBrincat’s time on-ice took a fairly significant dip in Ottawa last season. After averaging 20:32 and 20:51 in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, respectively, DeBrincat only received 19:00 TOI in 2022-2023. Most of that was lost at even-strength, and a bit on the PK (PPTOI went up). I expect to see that number increase next season, as the Red Wings don’t have quite as many offensive options to work with this coming season.  

#7 John Carlson (D)
Washington Capitals 
2023-2024 Projection: Top Pair, PP1, 71 Pts/17 G

Fantasy Outlook: Carlson was limited to just 40 games last season after taking a Brendon Dillon slap shot off the side of his head. Carlson still finished the season with a respectable 29 points (9 goals) in those 40 games – a 59-point (18 goal) pace over 82 games. Expect a fully healthy John Carlson to return to top pairing and PP1 duty, feeding pucks to Ovi in his office. It’s worth noting that Carlson’s secondary assist rate (0.27 2A/60)  was the third-lowest of his 14-year NHL career, and lowest since 2013-2014. Even a modest increase to 0.40 2A/60 would have equated to 6 additional assists over 82 games last season. The other metric to keep an eye on for next season is Carlson’s 8.1 tEVSH%, which was his lowest mark since 2014-2015.  

HM – Evgeny Kuznetsov (C). On a points per game basis, 2022-2023 was Egveny Kuznetsov’s worst offensive season since 2014-2015 at 0.68 points per game – just 55 total points and 12 goals. Looking at the LWL regression meter, Kuznetsov should see positive regression in ALL 5 metrics next season – 2A/60 (0.46), iSH% (7%), tEVSH% (9.5%), IPP (67.1), and PPSH% (10.2%). Notably, Kuznetsov’s individual shooting percentage (iSH%) was just 7%, a career-worst for the Russian center. Paired with his power play shooting percentage of 10.2% (second-lowest of his career), and the drop in goal-scoring becomes quite clear. Kuznetsov also saw a decline in his overall ice time, going from 20:17/GM and 3:43 PPTOI/GM (72.9% PP Share), to just 18:04/GM and 2:49 PPTOI/GM (57.4% PP Share), respectively. 

#8 Evander Kane (LW)
Edmonton Oilers
2023-2024 Projection: Top 6, PP2, 70 Pts/35 G

Fantasy Outlook: Evander Kane’s second season with the Oilers was a difficult one, to say the least. After posting 56 points (35 goals) in 58 games from January 1st to June 4th, 2022 (including a playoff-leading 13 goals); Kane was limited to just 28 points (16 goals) in 41 games played. Aside from a MAJOR/SCARY wrist injury in November, the 31-year old had plenty going on personally, including issues with bankruptcy/creditors and the birth of his son. 

Kane’s tEVSH% (7.7%) and PP SH% (0% on 10 SOG) should see positive regression, though it’s unlikely that Kane sees a spike in power play time. The Oilers winger offers absolutely ELITE shot volume though, firing the puck at 11.42 SOG/60 (just missing the top 20 league wide); and if he can remain healthy for a full 82 games, could offer close to 300 SOG, 250 hits, and 100 PIMS!

#9 Matt Duchene (RW)
Dallas Stars
2023-2024 Projection: Top 6, PP2, 69 Pts/25 G

Fantasy Outlook: Like most of the Nashville Predators in 2022-2023, Matt Duchene came back down to earth after an outlier season in 2021-2022. It wasn’t an awful season for Duchene, posting 56 points and 22 goals in 71 games, but expectations were high following the previous season; which meant there was no value to be had in season-long fantasy drafts and many managers were left disappointed. 

We discussed Duchene in our free agency episode, and it was clear that at least one member of our podcast was not sold on the former Pred in Dallas. However, Duchene was a more effective player 5v5 (2.04 Pts/60, 114th) than Tyler Seguin (1.95 Pts/60, 146th), Wyatt Johnston (1.86, Pts/60, 178th), and Evgenii Dadonov (1.45 Pts/60, 325th). There may not be room for Duchene on the top power play unit, but there is no reason for him not to play in the top 6 for Dallas. Remember, the 32-year old is just one season removed from a career-high 86 points and 43 goals (yes, I know there was some puck luck involved). 

#10 Thatcher Demko (G)
Vancouver Canucks 
2023-2024 Projection: Starter – 67% Net Share (55 Games)

Fantasy Outlook: It was a “Tale of Two Seasons” for the Canucks starter – Just ONE WIN in his first 11 contests, while posting an awful 4.02 GAA and .874 SV%. Injuries limited Demko to just 32 games on the season, further declining his fantasy value and leading to many fantasy managers dropping him in season-long leagues. 

Demko returned from injury on February 27th, and his second-half of the season was drastically improved; posting an 11-4-2 record with a 2.52 GAA and .918 SV%. 17 games is obviously a small sample size, but that level of play projects to a 39-win campaign over 82 games. From February 27th to the end of the season, Demko had the same 5v5 SV% (.930) as Ilya Sorokin; and was better than Juuse Saros, Ilya Samsonov, Alexander Georgiev, and Connor Hellebuyck!

It’s also worth noting that Demko’s total season .916 EVSV% was his lowest since 2019-2020, and his .830 PKSV% was a career-low – BOTH signs of positive regression for next season. 

ALSO: Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Tanner Jeannot, Tom Wilson, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Ville Husso, Elvis Merzlikins.

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