Here’s one strategy to consider employing in your upcoming fantasy hockey draft: Target some bounce-back candidates.
Traditionally, a bounce-back candidate can be characterized as someone who’s had previous career success but is coming off a disappointing season —for one reason or another (poor play, injury, etc.). Furthermore, the thought is that if they can somehow regain previous form, chances are strong that they’ll have no problem outperforming their average draft position.
With that in mind, here are 10 bounce-back candidates to put on your watchlist:
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Calgary Flames
Simply put, Huberdeau’s first season with the Flames was an unmitigated disaster. The 30-year-old winger went from a no-brainer top-20 pick to start the season to an easy drop candidate by year’s end. Incredibly, the winger experienced a league record 60 point dip in production going from 115 in Florida in 2021-22 to 55 in year No. 1 with Calgary. With a new voice behind the bench in Ryan Huska and a lengthy career resume that speaks for itself, Huberdeau could be primed for a monster return to fantasy relevancy in 2023-24. Let the revenge tour begin, baby.
Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning
By his standards, the future Hall-of-Famer is coming off a dreadful campaign, one in which he tallied 9 goals and 49 points in 76 outings. Most notably, midway through the year, the 32-year-old was usurped by Mikhail Sergachev for first power play quarterback duties. In spite of all that, Hedman’s body of work suggests he’ll be closer to the 20 goals and 85 points that he put up in 2021-22 than whatever last season was. It will be weird to see a rested Victor Hedman in October.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Calgary Flames
Since the 2022 postseason when he was utterly dismantled by the Edmonton Oilers, the 33-year-old has struggled beyond belief. And what was most peculiar about that 2022 season was the fact that Markstrom was named a Vezina finalist that year. Any way you slice it, if Calgary – as a team – has any chance of bouncing back this season, they’ll need Markstrom to be that guy again. In 59 appearances last season, he registered a 2.92 goals-against to go along with a robust 0.892 save-percentage. Ouch.
Cam Talbot, G, Los Angeles Kings
In 36 injury-riddled appearances for the Senators, the veteran goalie posted a 17-14-2 record to go along with a 2.93 goals-against average and 0.898 save-percentage. For context, that was his worst statistical output since his dreadful 2018-19 campaign spent primarily with the Edmonton Oilers. Now with Los Angeles and presumably healthy, it’s put up or shut up time for the 36-year-old. Pheonix Copley should provide some resistance, but if all goes according to plan for the upstart Kings, Talbot should get every opportunity to run with the No. 1 job. We’ll see what he’s made of.
Moritz Seider, D, Detroit Red Wings
After winning the Calder Trophy in 2021-22, the 22-year-old had an up and down sophomore season, one that started very slow. In fact, the German defender tallied just two goals and 12 points over his first 35 contests. All in all, he finished with 42 points (five goals, 37 assists) in 82 outings, eight points fewer than season No. 1 in the NHL. Bottom line: Turbulence is expected from young blueliners. That said, naturally, Seider could be primed to take the next offensive step in his career. For what it’s worth as well, he’s slated to be a restricted free agent next summer, so there’s that whole money motivation thing as well.
Jakub Vrana, LW, St. Louis Blues
Due to off-ice issues, the 27-year-old suited up in just five games for Detroit last season tallying one goal and one assist. Following his deadline trade to the St. Louis Blues, Vrana erupted for 10 goals and 14 points in 20 games. Entering the 2023-24 campaign, there’s no question the Czechia native’s an absolute wildcard. That said, if he can stay in the lineup, he should have no problem grossly outplaying his average draft position. The talent has always been there.
Jack Campbell, G, Edmonton Oilers
Considering what he did in Toronto, there’s no way Campbell can be as bad in his second year with the Oilers as he was in his first, right? In 36 appearances, the 31-year-old netminder registered a 3.41 goals-against average and an 0.888 save-percentage. Due to his massive ticket, there’s not much Edmonton can do here but hope for the best. Campbell will start the year as Stuart Skinner’s back-up, but at the very least, the Oilers are hoping he can push the sophomore for playing time. Chalk this one up as a full-blown prayer.
Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers
Lost in the shuffle of Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final was the notable absence of their young phenom netminder. Simply put, 2022-23 was a year from hell for the 2019 first rounder. After a solid first few months (7-3-3, 2.61, 0.919, 1 SO), the 22-year-old was forced to miss considerable time due to illness last December, and upon returning, he really struggled to regain form. Then, in February, he took a leave of absence from the Panthers to enter into the NHL and NHLPA’s joint player assistance program. Knight’s expected to be a full-time participant in training camp.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Carolina Hurricanes
After hitting the 60-point plateau four times in his previous five seasons, the 29-year-old was limited to just 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 68 regular season outings in 2022-23. By season’s end, Teravainen was limited to a tertiary role after starting the year on Carolina’s top line. As indicated, he’s proven time and time again what he’s capable of. On top of that, the 29-year-old’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Translation: He could go off.
Ondrej Palat, LW, New Jersey Devils
The one saving grace from Palat’s injured riddled first season with the Devils is the fact that he had a pretty strong postseason showing. After tallying eight goals and 23 points in 49 regular season contests, the 32-year-old had three goals and four assists in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games. It will be interesting to see where Lindy Ruff deploys Palat in New Jersey’s stacked lineup.