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One of the best ways to ace your fantasy draft is to identify and target players primed for a rebound season on the heels of a poor 2020-21 campaign.
Below is our list of bounce-back candidates for the upcoming NHL campaign...
Patrik Laine (CBJ)
Laine was an unmitigated disaster following an early-season trade from Winnipeg to Columbus, constantly clashing with then-coach John Tortorella and managing just 10 goals and 21 points in 45 games. Tortorella is gone, replaced by assistant Brad Larsen, and that's good news for Laine's fantasy value. The Blue Jackets have one of the league's thinnest forward groups, and Laine, at age 23, remains one of the game's premier snipers. He should be given all the ice time he can handle this coming year, and we expect a bounce-back effort in terms of production — particularly with the man advantage.
Sean Monahan (CGY)
Monahan's game has been trending in the wrong direction the past two seasons, as he's managed just 32 goals and 76 points in his last 120 games. Those are reasonable numbers but are a marked drop-off from his 34-goal, 82-point effort of 2018-19. Monahan is turning 27 and should be fully recovered from offseason hip surgery. The Flames have their holes, but this is a team that still features Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and they added Blake Coleman in free agency, as well. Monahan might not be a point-per-game guy, but he should better than the last two years.
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)
Tarasenko is probably the riskiest player on this list, simply because of the shoulder injuries that have limited him to 34 games the past two years — not to mention his trade request that the Blues have yet to fulfill. Tarasenko will be dealt eventually, and the best way to raise his trade value is to play him a ton and hopefully have him produce like the Tarasenko of old. Assuming he's fully healthy, I see no reason why he won't fill the net. Just prepare for some potential drama early in the year as his 2021-22 role, however temporary, takes shape in St. Louis.
Jonathan Toews (CHI)
Toews didn't play at all last season due to a medical issue, which by definition, makes him the ultimate bounce-back candidate. Betting on a 33-year-old who hasn't taken the ice in so long is a risky proposition, but Toews remains one of Chicago's most important players, and you know he'll be relied upon a ton this coming year. Make sure he doesn't slip too far on draft day.
Travis Konecny (PHI)
Seemingly on the verge of becoming a star in the NHL, Konecny followed up a 2019-20 breakout season (24 goals, 61 points in 66 games) with an 11-goal, 34-point disappointment in 50 games a year ago. His 11.0 shooting percentage let him down, and a rebound effort in that category could result in at least a half dozen more goals this coming season. I see no reason to bet against a talented 24-year-old player with prominent scoring-line and power-play roles.
Others to consider: Clayton Keller (ARI), Matt Duchene (NAS), Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH)
Seth Jones (CHI)
The advanced numbers suggest Jones wasn't great a season ago, but that didn't stop Chicago from giving up a boatload of assets to acquire him before signing the former Blue Jacket to an eight-year, $76 million contract in July. It's probably an overpayment by most estimations, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Blackhawks gave Jones upwards of 30 minutes per game, which would result in plenty of production for fantasy managers.
Ryan Pulock (NYI)
It took Pulock 42 games to score his first goal of the 2020-21 season. He finished with just two before adding four markers in 19 playoff contests. Pulock is New York's best offensive blueliner. He averaged a career-high 1:55 with the man advantage a season ago and should be scooped up by savvy poolies looking for 30-40 points once the top back-end options are off the board.
Ryan Ellis (PHI)
Ellis has been one of the most consistent defenders in the NHL in recent memory, but an upper-body injury that required surgery cost him well over a month's worth of action in the middle of last season — and he was never able to get back on track. Seeing a prime buy-low opportunity, the Flyers ended up with both Ellis and Cody Glass (from Vegas) in deals involving Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers. Ellis should once again post 30-plus points in his new digs while averaging upwards of 25 minutes of ice time.
Shayne Gostisbehere (ARI)
The acquisition of Ellis made Gostisbehere expendable in Philly. On the trade block for what felt like forever, "Ghost" was finally dealt to Arizona this summer. Gostisbehere's all-around skill set is limited, but what he does well (chip in on the scoresheet) helps fantasy managers. Look for him to take over as Arizona's power-play quarterback with Oliver Ekman-Larsson traded to Vancouver, and mid-round production should follow. Just keep in mind it's likely to come with an ugly plus/minus rating attached.
Mark Giordano (SEA)
The days of Giordano posting 74 points like he did in his 2018-19 Norris-winning campaign have come and gone, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old should get a chance to maximize his value on an expansion Kraken team. Giordano managed just 26 points in his final season with the Flames, his lowest total since the 2012-13 season. He should offer value in the later stages of your draft, but remember that Giordano will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, which means there's a good chance he'll be traded sometime in 2021-22.
Others to consider: Jacob Trouba (NYR), Tony DeAngelo (CAR), Vince Dunn (SEA)
Mackenzie Blackwood (NJ)
The Devils should be better this season (a familiar tune, we know), and Blackwood should have no problem beating out veteran Jonathan Bernier for the majority of the crease time in New Jersey. He should, at a minimum, be a low-end starting fantasy option — provided his bloated 3.04 GAA and .902 save percentage in 35 appearances last year improve.
Ilya Samsonov (WSH)
Widely viewed as one of the top young goalies in the NHL, Samsonov tested positive for COVID-19 twice last season, limiting him to just 19 games. He was fine when he managed to suit up (13-4-1, 2.69 GAA, .902 save percentage), but playing about a third of his team's games isn't going to help fantasy managers much. There's still high-end starter potential here.
Others to consider: Petr Mrazek (TOR), Antti Raanta (CAR)