While making the fantasy hockey rankings this past week and a half, a handful of players' intriguing situations for the upcoming season become ever-prevalent in my mind. After reviewing the case files I've made a quick list of eight candidates who seemed primed to bounce back this season.
Kopitar had long been good, if not great, but after seemingly regressing in recent years he is ready to take a leap toward what we know he can do. The Kings overall seem to be a better team, and the addition of Kevin Fiala should greatly benefit Kopitar specifically. Given Kopitar is 35, it wouldn't surprise me to hear many people have written him off. This guy had 67 points in 81 games last year and with Fiala now flanking him he has a good chance of finding his way back to about a point per game; that should remind them.
Possibly the guy I am the most confident in on this list, Hamilton started well last year, his first season with the Devils before the injury bug caught him. After collecting 20 points in the first 30 games, he experienced his first stint on the shelf and overall ended up missing 20 games of the season, eventually finishing with only 30 points in 62 contests. Interestingly enough, during Hamilton’s previous stops with the Flames and Hurricanes, he had unspectacular first seasons before taking off in his second. Even if that's a fluke the Devils are an improving team with lots of young talent, Hamilton is a high-volume shooter who will quarterback their top power-play. Prior to last season's dip in production, he tallied 82 points in 102 games in two seasons with the Hurricanes. Hamilton, who is still just 29, feels like he can hit 70 points this year.
Now with the Hurricanes, and playing their lead right-handed defenseman role which has done wonders for Dougie Hamilton and Tony D'Angelo in recent years, Burns seems primed to be the new beneficiary of such an arrangement. Already coming off a respectable 54-point campaign, the Hurricanes really offer a chance to turn back the clock for a season or two. Burns is 37 but the Hurricanes love taking point shots and crashing the net, which is perfect for him. On top of that, he gets to pair with highly underrated defenseman Jaccob Slavin whose steady defensive play will allow Burns to focus on offence.
Patterson was on an absolute tear down the stretch, if not the entire second half of last season, during which his whole team's offence improved. If that was a sign of things to come instead of a fluke, what's to stop Patterson from being a point-per-game player this year and maybe even establishing himself among the top playmakers in the league?
I'm sure many still consider Eichel good but the overall sentiment on him is down after registering his lowest points-per-game mark (0.74) since his rookie year. There were several factors affecting his performance last season, as he was working his way back from artificial disc replacement, after which he played the final six weeks with a broken thumb. It was his first season in Vegas where he had to adjust to new surroundings and different linemates as the team struggled with injuries. After two injury-marred seasons, it's easy to forget how good Eichel really is. This is a guy who in the 19-20 season was 8th in Hart voting and had 78 points in 68 games. Assuming Eichel can stay healthy he seems primed for a career year.
This isn't exactly a bounce-back, it's more like a step forward, as here we have a young guy in a nearly ideal situation for a very talented Avalanche team; as Newhook seems to be taking Kadri’s spot centring the second line, while also seemingly being primed for a leading role with the second powerplay unit. Newhook played well at the 2021 WJC registering 6 points in six games, if he can take this opportunity and run with it he could rack up a bunch of points.
As long as he stays the centerman for the Blue Jackets first line he's likely got 70 points in store for him, as being flanked by Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Laine could do wonders for many people's point totals. Jenner has had success on his own in the past, scoring 30 goals before and was good last year picking up 23 goals and 44 points in only fifty-nine games. Presuming he stays healthy, Jenner is a great bet to pass the 50-point mark for the first time in his NHL career, as outlined above probably by a good amount.
Vrana only managed 13 goals and 19 points last season, but he missed the first 56 games of the campaign due to a shoulder injury he suffered in training camp. He’s expected to start the season on an improved Red Wings second line with David Perron and Andrew Copp, two players also possessing positive outlooks for this year. Overall in 37 games in two seasons with the Red Wings he's collected 30 points, and last season he was fifth in the NHL in five-on-five goals per 60 minutes (1.52; minimum 25 games) Overall since entering the league in 2016-17 Vrana ranks third in that category (1.25; minimum 150 games). If Vrana can avoid the injury bug he seems like a good bet for 35 goals.