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Five NHL Players Poised to Improve in 2023

While many players look to keep the good times rolling in the second year of the 2022-23 NHL season, these five players must improve to meet their expectations.
Jonathan Huberdeau

As the 2022 calendar year wound down, it is time to reflect on the year that was and look forward to a new and improved 2023.

Some NHL players hope the good times keep rolling after breaking out for the first part of the 2022-23 season, such as Josh Morrissey, Tage Thompson and Linus Ullmark.

For these five players, the unofficial first half of the 2022-23 season was one to forget. All these players listed are performing below their expected levels. However, there is hope for the New Year. While each of these players has struggled so far, they all possess something in their respective skill sets that offer a glimmer of hope in salvaging their simmering stats. Here are the five biggest bounce-back candidates heading into 2023.

Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Calgary

Huberdeau was one of the biggest names to move this past off-season after being traded to Calgary in a deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Sunshine State. Huberdeau entered this season coming off a career-best 2021-22 season where he tied his career-high 30 goals and finished tied for second overall in the NHL with 115 points, only trailing Connor McDavid. The Flames expected big things from the forward, signing him to an eight-year, $84-million deal back in August. But things have not gone to plan for Huberdeau so far with Calgary. The winger has just 25 points in 35 games and only seven goals to go along with it. Those numbers could turn around in the second half of the regular season if Huberdeau can develop more chemistry with his linemates and find a way to shoot the puck more. After averaging 2.78 shots per game last season in Florida, the 29-year-old now averages 1.66 this season.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Seattle

Coming off his best season yet in 2021-22 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Seattle Kraken thought they were acquiring their next top goal-scorer when they shipped a 2023 third and fourth-round pick to Ohio in exchange for Oliver Bjorkstrand. The 27-year-old Dane scored a career-high 28 goals and 57 points in 80 games last season, yet has just four goals and 16 points in 34 outings so far for the Kraken. However, hope is not lost for Seattle GM Ron Francis as it pertains to Bjorkstrand’s scoring slump. The winger still leads his team in shots, with 88 on the year. Bjorkstrand’s shooting percentage is a measly 4.6 percent, a fraction of his career average, which hovers around 11.5 percent. If Bjorkstrand can keep firing shots toward the net at the rate he has been doing so far, it is safe to assume he’ll have a much stronger second half in the goal-scoring department, crucial for a Kraken team that looks poised for a playoff push in just their second-ever season.

Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Carolina

The 28-year-old battled injuries in the 2020-21 season before returning to form last year with 22 goals and 65 points in 77 games for the Hurricanes. His story this season is like that of Bjorkstrand, where some poor shooting luck has been the main culprit for this year’s lack of production for the Finn. With just three goals on 61 shots, Teravainen is shooting at just a 4.9-percent clip, a far cry from his career 9.9 percent. Still averaging 2.35 shots per game, Teravainen’s fortunes should turn around as he still occupies his spot in the top six alongside Sebastian Aho, who is a more than capable playmaker. Should Teravainen’s shooting fortunes start to turn, it would not be surprising to see him supplant Stefan Noesen on Carolina’s top power-play unit, which would only further help his scoring production.

Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago

With six goals and 26 points in 35 games this season, Kane is on pace for his first season below a point-per-game average since 2017-18, where he still had 76 points in 82 games. Kane is one of the biggest names in trade rumors as the Blackhawks continue to toil around the NHL’s basement. Despite a season below his usual standard, Kane still leads the Hawks in points and assists, playing for a poor offensive team where the leading goal-scorers are Max Domi and Jonathan Toews, each with 11. The good news for GMs interested in adding the 34-year-old Buffalo native is that the winger has only scored 4.8 percent of his 126 shots, which is also below his average. Kane’s playmaking has not gone anywhere, and his goal scoring should rebound as every other forward in the NHL with more shots on goal than Kane has more than twice as many goals as he does.

Ryan O’Reilly, C, St. Louis

The soon-to-be 32-year-old center has the highest goal total on our list with 10 in 37 games this season, but his six assists on the year show what a difficult time the St. Louis Blues have had scoring goals this season. Like Kane, O’Reilly’s name has been mentioned in trade talks as the Blues have faltered this year despite Jordan Kyrou continuing his strong play from last season. Outside of Kyrou and O’Reilly, the only Blues with 10 goals or more are Pavel Buchnevich (12) and Vladimir Tarasenko (10). O’Reilly’s point totals should rebound if Blues GM Doug Armstrong decides to move the 2019 Stanley Cup-winner in a trade to a playoff contender. O’Reilly just snapped a six-game pointless streak after scoring in the Blues’ 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 27, so perhaps it’s a sign of better things to come in the New Year. 

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