We’re halfway through the season and last time we’ve already picked out some of the most surprising and disappointing fantasy hockey players, multi-category contributors in roto leagues and rookies making outsized impact.
Here’s Part 4 of 5, featuring players who are looking to bounce back in the second half of the season.
All positions quoted are for Yahoo leagues and all fancy stats are courtesy naturalstattrick.com.
Mathew Barzal, C, Islanders (Pre-season Rank: 52, 80% rostered)
Barzal leads the Isles with 27 points in 33 games, a respectable total for a team that likes to grind out wins and started the season with 13 consecutive road games. Barzal deserves a reprieve for those reasons, but he was expected to be something much more based on pre-season rankings. However, 19 of his points have been scored over the past two months, and the Isles’ potential second-half turnaround (.647 P% since Dec. 1, 14th in the league) might lead to more offensive opportunities for Barzal. Anders Lee has been a staple on his left wing, but figuring out who plays on the right has been an issue all season. It’ll be hard to see Barzal even come close to point-per-game status given his current environment, but a 60-point season still isn’t out of the question yet, and it would be his fourth in five seasons in the NHL.
Brock Boeser, RW, Canucks (Pre-season: 67, 72% rostered)
After an early bump after Bruce Boudreau was hired as coach, Boeser now has only scored once in his past seven games. He’s not the only Canuck who has really disappointed this season, but the former Calder finalist does stand out for one particular reason. According to naturalstatrick.com’s model, the difference between Boeser’s xGF and GF is 13.49, the biggest in the league and by a significant margin, too – no other forward has a difference bigger than 10. Boeser’s 10.3 shooting percentage is the second-lowest of his career, but he has also been recovering from injuries over the past couple of seasons, and given his talent, the pucks will start going in for him. If Elias Pettersson can also turn it around, Boeser should be a very valuable fantasy asset once again. Fantasy managers who have remained patient and held onto Boeser should be able to reap a lot of benefits in the second half of the season.
Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Blue Jackets (Pre-season: 148, 69% rostered)
All Laine has to do is stay healthy – a reminder that he was a point-per-game player in the first month of the season before his injury with eight points in eight games. The Jackets aren’t nearly as good now as they were at the beginning of the season because they’re having trouble keeping pucks out of their zone, but Laine’s still managed to score four points in 10 games in January. Note his 10.9 shooting percentage is a career-low, and he’ll have to overcome the lack of playmaking centers on the team, but he remains a high-volume shooter who should be a top-tier power play option. Another candidate to consider is Jakub Voracek (49% rostered), who is having a productive season with 27 points in 39 games but remains the only forward with at least 50 shots on goal who has yet to score a goal at even strength. That cold spell has to end soon.
Tyler Toffoli, LW/RW, Canadiens (Pre-season: 153, 43% rostered)
Toffoli has scored 66 points in 83 career games with the Habs, which would be more than any single-season total in his career. He won’t singlehandedly turn around their season – no one can – but his presence alone makes a huge difference and he’s their most dangerous winger by a pretty big margin. The lack of depth and talent has also led to more playing time for Toffoli, and since returning on Jan. 18, he leads the team with four points and 13 shots in five games. Cole Caufield (22% rostered), who has just one goal in 29 games on a 1.4 shooting percentage and currently on injured reserve, is also a potential bounce-back candidate, but he will certainly get fewer opportunities than Toffoli.
Ville Husso, Blues (Pre-season: 370, 61% rostered)
The Blues looked completely asleep in Monday’s 7-1 loss to the Flames, and there just hasn’t been any real excuse for Jordan Binnington’s mediocre play this season. Husso, on the other hand, was given a vote of confidence from Craig Berube, often breaking away from their rotation and anointing Husso as the No. 1 without really publicly saying so. There have always been concerns about Binnington’s game, but now that the Blues have a capable backup, they’re no longer forced to play him.
Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild (Pre-season: 138, 48% rostered)
Finnish goalies once again reign supreme. Kahkonen was excellent in Cam Talbot’s absence, losing only one game, and it was against the Avs in a shootout. Talbot drew an easy matchup against the Habs on Monday and notched the win, but lasted only two periods after suffering a minor lower-body injury. The Wild have a three-day break so perhaps removing Talbot from a game they had well in hand was precautionary, but Kahkonen is now back in the starter’s crease and the Wild won’t have to rush Talbot back. The Wild are a bit of an anomaly because they’re very good at winning games in spite of their pedestrian possession metrics, but as long as they have an elite talent in Kirill Kaprizov, it seems wiser to not doubt their abilities.
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