Fantasy Hockey Bounce Back Players

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne
Sep 24 2013 Nashville TN USA Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne 35 defends the goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Bridgestone Arena The Predators beat the Lightning 2 1 Don McPeak USA TODAY Sports

Fellow XN fantasy hockey writer Michael Clifford and I have complied a number of bounce back fantasy hockey players for you to target this season. Last season, we saw Matt Duchene march back onto the fantasy hockey scene and reward owners in a big way. Michael Clifford has three players to look at for big rebound seasons, with in-depth profiles, while I have nine targets in rapid fire style.

Michael Clifford’s Picks:

David Backes (C/RW-STL)

Draft position is a function of many things, like upside, floor, league settings, injury concerns, age, line mates, coaching dynamics and skill level. They all play a factor into when a player should be drafted.

Player consistency has to be taken into account when examining your draft position. How a player has performed in the past, and the rate at which they’ve maintained that level, is very important when determining where a player should be drafted. Steven Stamkos is drafted as a top player because he’s been elite for a number of years in a row. Ryan Getzlaf fluctuates from top-20 to top-40 because it’s difficult to pin down exactly how well he will do on a year to year basis.

Backes, until the lockout-shortened season, was a player who was thought to be as safe as it gets—and he was a multi-category performer. For years, it seemed like Backes was a near-lock for 20-plus goals, 30-plus assists, 100-plus penalty minutes and 200-plus shots. He also had a couple great plus/minus seasons mixed in, so he was a favorite among roto players.

Last year was a different story.

  • Only 18 percent of Backes’ points came on the power play, his second-lowest power play ratio of the last five seasons (16.6 percent in 2009-2010).

  • Backes shot a career low 6 percent last year, after coming into the season a 12.2 percent career shooter.

  • It was the second consecutive season of power play time on ice per 60 minutes decline. I don’t think he gets much lower than 2.19 minutes per 60 minutes, so I expect a modest power play turnaround.

  • Backes played by-far the toughest minutes of any St. Louis forward, and was in fact second in the NHL among regular forwards in this regard.

The reason for Backes’s decline is not really his own. He was put in the toughest minutes, playing less on the power play and was a victim of the shot percentage regression monster. His possession numbers were strong as always, so I expect a much better year out of Backes. Don’t be surprised if he’s a top-30 forward in roto leagues when the season is over.

Pekka Rinne (G-NSH)

From 2008-2012, which represents Rinne’s first four seasons in the NHL, he had the fourth-best save percentage of any goalie that had at least 200 starts at .921 (Thomas, Vokoun, Lundqvist). From 2010-2012, Rinne had the second-best save percentage among any goalie with at least 100 starts at .926. Last year, Rinne had the worst season of his career, posting a .910 save percentage and winning just 35.7 percent of his starts (which was the first time in his career he won fewer than half his starts). In short, last year was a true outlier in his career performance.

So what exactly went wrong? Well, a lot:


Even-Strength SV%

Power-Play SV%

Team Goals For/60 minutes (ES)

Rinne W/start%

Team Penalty Kill%

Rinne Overall SV%

2008-2010 (110 games)

.926 (2480 shots)

.850 (419 shots)





2010-2012 (137 games)

.930 (3409 shots)

.900 (581 shots)





2008-2012 (247 games)

.928 (5889 shots)

.879 (1000 shots)





2013 (43 games)

.927 (937 shots)

.818 (148 shots)






You’ll notice that a lot of the career-lows for Rinne are a result of his team being pretty bad. Everything in bold is a career-low (since Rinne has become the starter), and the other indicators (power play save percentage, team penalty kill percentage) are directly a result of his team.

Will Rinne rebound? He doesn’t need to. Will his team?

Nashville brought in veteran Matt Cullen and Chicago castoff Viktor Stalberg. That should help a bit with their scoring, but neither of these guys is a game breaker. Cullen will help in the penalty killing department, but a lot of it will be up to the returning guys – players like Nick Spaling, Paul Gaustad and David Legwand were all on the team and playing a significant penalty kill role when the Predators were top 10 penalty kill team in 2011-2012.

One thing that favors Nashville is that divisional realignment brought in three non-playoff teams from last year in Colorado, Winnipeg and Dallas, while getting rid of the perennially-contending Detroit Red Wings. They don’t have to be great for Rinne to be a top-5 goalie, just better than the bottom five team they were last year.

Cam Fowler (D-ANA)

Success of a young defenseman is not frequent in the new NHL. In fact, only eight teenage rookie defensemen in the history of the NHL have ever tallied a 40 point season. Cam Fowler had 40 points in 2010-2011, one less than Bobby Orr’s 41 points in 1966-1967 (albeit, Orr played 15 fewer games). He’s also only one of two active defensemen to do it since the 2005 lockout, along with Tyler Myers.

The list of players to accomplish it, outside of Myers, is pretty impressive: Larry Murphy, Phil Housley, Ray Bourque, Bryan Berard, Dave Babych and Orr. You see some of the greats of all time there, while Berard had back-to-back 40 point seasons before an eye injury dampened his career two years later and Babych was a 60-plus point defenseman early in his career. In other words, Fowler (and Myers, too) is either an extreme outlier, or he’s very talented. I’m betting  the latter.

Something that gets overlooked with Anaheim is that they’re not a very good possession team. Over the last three seasons, Anaheim has the third-worst CorsiFor% at 46.8 percent, only ahead of Minnesota and Edmonton. That includes this year, when they finished second in their Conference overall but finished 22nd in CorsiFor% (ANA, TOR and WSH were only three teams in bottom-third of NHL in CorsiFor% to make playoffs; any wonder all three were eliminated in the first round?). Over those three years, Fowler is a 46.6 percent CorsiFor% at the individual level, so he’s been as good as his team as a whole.

Here’s the thing: Fowler has been fairly unlucky.

PDO is the total of a player’s On-Ice SH% (the shooting percentage for Anaheim as a team when Fowler is on the ice) and a player’s On-Ice SV% (the save percentage for Anaheim goalies when Fowler is on the ice). Too far above a total of 1,000 indicates a lucky player (or team), while a total below 1,000 indicates an unlucky player (or team). This is not an exact science, but it’s a good indicator. This is Fowler and Anaheim over the last three years:

  • 2010-2011: Anaheim – 1002 PDO; Cam Fowler – 976 PDO

  • 2011-2012: Anaheim – 997 PDO; Cam Fowler – 962 PDO

  • 2012-2013: Anaheim – 1016 PDO; Cam Fowler – 1,006 PDO

It was the first season his plus/minus didn’t crater, mostly because the goalies behind him started finally making saves – it was the first time in his three seasons that Anaheim’s goalies finished in the top-half of the league (seventh, .930 save percentage) in even-strength save percentage.

Fowler is very talented, the Anaheim defense corps is thin (Sheldon Souray is injured to start the year) and he’s been pretty unlucky to start his career. His plus/minus might suffer again, but he’s The Guy on the point in Anaheim.

Neil Parker’s Rapid Fire:

Brad Richards (C-NYR)

Richards fell out of favor with Jon Tortorella and had one of the worst seasons of his career. With a new coach and the suggestion that he’ll play the wing with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, there is a good chance Richards get back to his career norms and consistent scoring this season.

Scott Hartnell (LW-PHI)

Hartnell might never crack 30 goals again, but he’ll approach it and when compiled with his penalty minutes, you have a valuable fantasy asset. Hartnell will get plenty of quality power play minutes and has good chemistry with offensive wizard Claude Giroux. Hartnell’s stock is low right now.

Jordan Eberle (RW-EDM)

Expectations might have been a little out of whack last season, but Eberle could easily flirt with a point-per-game pace this season. The crafty winger has a quick release, slippery moves and sneaky offensive vision. He should take a full step ahead in his fourth season, although, the Oilers’ center position is banged up.

Loui Eriksson (LW/RW-BOS)

You could set your clock to Eriksson’s 25 goals and 70 points, so expect those numbers again this year. He’ll play on a strong Bruins team and lineup with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, which stands to help his numbers across the board. He is annually underrated, but should be targeted instead.

Jamie Benn (LW-DAL)

A far better real player, than fake, Benn brings a complete game and now has a motivated Tyler Seguin centering him. Benn is just 24 and a budding power forward poised for his best season, after a somewhat disappointing last year. Benn should crack 30 goals for the first time this year.

Alex Pietrangelo (D-STL)

Look for Pietrangelo to get back to being one of the league’s top fantasy rearguards this season. 2013 wasn’t a disaster, but Pietrangelo is capable of better offensive production and should land close to the 50 point mark this year. He is an elite option, who might not be valued as such.

Michael Del Zotto (D-NYR)

Alain Vigneault should let Del Zotto run wild and get back to being a major piece of the Rangers offense this season. He didn’t exactly regress, but his greatest asset, his mobility, wasn’t properly utilized last year. Del Zotto could easily post career bests in all offensive categories this year.

Roberto Luongo (G-VAN)

Cory Schneider is gone, but John Tortorella coming in will also help Luongo. He has additional motivation with his placement on the Canadian Olympic team and is a lock to be a top 10 fantasy goalie. Furthermore, don’t be shocked if Tortorella’s defense first mentality helps Luongo crack the top 5 netminders.

Cam Ward (G-CAR)

The Hurricanes were a mess last season and the extinction of the Southeast Division doesn’t help, but Ward will be back to man the crease in Raleigh. Carolina has enough talent for Ward to get back to being a middle of the road starter in Fantasy Leagues and he should post a save percentage in the .915 range.

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Neil Parker
Neil Parker wears the C for The Fake Hockey, in addition to contributing to The Fake Baseball and The Fake Football in more of a Timmy Try Hard role. You can also find my work at, here on XN Sports and have just been fortunate to launch Fantasy Sport Locker Room. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');