Every league year brings about a number of players who struggle to perform to their expectations. Sometimes players don’t come back from these struggles and they continue for the long run. But in a lot of other cases, the players who struggled elevate their game and have a great bounce-back season. Here are some potential candidates for bounce-back players in the 2021-22 NHL season.
Jack Eichel only played in 21 games last season, but his typically high goal-scoring numbers were down in those games. He scored only two goals that came relatively early in the season before his season-ending neck injury. But there’s no reason to believe he won’t bounce back from such an unusually low output. Eichel played on an abysmal Sabres team on top of dealing with several other injuries. With Eichel set to return healthy and with a new team, he’s bound to bounce back. He may not be back to typical form right away being that he’s going to miss part of the regular season due to his offseason surgery. But even with limited playing time, he should be in or around the 20 goal mark with his new team this season.
The expectations were high for Kaapo Kakko when the Rangers drafted him second overall in the 2019 draft. But his first two seasons have been rather underwhelming, taking a longer time to develop his game in the NHL. What makes Kakko a potential bounce-back candidate for the upcoming season is his expanded role with the team. With Pavel Buchnevich being traded, Kakko becomes the favorite as the second-line right-winger. This gives him a great opportunity to focus on and improve his offensive game. Working with another rookie standout Alexis Lafreniere is sure to also be a boost for him. His potential point production would be even more spectacular if the team winds up acquiring Jack Eichel. But regardless of his center, Kakko’s new role with the team makes him a prime candidate to bounce back from his previous 17 point season.
Patrik Laine’s first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets did not get off to a great start. He scored a career-low in goals with just 10 with the Blue Jackets and just 21 points overall. This was a really sudden drop off as Laine just had 28 goals and 63 points the year prior. As to what went wrong with Laine, it appeared mainly to be an issue with confidence. Dealing with a trade is always a difficult factor for a player, and John Tortorella made that no easier for him.
But Tortorella is gone, and now he has some more familiarity with the team that makes him a solid bet for a bounce-back season. The team is thin at forward this season, giving him no shortage of opportunities to make a difference. He’ll also be working with a talented offensive creator in Jakub Voracek, which will also help make things easier for him. All factors considered, Laine should be back to looking like his usual self for this upcoming season.
After the 2019-20 season, Carter Hart looked like a star goaltender in the making with the Philadelphia Flyers. However, he followed that performance with a 3.67 GAA and a .877 saver percentage. It was a disastrous season for Hart, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that he’ll bounce back. His first two seasons prove that the talent is there, it’s just about developing consistency in his performance. His confidence was also likely shaken given how this was the first time he had to go through some adversity in his NHL career.
This awful season should motivate him to put in more work and come back stronger next season. In addition, the Flyers had one of the league’s worst defensive units in the league, which did Hart no favors. Upgrading the team defense has been a point of emphasis for the Flyers this offseason, which should also help Carter improve.
Featured image courtesy of The Buffalo News
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