Throughout a player's NHL career, he’ll inevitably have his up years and his down years. Even the most consistent players aren’t immune to this, as injuries, line mates, and even puck luck all play big roles in any given skater's stat line.
Sometimes you can predict if a player will regress from one year to the next by simply looking at the overall production history of the player. A good example of this would be Nick Foligno from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Prior to 2014-15, his career high in points was 39; he got 73 that season. Fast-forward to this season, and Foligno basically returned to his usual form, registering 37 points. It’s also worth noting he held a 17% shooting percentage in 2014-15, well above his career average of 11.8%.
Speaking of shooting percentage, that’s a great stat to use to predict a regression in goal scoring. Take 2014-15 Jiri Hudler, for instance. He scored 31 goals that season, converting on a whopping 19.6% of his shots. He’s always been an efficient shooter, but that number is astronomical by NHL shooter standards. He regressed back to around his career average this season, and he notched 16 goals.
If you look at the final regular season stats from 2015-16, you can find some outlying statistics like the ones listed above that can help predict regressions in 2016-17, and I took a peak over the last few days and came up with this list:
The top 15 NHL players most likely to regress in 2016-17. Enjoy.
15 Zack Smith
I’ve spoken with a few Senators fans over the past five years or so, and for the most part they’re not huge Zack Smith fans. However, in 2015-16 he potted a career high 25 goals and added 11 assists for a career high of 36 points as well.
Smith rode an unusually high shooting percentage this season though, converting on 20.7% of his shots. Considering his career average is 10.2%, I think it’s safe to say we can expect a bit of a step back for Smith in 2016-17.
14 Michael Cammalleri
Michael Cammalleri was having nearly a career year from a points perspective before his season was cut short by an injury. Cammalleri registered 38 points in 42 games in 2015-16, comparable to numbers he was putting up six or seven years ago in his mid-20s.
Cammalleri turns 34 this summer, and it’s likely that last season’s offensive outburst was an outlier. I fully expect Cammalleri to return to his usual form next season, where he puts up about 0.7 points per game over the long haul.
13 Kyle Palmieri
Another Devil who seemed to play over his head this season was Kyle Palmieri. Prior to 2015-16, the former Duck's career high was 14 goals and 31 points. He destroyed those numbers this season, going 30-27-57 playing all 82 games.
Palmieri is still just 25 years old, so it’s possible that 2015-16 was simply his breakout season. However, he did enjoy the highest shooting percentage of his career this season, so he’s bound to regress at least a little bit.
12 Jannik Hansen
Yannik Hansen was never an elite scorer to begin with, and prior to this season his career highs were 16 goals and 39 points. In 2015-16, Hansen registered the first 20 goal season of his career (22), and he came up just one point short of his career high of 39 points. Furthermore, he missed 15 games to injury, making his totals even more impressive.
You need only look at Hansen’s inflated shooting percentage this season to find the reason behind his spike in goals. He converted on 18.8% of his shots in 2015-16, compared with his career average of 11.6%.
11 Mats Zuccarello
Mats Zuccarello’s 61 points in 2015-16 represent a career high, eclipsing his 2013-14 total by just two points. If you look closer, however, you see that his 26 goals this season is seven more than his goal total in 2013-14.
Zuccarello is certainly capable of approaching 60 points again, but you have to bet that his 15.7% shooting percentage from this season will drop, especially considering that it was about 10.3% for his career before the season began.
10 Anthony Duclair
As we are all well aware, the sophomore slump is a real struggle. Every year there are at least a few second year NHL players who struggle to match their production from their freshman year. Anthony Duclair turned some heads in Arizona this year, often skating with fellow rookie Max Domi.
Duclair put up 20 goals in his rookie season, adding 24 assists for a total of 44 points. The thing is, Duclair only fired 105 shots on net in his 81 games this season, meaning he converted on a shocking 19% of his shots on goal. That’s likely unsustainable.
9 Braden Holtby
This was an easy one to include on this list, but not because I expect Braden Holtby’s performance to fall off a cliff in 2016-17. It’s more due to the fact that Holtby tied an NHL record for wins in a season this year with 48, and the likelihood of him repeating that feat is alarmingly low; thus, he’ll probably regress.
That being said, Washington has a pretty darn good team locked in for next year again, so I fully expect Holtby to return to around 40 wins next season.
8 Brent Burns
It’s sort of hard to put Brent Burns on this list, considering how he is currently among the playoff scoring leaders. Still though, you have to think that he’ll struggle to get 75 points again from the back end, and you have to think it’s also unlikely he gets 353 shots to the net in 2016-17, like he did this season.
Prior to 2015-16, Burns’ career high in points was 60 and his career high in SOG was 245. That’s more in the ballpark of where I see him for next season.
7 Kris Letang
Kris Letang has been pretty injury prone for the last five seasons or so, but in 2015-16 he managed to play in 71 games—his most since 2010-11. Not only that, but Letang registered 67 points this season, far and away a career high for the talented rearguard.
History simply tells us that seasons like this are anomalies, and Letang will more than likely finish with about 10 fewer points in 2016-17 than he had in 2015-16.
6 Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton will get to 1,000 career assists next season, which is a remarkable feat. He used an incredibly productive last few months of the 2015-16 season to register 82 points, which is his highest total since 2009-10.
Thornton will likely get around 70 points next year, as the age thing doesn’t seem to be hindering him so far. He rode an inflated 15.7% shooting percentage to 19 goals this season, and it’s likely that drops a little bit.
5 Shane Doan
Another seemingly ageless wonder on the list is Shane Doan. Doan has spent his entire career with the same franchise, and he’s scored 396 goals for them over 20 seasons—not bad. In 2015-16 he managed to flirt with another 30 goal season (he has two in his career) by notching 28 goals.
This total represents Doan’s highest goal output since 2008-09, when he had 31. Doan’s shooting percentage this season (16.5%) was higher than any other season of his career. Expect that to drop in 2016-17, assuming that he gets another contract with the ‘Yotes.
4 Jaromir Jagr
We’ve mentioned a few other ageless wonders in numbers 5 and 6 on the list, so now we get to THE ageless wonder. Shockingly, at 44 years old, Jaromir Jagr put up 66 points in 79 games in 2015-16, but surely he won’t be able to match those totals in 2016-17.
One reason Jagr’s numbers were so good in 2015-16 was his shooting percentage, which was 18.9% percent at season’s end—much higher than his career average of 13.8%. Jagr should notch a solid 50 points in 2016-17, but just don’t expect another 66-point output.
3 Adam Henrique
Adam Henrique registered the first 30-goal season of his career in 2015-16, and added 20 assists for 50 points. It’s not so much the 50 points that I see Henrique regressing on, but the odds he repeats a 30-goal season are quite low.
Henrique has always been a solid shooter, converting on 14.3% of his shots coming into 2015-16. This season, however, Henrique found twine on 20.1% of his shots. That conversion rate is almost sure to drop next season.
2 Artemi Panarin
The final rookie on our list is Artemi Panarin, who burst onto the NHL scene as a 24-year-old, playing most of the season with Art Ross winner Patrick Kane. Panarin is an extremely talented player, but I find it highly unlikely that he repeats his 77 point rookie season.
First off, there’s the dreaded sophomore slump some players suffer through. Then there’s the fact that he got most of his points playing with Kane, who himself is due for a regression. Don’t be surprised if he still ends up with around 65 points, but I don’t see it much higher than that at the end of 2016-17.
1 Patrick Kane
Coming in at number one on our list is Blackhawks superstar and the NHL’s leading scorer of 2016-17, Patrick Kane. Kane notched 106 points this season, the only player to crack the 100 point barrier. He cruised to the Art Ross Trophy win, building himself a 20 point lead in the scoring race by the season’s halfway point.
Kane is definitely one of the best players in the world, and I fully expect him to be at or near the top of the scoring race again next season; however, even if he has another strong season I see him only getting somewhere in the 90-point range. My reason for predicting the step back for Kane is history: no player has recorded back-to-back 100+ point seasons since both Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin achieved the feat in 2007-08 and 2008-09.