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 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.
14 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.
13 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.
12 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.
11 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.
10 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.
9 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.
8 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.
7 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.
6 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.
5 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.
4 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.
3 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.
2 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.
1 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.
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