NHL comeback players 2017/18: Eastern Conference

NHL comeback players 2017/18: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and more.

Recently we looked at several players that have the potential to have a breakout season in 2017/18 in the Eastern Conference.

Aside from breakout players, every year there seems to be a handful of NHL players that surprise the league with bounce-back seasons. Some redeem themselves from mediocre campaigns, while others rejuvenate their NHL careers and show that they still belong in the league.

Last season, we saw a few fall into this category including Eric Staal, Kyle Turris, Radim Vrbata and Sam Gagner.

We’ve already had a look at some players from the Western Conference with the potential to have a bounce back seasons in 2017/18. This time around we’ll take a look at ten players from the Eastern Conference who could be NHL comeback players.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alexander Ovechkin only scored 33 goals last season, which is the first time in three seasons he scored less than 50 goals. The last time the Russian scored just over 30 goals was in the shortened lockout campaign in 2012/13 with 32.  Some may think he is on the decline, and the Capitals Stanley Cup window is finally closing.

However that might not be the case just yet. Ovechkin still looked very good for the Washington Capitals down the stretch last season, despite losing to the eventual winners, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs.

Simply put, Ovechkin does not look done yet, and still has plenty of motivation to play, as he is still looking for his first Stanley Cup. He is only 31-years-old and can still be a very dominant player in the NHL for a few more years.

Ovechkin should have at least one more 50-goal season left in him, and we might get to see him hit that plateau in 2017/18.

Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

Brendan Gallagher took a step back last year, scoring only 10 goals and 29 points for the Montreal Canadiens. To his defense, Gallagher suffered a gruesome injury, breaking two fingers while blocking a shot in January.

He ended up missing more than a month of hockey. Even though he did return to the lineup later in the year, the injury seemed to have taken a lot of momentum out of his game. He did not look 100 percent on his return and had trouble getting back into his stride.

For better or for worse, the New York Rangers eliminated the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs this past spring. Perhaps the early playoff exit worked out in Gallagher’s favor.

With a longer recovery period, the 25-year-old should be back to his normal self in 2017/18, and be able to provide a solid 40 to 45 points for the Habs.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Despite suiting up for all 82 games last season, Claude Giroux only scored 14 goals and 58 points for the Philadelphia Flyers last season. Ultimately, this was a down year by Giroux’s lofty standards.

He is a five-time 20+ goal-scorer with a career-high of 93 points in the NHL. Needless to say, everyone including Giroux himself expected better numbers. Giroux started off the season strong but lost steam in the second half, scoring only five goals in his final 43 games.

Heading into 2017/18 we should see a very motivated Claude Giroux. It also helps that we will see a very different Philadelphia Flyers team on the ice next season. They have several very promising young players looking to crack the roster, including the 2017, second overall pick, Nolan Patrick. The youth movement in Philadelphia should bring out the best in the Flyers’ captain for a bounce back year.

David Backes, Boston Bruins

David Backes signed a massive five-year contract with the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2016. His first season with the Bruins wasn’t exactly a flop as he scored 17 goals but the American only accumulated 38 points in 74 games. It is obvious that the Boston Bruins expected a little more from their $6 million man.

On the other the hand, last season was Backes’ first time playing on an Eastern Conference team in his 11-year NHL career. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he took several months to adjust to the different style of play.

Heading into 2017/18, Backes should still have a major role in the Boston Bruins’ top two lines. It seems like the Bruins prefer to use Backes on the wing, so he might see extended time there with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as his linemates. If that’s the case, Backes might be able to have a bounce back year and be a 50-60 point player for the Bruins.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist didn’t have the best regular season in 2016/17. Posting his highest goals against average (2.74) and lowest save percentage (0.910) in his entire career.

However, in the playoffs, “The King” showed that he could still be an elite goaltender in the NHL. Especially in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens, Lundqvist posted an impressive 1.70 (GAA) along with a 0.947 save percentage, despite the Rangers’ early exit.

The New York Rangers did some retooling with their roster this summer and look to be a younger and faster team on the blueline. They bought out stalwart defenseman Dan Girardi and signed prized free-agent, Kevin Shattenkirk on a reasonable deal. They also have Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith, who look to be major impact players on the Rangers’ blueline this season.

With an improved defensive corps in front of him, if Lundqvist can carry his strong playoff performance into next season, we should see him have a bounce-back year and have a return to form for the upcoming season.

John Tavares, New York Islanders

John Tavares put up solid numbers (28 goals, 66 points in 77 games) for a very mediocre New York Islanders team last year. He has been impressively consistent throughout his career, but it seems like a 66-point season is on the low-end of his true potential.

He is an elite offensive player with the talent to be a top five scorer in the NHL as replicated in 2014/15 when he finished second in scoring. Tavares is still relatively young at 26-years-old and should be able to produce at a very high level for several more years.

He is heading into the final year of his contract with the Islanders. It is uncertain whether the first-overall pick in 2009 will remain on Long Island. No matter how the situation unfolds, Tavares will likely get a big contract one way or another. To increase his value and bargaining power, look for Tavares to bring out his best this coming season and become an 80-85 point player again.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kris Letang was having a very solid season for the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. In 41 games, he had five goals, and 34 points and looked to be on pace for another excellent year.

However, in February, his herniated disc issues acted up which ended up putting him out for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, he did not play a single game for the Pittsburgh Penguins, during their spectacular retainment of the Stanley Cup last season.

After having surgery in April, Letang has had plenty of time to rest and the entire summer to rehabilitate. The Penguins expect the 30-year-old to be 100% when the new season begins. With the main core of the team still intact, we can almost bet that Kris Letang will continue where he left off last February.

If Letang is able to stay healthy for a full season, he could bounce back in a big way and have another solid 50+ point season for the Penguins.

Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs

Patrick Marleau left a good situation in San Jose to join an excellent one in Toronto. He is joining a Toronto Maple Leafs’ team that is on the brink of being something special.

Marleau’s point totals may have dropped off a bit over the past couple of years but he still averaged 26 goals in his past two seasons. Coming to Toronto, he gets to play with a generational talent in Auston Matthews, which should help resurrect his stats.

The Eastern Conference style of play might be more beneficial to Marleau’s style at this point of his career. Marleau still has excellent speed and shouldn’t have trouble keeping up with speedy teammates like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is at the twilight of his career but he is capable of producing around 60 points for the Blue and White next year.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Steven Stamkos has had some bad luck with injuries over the past several years and last season was no different. The Tampa Bay Lightning Captain tore his meniscus in November and ended up missing the rest of the season.

Prior to the injury, Stamkos was playing on a very dominant line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Stamkos scored 20 points in 17 games and was on pace for another 40-goal season.

Although the Lightning did a valiant job until the bitter end last season, they will be more than happy to have their captain back. He is still an elite sniper in the NHL and at 27, is in the prime of his so far productive career. If he can avoid suffering another major injury, there is no question he can be a top-five scorer.

Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils

Taylor Hall scored 20 goals, 53 points for the New Jersey Devils in 72 games last year. Those numbers aren’t exactly bad but history has shown that Hall can score 80 points in the NHL. In that, the former first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers definitely has more to give for the Devils.

It’s fair to say that, he did all he could last year, but the Devils didn’t give him much to work with on offense. They lacked firepower and surrounded Hall with very little support.

The Devils had a busy off-season, parting ways with names like Mike Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly. Meanwhile, improving their top-six forwards by drafting Nico Hischier first overall and trading for former Washington Capitals forward, Marcus Johansson who is fresh off his career best in points (58) and goals (24). 

Both are very skilled players with the ability to positively impact the Devils’ offense. From Hall’s perspective, this should help his cause and increase his stats for a better 2017/18.

Do you agree with this list of comeback players? Let us know in the comment section and be sure to vote in the poll below.


  1. Who will more than likely have a comeback season in 2017/18?

    1. Alex Ovechkin
    2. Claude Giroux
    3. Henrik Lundqvist
    4. Patrick Marleau
    5. Steven Stamkos
    6. Other
    54 votes
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CP Ching

Avid sports fan from Hong Kong, holding University degrees unrelated to sports and journalism. Like everyone, I have many passions, and they include writing about the NHL and the NBA.