Recently we took a look 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.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players from the Western Conference that has potential to follow suit as NHL comeback players in 2017/18.
Anthony Duclair – Arizona Coyotes
Anthony Duclair had a very disappointing season for the Arizona Coyotes last year. After scoring 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points in 2015/16, Duclair struggled to find the net last year. He only scored five times in 58 games and was even demoted to the AHL for parts of the season.
Duclair got off to a very slow start last season, scoring only three goals in the first three months of the season. After that, he seemed to have lost his confidence and couldn’t find his offensive touch for the rest of the year. On top of that, his linemate and “Killer D’s” partner-in-crime, Max Domi missed 23 games with an injury, which also play a part in Duclair’s offensive struggles.
However, heading into 2017/18, Duclair has potential to regain his old form and become a 20-goal scorer for the Coyotes again. A reason is that the Coyotes improved their lineup by acquiring Derek Stepan from the New York Rangers this summer. Stepan will likely be Duclair’s linemate for next season, along with Domi.
The line has all the tools to put up big numbers, and can likely help the 22-year-old re-discover his offensive game in the process.
Mike Smith – Calgary Flames
Mike Smith had a very mediocre year in 2016/17. It’s fair to say that, he played behind a very bad Arizona Coyotes team, that was ranked 28th in total goals against. As a result, Smith only managed to put up a 2.92 against average and win a total of 19 games last season.
Nevertheless, the 2014 Olympian has a good chance to revive his numbers with the Calgary Flames this coming season. He will be playing behind a much better team in the Flames, that has arguably the best top-four defense in the NHL, in Mark Giordano, Travis Hamonic, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie.
Essentially, Smith is heading into a perfect situation to have a bounce-back year and will have much easier nights throughout next season. It is uncertain how good Smith will be, but he is the Flames’ number-one goalie heading into the season and will be relied on to carry them into the playoffs.
Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado Avalanche
No question the Colorado Avalanche had a horrendous season in 2016/17, one reason for their lack of success was not enough scoring upfront. One of those players who struggled mightily last year was Gabriel Landeskog. The Avalanche captain had a very slow start to the season only scoring 12 points in the first three months of the season.
As the new year approached, everything got progressively worst for the Colorado Avalanche and everything just fell apart. Resultantly, Landeskog finished with only 33 points in 72 games. His worst tally in a full campaign.
Landeskog has been a consistent 50-60 point player throughout his career, and last year seemed to be a “one-off” for him. Even though the Avalanche did not improve their roster, Landeskog should still be able to have a bounce back year.
He is still young at 24 and is simply too good to be just a 33-point player in the NHL. The Avalanche might be a lottery team again, but the Avs’ second overall pick from 2011 should be able to score 20 goals and over 50 points in 2017/18.
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Like his teammate Landeskog, Matt Duchene had a down year for the Colorado Avalanche last season, scoring only 41 points in 77 games. This was one of the worst offensive seasons for Duchene, but a lot of that was the product of playing on a bad team.
Duchene was the subject of many trade rumors surrounding the NHL. This might have taken a heavy toll on him mentally and affected his on-ice performance.
There is more optimism for Duchene heading into 2017/18, as he has probably learned to tune out the trade rumors by now. Meanwhile, there is still a good chance that Duchene will be traded, and this might turn out to be more beneficial to his stats, especially if he gets moved to a better team next season.
Ryan Strome – Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Strome was a fifth overall pick of the New York Islanders back in 2011. He has shown the ability to score 50 points in the NHL, but his play has dropped off over the past few years.
It looked like a change of scenery was what he needed to find his scoring touch again. It happened this summer when the Edmonton Oilers traded Jordan Eberle to acquire Strome from New York.
Strome will be joining an Oilers team that is on the rise and he will get a chance to play with one of the best centers in the world in Connor McDavid.
Much like Patrick Maroon, Strome has a chance to redefine his game and surprise many people with his true potential in the NHL. We may finally get to see why he was such a highly touted prospect coming out of junior hockey.
Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar only scored 12 goals and 52 points in 76 games last year. By his standards, those numbers were not good, as Kopitar has averaged 69 points in his previous three seasons.
However, the Slovene is still in his prime at 29. With a new coaching staff led by John Stevens, we should expect the Kings to play with more offensive freedom next year.
This should ignite Kopitar and the entire Los Angeles Kings team to play a more expansive game and take more chances offensively. In that, we should expect their captain to be back to his old form, and be a 60-70 point, two-way beast for the Kings once again next year.
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick suffered a lower-body injury in his first game of the season last year, which limited him to all but 17 games last year. Losing Quick for much of the season was a big reason for the Kings’ struggles.
With a long offseason of rehab and training, The two-time Olympian should be as good as ever heading into 2017/18. He is only 31-years old, and when he is on top of his game, he can be a top-five goalie in the NHL.
Heading into next season, a lot of people might have forgotten about Quick. Anyhow don’t be surprised to see him help Los Angeles sneak back into the playoffs for another shot at the Stanley Cup.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury may have lost his starting job to Matt Murray last season, but he showed everyone that he can still play, especially during the Penguins playoff run. Fleury played 18 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and helped them win ten while helping them capture their second straight championship.
Shortly after winning his third Stanley Cup, the Vegas Golden Knights selected Fleury at the NHL expansion draft on June 21st.
Heading into 2017/18, “The Flower” will be a starting goalie in the league again. In that, he will likely see around 50-60 games for the Golden Knights and will have plenty of playing time to prove himself again.
Even though Vegas does not have a championship roster, they still might be able to surprise some people next season. For that to happen, the 32-year-old will likely play a huge role in helping the Golden Knights steal a few games here and there next season.
Zach Parise – Minnesota Wild
Zach Parise has a been a very good scorer in the NHL for a very long time. Last year we saw him only score 19 goals and 42 points in 69 games. Truth be told, it was very surprising to see Parise’s numbers drop off that much last year.
He might be on the decline but it doesn’t seem like he will fall off the face of the earth next year. Simply because he is still a great skater and still has the speed to keep up in today’s game.
The Minnesota Wild had a busy off-season revitalizing their roster. They added more skill with a player like Tyler Ennis, and a few of their younger players, namely Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker are starting to come into their own. Finally, they also have a promising young center in Joel Eriksson Ek, who has a good chance of making an impact for the team as early as next year.
The emergence of these players means an improved lineup with more upside, which can help the former new Jersey Devil reboot his game and be a major contributor for the Wild next season. For this reason, Parise can have a bounce back year and be a 50-60 point player again.
Loui Eriksson – Vancouver Canucks
For whatever reason, Eriksson did not have a great year 2016/17, scoring only 11 goals and 24 points in 65 games.
However, we shouldn’t rule him out as a flop just yet. He is only 32 and should still have some good hockey left in his locker. The Swede has scored 25 goals or more, five times in his career, and still has the tools to be a reliable scorer.
His career-high of 36 goals might be out of reach, but 20 goals should be a reasonable achievement for Eriksson in Vancouver next season.
Tomas Hertl – San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl has come along rather nicely for the San Jose Sharks since entering the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2013/14. He has gradually improved his stats in three consecutive seasons and scored a career high of 21 goals and 46 points in 2015/16.
Last year was a setback for Hertl. He suffered a major knee injury that limited him to only 49 games. However, there is great optimism for the Czech heading into next season.
With Patrick Marleau gone, Hertl has a good opportunity to be bumped up the Sharks’ depth chart to take some of Marleau’s minutes. With other veterans in Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski aging, the Sharks will probably give their 2012 first-round pick a chance to take on a bigger offensive role, increasing his likelihood to notch new career highs in 2017/18.
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