The NHL season is underway and we getting closer to the quarter mark of the season. In one of the earlier editions of NHL Insights, we looked at five teams that were off to surprising starts. Staying in that same aspect of things, this edition of NHL Insights focuses on five players having bounce-back seasons that nobody saw coming. And with those starts have helped propel them to the top of the standings in their respective divisions.
NHL Insights: Five Players Having Bounce Back Seasons
1. Matt Duchene
Let’s start off with the most obvious player on the list who is Matt Duchene of the Nashville Predators. Duchene has been criticized over the past several seasons. And rightfully so considering the contract he signed with Nashville back in the summer of 2019. The production from the past was not there. However, Duchene is having a resurgence and so are the Predators. Nobody expected the Predators to do much this season in a tough Central Division, but Duchene is leading the way for Nashville. In 16 games with the Predators this season, Duchene has 16 points (nine goals and seven assists). Duchene has already surpassed his goal total from a year and tied his assist total from a year ago. Think about this, Duchene had six goals and seven assists in 34 games last year with Nashville. Duchene is finally earning that $8 million a season.
Sticking with the Predators, another player that has been missing in action over the last couple of seasons has been Ryan Johansen. Like Duchene, Johansen is off to a good start for the Predators. Johansen is fourth on the team in scoring with nine points (five goals and four assists). He is on pace to break his point, goals and assists totals from a year ago. This is the Ryan Johansen the Predators got early on in his tenure when the team went to the Stanely Cup Final. And just like Duchene, Johansen has been criticized for his production is not matching the money he signed for in July of 2017. However, if both Duchene and Johansen keep this production up, the Predators will remain in playoff contention in the Central Division.
3. Ryan Getzlaf
Unless you stay up late and watch the West Coast games, you may have not noticed what Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks are doing. The Ducks are on an eight-game winning streak. Troy Terry is on a 15-game point streak and Ryan Getzlaf is turning back the clocks. Getzlaf just recorded his 1000th point in the National Hockey League and looks like the player of old. Not only that Getzlaf is the all-time leading scorer in Ducks history passing Teemu Selanne. While the goals are not there anymore, he leads the team with 17 assists. Getzlaf also has points in nine of his last 10 games. Getzlaf is rejuvenated playing alongside these young Ducks in Terry and Trevor Zegras. For a team that was supposed to be a bottom feeder in the Pacific, they sit atop the Division. The play of Getzlaf has a lot to do with it.
Keeping it on the West Coast, how about what Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are doing. Another player playing like his former self. The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has put the Kings in a position to compete for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. In eight games this season, Quick has a record 4-3-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. Those numbers put in eighth in the NHL both save percentage and goals-against average. He also puts his name back in the Vezina Trophy conversation. In addition, Quick and Cal Petersen have the Kings chasing the Jennings Trophy for the lowest combined goals-against average. Quick is over his hip issues and if the Kings can get healthy lookout as they make things interesting in the Pacific Division.
Heading back to the East Coast, how about the play of Chris Kreider with the New York Rangers. Kreider is back to his old self and leads the Rangers in goals with 12 in 16 games. In addition, Kreider has goals in three of the past five games. His line of Mika Zibanejad and Barclay Goodrow have put the Rangers in third place in a tough Metro Division. This was the year the Rangers were supposed to take the next step. For Kreider after signing that new seven-year, $45.5 million contract in February of 2020, the production has not been there. Though he still averaged 20 goals, there was something missing from his game. Whatever was missing he found this season with the Rangers. You have to wonder if and when the Rangers to name a captain he is not the first player on the list.
Of course, there are other players that are having bounce-back seasons that did not make this list.
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