NHL.com goes Behind the Numbers to identify five players from each conference who could bounce back this season. Advanced stats are used to determine which players are most likely to return to previous form. Last week, we looked at the Eastern Conference. This week, a look at the Western Conference.
Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars
The center scored 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 69 games last season and 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 26 games in the postseason, with the Stars making it to Game 6 of the Final before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Seguin scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and 33 goals in 2018-19. He played fewer games last season because of the pause but saw his goals-per-game average decline from 0.45 combined in 2017-18 and 2018-19 to 0.25 last season. What caused the drop-off? Seguin’s shooting percentage (6.9 percent) was the lowest of his 10 seasons in the League. On the power play last season, he had a 5.0 percent shooting percentage, his lowest since he joined the Stars prior to the 2013-14 season after a trade from the Boston Bruins. After scoring 23 power-play goals from 2017-19, he scored three last season. Seguin was hampered by injury last season and will have offseason surgery on his hip. He also played through a knee injury in the postseason, which could have affected goal total. The Stars had a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 6.7 percent during the regular season, which was 29th in the NHL. In the postseason, their 5-on-5 shooting percentage increased to 8.7 percent, which tied for fifth with the Philadelphia Flyers among teams to play at least five games. If the Stars’ improved 5-on-5 shooting carries over to this season and Seguin, who could miss the beginning of the season recovering from surgery, is healthy, he should see a natural increase in goals.
Johnny Gaudreau, F, Calgary Flames
The left wing scored 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 regular-season games last season, down from an NHL career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19. Gaudreau experienced a sharp decline in points per game, from 1.21 to 0.83. What happened? Gaudreau’s shooting percentage (8.6) was the lowest of his NHL career, well below his career average of 12.1 percent. Though it’s worth noting that his shooting percentage could revert closer to his career average, it’s also relevant that the Flames experienced a decline in shot-attempts differential (SAT) at 5-on-5 last season. The Flames went from a plus-559 SAT, fifth in the League in 2018-19, to plus-43 (15th) last season. The Flames will need to get back to elite puck-possession metrics for Gaudreau to come all the way back. Two offseason signings that could help are forwards Josh Leivo and Dominik Simon. Leivo was plus-45 with the Vancouver Canucks last season, fifth on the Canucks, and Simon was plus-78, seventh on the Pittsburgh Penguins. If Gaudreau’s shooting percentage is closer to his career norm and Calgary improves its SAT this season, Gaudreau’s production should increase.
Tyson Barrie, D, Edmonton Oilers
Barrie signed a one-year contract with the Oilers on Oct. 10 after scoring 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. Barrie scored 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in 68 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2017-18 and scored 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) in 78 games in 2018-19 with Colorado. Barrie finished second among defensemen in power-play time on ice in 2018-19 (315:44) behind John Carlson of the Washington Capitals (326.25) but saw a decline last season, playing 186:44, which ranked 21st. The decrease in power-play time came because Barrie shared time on the Maple Leafs’ top unit with defenseman Morgan Rielly. In 2018-19, Barrie was the primary option for the Avalanche, but with Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom likely to have surgery, which could cause him to miss all of this season, Barrie could quarterback their top power play with forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who finished first and second in the NHL in power-play points (44, 43) last season. With the expected increase in power-play time with Edmonton, which had the top-ranked power-play in the NHL last season (29.5 percent), Barrie could bounce back and challenge the NHL career-high 30 power-play points he scored in 2017-18.
Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks
Karlsson scored 40 points (six goals, 34 assists) in 56 games last season, missing 14 games due to injury. His shooting percentage (5.0 percent) was close to his NHL career average (6.3 percent), suggesting that wasn’t what caused his decline in production. Instead, it can likely be explained by his injuries and a drop in power-play points. Karlsson’s 13 power-play points last season were his fewest since 2012-13, when he had four in 17 games with the Ottawa Senators, and the Sharks power play was 23rd in the League last season (17.5 percent), the first time it was below 20 percent since 2016-17 (16.7 percent). Karlsson’s strength is on the power play, where he ranks second among defensemen since 2013-14 with 165 points, behind Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers (178). The good news for Karlsson is that his average of 4.64 power play points per 60 last season was close to his NHL career average of 4.83, indicating his power-play totals should increase if he’s healthy for a full season. It’s worth noting that forwards Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl each missed time due to injury last season too, so Karlsson should get a boost if each remains healthy this season. Hertl was second among San Jose skaters with 11 power-play goals in 2018-19, and Couture’s 18 power-play points that season were fifth.
John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Gibson was 20-26-5 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 51 games last season. His save percentage was considerably lower than his NHL career average of .918. The Ducks penalty kill, which finished 26th in the League (77.0 percent), may have contributed to that; Gibson had an .832 save percentage at the strength, the lowest of his NHL career. He performed better at even strength, where he had a .913 save percentage, close to his .923 at the strength in 2018-19. Anaheim has struggled to control puck possession during the past two seasons with a combined minus-583 SAT, which could be negatively affecting Gibson. The Ducks addressed that concern in part by signing defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on Oct. 9. Shattenkirk was third among Lightning skaters with a plus-136 SAT, behind forwards Nikita Kucherov (plus-180) and Brayden Point (plus-142), so he should help to improve the Ducks’ puck possession and lighten the workload for Gibson. Anaheim also was affected by defenseman Josh Manson missing 21 games last season with a knee injury. Manson led the Ducks in shorthanded time on ice (235:00) in 2018-19, when their penalty kill was tied with the Penguins and Flames for 19th (79.7 percent) in the NHL. With Shattenkirk helping to control puck possession at even strength and a healthy Manson on the penalty kill, Gibson should see his save percentage increase this season.