NHL Power Rankings: Bounce-back players edition

Here's what you need to know from Wednesday in the NHL, where Matthews' hat trick helped Leafs crush the Avs for their NHL leading 17th win, McDavid's 4-point night finally got the Oilers past Crosby and the Pens, and Canucks busted out in Ottawa.

Everybody loves a good comeback story, right?

The same goes for a bounce back. It takes strength and resiliency to dust yourself off after a down season (whether injury-induced or just plain old off-pace play) and regain old form. Many of the players highlighted in this week's power rankings are doing exactly that.

Let's dig in.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-6-1)
Alex Kerfoot saw a dip in his production in each of the past two COVID-shortened seasons. Now, his first full 82-game campaign with the Maple Leafs has him on pace for a career year. With 16 points through 24 games – including 10 points in the Maple Leafs’ red-hot November – he’s already just seven shy of last year’s 56-game total.

2. Florida Panthers (15-4-3)
Defenceman Aaron Ekblad was playing some of his best hockey when he went down with a devastating season-ending injury last spring. Now healthy, he’s blowing last year’s stats away. Currently at 20 points through 22 games, he needs just two more to match last year’s 35-game total, and his 0.91 points-per-game pace has him projected for a career-high by a mile.

3. Washington Capitals (14-4-5)
By the end of last season, it looked like Evgeny Kuznetsov's days in D.C. might be done, his seven goals and 29 points in 41 games ranking him 10th and sixth on the team's leaderboard, respectively, and GM Brian MacLellan (intentionally or not) stirring the speculation. Kuznetsov's 20 assists through 23 games this year already matches last year's total, while his 27 points have him looking like he's back on track.

4. Edmonton Oilers (16-5-0)
In 14 appearances this season, goalie Mikko Koskinen has a record of 12-2 – that's just one win shy of last season, in half the starts. After a tough 2021 campaign, the No. 1 netminder is having exactly the kind of year both he and his team needs.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (15-5-1)
Carolina took a chance on Freddie Andersen’s ability to bounce back from an injury-riddled, up-and-down final season with the Maple Leafs, and it definitely paid off. Two more wins this season will have him matching last year’s total already, while his 2.05 GAA and .928 save percentage are both career-bests.

6. Calgary Flames (13-4-5)
With nine goals and a team-leading 25 points through 22 games, Johnny Gaudreau is looking more like the 80-plus-point player we saw dominate the Pacific Division just a few seasons ago. While the best story in Calgary is the play of breakout sensation Andrew Mangiapane, Gaudreau’s bounce-back is helping propel this club back into relevance. Johnny Hockey is back.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-4)
Captain Steven Stamkos has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries over the course of his career, including last season, which makes this year's hot start – 11 goals and 24 points in 20 games – all the more gratifying to see.

8. New York Rangers (14-4-3)
Forget about a bounce back – at 30 years old and with a team-leading 16 goals through 21 games, Chris Kreider is enjoying a breakout season we didn't even know he needed.

9. Minnesota Wild (15-6-1)
Ryan Hartman's best season was his first full campaign in the NHL – he tallied 19 goals and 31 points in 76 games with the Blackhawks in 2016-17 – but since then, he's struggled to stick with a team, hitting double-digit goals just once (10 goals in 2018-19 with Nashville). Until now, that is. With a dozen goals and 18 points through his first 22 games of the season with Minnesota, Hartman is well on his way to his best year yet.

10. Colorado Avalanche (11-7-1)
After posting solid 30-plus points in back-to-back COVID-shortened seasons, no one was actually calling for a bounce-back (or a breakout, for that matter!) for Nazem Kadri. And yet here he is, lighting the league on fire to the tune of nine goals and 29 points in just 19 games – just three points off last year’s 56-game total. Considering Colorado's long list of injuries up front and his own contract status (he’s due a new deal in July), his timing couldn’t be better.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-8-5)
Based on the way he’s playing, you’d never know Tristan Jarry’s 2021 playoffs ended as disastrously as they did. His ability to rebound from last spring and put up the best numbers of his career – 1.97 GAA, .933 save percentage – show just how resilient the netminder is, and how right Pittsburgh was to trust him with another shot.

12. Anaheim Ducks (13-8-3)
There’s no question about who the club’s breakout star is – Troy Terry’s got 15 goals and 25 points in 23 games. At the (literal) centre of the winger’s success is veteran captain and bounce-back candidate Ryan Getzlaf, who looks rejuvenated by his new, young linemate. The 36-year-old, who earlier this season set the Ducks’ new all-time franchise points record, has already tallied 20 points on the season – three more than last year’s 48-game total – and has assisted on nine of Terry’s goals this year. Here’s hoping a lower-body injury suffered against the Kings Tuesday night doesn’t keep him sidelined long.

13. Vegas Golden Knights (12-10-0)
After a breakout 60-point season in Vegas' inaugural campaign, Reilly Smith kept pace with back-to-back 50-plus-point years the following two, but a dip in production last season set him up for a comeback in 2021-22. After posting 14 goals and 25 points in 53 games last year, Smith already has 10 goals and 16 points through 22 games.

14. St. Louis Blues (12-7-3)
After injuries limited him to just 34 games combined the past two seasons, it looked like a fresh start was in store for Vladimir Tarasenko, but seven goals – matching that two-year total – and 19 points through 22 games this year with the Blues tells us those struggles (and perhaps that trade request, too) are firmly in the past.

15. Nashville Predators (12-9-1)
Just 22 games into the season, Matt Duchene has already matched his goal total of 2019-20 – his first season with Nashville – and more than doubled that of his second, giving the Predators hope he’s finally becoming the player they thought they signed.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-8-0)
Patrik Laine bet on himself to bounce back from a down year in 2020-21, and he was well on his way to making good on it – 10 points in nine games – before an oblique injury sidelined him several weeks. Here's hoping he picks up where he left off upon his return.

17. Boston Bruins (11-8-0)
Depth scoring, long a struggle with these Bruins, looks like an issue to contend with once again, but Charlie Coyle’s production so far this season offers some hope in that regard. His six goals through 19 games matches last year’s 51-game total and has him on pace for his most productive season as a Bruin.

18. Winnipeg Jets (10-8-4)
A series of nagging injuries hindered any hopes of making good on his fresh start in Winnipeg last season, but this year had “bounce back” written all over it for Pierre-Luc Dubois – and he has lived up to the billing. In just 22 games, the 23-year-old has already surpassed last season's goal total, with 11, and his 18 points are good for second on the team. He's looking right at home in Winnipeg's top six.

19. San Jose Sharks (12-9-1)
Erik Karlsson’s production headed south when he did, but his numbers look like they’re on the rise again as the dual-threat defender looks to regain form in his fourth season in San Jose. A dozen points through 16 games has him on pace for a statistical bounce back.

20. Dallas Stars (11-7-2)
Honestly, take your pick: It’s great to see Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov bounce back from injuries, but let’s turn to the crease for this early-season comeback story: Braden Holtby struggled in Vancouver, posting just seven wins with career-lows in GAA (3.67) and save percentage (.889) as Thatcher Demko's backup. Now, despite Dallas' crease looking pretty crowded, Holtby's getting enough playing time to turn those numbers – and his fortunes — around.

21. Detroit Red Wings (12-9-3)
After seeing his numbers dip slightly in two straight seasons, Dylan Larkin – he of 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games – is on pace to exceed his 32-goal, 73-point career highs of 2018-19.

22. New Jersey Devils (9-7-4)
Andreas Johnston tallied 20 goals and 43 points with the 2018-19 Maple Leafs, but hasn't come close to that kind of production since, despite still playing well for the rebuilding Devils. This year, however, feels different: The 27-year-old is thriving on this young club, leading New Jersey in goals (nine) and points (18) and already surpassing his production from each of the past two seasons.

23. Los Angeles Kings (9-8-4)
It feels kind of wrong to label what Anze Kopitar is doing – eight goals and 23 points in his first 21 games of the season – as a bounce back, considering how impressive last year’s stats were. After all, 50 points in 56 games on a struggling team is by no means disappointing. However ... the way Kopitar is playing feels like a throwback (or, ahem, a bounce back) to his 92-point campaign of 2017-18, doesn’t it?

24. Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-4)
No goaltender in the NHL enjoyed as high a rise and as steep a drop from one season to the next as Carter Hart did between his first two campaigns and his third. Hart’s fourth, though, has him back in the spotlight for all the right reasons. Trouble is, his team can't seem to keep up.

25. Buffalo Sabres (8-11-3)
Jeff Skinner's scoring really dropped off the past two years – he went from scoring 40 goals in his first Sabres season in 2018-19 to just 14 a year later, and only seven in 2020-21. Now 22 games into this season, the 29-year-old has eight goals and 15 points, putting him on pace for 55 points. Still not the Skinner of a few years ago, but much closer to what we know he's capable of.

26. Seattle Kraken (8-13-2)
After seeing his regular-season production fizzle out a little last year with the Blues, a fresh start in Seattle has brought some pretty solid production for Jaden Schwartz to the tune of 17 points through 22 games. His current scoring pace, sitting at 0.77 points per game, has him nearing the kind of production we saw from him just a few years ago.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (7-12-2)
Compare the first half of his season to his second, and you've got quite the bounce back for Marc-Andre Fleury, who's rebounded from a winless first month in Chicago and put together a four-game win streak in November while posting stats we're used to seeing beside the Vezina winner's name. Flower’s back!

28. Montreal Canadiens (6-16-2)
After he opened up about stepping away from the game to take care of his health, Jonathan Drouin’s success so far in this difficult Canadiens season (three goals and 12 points in 18 games) is the kind of success that’s bigger than the game.

29. New York Islanders (5-10-2)
The way this season is trending, it’s tough to find positives on Long Island. Just about everyone is seeing a dip in production while this franchise finds itself in desperate need of a full-team rebound. Keep an eye on Brock Nelson’s production, though – the leader in the clubhouse, who’s got a shooting percentage of 22.5, is on pace to match 2019-20’s impressive career-best production.

30. Vancouver Canucks (8-14-2)
J.T. Miller was a revelation in his first season in Vancouver, putting up career-high numbers across the board: 27 goals, 45 assists, and 72 points in 69 games. Last season was probably just more of a return to normal production than a slight drop-off, but his numbers are worth watching this year anyway. His .96 points per game, one of the few bright spots in these dark days of Canucks hockey, has him on pace for potentially another big year on the individual stat sheet.

31. Arizona Coyotes (5-16-2)
We all know the real bounce-back winner here belong to those sweet Kachina threads that are back in the regular rotation, but the play of Shayne Gostisbehere is worth a shoutout, too. His time was clearly up in Philadelphia after a pair of underwhelming seasons, but he's making the most of his opportunity in the desert – particularly when it comes to generating offence from the blue line. A trio of goals and 16 points through 23 games has him looking more like the Flyers' breakout blue-liner of 2017-18.

32. Ottawa Senators (4-15-1)
Not much hope happening in Ottawa these days, with production drying up and wins few and far between. Tyler Ennis' comeback season slowed down, but with nine points in 18 games he could still return to the respectable numbers he posted in his first Senators stint.

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