Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Breaking That Sophomore Slump

The bench was a familiar spot for Nail Yakupov last season
It's often difficult to live up the expectations of a great rookie year, especially when that year was a condensed 48-game season. There was no time to trail off and many rookies performed well making for a very interesting Calder Memorial Trophy vote that resulted in a tight race for first and 7 players earning first-place votes. Such was expected with a smaller sample of games and nobody should be surprised that many of those top rookies in 2013 petered out this past season. Well, those players had their slumps and now look forward to getting back on track as future NHL stars as they enter their third seasons and shake off the memories of the past year.

Here are some of the youngsters we expect to bounce back in 2014-15:

Jonathan Huberdeau

After winning the Calder as top rookie with 14 goals and 31 points in 48 games, Huberdeau followed that up with a rough sophomore season. In 69 games last year he scored just 9 goals and 28 points while always seeming to be battling a different injury. Huberdeau's shot rate fell from 2.33/game to 1.56/game and he had some brutal stretches of the season where he didn't score for 12 games, 16 games, and 19 games. We're expecting the 2011 3rd overall pick to bounce back this year, especially with his former junior coach behind the Panthers bench this season.

Nail Yakupov

Yakupov tied Huberdeau in 2013 for rookie scoring with 17 goals and 31 points and felt the ire of Oilers fans in his sophomore year with 11 goals and 24 points. Rumours of Yakupov being shopped around swirled as the 2012 1st overall pick saw his numbers drop including his +/- to a frigid -33. The good news is that +/- is a shitty stat and Yakupov actually had OK possession numbers on a terrible Oilers team last season. He will have to impress Dallas Eakins early on or find himself nailed to the bench again this season playing 14 minutes/game. We've got Yakupov shushing his critics and earning minutes with the big boys in the Oilers top six.

Cory Conacher

This is the one guy you really want to keep an eye on solely based on who he could be playing with this season. After bouncing around three teams in two seasons, Conacher found himself playing with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the Isles first line this preseason. As a rookie, Conacher put up 11 goals and 29 points in 47 games between the Lightning and Sens, but followed up in 2013-14 with 7 goals and 26 points in 79 games between the Sens and Sabres. It's never a good sophomore season when you get waived by a team and picked up by Buffalo and we're banking on Conacher finding his offence again in Brooklyn especially if he's with Tavares.

Justin Schultz

The former-collegiate stud had a solid rookie campaign in 2013 to lead all rookie defencemen and finish 12th in overall defensive scoring with 8 goals and 27 points in 48 games. He was a bright light on the Oilers blueline despite his -17 rating, however his sophomore season was not as big of an improvement as many hoped the then 23-year-old would make. His goals and points increased to 11 and 33 respectively, but his defence worsened as he allowed more shots against when on the ice, especially when compared to the team as a whole. Schultz will be entering the season playing for a new contract at season end so we've got him slotted down for some career highs and QB Edmonton's powerplay as many as hoped he would.

Alex Galchenyuk

The crafty 20-year-old garnered some attention in 2013 with 9 goals and 27 points through 48 games with the Habs, but struggled last season with injuries and was limited to scoring 13 goals and 31 points in 65 games. His offence declined, but he was still a solid player for the Canadiens in terms of possession and considering he was forced to play wing rather than his natural position at centre. The 2012 3rd pick (and highest point-getter in that draft year) could see first line minutes this year playing the wing and if he can stay healthy he is poised for a fantastic year. Based on this preseason OT winner last week we're liking his confidence going into the regular season:


  1. Yeah I think it's time for Yakupov to step it up, he is playing with young guys such as Jordan Eberle and etc...he should be able to produce but I still think Hall is the best of the 3 (Hall, eberle, Yakupov and maybe Nugent Hopkins)

    1. I think Yak might need a change.
      Could see him playing for the Rangers


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