By Jon Litterine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
This isn’t exactly breaking news, but many players who go on to be productive NHL players struggle in their freshman seasons. For every Mathew Barzal or Brock Boeser, there are countless players who fail to make in an impact their first time around. This is a list of 10 players who could be primed for better results in 2018-19 and beyond.
Madison Bowey (D-WSH): Known as a point producer throughout his junior career with WHL Kelowna, Bowey failed to score a goal in 51 games with the Caps this season and managed just 12 assists, none of which came with the man advantage. His playing time was limited on many nights and he never carved out a significant role for Washington. Next season will be the fourth of Bowey’s professional career and it is time for him to take a step forward. Whether Bowey has any fantasy appeal next season depends largely on the future of current Caps defender John Carlson. Carlson will be a UFA on July 1 and is expected to receive offers upwards of $8 million per year. Washington can’t afford that unless it sends some guys packing. If Carlson ultimately re-signs, Bowey becomes an afterthought once again.
Anthony DeAngelo (D-NYR): DeAngelo started the season in New York and played terribly. He was shipped to AHL Hartford where he played 29 games before being recalled. DeAngelo played considerably better after returning before an ankle injury suffered mid-March ended his season. DeAngelo’s offensive ability is evident, but he remains a work in progress defensively. He skates so well and has such unbelievable puck skills that in an ideal world, he wouldn’t be forced to defend in his own zone all that much. Kevin Shattenkirk will be back for the Rangers and young defenseman Neal Pionk was the team’s best player the final six weeks of the season. DeAngelo will have to fight for ice time next year, but he still has a high ceiling. The recent dismal of Alain Vigneault is good news for DeAngelo.
Samuel Girard (D-COL): Acquired in the three-team deal that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa and Kyle Turris to Nashville, Girard showed flashes of brilliance when Tyson Barrie was sidelined for five weeks with a fractured hand earlier in the year. A mobile, undersized (5-foot-10, 170) defenseman, Girard is ready to play a significant offensive role for Colorado. Barrie has long been rumored to be on the trade block, but the success Colorado has had this year makes it far less likely that they would deal him anytime soon. Still, Girard’s propensity to help with the man advantage makes him a fine late-round sleeper in your 2018-19 draft.
Josh Ho-Sang (F-NYI): This one is obvious. I’m convinced (as in north of 75 percent) that John Tavares is leaving the Islanders. Should that happen, that leaves the team with Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey as top-six forwards. There is room at the inn. As has been par for the course with many top Islanders prospects, Ho-Sang has been handled terribly. The team sent him down to the AHL because they weren’t happy with his defensive play. Was it Ho-Sang’s fault that the club’s goaltending was terrible all season? Or that Nick Leddy finished the year a minus-42? Or that GM Garth Snow made zero moves to improve his club during the year? No, of course not. A trade would be best for both sides at this point, but Ho-Sang’s value is in the gutter. A return to the Isles might be his best path to immediate fantasy value next season.
Julius Honka (D-DAL): A right-handed shooting defenseman that can run a power play, Honka’s skills would play on just about any team in the league. Unfortunately, Dallas has John Klingberg running the show with the man advantage and coach Ken Hitchcock just doesn’t seem to trust Honka at even strength. I admit that Honka isn’t of much use if he isn’t getting power play time, but he is young enough (22) that his skills should be in high demand around the NHL. The fact Honka had just four points in 42 games this season is extremely misleading regarding his overall ability.
Victor Mete (D-MTL): Mete had an excellent rookie year for the Habs when you consider he played the entire campaign as a 19-year-old and his team was terrible. He was much better than his numbers (no goals, seven assists in 49 games) would lead you to believe. Mete’s speed and smarts more than make up for the fact he is 5-9 and generously listed at 185. Shea Weber underwent foot surgery in March and there is no guarantee that the aging, banged up defender will be ready to shoulder his usual heavy load to begin next season. Several players on this list need a couple things to go right for them to increase their production in 2018-19, Mete appears to be a lock to have a more significant role out of the gate.
Jack Roslovic (F-WPG): Winnipeg’s depth up front has resulted in Roslovic being a healthy scratch for long stretches at a time this season. It’s not ideal for a 21-year-old kid, but Roslovic has played well when called upon. He doesn’t have the pure offensive instincts of his teammate Kyle Connor, but Roslovic does have the skills to excel in a variety of areas. It’s going to take an injury for Roslovic to fill a top-six role with the Jets next season, but I’m confident he would succeed if given the opportunity.
Travis Sanheim (D-PHI): The Flyers attempted to work Sanheim into their lineup on numerous occasions this season, but the fit just wasn’t there. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov received virtually all of Philly’s power play time and there was little point in having Sanheim with the big club if he was frequently being scratched or playing just eight or nine minutes per night. Sanheim has little to learn in the AHL and it’s not as if the Flyers are flush with elite depth behind Gostisbehere and Provorov. Sanheim’s role is going to increase next year, but it still might not be enough to help owners outside of the deepest of leagues. Sanheim’s physical gifts are not in question.
Daniel Sprong (F-PIT): Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t going anywhere, but the Penguins aren’t going to be able to flank them with guys like Phil Kessel and Patrick Hornqvist forever. Eventually a youngster on a cheap contract is going to have to seize a top-six role for the Pens. Enter, Sprong. The Dutch born forward had 28 goals in the AHL this season and I am extremely confident he would pot at least 25 markers if he spent all 2018-19 playing alongside Crosby or Malkin. If the Pittsburgh coaching staff has enough trust in Sprong defensively to give him a shot, he could pay off handsomely for owners at its draft table.
Evgeni Svechnikov (F-DET): Detroit is a bad, bad spot. After years of sustained success, the Wings NHL roster is awful and their prospect pool is thin. The fact Svechnikov took a significant step backward this season didn’t help matters, either. Known for his ability to create offense, the big Russian scored just seven times in 52 AHL games. He is only one year removed from posting 20 goals at the AHL level. Originally expected to spend most or all the year in Detroit, Svechnikov’s poor play limited him to just 14 NHL contests. The 20-year-old is a breakout candidate if for no other reason than he can’t possibly be this back in back-to-back seasons.