Don’t be afraid to grab some of these Eastern Conference under-achieving veterans from last season. Many of them were simply injured and could be seriously undervalued heading into your draft this year.
Marco Sturm Bos
The 31-year-old left winger scored 13 points in 19 games before suffering a season-ending injury early last year. In the last four seasons, all with the Bruins, Sturm played 226 games and scored 156 points. That’s 57 points for every 82 games. He’ll play on one of the top two lines on last years second most prolific scoring team in the NHL.
Patrice Bergeron Bos
I consider last year’s 39 points in 64 games (50 point pace) like a second rookie season for Bergeron. One thing that I found promising was that he finished the season with 14 points in 18 games (64 point pace). Before the concussion, Bergeron was coming off of back-to-back 70 point seasons. I don’t think 65 points is unrealistic this year.
Tim Connolly Buf
It’s a case of buyer beware here as Crystal Connolly already has his ticket punched for entry to the Dobber Hockey Band-Aid Boy Hall of Fame. Ironically, in Connolly’s first four NHL seasons, he played 325 games while missing only three contests. In his next four seasons, he played in only 161 games. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll continue to get top power play and regular strength ice time. This guy had 47 points in 48 games last season and 40 in 48 the year before. He’s due for a break, isn’t he?
Tomas Plekanec Mtl
Along with many other Canadiens players, Plekanec’s 39 points in 80 games was a big disappointment. Plekanec recorded 69 points the previous season, so he should rebound nicely, even on a Jacques Martin coached team. On the positive side, Plekanec has missed only four games over the last three seasons.
Brian Rolston NJ
Much more was expected last year from Rolston after recording back to back 30 goal seasons in a similarly stifling system with Minnesota. The change from Lemaire to Sutter to Lemaire might spark this oldie but goodie. Don’t expect a return to the 30 goal plateau, but 25 goals and 50 points is defensible.
Chris Higgins NYR
Higgins recorded 23 points in 57 games last season with the Habs. Now that he’s out of the party atmosphere of Montreal, there will be no distractions, oops, never mind. He can always look to the veteran presence of Avery and Redden to straighten him out…oops. All kidding aside, Higgins will step in as one of the top two left wingers and could be in line for top power play minutes. Higgins has a Prospalesque streak in the making, but with games played, not points. In his four NHL seasons, he’s played in 80, 61, 82 and 57 games. I’m willing to gamble that he hits 80 games and 50-plus points on Broadway
Sean Avery NYR
Pro-rate last year’s 12 points in 18 games with the Rangers and Avery ends up with 55 points. Okay, that’s not going to happen this year, but he could hit 45 points and 200 penalty minutes, while testing Coach Tortorella’s patience at every turn. Those numbers are great for roto-leagues that count penalty minutes.
Wade Redden NYR
The 26 points Redden recorded was the second lowest total in his career. Redden received the 70th most power play time in the NHL and yet somehow managed to finish tied for 255th in points with the man advantage (eight points). For lack of other options, Redden will continue to get as much ice time as the coach can handle. He’ll safely bounce back to the 35 point range and has an outside shot at 40.
Jason Spezza Ott
The good news? Spezza played a full 82 game season for the first time in his NHL career. The bad news? He was outscored by a 37-year-old Slava Kozlov and tied by Mike Green, a defenseman, and Todd White. No really, Todd White!? Prior to last season, Spezza had recorded seasons of 92, 87 and 90 points. I fully expect Spezza to return to that level once again this season.
Alexei Kovalev Ott
Supremely talented, but he doesn’t always bring it every night. That is the enigma that is Kovalev. Can Coach Cory Clouston coax Kovalev to play up to his abilities? I think Kovalev will be motivated playing for the Sens and anticipate an 80-point season.
Danny Briere Phi
Don’t forget about this little dynamo. He had 25 points in 29 games last year after recording 72 and 95 points in the preceding two seasons. Philadelphia was tied for fourth in goal scoring last season and the 31-year-old Briere will only help in that department.
Sergei Gonchar Pit
The 35-year-old offensive force had a meagre 19 points last year (in only 25 games) and might float under some people’s radar Don’t mistake old for washed up. I don’t see Gonchar slowing down appreciably this campaign. In the three seasons prior to last year, Gonchar averaged 63 points and a whopping 44 power play points. I expect another 60 points season this year.
Vincent Lecavalier TB
Last season was a circus for Lecavalier and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Maybe this season Vinny and the Bolts can focus on playing hockey. In the previous two seasons, Lecavalier had 108 and 92 points. He’s too good to get any less than 85 points this season.