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1 Player on Each NHL Team Whose Scoring Will Improve in 2013-14

Rob VollmanContributor IJanuary 15, 2014

1 Player on Each NHL Team Whose Scoring Will Improve in 2013-14

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Which slumping players are most likely to catch fire in the second half? For each team we will try to find the one single player whose talent and opportunity combines to create the best chance for a second-half scoring surge.

    How can analytics help? So many factors can be quantified these days, each of which can have a huge influence on a player's scoring. To list just a few examples:

    • How much ice-time they get, especially on the power play, according to NHL.com
    • Who they play with, according to the data at Extra Skater
    • The zones in which they primarily start their shifts (same source)
    • The opponents they usually face (same source)
    • Their shooting percentages, especially relative to previous career totals, according to Hockey Reference
    • The shooting percentages of their linemates. And by linemates we mean all defensemen and forwards while they're on the ice, at even-strength only, according to Extra Skater
    • And other factors, like injuries, participation in the Olympics, and so on.

    For each team we will use these types of analytics to find a single player whose conditions are ideal for an increase in scoring, or for whom we anticipate a positive change in such conditions.

    Of course, for each player we have both reasons to believe in a scoring increase, and reasons to doubt it. We'll complete the picture by including both the expectations set by analytics, and both viewpoints. Let's start in alphabetical order with the Anaheim Ducks (next slide).

     

    All advanced statistics other than those above and those noted are via writer's own original research.

     

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

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    First-Half Scoring: 31 games, four goals, seven assists, 11 points

    What to Expect

    Mark Messier (43 points) and Gordie Howe (41) are the only players Selanne's age or older to top Doug Harvey's 22 points in 1968-69. He won't catch those two, but he can secure 10 goals and 25 points in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    The Anaheim Ducks are flying high on the backs of a deep and talented lineup but could turn back to their future Hall of Famer soon enough.

    There's nothing fundamentally wrong with Teemu Selanne's game this year, he's just had his ice time cut because of the team's developing youth and newfound depth. The good news is that his limited time is against the lowest average level of competition on the team.

    Maybe Selanne's shooting percentage has dropped a little, but some of that drop has to be bad luck. Even though his shooting percentage of 6.3 percent is barely half the consistent rate it's been for the past two years, Selanne is roughly at the same level as always (0.13), which is the key thing. Give it time, and the puck will start going in for him. It always does.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    At 43 years old, even the Finnish Flash might not have a lot left in the tank. And switching linemates from Bobby Ryan to Mathieu Perreault could have an effect on his scoring that is as permanent as it was predictable.

    More importantly, the Sultan of Suomi could get fatigued by Olympic hockey, and/or the Ducks might use him a lot less in order to save his strength for the postseason. Then again, he might actually get a boost from his sixth Olympic games and be used extensively to secure a top playoff seed.

    There are always reasons to doubt players in their 40s, but everyone who has bet against Selanne in the past has regretted it.

     

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points

    What to Expect

    Second-half scoring could increase by 50 percent on the league's top two-way line.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have far too much talent for their scoring totals to remain this modest for long.

    And in fact, much of "the Nose Face Killah's" drop in scoring can be traced to his lack of power-play opportunities. Last year the little ball of hate, as he is known to President Obama, led the Bruins with four power-play goals while playing 1:44 minutes per game with the man advantage.

    This year Marshmont, as he is unfortunately known to some fans, has no power-play points with only 0:34 minutes per game. This may have also had a trickle-down effect on his overall shooting percentage, which is the lowest of his four-season career.

    As soon as rookie Ryan Spooner cools off and clears a path for him back onto the second power play, Marchand's scoring will return to previous levels.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    It's possible that Tyler Seguin was the key to unleashing the offensive potential of Boston's top two-way line, and Marchand will continue to slump offensively. 

    The Honey Badger, as Andrew Ference named him (he has a lot of nicknames), has just a single point in the first four games of the second half, a trend that might continue if he doesn't get his power-play ice time back.

     

Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres

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    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, seven goals, seven assists, 14 points

    What to Expect

    At least 10 goals and over 20 points.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Like it or not, Tyler Ennis is Buffalo's top offensive forward. He's assigned 60 percent of the team's power-play minutes, the highest among the team's forwards. Last year only Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville were higher.

    Ennis "the Menace" has good possession numbers too, and his 92 shots are second to only Drew Stafford's 97. What Ennis needs is a consistent line. His current and two most-frequent linemates, Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons, have been by his side for only about a third of shifts this year.

    How has Ennis responded to the coaching change? Despite starting the season with just two goals and five points in the 20 games under Ron Rolston, Ennis has scored seven goals and 11 points in 24 games under Ted Nolan. He's also been in on two of Buffalo's five goals so far in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    There really isn't anyone for Ennis to play with in Buffalo. The Sabres scored three goals against the Leafs in Nolan's debut, and have matched that only four times since then (twice more against Toronto). Ennis is a skill player on a team with painfully little of it.

Lee Stempniak, Calgary Flames

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    Brad Watson/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 34 games, six goals, seven assists, 13 points

    What to Expect

    Potentially 10 goals and over 20 points.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Lee Stempniak is one of the league's most underrated do-it-all players. He's also one of the most notable veterans who got bumped up Calgary's depth chart with the departure of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.

    Playing most of the season on top offensive lines with players like Jiri Hudler (currently), Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Glencross and Matt Stajan, Stempniak has seen his ice time jump from sixth among forwards to fourth, both at even strength and with the man advantage.

    As the team stumbles, the younger players are getting phased out for the veterans like Stempniak. The top five forwards by ice time are currently all aged 30 or 31.

    Of course, not everything has gone swimmingly for Stempniak. His 5.5 shooting percentage is barely half his career average. While he may be partly responsible for that, he can't be blamed for the shooting of his linemates, who have gone from scoring on 9.5 percent of their shots last year to just 5.2 percent in 2013-14.

    In short, Stempniak could generate the same level of scoring opportunities in the second half and yet see his scoring almost double for no other reason than improved shooting luck.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Stempniak scored points in nine of the team's first 10 games, and then just five points in the 28 games since then. He closed out the season's first half by going pointless in 12 straight games.

    Calgary has been shut out five times in the last nine games, and whether it's bad luck or not, coach Bob Hartley might just give up on players like Stempniak and go another direction entirely.

     

     

Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes

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    First-Half Scoring: 29 games, five goals, 11 assists, 16 points

    What to Expect

    The former 40-goal scorer and three-time 30-goal scorer could double his scoring from the first half (but in more games).

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Being left off their respective Olympic teams, could that unfortunate situation help Carolina's top forwards break out of their scoring funks?

    Here, this refers to Russian's Alexander Semin, but it could just as easily have been written about Eric Staal too. Together they form the top scoring line (most of the time), and they each enjoy over 60 percent of available power-play minutes.

    It hasn't been a great year for the two highly paid stars. While Semin continues to average three shots per game (and whiff or miss on about three more), he's scoring on just 6.1 percent of them, which is less than half his career average. Staal and his other linemates over the course of the season have scored on just 6.5 percent of theirs, down from 11.6 percent last season.

    Hockey can be a game of inches, and shooting luck can turn on a time. Semin's luck already seems to be changing, as he closed out the first half with points in five straight games.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    We've seen players stumble after signing big contracts, and there's always that potential here with a big-time five-year, $35 million deal.

    The enigmatic Russian (if you'll forgive the overused cliche) is also injury-prone. And even though the Hurricanes aren't exactly deep on the right side, coach Kirk Muller's patience might soon get exhausted.

     

Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks

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    First-Half Scoring: 40 games, eight goals, 14 assists, 22 points

    What to Expect

    Roughly the same number of assists, but several more goals for the four-time 20-goal scorer.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Going from Florida to Chicago should increase anybody's scoring, even if it does mean a demotion from the top line to the checking line.

    Kris Versteeg scored on just 4.3 percent of his shots in Florida but is sniping at 13.0 percent in Chicago, much like he did during his first tour of duty with the Blackhawks, where he enjoyed the first two of four consecutive 20-goal seasons. His linemates are also scoring on 11.0 percent of their own shots.

    Though Versteeg often plays with third-liners like Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw, he has also played 55 percent of his minutes with Patrick Kane, one of the league's best offensive players. With 10 Blackhawks heading off the Olympics, Versteeg may enjoy more such opportunities when his exhausted teammates return.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Obviously Versteeg won't get the same kind of ice time in Chicago that he did in Florida. So far he's lost about 1:22 minutes of ice time per game, mostly on the power play. He consequently has managed just a single point in the last seven games. 

    There's always the concern that his surgically repaired knee, which cost him all but 10 games last season, may give him problems in the second half.

    Finally, it's possible that he was better off scoring-wise as a top-line player in Florida than a checking-line player in Chicago. Possible, but not likely.

     

Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche

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    First-Half Scoring: 38 games, nine goals, five assists, 14 points

    What to Expect

    The upside was set when Jamie McGinn recorded 13 points in 17 games when first acquired by Colorado at the 2012 trade deadline. More realistically, expect up to 20 points in this second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Though McGinn is typically a checking-line forward playing alongside the likes of John Mitchell and Max Talbot, we've seen before what happens when he gets some opportunities in the top six. And sure enough, McGinn has five points in the seven games that P.A. Parenteau has been injured.

    A little more power-play time could also boost the speedster's scoring. Last year McGinn played 2:19 per game on the power play, this year only 0:58. With most of Colorado players already scoring at or above their career levels, McGinn is one of their few young players with the potential for a big increase in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Obviously McGinn is not as skilled with the puck as his more famous teammates. His scoring is generated primarily through hard work and speed.

    There's also concern that his goal scoring is already hot, and not likely to increase. McGinn had 128 shots in 47 games last year, but just 76 shots in 42 games this year. If there's a second scoring boost in McGinn's future, it will most likely come from his assists.

Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, two goals, nine assists, 11 points

    What to Expect

    The high-water mark for Jack Johnson is around the 14 points in 21 games he posted when first acquired by Columbus at the 2012 trade deadline. For this second half, expect about five to six goals, and over a dozen assists.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Johnson is unquestionably Columbus' top-line defenseman. He gets the most even-strength ice time by over 1:20 per game, leads the team in penalty-killing time and is second to only James Wisniewski among the team's defensemen in power-play time.

    And yet, Johnson is fourth among the team's defensemen in scoring, just two points more than David Savard in sixth. Perhaps coach Todd Richards should ease up on his defensive load?

    Things are already starting to turn around for Johnson, who had over half his season's scoring in December alone (six points). His goal-scoring alone could easily double if his shooting percentage were to return to his career average.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Johnson is not a strong two-way possession-based player, and was left off the American Olympic team for a reason. While we can only speculate what effect this might have on his morale, or on his on-ice performance, it will at least give him some rest, and some extra motivation (if that's even possible).

     

Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars

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    First-Half Scoring: 33 games, three goals, 11 assists, 14 points

    What to Expect

    Though his point-a-game days may finally be behind him, Ray Whitney is still capable of scoring twice as many points in a healthy second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    It would be a mistake to underestimate Whitney's scoring. He's actually taking more shots per minute than usual but is scoring on just 5.5 percent of them. That's far less than his career average of 12.7 percent.

    Is this likely to continue? No, Whitney has finished with a single-digit shooting percentage just once in his 20-season career, when he posted an 8.3 percent in 2000-01.

    It will also help if his linemates score on more than 6.7 percent of their own shots, which is the second-lowest rate among the team's forwards. Last year they scored on 10.7 percent, resulting in 18 assists in 32 games. And indeed, "The Wizard" already has two points in four games to start the second half. 

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Ray Whitney is 41 years old and can't evade Father Time forever. His ice time has already been cut by over three-and-a-half minutes per game.

    Last year he played on the top line with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, this year he's on the third line helping along youngsters like Alex Chiasson and Cody Eakin. There is a limit to the scoring Whitney can achieve, and this may be it.

     

Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings

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    First-Half Scoring: 35 games, six goals, four assists, 10 points

    What to Expect

    Todd Bertuzzi consistently scored between 38 and 45 points a year for five seasons. That works out to about eight goals and up to 20 points in this second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Make no mistake, Bertuzzi is still one of Mike Babcock's most trusted choices. There's no question that he's a solid top-six forward, and he gets more time with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg than anybody else on the team. He's also still assigned well over half of the team's minutes on the power play. There's just no way that he will continue at a 20-point pace under those conditions.

    Bertuzzi will be needed more than ever in the second half. Whether it's injuries to players like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss, or whether it's his 10 teammates coming back from the Olympic injured or fatigued, Bertuzzi is going to be a pivotal member of Detroit's plans in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Bertuzzi is turning 39 soon, and just came off a serious back injury that cost him a whole season. This may actually be it for the 18-year veteran, who just this past Saturday managed to finally snap a 12-game scoreless streak.

     

     

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

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    First-Half Scoring: 38 games, six goals, eight assists, 14 points

    What to Expect

    At least a dozen goals and assists, with the ever-present talent for a lot more.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    OK, Nail Yakupov's scoring totals had a bit of air in them last year. Fair enough. He scored on over 20 percent of his shots, and his linemates scored on 11.1 percent of theirs, second highest on the team. Perhaps he enjoyed some good fortune when he led all rookie with 31 points last year.

    Then in the same spirit of fairness, the exact opposite thing is happening this year. "N-64" has actually taken more shots in fewer games but is scoring on fewer than half as many. As for his linemates, they're scoring on just 7.0 percent of their shots, ahead of only Luke Gazdic and Jesse Joensuu's respective linemates.

    Enough of this "enigmatic" label. He's not enigmatic; he's 20 years old. Yakupov is an amazingly gifted offensive talent, and could start lighting the red lamp at any moment. And big time.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Yakupov has clearly played himself into coach Dallas Eakins' doghouse, one that is difficult to play out of.

    If the young Russian isn't given the right opportunities, then he won't increase his scoring even if his puck luck does return back to normal.

     

Tomas Kopecky, Florida Panthers

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    First-Half Scoring: 36 games, three goals, five assists, eight points

    What to Expect

    With the right opportunity, Tomas Kopecky could easily double his scoring in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Kopecky may not be an exciting pick, but Florida is not exactly a team that's about exciting individuals. Kopecky is certainly exciting enough to be chosen to represent Slovakia in the Winter Olympics for the second time, from which he could return with some renewed vigor.

    The hard-working veteran does it all for the Panthers. He plays in all three manpower situations, throws hits, plays tough defense and is often used for some secondary offense. When given the opportunity, Kopecky can score in bursts, twice scoring four points in six-game stretches so far this season.

    Offensively Kopecky is taking more shots per minute than usual this year but scoring on just 5.2 percent of them. His linemates aren't faring much better, scoring on just 5.4 percent on average, the second-lowest percentage on the team.

    With the right opportunities and a little more luck, Kopecky could even top last year's 27 points.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Kopecky is not exactly an offensive-minded player, and there aren't a lot of guys in Florida that can ignite the scoring touch he does have. That's a big reason why he didn't even register his first point until the 17th game of the season.

    In his own words, Kopecky conceded to George Richards of the Miami Herald that his "priority is on the defense. Last year I was playing on the first power play, and this year I’m not. Whatever helps the team win."

    That's a good point. Kopecky could very easily be kept in a defense-only role, while the secondary scoring is left to their kids.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

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    First-Half Scoring: 40 games, seven goals, six assists, 13 points

    What to Expect

    Over 10 goals and 20 points in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Being taken off Anze Kopitar's line would have an impact on anyone's scoring, but even without him, Dustin Brown is certainly more than just a 25-point player.

    First of all, Brown is still playing about half his shifts with the Slovenian superstar, and he's actually taking more shots per minute than usual. His lack of scoring has more to do with his decreased ice time, and a career-low 7.1 shooting percentage, than a lack of scoring ability on this part.

    Make no mistake, Brown is a great hitter, a master penalty drawer, has good possession numbers and is an all-around hard-working leader. Competing in the Olympics is only going to help draw out his best game.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Brown's ice time has been seriously cut, and could remain that way. Last year Brown was second among the team's forwards in average even-strength ice time; this year he's down to fourth. More importantly, he's dropped from first to fifth on the power play.

    Even with that cut in his ice time, he should still be scoring more than one point every three games. And if he did hit a scoring slump, Brown wouldn't be the first player to do so after signing a big contract.

Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, eight goals, four assists, 12 points

    What to Expect

    Once one of the game's most prolific scorers, Dany Heatley is still capable of generating about a dozen goals and a dozen assists in a half season.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Heatley scored an amazing 219 goals in the first five years after the 2005 lockout, a period during which he was one of the greatest offensive players in the world.

    With Mikko Koivu out with ankle surgery and Zach Parise struggling with a lower body injury, the Wild need to turn to Heatley for some scoring.

    To succeed, Heatley will need some regular linemates, and preferably some that can score on more than 6.7 percent of their shots like they have so far this year. For that matter, Heatley himself should hopefully score on more than 10.5 percent of his shots, which is grazing near his career low.

    So far Heatley is taking advantage of his opportunity in this final contract year, with one goal and four assists in the first seven games of the season's second half. If he can stay on fire, the opportunities may continue to come, especially if Koivu and Parise return from the Olympics injured and/or fatigued.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Heatley's scoring has been on a steady decline for years, and the trend may not reverse at age 33 just because Minnesota needs it to.

    Will he even get the ice time he needs to improve? Heatley's currently ninth among the team's forwards in average even-strength ice time, and tied with Charlie Coyle for fourth on the power play. When the team returns to full health, Heatley's opportunities may either be with some other club, or simply vanish.

     

David Desharnais, Montreal Canadiens

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 39 games, five goals, 13 assists, 18 points

    What to Expect

    A few more goals, but up to 20 assists. David Desharnais recorded 44 assists in 2011-12.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    As a playmaker, Desharnais' scoring fate will be in the hands of his linemates. Fortunately for him that's likely to be U.S. Olympian Max Pacioretty, who should also see an increase in second-half scoring. Both players are in their prime, and are often joined by talented sophomore Brendan Gallagher.

    Desharnais' scoring hasn't dropped because of an inability to make the plays, but because his setups are not being finished. Last year his linemates scored on 9.1 percent of their shots; this year just a lowly 5.6 percent. Though he doesn't shoot much himself, he usually scores on a lot more of his own shots too.

    Despite some of the recent criticism, the Habs believe in Desharnais. The 5'7" forward earned a four-year extension last year, and is third among the team's forwards in average power-play ice time.

    Desharnais closed out the first half with one goal and six assists in the final six games, and has three points in the first five games of the second half.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Desharnais will only be effective if he gets the opportunity to play with top snipers, like Pacioretty. If he lands on a line with someone like Rene Bourque again, his scoring totals will stagnate.

Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 38 games, eight goals, 14 assists, 22 points

    What to Expect

    At least a dozen goals, enough to earn his fourth 20-goal season.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Patric Hornqvist takes a lot of shots. He has 1,049 shots in 329 career games, or about 3.2 per game. So why didn't he score more than eight goals in the first half? Because of a lowly 6.5 shooting percentage.

    Hornqvist is actually a fantastic possession-based player, certainly the team's best, and it believes in him. It signed him to a five-year, $21.25 million deal, is first among the team's forwards with 2:48 average minutes on the power play and the percentage of shifts he gets to start in the offensive zone is always the highest on the team.

    When the Predators need a goal, this is the man to whom they turn first. Hornqvist just closed out the first half with a hot stretch of two goals and six points in five games.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Nashville isn't exactly known for a high-octane offense, so there aren't a lot of players who can help ignite Hornqvist's scoring.

    Even though his linemates have scored on only 6.7 percent of their shots, that total is actually up from last year's 5.9 percent. Indeed, in the first half he was already scoring pretty close to his career best. 

    That being said, if someone in Nashville catches fire in the second half, it will most likely be Hornqvist.

     

Michael Ryder, New Jersey Devils

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, 12 goals, eight assists, 20 points

    What to Expect

    Up to 15 goals and 15 assists, for 30 points

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Michael "Easy" Ryder replaced Ilya Kovalchuk as the team's new sniper on the top line's right side. For 18 days, that is, until the team signed future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.

    Jagr's acquisition may have actually been a blessing for Ryder, who is probably more of a second-line sniper anyway. His goals have certainly been coming, but not his assists. That may change with the healthy and strong return of Ryane Clowe, with whom Ryder (and center Adam Henrique) has already achieved good chemistry.

    Ryder closed out the first half with three goals and six points in seven games, and already has four goals in the first six games of the season's second half. If age and/or Olympic fatigue catches up with Jagr, it can only serve to provide Ryder with even more ice time and scoring opportunities.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    The criticism has always been that Ryder is a one-dimensional player, which has limited his even-strength playing time. His average ice time in such situations this season, for example, is seventh among the team's forwards.

    And while 33 may be young by New Jersey's standards, it's actually old for any player who relies on their goal-scoring abilities to remain in the lineup. There is the possibility that we're already seeing Ryder's best production.

     

John Tavares, New York Islanders

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 40 games, 16 goals, 28 assists, 44 points

    What to Expect

    Giving Sidney Crosby a run for the second-half scoring lead.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    John Tavares is much more than a point-a-game player. His numbers in the Canadian Major Juniors were jaw-dropping, and his scoring abilities in the NHL are as obvious as they are outstanding. Now he's 23, off to play with the best in the world in the Olympics, and ready to bust loose.

    Tavares has never really had top-flight linemates until now. He made top-line scoring stars out of players like Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes and now Kyle Okposo. Now he has a legitimate top-line winger in Thomas Vanek, and the average shooting percentage of his linemates has already shot up from last year's 8.5 percent to 11.6 percent so far this year.

    He finished the first half with three goals and six points in the last three games, and has continued at that pace with five goals and 12 points in the first six games of the second half. It was always only a matter of time before Tavares broke out, and that time could be now.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Even with Vanek, the Islanders just don't have a complete supporting cast for their young star. Not only might that prevent his full offensive potential from being unleashed, but it also allows opponents to key in on him exclusively. If only he had a teammate like Evgeni Malkin!

     

Rick Nash, New York Rangers

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    Scott Audette/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 24 games, eight goals, nine assists, 17 points

    What to Expect

    Over 30 points, split evenly between goals and assists.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Rick Nash's surprise selection for the Canadian Olympic hockey team may be just what the 6'4', 29-year-old needs to re-establish himself as the point-a-game player that he essentially was last year.

    Nash takes a lot of shots, 92 in 24 games in the first half, to be precise. The only problem is that only 7.0 percent of them went in. His career average is 12.5 percent, and his career low is 9.8 percent, so it's natural to expect a lot more of those to find twine in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    There's obviously some concern that Nash hasn't fully recovered from the October 8 hit from Brad Stuart, but the greater doubts may be coming from behind his own bench.

    Alain Vigneault is well known for tilting the ice in favor of his hand-selected top scoring line, and that's the Brad Richards line. Rick Nash currently finds himself on more of the Ryan Kesler line, the one that handles all the top opponents so that Richards' line can maximize its scoring.

    What few scoring opportunities remain for Nash are being contested by newfound talents like Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. These are all reasons why Nash was in on only three of the 22 goals the Rangers have scored so far in the second half. Are you still a believer?

     

     

Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

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    First-Half Scoring: 39 games, 11 goals, 19 assists, 30 points

    What to Expect

    Jason Spezza gets back to his point-a-game pace.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Spezza is a truly amazing offensive talent who actually never fully achieved his tremendous Art Ross potential. He's nevertheless a solid point producer, scoring 34 goals and 84 points in his last full season, back in 2011-12.

    This year, however, Spezza started off with absolutely no chemistry with his linemate Milan Michalek. Together they fell absolutely flat as the team's top offensive-minded line.

    Spezza's shooting percentage is currently below 10 percent, a level at which he has never finished a season. His career average is almost 15 percent! And while his linemates scored on 10.0 percent of their shots last year, they were finding twine on just 7.4 percent this year.

    The disappointing duo have since been split up, but that has left Spezza playing with the likes of Zack Smith, Colin Greening and Mark Stone. Perhaps one of them should have been selected for this list instead?

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Spezza is 30 years old, and terribly injury-prone. He missed all but five games last year to a back injury, and just got back from a hip flexor that kept him out for four games.

    More seriously, Spezza isn't used with Bobby Ryan, who instead plays on the top two-way line with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur. There's potentially a limit to what even a player of Spezza's talents can achieve without a linemate like Ryan.

     

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Michael Martin/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, 11 goals, 26 assists, 37 points

    What to Expect

    Over a point a game, and potentially in competition for the second-half scoring lead.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Claude Giroux is one of the league's top two-way forwards. He's a true leader who can play the tough minutes against top opponents, and is one of the game's best playmakers.

    There's no question that he carries Philadelphia's offense on his back. His 15:50 minutes of even-strength ice time per game is 1:30 more than any other Flyer forward. He also averages 3:55 minutes per game on the power play, tops on the team.

    In the first half Giroux averaged 0.63 assists per game, which is impressive but a fair bit less than the 0.80 assists per game he averaged over the preceding two seasons combined. While his goal-scoring has been fairly typical, the right linemates could greatly increase his assist totals.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    If Giroux is truly an elite player, why wasn't he chosen for the Canadian Olympic team? I don't know, but perhaps that snub will turn out to provide him with some extra motivation (not to mention extra rest).

    Aside from the concern that Giroux doesn't have the right linemates to fully unleash his offensive potential, the main question has been whether or not he's too streaky. Recently he scored six goals and 17 points in just nine games, but he didn't score a goal until the 16th game of the season, at which point he had just seven assists. Will the real Claude Giroux please stand up?

     

Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Debora Robinson/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 39 games, 11 goals, 18 assists, 29 points

    What to Expect

    More goals! Vrbata scored 35 goals in 77 games in 2011-12 but just 23 goals in the 77 games since then.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    One of the many puzzling omissions from the Czech Olympic team, Radim Vrbata has really been stepping it up in his contract year.

    As the first half season came to a close, Vrbata led the Coyotes with 141 shots in 39 games. That's over 3.6 shots per game, the highest average in his 12-season career. The problem is that only 7.3 percent of those shots have gone in, instead of the 13.9 percent average over the past two years.

    At least his playmaking is already at full speed, thanks to great chemistry with countryman Martin Hanzal on the top line. In fact, Vrbata already has five assists in the first four games of the season's second half. Once his own shots start going in, Vrbata could approach the point-per-game pace. Or at least as close to it as a Coyote can get.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Vrbata is 32 years old, and doesn't exactly have a lot of snipers to work with in Phoenix. Of course, that also means there isn't really anyone who poses serious competition for his ice time.

     

     

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 24 games, 6 goals, 5 assists, 11 points

    What to Expect

    Kris Letang recorded 80 points in 86 games over the previous two seasons, and could easily score near the point-a-game pace again, thanks to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Obviously the two most important numbers with regards to Letang's scoring are 87 and 71.

    Last year Letang recorded 33 assists in 35 games because the Penguins scored on 11.4 percent of their shots when he was on the ice. And the reason they had but five assists in the first half of this season is because they scored on only 5.5 percent.

    Letang's scoring will obviously turn around. The team believes in him, awarding him a shocking eight-year, $58 million deal. He's 26, in his prime and along with Paul Martin is getting the most ice time at both even strength and on the power play.

    A big increase in his assist totals is about the safest prediction on this list.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    The only real cause for concern are Letang's frequent injuries. He has missed 63 games over the past three seasons, and just got back from an elbow injury. But if Letang's in the lineup, the scoring will come.

     

Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, 13 goals, nine assists, 22 points

    What to Expect

    Chris Stewart led the Blues with 36 points in 48 games last year. He could contend for the team's second-half scoring lead.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Stewart's scoring isn't always predictable, but it has a huge upside. At his best the 26-year-old power forward has scored 28 goals (twice) and over 60 points.

    The Blues are doing everything they can to stimulate Stewart's scoring. The percentage of shifts he starts in the offensive zone is the highest on the team, he gets to play with offensively creative veteran Derek Roy, is largely sheltered from facing top opponents and can therefore focus more exclusively on scoring.

    So far it has worked, in short stretches at least. In one recent streak he scored eight goals in just six games. As the Blues' top line's scoring begins to fade, there's real potential that Stewart can step in and fill that offensive gap.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Aside from his scoring, Stewart is not one of the team's stronger players, especially defensively and as it relates to the possession-based game. That may not fly on a Hitchcock-coached team, and one reason why he currently ranks eighth among the team's forwards in average even-strength ice time.

    No one really seemed to know how Stewart started scoring all those points in the first place, let alone why it stopped, and whether or not it will start up again. But the potential for a big second half is there.

     

     

Tyler Kennedy, San Jose Sharks

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 39 games, three goals, nine assists, 12 points

    What to Expect

    At his peak Tyler Kennedy scored 24 goals and 45 points in 2010-11.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    In February 2013, a new catch-all statistic called Total Hockey Rating (THoR) found that Pittsburgh's third-line winger, Tyler Kennedy, was actually the league's third-best forward. While that may have sounded ridiculous (and still does), the best forward was identified as Alexander Steen. Maybe there's something there!

    Let's face it, there aren't a lot of Sharks who aren't already scoring at full speed. With all of their recent injuries, it could make room for someone to step up and post some serious points. Could it be Kennedy? Stranger things have happened.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Not only is it hard to find any traditional scouting report that describes Kennedy as having an upside higher than a third-line checker, but beyond the above, there aren't any other analytic studies that do, either.

     

Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 25 games, three goals, six assists, nine points

    What to Expect

    If he's healthy, Ryan Malone could earn the opportunity to score up to 10 goals and 20 points in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Obviously Malone's scoring is dependent on getting ice time on the top line, especially on the power play.

    Malone still averages 1:50 of power play time per night, and has played almost half his even-strength minutes with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos this season. He could get those opportunities again.

    Even though he's currently on the fourth line, the three left wingers ahead of him on the depth chart have a combined NHL experience of just 167 games, which is barely a quarter of Malone's. If they begin to falter, coach Jon Cooper will start to call on his veteran more frequently.

    He managed at to score at least 20 goals in six of his first eight seasons, and for a cap hit of $4.5 million, Tampa Bay surely wanted a seventh. Malone did manage 48 shots in 25 games, but his 6.3 shooting percentage is less than half his career average of 14.3 percent.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Malone is 34, injury-prone, is buried on the fourth line, and hasn't scored in years. It's possible that he's just done.

    Malone hasn't played 70 games in a season since 2008-09, and obviously won't this year either. He managed just eight points in 24 games last year, almost exactly the same as this year's first half. With only 10 minutes of fourth-line playing time per night, maybe a single point in three games is all that can be expected.

     

David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 28 games, three goals, five assists, eight points

    What to Expect

    David Clarkson's goal-scoring rate could potentially triple in the second half.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    OK, the seven-year, $36.75 million contract the Toronto Maple Leafs offered Clarkson this past offseason was a risky one. We've already covered that. Setting that aside, Clarkson isn't that bad a player overall, and has been hit with some bad scoring luck so far.

    Just what happened to his goal scoring? He posted 45 goals in his final 128 games as a Devil. This year his shooting percentage has been just 4.5 percent, less than half his career average. As for his assists, his linemates are scoring on just 5.0 percent of their shots, the lowest on the team.

    There's clearly some potential for a big scoring increase here, even if nothing happens except some better shooting luck. Not all the way to a 30-goal pace, but certainly far more than three goals.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Assigning someone to a defensive role on the third line with the likes of Nikolai Kulemin or Jay McClement didn't exactly do wonders to Mikhail Grabovski's scoring. Clarkson has no points in the first six games of the second half, and had just three points in December.

    If Clarkson's scoring has any chance of being re-kindled, he'll need to get paired up with some legitimate top-six players.

     

Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 27 games, three goals, six assists, nine points

    What to Expect

    Twenty points.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Alexander Edler is Vancouver's No. 1 defenseman. Last year his average of 3:34 minutes of power-play time was second on the team to Daniel Sedin, and he led the team at even strength with 18:16 minutes per game.

    The 27-year-old was averaging exactly three shots a game before his injury, which is actually up from last year. The real scoring problem has been that the Canucks have scored on only 5.2 percent of their shots when he's been on the ice this year. That's down 2.0 percent from last year, and can't possibly be his fault.

    The sizable Swede has been a very consistent scorer over the past five seasons, and could get a big boost from playing in his first Olympics.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Assuming Edler has fully recovered from his knee injury, there's really no reason to question a second-half scoring increase. It's possible that his playing time may not be fully restored due to how well the rest of the top four is playing, but the effect will be only minor.

     

John Carlson, Washington Capitals

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 40 games, seven goals, eight assists, 15 points

    What to Expect

    A lot more assists, leading to at least 20 points, and the potential for a breakout.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    One of the league's most underrated defenseman is Washington's John Carlson, but the secret may get out in Sochi.

    Carlson, who just turned 24, is a hard-working two-way defenseman who has been reunited this season with his old partner, Karl Alzner. Together they're getting more opportunities with Alexander Ovechkin at even strength, and coach Adam Oates is going to Carlson over Mike Green on the power play more and more frequently.

    While his goal scoring is already quite high, expect his assist totals to get boosted by that extra power-play time, a team shooting percentage that bounces back from 7.2 to 10.5 percent when he's on the ice, and the impact of playing with and against the best players in the world at the Olympics.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    With only three points in December, and just a single point so far in the first five games of the second half, there's the risk that Oates may decide to go back to Mike Green for the scoring, and dedicate John Carlson to playing defensive situations. If so, Carlson would be fortunate to merely match his first-half scoring totals.

     

     

Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    First-Half Scoring: 41 games, four goals, eight assists, 12 points

    What to Expect

    Over 20 points in the second half, and potentially doubling his first half's totals.

     

    Reasons to Believe

    Tobias Enstrom is one of the keys to Winnipeg's highly underrated blue line. He has been a consistent and relatively mistake-free veteran presence for years, a great puck-moving defenseman and solid possession-based player. The Swedish Olympic team may regret leaving him home.

    As more of a playmaker than a shooter, Enstrom's scoring is highly reliant on the finishing abilities of his teammates. Their combined 6.6 percent shooting percentage, a total lower than any other Winnipeg defenseman has had to deal with, is the main reason why Enstrom's assist totals were so low in the first half.

    Enstrom's scoring numbers will rebound in time. Along with Dustin Byfuglien, he still gets the bulk of the power-play time, and offensive-minded opportunities with their scoring lines, just like he had when posting back-to-back 50-point seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Things are already turning around, with three points in six games so far this month.

     

    Reasons to Doubt

    Enstrom started the season with six points in the first five games, but then managed just seven points in the following 37.

    Is he healthy? Enstrom missed a combined 46 games over the previous two seasons, and though he hasn't missed a game this year, he may not be playing at 100 percent.

    Short of some kind of injury, there's no other reason to expect Enstrom to continue on this pace and finish the season with just 24 points (or fewer).

     

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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