Our friends over at Canucks Army did a deep dive into the Pacific Division to determine some potential sleepers and rebound players.
It wasn’t long ago that the California road trip was such a dreaded one for teams around the league, but with Anaheim and LA undergoing makeovers that feeling has changed. This is a team with a collection of names that includes Kase, Terry, Guhle, Steel and Sprong who have the potential to make great strides in their game, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll touch on the last two.
With the Coyotes, Nick Schmaltz is set to have a bounce-back year and could be a good buy-low candidate in fantasy leagues. He had an up and down year being traded on November 23rd, then going down with a torn meniscus, which required surgery and sidelined him for the rest of the season, but he has been skating over the summer and is almost back to normal.
I was excited to talk about Jusso Valimaki here as the Flame would really make a name for himself around the league, but with his indefinite absence, we will have to turn to Rasmus Andersson. Andersson will likely begin his contract year on the third pairing, but could see time with Mark Giordano as he did last year during his solid rookie campaign.
Living in Edmonton means that every summer I get to hear from the locals about all of the players that are going to improve on last season’s numbers, but after taking a look through their roster, I can only really see two names who have the potential to prove them right.
The Kings are a similar team to the one we first touched on in that they have multiple players that could crack the opening lineup and play their first full years with the club. Austin Wagner will have a good chance to do that after not cracking the opening lineup last season only to called up later to eventually play 62 games with the Kings tallying 21 points. The 2015 fourth round pick isn’t nearly on the same level as the players above, but he’s a great under-the-radar player to effectively fill a bottom six role in the upcoming season.
The last California team to stay at the top of the division has done so in part by drafting and developing well. Timo Meier was picked ninth overall by the Doug Wilson in the 2015 draft as has put his name on the map already, but I couldn’t help myself from including him in this piece, because I still feel like he deserves more attention. An off-season that began with him in the massive group of outstanding RFAs led to him being one of the first signed, which kept headlines off the 22 year old, and on others.
I wanted to key in on only one player from the Canucks who has the potential to have a much better season than last. It’s unclear where Green will have Pearson slot in, but wherever it is, he will improve on last season, which was his worst in terms of point production since the year he broke into the league. Bouncing between three teams surely doesn’t help a player get into a groove, but playing a full season in Vancouver will. The player Pearson was in previous seasons is reflected in the WAR chart below.