It’s always interesting to take a look at players who exceeded expectations with career years (or even returning to past glory). Here’s three of ’em:
Radim Vrbata – In 77 games, he scored 35 goals (8 above his prior career high), tallied 27 assists and put up a +24 (17 above his prior career high). His 62 points helped lead Phoenix to the postseason. Where did this come from? Well, it’s not like he was a dud. He averaged 45.5 points over his last two years with Phoenix, and in ’07-’08 (his first go around with the coyotes), he scored 56 points. Phoenix has a good team, which will help elevate a good player to a really good I wish I drafted him late player. Considering he will only be 31 next season, I would look to draft him in the mid rounds. Even if he falls back a little, 45 points isn’t going to break your team, and the chance for upside is worth it.
James Neal – This guy has always had potential, but he’s been banged around like a free whore in Singapore. Despite that, I don’t think anyone thought a healthy Neal would produce 40 goals and 41 assists, but there you go. It helps being on the same line as Sidney Crosby. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this 81 point season was part of his evolution as a player. Nevertheless, I’m not willing to bet your unborn baby that he reaches 80 points again, but I would double down fetus that he makes 70 points on that high octane Pittsburgh team.
Joffrey Lupul – Many, many years ago, this was a guy who could give you 20 goals and 25 assists. Injuries took the wind out of his sails, and he was just afloat on a sea of disappointment. Well, ’11-’12 rolled around, and for a sort of full season of 66 games, Lupul scored 25 goals with 42 assists. Has Joffrey finally ascended to the throne? Well, the man is still under 30 and showed potential early in his career, but on that team I’m not expecting him to reach 67 points again. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him reach 53 points, but what do I know? I can’t even make a smooth Game of Thrones reference.