5 fantasy bounce-back candidates
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Several household hockey names known for putting up strong fantasy numbers struggled mightily in the 2017-18 campaign.

In many instances, it might have been a sign of career regression, but these five stars are likely to bounce back this season:

Max Pacioretty, Golden Knights

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Pacioretty is coming off his least productive season since becoming a full-time NHLer during the 2011-12 campaign.

The 29-year-old posted just 17 goals in 64 games after scoring no fewer than 30 in the previous four seasons. That dropped his point total from 67 to 37.

The scoring woes can be blamed in part on bad puck luck. Pacioretty registered his lowest shooting percentage (eight percent) since the 2009-10 season, when he split time between the NHL and AHL. Playing most of his minutes alongside Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw, who combined for 18 goals, didn't set him up for success, either.

Pacioretty will now get a fresh start with the Vegas Golden Knights, and for the first time in years, is expected to slot alongside a solid top-line center in Paul Stastny. Pacioretty should be able to play carefree having shed the stresses that come with serving as captain in Montreal.

These factors should set the winger up to focus solely on his game. With that, don't be surprised to see the veteran forward eclipse the 30-goal plateau once again.

Jason Spezza, Stars

Spezza will look to put a dreadful 2017-18 behind him.

The 35-year-old Dallas Stars forward had the worst statistical season of his career aside from his rookie campaign, in which he played just 33 games. He put up just eight goals and 26 points in 78 games after recording 15 and 50 in 68 games in the 2016-17 season.

Spezza averaged 3:10 less ice time per game last season compared to 2017 and his shooting percentage dropped to 5.8 percent, good for 460th in the NHL among those who played at least 25 games. It didn't help that he was moved from his native center to the wing for parts of the season.

New coach Jim Montgomery has already expressed interest in having Spezza move back to center, and he has high expectations for the veteran. He might not have another 60-point season, but he should manage more than 26.

Brandon Saad, Blackhawks

After returning to the team he spent his first three seasons with, Saad put up the lowest point total of his career (35) in a full season, with six fewer goals and 18 fewer points than the season prior. He tallied just one point on the power play, despite logging the fifth-most time with the man advantage among Blackhawks forwards.

Saad appears to be a victim of the team's overall regression last season, as he was coming off three straight 50-plus-point campaigns. The 25-year-old played alongside captain Jonathan Toews, who put up the lowest goal total of his career (20) and his lowest point total (52) in a full season.

With more puck luck (he recorded a career-worst 7.6 shooting percentage last season) and a return to form from his teammates, Saad can easily return to his former 50-point self.

Bryan Little, Jets

Little managed to produce less year over year in 2017-18 despite playing in 23 more games.

The 30-year-old put up 21 goals and 47 points in 59 games during the 2016-17 season and followed that up this past year with 16 goals and 43 points while playing all 82.

One of the biggest reasons for the drop appears to be a lack of opportunities. Little took just 10 more shots last year than he did in 2016-2017 despite playing in far more games.

He saw fewer chances once the Jets acquired Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues, as he was moved down to the team's third line. He went from playing alongside Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers to seeing regular minutes with Mathieu Perreault and Jack Roslovic.

With Stastny gone, Little's expected to move back into a top-six role, and the extra minutes should boost his production.

T.J. Oshie, Capitals

The 2017-18 season wasn't a disaster for Oshie - heck, the guy won the Stanley Cup - but there's no getting around the fact that he had a down year.

The 31-year-old recorded 18 goals and 47 points in 74 games after reaching a career-high 33 goals and 56 points in six fewer games in 2016-17.

The biggest difference year over year looks to be his linemates. In 2016-17, Oshie played 513 minutes at even strength alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. This past year, he played just 50 minutes with that duo and split the majority of his time with either Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana or Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky. He had less lineup stability and fewer minutes alongside the team's superstars.

Of course, Oshie contributed 21 points in 24 playoff games, so perhaps we've already seen proof he'll have a stronger 2019 season.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

5 fantasy bounce-back candidates
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