Damon Severson (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Maintaining success isn’t easy in the NHL and sophomore players find that out every season. After promising freshman seasons, these five second-year players are having a tough time finding their game in 2015-16.
It’s rare in today’s game that the sophomore slump hits rookie standouts hard. With the way the game has changed over the past several seasons, rookies who break out are usually able to maintain their level of play because the speed and skill that made them stand out as freshman doesn’t disappear in a single season.
That said, not all second-year players are able to avoid a step back in their sophomore season. Be it a coaching change, decrease in minutes or simply a lack of puck luck, not every rookie who stood out continues on an upward trajectory. Here are five players who’ve struggled in their second season in the big league:
5. Jonathan Drouin
Drouin, 20, is a different case than most slumping second-year players. Drouin made the most out of limited ice time in his rookie season and managed four goals and 32 points in 70 games, but he had a tough time getting a regular shift on a talented Tampa Bay team. He never quite found his fit, though, and was demoted to the Lightning’s AHL affiliate after only two goals and eight points in 19 games this season.
Following the demotion, it came to light that Drouin had asked out of Tampa Bay. Drouin played seven games in the AHL, scored two goals and three points, but told the Lightning he was going to sit out until he was dealt. He hasn’t played since Jan. 18.
4. Melker Karlsson
The Sharks winger was a pleasant surprise last season, but he hasn’t shown near the same effectiveness in 2015-16. Karlsson, 25, scored 13 goals and 24 points in 53 games during the 2014-15 season, but he hasn’t found the same scoring touch this season.
Karlsson’s ice time, nearly 15:30 per game last season, has dropped by more than a minute and a half, and he started his season in the AHL. It took a month with the San Jose Barracuda before Karlsson was called up to the NHL.
Part of Karlsson’s struggles likely have to do with San Jose’s depth issues and the club’s inability to find any consistency in their bottom-six. Since mid-January, Karlsson has only played more than 12 minutes in a game once, and he’s had three games below 10 minutes of ice time.
3. Nikita Zadorov
He’s not the biggest name, but Zadorov looked like he was ready to become a top-four defenseman after his play on the Buffalo blueline last season. Zadorov had three goals and 15 points in 60 games last season and came close to 18 minutes per game on the Buffalo blueline. As a 19-year-old, that was promising, and because of his ceiling, he was a big part of the package that was sent to Colorado in order to bring Ryan O’Reilly to the Sabres in the off-season.
Zadorov hasn’t shown the same type of promise in his sophomore season, though. He’s only suited up for 16 games for the Avalanche and his minutes have fluctuated big time. In NHL action this season, he’s only found the score sheet twice, and both points were assists. It’s no surprise that most of his season has been spent in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage.
2. Josh Jooris
Jooris wasn’t an every-game player for the Flames last season, but his ability to provide depth scoring when he was in the lineup made him an incredible asset for Calgary. In 60 games, he netted 12 goals and 24 points, and that was while skating primarily third- and fourth-line minutes. No one was expecting him to be the second-coming of Jarome Iginla, but the Flames wouldn’t have been wrong to hope he could become a 15- or 20-goal scorer in his second season in the NHL.
The offense hasn’t been there for Jooris this season and neither has coach Bob Hartley’s confidence in him. Jooris, 25, has scored only three goals and seven points. He’s been a healthy scratch 16 times this season and when he does get ice time, it hasn’t been much. Jooris is averaging less than 12 minutes of ice time. It hasn’t been a successful second season.
1. Damon Severson
Severson missed 31 games last season after fracturing his ankle, but before going down he was a sneaky Calder Trophy candidate. He was one of the more steady blueliners on a Devils team that wasn’t stacked on the backend. He averaged close to 22 minutes of ice time per game as a freshman and his five goals and 12 points weren’t bad for a 20-year-old first-year defenseman.
Things haven’t gone so well in Year Two for Severson, though. In the second game of the season, he was made a healthy scratch, but he picked up his play enough to become a consistent part of the Devils’ lineup. First-year coach John Hynes hasn’t found the same trust in Severson’s play as New Jersey’s coaching staff had last season, though. His average ice time is down by more than three and a half minutes, and Saturday, for the second straight game, Severson was a scratch.