In the NHL, things always tend to return to the mean. Another way of saying that is that form is temporary and class is permanent. That’s specifically true on an individual level.

At the start of every NHL season, you’ll find guys who can’t stop scoring who couldn’t find the back of the net for most of their careers, or guys who usually fill the net missing it more often than a stormtrooper shooting at a Jedi.

But as the season progresses, those trends have a way of balancing out.

With the 2022-23 NHL season off the starting line, we’re already starting to see who those players are. So we can pinpoint a few who are bound to progress or regress as the year goes on.

Why does that matter for a gambling site? Because you can get ahead of the trend and find some value before sportsbooks can react to the changing tide. Here are four guys to focus on this year.

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NHL Breakout and Regress Candidates

Breakout: Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders)

The New York Islanders center has zero goals for the year. Zero. And while Barzal isn’t a goal scorer by trade, he still puts up 15 to 25 goals a year. Over his career, he has converted 11.2 percent of his shots into goals. He’s obviously at zero percent on 40 shots this year. Based on his usual conversion rate, he should have five goals.

And it’s not as if Barzal isn’t doing enough to carve out good chances. He’s carrying a 4.73 xGF in all situations so far this year, which backs up what we’ve already deduced based on his career shooting percentage: The goals will come for Barzal. So start adding his name to your “anytime goal scorer” list. 

At the time of writing, Barzal is going into a matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets holding +215 odds as an anytime goal scorer at sportsbook Bodog. That’s $215 worth of profit on a winning $100 bet – excellent value for a guy who is going to hit the back of the net eventually.

Regression: Erik Karlsson (San Jose Sharks)

The former Ottawa Senators defenseman has 10 goals and 21 points in 15 games for the San Jose Sharks. I bring up the Senators because we haven’t seen this version of Karlsson since his days in the Canadian capital. Karlsson hasn’t put up more than 10 goals in a season since 2016-17 when he scored 17. And while we’re all glad to see him back to his best, how long will it last?

The puck-moving d-man is hitting 7.6 goals above expected in all situations this year. He should have around three goals based on his 2.4 xGF in all situations. If that isn’t the makings of a regression candidate, I don’t know what is.

Now that doesn’t mean Karlsson will be garbage the rest of the way, but expect his luck, as it relates to goals, to dry up a bit. So while you add Barzal to your “anytime goal scorer” list, take off Erik Karlsson at the same time.

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Breakout: Sam Bennett (Florida Panthers)

Since moving to Florida from Calgary, center Sam Bennett has played the best hockey of his career. This season, he’s got three goals and eight points in 14 games. That puts him on pace for 47 points, which is around the production he put up in his first year with the Panthers.

But no player has a lower goals above expected rate than Bennett’s -4.8 this year. Based on where he’s getting his chances on the ice, Bennett should be at around eight goals on the year per his 7.35 xGF in all situations.  

Again, his production is where we expect it, but it seems he’s got another gear to hit.

Regression: Nick Ritchie (Arizona Coyotes)

The former 10th overall pick has struggled to be more than a replacement-level player at the NHL level. His best year was in ’18-19 when he scored nine goals and 31 points in 60 games, which translates to a full-season pace of 12 goals and 42 points.

Through 13 games in ’22-23, Ritchie is fourth on the Arizona Coyotes in points with eight and on pace to hit 51 points, which would smash his previous career high. But he is also converting shots to goals at a 33.3 percent rate this season. That just isn’t sustainable.

In 2021-22, even the best snipers in the league converted 14 to 20 percent of their shots to goals. Ritchie, who’s never been much of a goal scorer, has averaged a 9.9 percent shooting rate since entering the league in 2015-16. His shot conversion rate is up more than 230 percent. That is just not sustainable. Fade him as a goal scorer ASAP.

If you disagree, put your money where your mouth is on Saturday as the Coyotes take on the Devils. Ritchie is +350 to score a goal at any time according to sportsbook Bodog.

While we’re on the subject of the Coyotes and shooting percentages, the ’Yotes hold the third-highest all-situation shooting rate in the league at 12.0 percent. Only the Stars and Sabres are better at 12.1 percent each.

No one expected that the Coyotes would be two points out of a wild-card spot by November 12. This team should regress – and regress fast. So while you’re at it, start fading the Coyotes too.

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