The 2015-16 campaign isn't quite over yet, but given that the focus will soon shift to the playoffs I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the season that's about to end.
I gave some thought as to what kind of reflection I wanted to do and rather than assemble some kind of Fantasy All-Star team or give player awards, I thought it might be best to highlight the players I found to be most disappointing and the biggest pleasant surprises.
I'll start on a positive note, so here are my three pleasant surprises in no particular order:
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Jaromir Jagr (26 goals, 64 points, plus-21 rating, 48 PIM)
The other two on the list will be young players, but for Jagr to do what he's done at the age of 43 (44 now, but he was 43 for most of the campaign) is incredible. To provide some context, Jagr's 64 points is the most ever recorded from someone that was at least 42 years old, per hockey-reference. The next best was Gordie Howe, who had 52 points in 63 games in 1970-71. After that it's Mark Recchi, who had 48 points in 81 games in 2011-12 and then it's the 47 points Jagr had last season.
The fact that Jagr also holds the No. 4 spot further highlights his longevity because he's the only player occupying two of the top-five spots and he actually improved substantially from his 2014-15 campaign despite the fact that he's approaching his mid-40s.
You could still argue that Howe's longevity was more impressive, especially if you want to factor in his success in the WHA, but regardless of where you stand in the comparison between the two, there's no question that Jagr is remarkable.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (20 goals, 75 points, plus-24 rating, 30 PIM)
It wasn't unreasonable to believe that Kuznetsov would take a step forward this season and that it would even be a big one, but he's more than doubled his 2014-15 rookie total. There are a lot of reasons why Washington has been dominant this season, but one of the causes of their rise is the fact that they don't have to rely on Alex Ovechkin anymore - at least not exclusively.
Ovechkin might still be their best sniper, but it's Kuznetsov that's leading the team in terms of points.
Artemi Panarin (28 goals, 74 points, plus-five rating, 32 PIM)
Panarin was a big question mark going into this season. He was a superstar in the KHL - he even outscored teammate Ilya Kovalchuk last season - but would his offensive skills translate immediately at the NHL level?
As it turns out, he didn't need any time at all. He's proven to be a steal for the Chicago Blackhawks, which won the Stanley Cup in 2015 but then had to make sacrifices over the summer to stay cap compliant.
With 74 points, Panarin is the most offensively prolific rookie season Paul Stastny and Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07, who recorded 78 and 85 points respective. That includes, Patrick Kane, who had 72 points in his 2007-08 rookie season.
With that said, let's talk about the players that haven't fared as well...
Carey Price (10 Wins, 2.06 GAA, .934 SV%)
Obviously, this one has nothing to do with Price's play, but after having the rare distinction of winning the Hart Trophy as a goaltender, the fact that Price was unavailable for the vast majority of the 2015-16 was easily one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Who knows if he would have been able to save Montreal this season, but the Canadiens were certainly built around him and looked nearly unstoppable prior to his injury. It seems hard to believe now that they were truly a Stanley Cup contender if they truly were this dependent on one player, but when that player is Price, it starts to feel believable.
Rick Nash (15 goals, 36 points, plus-seven rating, 26 PIM)
Nash was coming off of a strong season where he scored 42 goals and 69 points in 79 contests. Granted he was a bit more of a mixed bag in the playoffs, but even there he did have some big games against the Tampa Bay Lightning before the Rangers were eliminated.
At any rate, he's gone from having one of his best seasons to one of his worst. And that's not an exaggeration - his 42 goals in 2014-15 was a career-high for him and if he stays at 15 goals this will be a new low-point. He's also in danger of setting a personal worst in points as his previous low-point was his 39-point rookie season.
Nash has been limited to 58 games this season and he deserves a little slack for that, but he certainly hasn't been great even when he has been healthy. The Rangers just need to hope that he bounces back in the playoffs.
Nick Foligno (11 goals, 36 points, minus-15 rating, 49 PIM)
Foligno broke out last season with 31 goals and 73 points in 79 contests, but that certainly looks like an anomaly now. His 11 goals and 36 points in 2015-16 is much closer to what we're used to from him, so on the one hand my disappointment has to be tempered by the fact that some level of regression was likely for the 28-year-old forward. Even still, a complete reversal can't be described as anything but a disappointment.
I'm sure the Blue Jackets feel the same as they gave him a six-year, $33 million contract that began this season. If he doesn't manage to at least partially recapture his 2014-15 magic in the years to come, that's going to be a contender for the worst active contract.