Saturday, September 3, 2011

Breakout Candidates

A few players per team who up to this point have been a little off the radar but from whom I'm expecting big years.

Anaheim: Luca Sbisa. He's the one young player on that team who has yet to establish himself.

Los Angeles: Andrei Loktionov. He's a complete prospect, right up there with the Schenns and Halls of the world, and should be able to post strong numbers now that he's healthy and can soak up soft minutes that Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar will leave for him.

San Jose: Martin Havlat. Feeding pucks to Logan Couture and other San Jose snipers should boost his counting stats.

Phoenix: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With Jovanovski moving on, OEL should see an increased role, and coupled with general development curves and his raw tools and I think he'll be a solid offensive option behind Keith Yandle. Recent acquisition Daymond Langkow and Martin Hanzal should benefit from each other as well, since they can split tough minutes now.

Dallas: Jamie Benn. Under the shadow of Brad Richards no longer, Benn is a young power forward who drives Corsi, like Eric Fehr but younger, more durable, and "toolsier." I think he'll emerge as the best forward on that team.

Calgary: I'm at a loss. Poorly run organization. Backlund, maybe.

Edmonton: Several options here. Jeff Petry has lots of potential. Taylor Hall looked like he'd finally figured out this NHL thing just before he got hurt. Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark didn't get favorable percentages, but assuming those rebound, they develop, and Eric Belanger helps out that line could actually be very strong both ways. And Jordan Eberle keeps defying the odds.

Vancouver: Gotta go with Cody Hodgson here. He's reaching that age, around 22-24, when many offensive players hit their first peak.

Colorado: Semyon Varlamov gets very little respect for how good he can be. If I had to pick one goalie for a game tomorrow, there isn't more than a handful of goalies I'd take ahead of him. What I think will help him most is the huge contrast I'm looking for between his numbers and those of JS Giguere, who may next season be the worst goaltending partner Varlamov has ever had.

Minnesota: Pierre-Marc Bouchard is finally healthy after missing over 100 games with concussion-related issues. He'll play with one or more of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, the best scorers he's had since Marian Gaborik.

Chicago: Michal Frolik. He shot an atrocious percentage for no discernible reason last year, and playing with a dominant possession team like Chicago should boost his numbers through the roof.

Detroit: Look for Ian White or a young player like Brendan Smith to step into the lineup and make an impact. I think Detroit's NHL roster depth is pretty overrated, but their prospect pool is the best there is.

Columbus: Derick Brassard had a strong showing his first year, struggled the next, but returned to form last year. He'll get softer minutes as Carter can step in and beat toughs singkehandedly.

St. Louis: T.J. Oshie was on track to post over sixty points before breaking his ankle. Patrik Berglund took the proverbial next step, nearly hitting sixty points last year after only getting 34 the year before. Both look like they'll improve some more, and as St. Louis looks like it'll be a better squad this year, btw are set for some strong counting stats. As is Alex Pietrangelo, who is nipping at Tyler Myers' heels for second best defenseman drafted in 2008 but is only nipping at Vyacheslav Voynov's heels in terms of hype among 2008-drafted D.

Nashville: Easy choices here--Ryan Ellis and Jon Blum. Ellis had the first 100 point season by a defenseman in the CHL since the mid 90s, while Blum took the next step and became a top-4 defenseman on that Predators team.

Boston: Another easy pick here with Tyler Seguin, who had a very disappointing rookie season.

Montreal: PK Subban was a top pair defenseman outscoring toughs by year's end. With Markov due to return and Gorges stepping into Hamrlik's spot, Subban should see more favorable ice time and post great numbers.

Buffalo: I'm going to switch this around a bit and pick who I think is due for a big regression. Sorry, Pegula and Regier, but Ville Leino isn't all that good. He's Tim Connolly but more durable, and played with noted playoff scorer Daniel Briere.

Ottawa: David Rundblad might have posted the best season by a defenseman in the SEL ever last season, considering he was only 20 (point pet game). I honestly expect him to QB their PP and beat soft minutes and be a Calder finalist.

Toronto: It's Nazem Kadri time. Carl Gunnarsson is easily the second best defenseman from 2007 behind Karl Alzner and is reaching the age where physical maturity will play in his favor.

Philadelphia: Brayden Schenn is the best player outside the NHL and James van Riemsdyk is entering his third season, which seems to me when power forwards start showing off their potential.

Pittsburgh: James Neal got a lot of press after being traded, and the media must like him considering the "Crosby needs a winger" talk died down thereafter, bugi still think he has much more than he's shown us thus far. Malkin and Crosby (and even Staal) are the best enters he's ever had.

New Jersey: I think Mattias Tedenby will end up playing with Kovalchuk and Elias, which makes for a very deadly combination, especially considering the inevitable regression in shooting percentage.

New York Rangers: Artem Anisimov is already 2C caliber and is due for a huge season. Similarly, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, and Tim Erixon are all top four and probably capable of playing top lines.

New York Islanders: I would like to pick Nino Niederreiter, but I don't see his spot in the top six. John Tavares should challenge forty goals and Mark Streit will remind everyone that he's a legitimate 1D who can play at a Norris level.

Carolina: Alexei Ponikarovsky is one of the best tough minutes wingers in the game, and may very well find himself next to Eric Staal.

Florida: Let's go with Tomas Fleischmann here, but in the Buffalo sense. I wouldn't even pay him $1.5 million, let alone $4.5 million.

Winnipeg: Andrew Ladd will get much more press thanks to CBC and TSN, and Evander Kane is entering his third season and is set to shine.

Tampa Bay: Everyone had forgotten about Victor Hedman. While he had a "meh" rookie season, everything clicked for him in his sophomore season as he went from being killed by first-toughs to killing second-toughs. With Lundin moving on, Hedman should figure more prominently in every situation, and more ice time equals more points. 

Washington: Easy choice for me here with Marcus Johansson, though, like with Anaheim, it's more because I don't really see anyone else. Maybe Tomas Vokoun.

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