NHL.com's seven 'breakthrough players' for 2010-11

jonathanberniergoalie.jpgLast season, Steven Stamkos went from a disappointing rookie to a sophomore sensation, tying Sydney Crosby for the most goals in the NHL. His breakthrough season inspired NHL.com to name its seven candidates for a breakout season in 2010-11. Here’s the list, plus a few selected paragraphs and some commentary.

Jonathan Bernier, LA Kings

If there were any doubts, Bernier laid them to rest with a superb showing (3-0-0, 1.30 goals-against average) during a late-season call-up that left Kings fans wondering if he should be their team’s playoff starter — and with little doubt that he’s their goaltender of the future.

Eh, I don’t know if three starts erase all doubts of Bernier being an answer in net. Don’t get me wrong, Bernier seems super-promising but let’s not get carried away here. Still, Jonathan Quick has reason to look over his shoulder.

Michael Grabner, Florida Panthers

Peter Mueller, Colorado Avalanche

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

Couture showed in junior hockey (39 goals and 87 points in 62 games his final season) and in the AHL (20-33-53 in 42 games for Worcester) that he has the skills to contribute offensively. That could be just what the Sharks need as they look for more scoring from their bottom-six forwards to keep teams from overloading on the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.

johncarlson.jpgI expected a lot more change in San Jose, to be honest. Still, the team had to let Manny Malhotra go and that will open up some room for Couture to make an impact.

Karl Alzner, Washington Capitals

John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Carlson has been an offensive force at every level he’s played at, including the AHL, where he was 4-35-39 in 48 games for the Bears last season (he had 1 goal and 5 assists in 22 games with the Caps). With a couple of openings coming on the blue line in D.C., there’s room for Carlson to join Alzner and step in.

The Capitals won the Southeast division and Presidents Trophy without Carlson and Alzner. Can you imagine how scary that team will be once those guys develop?

Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators

With Jason Arnott sent to New Jersey in an offseason trade, the first-line center role is there for Wilson to grab. Wilson has been an offensive force at every level he’s played at, and the Predators will give him every opportunity to play a major role this season.

If any team could use a little “oomph” from a young player – especially on offense – it’s the Nashville Predators.

So, there’s NHL.com’s list of possible breakthrough players. I’m not quite as sure about Grabner, Wilson and Couture but the Capitals’ defensive duo, Mueller and Bernier look like they could make a big impact. Later today, I’ll share a few of my own guesses.

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    After 8-1 loss to Isles, Oilers send Reinhart to AHL, make Schultz healthy scratch

    Edmonton Oilers' Justin Schultz (19) and New York Rangers' Dominic Moore (28) fight for control of the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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    Not surprisingly, Edmonton’s 8-1 loss to the Islanders on Sunday didn’t pass without consequences.

    The Oilers announced this morning that defenseman Griffin Reinhart had been sent down to the AHL. Additionally, defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight in New Jersey.

    Reinhart was a team-worst minus-4 versus the Isles.

    Schultz, whose name has been coming up in trade rumors…

    …was a minus-2.

    “He needs to watch a game and reflect on his play and what his impact is offensively and defensively,” coach Todd McLellan told reporters of the decision to sit Schultz against the Devils.

    Darnell Nurse and Adam Clendening, scratches in Brooklyn, will replace Reinhart and Schultz in the lineup.

    Turris understands Drouin’s situation, says requesting trade out of Phoenix ‘saved’ him

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    Kyle Turris was far from an accomplished NHLer when he requested a trade out of the Coyotes organization. In fact, when he was dealt to the Senators in 2011, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft had just 46 points in 137 NHL games.

    Since then, Turris has emerged as Ottawa’s top center, with the promise of a big payday in the summer of 2018 when his current $17.5 million deal expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

    It’s for that very reason that he can understand Jonathan Drouin‘s position with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “It’s tough,” Turris told the Tampa Bay Times. “Everyone has mixed feelings, and especially not being an established player. Then people are doubting that you’re doing the right thing, you really have to have confidence in yourself and your ability to do it.”

    Though Turris, now 26, took a “lot of heat from the media…and people within the organization” and recalls the time after his trade request was made public as a “tough, tough go,” he believes the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.

    As we’ve written in the past, you don’t have to agree with how Drouin is handling things — maybe it ends up hurting him; he still has a lot to prove — but there have been young players who have chosen similar paths, and it’s worked out well for them.

    Drouin, by the way, has 40 points in 89 NHL games.

    Simmonds tells AV ‘I’m not a dirty player,’ says he had ‘no intention of hurting’ McDonagh with punch

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    Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has taken exception to criticisms from Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, in the wake of Simmonds concussing Blueshirts captain Ryan McDonagh with a punch over the weekend.

    “Vigneault can say whatever he wants. He’s the coach, that’s his opinion,” Simmonds said, per CSN Philly. “I don’t really care. I’m protecting myself; guy comes to cross check you in the head. I didn’t know what he expected. I had no intention of hurting him and I feel bad about that. That’s not what I want.

    “I may play physical and I like to take the body. I fight occasionally. But by no means am I a dirty player, trying to run around and injure guys.”

    Simmonds was tossed from Saturday’s game after punching McDonagh, but wasn’t suspended by the league. McDonagh missed New York’s next game — Monday’s 2-1 win over the Devils — and the lack of supplemental discipline incident irked Vigneault, who had words for both the officials and Simmonds.

    “An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said following the Flyers game, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences?”

    At this point, it’s probably worth noting the Flyers and Rangers play each other on Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

    Worth circling that one on the ol’ calendar, methinks.

    Goalie nods: ‘The losses have gotten to’ Dubnyk, so Wild turn to Kuemper

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    Devan Dubnyk has started Minnesota’s last four games — all of them losses — so in an effort to try and right the ship, head coach Mike Yeo is going with Darcy Kuemper against Dallas this evening.

    “This has definitely not been Dubnyk’s fault,” Yeo said of the Wild’s losing skid, per the Pioneer Press. “Even watching his game and evaluating it closely afterwards, I’m not going to say he’s playing badly. He’s not. But you can tell he’s grinding right now like everybody. The losses have gotten to him.

    “Kuemper has been part of this, but not to that level, so he’s probably got a little bit of a different mindset and a little bit of a fresher mind coming into the game.”

    Kuemper has been pretty solid this year, going 5-2-4 with a .928 save percentage and 2.06 GAA. That said, he’s only made four appearances in 2016 and his last was a brief one, playing just over 11 minutes in relief against the Isles.

    For Dallas, Kari Lehtonen is likely to get the start.

    Elsewhere…

    — No definitive announcements out of Boston, but Tuukka Rask is likely for the Bruins, and Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

    — It’s Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in Buffalo. Sabres are going with Robin Lehner.

    Cory Schneider‘s going back-to-back for the Devils after stopping 35 shots in a loss to the Rangers on Monday. Cam Talbot starts for the Oilers.

    John Gibson is not going back-to-back after getting shelled by Pittsburgh last night. Frederik Andersen starts in Philly, Steve Mason for the Flyers.

    — Columbus will keep rolling with Joonas Korpisalo as it hosts the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod after getting hooked against the Red Wings over the weekend.

    Ben Scrivens will look to win his third game in a row when the Habs host the Bolts. Ben Bishop‘s in for Tampa Bay.

    — Barry Trotz heads back to Nashville and will continue rolling with Braden Holtby in goal. Trotz’s former workhorse, Pekka Rinne, starts for the Preds.

    — It’s Connor Hellebuyck versus Brian Elliott as the Blues host the Jets in St. Louis.

    — Good matchup in Chicago tonight, as the in-form Corey Crawford starts for the ‘Hawks. The Sharks will counter with Martin Jones.

    — After Ryan Miller started the last four, Jacob Markstrom goes for the Canucks in Colorado. The Avs are starting Semyon Varlamov.

    — Fresh off today’s blockbuster Dion Phaneuf trade, the undermanned Leafs are going with James Reimer in goal in Calgary. The Flames will give Jonas Hiller another start after he beat Vancouver on Saturday night.