Earlier today, I took a look at NHL.com’s seven candidates for a “breakthrough” season. Since this is a slackertastic Saturday, I thought I’d provide my own list of players who could make a big difference in 2010-11. Feel free to lampoon my choices in the comments.
John Tavares, NY Islanders
The most obvious choice since he was the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft (like Stamkos), has sniper-like abilities (like Stamkos) and had a solid but not amazing rookie season (you get it). He won’t have a linemate like Martin St. Louis (sorry, Matt Moulson), but he just HAD to make this list.
Kyle Okposo, NY Islanders
Okposo is the Islanders’ “other” star-in-the-making. He’s had 18 and 19 goals in his first two seasons on Long Island, so he’s already shown hints of breaking through. His third year could be it.
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
The tall Swede had a pedestrian rookie season (4 goals, 16 assists for 20 points in 74 games) but a revamped Lightning lineup might mean some nice results for last year’s No. 2 pick. Just imagine the Lightning powerplay next season: Simon Gagne, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Hedman/Pavel Kubina. That’s ridiculous.
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
He was a miserable -9 in only 9 games last year, but the 2008 first rounder is bound for a breakthrough sooner or later. He can bring a little feisty play to the table along with plenty of offensive skill. I don’t know if 2010-11 is the year, but Pietrangelo is one of the league’s under the radar players.
James Van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux and Ville Leino were the Flyers’ biggest breakout players in the 2010 playoffs, but Van Riemsdyk is primed for a big year too. The Flyers are loaded at forward so it might be difficult for him to get a bunch of ice time, but keep an eye on the guy who was drafted right after Patrick Kane.
Derick Brassard, Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s injury prone and wasn’t that great in 09-10 (36 points in 79 games) but showed some real promise in 08-09 (25 points in an injury-shortened 31 game season). The Blue Jackets need all the offense they can get and Brassard could be the guy who provides that spark.
Jack Johnson, LA Kings
While Drew Doughty justifiably gets the attention, Johnson seems to receive as much criticism as praise. Still, he’s a talented player in a contract year. We could see big things from the American defenseman this season.
There’s my seven choices. Who else do you think would be a viable candidate for a breakout year? Share your thoughts.