In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we look at 10 players on the verge of a breakout season in 2021-22.
There are a lot of recent high draft picks on the list, but also a couple of young players that are getting a fresh start on new teams and a clean slate to build from.
Who all makes the list this week?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Hughes showed significant improvement in year two for the Devils and at times looked like an emerging superstar. When I picture a “breakout” year for him, I am envisioning a massive jump from “good young player” to “NHL mega-star.” Like, perhaps even a top-10 or-15 season offensively. His possession numbers were dominant a year ago, his point production increased (21 points to 31), and his playmaking was at times magnificent. He just needs some players with finishing ability around him.
2. Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the best young teams in the league, and while their defense gets a lot of attention they have a magnificent group of forwards. Necas is one of their best young players and has really taken some big steps the past two seasons. Do not be surprised if he does again this season, especially as he starts to enter what should be his peak production years.
3. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders. Barry Trotz is still going to use both Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, but Sorokin is the future of the position and he might start to take more playing time just based on the way he performs. His long-awaited rookie season was mostly a success with flashes of brilliance, and he might have been one of the biggest reasons the Islanders got through the First Round to start another deep postseason run.
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4. Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers. The Rangers have a couple of potential breakout players on their roster, including Alexis Lafreniere and Igor Shesterkin. Kakko has been a little bit of a disappointment through his first two seasons (23 points to 17), but there are a lot of signs that a breakout could on the horizon. He has been a dominant possession driver and is still loaded with skill. He can put it all together and with a little puck luck could be in line for a huge offensive season.
5. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim desperately needs a superstar to build around and Zegras might be the player in the system that has the most potential to be that type of player. His rookie season was very promising with strong possession numbers and 13 points in 24 games as a 19-year-old. All of his points came at even-strength while he also averaged close to two-and-a-half shots on goal per game. He repeats that process this season the results should be even better.
6. Nolan Patrick, Vegas Golden Knights. Things did not work for Patrick in Philadelphia, and Vegas needs a potential impact center. Maybe the fresh start for Patrick while playing on a Stanley Cup contender is what he needs to jumpstart his career. Maybe both the team and player can get what they need to take the next step here.
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7. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres. He has been pretty good so far in his career. But now is the time for him to become what the Sabres hoped they were getting when they selected him No. 1 overall in 2018. After a slow start last season he looked like a different player following the coaching change and is still oozing with talent and potential. He could be a game-changer for the Sabres’ rebuild if he pans out like originally hoped.
8. Vince Dunn, Seattle Kraken. This one just seems obvious. Dunn has performed extremely well when given the opportunity in St. Louis, and now he is going to a situation in Seattle where he is going to be counted on to be one of their top players on defense. Do not be surprised if he turns out to be Seattle’s version of Shea Theodore.
9. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers. This is a necessity for the Flyers to be good this season. Hart showed all of the promise the Flyers had hoped for in his first two seasons before just self destructing during the 2020-21 season. Think we will see this season how that performance was the outlier.
10. Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers. It has taken Puljujarvi some time, but he really is becoming a very good NHL player and he was very quietly one of the Oilers’ most effective players last season. He is still young enough and talented enough to become the star player the Oilers hoped he could be when they selected him with the fourth overall pick. Great possession numbers, improved his shot volume, and extremely talented. There is still a potential breakout here.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.