Which NHL Rising Stars Will Shine Next Season?
With the NHL season coming to a close last night, now is the perfect time to divulge into next season and predict the rising stars for next season.
In 2012, Jonathan Quick rose to prominence for the Los Angeles Kings and dominated the postseason, earning him the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP. Quick was the star of the 2012 postseason, but who will step up and become a big-name superstar next season?
Here are six players that were not household names in 2012 but will finally be recognized on the national stage next season.
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images
After the recent announcement of Tim Thomas' retirement, the Boston Bruins will need someone to step up behind net. Anton Khudobin will take center stage in Beantown and be pitted with the responsibility of replacing the 2009 Conn Smythe Winner, Tim Thomas.
Khudobin split time with 36-year-old Marty Turco in the backup role for the Bruins last season, but expect him to take center stage for the Bruins next season. This may come as a surprise to Bruins fans everywhere because he only played one game last season, but this 26-year-old, previously from Minnesota, can flat-out play.
In his one game last season, Khudobin only allowed one goal on 45 shots and played marvelously in the victorious effort against the Ottawa Senators. Expect Khudobin to repeat his opening performance with the Bruins and play lights-out next season as the starting goaltender.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Cladue Giroux was the leading scorer of the postseason for the first two rounds and will carry that momentum into next season. Giroux's 17 points in 11 games was spectacular and followed a tremendous 93-point regular season.
Giroux is now the center point of the Flyers and, going into next season, will be expected to carry the offensive load for this team. Expect Giroux to improve upon his 28-goal campaign from a season ago and become an elite top-five goalscorer for the Flyers.
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Phil Kessel is legit, and the stats prove his recognition as a rising star in the NHL. Last season the 24-year-old Kessel scored 37 goals and added 45 assists, leading the team in both categories. Kessel is ready to take his Maple Leafs to the next level next season.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Logan Couture is ready to become the face of the franchise for the San Jose Sharks.
Couture scored 31 goals last season and added four goals in five postseason games. This type of production will only improve with more ice-time and experience for the 23-year-old forward. Expect Couture to be a 40-goal scorer this season and repeat his performance as leading scorer for the San Jose Sharks.
Rich Lam/Getty Images
If this postseason has taught us anything, it is that the Vancouver Canucks must move forward with Cory Schneider behind the net. Luongo is being paid like the long-term answer, but in order for the Canucks to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, Schneider must become the starting goaltender.
The Vancouver Canucks will move forward with Schneider and expect big things from the 26-year-old net minder, who played brilliantly throughout the regular season and the postseason. During the postseason, Schneider went 1-2 with a 1.31 GAA, limiting the offense of the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
During the regular season, Schneider split time with Luongo and played quite well, posting a 20-8-1 record with a 1.96 GAA. Given a full slate of playing time, Schneider will add to his win total from a season ago and become the legitimate top-10 goaltender the Canucks need next season.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Who was the leading scorer for the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions? It was Anze Kopitar. Kopitar has been the face of the Kings, but next year will have the eyes of the NHL watching his every move.
Kopitar is not only a legit scorer but also carries the puck tremendously. This will be key in continuing his success as the point guard of the Kings' offense who creates matchup issues all over the ice. Kopitar has added 45-plus assists in the last three seasons; expect an even better performance from him this upcoming season.
Kopitar, now a Stanley Cup Champion, will build upon his 76-point performance from last season and become more than just the first player from Slovenia, but instead the newest star of the National Hockey League.