10 Emerging Superstars Fans Need to Watch During the 2013 NHL Season
However, the top of the class is about to get an infusion of new talent.
We are not talking about rookies (with one exception) who have explosive potential that may one day allow them to become great NHL players or other young stars like Jonathan Toews and John Tavares who are already there.
We are talking about players who are just a couple of steps away from becoming dominant players who can change the game any time they step on the ice.
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
Jordan Eberle served notice that he is already a star in the NHL with his performance in 2011-12 when he scored 34 goals and 42 assists for the Edmonton Oilers.
On a team that appears to be loaded with explosive young talent, Eberle, 22, appears to be the most well-developed of the bunch.
This year, he should go from the rising star category to superstar. He has skating ability, a knack for getting open and the ability to put the puck in the back of the net with ease. Look for more growth from this explosive player.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
Max Pacioretty flashed his talents during the first three years of his career but did little to establish himself as a top NHL player.
That all changed last year as Pacioretty, 24, became a big-time scorer for the Montreal Canadiens. While his team fell to last in the Eastern Conference standings, Pacioretty became a consistent scorer as he potted 33 goals.
There appears to be no stopping him. Pacioretty uses his 6'2", 212-pound frame wisely, and he appears even bigger on the ice than his measurements would indicate. He also has a slew of good moves that will make him a dangerous player from this point forward.
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Jordan Staal is already one of the NHL's best all-around players.
This year he will cement and upgrade his status as he skates for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal, 24, had been thriving for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he was traded to the Hurricanes in the offseason and gets a chance to play with his older brother Eric Staal in Carolina.
Jordan Staal scored 25 goals and added 25 assists in 62 games with the Pens last year. But his game is not simply about offense. He is a shutdown defender on a par with the best players in the league.
There will be no stopping Staal this year.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
The only thing keeping Gabriel Landeskog from being a superstar is time.
As he enters his second year in the league, he plays with eye-catching skills and complements that talent with shocking on-ice intelligence.
Landeskog, 20, is already the captain of the Avs. He scored 22 goals and 30 assists this year and once the NHL gets back to playing a full season of hockey, Landeskog should be able to challenge the 100-point mark.
Not only can he score, he gets his goals when they matter most. Landeskog had five game-winning goals last year.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Jamie Benn plays the game with flair and consistency. He will be the key player for the Stars for the next five to 10 years.
While the Stars added two 40-year-olds in Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney in the offseason, it is Benn whom the team will count on in the seasons to come.
Benn, 23, goes into his fourth season having scored 22 goals or more in each of his first three seasons. He had 27 goals and 63 points last year and finished with a rating of plus-15.
His balance and creativity around the net allows him to make plays that many other players could never attempt.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Chris Kreider has not played a single regular-season game in the NHL, but it would not be a shocker if he turned into a superstar in his first NHL season.
Kreider, 21, played 18 games with the Rangers during the playoffs last year and he got five goals and two assists.
Even when he wasn't scoring in last year's playoffs, he was a threat every time he stepped on the ice.
Kreider looks like an unstoppable performer. He is a 6'3", 230-pound left wing who can fly. He has a booming shot off the wing, and he has moves that can embarrass any goalie or defenseman.
Since the Rangers have stars like Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the roster, Kreider should have the opportunity to establish himself quickly as opposing defenders concentrate their efforts on the veterans.
Krieder will make them pay for that choice.
Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins
After a promising second season in which he scored 29 goals and 38 assists for the Boston Bruins, Tyler Seguin is ready to become one of the league's dominant and most exciting scorers.
The second pick in the 2010 draft is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, and Seguin, 20, has the ability to blow by defenders to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
He has gotten stronger each of his first two years and should become very difficult to knock off the puck. He fits in well in the Bruins' raucous lockerroom, and there may be no stopping Seguin from getting to the top this year.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall is going to be a superstar in the NHL. It's only a matter of when he will reach that level.
The 21-year-old Edmonton Oiler forward was the first pick in the 2010 draft, and he scored 22 goals as a rookie and followed that up with 27 goals last year.
Hall has a powerful stride and when he goes toward the net, there is no stopping him. He has an array of moves and a powerful shot.
Many observers believe that the Oilers have a chance to become one of the rising teams in the league. Hall is already a good player and, with just a little more development, he could become unstoppable.
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson was the best offensive defenseman in the league last year.
He racked up 19 goals and 59 assists as he helped lead the Ottawa Senators to a playoff spot after finishing last in the Eastern Conference in 2010-11.
Karlsson, 22, may already be a superstar since he won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman a year ago. However, one more year on top will allow him to become one of the league's dominant players.
Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils
Adam Henrique established himself as a key player for the New Jersey Devils as a rookie in 2011-12.
Henrique, 22, scored 16 goals and had 35 assists last season and was at the top of the NHL charts with four short-handed goals.
However, he picked up his game a notch during the postseason during the playoffs. In the first round, he scored the double-overtime goal that eliminated the Florida Panthers. He also scored the series-winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Henrique will start the season on the sidelines as a result of a thumb injury. However, once he returns in late January or early February, the Devils will depend on him to become one of the their dominant players.