Breaking Down NHL Stars Who Will Become Household Names in Shortened Season
The NHL lockout is now over. Fans will now be able to enjoy watching their favorite players and teams instead of just following their stats in games overseas.
While the regular stars will be in full force (except possibly Ilya Kovalchuk, according to ESPN), the shortened season will also give some lesser-known players a chance to shine.
Fresh legs of younger players will allow for quicker recovery time between games and they will be able to dominate the veterans let in games.
Even non-hockey fans can name Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. However, by the end of this year's regular season and playoffs, this group of young stars will also move into the national spotlight.
Jordan Eberle, C, Edmonton Oilers
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At 22 years old, Jordan Eberle is already one of the top players in the game. It is scary to think that he is only scratching the surface of his potential.
The young center finished tied for 15th in the league with 76 points, including 34 goals and 42 assists.
However, he was also very efficient with his shots with a shooting percentage of 18.9 percent. Only Steven Stamkos had more goals while shooting at a higher percentage.
During the lockout, Eberle played for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League and dominated. According to the Edmonton Journal, he won the league's Player of the Month award in both November and December.
He is coming into the season red-hot and should be able to continue his great play even against better competition in the NHL.
Eberle's individual play should finally be able to lift Edmonton in the standings toward playoff contention.
Cory Schneider, G, Vancouver Canucks
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The Toronto Star reports that trading Roberto Luongo is a priority for the Vancouver Canucks.
This should finally give Cory Schneider a chance to shine as one of the best young goalies in the NHL.
Schneider outperformed the veteran Luongo in almost every category last season. In 33 games played, he finished with a 1.96 goals against average with a save percentage of 93.7 percent.
Vancouver finally made the switch in the playoffs and it seems like the organization will stay with Schneider heading into this season.
Anchoring one of the best teams in the NHL should allow Schneider to get noticed for what he is: an elite goaltender.
At only 26 years old, he also has plenty of good years ahead of him.
John Tavares, C, New York Islanders
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Not too many good things happen to the New York Islanders nowadays, but John Tavares could be a lone bright spot.
The 22-year-old center has improved in each of his three seasons in the league and has the potential to keep getting better. He finished with 54 points in his first year, 67 in his second and 81 points in his third.
With a full season, Tavares has the ability to top 100 points.
His ability to pass the puck makes everyone around him better. Once he starts looking for his own shot more, the Islanders could be a legitimate threat in the postseason as an offensive juggernaut.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, St. Louis Blues
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One thing you can definitely give Kevin Shattenkirk credit for is consistency. In his two years in the NHL, he totaled exactly nine goals and 34 assists in each.
While he is likely to break that streak in the shortened season, his numbers can be even more efficient as he gets acclimated to the game.
The defenseman became more aggressive last year and should keep moving in that direction as he becomes one of the best distributors in the league. St. Louis does not have many elite scorers, but there are plenty of people that can put the puck in the net if Shattenkirk can find them.
In addition, he is starting to become a force defensively and is a big reason that the St. Louis Blues gave up the fewest goals in the NHL last year.
As he improves, he will become a leader on what is already one of the top teams in the league.
Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
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Jonathan Toews missed a lot of time last season due to a concussion, but that will not prevent him from having a big year in 2013.
Throughout his career, Toews is averaging 0.9 points per game and he is only getting better. He has shown that it does not matter how much he plays, he will be successful.
This is a skill that will be very useful in a shortened season while others might take some time shaking off the rust.
While the Chicago Blackhawks have other elite players, good things seem to happen when Toews is on the ice. He has never had a plus/minus of less than plus-11 in his five years in the league and he should be able to do his part to ensure Chicago remains in the playoffs.
With another big postseason run like in 2010, everyone will know his name as one of the best young players in the game.