Predicting the Top 6 Breakout Stars for the 2013 NHL Season
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The truncated 2013 season could be a year in which a number of new NHL players raise their level of play and become breakout stars.
Some of those will be second-year players who had solid rookie seasons and will develop even more this season.
There's also at least four highly-touted rookies who have a chance to jump into the shortened season and make an immediate impact.
It's not just about physical talent (although that's probably the No. 1 factor), it's about having the courage to take the opportunity that has been given to you and skating with it.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is not yet a star in the NHL.
He had a notable rookie season with 18 goals and 34 assists in 62 games. He excels on the power play, and he will make those around him better as he delivers the puck in a position where teammates can attack the net.
But he is not going to be given anything. He is going to have to earn his stardom as he battles legitimate top-line NHL centers during the year.
Nugent-Hopkins will likely struggle some in the first month, but he will likely show significant improvement and become a star by the time the season ends.
He's an eye-catching player right now, and greatness could be on tap in a very short time.
Colin Greening, Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators were one of the surprise teams in the league last season under first-year head coach Paul MacLean, and they should continue to improve this year.
While Erik Karlsson is the team's brightest light and reigning Norris Trophy winner, keep your eye on second-year player Colin Greening.
Greening scored 17 goals and 20 assists as a rookie last year and put his overwhelming speed on display.
Look for continued development this year from Greening as he should become one of the Senators' top scorers. In addition to his speed, Greening has also displayed a physical side to his play as he skates with Zack Smith and Chris Neil on the team's "Crash Line." (via edmontonsun.com).
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
Mikael Granlund should become a star in the NHL as a rookie.
Granlund does not have the pressure of having to carry the Wild on his shoulders. When Minnesota signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to huge contracts in the offseason, they became the focus of the franchise.
That's good for Granlund, because he doesn't have to be in the headlines every day. He just gets to concentrate on playing.
He is a creative player who sees the ice well and should be able to out-execute opponents. He's also got clever hands and great vision, two factors that will make him a star.
Granlund has already scored his first goal and should be able to blossom this season.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
Alex Galchenyuk scored the first goal of his career in the Canadiens' 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Jan. 22.
In the game, Galchenyuk went towards the net and former New York Rangers forward Brandon Prust unleashed a shot on goal in the second period. Galchenyuk got the blade of his stick on the puck and it deflected off the crossbar and into the net.
It's an example of the kind of hands Galchenyuk has and the type of plays he can make around the net.
The Canadiens' first-round draft pick last season had an over-the-top reaction (source: globeandmail.com) to the goal and the Montreal fans responded with their approval.
Galchenyuk was awarded the first star of the game and it seems quite likely that he will play a pivotal role for the Habs this season.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko may be a perfect match for each other.
The Blues were one of the big surprises in the NHL last year as they became the second-best regular-season team in the Western Conference.
They depended on defense, discipline and goaltending to make their climb.
As good as they were, the Blues needed goal scoring help, and that's where Tarasenko fits in.
The 2010 first-round draft choice has dynamic goal-scoring ability. He showed his talent in the KHL and has gotten off to a sharp start with three goals and two assists in his first three NHL games.
The Blues want Tarasenko to go to the net and score, and he appears to have the ability to oblige them.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins
Dougie Hamilton is one of the most ballyhooed defensive prospects the Boston Bruins have had in years.
In the video above, general manager Peter Chiarelli gave a glowing report on Hamilton when he drafted him in 2011 and said he thought the big defenseman would become a "cornerstone" member of the Bruins.
Hamilton was excellent last year and Chiarelli penciled him in on the 2012-13 roster. The lockout gave Hamilton a bit more time to develop with the Canadian junior team and he appears ready to step in and take a key role with the Bruins.
Head coach Claude Julien has been impressed with the 19-year-old Hamilton in his first two games. Hamilton played 23:27 in the Bruins' second game of the season against Winnipeg, second on the team to Zdeno Chara.
"In my mind, right now, he's a player," Julien told Boston.com. “To me, he’s on our team . . . he’s a player I’m relying on.’’