10 Biggest Up-and-Coming Stars in the NHL

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

10 Biggest Up-and-Coming Stars in the NHL

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    Jonathan Bernier figures to have a huge impact in the Toronto net.
    Jonathan Bernier figures to have a huge impact in the Toronto net.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    It's the stars who bring many fans out of their seats and draw so many pairs of eyes to the game.

    That's not going to change any time soon, and great players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Zdeno Chara and Henrik Lundqvist are likely to be at the top of the list when it comes to the Hart Trophy (MVP), Norris Trophy (best defenseman) and Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) in the 2013-14 season.

    However, those superstars have to be at their best if they want to remain on top, as there's a new generation of stars coming after them.

    Some of those players are rookies who are going to try to take over, while others find themselves in new and more favorable situations.

    Here's a look at the biggest up-and-coming players who will have a larger impact this season and beyond.

LW Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Jakob Silfverberg was the key acquisition for the Anaheim Ducks when they traded high-scoring right winger Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators.

    Silfverberg scored 10 goals and 19 assists last year as a rookie for the Sens in the truncated season. However, he has superstar potential and the Ducks will feature him prominently this season, as he should line up with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf most of the time.

    Silfverberg, 22, made a strong impression on new coach Bruce Boudreau with his performance as soon as he got to training camp. Unlike many young players who just want to build their stats and score goals, Boudreau told the Los Angeles Times (through Fox Sports West) that Silfverberg is a two-way player who plays as hard on the defensive end as he does when he's attempting to score.

    Look for Silfverberg to score at least 25 goals this season and become a 30-goal scorer in the future.

D Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings went through a season of transition in 2013 as they no longer had Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line.

    Once Lidstrom decided to hang up his skates, that meant the Red Wings were entering a new era. One that featured several young defensemen, including Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith.

    Of those three, DeKeyser will become the first one to reach stardom. He has has size (6'3", 190 pounds), strength, excellent skills and eye-catching skating ability.

    He played 11 games with the Red Wings during the regular season and two more in the playoffs, and his performance caught the eye of Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

    “You heard about (DeKeyser), how big he was and how smooth a skater and passer he was,'' Kronwall told Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “But I think him coming in, it was sort of like 'What are we going to get?' He stepped in and played tremendously. I remember after the first game saying, 'Wow, this kid's legit.'"

    DeKeyser will go through some growing pains in the first month or so of the season. But as soon as he understands the rhythms of the NHL season, watch him become one of the key performers on head coach Mike Babcock's blue line.

D Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

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    The Boston Bruins had some injury issues on their blue line as they prepared to face the New York Rangers in the conference semifinal round of the playoffs last spring.

    Head coach Claude Julien wanted a player who could move the puck, shoot it and also hold his own on the defensive end. When the Bruins called up Torey Krug from their minor league affiliate in Providence, Julien had his man.

    You would not have known it to look at the 5'9", 180-pound Krug, but he dominated the series for the Bruins. He scored four goals against Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, a goalie many consider to be the best in the world.

    Krug opened eyes with his stunning performance and he took a regular shift with the Bruins from that point forward.

    He is expected to man the point on Boston's top power-play unit (Boston Globe pay wall) this season because of his speed, quickness and ability to handle the puck. He also has a booming shot that confounded Lundqvist and will cause problems for other goalies as well.

RW Matt Frattin, Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings would like to go on another Stanley Cup run and earn the franchise's second championship in three years.

    The Kings have a strong and deep roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ice. Jonathan Quick is one of the best goalies in the league and has been at his best in the playoffs. The defense's crew is talented and deep.

    If the Kings could use help in any area, it's offense. That's where Matt Frattin comes into play. He is a gifted player who was acquired by the Kings when they traded Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Frattin, 25, has played parts of three seasons with the Leafs, but he was never quite a match for them. He will get a chance to showcase his skating ability in Los Angeles and if he can demonstrate the kind of finishing moves that the scouts believe he has, Frattin could become a star.

    Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had been scouting Frattin since he was a college player at North Dakota and always wanted to have him on his roster. Kings coach Darryl Sutter is not easily impressed, but he likes what he has seen from Frattin.

    "First off, he's exceptionally well-trained, which allows him to really utilize his skill set," Sutter told NHL.com. "He's got really good hands and he can really skate. Those are three pretty good attributes to have coming into training camp and to start the season."



C Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

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    Alex Galchenyuk earned a spot on the Montreal Canadiens as an 18-year-old rookie and was part of the reason the Canadiens were able to secure first place in the Northeast Division last season.

    Galchenyuk is a smooth skater with the hands of a veteran. He got his feet wet and scored nine goals and added 18 assists last year, and he should be a much greater factor this season.

    He was quite streaky as a rookie and he ended the year by scoring 12 points in his final 14 regular-season games. However, he also had slumps of 13 and 18 games, and he would like to avoid those kind of dips.

    "Looking back at last year, I just have to stay consistent," Galchenyuk told NHL.com. "There were times when I didn't score for [13] games and didn't score for 18 games, then I had a stretch where I scored quite a bit towards the end of the year. So I want to bring that momentum from last year into this year."

    The Canadiens are expecting a season of growth from Galchenyuk as he centers for the team's No. 2 line.

LW Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Of the 10 players in this piece, Boone Jenner of the Columbus Blue Jackets is almost certainly the least well-known

    However, give Jenner about two months in his first NHL season and he could shoot to the top of this list.

    Jenner will start the season at left wing on the Blue Jackets' top line that includes center Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik.

    Columbus head coach Todd Richards said it was basically an easy decision to give Jenner the opportunity. Not only has Jenner played well, but he also fits in with Dubinsky and Gaborik and they have good chemistry together.

    “Based on what they were able to do and how they were able to play as a group, I would be foolish to try and experiment with (Jenner) now somewhere else,” Richards told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, “just because they worked so well together.” 

D Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Justin Faulk has already played two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes and there is no doubt that the 21-year-old belongs at this level.

    Faulk scored eight goals and 14 assists as a rookie in 2011-12, and he followed that up with five goals and 10 assists in the lockout-shortened season.

    Faulk has taken a regular shift on Carolina's blue line, but he's going to have to step up his game in a big way this year. The Canes are counting on him being their best defenseman, as Joni Pitkanen is out for the year with a broken heel.

    Faulk is an excellent skater who sees the ice well and makes good decisions with the puck. He has been noticed throughout the league, and Nashville Predators general manager David Poile told Chip Alexander of the Charlotte News & Observer that "Faulk's star is rising."

    Poile is also the GM of the U.S. Olympic hockey team, and a solid first half of the season could allow Faulk to earn consideration for that team too.

C Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The first part of the mission has been accomplished for Nathan MacKinnon. He earned a spot on the opening-night roster for the Colorado Avalanche and will play center on the third line.

    That's no easy task for a player who turned 18 on Sept. 1. But much is expected from MacKinnon despite his youth because he was the No. 1 player selected in the 2013 NHL draft. 

    MacKinnon is a player with remarkable skills and skating ability. He may need some time to get used to playing with bigger, stronger men who are not impressed by his draft pedigree, but once he gets used to his surroundings there should be no stopping him. 

    MacKinnon got better as training camp progressed. In his final preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings, MacKinnon was dazzling the Kings' defenders.

    Adrian Dater of the Denver Post said that while MacKinnon did not get his name on the scoresheet, he was very impressive because he was able to create numerous chances due of his speed. The Kings' defensemen were powerless to keep up with him.

    He should be one of the most impressive newcomers of the year.

D Seth Jones, Nashville Predators

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Seth Jones appeared to be on track to be the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft for most of last season.

    While that didn't happen, the Nashville Predators were thrilled that he slipped to the fourth spot in the draft and they have been impressed by what they have seen in training camp.

    Jones has excellent size and skating ability, and he is going to take a regular shift on the blue line even though he is 18 (turns 19 Oct. 3). Head coach Barry Trotz said Jones has been one of the Preds' four best defensemen since the start of training camp.

    Jones has impressive tools and while it may take him some time to assert himself because it is often harder for rookie defensemen than forwards to make the jump to the NHL, he has been rated as a favorite for the Calder Trophy.

    He may just make the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning regret passing on him.

G Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier to be their No. 1 goalie and lead them in the playoffs.

    The Maple Leafs, you will remember, saw their 2013 season end in heartbreaking fashion when they dropped a seven-game series to the Boston Bruins. No shame in that, but the Maple Leafs led the Bruins by three goals in the third period with slightly more than 10 minutes to play.

    That's when the roof fell in on goalie James Reimer and the Leafs allowed the Bruins to tie the game and then win it in overtime.

    Bernier had been the No. 2 goalie in Los Angeles to Jonathan Quick and had performed superbly when he had been given the opportunity. Bernier had a 9-3-1 record with a 1.88 goals against average and a .922 save percentage with the Kings last season.

    Bernier and Reimer will likely split time in the regular season, but the Maple Leafs did not give Bernier a two-year, $5.8 million contract to sit on the bench in the most important games. 

    The Leafs need Bernier to become a star. It may take some time for that to happen, but he will be the one playing the crucial games when the Leafs get to the most important part of their season.