Every NHL Team's Most Likely Breakout Star in 2013-14 Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

Every NHL Team's Most Likely Breakout Star in 2013-14 Season

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    The NHL is not a static league.

    No matter how good a team feels about its roster, there is going to be turnover from one year to the next. Whether it's due to the draft, free agency, injuries, retirement or trades, every team brings in one or more new players every year.

    Here's a look at each team's top breakout candidate for the 2013-14 season. In many cases, these are rookies or young players who are getting opportunities to succeed. But in other cases, they are players who are finding their game a bit later in their careers.

Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks

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    Jakob Silfverberg was a highly respected prospect for the Ottawa Senators since they drafted him with the 39th pick in the 2009 draft.

    This Swedish import made his way into the Senators lineup on a regular basis last season and scored 10 goals and nine assists in the lockout-shortened season. He also finished with a plus-nine rating.

    He was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason along with Stefan Noesen and a No. 1 draft pick for Bobby Ryan.

    Silfverberg is a superb skater who plays the game hard in all three zones. That will ensure that head coach Bruce Boudreau keeps Silfverberg on the ice as a top-six forward throughout the season, even if he goes into a goal-scoring slump.

    The Ducks are expecting a lot from Silfverberg, and he should score 20 or more goals this year.

Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

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    Torey Krug is an NHL rookie, but he already took a star turn in last year's playoffs when he scored four playoff goals in the conference semifinal series against the Rangers.

    The young defenseman is an excellent skater, puck-mover and he has a quick and hard shot. Krug is getting a regular opportunity to play on the blue line, and he is also the quarterback of the Bruins' top power-play unit.

    That area of Boston's game has struggled badly in recent years, but they are showing signs of turning it around in the early going this year. Head coach Claude Julien loves Krug's aggressive, decisive play. There's a good change Krug could become a star this year.

Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres

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    It figures to be a long season for the Buffalo Sabres. If they have any serious hope of surprising observers and making a run at a playoff spot, they will need young players to break out and have big seasons.

    Perhaps center Zemgus Girgensons has a shot to become that breakout player this year. Girgensons, 19, made the Sabres because of his two-way play, skating ability, size and strength.

    Many of his opportunities will come after making plays in the defensive zone. He is tenacious, and his hard-working attitude has impressed his teammates and the Sabres coaching staff.

Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames

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    Teams that are going through the rebuilding process are going to give plenty of chances to their young players.

    It is up to those players to grasp those opportunities. So far, Sean Monahan is making the best of his chances. The Flames are likely to struggle this season, but they have gotten off to a 2-0-2 start.

    Monahan is at the top of the team's scorers with three goals and two assists in those four games. Monahan, 18, has a responsible, two-way game that is impressive for such a young player. He is not a dynamic or flashy offensive player despite his impressive numbers to start the season, but he knows what to do with the puck in the offensive zone.

    Monahan has the size at 6'2" and 187 pounds to hold his own, and he has a chance to gain valuable experience this season as the Flames build for the future.

Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Justin Faulk has already made a solid impression in the NHL during his first two years in the league.

    He has done well enough that U.S. Olympic general manager David Poile will at least give him some consideration for making the U.S. team that will play in Sochi.

    However, Faulk has a chance to go from promising young player to established blue-line star this season. The Hurricanes are depending on Faulk to step up in a big way because they have lost Joni Pitkanen for the season. Without their best defenseman, Faulk has to become their No. 1 man on the blue line.

    Faulk is a solid skater with a fine right-handed shot. He can carry the puck and he has welcomed every challenge that has come his way. If the Hurricanes are going to survive without Pitkanen, Faulk must deliver.

Joakim Nordstrom, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The defending Stanley Cup champions are a team of established stars, and there is not a lot of room for young players to make the roster.

    However, when the team moved Dave Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs and other players like Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg were not brought back, it opened up a few spots on the roster.

    Once of those went to Joakim Nordstrom, who will be given an opportunity to show his worth as a penalty-killer. Nordstrom has no guarantee of sticking with the Blackhawks for the season, but he will get a chance to show his value as an extra player with this highly respected team.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

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    Nathan MacKinnon is already starting to answer questions as to why the defensively challenged Avs selected him with the No. 1 pick in last June's draft over Seth Jones.

    MacKinnon is a sensational talent who has game-breaking speed and quickness. On a recent Avs broadcast of their game against the Maple Leafs, color analyst Peter McNab said that MacKinnon has the quick first step to jump ahead of the defender and then outsprint him once he reaches top speed.

    That rare combination has allowed MacKinnon's presence to be felt in the Avs' first three games, all of which have been victories. He has four assists and is regularly making plays that lead to scoring opportunities.

David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets made a lot of strides last year, and if they are going to continue to climb the ladder in 2013-14, the play of their physical defense will be a big reason.

    David Savard has a chance to play a key role on that defense. The 6'2", 219-pound Savard will go into the corners and win the battle for the puck. He is not afraid of any confrontation. He is a good enough skater with a hard shot from the point. 

    Savard has one assist, a plus-two rating and is averaging 18:39 of ice time through the Blue Jackets' first two games.

Alex Chiasson, Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars traded for Tyler Seguin in the offseason with the hope that the former Boston Bruin would live up to his pedigree as the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft and become a superstar.

    Seguin may live up to his talent and fulfill that role. However, 23-year-old right winger Alex Chiasson may also be a future star.

    Chiasson scored six goals and an assist last season in seven games with the Stars. He has scored two goals in his first two games this season and could play a key role for head coach Lindy Ruff if he can continue to put the puck in the net.

Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings

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    Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will now put their vast talents on display and give Eastern Conference fans a chance to see what they can do.

    The Detroit Red Wings should be able to make a smooth transition, and their talent and depth should allow them to become solid competitors in the Atlantic Division crown. In addition to the established talent, the Red Wings are going to look to flashy Tomas Tatar to bring them energy and scoring.

    Tatar was a dominant player for Detroit's Grand Rapids farm team, and he will get a chance to show off his speed, quickness and talented hands for head coach Mike Babcock this season.

Boyd Gordon, Edmonton Oilers

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    Boyd Gordon is not a breakout player in the traditional sense. However, he is going to play a key role for the Oilers this year, and if they can make a run at a playoff spot, Gordon is going to have a lot to do with it.

    Gordon, 30, is a journeyman center in his first year with the Oilers. He specializes in defense and two-way play. He is considered a "responsible" player, and that's what general manager Craig MacTavish wants to see from his players.

    Not only can Gordon handle tough defensive assignments, but he can set an example for the talented offensive players on the Edmonton roster to follow.

    While he 's not going to be a big-time scorer, Gordon's contributions will likely show up in the team's record.

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

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    Aleksander Barkov was the second overall pick in the 2013-14 draft, and he will get an opportunity to show off his offensive gifts this year.

    Barkov, 18, is the rare combination of size and speed that the Panthers hope will become the centerpiece of their offense. At 6'2" and 209 pounds, Barkov can win the battle for the puck and then use his speed and playmaking ability to create scoring chances.

    Barkov has one goal and one assist in three games while averaging 14:14 of ice time in Florida's first three games.

Matt Frattin, Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings are just two seasons removed from their Stanley Cup championship, and they are largely a team of established veterans.

    However, when they traded goalie Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they got Matt Frattin in return.

    Frattin, 25, was largely a disappointment with the Leafs. However, he has excellent skating speed and will have a chance to show off that talent as well as his hands with the Kings. Frattin needs to show he can play on both ends of the ice or head coach Darryl Sutter will limit his chances. Frattin is already minus-five on the season.

     

Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild

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    Mikael Granlund, 21, got an opportunity to show what he could do in the NHL last year when he played in 27 games for the Minnesota Wild and scored two goals and six assists.

    Granlund has plenty of talent, but he was in over his head a year ago. He gets another chance this year, and he just may be better equipped to show what he can do on a regular basis this season. Granlund has a slew of moves with the puck, and he has three assists in the Wild's first three games.

    Granlund is not the fastest skater, but he is shifty and has excellent vision. He has a chance to become a key player for the Wild this season.

Lars Eller, Montreal Canadiens

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    Lars Eller has been a part of the Canadiens roster since the 2010-11 season. He made a solid contribution in 2011-12 when he scored 16 goals. Eller had eight goals and 22 assists last year in the lockout-shortened season from his left wing position.

    However, Eller does not look like a role player this season. He looks more like a star with four goals and two assists in his first three games this year. Eller has a plus-four rating and has converted on 40 percent of his shots.

    Eller has very quick hands and is doing a good job of putting the puck in the top corners this season. He looks like he could become a star.

Seth Jones, Nashville Predators

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    Seth Jones made a huge impression as a junior player last year, and he is demonstrating during his rookie season that he is ready to live up to the hype.

    Jones was considered to be the top prospect in the draft for much of the season, but when the first three players selected were all offensive types, it gave the Predators an opportunity to jump on Jones.

    So far, he has been excellent since reporting to head coach Barry Trotz's training camp. Jones won a spot in the regular Nashville defensive rotation and is now averaging 23:07 of ice time in the early going.

    Jones can defend, carry the puck, pass and shoot. He appears on track to have an excellent season.

Andrei Loktionov, New Jersey Devils

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    Over the offseason, the Devils lost high-scoring Ilya Kovalchuk when the went to the KHL and David Clarkson, who signed a free-agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Devils are not loaded with a lot of young talent, but they are hoping 23-year-old Andrei Loktionov can make a key contribution as a two-way player. Loktionov is not a high-scoring threat, but he is averaging 14:10 per game with one assist in four games.

Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders

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    Travis Hamonic has established himself as a legitimate NHL defenseman for the New York Islanders during his first three years.

    He has plenty of potential to become a star, and that's why the Islanders gave him a seven-year, $27 million contract. Hamonic is going to have to step up his game this year, because the Islanders need more from him than the three goals and seven assists he scored last year. 

    Mark Streit, the team's best defenseman a year ago, is now in Philadelphia. The Islanders need Hamonic to become the team's best defenseman and one of their most valuable players this season.

Derick Brassard, New York Rangers

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    The Rangers are looking to become a much better offensive team this year under head coach Alain Vigneault, and they are looking for veterans like Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards to lead the way.

    Last year, the Rangers acquired Derick Brassard in the trade that sent Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brassard had an excellent run in the playoffs, scoring two goals and adding 10 assists in 12 games. 

    The Rangers are hoping that this strong two-way forward can continue to assert himself on the offensive end this year and possibly approach 20 goals. The 26-year-old Brassard scored a career-high 17 goals in 2010-11 with the Blue Jackets.

Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators

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    Kyle Turris has established himself as an important player with the Senators since he came over from the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011-12.

    However, this year Turris needs to become a star for the Sens. Turris is a dynamic skater and has excellent offensive potential. He started to fulfill some of that during the regular season when he scored 12 goals and added seven assists. He built on that in the postseason with six goals and three assists in the Sens' 10 playoff games.

    He has one goal and three assists in the Ottawa's first three games this year, is plus-three and is averaging a robust 19:31 of ice time per game. He appears to be on track for a major climb this season.

Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Brayden Schenn, 22, is tied with Vincent Lecavalier atop the Philadelphia Flyers' scoring list through the team's first four games with two goals and one assist.

    Schenn was the fifth overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2009 draft. The Kings thought he had a chance to become an offensive star when they took him with that pick. 

    Schenn was traded to the Flyers in 2011 after playing in nine games over two seasons with the Kings. Since coming to the Flyers, he has scored 20 goals over two seasons. He has looked like a contributor, but not a star.

    The Flyers are hoping that he can build off those two seasons and become a big-time contributor this season.

     

David Rundblad, Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Phoenix Coyotes have a slew of talented young defenseman, and that may be the primary strength of head coach Dave Tippett's team.

    David Rundblad is a solid talent who had an excellent minor league season in 2012-13 in which he made great strides with his overall defensive play. That showing got him a solid look at training camp, and he overcame the odds to make the team and earn a spot in the Coyotes' defensive rotation.

    Rundblad has not gotten on the board yet, but he has an excellent shot and should be a solid contributor on both ends. He is averaging 18:21 of ice time per game, which indicates Tippett's faith in him.

Beau Bennett, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    There are no secrets within the Penguins organization. A look at the roster indicates a boatload of superstars, and that often leaves few opportunities for young players.

    But Beau Bennett is not just any young player. He is a dynamic skater with scoring ability who had a chance to play in 26 games last year and score 10 points.

    Bennett is back this year, and he has a chance to become a valuable contributor who can take advantage of his scoring opportunities. Bennett was the 20th pick in the first round in 2010, and it seems it's just a matter of time before he makes a regular contribution on the scoresheet.

    He has one assist in the Penguins' first three games, but he should be a fairly special player for Dan Bylsma this season.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues

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    Jaden Schwartz has the kind of skating speed and balance that allows him to make a lot of key plays without slowing down.

    That gives him a huge advantage when the Blues get in the transition game. He split his time last year between the Blues and Peoria (during the lockout) of the American Hockey League, and he scored seven goals and six assists in 45 games while in St. Louis.

    He has gotten off to a fine start in 2013-14 with one goal, two assists and a plus-four rating while averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time per game.

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks

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    Tomas Hertl has exploded onto the scene courtesy of a four-goal game vs. the New York Rangers on Oct. 8 (video above).

    Included in that outburst was a spectacular between-the-legs shot that he flipped over the shoulder of Rangers goalie Martin Biron and into the top corner of the net.

    Hertl, the 17th overall selection in the 2012 draft, has scored six goals and one assist this season. He is the league's leading goal scorer and point getter. 

    While Hertl has very little chance of keeping up with the likes of scorers like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin, he appears to be a dynamic scorer with a brilliant future.

Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Alex Killorn was a third-round draft choice in 2007 for the Tampa Bay Lightning, so it's no surprise that it has taken him several seasons to reach the NHL.

    However, he has climbed the ladder steadily and has the offensive talent and defensive tenacity to make a contribution. Killorn scored 19 points in 38 games last year and has one goal and one assist in three games this year. His goal was an overtime-winner against the Buffalo Sabres.

    Killorn is averaging nearly 17 minutes per game, and he appears to figure prominently in head coach Jon Cooper's game plan.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    While Morgan Rielly is playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs right now, there is no guarantee that he will stay with them for the full season.

    The Leafs get to take a nine-game look at Rielly before they decide if they are going to keep him on the blue line or send him back to juniors.

    Rielly, who impressed general manager Dave Nonis during training camp, has averaged 17:11 in two games for the Leafs. Nonis told a gathering of Toronto season-ticket holders, via the Toronto Star, that he felt comfortable keeping the 19-year-old on the roster as long as he is going to get playing time. 

    Rielly has a chance to be a star for the Leafs; it's just a question whether it will be this year or in the future.

Ryan Stanton, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ryan Stanton seemed like an afterthought on the blue line when the Vancouver Canucks picked him up on waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks Sept. 30.

    However, instead of serving as an eighth defenseman who would sit in the press box, Stanton has played in all four games, has garnered two assists and has a plus-two rating while playing nearly 13 minutes a game.

    He may not be a star, but he could be a regular force in the lineup. He has impressed head coach John Tortorella, who does not throw out compliments with great frequency. 

Connor Carrick, Washington Capitals

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    The Washington Capitals are hoping they have a significant blue-line find in Connor Carrick.

    Carrick is a super skater who has offensive skills. He appears to have enough talent to handle the role of power-play quarterback when the Caps need to rest Mike Green. The 19-year-old Chicago area native did enough to make the Capitals roster in training camp, and he scored his first goal in the Caps' win over the Calgary Flames in the second game of the season.

    Carrick is not big and he may get worked over in the corners from time to time, but he is intelligent, agile and clever.

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

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    Jacob Trouba is clearly a talented player. If he wasn't, the Jets would not have drafted him with the ninth pick overall in the 2012 draft.

    However, he didn't make the Jets roster this year because of his gifts. He made it because of his work ethic, determination and hitting ability. Trouba is a strong, powerful player who is not afraid to take on older and established players when they venture into his area.

    Trouba has a goal and an assist in three games and is plus-three on the young season, averaging 21:55 of ice time.

    Trouba, 6'2" and 187 pounds, will be come a destructive force as he adds weight and strength. He already appears to be a player who is able to contribute on the NHL level.