The Dirty Dozen: 12 Developing NHL Players To Watch In 2010-11
Every year, NHL fans wait with great anticipation to watch the newest crop of NHL rookies arrive on the scene.
Last season we saw several rookies post impressive seasons, including Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
With their first NHL seasons behind them, the 2009-10 crop will now be counted on to exceed their totals as they continue to develop their games, something many struggle with.
Let’s take a look at the 12 developing players you should be looking out for during the 2010-11 season.
Tuukka Rask: Boston Bruins, Goaltender
Tuukka Rask put up some of the most impressive numbers for a rookie goaltender in recent memory. Rask ranked first overall in Save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.97), while his five shutouts ranked Rask seventh overall.
Rask played 45 games last season, posting a very respectable record of 22-12-5. With Tim Thomas clearly on the outs, Rask should see his games played increase to over 60 games this season.
Rask has the potential to follow up his rookie season with an All-Star caliber season, a season that should see Rask top 30 wins and fight for the lead in just about every goaltending category.
Evander Kane: Atlanta Thrashers, forward.
With the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk, Evander Kane suddenly finds himself in the position to be “the man” in Atlanta.
As such, Kane should see a noticeable increase in ice time and special teams play, which should see his offensive totals rise dramatically.
Through 66 games played, Kane lit the lamp a total of 14 times, adding 12 assists for a total of 26 points. Realistically, Kane should push for 25 goals in 2010-11 and 50 points looks to be very attainable.
Tyler Bozak: Toronto Maple Leafs, Forward.
With the calendar getting closer and closer to September, barring a trade for a top-flight center, it appears as if the Toronto Maple Leafs will enter the 2010-11 season with one of Tyler Bozak or rookie Nazem Kadri as the team's first line center.
Either way, given Bozak’s reasonable rookie success (37 games played, eight goals, 19 assists, 27 points), you can bet that he will see an increase on his ice time, as well as a healthy dose of power play time where he scored twice last season.
For Bozak, a 20-goal season is well within his range, as are 50 points.
In order to get those kind of totals Bozak will need to shoot the puck more (registered 51 shots in 2009-10), and earn his special teams play by improving his play without the puck.
His faceoff skills (55.2 percent success rate) make Bozak very valuable to the Leafs, a team that struggled in the circle last season.
Tyler Myers: Buffalo Sabres, Defenseman.
The reigning Rookie of the Year award winner, Tyler Myers, will have a tough act to follow in 2010-11.
Myers displayed a tremendous combination of toughness, defensive play, offense, and hockey IQ last season, all of which will be challenged by opposing forwards, night-in, night-out in 2010-11.
With 11 goals and 48 points through 82 games with the Sabres last season, Myers will be hard-pressed to exceed those totals. That said, a repeat performance is not out of the question, especially if his power play time increases significantly.
John Carlson: Washington Capitals, Defenseman.
Carlson only played in 22 regular season games with the Washington Capitals last season, posting one goal and six points.
The playoffs saw Carlson play an additional seven games where he posted one goal, four points, and a plus/minus rating of plus six in the process.
The Capitals appear to be willing to give both Karl Alzner and Carlson a shot to make the team out of training camp.
If Carlson can improve his defensive game he will likely be afforded to let his unquestionable offensive skills shine—maybe even taking some power play time away from the defensively inept Mike Green?
In the right situation and with the right amount of ice time, Carlson has a legitimate chance to post 40-50 points with the Capitals next season—all you “poolies” out there, draft Carlson early. You will not regret it!
Matt Duchene: Colorado Avalanche, Forward.
Matt Duchene emerged as the NHL’s rookie scoring leader for the 2009-10 season, nudging out prohibitive favorite John Tavares (55-54 points) by just one point.
Like many sophomores, Duchene should see an increase in ice time next season and an increase in power play time, where he lit the lamp a total of 10 times.
Blessed with an impressive all-round game, Duchene heads into the 2010-11 season as the odds-on favorite to emerge as one of the NHL’s future stars.
Through 81 games Duchene posted 24 goals and 55 points. The 2010-11 season should see Duchene emerge with 30 or more goals and 70 points.
John Tavares: New York Islanders, Forward.
Through 82 games, John Tavares lit the lamp a total of 24 times and posted 54 points, one point off rookie scoring champ Matt Duchene.
While Tavares did not win the rookie scoring title, he did show a ton of upside on a bad team.
While nobody will be confusing the Islanders for a Stanley Cup contender in 2010-11, they are an improving squad, one that has the potential to score a decent amount of goals.
Front and centre for the Islanders will be Tavares, who will be asked to play upwards of 20 minutes per game and see more power play time, where he scored 11 goals last season.
Tavares has the ability to be a 30 goal scorer and 70 point player. It says here Tavares will score 35 or more next season, emerging as one of the NHL’s top snipers.
Jamie Benn: Dallas Stars, Forward.
Playing for the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn doesn’t get the attention he deserves.
Make no mistake about it, Benn is a budding NHL star, and given the opportunities that will be afforded to him in Dallas next season, Benn’s totals should skyrocket from the 22 goals and 41 points he posted as a rookie in 2009-10.
Benn, knowing for his combination of offensive prowess and physical play, should further endear himself to Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, a former NHL player that will be quick to reward hard play and high compete level.
Look for Benn to score around 30 goals next season, with 60 points all but a certainty.
Erik Karlsson: Ottawa Senators, Defenseman.
Averaging just over 20 minutes per game in icetime, Erik Karlsson had a quiet rookie season, posting five goals and 26 points in 60 regular season games.
Karlsson came to life during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he played nearly 26 minutes per game, scoring one goal and six points through six games.
Blessed with great skating and offensive flare, Karlsson should thrive under the tutelage of veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who was brought into the Senators fold via free agency this summer.
If Karlsson gets the ice time he deserves (upwards of 20 minutes per game) he should be a shoe-in to post 40 points.
Carl Gunnarsson: Toronto Maple Leafs, Defenseman.
Toronto Maple Leaf fans have a penchant for overvaluing their young talent; this is not the case with Carl “Uzi” Gunnarsson.
Gunnarsson played 43 games for the Maple Leafs last season, scoring three goals and 15 points while posting an impressive plus-eight rating.
Gunnarsson averaged 21:26 of ice time and just over 21 shifts per game last season. While his icetime is not expected to go up dramatically, look for Uzi’s power play time to increase (especially if Tomas Kaberle is traded) so the Maple Leafs can take advantage of his impressive point shot, which is both lethal and accurate.
Ten goals and 30 points looks to be well within reach for Gunnarsson...fact is, the sky is the limit with this sophomore.
Niclas Bergfors: Atlanta Thrashers, Forward.
After coming over to the Atlanta Thrashers in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal, Bergfors didn’t miss a beat, scoring eight goals and 17 points in 27 games, giving him 21 goals and 44 points on the season (81 games played).
Bergfors scored nine power-play goals last season, which all but points to him getting a lot of the power play minutes that Kovalchuk once ate up in Atlanta.
Increased minutes, more familiarity with his teammates, and more power play time should be enough to spark Bergfors offensive totals to the point where he has a legitimate shot at 30 goals and 60 points.
P.K. Subban: Montreal Canadiens, Defenseman.
No rookie impressed more during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs than the Montreal Canadiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban.
Big hits, great outlet passes, and a resiliency that had more than a few NHL GM’s drooling solidified Subban as a blue-chip prospect, one that should evolve into a top defenseman as early as the 2010-11 season.
Through 14 playoff games, Subban scored one goal and added seven assists for a total of eight points to go along with his plus two rating.
Subban averaged nearly 21 minutes of ice time during that 14-game stretch, taking 23 shots on net, and established himself as one of the Canadiens better all-around D-men.
Thirty points is not out of the question for Subban, but it’s his all-around game that will catch the eye of opponents and fans alike.