Ten Second-Year NHL Players Who Made a Difference
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Niclas Bergfors was a key figure in the multi-player deal that sent unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils.
Bergfors was a top offensive prospect in the New Jersey system. As a restricted free agent, he was expendable especially with the salary cap-devouring Kovalchuk being added to the roster.
Finishing the season in a Thrashers uniform and impressing the Phillips Arena faithful with flashes of brilliance as a point producer and playmaker, Bergfors along with Johnny Oduya and prospect Patrice Cormier, seemed to quiet even the critics who lambasted the Thrashers for not being able to re-sign Kovalchuk.
He played on Team Sweden in the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship and was also selected in the 2005 CHL Import Draft by the St. John's Fog Devils, but only played in pre-season for them before being re-assigned to Albany.
He spent the 2006–07 season with the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League (AHL).
With the preseason training camp commencing shortly, Bergfors still has not signed a new pact and the Thrashers recently announced that negotiations were not going smoothly.
The Thrashers new GM Rick Dudley has stridently stuck to his guns, refusing to pay above market value for players. Colby Armstrong, Pavel Kubina, Clarke MacArthur, and Max Afinogenov have all departed Atlanta for different venues.
Negotiations with Bergfors may test Dudley a little more than the other transactions, since Bergfors' youth and talent provide a tremendous upside for a team determined to compete in the postseason in 2010-11.
Although the Thrashers probably have Bergfors penciled in for 25 goals, there is a strong possibility that he could beat his projections and register 30 or perhaps more with power-play and penalty-kill minutes.
The Thrashers have arguably the best coaching staff ever since coming to Atlanta. It appears that Ramsey will attempt to create an on ice product that is well conditioned, balanced offensively and defensively, and physical.
He has said he will emphasize forechecking and expects his forwards to finish checks.
Bergfors, along with Evander Kane, Nik Antropov, Rick Peverley, Dustin Byfuglien, and possibly Alex Brumistrov and Andrew Ladd, will be counted on to produce balanced offense at forward.
The Thrashers have several players vying for positions including NIgel Dawes ( formerly of Calgary) who just inked a two-way contract
The Thrashers will not have a player who can automatically be penciled in for 40 goals as Kovalchuk regularly produced in previous years, so individual productivity becomes exceedingly important.
For Bergfors, the opportunity with a young team like the Thrashers may be just the break he is looking for. With his poise and speed, along with a desire to become a standout player in the NHL, 2010-11 could be a banner year for him.
If he is able to produce in his second NHL campaign and help, drive the Thrashers into the playoffs, history bodes well.
Bergfors will join some elite company if he is able to up his goal-scoring and point production after making the NHL All-Rookie team in 2009-10.
Over the years, players like Bernie Geoffrion, Jean Beliveau, Steve Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Sidney Crosby, Larry Murphy, and others have managed to produce significantly better performances in their second year while avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.
Let’s have a look at how some of those players fared in their second year.
Drew Doughty - LA Kings
Drew Doughty battling new Atlanta Thrasher Dustin Byuflglien
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Drew Doughty had a breakout season in 2010, earning consideration as a Norris Trophy finalist and being selected as the youngest player on the Gold Medal Olympic squad.
Doughty made the Olympic team, beating out NHL standout defensemen Dion Phanuef, Mike Green, and Jay Bouwmeester while improving his point production form his rookie year from 27 to 59 points with 16 goals and 43 assists.
Doughty is offensively gifted and tough with plenty of upside.
Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning
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Steven Stamkos seems to have surprised quite a few hockey experts, scoring more goals than Crosby, and Ovechkin and winning the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Stamkos has always been a goal scorer, registering 109 goals in junior hockey in 2005-06.
He improved his goal production form 23 in 2008 to 51 in 2009. Stamkos is a dangerous sniper, and his production, given his history, is no fluke.
Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins
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Pictures of Sidney Crosby started showing up prior to his playing his first game in the NHL. Even with the pressure, Sid has performed well.
Crosby improved his point production in his second year and helped carry the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
Crosby has shown he can score goals with the best of them, tallying 50 plus, placing himself in elite company.
Mario Lemieux - Pittsburgh Penguins
Mario Lemieux had the unique ability to lift you out of your seat when he got the puck.
Besides his goal-scoring heroics and numerous individual awards, "Super Mario" saved the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise by filling seats and winning championships.
How about this for evidence: Calder, Pearson, Art Ross, Hart, Masterson, Lou Marsh, and (3) Stanley Cups.
In Mario's second year in the NHL, he scored 48 goals and 93 assists for 141 points.
Not bad for just starting to find his way around.
Paul Coffey - Edmonton Oilers
Paul Coffey is the only defenseman ever to come close to matching Bobby Orr's speed. Despite all his gifts, he was underrated, contributing to what was a dynasty in Edmonton never likely to be duplicated.
Coffey won three Norris Trophies, set a goalscoring mark for a single season with 48, and was tough enough to accumulate over 100 penalty minutes while still scoring over 100 points.
In his second year, Coffey went from 9 goals and 23 assists to 29 goals and 60 assists.
Gilbert Perreault - Buffalo Sabres
Gilbert Perreault won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year with the Buffalo Sabres.
Today most don't really understand just how phenomenal Perreault was. Bobby Orr once forecasted that if anyone were to break his single season assist record of 102, it would be Perreault.
Although Perreault never lived up to those lofty expectations, he did display unmatchable talent.
Perreault, as a second-year player, could go end to end, utilizing amazing speed to go along with a endless array of head fakes and shoulder shifts that left defenders looking like fools.
While his point totals exceeded his rookie year, Perreault's emergence as a playmaker setting up linemate Rick Martin is what catapulted Buffalo into a new stratosphere.
Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers
Wayne Gretzky came into the NHL with high expectations.
With 51 goals and 86 assists for 137 points, many were astounded when he produced a still-better 164 points the very next year.
Gretzky went on to surpass the immortal Gordie Howe as the No. 1 goal scorer in NHL history.
Jean Beliveau - Montreal Canadians
Jean Beliveau was so famous an amateur that the Montreal Canadians had to purchase Beliveau's team to get him to play for them.
In his second full season, Beliveau did not disappoint the team or the fans, scoring 37 goals and 36 assists. He also scored 12 points in 13 playoff games.
Beliveau won the Conn Smythe, the Art Ross, the Hart, and 10 Stanley Cups before he retired.
Bernie Geoffrion - Montreal Canadians
Atlanta transplant Boom Boom Geoffrion
"Boom Boom" Geoffrion was credited with perfecting the slapshot. He played in a era with Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, and Andy Bathgate, so despite his talent, he never really received the accolades he was due.
Geoffrion scored 30 goals and 24 assists in his second year in the NHL, outstanding numbers at the time. He also won the Calder, Art Ross, and Hart, to go along with six Stanley Cups.
Geoffrion later settled in Atlanta where he was the first coach and GM of the Atlanta Flames. His grandson, Blake, was drafted by the Nashville Predators.
Larry Murphy - LA Kings
Most fans are not aware that before Drew Doughty, the LA Kings drafted Larry Murphy.
In his first year, Murphy scored 6 goals and 21 assists. In his second year, his totals improved to 21 goals and 68 assists.
He was traded several times but participated in the Canada Cup and scored 1,216 points in his career while drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup on multiple occasions.