NHL 2010-11: 10 Potential Breakout Stars to Watch
It happens every year, and it's bound to happen this year. Some player is going to enjoy his breakout season from a highly-touted prospect to a budding star. Heck, it even happens to players in their mid-20s who never really "got it" at the NHL level.
Last year, Steven Stamkos was tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals scored (51), and recorded 95 points in 82 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in his second season.
Stamkos, drafted with the first overall pick in 2008 by Tampa Bay, will be able to say that the 2009-10 season was his breakout campaign when he retires from the game many years from now as a superstar.
The 20-year-old has fans across the hockey universe excited about watching the Lightning in the coming season. Always beneficial to the league.
Another example of a player who broke out last year is New York Islanders left winger Matt Moulson, who scored 30 goals in 82 games with the Islanders.
Moulson, 26, played in only 29 games in two years with the Los Angeles Kings before going to New York. His season earned him an extension that will pay him $2.45 million for the 2010-11 season.
The question is who is going to be this year's Steven Stamkos? Or Matt Moulson?
With that said, I compiled a list of 10 potential players that could endure a breakout season.
No. 10: Jakub Voráček, Columbus Blue Jackets
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Career Statistics: 161 GP, 25 G, 63 A, 88 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 81 GP, 16 G, 34 A, 50 PTS
Analysis: Overshadowed by the top pick in his draft, Jakub Voráček has quietly developed into a nice player for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who drafted him with the seventh overall pick in 2007.
Voráček played in 80 games during his rookie season in which he scored 38 points (nine G, 29 A) and 44 penalty minutes. The 21-year-old tallied an assist on the Jackets' first ever playoff goal, which was scored by R.J. Umberger.
The Czech-born forward posted 50 points in his second year in the NHL, scoring 16 goals and 34 assists in 81 games. Since the 2007 draft, he's third in games played out of the top 10 picks—behind Patrick Kane (244) and Sam Gagner (223).
A gifted passer, Voráček will have his chance to excel in the 2010-11 season as the Blue Jackets have a new head coach in Scott Arniel, who may not be as hard to play under as Ken Hitchcock.
Look for Voráček to take the next step in his career, and breakout to be the second-best player in his draft class.
Because let's face the fact, James van Riemsdyk and Kyle Turris are not exactly panning out as projected, and no one else can really top what Patty Kane has accomplished thus far.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 81 GP, 23 G, 45 A, 68 PTS
No. 9: Rene Bourque, Calgary Flames
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Career Statistics: 314GP, 81 G, 92 A, 173 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 73 GP, 27 G, 31 A, 58 PTS
Analysis: A five-year veteran, Rene Bourque has yet to achieve his potential when the Chicago Blackhawks signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2004.
Bourque posted big numbers in his first year playing for the Norfolk Admirals in the 2004-05 season, in which he scored a franchise record 33 goals, and led the team with 60 points en route of winning the AHL Rookie of the Year.
His rookie year with the Blackhawks. the 6'2", 213-lb. Bourque registered 16 goals and 34 points, fourth in team scoring. Since then, he has only 65 goals to his name. He hasn't lived up to the promise he showed at the AHL level.
The 28-year-old is entering his sixth season at the NHL level, now with the Calgary Flames. Last year, he was expected to take the next step in his development in the world's greatest hockey league. Bourque posted 58 points (27 G, 31 A) in 73 games.
The Flames have cleaned house a bit in the last couple months, and were unwilling to let go of the undrafted winger. If Calgary sees him as a piece to build around, Bourque needs to step up in 2010-11 and show that his Juniors stats were legit.
With Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen back with the Flames, Bourque will have less pressure to be a significant contributor to Calgary. Despite still having Jarome Iginla, the Flames are not an offensive team.
Rene Bourque could add another weapon, and this year could be his breakout campaign.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 78 GP, 35 G, 36 A, 71 PTS
No. 8: Michael Grabner, Florida Panthers
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Career Statistics: 20 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 20 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 PTS
Analysis: The 14th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Michael Grabner finally reached the NHL last season with the Vancouver Canucks after spending four seasons in the American Hockey League.
Grabner scored five goals and six assists in 20 games with the Canucks last season, including one goal in nine playoff games.
Vancouver traded him to the Florida Panthers, along with Steve Bernier and a first-round pick, for defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Victor Oreskovich. Grabner, who's described as speedy guy with good hands and good sniping ability, will have a chance to prove himself in his first full season in Florida.
In 180 games in the AHL, Grabner netted 68 goals and 52 assists for 120 points. Grabner scored 22 goals in the 2007-08 season, and 30 in the 2008-09 season while playing for the Manitoba Moose.
The Panthers have been slowly progressing into a team that could be in contention for a playoff spot over the last couple of years, despite taking a step back in 2009-10. They're in need of a young player to build around, and now they have Grabner.
Florida is expecting big things from the 22-year-old, and he's definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 21 G, 17 A, 38 PTS
No. 7: David Perron, St. Louis Blues
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Career Statistics: 225 GP, 48 G, 76 A, 124 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 82 GP, 27 G, 20 A, 47 PTS
Analysis: There's a lot to be excited for if you're a St. Louis Blues fan, and David Perron is one of them.
Perron, 22, was drafted by the Blues with the 26th-overall pick in 2008 after he scored 83 points in 70 games with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the QMJHL.
In his rookie year with St. Louis, Perron recorded 27 points (13 G, 14 A), 38 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of 16 in 62 games. Pretty impressive rookie numbers.
During his second season, he significantly progressed to score 50 points in 81 games, while potting 15 goals and racking up 35 assists with a plus-13 rating.
Last year, Perron netted 20 goals and 27 assists in 81 games for the Blues. He finished the season with a -10 rating for St. Louis, who finished ninth in the Western Conference.
A hard-working and skilled forward, Perron is very smart defensively, and forces the play with his tenacious forechecking. He has quick hands and a quick stick, and won't be afraid to impressive passes through traffic.
With T.J. Oshie and Perron in St. Louis, Blues' fans can be excited about the near future.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 32 G, 34 A, 66 PTS
No. 6: Wayne Simmonds, Los Angeles Kings
Career Statistics: 160 GP, 25 G, 38 A, 63 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 78 GP, 16 G, 24 A, 40 PTS
Analysis: One of four rookies in the 2008-09 season, Wayne Simmonds won the hearts of Los Angeles Kings fans with a strong work ethic on and off the ice.
Simmonds scored only 23 points in 82 games in his rookie season, only to improve in his second season. In last year's miracle campaign for Los Angeles, Simmonds netted 16 goals for 40 points, and led the team in plus/minus (+22).
In six playoff games, the 6'2", 183-lb. winger scored three points and finished the series loss with a plus-one rating.
Simmonds never scored more than 32 goals in his hockey career, but playing with some young talent on the Kings that has really matured over the past season, the 22-year-old will have every opportunity to explode this coming season.
Projected 2010-11 Statistics: 82 GP, 25 G, 30 A, 55 PTS
No. 5: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
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Career Statistics: 126 GP, 25 G, 49 A, 74 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 82 GP, 16 G, 31 A, 47PTS
Anaylsis: If you watch the Philadelphia Flyers like I do, then you should know that Claude Giroux is going to be a star in this league. And if you watched the playoffs last year, you know that he took a big step towards reaching superstar status.
Giroux had an impressive rookie season for the Flyers in 2008-09, in which he scored 34 points (17G, 17A) in 33 regular season games, and had an even better playoffs. Giroux scored five points in six games against Pittsburgh in the Flyers early exit, and he was the team's best player in the series.
Many "experts" believed he would take a big step forward this past season, maybe scoring 60 points, but he had a mediocre regular season compared to his expectations. Giroux scored only 16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points in 82 games.
But Giroux elevated his game to another level in the playoffs. In 23 postseason games, Giroux scored 21 points (10G, 11A) including two game winners.
Considering he's scored 100 points three different time in Juniors, expect Giroux to finally emerge as a star this coming year.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 26 G, 49 A, 75 PTS
No. 4: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Career Statistics: 74 GP, 4 G, 16 A, 20 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 74 GP, 4 G, 16 A, 20 PTS
Anaylsis: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Victor Hedman had an impressive rookie season with Tampa Bay.
Hedman, in his first year playing in North America, recorded four goals and 16 assists in 74 games with a very young Lightning team last year. He had a plus/minus rating of minus-three, and 79 penalty minutes.
Now, the Lightning has added some veteran leadership in the locker room with the acquisition of Simon Gagne and have gotten a year older. With Steve Yzerman taking over as general manager, the Lightning have a bright future.
You can bet Hedman is very much involved in Tampa's plans.
Possessing all the tools to be an elite defenseman in the NHL, Hedman will have a better understanding to shut down NHL players in the smaller rink. With the ability to score from the blue line, Hedman can play the power play.
While scoring points isn't the most important asset to a defenseman, Hedman is going to be a top-defenseman in the NHL. This year is going to be his year to show that Tampa Bay has a legit No. 1 defenseman that can play 30 minutes a night.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 81 GP, 5 G, 29 A, 34 PTS, plus-eight
No. 3: Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles Kings
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Career Statistics: 7 GP, 4-3, 2.83 GAA, .906 SV Percentage
2009-10 Statistics: 3 GP, 3-0, 1.30 GAA, .957 SV Percentage
Anaylsis: Despite having a pretty damn good goalie in front of him, Jonathan Bernier makes my list at the No. 3 as potential breakout stars for the 2010-11 season.
I didn't want to put a goalie on the list, but he's just too good not to put on. Having to compete with Jonathan Quick, Bernier will likely not start the majority of the games for the Kings, but when he does, he's going to dominate.
Regarded as the best player not in the NHL by many, Bernier is ready to take over the reins as the starting goalie in Los Angeles.
Last year, Bernier was the American Hockey League's top tender, posting a 30-21-6 record with a 2.03 goals against average, and a .936 save percentage. He recorded nine shutouts in 58 games with the Manchester Monarchs.
In three games with the Kings last year, Bernier was brilliant as he won all three games while owning a 1.30 GAA and a .957 SV percentage. One of his wins were a shutout.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 41 GP, 28-9-4, 2.30 GAA, .919 SV Percentage, 5 SO
No. 2: Nikolai Zherdev, Philadelphia Flyers
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Career Statistics: 365 GP, 99 G, 140 A, 239 PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 52 GP, 13 G, 26 A, 39 PTS (in KHL)
Anaylsis: When the Flyers signed Nikolai Zherdev to a one-year contract this summer, many people considered it a risky signing as he has been an enigma his entire career.
Having to play in the KHL last year, Zherdev wanted to return to the NHL after spending a year in Russia, where he began his hockey career. Maybe he remembered how bad it was over there, and wanted to come back to America, who knows.
The fact is, Zherdev is one of the best pure offensively skill players in the league. There's no refuting that. Already a three-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL, Zherdev will play for the Flyers this coming year.
In his last season in the NHL, Zherdev scored 25 goals and 35 assists while playing for the New York Rangers. He was let go after winning his arbitration case, and had to go to Russia to play.
Not putting up stellar numbers in the KHL, Zherdev recorded only 39 points (13G, 26A) in 52 games, however expect him to have his best season in his career with Philadelphia.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 34 G, 36 A, 70 PTS
No. 1: John Tavares, New York Islanders
Career Statistics: 82 GP, 24 G, 30 A, 54PTS
2009-10 Statistics: 82 GP, 24 G, 30 A, 54 PTS
Anaylsis: Drafted with the first pick by the Islanders in last year's draft, John Tavares tops my list as potential breakout stars for the 2010-11 season.
How can you not think Tavares is going to be a superstar at the NHL level? He's dominated every level he's been at, and he had an impressive rookie season.
Tavares played all 82 games for New York last year, scoring 24 times and picking up 30 assists. With a year of experience under his belt, Tavares is bigger, stronger, and better prepared for his second season.
His Junior stats are phenomenal, scoring 433 points (215 G, 218 A) in 247 games. That's more than double the points than games played. He's got too much talent not to be a star, and he's too good not to hit that level early in his career.
Tabbed as one of the best prospects since Sidney Crosby, JT will gives Islanders fans plenty to cheer for in the coming years, but this year, he's going to do big things.
Projected 2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 34 G, 55 A, 89 PTS