2011 NHL Predictions: Ryan Kesler and 10 Players Set for a Breakout Season

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJune 7, 2011

2011 NHL Predictions: Ryan Kesler and 10 Players Set for a Breakout Season

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    The NHL currently is full of superstars such as Steven Stamkos, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and countless others.

    However, there was a time not too long ago where these players were nothing more than upstart rookies on the cusp of greatness. Some players have good seasons yet some hover just around the league average.

    In this slideshow I will highlight some players who could have breakout years in 2011-12. This list include some young NHL'ers, a two time Stanley Cup champion and some countless others who are looking to make it north of 60 points.

Logan Couture

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    Logan Couture had a great full rookie season for the San Jose Sharks. He lit the lamp 32 times and helped 24 others to appear on the stats sheet for a total of 54 points.

    These are some impressive numbers. He can only get better as he gets older on a team with such depth as the San Jose Sharks. He can learn from the tutelage of players such as Jumbo Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

    When I asked a former teammate of Couture's he had this to say,

    "Couture has been exciting to watch & play against. I've had the pleasure of both. He's the definition of an 'athlete' in the NHL. If he wasn't in the NHL, he'd be in the MLB. His ability to play in all three zones at 22 years of age make him a definite future superstar"

    Predictions for 2011-12

    35 Goals and 35 Assists for 70 Points

Ryan Kesler

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    Ryan Kesler is a very talented player for the Vancouver Canucks. He is a great two way player and has a chance to win the Selke Trophy along with the Stanley Cup this year.

    Ryan Kesler's stock has been on the rise ever since his performance for the US at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games.

    This year Kesler had 73 points.His 41 goals were a career high for Kesler and he was an impressive plus-24 for the year.

    I realize Ryan Kesler is a great player already but I think next year he will hit the 50 goals and 90 points mark in a similar fashion that Corey Perry did this season.


    Predictions for 2011-12

    52 Goals 55 Assists for 107 Points

Michael Grabner

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    For all the success Vancouver has had with young players like Ryan Kesler and both Sedins, letting Michael Grabner go was a big mistake. I can only imagine how much him and Ryan Kesler could feed off each other.

    Once a member of the Canucks, Grabner was invited to Panthers training camp but was eventually put on waivers. The Islanders then scooped in to pick up this great prospect.

    Michael Grabner gives New York Islanders fans something to be excited for. Grabner scored 34 goals and assisted on 18 others for a total of 54 points. Grabner recently inked a five year extension and is only going to get better as long as he gains chemistry with John Tavares.

    Next year Grabner will be playing for a team that wants him, a team that has faith in him, and a team that has locked him up long term. With Grabner not having the additional pressure of playing for a contract, I think he hits the 65 to 70-point plateau.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    37 Goals and 30 Assists for 67 Points

Jeff Skinner

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    Jeff Skinner is one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy this season. He had 31 goals and 32 assists for 63 points. Only team captain Eric Staal had more points.

    Whenever Carolina seemed to need a clutch goal during the season, Jeff Skinner always seemed to find a way to score. 

    Skinner showed a lot of poise and skill for a rookie and will be a big part of the Carolina Hurricanes for many years to come.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    35 Goals 40 Assists 75 Points

John Tavares

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    John Tavares is the next breakout star on the cusp of greatness. John Tavares had 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points last season.

    Tavares did exceptionally well in his sophomore season for the Isles and I can only see his point totals increase. 

    Tavares is a 6"0 202 lb center who has showcased his scoring abilities and his ability to turn on the jets when necessary.

    Tavares has a cap hit of $3,750,000 and will be a RFA at the end of the 2011-12 season. His future with the Islanders however will most likely be determined when the vote on the proposed arena is cast in August.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    40 goals 35 Assists for 75 Points

Corey Crawford

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    Corey Crawford is now the man in Chicago. He did all that he possibly could for the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. I can only imagine what could have been had Burrows not stolen the puck for an easy breakaway goal.

    Regardless, Crawford has a bright future and had a lot of Chicago fans saying during the playoffs, Niemi... Niemi who? 

    Crawford posted a respectable 33-18-6 records in 57 games with a 2.30 Goals Against Average. Comparably, Tim Thomas posted a 35-11-7 record in 57 games.

    Whenever you are in the same neighborhood of a Vezina winner such as Tim Thomas, it speaks volumes to what type of player you can become.

    The video clip above tells you all that you really need to know about Corey Crawford


    Predictions for 2011-12

    65 Games Played

    37 Wins

    2.20 GAA

Andrew Ladd

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    Andrew Ladd is going to be the Inaugural captain of the new Winnipeg franchise.

    Ladd was on top of the world last year when he won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Fast forwarding a bit, Ladd and countless other Blackhawks were shipped out of town. Ladd and the rest of the Thrashers are being presented with a golden opportunity. The mere fact that the team has already sold out the MTS Center for this season and many years to come is a great sign.

    There will be Winnipeggers there every night cheering their team on. This will be a big change from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta.

    Ladd who turns 26 later this year had an average year scoring 29 goals and 30 assists for 59 points. I think this move will greatly benefit Ladd.

    Ladd is no stranger playing in Canada having played for the Calgary Hitmen and Vancouver Giants of the WHL and the Coquitlam Express of the BCHL.

    When you also take into consideration that Winnipeg will have a lot of cap room to resign Ladd and other free agents, it makes for a sure fire success for this season and more to come in Winnipeg.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    35 Goals and 30 Assists for 65 points.

Ryan Callahan

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    Ryan Callahan is being groomed to become the next captain. He embodies what it means to be a Ranger. His presence was definitely missed by the Rangers during the playoffs.

    There is no doubt that he will re-sign with the New York Rangers. He loves playing for the Rangers, and the Rangers love him. 

    With that in mind he is set to have a breakout season. Ryan Callahan has 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points in 60 games last season. It is predicted that if Callahan had played in those 22 game he would have eclipsed 30 goals and 30 assists for at least 60 points.

    Ryan Callahan will never put up Marty St.Louis numbers. Ryan Callahan at most could put up numbers similar to what Ryan Kesler put up this season. Roughly 65 to 70 points and a plus minus around 20 or more. 

    Callahan is a nitty gritty player. He blocks shots, kills penalties, and sacrifices his body. He brings so much to the table overall that makes him an integral part or the New York Rangers

    Predictions for 2011-12

    31 Goals and 35 Assists for 66 Points

Stephen Weiss

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    Stephen Weiss is your average 50- 60 points man. He has been a member of the Florida Panthers during his entire career. He has been a member of the Florida Panthers ever since he was drafted by them back in 2001. 

    Weiss has yet to have that defining breakout season. Weiss' name has been circulating through the rumor mill for quite some time. He has been linked to the New York Rangers as a possible linemate for Marian Gaborik.

    Regardless, Weiss is primed to have a breakout year next season.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    25 Goals and 45 Assists for 70 Points

Derek Stepan

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    Derek Stepan may only be a 21-year-old fresh out of college but he has a lot of talent. In his first career NHL game, he netted a hat trick against reigning Vezina Trophy Winner, Ryan Miller. Not many players can say they started off their career with a hat trick.

    Stepan would go on to score a total 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points. Stepan was juggled between the 1st and 3rd lines by John Tortorella during the season.

    If Stepan can have some solid and consistent line mates in the 2011-12 season, he has the opportunity to put up some huge numbers.

    Predictions for 2011-12

    25 Goals 35 Assists for 60 Points


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