NHL Power Rankings: Each Team's Breakout Star for the 2011-2012 Season
Each team has one or more individual superstars, but they also have their share of guys looking to make a name for themselves in the NHL. These guys usually start out with a respectable points total and a small amount of responsibility on the ice, but as they develop, they are able to play bigger roles on their teams.
Every year, several players lay the groundwork for the start of a successful NHL career. They are able to use what they learn early in their careers to mature and become contributors, and sometimes become some of the best players in the league.
Who will those guys be in the 2011-12 NHL season?
Based on statistics from the 2010-11 season, here are some guys who could have their breakout year next year.
Anaheim Ducks: Luca Sbisa, Defenseman
Before this season, Sbisa had played 47 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ducks but had managed just a minus-seven rating and no points.
This year, Sbisa had nine points and a plus-two rating in eight games for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL before coming to Anaheim and tallying 11 points in 68 games. His totals included one power-play goal, and he also had one assist in six playoff games.
Sbisa finished second on Anaheim in the regular season with 170 hits and sixth with 85 blocked shots. He also played close to 17 minutes a game. In the playoffs, he was third on Anaheim with 12 hits and fourth with eight blocked shots while playing about 16 minutes a game.
Sbisa will be with the Ducks for at least four more years, barring a trade, so we could see big things from him now that he will be able to settle into a team.
Boston Bruins: Tyler Seguin, Center
Seguin was the Bruins' second overall selection in last year's draft, and he made the Bruins roster out of training camp this season.
He finished his first professional season with 22 points and one power-play goal in 74 games, and although he has been used infrequently in the playoffs, he still has a solid seven points and plus-four rating in 11 games.
During the regular season, he was ninth on Boston in faceoff wins (49.5 percent) and averaged about 12 minutes of ice time per game. He has played about 10:30 in the playoffs and is ninth in faceoff wins with a 38.1 percent success rate.
Seguin also became the first teenager since Trevor Linden to score four points in a playoff game. He had two goals and two assists in Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Seguin did well in the faceoff circle this season, and he has not looked out of place during the postseason. He should continue to grow and improve next season.
Buffalo Sabres: Marc-Andre Gragnani, Defenseman
I realize that Gragnani did not play many games this year, but I feel he has the makings to be a top defenseman with the Sabres next season should he be re-signed (he is currently a restricted free agent).
In 63 games with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, Gragnani posted 60 points and a plus-22 rating. He played in nine games with the Sabres and had three points while tallying a game-winning goal. He was also getting 15 minutes of ice time per game while on recall, including an average of two minutes of power-play time.
During the playoffs, Gragnani led the Sabres in scoring with seven points, which included a set of two-point games. He was third on the team with 21:53 of ice time a game and second with 4:32 of ice time on the power play. He was also second with 12 blocked shots.
The Sabres would be foolish to let Gragnani go. He is the real deal in my opinion, and he certainly has nothing left to prove in the minors.
Calgary Flames: David Moss, Right Wing
The Flames still need some work to become a playoff contender, and Moss should be one of the pieces to help them get there.
Moss has been with the team for close to four seasons, but he has only played close to a full season once in 2008-09, when he put up 39 points in 81 games. This year, though, he improved on his 2009-10 point total of 17 points by tallying 30 points. He also played less games this year, playing in just 58 as opposed to his 64 games in 2009-10.
He played 13:41 this year and was seventh on the team with 92 hits.
Moss has one more year left on his current contract, and the fact that he improved on his totals despite not playing as much should give Flames fans hope for a breakout year.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jamie McBain, Defenseman
McBain played his first full NHL season this year and had 30 points in 76 games with the Hurricanes. He also had one power-play goal and two game-winning goals.
He was seventh on the team with 19:06 of ice time per game and ninth with 2:44 played on the penalty kill. In addition, he was fourth with 117 blocked shots.
Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo, two of the defensemen who played top minutes with the Canes, are unrestricted free agents. The 2011-12 season should give McBain his time to shine and ease into a top defensive role as the Canes look to break a two-year playoff drought.
Chicago Blackhawks: Viktor Stalberg, Left Wing
In 2009-10, Stalberg played in 40 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and posted 14 points. He improved on his total with the Hawks this year and had 24 points in 72 games, including three game-winning goals.
Stalberg averaged 10:41 of ice time per game in the regular season and was sixth in faceoff wins with a respectable 55.6 percent success rate. He also ranked fifth with 102 hits.
During the playoffs, his ice time was increased to 12 minutes per game, and he finished fifth with 16 hits.
Stalberg is developing a solid physical game in addition to a nice scoring touch and next year could see continued improvement.
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O'Reilly, Center
O'Reilly has posted identical 26-point seasons for the last two years, but this year, his totals included two power-play goals and one shorthanded goal.
He also ranked third on Colorado with a 51.8 percent success rate in the faceoff circle and eighth with 2:24 of ice time on the penalty kill.
O'Reilly came right into the NHL after playing for the Erie Otters of the OHL and has been solid so far. The 2011-12 season could be the year he cracks the 30-point mark.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Grant Clitsome, Defenseman
Clitsome played just 31 games this season, but he was given some major responsibility, as he was second on the team with 21:16 of ice time per game. He was also third with 3:30 played on the power play and he logged 1:38 of time on the penalty kill.
During this time, Clitsome finished with 19 points and a plus-two rating. He also had 15 points with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.
Clitsome recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Blue Jackets. Top ice-time getter Jan Hejda and veteran Craig Rivet are expected to leave Columbus via free agency, which should pave the way for Clitsome to become a key part of the Jackets' rebuilding process.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn, Left Wing
Benn missed 13 games with injury this year, but he still improved on his 41 points from 2009-10 by finishing with 56 points in 69 games. He added six power-play goals and three game-winning goals, while his four shorthanded goals were fifth in the NHL.
He was ninth on the Stars with 18 minutes of ice time, which included 2:17 on the power play and 1:37 on the penalty kill (he was ranked ninth in both special teams categories). In addition, he finished sixth with 124 hits.
Benn will still have veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow to continue learning from, as he is just 21 years old. However, he should get better, as he could really do well after improving, despite dealing with injury.
Detroit Red Wings: Darren Helm, Center
Helm had 32 points for his first 30-point campaign. He also had a plus-nine rating and posted two shorthanded goals and two game-winning goals.
During the season, he was fourth on the Wings with 128 hits and 10th with 30 blocked shots. He played about 13 minutes per game and was second with 3:03 played on the penalty kill. Helm also did well on faceoffs, winning 52.6 percent of his draws (fifth on Detroit).
In the playoffs, he had six points and a plus-one rating while posting one game winning-goal. He was fourth on the Wings in scoring and finished second with 28 hits. He was third with 3:09 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Helm is a versatile player who Wings fans are enjoying watching. He should bring them more excitement as the page turns to next season.
Edmonton Oilers: Devan Dubnyk, Goaltender
Dubnyk played 35 games this season, going 12-13-8 and posting two shutouts. He had a .916 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA.
He managed to improve on his totals from the 2009-10 season despite playing on an Oiler steam still in rebuild mode. The opportunities were there for him, as Jeff Deslauriers was sent to Oklahoma City of the AHL, and Nikolai Khabibulin is on the decline. Khabibulin had a league-worst 32 losses this year.
With Deslauriers set to hit free agency, the Oilers could very well be Dubnyk's team next season. His save percentage was respectable, and he should be able to handle an increased workload.
Florida Panthers: Jason Garrison, Defenseman
This was a toss-up between Garrison and another young defenseman, Dmitry Kulikov, but Garrison won out for me.
This year, Garrison had 18 points for the Panthers and came through with three game-winning goals. He was second on the team with 22:17 of ice time and 3:08 of ice time on the penalty kill. He had 136 hits (first on Florida) and was second with 127 blocked shots.
Most of Florida's defensive corps are under contract for next season, and Garrison has proven that he can handle a top role. He should continue to improve while handling key responsibilities on the ice as the Panthers take another step towards ending a decade-long playoff drought.
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Lewis, Center
Lewis tallied 13 points and two game-winning goals during the regular season while posting four points and one game-winning goal in six playoff games.
During the season, Lewis played about 11:30 per game and was seventh with 1:46 of ice time on the penalty kill. He was also eighth with 102 hits.
In the playoffs, he had 17 hits (fourth on the Kings) and was also tied for seventh with six blocked shots. His ice time increased substantially, as he played 16:39 per game and was fourth with 3:01 played on the penalty kill. He also won 40 percent of his faceoffs (seventh on Los Angeles).
His increased ice time during the postseason, and his ability to be physical should bode well for him in the 2011-12 season.
Minnesota Wild: Clayton Stoner, Defenseman
Stoner had nine points and a plus-five through 57 games and also put up one game-winning goal. Although his point totals weren't significant, he contributed in other ways.
He was ninth on Minnesota with 16:51 of ice time per game, including playing 2:06 on the penalty kill (sixth on the Wild). He was also sixth with 110 hits and fourth with 81 blocked shots.
The Wild will return almost all of their defensemen next season, and Stoner can continue improving with the help of experienced defensemen such as Brent Burns, Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon.
Montreal Canadiens: Lars Eller, Center
Eller finished the regular season with 17 points in 77 games while posting two game-winning goals. He also had two assists in seven playoff games.
He was seventh on the Habs with 85 blocked shots and ninth in faceoff wins, winning 42.5 percent of his draws. He also averaged about 11 minutes per game.
Eller improved in the faceoff circle in the playoffs, winning 43.1 of the time even though he still placed ninth in that category. His ice time increased slightly to 13 minutes per game, and he was third on the team with 18 hits.
Eller has another year on his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent, and he has set the groundwork to start on his path to a contract extension with Montreal.
Nashville Predators: Nick Spaling, Left Wing
Spaling had 14 points in 74 games this year, including one power-play goal and two game-winning goals. He had six points through the playoffs and also had a plus-three rating. In Game 6 against Anaheim in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, he scored the goal that put the Predators in the second round for the first time in franchise history.
Spaling played about 14 minutes per game in the regular season while ranking fourth with 2:44 of ice time on the penalty kill. In addition, he was fourth in faceoff wins with a 50.9 percent success rate.
In the playoffs, he played 15:19 per game and was again fourth with 2:23 of the penalty kill. He further improved on his faceoff win total, winning 53.2 percent of his draws and ranking fourth.
In addition, he finished ninth on the Predators with 16 hits and seventh with 10 blocked shots.
Spaling's ability to pull through in a big game and his success at faceoffs will help him break out with the Preds next season.
New Jersey Devils: Rod Pelley, Center
Pelley finished the season with 10 points and a power-play goal in 74 games. That matched his output from the 2009-10 season, and he accomplished this while playing around 12 minutes per game.
He set himself apart as one of the most physical members of the Devils, ranking third with 113 hits and was also sixth with 36 blocked shots. He also did well on faceoffs, winning 52.8 percent of the time (fifth on the Devils).
Pelley doesn't score many points, but he is willing to do the dirty work to help the Devils in games. That will help him step up as a key member of the team next year as New Jersey looks to get back to the playoffs.
New York Islanders: Andrew MacDonald, Defenseman
MacDonald will be one of the defensemen the Isles look to next season as they continue to improve as a team.
MacDonald finished the season with 27 points and a plus-nine rating in 60 games, and his totals included one power-play goal and one game-winning goal.
He was first on the team with 160 blocked shots and 23:24 of ice time. He was sixth with 3:03 of ice time on the power play and fourth with 2:23 logged on the penalty kill.
MacDonald will be joined by other budding defensemen such as Travis Hamonic and Jack Hillen to make the Islanders blueline more dangerous next year. He can handle the workload and has solid statistics, so expect an even better season from him.
New York Rangers: Michael Sauer, Defenseman
Sauer had 15 points while posting an impressive plus-20 rating. He added to his totals with one power-play goal and two game-winning goals.
During the regular season, he was ninth on the team with 17:31 of ice time and played a minute-and-a-half on the penalty kill. He was also fourth with 96 blocked shots.
In the postseason, Sauer was fifth with a substantially increased 23:16 of ice time. He was also fourth with seven blocked shots and sixth with 1:48 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Sauer returns next season to join a young, strong defensive corps which boasts Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and an also-blossoming Ryan McDonagh. This will definitely help the Rangers become a more formidable playoff threat.
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Butler, Right Wing
Butler had 21 points in 36 games on call-ups to the Senators, including one power-play goal and three game-winning goals.
He also played 15:25 per game and was eighth with 2:12 of ice time on the power play.
Butler gained some great experience with the Senators' AHL team in Binghamton, New York. He had 33 points in 47 regular season games and 17 points in 23 playoff games as the younger Senators captured their first Calder Cup title.
Butler's championship experience and his solid contributions in his first year in the pros will lead to bigger things with Ottawa in the 2011-12 season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Darroll Powe, Center
Powe put 17 points in 81 games and had two shorthanded goals and two-game winning goals. In 11 playoff games, he had one assist.
During the season, he led the Flyers with 196 hits and was ninth with 60 blocked shots. He won nearly half of his faceoffs and had a 49.2 percent success rate in that area. He played 12:17 per game and was third with 3:10 of ice time on the penalty kill.
In the playoffs, he played 12:10 per game and was again third in penalty kill ice time, but this time, he averaged 4:15 of ice time. He improved his faceoff success rate and was fourth with wins in 54.5 percent of his draws. He was fifth on the Flyers with 22 hits and sixth with 11 blocked shots.
Powe has proved himself to be useful in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill, and he will shape up to give Philly even more of a physical edge. This could lead to him being Philly's success story of the 2011-12 campaign.
Phoenix Coyotes: Kyle Turris, Center
Turris had 25 points and one game-winning goal in 65 games for Phoenix this year. In the playoffs, he had three points to tie for second on the Coyotes in scoring, and he also had a plus-one rating.
In the regular season, Turris played 11:16 per game and was tied for eighth with wins on 50 percent of his faceoffs. He was given more ice time in the postseason (13:49 per game) and was fourth on the Coyotes with a 48.6 percent success rate on faceoffs. In addition, he was sixth with three blocked shots and seventh with six hits.
Turris' respectable point totals and success in the faceoff circle will be keys to his success next season. He will also be able to step up and contribute should the Coyotes make the postseason for the third consecutive year.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mark Letestu, Center
Letestu got off to a strong start and was even leading NHL rookies in scoring early in the season. However, he sustained a knee injury which caused him to miss 18 games.
Despite this, he still finished with 27 points and a plus-four rating in 64 games. He also posted four power-play goals and three game-winning goals. He had one assist in seven playoff games.
During the regular season, Letestu averaged 14:15 of ice time per game and 2:10 of ice time on the power play. He ranked sixth on the Penguins with a 55.4 percent success rate on the faceoffs.
Letestu saw more ice time in the playoffs, playing 15:29 per game. He was eighth with 3:28 logged on the power play and again ranked in the top 10 in faceoffs with a 48.4 percent success rate (eighth on the Penguins).
He was signed to a two-year contract extension during the season, and if he can stay healthy, he will be another solid offensive weapon for Pittsburgh. He is an underrated player who could make the NHL take notice of his talents with a consistent 2011-12 campaign.
San Jose Sharks: Jason Demers, Defenseman
Demers posted 24 points this season to go along with a team-high plus-19 rating. He also had three points in 13 playoff games.
In the regular season, he was ninth with 87 hits and fifth with 72 blocked shots. He was also ninth with 19:29 of ice time and tied with Logan Couture for 2:11 logged on the power play (seventh on the Sharks). In addition, he was seventh with 1:35 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Demers' ice time stayed consistent in the playoffs, as he was seventh with 19:56 of ice time. He was sixth with 2:10 played on the penalty kill, and he was sixth with 23 blocked shots, another tie with Couture.
Demers made his reputation as a steady defenseman with the Sharks, and he has potential to keep that reputation and have a career year next season.
St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo, Defenseman
Pietrangelo had a good year on a Blues team that did not make the playoffs, posting 43 points and a plus-18 rating. He also had four power-play goals and one game-winning goal.
He was third on St. Louis with 22 minutes of ice time, which included three minutes played on the power play (fourth) and 1:58 of ice time on the penalty kill (seventh). In addition, he led the Blues with 121 blocked shots.
Pietrangelo is a versatile player, and in 2011-12, the 21-year-old will be in a good position to become a leader of the Blues' defensive corps.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nate Thompson, Center
Thompson is no stranger to the NHL, having played with the Islanders before arriving in Tampa, but he has made a good impression as a member of the Bolts.
During the regular season, Thompson had 25 points to go with one shorthanded goal and two game-winning goals. He was fifth with 115 hits and seventh with 81 blocked shots. He was also second in faceoff wins with a 54.2 percent success rate and logged 15 minutes of ice time per game. His 2:43 played on the penalty kill was ranked fifth on Tampa.
Thompson had four points and a plus-three in 18 playoff games while playing 15:37 per game. He led Tampa with 4:01 of ice time on the penalty kill and was fifth in both hits (31) and blocked shots (22).
Thompson has finally found his scoring touch with Tampa, and now that he has playoff experience, he should be a better player next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer, Goaltender
Reimer was called upon this season as Jonas Gustavsson struggled, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere dealt with injuries.
He did not disappoint, playing in 35 games and posting a record of 20-10-5 to go with a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA. He also had three shutouts.
Reimer recently signed a three-year contract extension with Toronto. Giguere is an unrestricted free agent, and Gustavsson had a rough year, even spending time with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Reimer could very well be the starting goaltender next season and should he land the No. 1 spot, he has proved he can handle it.
Vancouver Canucks: Jannik Hansen, Right Wing
Hansen had 29 points and a plus-13 rating this season and also had two game-winning goals. He currently had eight points and a plus-six rating as the Canucks try to win their first Stanley Cup.
He played 14:42 per game in the regular season and was sixth with 2:24 of ice time on the penalty kill. In addition, he led the Canucks with 149 hits.
In the postseason, he is tied with Alex Burrows with 34 hits, good for eighth on the team. He has more overall ice time (15:41 per game) and is eighth with 2:05 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Hansen is showing good defensive responsibility and had a physical edge to his game. He also stayed healthy as the injury bug hit other members of the team and has room to improve on this year's point totals.
Washington Capitals: Karl Alzner, Defenseman
Alzner had 12 points in the regular season to go with a solid plus-14 rating. He was seventh with 20 minutes played per game and was ninth with 2:07 of ice time on the penalty kill. In addition, he was third with 132 blocked shots and seventh with 98 hits.
He had one assist in nine playoff games and had nine hits (tied for eighth with Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich) and was second with 20 blocked shots. He was fifth with 22:49 of ice time per game and sixth with 2:37 logged on the penalty kill.
Alzner is an excellent shot-blocker, and he can also handle a significant amount of ice time. He will be a good returning player for a defense that also brings back John Carlson, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz.
Winnipeg: Ondrej Pavelec, Goaltender
(Just so you know, I resisted putting in a totally fictitious, witty team name for Winnipeg.)
Pavelec has been improving on his statistics for the last three years. He posted his first 20-win season this year, going 21-23-9 and posting a .914 save percentage and 2.73 GAA. He also had three shutouts. This was his second full season in Atlanta.
His counterpart, Chris Mason, went 13-13-3 with one shutout while posting a .892 save percentage and 3.39 GAA.
Although Mason has more experience, Pavelec was the one who had the better season. Winnipeg will see many talented players make the move with the team, and this includes Pavelec. If he keeps focused, he can add another 20-win season to his statistics.
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