Jeff Skinner, Tyler Seguin and the Seven Must Watch Sophomores
In hockey, the term "rookie sensation" is often accompanied by the dreaded "sophomore slump." Well documented in a couple of recent players such as Steve Mason of Columbus and Michael Del Zotto of New York, the sophomore slump can be detrimental to the overall development of the player and his NHL club.
These next seven players however are prime candidates for avoiding this developmental disaster. Some of them boast awards that some NHL vets never achieve, such as the elusive Stanley cup that Tyler Seguin is kissing in the above picture. With their promising rookie seasons under their belt, these seven players will be some of the most exciting and productive come October.
7. Kevin Shattenkirk
It must be tough to get traded during your rookie season. Drafted 14th overall in the 2007 Entry Draft, Kevin Shattenkirk was traded mid season in a blockbuster deal that saw several young stars get swapped between St. Louis and Colorado.
Throughout the turmoil, Shattenkirk proved that he can still remain productive despite distractions. Posting up 17 points in 26 games as a rookie defenseman is highly impressive for someone at the young age of 22. Look for Shattenkirk to shore up a rebuilding Blues roster next season with an impressive 45-50 point performance.
6. Marcus Johannson
Marcus Johansson turned a lot of heads in Washington this season by putting up an impressive 27 points in 69 games having to nudge shoulders with an impressive top six in Washington last season. Although Johansson was a first round pick in 2009, it wasn't expected of him to crack the roster for most of the season, let alone post as impressive numbers as he did.
Next season, some if not all opening night scenarios have Johansson slated at the second line center, following up his Swedish brother, Nicklas Backstrom. Look for Johansson to light up the score sheet with his speed, not to mention benefit from the talent of Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin on his wings.
5. Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall was known to have supreme talent when he was selected first overall in 2010 by the Edmonton Oilers. Touted as being one of the more NHL ready prospects, Hall made his debut and stayed with the Oilers roster for 65 games last season.
Hall recorded his first of what appear to be many 20-goal seasons in 2010-2011, finishing off the season with a healthy 42 points. If Hall can avoid the sophomore slump, the Oilers could be in position to make the playoffs as early as this year if everything falls into place. Hall will be one of the more exciting goal scorers to watch for this season, and especially when playmaker Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes to Edmonton.
4. John Carlson
Another late first round pick by the Capitals, John Carlson played in all 82 regular season games for Washington last season. Carlson showed that he has all the makings of a top pairing defenseman by showing off his defensive and offensive prowess. Finishing with 37 points and a plus-21 rating proved that Carlson is the future for the Caps' blue line.
If Carlson can continue his development with linemate and bunkmate Karl Alzner, Washington could be looking at one of the youngest and best defensive lines in the NHL. Big things are expected of Carlson next season, and he should respond well with a 40-point season, eating up top minutes on the club.
3. Tyler Seguin
Seguin actually had one of the least successful rookie campaigns in terms of single player production out of anyone on this list. However Seguin captured what most players wait their entire NHL careers to attain, a Stanley Cup.
After only recording 22 points in 74 regular season games, Seguin went on a tear against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round of the playoffs. Seguin provided six points in his first two playoff games, having some network stars dub this run as his coming out party.
Next season Seguin will be most likely placed in the top nine in Boston and must prove more consistent if he is to place himself among NHL's young guns. This shouldn't be any problem, as Seguin will soon prove why his number 19 jersey deserves to be with NHL stars like Backstrom, Thornton, Toews and Spezza.
2. Logan Couture
The ninth overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft looked stylish as he narrowly went home empty handed at the NHL Awards this past June. Couture broke out furiously by putting up 56 points in 79 games for the Sharks, leading them once again to their second consecutive Western Conference Finals.
Slated as the number two center behind Jumbo Joe Thornton for the upcoming season, look for Couture to turn heads by putting up the best offensive numbers of anyone on this list. I may even go as high as to say 65-70 with Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe on his wings.
In case you missed it, Couture lost the Calder to none other than..
1. Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner, the seventh overall pick in 2010, shocked the hockey world by capturing the Calder Trophy from heavily favored preseason prospects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Skinner went on a phenomenal run last season, playing in all 82 games and collecting a rookie leading 63 points alongside captain Eric Staal.
The only thing that could knock Skinner off his high horse would be downswing next season. But with the leadership of Staal and the undying support of the Caniac nation, it isn't likely. It is highly likely another 60-point season is heading Mr. Skinner's way in 2011-2012.
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