NHL Predictions: 10 Players on the Brink of Greatness
Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry established themselves as elite NHL players during the 2010-2011 NHL season with 90-point seasons and appearances at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.
The 2011-2012 NHL season will bring forth an entire new group of breakout stars to lead the various statistical categories on defense, offense and between the pipes.
Young talent continues to flood the league on a yearly basis, so there is no shortage of breakout candidates for the upcoming season. Here are the 10 best.
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The Buffalo Sabres recently signed Tyler Myers to a hefty contract, and to those who have watched Myers play, it's obvious why.
Myers has been developing into a physically dominant player on the blue line for the Sabres over the past couple of seasons. His point totals of 48 and 37 in his first two NHL seasons, along with his 6'8'' frame, make him one of the best combinations of size and offensive skill in the league.
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Victor Hedman, the second overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, has played since day one in Tampa Bay, gaining valuable experience and showing signs of greatness on defense.
He'll be a restricted free agent following this season, and will be due for a nice raise if his production continues to progress.
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The Edmonton Oilers are on the brink of greatness. Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the young guns most people point to when discussing the bright future in Edmonton.
However, Devin Dubnyk may be the most important link to this team's success. Dubnyk, who played in only 35 games a season ago, will be asked to take on more responsibility as Nikolai Khabibulin continues to age. Dubnyk has enough upside to be considered the goaltender of the future for the Oilers, and with improved play in front of him, he could become an All-Star goaltender down the line.
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The Thrashers may have moved from the sunny confines of Atlanta, Georgia to the frozen tundra of Winnipeg, Manitoba, but that has not cooled off the hype-surrounded Jets winger, Evander Kane.
Kane is a rare blend of size and skill who makes defenders take an extra look over their shoulder before retrieving a loose puck in the corner. Kane is as talented defensively as he is offensively, and 2011-2012 could be his best season to date.
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The New York Islanders and John Tavares agreed on a contract today that will keep the former first-overall pick in Long Island through 2018. And what a smart decision that was.
Tavares is ready to become a superstar in the NHL. Playing alongside other inexperienced players in New York, Tavares still managed to pile up 121 points in his first two NHL seasons. As Tavares and the rest of his teammates continue to develop, there is no reason that the Oakville native cannot develop into one of the league's premier players.
The hype surrounding Tuukka Rask has subsided exponentially over the past calendar. Tim Thomas' outstanding run through the postseason left Rask as an afterthought on the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
However, Rask is still on track to become an elite goalie in the NHL. The Finnish-born netminder is still just 24 years old, and has played remarkably well when given the chance so far in his career.
The Boston Bruins, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask all know that Rask is being seasoned to one day take over as Boston's featured goaltender. It may be a year or two away, but Rask is set to take the league by storm.
James van Riemsdyk
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I've been beating this drum all offseason, but James van Riemsdyk is truly ready to take center stage in Philadelphia. The Flyers traded away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, two of the top offensive weapons on the team, in order to clear room for van Riesmdyk and Claude Giroux to develop into the stars of the team.
In the 2011 NHL Playoffs, JVR displayed the talent that made him the second-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft and made a clear impression on the Flyers front office. He's ready to take over this offense.
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The Chicago Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup, but the triumph was not the result of elite goaltending. Corey Crawford is on his way to making the jump into the league's elite, turning the goaltending position into a strength for the Hawks.
Marty Turco will be out of town, clearing the way for Crawford to handle the brunt of the load this season. Crawford was a beast in the playoffs this last season, so I expect him to take a big step forward during the 2011-2012 NHL season.
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Taylor Hall ground his way to 42 points in his rookie season despite suffering through injuries and playing in only 65 games.
To start his sophomore campaign, Hall will be completely healthy and a year more experienced. I expect Hall to blossom early for the Edmonton Oilers—70 points is not out of the question.
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Claude Giroux's time has come in Philadelphia. Stuck in the shadows of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter during the early part of his career, Giroux now has a chance to be the main offensive weapon for the Flyers.
Giroux will center the top line and continue to be paired with James van Riemsdyk. The young duo will grow together and make up for the lost production from the Carter and Richards trades.
Everything is in place for Claude Giroux to rack up 80 points for the black and orange this season.