Every team has that one under-the-radar player that nobody knows about. That one player who does so much for the team but doesn't get the credit he deserves. Every season players like this breakout and become known for the work they do.
Whether it's killing a penalty, blocking a shot or scoring the timely goal, these players always deserve more credit than they receive. One such player is Dan Girardi of the Rangers, who used to be an unknown player and is now well known by hockey fans for his shot-blocking ability.
So here are five under-the-radar players that will breakout this season.
Being from Long Island, N.Y., I'm always unsure about how well known Frans Nielsen is in the NHL. The players know about him, and last year Islanders' then-captain Doug Weight said "he's our best all-around player even though his stats don't necessarily show it."
Nielsen had 44 points last season with 13 goals for the Islanders. However, his penalty-killing ability makes him invaluable to the Islanders. He is an energy guy on the Islanders bench and a great influence on the kids, who the Islanders are relying upon to start a re-emergence of the franchise.
If you're reading this and know about the skills of Nielsen, I apologize.
Now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs via trade, Cody Franson proved to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL after last season with the Nashville Predators. Franson is just 24 years old and is listed as 6'5", a bone-crusher who already has playoff experience.
Many fans heard about Franson because of the lopsided trade between the Maple Leafs and Predators. Franson, now playing in a big market, should get more attention. He improves the defensive depth of Toronto and should help the resurgence of the Leafs going into this season.
I'm going with the homer pick, so deal with it. Tim Erixon was acquired by the Rangers in a trade with Calgary after Erixon would not sign an entry-level contract with the Flames. Erixon's father, Jan, played for the Rangers in the early 1990s.
Erixon has thrived in Sweden, where he has played professionally. Now he is ready to come over to the NHL and compete for a starting job with the Rangers. Erixon is a part of a young and promising Rangers defensive corps.
For Rangers fans who have been following training camp practices, they are probably aware that John Tortorella has proclaimed Steve Eminger as the best defenseman so far in training camp. The Rangers' final defensive pair is a competition between Eminger, Erixon and Michael Del Zotto. Erixon has the job if he plays well, and then it's a question of whether Tortorella wants to go with a veteran in Eminger or another youngster in Del Zotto.
For people who are on the Eminger bandwagon, IT'S THE FOURTH DAY OF PRACTICE.
(Sorry for the caps—it just gets me mad when people put so much stock in practices.)
Now that I've calmed down after that explosion in the previous slide, let's move on to the fourth player in this series.
Fedor Tyutin is one of the most under-appreciated players in the NHL. He plays in a small market in Columbus and does not get a lot of fan-fare because he is not a flashy player. All Tyutin has done is play a solid defensive game and played in more than 80 games in four straight seasons.
Tyutin does not have a big offensive game, with only 27 points last season, but his play on the penalty kill cannot be undermined. On an improved Blue Jackets' team, Tyutin could be an under-the-radar player who will be noticed this season as his team improves.
Lauri Korpikoski may have broken out last year when he registered 41 points and 19 goals for the Phoenix Coyotes. However, his penalty killing is one of the best in the NHL. When he played for the Rangers, Blair Betts and Korpikoski led the Rangers on their way to a top-five penalty kill.
Korpikoski fits with Phoenix perfectly, the team doesn't have a superstar but somehow finds a way to win. While some may proclaim him as a draft bust (he was a first-round pick), he has turned himself into a serviceable NHL player.
Keep your eye out for Korpikoski; he's an under-the-radar player.
So, these are the players to keep an eye out for in the 2011-12 NHL season. These players may get more attention as their skill finally gets recognized throughout the league. Every team needs a player to breakout in order to make the playoffs and beyond.
Whether the player gets recognized for his experience, penalty killing or goal scoring, these players all deserve to be applauded for the job they do for their respective teams.
I missed a ton of players, so let me know who I missed from your favorite team or a player I missed in general.
Thanks for the read and feel free to comment.
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