NHL fans are trained to expect the unexpected. It makes it all the more crazy when players come out of nowhere and burst onto the scene.
Plenty of NHL players are going to get their chance to shine this season. Every team will find a new key contributor this season.
Here is each team's breakout star.
Cam Fowler appeared in 76 games as an 18-year-old rookie last season. That experience should help catapult him to a breakthrough season in 2011-2012.
The Ducks' 2010 first-round draft choice scored 40 points a season ago, but it is the minus-25 rating that he will be looking to improve. I like his chances.
Tyler Seguin didn't make the instant impact that the Bruins faithful were hoping for in his rookie season. However, early on in the 2011-2012 campaign, Seguin has flashed his immense potential.
It is still early, but Seguin has been a point-per-game player so far for the Bruins and is the one creating most of the offensive chances for the team. Seguin could easily approach 60-70 points this season.
Tyler Myers has already recorded seasons of 48 and 37 points, so how could he be considered a breakout candidate? Well, Myers still has another level or two that he could reach in the coming seasons.
His point totals are not likely to rise too far above what he has already reach, but the Sabres defenseman has the ability to become a dominant force in his own end and a leader for Buffalo.
Anton Babchuk had a solid 2010-2011 campaign, splitting time with the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames.
This season, however, figures to be even better for the Ukrainian blueliner. With a full offseason to adjust to the system and gel with his teammates, Babchuk is bound to improve.
Brandon Sutter is now 22 years old and primed to break out for the Carolina Hurricanes this season.
Sutter works hard in both ends of the ice, and with an increase in playing time, he should improve on the 29 points he mustered a season ago.
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.
It may be a bit early to think that Gabriel Landeskog is ready for a breakout season, considering the fact that he is an 18-year-old in his first season of NHL action.
However, Landeskog appears to be NHL-ready and could easily win the Calder this season. He has the size, toughness and strength to survive his first season in the NHL.
This is it for Steve Mason. The Columbus Blue Jackets have finally put a formidable team in front of him; now it is his turn to prove that the flashes of brilliance early in his career were more than just flashes.
Mason has tons of talent and will be pushed by the coaching staff to perform. Depending on how the Jackets play in front of him, Mason could turn in a solid season.
Jamie Benn is coming off his second consecutive 40-point season for the Dallas Stars, entering his third season with sky-high expectations.
Benn can do some incredible things on the ice. He has the ability to carry the offensive load for this team, and with Loui Eriksson by his side, a 60- to 70-point season is not outside the realm of possibility.
The Detroit Red Wings are aging up front, paving the way for more minutes for Valtteri Flippula. Flippula has recorded 30 or more points in four straight seasons in his current role. Just imagine what he could do with a bit more ice time.
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, Devan 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.
Jacob Markstrom is looking the part of an NHL goaltender this season.
The Swedish-born netminder is a big body between the pipes, but his athleticism is what makes him one of the top prospects in the NHL. Markstrom's shot at stardom may come sooner than expected with injuries in net for Florida.
Jonathan Quick may be the most underrated goaltender in the NHL. His progression over the past few seasons has gone widely unrecognized because of the emergence of Jonathan Bernier alongside him.
That being said, Quick is a sleeper candidate for the Vezina Trophy in 2011-2012. Quick is playing behind an incredibly talented Kings team and seems to get better every time he touches the ice.
The Minnesota Wild made a huge splash when they acquired Dany Heatley this offseason. In the early going, though, Guillaume Latendresse has been the biggest offensive weapon for the Wild.
Latendresse is 24 years old and now developing into a great two-way forward in Minnesota. His 6'2", 230-pound frame makes him the ideal forward to play for the Wild.
Carey Price has already had a coming-out party or two in his NHL career. What's scary is he isn't even close to done developing.
The Canadiens are a team with a less-talented roster than they had a season ago. Price is going to have to carry this team if they want to have a chance at the postseason. The knock on Carey Price is his ability to play in big games. Can he change that this season?
It's tough for any offensive prospect to truly excel in the defensive-minded system Barry Trotz has in place in Nashville. If anyone can do it, the well-rounded Blake Geoffrion has just the skill set to do so.
Geoffrion will obviously need to make defense a priority, but if he gets an increased role this season, the former Wisconsin Badger could develop into a 40- to 50-point player.
Everything you heard or read about Adam Larsson prior to the 2011 NHL draft was true. This kid is absolutely the real deal. His skill speaks for itself. It is Larsson's poise, however, that leads me to believe he is capable of great things immediately.
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.
Ryan McDonagh is going to have an opportunity to handle a bigger role for the New York Rangers this season. His offensive skill from the point will make him a breakout candidate in a high-powered offense.
The Ottawa Senators seemed to suit up a team full of rookies by the end of the 2010-2011 NHL season. The team is in full-scale rebuilding mode, so a handful of youngsters are expected to shoulder big loads this season.
Among those is Bobby Butler, who dominated in the AHL playoffs for the Binghampton Senators. He could be a star for the Senators.
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.
The time has come for Oliver Ekman-Larsson to become a full-time player for the Phoenix Coyotes. He is now 20 years old and played in 48 games a season ago. Phoenix drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NHL draft based on his outstanding skating ability and offensive prowess.
I would be surprised if Ekman-Larsson didn't get a full dose of the NHL this season.
James Neal is going to get tons of ice time on an elite offensive team while continuing to improve as a player. What more do you need to know?
Forty-three points and a plus-18 rating were not enough to get Alex Pietrangelo noticed last season, so he will have to improve on those numbers this season.
The 21-year-old is quickly becoming the defensive star the Blues had envisioned when drafting him fourth overall in the 2008 NHL draft.
Logan Couture burst onto the scene with 56 points last season. So, what's next for the Sharks' prized prospect?
Does he have it in him to get to the next level of production? Considering his talent and the talent around him, there is no reason to think that he won't improve his numbers this season.
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.
Leafs fans love to hype Nazem Kadri, and for good reason. Kadri has elite stick skills and is as quick as any player on Toronto's roster.
Finally, there is a bit of depth and talent up front for the Maple Leafs, so perhaps Kadri will be able to piece together a breakout season of sorts for the Leafs. I wouldn't be surprised to see somewhere between 40-50 points from Kadri, similar to Claude Giroux's output in his first full NHL season.
If for no other reason than to showcase him for trade, the Vancouver Canucks are going to continue to give Cory Schneider more and more playing time.
Schneider is ready to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. He proved that during the 2011 NHL Playoffs, and he will continue to prove that each time he steps onto the ice.
Michal Neuvirth has been cast aside in Washington after the arrival of Tomas Vokoun. Not so fast, folks.
Neuvirth is not going to let an old goaltender on a one-year contract put him completely out of the picture. He is likely to push Vokoun all season long and supplant him on occasions this season. Neuvirth has tons of ability and some valuable postseason experience to lean on this season.
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.