15 NHL Players Guaranteed to Break out in 2012-13
For many of the best young NHL players on the cusp of stardom, the 2012-13 season will a very important year in their development.
Players who have already proven themselves at the NHL level, such as Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues, will be expected to perform even better next season and join the league's elite.
Let's look at 15 players guaranteed to break out next year.
Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
Brendan Smith has impressive defensive awareness for a young player and will be a reliable presence on the blue line for head coach Mike Babcock.
Expect Smith to establish himself as one of the brightest young defensemen in hockey next year.
Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers
Of all the new additions to the Edmonton Oilers this offseason, young defenseman Justin Schultz will have the biggest impact. Schultz is a great puck-mover and will be a playmaker in the attacking zone.
He will be under pressure to perform very well consistently because of his potential and the immense hype surrounding his free-agent decision, but he has the mental toughness to handle it all.
Dwight King, Los Angeles Kings
Dwight King's offensive production was an unexpected surprise for head coach Daryl Sutter during the Kings' playoff run last season. He was able to score five goals and add three assists as a young fourth-line player.
He should get an increased role this season and has the talent to score 15-25 points for the Kings.
Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils
Adam Larsson will help New Jersey Devils fans forget about Zach Parise when he becomes a star next season.
He's already a fine offensive player, so becoming a stronger and more disciplined player in the defensive zone will be his goal next year.
He had 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) last season and could easily reach 30 next year.
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders
The New York Islanders will need Ryan Strome to play well next season since the team did not add any quality forwards through trades or free agency this summer. Luckily for the Islanders, Strome is capable of playing an important role next season.
He has scored 63 goals over the past two seasons in the OHL, and could definitely reach 20 as a rookie with the Islanders next year.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Chris Kreider will give the New York Rangers an accurate shot and some impressive speed in the lineup next season.
With the recent addition of Rick Nash to the Rangers lineup, Kreider won't need to play a huge role in the offense, but he will get his chance to shine each night.
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers should not trade Brayden Schenn for Bobby Ryan, or anyone else, because the young center is going to have a fantastic 2012-13 season.
With a larger role in the offense, Schenn will be able to show his impressive all-around offensive abilities. Schenn has the potential to be an elite center very soon, and next year will be very important for his development.
If he can stay healthy, expect Schenn to reach anywhere between 35-50 points.
Luke Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers
If the Flyers do not acquire a veteran defenseman for their top two pairings, Luke Schenn will be asked to play a major role on the blue line, and it's a challenge he's capable of taking on.
He has led the league in hits among defensemen in each of the last two seasons and still has plenty of room for improvement in his offensive game.
Playing alongside veterans such as Kimmo Timonen will also benefit Schenn greatly.
David Rundblad, Phoenix Coyotes
David Rundblad will have to play well to earn minutes on a crowded Phoenix Coyotes blue line, but he has too much talent not to have a larger role in the team next season.
Rundblad will give the Coyotes another offensive weapon on the blue line with an impressive shot and good puck-moving skills.
Expect the young Swedish defenseman to improve mightily next season and take the next step in his journey to stardom.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
There was no need for the St. Louis Blues to make a major splash in free agency this summer when they have a young forward like Jaden Schwartz ready to provide the team with some of the goal scoring they didn't have in the playoffs last season.
Schwartz played in seven NHL games last season, scoring one goal and adding two assists. He played well and proved he's ready for a regular role at the NHL level.
Schwartz dominated offensively at Colorado College, scoring 88 points in two seasons in the WCHA. He will be a 30-goal scorer during his NHL career, but a total of 10-20 goals is a more realistic target for next year.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Next year is a very important season in the development of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who proved that he is ready to start full-time after an exceptional performance in last year's playoffs.
He's never played more than 14 games in NHL season, so the increased workload will certainly be an adjustment for him.
Holtby played with the poise of a veteran during the playoffs last year, so he is more than capable of handling the pressure he will face as a starting goaltender on a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Expect Holtby to win 25-35 games next season for the Capitals.
Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins
Tyler Seguin has progressed nicely in his two-year NHL career, and next season could be the time that he becomes a superstar player.
Seguin was given a more important role in the Boston Bruins offense this past season, and the results were impressive.
Take a look at his improvement offensively.
The goal for Seguin is to reach 35 goals and 80 points next season, which are very reachable targets for someone with the incredible offensive talent he has.
It would be very surprising if Seguin does not lead the Bruins in scoring for a second straight year.
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Kevin Shattenkirk surprised everyone last season by becoming a top-tier offensive defenseman for the St. Louis Blues.
In his first full season with the Blues, he scored nine goals with 34 assists. He finished tied for 14th in points among defenseman last season, which ranked higher than veterans like Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty.
Shattenkirk has a great shot from the point and his offensive awareness is fantastic. His passing skills are phenomenal, and they will only get better next season.
A realistic goal for Shattenkirk would be 55 points next season, but 60 points could also be considered as a reachable target for the young star next year.
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Everyone knew that Alex Pietrangelo had great offensive talent, but few could have imagined that he would finish fifth in scoring among defensemen last year. Make sure you pay attention to Pietrangelo next season because his career is about to take off in a major way.
He scored 12 goals and added 39 assists last season and could certainly reach 50 assists next season. If Pietrangelo continues to improve defensively, he will certainly be a Norris Trophy finalist next year.
Pietrangelo will become an elite player during the 2012-13 season in what should be a breakout year for the 22-year-old star.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes
Phoenix Coyotes star Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be the biggest breakout star of the 2012-13 season and will give Coyotes fans reasons to support their team and buy tickets.
His 13 goals were the fifth most among defensemen last season, and he could certainly improve his 32-point total last year to 45 points next season.
Ekman-Larsson is the future face of the Coyotes organization and will be a household name next season.