Last summer we brought you the potential breakout players for each team (Western Conference and Eastern Conference). But with the NHL season set to get underway today, here are the top 10 players ready to break out onto the NHL scene:
10.Kyle Palmieri, C, Anaheim Ducks
-As usual, there isn’t much guaranteed amongst Anaheim forwards beyond Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. There’s a big opportunity for one of the Ducks’ young prospects to step up, and the guy who does that may very well end up being Kyle Palmieri. The 26th pick in the 2009 draft, Palmieri has been an offensive juggernaut in the AHL the past two years (109 points in that span), and will be taking his game to the NHL level this year. There’s a good chance Palmieri solidifies himself as Anaheim’s second-line center this year.
9. Nail Yakupov, RW, Edmonton Oilers
– The only reason Yakupov is so low on this list is because he’s going to be competing with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Pajaarvi for points in the Oilers’ top six. And with all that talent, there might not always be enough to go around. Still, Yakupov, the #1 overall pick from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has heaps of offensive talent, and could be a force for Edmonton coming off the right wing.
8. Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota Wild
– There has long been a void in Minnesota at the second-line center position behind Mikko Koivu. But, if Granlund’s incredible skill set and AHL production (21 points in 21 games) are any indication, the Wild may have found a new top-six forward. Granlund has long been regarded as one of the best young players not in the NHL, and now he’s getting his shot at the big time. With a dearth of scoring having plagued Minnesota the past few years, Granlund could fill that need in a big way.
7. Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida Panthers
– Yet another youngster on this list with loads of offensive potential and a chance to see top-six minutes, Jonathan Huberdeau will be making his much anticipated debut for the Florida Panthers this year. Like Anaheim, Florida has a strong top line, but not much offensive certainty after that. Enter Jonathan Huberdeau, the #3 pick from the 2011 draft who had 45 points in his last 30 junior level hockey games. Regarded as the jewel of Florida’s exceptionally deep prospect pool, Huberdeau could be primed to cement himself as an offensive cornerstone for the Panthers this year and beyond.
6. Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW, Montreal Canadiens
– Regarded by many as the most complete player in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Galchenyuk will be getting a chance to jump right into the fray. A great two-way player with a ton of offensive talent, Galchenyuk could easily find himself as a top-six mainstay for the Canadiens this year, most likely being paired with fellow American Max Pacioretty.
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
– St. Louis is poised for a deep playoff run, so it might be surprising to see a rookie get much playing time. But despite St. Louis’ defensive and goaltending prowess, they do lack a consistent offensive threat (no Blue had more than 54 points last year), and they could fill that void with the talented winger from Russia, Vladimir Tarasenko. The 16th pick in the 2010 draft, Tarasenko has been playing in Russia’s top league, the KHL, since he was 16, highlighted by his 2010-11 season when he netted 38 points in 39 games. Now 21, Tarasenko is ready to take his game to North America, and should be more than up to the task.
4. Chris Kreider, C/LW, New York Rangers
– Rangers fans got a little taste of what the big, fast Chris Kreider could do during last year’s playoffs. There’s a good chance Kreider will be playing on New York’s second line, and should have plenty of opportunity to use his trademark speed and booming shot on offense. Given his baptism-by-fire in last year’s playoffs, Kreider is expected to be a Calder Trophy candidate and a strong offensive threat for the Blueshirts this year.
3. Anders Lindback, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
-After two years in the shadow of Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne whilst a member of the Nashville Predators, Anders Lindback is finally getting his chance to show he can be the #1 goaltender for a team. Acquired in the offseason for two second-round draft picks, the Lightning hope Lindback is the answer to their goaltending woes. Lindback will be given every opportunity to prove he’s just that, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to him answer the challenge.
2. Sven Baertschi, C/LW, Calgary Flames
– At forward, the Flames do not have many sure things beyond Jarome Iginla. But this season, Sven Baertschi will have a shot to play a full (well, “full” since there’s only 48 games this year) slate of games with the team. This should be cause for excitement among all Calgary fans, given the way Baertschi stormed the NHL with goals in three consecutive games after being an emergency call-up as a 19 year old last year. Baertschi will be a top-six forward for the Flames this year, and could be ready to explode on offense.
1. Justin Schultz, D, Edmonton Oilers
– If the AHL is any indication, the Oilers might have gotten exactly what they hoped for when they signed the 21-year-old college phenom this past offseason. Schultz, as a defenseman, was second in AHL scoring this past year, racking up 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists) in only 34 games. Schultz absolutely destroyed the competition, and is more than ready for NHL action. Schultz will be seeing time as a top-four defenseman as well as power-play quarterback, and is an early favorite for the 2013 Calder Trophy.
Just missed the cut: Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators; Justin Faulk, D, Carolina Panthers; Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings, Brendan Dillon, D, Dallas Stars; Peter Holland, C, Anaheim Ducks, Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Buffalo Sabres, Dougie Hamilton, D, Boston Bruins