As we eagerly await the start of the 2012-13 NHL season, here are the top 10 players on American teams ready for a bust-out year.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
There is no doubt that New York Rangers’ forward Chris Kreider had a memorable hockey season in 2011-12.
Not only did Kreider lead his Boston College Eagles to the 2012 NCAA title, but he also got to play with the Rangers in their memorable run to the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals last season. Kreider may have been a college youngster when he arrived on Broadway but once the team was knocked out of the postseason by the New Jersey Devils, he was a hot commodity that has a bright future in the league.
For someone who had never played in the NHL before, Kreider looked like a veteran for the Blueshirts in the postseason. In 18 games, the 21-year-old had 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points and saw time on the team’s top lines.
This upcoming season will be Kreider’s first in the NHL but should he play like he did in last year’s playoffs, hockey’s most important time of the year, there is no doubt that he could end up having a breakout year for the Rangers.
Marcus Foligno, Buffalo Sabres
Sometimes, rookies who come into the league and play a few games end up having success right away.
This was the case last season with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno. Foligno, just 20 years of age and son to former NHLer Mike Foligno and brother to current NHLer Nick Foligno, played 14 games with the Sabres at the end of last season when the team was trying to find a way to get into the top eight in the tight and competitive Eastern Conference.
While the Sabres fell short of a playoff berth, Foligno did not disappoint. He ended up scoring six goals and assisted on seven others for 13 points.
With his speed and eye for the net, Foligno is due for a big season next year with the Sabres.
Jordan Caron, Boston Bruins
Coming off a Stanley Cup in 2011, the Boston Bruins really did not change much going into last season.
That said, one rookie managed to play 48 games with the club and that was the 25th overall pick from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Jordan Caron. Caron, an extremely talented player in the QMJHL with the Rimouski Oceanic, had 15 points (7 goals and 8 assists) with the Bruins last season.
Going into this season, it appears that Caron has a good chance to play on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Despite being third liners, both Kelly and Peverley have a lot of offensive talent and should be able to get the puck to Caron quite a bit this upcoming season.
Peter Mueller, Florida Panthers
Since joining the NHL in the 2007-08 season, it has been a rough go of it for new Florida Panthers forward Peter Mueller.
The eighth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft has struggled with consistency, injuries and confidence in an NHL career that has spanned 254 games. While that may seem like a lot of games and a good amount of games to judge Mueller, it is not everything.
There is no doubt that Mueller has a lot of offensive talent and simply needs to be used in the right way and on the right line. Still just 24-years old, Mueller has a lot of hockey left in him and a lot to prove to himself and the league.
Maybe the 2012-13 season will be the right time for Mueller to do just that.
David Perron, St. Louis Blues
When healthy, the St. Louis Blues have one of the top forwards in the game in 24-year-old forward David Perron.
After sitting out almost 13 months with a concussion, Perron returned to the Blues and provided the offence that the team always knew he was capable of. In 57 games last season, Perron scored 21 goals and had 21 assists for 42 points while also picking up five points in the postseason.
While his regular season numbers might classify as a breakout-like year for any other NHLer, we believe that Perron has only scratched the surface and is capable of doing even more for the Blues.
Should he play the full season and be healthy, Perron might just light it up for the Blues in 2012-13.
Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are lucky to have a solid group of young talent on their roster.
One such player is forward Tyler Ennis. Ennis was supposed to have his breakout season last year but unfortunately an ankle injury caused him to miss 34 games. In the 48 games he did play, Ennis tallied 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points.
With Ennis finishing last season with 29 points in 30 games and now fully healthy, one should expect him to have his breakout season in 2012-13.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks have always been an offensively talented hockey club.
This upcoming season, the club will be adding more of that with 19-year-old Brandon Saad. Saad played in his first two regular season games last year with Chicago before going on to post 76 points in 44 games with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL.
Because of Saad’s success in the OHL that season, the Blackhawks called up Saad to play in the postseason. In his two games in the playoffs, Saad picked-up his first NHL point on an assist, which should have his confidence soaring.
Going into the upcoming season, Saad will be primed and ready to show the Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL what he can do.
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
At the end of this past season, Columbus Blue Jackets 23-year-old forward Cam Atkinson made sure that the team and the rest of the league would remember his high potential and that what he has done so far is only the ground level of his very high ceiling.
Atkinson scored a hat trick, the first of his very young NHL career, on April 5, 2012 in a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Atkinson finished up his 27-game stint in the NHL with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points.
At his young age and readiness to play in a full season, Atkinson is primed to have his breakthrough season in 2012-13.
Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
With Nicklas Lidstrom retired, it is time for a new defensive era for the Detroit Red Wings.
This means that it is time for 23-year-old Brendan Smith to have a breakout season on the Red Wings’ blueline. In 14 games with the Red Wings last season, Smith scored a goal and picked-up seven assists.
Smith has a lot more offensive potential and with the Red Wings set to go into an era without Lidstrom, a breakout season for Smith might be in the cards for 2012-13.
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders
Having not made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, a terrible arena, and the potential of even moving one day, the New York Islanders need to find a way to make themselves a respectable NHL franchise again both on and off the ice.
On the ice, one way to do that might be to allow the fifth overall pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft Ryan Strome a chance to strut his stuff. Strome had a terrific year for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL last season scoring 30 goals and assisting on 38 others despite missing a significant amount of time with injuries. Strome also helped Team Canada at the World Junior Championships to a Bronze Medal.
Looking to get back to both respectability and the postseason, having 19-year-old Ryan Strome have a breakout year on Long Island would certainly help get closer to those goals.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
It is not very often that an NHL rookie scores a goal in his first NHL game on his first NHL shot.
Well, Blues 20-year old forward Jaden Schwartz did just that this past season. In seven games with the Blues last season, Schwartz had two goals and an assist for three points, with one of those goals being a game winner.
Schwartz has been a point-per-game player at almost every level he has played at so should Schwartz play a full season in 2012-13, he may very well have a breakout season.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Having come off a terrific postseason in which he outplayed 2011 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas and at times, 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist, Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby could be due for a big 2012-13 season.
Holtby went into last season as the third goalie of the club behind both Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. However, an injury to Vokoun allowed Holtby to come up and get some playing time in the regular season as he went 4-2-1 with a 2.49 GAA, a .922 save percentage and one shutout.
In the postseason, however, Holtby was phenomenal and got the Capitals to within one game of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. The 22-year-old goaltender went 7-7 with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save percentage, both of which had him ranked third in the league in the playoffs.
Given a full season to play, Holtby might just be due for a breakout season in 2012-13.