NHL breakout players: Ottawa Senators

Every Wednesday for the next several weeks, sportsnet.ca gets you set for a fresh NHL season with looks at players from Canadian teams who could have breakout seasons in 2012-13.

Heading into the 2011-12 season, few had high hopes for the Ottawa Senators. In fact, many pundits picked them to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference. But the team — led by captain Daniel Alfredsson, a resurgent Jason Spezza and exceptional young blueliner Erik Karlsson — finished eighth in the East and got into the postseason after finishing a dismal 13th place the year before.

Not only did they make the playoffs, they pushed the first-place New York Rangers to a seventh game in what was a grueling first-round series.

The Senators proved their worth last season, which means expectations will be higher this campaign. Alfredsson is entering what might be his final season in the NHL, and the core of the team is a relatively young group. Spezza and Milan Michalek must put up good numbers again if the team wants to duplicate last year’s success, and the team needs certain players to step up and have breakout campaigns.

Here is one forward and one defenceman on the Senators who could take their play to the next level in 2012-13 and become difference-makers.

Kyle Turris

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Everything, at least on paper, points to Kyle Turris having a breakout campaign. He recently signed a five-year, $ 17.5 million contract extension after he showed signs of greatness late last season.

After being acquired by Ottawa from the Phoenix Coyotes in December in exchange for defenceman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Turris’ play steadily increased, showing why he was selected third overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.

With Nick Foligno no longer on the team, Turris will be counted upon to take pressure off the top line. In all likelihood the 23-year-old will serve as the Sens’ second-line centre, which could and should lead to his most productive season thus far in his young career.

Also, having a veteran skilled playmaking centre like Spezza to look up to and take pointers from will be a major boost to the New Westminster, B.C., native’s development both on and off the ice.

In each of his three NHL seasons, Turris’ goal, assist and point totals have increased — and Sens fans can expect that trend to continue.

Last year Turris played 49 games with Ottawa, registering career highs in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29). He also added one goal and two assists in seven playoff games against the Rangers.

If Turris can have a breakout year, he could emerge as one of the most dynamic young talents in the league and help the Senators make the playoffs for a second straight year.

Marc Methot

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He’s not the type of defenceman to put up big numbers, besides potentially racking up some penalty minutes, but Marc Methot is the type of defenceman that every team needs. The 27-year-old can log over 20 minutes per game no problem and is a defensively responsible player willing to do the dirty work in the corners.

Methot, acquired by the Senators in exchange for winger Nick Foligno on July 1, was ecstatic about the move for several reasons. One was the fact he went from the last-place team to a playoff contender, another being that he grew up in Ottawa.

“(The news of being traded) was overwhelming a bit at first,” Methot told The Canadian Press in July. “When I first heard about it I was really excited. It was a surreal feeling for me and my family. Growing up here, it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the city. Just walking in the dressing room kind of gave me that weird feeling in my stomach. I’m pumped.”

That excitement he has and the desire to succeed in front of the hometown crowd will surely be used as motivation to perform to the best of his ability.

There is a chance he could be paired with Karlsson on the team’s top defensive unit, and in that case he is primed to have a breakout season.