The NHL Preview series continues with the players most likely to have break out campaigns. The kind of seasons that launch them from a regular player to a star player. Go from “a guy” to “the guy”.
So I set a little criteria for this. First, the player has to have not scored 20 goals or cracked 40 points in a season. Second, they had to be 25 or under.
By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde
Time to rock’n’roll.
Honourable Mention: Nail Yakupov, Emerson Etem, Ryan Strome
Yakupov: Had the Oiler’s felt so inclined to drop a few spare pennies on someone like Derek Roy then you could pencil Yakupov in for a solid season. Right now, the second line centre looks to be Mark Arcobello or Leon Draisaitl. Mixed with a coach who seems to have no idea how to properly deploy the talented forward and you don’t have a recipe for success.
Etem: He hasn’t quite been able to break through and prove he’s got the scorers touch he showed in junior and the minors. Anaheim lost almost the entire middle of their forward roster this off season so a spot on Ryan Kesler’s wing would provide him with a great opportunity in the top six, but Kesler’s not known for sharing the puck. Things just don’t quite appear to be falling into place yet this year.
Strome: The talent and the ability is there but unfortunately for him, the Islanders added some quality players to their forwards with Mikhail Grabovksi and Nikolai Kulemin. All of a sudden playing time in the top nine has become a bit more sparse. Its not impossible to see Strome start the season in the AHL again and that keeps him from making the list.
5. Zack Kassian
He proved last year to be a positive possession player, even without any real playing time with good players. He posted a points per 60 minutes and an individual points percentage that had him as one of the top players on the Canucks, and well ahead of former centre and “star” player Ryan Kesler.
On paper, the Canucks look to have only one other right handed shot in their top six, and with the proven futility of Jannik Hansen anywhere but the third line, you can pencil Kassian into the second line and second powerplay unit on opening night.
All that with a coach more committed to an open style should be indicative of success. If new Canucks’ head coach Willie Desjardins is willing to let Kassian go wild, even if it means some giveaways and bad penalties, then the stage is set for Kassian to prove why the Canucks traded for him.