Yearly, NHL gamers escape and develop into efficient contributors to their staff. Some assist put their staff excessive, whereas others make the most of ample enjoying time on golf equipment that don’t have the top-end expertise to compete.
Some gamers emerge from the depths of the shadows after working their approach up via the minors and taking the lengthy highway to the present. Others lastly stay as much as the expectations of their excessive draft slot.
Let’s have a look at a number of of the names that might pop off when the 2023-24 NHL season lastly will get underway.
Alexis Lafreniere, RW, New York Rangers
This seems to be just like the yr when the Rangers lastly give Lafreniere the room to run wild at even power.
He is been their third-leading even-strength objective scorer during the last two years, behind solely Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, regardless of usually being buried within the backside six. Lafreniere was drafted first total in 2020, a bizarre draft contemplating the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected their first yr of improvement. The potential to be a extremely efficient offensive winger has all the time been there.
It appears Lafreniere will get that chance within the prime six, probably even on the highest line, to begin the yr. If he performs with both of Panarin, Kreider, or Mika Zibanejad for a lot of the yr, we may lastly see the soon-to-be 22-year-old ahead take an enormous step and destroy his profession excessive of 39 factors from final season.
Nick Robertson, LW/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
That is the most important lengthy shot on the checklist. Robertson was as soon as considered as a high-end goal-scoring prospect, and his NHL debut within the bubble playoffs with the Maple Leafs had individuals excited over his potential. Sadly, the 5-foot-10 winger has been dealt a foul hand with accidents each time he has seemingly hit the bottom operating. He has performed simply 82 whole video games between the AHL and NHL during the last three seasons due to these damage woes.
Now that he’s wholesome as soon as once more, the thrill from coaching camp is that he’s flying on the ice and able to show he deserves a spot with the large membership. The chance to make the squad is just aided by the very fact the staff needs to run William Nylander at heart, which may imply Robertson is the proper winger so as to add to the middle-six as a big-time shooter. Whereas many really feel he’s over the hill as a prospect, it’s essential to notice he turned 22 years previous simply a few weeks in the past.
Cole Caufield, LW, Montreal Canadiens
Over the past two years, Caufield has 23 and 26 targets, respectively, however didn’t play a full season in both of them. Within the yr he scored 23 targets as a rookie, he was a non-factor for the primary half of the yr as then-head coach Dom Ducharme neutered his offense, which held him to only one objective via 30 video games. He had 22 over the ultimate 37 underneath present coach Martin St-Louis.
He was on an absolute tear final yr earlier than a shoulder damage ended his season. He was on tempo for 46 targets, and that was whereas he performed via the damage for a part of his season. His help totals regressed in an enormous approach, falling from 20 to 10, however we will anticipate to see that come again to regular even when he all the time leans on his goal-scoring. The expectations must be a 30-goal, 60-point season, but it surely wouldn’t shock anybody to see Caufield problem 40 and even 50 targets.
Owen Energy, D, Buffalo Sabres
Though the 2021 No. 1 decide was a Calder Trophy finalist final season, we may see Owen Energy pop off this upcoming season. The Sabres’ younger roster continues to mature, and we may see him take a step offensively because the gamers round him spherical into kind. Energy will seemingly be caught on the second power-play unit due to Rasmus Dahlin forward of him, however the gamers on Buffalo’s second unit are younger, offensively gifted and motivated to enhance. Energy suits proper in.
His defensive recreation is already fairly sturdy, and he is proven glorious transition means. Offensively, we’ve seen flashes of brilliance. If Energy takes a step because the Sabres hope to leap up as nicely, Energy may go from a 35-point rookie to a 50-plus-point offensive dynamo giving Buffalo a few offensive powerhouses on the again finish.
Lucas Raymond, RW, Detroit Purple Wings
Sophomore slumps suck. Lucas Raymond would agree with that, because the Purple Wings’ burgeoning star had an up-and-down yr final yr. He began sluggish after which obtained again to enjoying his recreation earlier than falling off once more and repeating that development all year long.
The powerful a part of enjoying within the NHL, particularly as a sophomore who made a huge impact as a rookie, is that opposing gamers within the league get the pocket book in your recreation, and it’s on you to diversify and regulate your recreation accordingly.
Raymond seems to be poised to trip shotgun with staff captain Dylan Larkin as soon as once more, however they are going to be including an elite goal-scorer to the other wing as Alex DeBrincat joins the Wings. With Raymond freed up a bit extra, some added power to his body from a superb low season, and a few maturity coming into his third NHL season, we may see the 21-year-old Purple Wing ascend to star standing.
Kent Johnson, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
After a formidable rookie season overshadowed by a really sturdy rookie class, Kent Johnson will look to assist the Blue Jackets take an enormous step. Whether or not he rides on the wing reverse of Johnny Gaudreau on the highest line or types an efficient pairing with star rookie Adam Fantilli, Johnson ought to have a shot at enjoying with very proficient teammates. The depth surrounding him on the Blue Jackets this upcoming season must be very enjoyable to look at.
Johnson is without doubt one of the most expert gamers within the NHL already, with the flexibility to dangle and dazzle regularly. He’s already scored a lacrosse objective within the NHL, and he’s put up various highlight-reel performs, however discovering consistency and constructing chemistry with a proficient ahead group can be key to seeing Johnson go from a 40-point participant to a 70-point participant.
Alexander Holtz, RW, New Jersey Devils
After enjoying in fewer than 40 video games final yr due to damage, Holtz got here into camp trying leaner, sooner, and extra spectacular in nearly each regard, according to reports. Holtz has a formidable launch and has the potential to be a deadly goal-scorer for the Devils as they give the impression of being to take one other step this season. If Holtz can are available in and rating 25 to 30 targets for them, he may very well be the lacking piece to make the Devils as dominant as any staff within the NHL.
Holtz nonetheless has to earn his spot within the lineup because the Devils vie for a Stanley Cup. He’s seen time with Timo Meier and Nico Hischier to date in camp, which seemingly means the Devils plan to present him each alternative to earn that function. He may very well be in one of the crucial favorable positions of any breakout candidate within the NHL.
Rasmus Sandin, D, Washington Capitals
After being traded from Toronto to Washington, Rasmus Sandin’s offensive manufacturing blew up with 15 factors in 19 video games whereas filling in for John Carlson on the Capitals’ energy play. With Carlson again, he might not have the identical alternative and should not produce at fairly the identical clip, however the fantastic thing about the Caps’ scenario is that Alexander Ovechkin can play the complete two minutes on the ability play. Sandin will nonetheless have the chance to arrange the participant making an attempt to develop into one of the best goal-scorer the NHL has ever seen.
Sandin was an underlying stats darling in Toronto, with many within the analytics world asking why he wasn’t being given extra of a chance. Now in Washington, Sandin will get extra alternative and will profit from it in an enormous approach, because the expert offensive blueliner will look to continually push the tempo for the Caps and assist Ovi get the to all-time targets file.
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