In some scenarios we see top draft picks not live up to expectations in their rookie seasons or even after a couple seasons. There are many reasons as to why this happens. Some players are called up too soon and may need more development with the junior team or in the minors. Injuries can be another reason for slow starts or the team/coaching style is just not the right fit for a player.
Last year we saw former first overall pick, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, breakout in his sophomore season. He went from 46 to 95 points, and also finishing with 51 goals in his second season with the Lightning. It was good enough to be a co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer at the end of the National Hockey League season.
Now the question is who is going to be this years Steven Stamkos. Here are my top five picks for players to breakout during the 2010-11 NHL season:
1. John Tavares
Tavares was the 2009 first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. He absolutely dominated the junior level in the Ontario Hockey League, the same league that Stamkos played in. His best season he finished with 135 points in 67 games, which is impressive at any level. During his rookie season Tavares looked like he was going to live up to the expectations that many had for him. However, he finished the second half of the season not as strongly as the first. He ended up with 54 points in 82 games, which was second among rookies. After a year in the league, expect Tavares to make the same kind of improvements as Stamkos. I am not saying he had a terrible rookie season but the way he finished can be considered disappointing to some. Especially after a great start. Tavares is the most likely candidate to do what Stamkos did last season, something that me and ESPN’s Robert Vollman can agree on.
2. Evander Kane
Atlantas 2009 4th overall pick should improve his totals this season. Kane has too much potential to have any doubts about him being a 20+ goal scorer this year. With Ilya Kovalchuk gone in New Jersey, expect more ice time for Kane and for his name to be called in key situations. Also do not forget he just turned 19. I will not be surprised to see Kane finish with 50-60 points this season on a weak Atlanta squad.
3. Joe Pavelski
Talk about clutch. When Pavelski’s name was called to be out there in key situations during the 2010 playoffs, he came through. Each of his four seasons in the NHL, he has put up solid numbers despite playing behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau. After a strong post season, many expect Pavelski to continue his strong play this coming season. Look for him to play more minutes and be out on the ice in key situations. Definitely a guy you want to keep an eye on this year.
After two in a half so-so seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, Mueller was given a fresh start on a young Colorado Avalanche team. Before suffering from a concussion he finished the season with the Avalanche, appearing in 15 games and finishing with 20 points. Last season, Mueller showed that he was a great fit on a young up and coming Avalanche squad. Look for him to play his best season yet.
After five seasons in the league, most would consider Brule a bust. His development has been slowed down by injuries, but showed some flashes last year in Edmonton that made him a former 6th overall pick. I still have faith in him and believe that this year he is ready to take his game to the next level. After watching this guy in juniors, it is hard to count this guy out. He is capable to be a consistent point producer in this league. Look for this year in Edmonton for him to find his stride. After all, there is such things as late bloomers.