With the 2017-18 season just around the corner, let’s look at some young, up-and-coming players poised to breakout this season.
Andre Burakovsky – Washington Capitals
Burakovsky is seemingly everyone’s favorite breakout pick — and for a good reason. The 22-year-old winger tallied a very respectable 73 points in 143 games (42 per 82) over the last two seasons despite seeing limited ice on a stacked Washington team.
With two top-6 wingers out of the picture (Marcus Johansson was traded to New Jersey, and Justin Williams signed in Carolina) the opportunity is there for Burakovsky to move up and see a steady dose of minutes alongside an elite offensive center, be it Nicklas Backstrom or (more likely) Evgeny Kuznetsov.
For a couple of years, Burakovsky has been one of the league’s most efficient point producers. All that was lacking was ice time, and that won’t be an issue moving forward.
Don’t be surprised if Burakovsky’s point total jumps into the 55-60 range this season.
Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets
Bjorkstrand appeared in only 26 regular season games last season, but he sure made the most of them tallying 13 points, all of which came at even-strength.
During that game state, Bjorkstrand scored goals at a comparable rate to Max Pacioretty, recorded points at a comparable rate to Mark Scheifele, and registered shots on goal at a comparable rate to Sebastian Aho.
The sample size isn’t overly large, but Bjorkstrand clearly did something right to keep company like that.
With Sam Gagner and William Karlsson moving on, a couple of full-time roster spots have opened, and there are some additional minutes up for grab — particularly on the power play, where Gagner was a staple.
With more opportunity, Bjorkstrand should be a consistent point producer — and shot generator — next season.
Ivan Barbashev – St. Louis Blues
Barbashev was recalled by St. Louis in January and immediately became a useful contributor recording 12 points in 30 games.
Those numbers are pretty impressive considering all of the points came at even-strength, and Barbashev saw less than 12 minutes of ice per game.
An inflated shooting percentage helped Barbashev’s cause, but it’s encouraging that he produced at a high clip (well over 2.0 points per 60 at 5v5) while still adjusting to the NHL game.
With David Perron out of the picture, another top-9 spot has opened and there is some extra power play time to go around, too (Perron logged 172 minutes on the PP last season). Look for Barbashev to be a beneficiary of that.
Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)