Everyone has a list of breakout players no matter who you are, or what team you root for. The opportunities to break out are indeed situational, and are largely dependent upon playing on a top line or second line. My idea of a breakout player is not someone who has already banged out a 50-point season and shooting for 60 points or better. Rather, it is a newer young player trying to earn his keep and add unto a late-season splurge. This discounts players like Mark Sheifele or Leon Draisaitl, who were already on everyone's radar and are now NHL commodities. But, essentially, moving from 55 or 60 points to 70 points is not breaking out: it’s natural progression. So, today's list contains players who wet our beak last year, and hopefully will provide us with the entire dinner now and not just another small sample of points and goals and the like.
1) Jonathan Drouin (LW, Tampa Bay): After last year’s playoff run, this breakout call isn’t really that fair. Projected to line up with Steven Stamkos and Alex Kilorn on Tampa’s top line, Drouin could easily eclipse the 50-point plateau or more! Being responsible on the defensive side of the puck though will determine how many minutes this young stud gets. Drouin is in the best spot of all these players, in terms of both fantasy and real life, on a top line with one of the best players alive, and on a winning team looking to get past the Eastern Conference Finals. Reaching for the former malcontent is what I will do, and you should too.
2) Nikolaj Ehlers (LW, Winnipeg): The young Dane impressed everyone with 15 goals and 23 helpers as a rookie last season in Winnipeg, and he is slated to get top line duties with Sheifele and Blake Wheeler, meaning Ehlers could really make a jump at the age of 20. I’m really looking forward to watching the Jets battle in the Western Conference as a young emerging skilled squad taking steps to dethrone the giants.
3) Andre Burakovsky (LW, Washington): Last year, Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson split time between the loaded second line and the third line. Playing with Justin Williams and Nicklas Backstrom is a much more appealing option for fantasy investors and where we want Burakovsky. With 17 goals and 21 assists last campaign, look for a statistical jump for Andre this season, as the Caps look to add Stanley Cup Champion to their credit.
4) Rickard Rakell (C/RW, Anaheim): The third wheel to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf has been a revolving door project, but Rakell may have finally ended the search, albeit after the former are on the way out of prime years. Coming into his third full season, the young Swede is primed to increase his 20-goal output from last year, but having missed 21 games the prior two years may dent Rakell’s growth if his gimpy ways continue.
5) Boone Jenner (C, Columbus): One of my favorite players of last year, Jenner cracked the 30-goal mark and showed that Columbus may finally be headed in the right direction. Boone has a legitimate shot at the number one center job ahead of the oft injured Brandon Dubinsky. Jenner may not hit 30 goals again this year, but expect more than 19 assists as the Jackets grow together as a young team. With nine of those goals on the power play and one shorty, Jenner is an offensive stat filler worth a mid to late round pick.
6) Robby Fabbri (LW, St. Louis): With 18 goals and 19 assists as a rookie, Fabbri earned his spot on a deep Blues forward unit, and with Troy Brower and David Backes plying their trade elsewhere I expect Fabbri to have an even bigger role for a talented Blues team. I’m expecting Fabbri to play the left side with Paul Statsny and retuning right wing David Perron to form a solid second line in the Arch City.
7) David Pastrnak (RW, Boston): Another young stud in a prime line placement could equal a break out season, while helping the Bruins into the playoffs. Boston needs to improve their horrid puck possession issues from last year to gain the offense more quality scoring chances. Pastrnak is just 20, and after two mediocre seasons prior, he will be playing hopefully on the second line with David Kreji. This possible line will equal more ice time and more power play time for David and that makes him a great late-round fantasy pick.