Following the lead of my western counterpart this week, I'll take a look at some players heading into their fourth NHL season and try to look into the near future to see if there might be some magic in their fourth NHL season.
For a player to breakout, they need to take a regular shift on one of the top two lines AND play a prominent role on the power play. Opportunity is the key word here, especially for those players who are on the cusp of breaking through to the league’s elite and semi-elite.
Since there had to be a cut-off, if a player played more than nine games, I counted it as a season. Here are some players that are on the cusp of their prime scoring years:
Poised for a huge breakout:
David Clarkson – If he hadn’t missed 36 games with a leg injury, Clarkson very likely would have had his breakout season last year. He scored 24 points in 46 games, which pro-rates to 43 points. With the Devils addition of a quality veteran centre in Jason Arnott, Clarkson may threaten the 50 point mark. Clarkson is also a valuable player in leagues that value penalty minutes, he will almost certainly attain 150 penalty minutes.
Brandon Dubinsky – He’s had consecutive seasons of 40, 41 and 44 points. Last season he scored those 44 points in 69 games (a 52 point pace). Dubinsky finished second in World Championship scoring, only two points behind Ilya Kovalchuk and his 12 points. In his final year of major junior, he recorded 67 points in 51 games. Dubinsky is a top six talent waiting to breakout and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Kris Letang – If Sergei Gonchar is not re-signed and the Pens show confidence in their two young offensive defensemen (Goligoski being the other), then Letang is going to shine this year. His offensive abilities are seriously good as evidenced by his last two seasons of major junior hockey where he recorded 120 points in only 100 games.
Poised for a marginal breakout:
Nicklas Backstrom – It started with a 69 point rookie season, then Backstrom posted a 19 point increase and followed that up with a 13 point spike. After back-to-back breakout seasons, look for Backstrom to post back-to-back 100 point seasons. He is that good.
Nick Foligno – For a guy who spent the majority of his ice time with Mike Fisher and Alexei Kovalev, he sure didn’t put up many poin