In the last decade there have been a number of elite forwards who were slow developers. They either got stuck in deep organizations, suffered injuries or simply needed more time to produce. These late bloomers didn’t emerge as potential stars until their early twenties. They are hard to distinguish from players who go on to have average careers or no careers at all. Some recent examples of late blooming forwards include Logan Couture, Michael Grabner and Bobby Ryan in 2009. In the last 10 seasons there has been roughly one late blooming prospect per season. These players emerge on average at age 22 and all have gone on to some variation of fantasy stardom. Who is going to be this season’s Logan Couture or Bobby Ryan? Here is a list of candidates, their age this season, and their point predictions.
Cody Hodgson 21, Vancouver
Hodgson has suffered a series of back injuries and then a broken orbital bone that has delayed his development. Many argued the leading scorer at the 2009 World Junior Championships should have won tournament MVP, however, it was given to John Tavares who signed a $33 million contract this summer. Hodgson has the talent and the drive to produce like Tavares and is one of the favourites to break through this season. Vancouver’s depth is the only thing in his way and he appears to be taking care of that in the pre-season. He’s had an excellent camp so far. He’s played in two pre-season games and was even against Calgary playing third line minutes (13:29) in a 5-1 loss. His solid performance earned him second line minutes (17:27) against Edmonton and he was named first star. Hodgson is too good at this point for Vancouver not to give him at least top nine minutes and time on the second power play.
Prediction: 47 points and a Calder nomination.
Zac Dalpe 21, Carolina
Although not the best player on this list, Dalpe has one of the best chances to break through this season. Originally thought to be a transition player a couple of months ago, Carolina appears to think he’s ready. They will give him every opportunity to play at least in the top nine and possibly the top six. He scored almost a point per game in the AHL last season, has a hard, accurate shot and is a tireless worker. He should get some points. He played one exhibition game (against Buffalo) and scored a nice assist playing on the third line with Brandon Sutter. He’s had a good camp.
Prediction: 37 points, but if he breaks the 45 point barrier (cracks the top six) he could get a Calder nomination.
Blake Geoffrion 23, Nashville
He played 20 games for Nashville last season and acquitted hi