Back in April we did a small mini-series about fourth-year breakout candidates. In the first article we used the 4th Year Breakout Report and some sorting to come up with a list of potential break-out candidates. In the second, we examined a few in more depth, looking at their specific prospects in the lineup. When we had some additional data (i.e. playoff games) we returned to that list in the middle of September. I bring all of this up as these are excellent reference points for the type of work we have today. While the fourth-year candidate is an exciting phenomenon, it is really capturing the idea that the stars are aligning so to speak – younger players are being given the opportunity to match their growing skills. This theme is not specifically restricted to players in their fourth year though. In this article I wanted to take a look at the next class of up-and-coming players.
Really what I wanted to get at in this article was players who are in their mid-20s (so in, or entering their peak), who have a few seasons under their belt (to get some reps and seasoning in), and have shown some indication of success. There is some overlap between these lists and the fourth-year breakout, but here we have additional players as well. I filtered out players who have broken out in a big way (your Leon Draisaitls, Aleksander Barkovs etc.) because extolling their virtues doesn't really help anyone at this point. I wanted to find players who were demonstrating growth in their seasons to date, but are not necessarily your household names.
I would like then, to introduce you to the first data set. In the table below we have eleven players who have met the criteria outlined above (age, NHL experience), but have also demonstrated several years of consistent improvement using the metric of points per game. The data reflected below (unless otherwise stated) is from the 19-20 season.