We’re back again for another round of “Who’s Ready to Breakout?!” In Part One of our Breakout Series, we profiled a former first overall pick, a budding Washington Capital and a feisty St. Louis Blue looking to get back to his natural position.
This week, we’ll dig into three more players who appear set to ditch the excuses and start hanging with the big boys.
As a quick note, this will be my last Frozen Pool Forensics’ column for summer. Chris Liggio will be taking over, as I step in and pinch hit for Dobber pumping out the Offseason Fantasy Grades Series.
Playing second-fiddle to Connor McDavid is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it is a tad unfortunate for Eichel that he came in at the same moment that this generation’s supreme talent joined the fold. The wildly skilled pivot was a nice consolation price for the Buffalo Sabres at 2015 NHL Entry Draft and is just now scratching the surface of his sky-high potential.
A rookie season in which the 19-year-old accumulated 24 goals, 56 points and 238 shots on goal for the 23rd-ranked Sabres squad was a solid, if not unspectacular campaign. We say unspectacular, as he ended up fourth in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting just a hair ahead of Dylan Larkin and firmly behind McDavid, Shayne Gostisbehere and Artemi Panarin. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a fourth-place finish, but many expected Eichel to step into the league and light it on fire.
Well, no one had to wait long, as 2016-17 bore witness to the explosiveness of the young American.
He replicated the 24 goals from the year prior, but did so in 21 fewer games and recorded 57 points in just 60 contests. He upped his shots per game from 2.94 to 4.08. That latter number led the league.
The former Boston University standout ranked 11th in the league with 0.95 points-per-game; ahead of breakouts like Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak, but due to a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for 22 games, he flew under the radar in 2016-17. To some degree, this should bode well for fantasy drafts this fall.
Even though he was pushing for a near point-per-game campaign, expect Eichel to take another step forward in his development, as he and his young Sabre teammates continue to ascend. He was the key ingredient on the league’s top-producing power play, but the Sabres struggled to produce much at even strength, recording just 139 tallies at five-on-five – 26th most in the league ahead of just the Canucks, Coyotes, Devils and Avalanche.
Tasked with leading a young team with a new coach and General Manager, Eichel appears ready for superstardom. The only question is whether you’ll be able to buy stock now, or forever miss the boat.
We don’t need to look too far past our first potential breakout to find his linemate, Sam Reinhart set to bust out himself. If you recall, Reinhart was the second overall selection from the 2014 Entry Draft and has slowly marinated in the Sabres’ system improving on a 23-goal, 0.53 point-per-game output as a rookie two seasons ago, to a 0.58-point-per-game clip this past year.
What’s especially promising for the soon-to-be 22 year old is his closeness with Eichel. The two have been locked diligently in their young careers, and as one superstar talent takes off, it’s easy to forecast his wildly talent winger to come along for the ride.
Reinhart had a bit of an up and down 2016-17 campaign. He predictably struggled through the first quarter with Eichel on the shelf to the tune of just 10 points in 21 contests. Once his top-line centre returned, though, the British Columbia native took off with five goals and 17 points in the following 19 games.
Unfortunately, that second quarter was the high-water mark for the former centre, now converted winger, as he notched just eight goals and 19 points in the final 38 contests. That sluggish finish should help keep his value down come draft day, which will work in your favour.
Reinhart witnessed an over four percent dip in his personal shooting percentage and saw his IPP and even-strength conversion rate slip down a notch as well. All the while seeing his shots per game and percentage of power-play time increase resulting in some muted point totals despite solid deployment.
While he hasn’t been around long enough to project iron-clad trends, it’s fair to assume some of these results were based on some poor luck.
With over 160 NHL games under his belt, Reinhart is now firmly established and more comfortable in the league. If we expect Jack Eichel to take another leap forward in 2017-18, don’t sleep on his running-mate Reinhart joining him by racking up points both at even-strength and with the man advantage.
He’ll make a strong push for 60 points in a healthy campaign.
Taken with the fifth overall selection in 2013, Lindholm has left his fantasy owners wanting more. Expected to grow into a top-line centre after cracking the Hurricanes lineup right from the draft floor, four years have passed and he’s just now broke the half-point-per-game threshold.
However, with a little digging, it’s easy to see why some people are excited about his immediate future.
The 22 year old may have only recorded 11 goals and 45 points in 72 contests last season, but it’s the way in which he did it that peaks interest. Lindholm recorded just four goals, 14 points and 62 shots on goal through the first 31 games.
His 31 points and 89 shots on goal in the final 41 contests represents a 0.76 point-per-game output which equates to 62 points over a full season.
He produced these results while playing with a myriad of wingers. Luckily for him and for Carolina fans, they are chalked full of exciting young forwards to compliment the Lindholm.
A number that really jumps off the page for the former Brynäs star is his primary assists per 60 minutes. After recording 0.6 A1/60 the previous two seasons, Lindholm blew the doors wide open by producing 1.4 primary assists per 60 minutes. That’s more than Nicklas Backstrom and just a hair behind Connor McDavid’s 1.5 mark.
I think it’s safe to classify him as a playmaker.
As the Hurricanes continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference ranks, Lindholm is also likely to see his production climb. With a strong cast of wingers and the potential to earn first-line pivot position, Lindholm is poised to not only break the 50-point threshold in 2017-18 but push into the 60-point range, as well.
- A blistering start to his season got him on the map, but a major dip in the Blue Jackets’ power play iced him right down. 59 points as a 22 year old is nothing to scoff at, and the addition of Artemi Panarin should only help push the needle forward. Wennberg is heading into the notorious fourth season, and if he ever decides to shoot a bit more, things could get interesting.
- After a nice rookie season in which he recorded 17 goals in 60 games, the soon-to-be 23 year old will see an increase in deployment on a weak Red Wings’ squad. For a big, shooting winger we’d like to see more shots, but we expect them to come with added familiarity and confidence. Mantha’s always had a high ceiling.
- The powerful Finn has loads of talent but hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to put together a breakout season. As an optimist once told me, “Why not now?” With a little luck, you could be looking at a top-10 scorer in 2017-18.
Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to follow me on twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3
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