Every NHL season, we see a handful of players progress dramatically and grow into superstars. This is an excellent part of the game because a lot of these players end up being surprises and make their teams far better than expected. In other cases, some of these players reach the expectations that they were given and are not surprises. Yet, it is still exciting to see the development of superstars because they all start somewhere.
So, with this article, we will be looking at fifteen players who will be absolute game changers this season. Some of these names may be a bit shocking to some, while others will be pretty obvious. Nonetheless, it will be very intriguing to see how these players end up doing this year, but based off what they have shown so far, it is apparent that they should have good seasons.
Nonetheless, here is the list of the fifteen players who should have break out years this season.
15 Noah Hanifin
Noah Hanifin was drafted fifth overall by the Carolian Hurricanes in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has been a fairly solid player since his rookie season. Hanifin has yet to hit elite status, but it is clear to see that he is on the right path. With the Hurricanes improving as a squad, Hanifin is definitely due for a breakout year this season.
Hanifin is expected to be the Hurricanes defenseman of the future and based off what he done so far, he is heading in that direction. At age 20, Hanifin still has an abundance of time to prove that the Hurricanes made the right call by picking him. The 2017-18 season will be on that Hanifin remembers for some time.
14 Travis Konecny
Travis Konecny had a decent rookie season this past year, but he will look to improve his numbers this season. Konecny has all the tools to a very effective two-way forward in the NHL and playing on a team like the Flyers will help him a lot. With the Flyers getting better, look for Konecny to have a strong sophomore season.
Konecny is a very solid depth player for the Flyers right, but should be given a top-6 role this year. If Konecny can have a better year this season, the Flyers will be in a great spot. Konecny is still young enough to emerge into a superstar in the league and likely will based off what we have seen so far.
13 Mikhail Sergachev
The Tampa Bay Lightning made a huge trade this offseason by sending Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev. Although the Lightning are losing an elite forward in Drouin, they also have acquired a potential franchise defenseman. Sergachev will be given NHL time this year and will thrive.
The Lightning are a strong enough team where they can survive with a rookie defenseman in their top-6. Sergachev will make an immediate impact in the league because he has proven that he is ready for the big show. This season should be Sergachev’s breakthrough year and the Lightning should be excited for that.
12 Sam Reinhart
Sam Reinhart was drafted 2nd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and so far has had a pretty good career. Yet, it is apparent that Reinhart still has some growing to do and should show signs of an elite player this year. He showed progression last year and with a bigger role, Reinhart should dominate the NHL.
Reinhart has all the tools to an elite playmaker in the NHL and on a rebuilding team like the Sabres, he has the chance to display that. He is still only 21 and has plenty of time to reach the potential everyone knows he has. This should be a very strong year for him.
11 Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett was also drafted in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and was selected 4th overall. Bennett was originally ranked the top prospect of the class, but dropped because of injuries. His NHL career has shown signs of him being an elite player, but also has been filled with inconsistency. This year Bennett will change that.
The Flames are a team that are contenders and that could elevate Bennett’s game immensely. Although he has yet to find his scoring touch in the league, he definitely is heading in the right direction. His sophomore slump last season will motivate him to reach the levels he is supposed to be at.
10 Josh Ho-Sang
Josh Ho-Sang has been through a pretty long journey in his path to the NHL, but has finally proven that he is a capable player. Although he has off-ice attitude issues, he is a player who has immense talent and will look to show that again this year. He has the potential to be an elite player and should have that chance on the Islanders.
Ho-Sang’s biggest enemy is himself and that is what held him back from making the NHL during his first few years of development. Yet, there is a lot that Islanders fans should be excited about with him and this year #66 will give them more to be happy about.
9 Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi was simply not ready for the NHL last season, but this year will be much different for him. The 4th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft was given a chance to play with the Oilers, but was not given the right minutes to thrive. This year that should not be an issue and he will prove that he was a good pick.
Puljujarvi will look to prove his critics wrong this year and dominate. He should have a lot of success this year because he will be given the chance to play with talent such as Connor McDavid. Puljujarvi is far too good of a player to repeat his struggles from last season and will be a huge x-factor in the Oilers’ lineup.
8 Dylan Strome
This will be the year that Dylan Strome finally makes a name for himself with the Arizona Coyotes. Strome had a spectacular junior career with the Erie Otters, but has yet to carry his game to the NHL. Yet, now that he has the opportunity to be a full time player, he should be a very productive player for the Coyotes.
Strome was drafted 3rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, so it is clear that he has a lot of upside and talent. On a team like the Coyotes, Strome will be given the chance to succeed because he will have a top-6 role automatically. The 2017-18 year will be the one where Strome finally shows us he is an elite NHL player.
7 Charlie McAvoy
Charlie McAvoy was drafted 14th overall by the Bruins in last year’s NHL Entry Draft and has already made a mark with the team. After a strong year at Boston University, McAvoy was called up to the team to join them in the playoffs. McAvoy played top minutes and instantly showed that he is ready for the NHL.
McAvoy will have a spectacular season this year because he will be on the Bruins’ top pair with Zdeno Chara. Chara will help him grow in areas of the game that are a necessity and McAvoy will benefit immensely from this. McAvoy is the future of the Bruins and luckily for them, that future is now.
6 Nolan Patrick
Nolan Patrick will instantly be a lot of help for the Philadelphia Flyers because he is NHL ready and an elite talent. Patrick will be joining a Flyers team that is full of young players and even a handful of veterans. With that, Patrick will have the chance to play with players that will help him grow.
It is easy to believe that Patrick will make an immediate impact in the NHL because of how good of a player he was in juniors. If he did not face so many injuries last season, he easily would have been the number one selection in this year’s draft. Yet, Patrick should be ecstatic to join a team that is already in a good place with the Flyers.
5 Nico Hischier
This year’s first overall selection will also have an amazing season this year with the New Jersey Devils. Nico Hischier has emerged into an amazing player and is an absolute steal for the Devils. The Devils now will have a franchise center to play with their best player, Taylor Hall.
Hischier may not hit his best numbers this year, but he will definitely make an impact in the NHL. He will most likely be given first line time with his new team and will thrive under the role. If he is given a lot of powerplay time as well, he should produce a very strong campaign. The future is now for the Devils with Hischier.
4 Mikko Rantanen
Mikko Rantanen was drafted 10th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2015 and has become grown quite nicely since then. Rantanen was one of the lone bright spots on the Avalanche this past season and registered 38 points in 75 games. This year should be his breakout season because it is clear he is capable of success.
If the Avalanche are better this year, Rantanen should end up growing even more. Rantanen has all the tools to be a productive top-6 forward in the league and the Avalanche need to help him more in that process. Rantanen should have a great year, but will need to be given a larger role for him to be the best he can be.
3 Clayton Keller
The Arizona Coyotes should be ecstatic to see how good of a player Clayton Keller will be this year. Keller played very well in his short stint with the Coyotes last year and will do even better with a full season under his belt. Keller very well should be able to carry his success as college player to the NHL.
Keller will have a great year this year because he will given a large role with the team. It is apparent that he is ready to be a full time NHLer and with a rebuilding team like the Coyotes, he will be exposed to a lot of situations. Keller should be able to handle the pressure very well and be an excellent addition for the Coyotes this year.
2 Matthew Tkachuk
The Calgary Flames hit a homerun when they drafted Matthew Tkachuk 6th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In his rookie season, Tkachuk showed the NHL that he was an elite player, but also had a strong physical edge. It is clear that Tkachuk was inspired to play like his father Keith and that will be instrumental in his success in the NHL.
Tkachuk already almost reached 50 points in his rookie season, so this year should be a big year for the kid. Tkachuk has proven that he is a top-6 forward and now will have the chance to play with superstar talent for a whole season. The Flames will be an even better team this year when Tkachuk ends up being another superstar winger for them
1 Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin has finally got his wish and is no longer part of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yet, what is even better is that he is now a member of his hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens. Playing in Montreal will give Drouin the chance to play with some superstars and he will be given first line time with his new team.
This will be a huge year because Drouin will finally have the chance to have a clean slate and play on a team where he wants to be. Drouin has grown into a very solid hockey player, but this will be the year where he reaches elite status. Montreal should be ecstatic with this addition because Drouin will become a superstar.