Every year, new stars are born. From youngsters like Robert Thomas, to veterans like Chris Kreider, numerous players take their game to new heights every season. Who’ll take the jump this year? Lets break it down.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find something Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller can’t do well. Heading into his 3rd NHL season, Miller has shown tons of flashes. Like most young players, inconsistencies were still present, but that all changed during the 2nd half of the Rangers season. Miller was a stalwart on New York’s blue line, eating 24:47 of ice time per game, during the Blueshirts deep postseason run. Miller stands at 6’5, 210 LBS, skates like the wind, is tremendous with his stick, and ramped up his physicality during the playoffs. Many believe there is a level of offense that has yet to be unlocked for Miller, as he’s showcased a hard shot, to pair with soft hands. The Minnesota native is a deep sleeper for the Norris Trophy in 2022-23.
Heading into last years playoffs, Jake Oettinger had registered 2 seasons of slightly above-average goaltending to begin his career. “Otter” had accumulated +2.5 goals saved above expected in his first 77 regular season games. Solid, but nothing spectacular. However, Oettinger was nothing short of spectacular in his first taste of playoff hockey. The 23-year-old netminder set an NHL record, with a whopping +13.3 goals saved above expected in 7 postseason games, the most ever in a single series. Can Oettinger carry over said dominance this season? That remains to be seen, but Oettinger sure looked like a goaltender capable of winning a Vezina trophy.
After 4 tumultuous seasons in Chicago, Dylan Strome is off to a much better situation in Washington. Strome was in and out of the lineup as late as last season, but after the Hawks made a mid-season coaching change, the 25-year-old centerman was nearly a point-per-game player. Now he heads to the nation’s capital, where he’ll get an opportunity to play top-6 minutes on a playoff-caliber team. Strome is likely to see even more minutes, as Nicklas Bäckström is set to miss most, if not all of the ‘22-23 season. Another positive development has come out of the Caps camp in the case of Strome, as he is firmly entrenched in Washington’s 1st power play unit, an opportunity to boost his point totals. The Canadian center is likely headed for a career year.
Bowen Byram is coming off a rookie season, in which he registered an impressive 17 points in just 30 games. The 20-year-old defenseman was a key piece to Colorado’s Stanley Cup run. Still, Byram has just 49 NHL regular season games to his credit and has only scratched the surface. The Canadian blue-liner has showcased elite offensive instincts throughout his young career and projects to have an expanded role this season. He could very well be the next great Avalanche defenseman.
Eric Comrie is coming off of a “mini” breakout season. The 27-year-old netminder was stellar in 19 games as Connor Hellebuyck’s backup, posting the 2nd best goals saved above expected/60 in the entire league. Comrie didn’t get much help from Winnipeg’s defense either, who graded out as one of the worst units in the National Hockey League a season ago. Now the Canadian goaltender heads to Buffalo, a young, motivated, improving team; where he will seek his first starting opportunity as a professional. Is his GSAx/60 rate from last year sustainable? Probably not. Does it warrant promise for Comrie’s future? Absolutely.
Ross Colton is off to a great start in his NHL career. Heading into his 3rd season, he’s already had a signature Stanley Cup moment, all while being the most efficient goal scorer in the league. Colton is expected to see an expanded role this season, following Ondrej Palat’s departure to New Jersey. Penciled into Tampa’s top-6, Colton will have the chance to play with phenomenal players, the likes of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli to name a few. The New Jersey native lit the lamp 22 times last season, despite averaging just 12:48 minutes of ice time. That number will likely be upwards of 16:00 this year, pair that with better linemates, and Colton is in for a career year.
The 2nd Av on this list, Alex Newhook is coming off a solid rookie campaign for the Stanley Cup Champions. Newhook tallied 33 points in 71 games in a bottom-6 role for Colorado. With the departure of Nazem Kadri this off-season, The 21-year-old forward projects to get top-6 minutes for the league’s best team. Playing with some of the league’s best players on the league’s best team is the perfect recipe for a year 2 breakout for Alex Newhook.
Jeremy Swayman is coming off a great rookie season in his 1st year as Tuukka Rask’s heir apparent. Swayman, who platooned with veteran Linus Ullmark for a good chunk of the season, won control of the starting job after the All-Star break. Swayman looked dominant for much of the 2nd half, so much so, that he took home All-Rookie honors, as the league’s best 1st-year goaltender in the NHL. The 23-year-old netminder finished with a .914 save percentage, to pair with +4.2 goals saved above expected. Boston will be without a lot of star power to start the season, so the B’s will need Swayman to be at his best, with teams like Ottawa and Detroit lurking to take their playoff spot.
Anton Lundell is coming off a spectacular rookie season. At just 20 years old he registered 44 points in 68 games, a 53-point pace. Lundell was largely stapled to the 3rd line in a stacked Florida offense, but that will most definitely change this season. The off-season departures of Jonathan Huberdeau, Claude Giroux, and Mason Marchment almost assure the Finn a top-6 role. Lundell will have the opportunity to play with guys like Sasha Barkov, and Matthew Tkachuk, an excellent opportunity to produce.
Lastly, Boone Jenner. The oldest player on this list, Jenner is coming off a solid age-28 season, accumulating 44 points in 59 games, a 61-point pace. Insert Johnny Gaudreau. Columbus added one of the best players in the NHL, in the form of Johnny Hockey this off-season. Playing with an elite playmaker like Gaudreau, and a sniper like Patrik Laine, all the stars align for a breakout year for Boone. The Canadian centerman could very well score upwards of 70 points this season, barring injury.