Another week at FHS and another Blogger's Breakout. This week, our Blogging friends from the Southeast take a stab at predicting their teams two biggest breakouts for this coming season. A couple of bold predictions and for the first two times we have a tender selected as a breakout.
Next week the Pacific Division bloggers finish things up for us.
And don't forget, we take our own shot at predicting the breakouts so make sure you come back for a look at our famous Breakout Bible.
Also, make sure you pay these blogs a visit...they are all FHS approved and a much better use of your time than working.
As a hockey fan, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more frustrating team to call your own than the Atlanta Thrashers. Over their 10 year existence, there have been alternating periods of cautious optimism followed by vast stretches of almost suicidal depression and despair…otherwise known as "October". Add to that the indignity of being a "sunbelt" hockey club, with all the contraction talk and "yer not a real hockey fan" crap that comes with it. Well, we can always take comfort in the fact that hey, at least we're not the Leafs.
This year looks a little different though. If you look hard and squint your eyes a little, you'll find a couple of fantasy studs in the making (outside of our fearless Russian captain).
That being said, there's much talk in Blueland about bumping BryBry up to the 1st line to pair with Kovalchuk (the fourth PPG leader) and the newly-signed Nik Antropov. Antropov's size and Kovy's constant scoring threat may serve to boost Little's numbers, but Little has shown the ability to play with just about anyone.
Interesting Fact: Bryan is an avid Call of Duty player. And a self-described "big napper".
Last Year: 79 games with 33+20=53
Fearless Prediction: 80 games with 45+35=80 points…an increase of 37 points
The only thing that stood between Zach Bogosian and a serious 2008-09 Calder Trophy bid was Darroll Powe. The Flyers center slammed Bogosian hard into the boards in an Oct 28th game, breaking Bogosian's fibula. Other than that little tiny setback, Z-Bo had a stellar rookie campaign, averaging 18 minutes a game and picking up a total of 19 points. Oh yea, did I mention he just turned 19? LAST MONTH? Zach had the chance to pair with Mathieu Schneider for much of the year, playing Luke Skywalker to Schneider's Yoda.
But the real excitement came toward the end of the year where we got a peek at the the future of the Thrashers defensive corps. With Schneider traded to Montreal, Bogosian began to be paired with Tobias Enstrom, producing much happiness and photoshops such as the one on the left. As a matter of fact, the very day Schneider was sent to the Habs, Bogo opened up for a career-high three points against LA.
Given HC John Anderson's offense-heavy "mongoosing" system, look for Zach to add even strength points this year, but don't forget about his size and wingspan which (when combined with his hockey smarts) could make him a pretty effective PKer very soon.
Interesting Fact: Zach is also a big Call of Duty fan, and he has pretty good recipe for french fries.
Last Year: 47 games with 9+10=19
Fearless Prediction: 68 games with 17+30=47…an increase of 28 points
Written by Red and Black Hockey
This past season, the Hurricanes had "breakout" offensive performances from two players. Tuomo Ruutu posted a career best 26+28=54 points, which was a staggering 22 point increase from the 10+22=32 that he scored in 2007-08. He spent most of that season with the Blackhawks before coming over in the Andrew Ladd trade. I won't expect another increase like that in 2009-10, but I will expect him to put up 60 or more points.
Ray Whitney was the other Hurricane with a dramatic increase in scoring, even if it was almost entirely attributable to being fully healthy all season long. He scored 24+53=77 in 2008-09 (82 games), compared to 25+36=61 the previous season (66 games). Over the past four seasons, he's consistently been very close to a point a night. He has a total of 98+178=276 points in 292 games played. I imagine he'll again put up about 72 points if he stays healthy.
There are two players who I expect to have the fabled "breakout" offensive season in 2009-10. Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose.
Jokinen, who is unrelated to Olli Jokinen, was drafted in the sixth round (!) of the 2001 entry draft. After remaining in Finland for a couple of years, he had two and a half great seasons with the Dallas Stars, including a 17+38=55 point rookie campaign in 2005-06. That season, he turned heads around the league for his Forsberg-esque one-handed deke and tap-in on shootout attempts. After two and a half good seasons, he was traded to Tampa as part of a multi-player swap. Unfortunately, he never really clicked for the Bolts.
Late last season, Jim Rutherford acquired Jokinen from the Lightning in exchange for free agent bust Josef Melichar and goon Wade Brookbank. In 25 regular season games with the Canes, he registered 1+10=11 points and added a game deciding shootout goal against the Sabres. Aside from being a good face-off man and a power play specialist, he didn't do a whole lot to endear himself to the Carolina fans.
Once the playoffs began, it was a completely different story. He was a complete beast. He was tied for second on the Hurricanes with 7+4=11 postseason points. Three of his goals were game-winners, and the one in game four against the Devils with 00:00.2 remaining in the third period was arguably the most dramatic goal in franchise history. It was definitely the latest regulation goal in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He became an instant fan favorite, and he didn't let us down after that. I'd say that the deep playoff run definitely helped him find his place on the team.
Interesting Fact: In the 2005-06 season, Jussi converted nine consecutive shootout attempts. No other player has been able to match that. He was the league's best with 10 out of 12 that season, and is still one of the most proficient shooters. He has converted 22 of 41 attempts and has had seven game-deciding shootout "goals".
Last Year: 71 games with 7+20=27
Fearless Forecast: 82 games with 26+34=60…an increase of 33 points
__________________________________________________________________________ Chad LaRose
LaRose worked his way through the organization, finally making his NHL debut in 2005-06 as a gritty fourth line player. For his hard work and tenacity, he instantly gained favor with the Hurricanes faithful. That same work ethic, combined with an ever-improving skill set, has earned him more ice time and a bigger role on the team. He's played on every line, including the top line, and he's become an incredible penalty killer.
Every season, LaRose has set a new career mark in goals scored. He tallied 19 regular season goals in 2008-09, compared to eleven the previous season, six the season before that, and one in his rookie year. Strangely, he has recorded exactly 12 assists each season. LaRose used to be a pretty well kept secret, but he had a strong showing in the playoffs, scoring four goals and adding seven assists. The 11 points were tied for second best on the team. Other teams have taken notice of LaRose, and while he's nowhere near being a household name outside of Raleigh, he's gaining recognition.
Interesting Fact: During the summer of 2008, LaRose appeared at a Durham Bulls (AAA) baseball game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Off to the side, a little girl was on the field, about to perform the National Anthem. LaRose's pitch sailed well wide of the plate, nailing the little girl in the back. She was uninjured, but LaRose was pretty shaken up by the whole ordeal.
Last Year: 81 games with 19+12+31
Fearless Forecast: 82 games with 25+23=48 points…an increase of 17 points
Bonus Fact: LaRose and Jokinen signed identical two-year contracts this summer. They'll both make $1.5M in 2009-10 and $1.9M in 2010-11.
Written by Litter Box Cats
An automatic response to who most likely will lead the Panthers in scoring for next season would be this summer's big signing: winger David Booth. It's entirely reasonable to believe he'll pace the club once more in goals, topping his 31 (and 29 assists, second in points to center Stephen Weiss) from 2008-09. This is indeed a lock if, as is widely expected, the hideously-titled "Sunrise Express" line is reunited (Booth, Weiss, and Nathan Horton). Can Booth be considered a fantasy "breakout" player any longer? Not after setting the precedent for himself last season...but who could fill that bill for 2009-10? Here are two:
The 2006 first-rounder (10th overall) had a magical freshman season....after November 30th. Two points (1g, 1a) in his first 19 games led many - including myself - to believe first-year head coach Peter DeBoer had promoted the wrong center (see Matthias, Shawn for the alternative). Bench boss Pete was far slicker than we had anticipated; once his strategies and systems took root, then-20 year-old Frolik went on a tear; in the final 60 games, he blasted home 43 points (20 goals).
A natural center that can play the wings, Michael has adaptability and that indefinable potential to make those around him better.
Interesting Fact: Frolik's speed and tremendous stickhandling abilities have prompted many in recent years to compare him to another Kladno homeboy: Jaromir Jagr. While the reality of such a comparison may be a bit of a stretch, the two are eerily similar in their styles.
Last Year: 79 games with 21+24=45
Fearless Forecast: 80 games with 33+35=68…an increase of 33 points
Probably take a fair amount of heat for this one, but the guy's just got to hit it big at some point in his career (or at least in the remaining five years of his contract with the Cats). Horts' first season minus perennial linemate Olli Jokinen allowed Coach DeBoer the "luxury" of utilizing the big winger at his natural (read: junior) position at center. It never really worked, and Horton ultimately found himself splitting time among the forward spots.
Of course, this being the Panthers, injuries played a pivotal role in Horton's season of underachievement (missing 15 games last year after playing all 82 in each of the previous two years). Shots on goal also suffered immeasurably, averaging 215 in 2006-07 and 2007-08 before tanking to 131 last year. He’s rumored to be returning to the wing with Weiss and Booth, Horton's as painfully due for a solid year as anyone in the division.
Interesting Fact: Horton is a beast during the day: 4 goals and 2 assists in six games settled before sundown in 2008-09.
Last Year: 67 games 22+23=45
Fearless Forecast: 82 games with 39+42=81…an increase of 36 points
Written by Lightning Shout
The 6’4", 224 lbs. left-winger was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth round of the 1999 entry draft. He went on to play four years of college hockey at St. Cloud State University and began his NHL career with the Pens in 2003-04. In the 2005-06 season he played on a line with Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi where he achieved his first NHL hat trick and his first four point game.
On June 28, 2008 his exclusive negotiating rights were acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a third round pick in the 2009 draft. He signed a seven-year, $31.5 million contract with the Bolts the next day.
Limited to only 70 games due to injury, he had a solid 45 points and was a physical presence on the ice for the Lightning in 2008-09. Malone is poised for a breakout fantasy season. 65 points and well over 100 penalty minutes is not out of the question.
Interesting Fact: Malone achieved a career anomaly versus the New York Islanders on February 19, 2007, when he registered his second career hat trick by scoring a goal in the first minute of all three periods.
Last Year: 70 games with 26+19=44
Fearless Forecast: 80 games with 36+30=66 points…an increase of 22 points
The 6’3", 195 lbs. goaltender was selected by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round of the 2001 entry draft. He served as an able back up for Marty Turco in his tenure with the Stars. In February of 2008, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning along with forward Jeff Halpern, forward Jussi Jokinen and a fourth round pick in the 2009 draft for forward Brad Richards and goalie Johan Holmqvist.
The Lightning were 28th in the league in shots on goal given up per game and they gave up the fourth most goals per game, yet goaltender Mike Smith posted a career best save percentage of .916.
In his 41 games between the pipes, he was able to keep the Bolts in just about every contest. His season ended when he suffered a concussion, but by all accounts he is healthy and ready to be the number one backstop for the Lightning. Mike is a great athlete and as feisty as they come. If he can stay on the ice, he will be an elite Eastern Conference goaltender.
Interesting Fact: In his first game, Mike Smith was placed in net against the Phoenix Coyotes and all-star netminder Curtis Joseph. Smith stopped all 22 shots as the Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-0. A shutout against a future Hall of Fame goalie in his very first NHL start…not bad!
Last Year: 41 games with 14-18-9 and 2.62 gaa
Fearless Forecast: 61 games with 28-23-10 and 2.55 gaa…an increase of 14 wins.
Written by On Frozen Blog
What? A 37-year-old is a Breakout candidate? Well when you're slotted to the right side of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, yeah, that might increase your scoring a bit. Knuble brings the gritty crash-the-net presence the Caps need for their top line. Expect a big boost in both secondary assists and garbage-goal rebounds while sharing the ice with the Caps' dynamic duo. His PP time will be significant, and his +/- should jump as well. Chris Clark posted a career-high 30+24=54 year as Ovechkin's RW in 2906-07; in 2007-08, next to Ovechkin and Backstrom, Viktor Kozlov notched more points than he had in almost a decade. The same mojo is ready and waiting for Knuble.
Interesting Facts: Knuble wears #22 -- the same number worn by the last guy the Caps had who consistently camped in the crease, Steve Konowalchuk . . . Knuble played with Forsberg & Gagne in 2005-06, registering 65 points . . . "Knuble" is fun name to say.
Last Year: 82 games with 27+20=47
Fearless Forecast: 78 games with 33+34=67…an increase of 20 points
The Caps' roster has quite a few players primed for a breakout, including Eric Fehr, Dave Steckel, and a pile of talented youth like John Carlson and Joe Finley. But the Caps' 21-year-old netminder, Simeon Varlamov, is the true fantasy winner. Despite some early-career injury issues, Varly hit the big time in last year's playoffs. Don't think Coach Bruce Boudreau will hesitate to make Varly the starter just because of Jose Theodore's fat contract. After all, Boudreau had no problem benching big-money Michael Nylander. While the season could start with Theo and Varly platooned, expect Varlamov to be the regular starter after a couple months. He may not be your fantasy team's #1 goalie to start the season, but he will be before the new year.
Interesting Fact: His name is pronounced Semyon VarLAmov (like Nabokov)...his first-ever NHL game was a 2-1 win in Montreal, where he earned the first star of the game...his incredible save in Game 1 vs. the Penguins is worth re-watching... the day after his 21st birthday, Varlamov won a Game 7 playoff game. The morning after my 21st birthday was actually 2 days later.
Last Year: 5 games with 4-0-1 and 2.37 gaa
Fearless Forecast: 54 games with 32-14-8, GAA 2.22…an increase of 28 wins