Pacific Division Breakout Candidates

A little bit later than expected but here I go starting off with the Pacific Division. Many of these players will range on how exactly I see them breaking out in 2010-11; some started their upswing last season, others are rookies, others are just chosen because a team’s future looks so unpromising that they were the only choice. Enjoy:

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks – Bobby Ryan

Bobby Ryan is not the typical name that you hear when talking about players that went through a sophomore slump in their second season, but truth be told his points per game went from 0.89 to 0.79 between years 1 & 2 (he only played 64 games in his rookie year). Season one had Pronger and Niedermayer, season two had just Niedermayer, season three will have Visnovsky, Sutton and Lydman. Regardless of the loss of their captain, the Ducks are going to be a very top heavy team this season and Ryan should see a ton of time with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Ryan has scored 31 and 35 goals during his first two years; 40 is a legitimate possibility.

Dallas Stars – Jamie Benn

After a very respectible rookie season, Benn Texas of the AHL to the Calder Cup Finals, recording 26 points in 24 games along the way. I really like Dallas’ top six and if Benn can stick on the wing on either Ribeiro or Richards’ line then he should be able to surpass 50 points. The risk here is that they keep him at centre like they did at the end of last season. In that case, he might not see much of an increase until Brad Richards is shipped out of town.

LA Kings – Anze Kopitar

Coming off a career high 81 points, Anze Kopitar and his Kings are ready to take the next step in the NHL. I would have had Kopitar in both of my yearly pools this year if it weren’t for the stupid lack of wingers this year. He will get over 90 points for the first time in his career. Remember his hot start last season; 33 points in the first 24 games. It also helps that he has been a model of consistency and durability playing 82 games for three straight years.

Phoenix Coyotes – Keith Yandle

Yandle’s point production has went from 12 to 30 to 41 last season. He capped 2010 off with five points in the seven game series loss to the Red Wings. Yandle is ready to make the big jump to a 50 point defensemen. Ed Jovanovski’s time as an offensive threat is over, and while prospect Oliver Ekman-Larsson will probably be in the opening day lineup, Dave Tippett will give him the long road just like he does every rookie. Phoenix’s offense should also be improved from last year’s with the return of Lee Stempniak, a healthier Shane Doan, and additions Kyle Turris and Ray Whitney.

San Jose Sharks – Logan Couture

The 9th overall pick in the 2007 Draft finally got some NHL time last season after two full seasons in the OHL and one in the AHL. San Jose’s top six is pretty much set, so he figures to fit in at third line centre behind Big and Little Joe. If the Sharks suffer injuries to anyone in the top six, Couture could become a dark horse for the Calder. If not, he will probably post 35-40 points this season.

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