Atlantic Division Breakout Candidates

Here we go with another awesome puck picture and my picks for breakouts in the tough Atlantic.

New Jersey Devils – Travis Zajac

Has had back to back 20 goal-40 assist seasons, and now will be starting off 2010-11 on a line with Iyla Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, two players that have put up more than 90 points in their career. It`s not hard to think that Zajac will be good for at least 75 points this year. Although this may be a result of situation over skill, Zajac is poised for a big jump.

New York Islanders – Nino Niederreiter

There really isn`t much else to choose from on Long Island, is there? With Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit out for long periods of time, the Isles are going to be extremely thin on offense this year. Niederreiter had a fantastic 2010 WJHC for the Swiss and if he makes it past the 9 game evaluation, then he could hit 45 points in the top six for New York.

New York Rangers – Derek Stepan

Another 2010 WJHC standout, Derek Stepan led the tournament in scoring with four goals and 10 assists in only seven games, as well as leading Team USA to gold. Early camp notes had him lining up in between Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov, but he has since been moved down to play with Rusland Fedotenko and Sean Avery. Knowing that he really only has to compete with Brandon Dubinsky at centre, it should only be a matter of time before we see Stepan as a regular centre for Gaborik.

Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux

Giroux broke in a big way last postseason and I expect it to continue this season, possibly enough to allow the Flyers to dump the contract of Jeff Carter for some help in net. He will be seeing regular powerplay time this year, something that was hard to come by last season, and has had some early chemistry with Nikolay Zherdev (stupid name change). If either Ville Leino or JvR take a step back from last year, we may see Giroux move back to wing with either Carter or Richards.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Goligoski/Letang/Martin

This one may be a bit harder to figure out, but whoever comes out on top and plays the most on the Penguins’ top powerplay unit. From what I have read, Letang and Goligoski have been seeing more time on it in the preseason than Paul Martin has. Preseason lines don’t mean much, but it is something at least to consider. I say in the end, Goligoski comes out on top. He has the most skill and would be the best powerplay quarterback.

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