Every year, the NHL has several players that we could label as a “Breakout” Player, but one typically seems to rise aboe the rest. Unlike, the other 3 major North American sports, the NBA gives out an award for such honor. But this is the NHL, and we’re taking a look at players who have broken out of their shells and proven themselves as an NHL Threat.
WINNER: Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been by far the best team in the NHL this year, and an important part has been the production out of 23 year old Brayden Point. The 5'11 forward out of Calgary was selected in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft, and has been much more than anybody could've wished for. Point had solid 60 point outing in 2017-18, but is sitting pretty with 40 goals and 50 assists in just 74 games this season, both a career high. While he is playing with NHL Point Leader, Nikita Kucherov, 40 goals is no easy task. Once a first round pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Pointer is no showing the NHL why he was such an intriguing junior prospect. Size has not seemed to effect the 165 pounder, as he has aligned himself with the best of the best. The former Moose Jaw Warriors Captain is finishing up his Entry-Level contract, and will be looking to get PAID. His contract/RFA negotiations line up with that of Mitch Marner, as both could base their negotiations off of the other. Should Tampa find a way to resign the young gun, their top 6 will be set for years.
Elias Lindholm (Calgary Flames)
There were not many expectations coming into the season for the former 5th overall pick. Prior to this season, the Swede had had 370 games under his belt, but never surpassed more than 45 points in his 5 season NHL career. Lindholm was a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, and Carolina was unable to strike a deal. At just 24 years old, Lindholm had yet to hit his stride in Carolina and was subsequently traded to the Calgary Flames alongside fellow RFA Noah Hanifin. The Flames signed Lindholm to a 6-year contract with an AAV of $4.85 Million, and it has 100% paid off. Elias has been a terrific complement Johnny Gaudreau’s opposite wing. With the Flames clinching a playoff spot, Lindholm’s 27 goals and 77 points in 75 games is a large reason why. On this contract, it’s no question that Lindholm will be key in Calgary’s franchise for the next while.
Morgan Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Entering this season, all eyes were on the Toronto Maple Leafs forwards. Without such offensive prowess, many have looked at their defense as a liability. While that may not be entirely incorrect, Morgan Reilly has truly enjoyed a monster season of the TML blueline. Last season, Reilly set new career highs in assists (46) and total points (52) in his 76 games, and his career high in goals was the 9 he scored in 2015-16. However, through 73 games this season, he has set career highs in goals, assists, and points. We don’t typically get to see many defensemen who score 2o goals in one season, but Reilly has done it. His 20 goals lead all defensemen by 4, and his 68 total points is good for 2nd among D-men. The 5th overall pick in 2012 is starting to heat up and is trying to make his case for the Norris. Hopefully for the Leafs, Reilly and the rest of his team will be able to outscore any opponent in the playoffs, because I don’t think they will be able to shut down the tough teams they may face.
Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
Even though you could argue that Aleksander Barkov enjoyed his breakout season last year, I figured I may as well add him. He set careers highs in assists (51), Points (78), and Games Played (79) last season, but he has once again set careers highs while also serving as the Florida Panthers Captain. He’s broken the 30-goal plateau for the first time as he sits with 34 goals and improved to 53 assists and 87 points. The Fin has played in every game for Florida up to this point and is on pace to complete his first 82 game season in his 6-year career. Coming off of his terrific season that warranted him a Lady Byng nomination, Barkov has enjoyed yet another highlight filled year as he will finish the season over 1 PPG, the first time he will achieve this. While the Panthers are unlikely to make the playoffs, the 2013 2nd overall pick looks to continue into next season, where an up and coming squad will make a firm run at the playoffs.
*Rookies or players under the age of 20 were not eligible for this award.