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Fantasy Analysis: 10 Rookies/Prospects Ready to Breakout for 2011-2012

Looking for sleeper picks in your upcoming fantasy draft or interested in who to look for as possible up-and-comers next season?  You've come to the right place.  After hours of statistical analysis, I have compiled a top-10 list (featuring video evidence) of rookies/prospects who are likely to breakout next season as bonafide NHLers or even superstars.

For the purposes of this article:
Eligible players must have played two NHL seasons or less (of more than 5 Games Played)

Note: Players mentioned in this article are expected to either enter their first NHL season and make an immediate offensive impact or improve on their previous seasons' NHL totals by at least 20 points.


Age: 20
Drafted: 2009 - Round 2 (60th overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: AHL   70 GP    24-33-57

Leave it to the Red Wings to find the uncovered european talent in the NHL draft. Tomas Tatar comes out of Slovakia and if it wasn't for his dominant performance at the WJC in 2009 (7 GP 7g-4a-11), his junior stats would seem relatively weak as he only put up 15 points in 48 games in the Slovakian league.  Tatar is highly skilled and has a knack for the net, posting 24 goals last season in the AHL.  With the recent departures on the Red Wings roster, Tatar could find himself in a contributing position, especially if Jiri Hudler underperforms once again this season.  The sky is the limit for this player but I see him playing third line minutes to begin the 2011-2012 campaign.  He's a good gamble to take in a late round for large fantasy leagues as he could pay huge dividends if he manages to score 20 goals this season.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP      15-20-35

Tatar's shootout goal vs Finland:


Age: 21
Drafted: 2008 - Round 2 (44th overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: QMJHL 56 GP    49-41-90
                                AHL 57 GP    29-33-62

The departure of Tim Connolly will give Luke Adam an increased role with the Sabres this upcoming season. After netting almost 50 goals in his final junior year, Adam followed that up with a strong season in the AHL, proving that his skills could adapt to the pro game.  Adam is coming off a 29-goal, 62 point campaign in the AHL and is part of an organization with arguably the best coach in the league.  Adam struggled with his first NHL stint scoring only 4 points in 19 games, although he was limited to roughly 10 minutes a night.  With a solid AHL season under his belt, Adam should be ready to make the jump to the show next season. If he manages to hit the 20-goal marker next season, Adam could be a great late round pickup in Fantasy leagues.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP   20-20-40

Luke Adam showcases his accuracy and strength in his first NHL goal:


Age: 24
Drafted: Undrafted
NHL seasons: 2
Best JR Season: NCAA     39 GP     29-24-53 
                              AHL     47 GP     22-11-33 

Bobby Butler was a heavily sought after free agent coming out of the University of New Hampshire scoring 29 goals and 53 points in only 39 games in his final year.  Butler began last season with Binghamton but was later called up to the big club where he scored 21 points in 36 games.  If Butler takes an increased role this upcoming season with the rebuilding Senators it is not out of the question that he could hit 40 or even possibly 50 points next season.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP   25-20-45

Butler showcasing some speed and skills:


Age: 18
Drafted: 2011 - Round 1 (5th overall)
NHL seasons: 0
Best JR Season: OHL    65 GP   33-73 -106 

Ryan Strome was drafted to a young team oozing with potential this past June, giving him the opportunity to step right into the NHL next season.  If Strome can develop some chemistry with Tavares, Moulson, or Grabner next season then the sky is the limit.  Strome is coming off a junior season in which he potted 73 assists, showing his ability to see the ice and make plays.  Strome is still young and could benefit from development in the minors, but the Islanders fanbase is hungry for playoff action.  Therefore, if Strome demonstrates his ability to contribute in training camp, it'll be next to impossible for management to send him back to junior.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP  15-25-40

Strome showcases his skills at Islanders rookie camp:


Age: 20
Drafted: 2009 - 1st round (7th overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: OHL 56 GP    35-58-93  
                           AHL 44 GP    17-24-41

Nazem Kadri has taken a lot of heat playing in hockey's hotbed, but it's important to remember that he has yet to play even 40 games in the NHL.  Not to mention, he's often criticized for his inability to contribute thus far, although being drafted only two spots behind the #1 prospect on Hockey's Future (Brayden Schenn, whose NHL stats notably sit at 9 GP 0-2-2).  Next season will give Nazem Kadri a chance to compete for a spot in the top-6.  This young winger has added size since being drafted and was able to dominate at the AHL level last season.  His adjustment to the pro game paid dividends when he was called-up for his second stint in the 2010-2011 season.  For Leaf fans looking to get that late sleeper pick in their fantasy leagues, don't be wary of picking Kadri as he could be relied on to score 40 points this season depending on how he stands up to MacArthur and Lupul in training camp.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP  15-25-40

Kadri's "Nifty Mittens":


Age: 20
Drafted: 2009 - round 1 (11th overall)
NHL seasons: 0
Best JR Season: OHL 58 GP    24-76-100

Ryan Ellis has yet to step into the NHL since being drafted in 2009, yet he has put up some of the most impressive junior numbers of any prospect in the NHL.  Ellis has broken the 20-goal marker twice so far in the OHL and is coming off a season in which he scored 100 points from the blueline for the Spitfires.  He picked up where he left off in the AHL playoffs, playing for the Milwaukee Admirals while contributing a goal and an assist in seven games. Ellis also holds two records at the World Junior Championships, as the all-time leading point-scorer for a defenseman (with 25) and all-time leading assist scorer (with 20) surpassing Eric Lindros.  With the recent departure of Cody Franson, Ellis may have a spot on the blueline for the Predators this season--yet there are still questions about whether he'll be able to adjust to the NHL because of his size at 5'10.

2011-2012 projections: 82 GP  5-25-30

Ellis has one of the hardest and most accurate shots of any prospect, and here it is:


Age: 19
Drafted: 2009 - Round 1 (5th overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: WHL 59 GP    34-65-99 

It is no secret that Brayden Schenn possesses the ability of an NHLer, whether it be his ranking at #1 overall on Hockey's Future, his dominant WJC performance or his ability to dominate like a man among boys in the WHL--this could be Brayden Schenn's season.  Recently acquired by Philadelphia in the Mike Richards deal, the youngster has a spot open for him if he's willing to fight for it.  Schenn possesses a wicked and accurate shot and could easily become a perennial 30-goal scorer in his prime.  He also cleaned up in the hardware department at last years' World Juniors taking home the 2011 World Junior Best Forward, All-Star Team, Top-3 player for Team Canada and the World Junior Most Valuable Player awards while scoring 8 goals in 7 games.  He'll be surrounded by a load of talent on the Flyers which is why he is ranked at #4 among prospects who are due for a breakout season.

2011-2012 projection: 82 GP  20-20-40

Schenn's four goal game in the WJC:


Age: 19
Drafted: 2010 - Round 1 (1st overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: OHL   57 GP 40-66-106

Taylor Hall? Breakout? That's right.  Although Hall is already considered among the top potential in the league, he still has the ability to take his play to the next level.  Hall is a world class athlete, and was able to break he 20-goal marker in only 65 games in his rookie campaign.  If Hall can manage to play an 82 game season next year in Edmonton (knock on wood), it is not out of the question that he could become a point per game player for the 2011-2012 season.  This drastic increase in statistics is why he should be considered a mid-to-high draft pick in all fantasy leagues. Not to mention, if he can secure a top scoring position in the lineup, he could either be playing alongside a great setup man in Ales Hemsky or a highly skilled scorer in Jordan Eberle.  At the high end of possibilities, this could be the season where Taylor Hall becomes a top-10 NHLer in the league.

2011-2012 Projection: 82 GP  30-40-70

Hall scores a hat trick as an NHL rookie:


Age: 19
Drafted: 2010 - Round 1 (2nd overall)
NHL seasons: 1
Best JR Season: OHL   63 GP   48-58-106

After being picked 2nd overall in the 2010 draft, Tyler Seguin struggled in his rookie season, scoring only 22 points in 74 games.  He did, however, show flashes of brilliance, especially when he showed his ability to steal game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals by scoring 2 goals and 2 assists.  He subsequently vanished, scoring only 1 assist for the remainder of the playoffs.  Next season should be another step in the right direction for Seguin because unlike many other developing youngsters, Tyler Seguin now has the experience of a Stanley Cup Championship under his belt.  Only at the age of 19, he already knows what it takes to win in this league and the way he handles himself this offseason will demonstrate his maturity at age 19.  The 2011-2012 campaign should be a better indication of whether Seguin can step up and become a future #1 centreman for the Bruins or merely blend in with the rest of the talent in the league.

2011-2012 projections: 82 GP  20-25-45

Seguins' four point playoff game vs. Tampa Bay:


Age: 22
Drafted: 2007 - Round 1 (2nd overall)
NHL seasons: 2
Best JR Season: NCAA    36 GP    17-23-40

Many may question why James Van Riemsdyk, a player who has already somewhat established himself, tops the top-10 list of possible breakout rookies, but the truth is James really brokeout in the 2011 playoffs.  Last year was the first time JVR hit the 20-goal marker in a season, and he later went on to score 7 goals in only 11 playoff games for a struggling Flyers playoff team.  The departure of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards opens up second or first line possibilities for the young power forward and it isn't out of the question that James hits the 30-goal marker this season while adding 30-40 assists depending on who his linemates are.  The Flyers have a good blend of experienced and young forwards with talent, which should enable management to surround JVR with the right player, bringing out the best in him.  If the Flyers manage to dominate again this season, Van Reimsdyk may be among the highest scorers in the league for 2011-2012.

2011-2012 projections: 82 GP  30-30-60

Van Riemsdyks' Hat Trick vs the Islanders last season:

Honorable Mention: Cody Hodgson (VAN), Erik Condra (OTT), Blake Geoffrion (NSH), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM),  Justin Abdelkader (DET), Matt Beleskey (ANA), Cam Fowler (ANA)

Written by: SeanHT

Who do you think is going to breakout this season? Leave your comments below!


  1. Pretty good list, the only person I feel might be missing is Gabriel Landeskog. The avs have a great young team and if he can preform on a line with hedjuk and duschene he could put up big numbers. I think i remember hearing he was the most nhl ready of the top 3 drafted players( I could be wrong).

  2. I considered Landeskog, and agree that he could easily make a splash for the Avs this season. The reason he was left off the top-10 was because the list was based primarily on Junior stats/AHL stats. Although his were solid, they were nowhere near the numbers put up by players on the list above. However when you dig a little deeper, you find that Landeskog is only 18 right now and could theoretically still play another year or two in the O. But youre right about his "NHL readiness" in the sense that he already has NHL size (listed at 6' 200 lb)

  3. Marc Andre Gragnani will score 40 points this year. Book it now.

  4. i think ryan johanssen should be there , brassard will get hurt and carter can play at wing maybe they gonna try nash carter johanssen ,,, i hope so


  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. 15goals as a rookie followed up by 21 as a sophomore and JVR hasn't broken out yet? I know he's going to continue to improve. I guess I have a different idea of breaking out.

  7. "For the purposes of this article:
    Eligible players must have played two NHL seasons or less (of more than 5 Games Played)

    Note: Players mentioned in this article are expected to either enter their first NHL season and make an immediate offensive impact or improve on their previous seasons' NHL totals by at least 20 points."

    I defined what I meant by "rookie" and "breaking out" in the first paragraph of this article. Can't get any clearer than that.