In the early goings of the NHL season, it has been very easy to get wrapped up in the incoming rookie class and what the established stars such as Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews are doing. They’ve all given us a lot to talk about already.
However, some of the most compelling seasons usually come from the “breakout players.” Typically, these are players still on their entry-level deals or possibly on their second contract. The development curve certainly doesn’t work the same way for every player, and it’s far more common for a player to come into his own after a few years in the league. As the NHL continues to get younger, there are going to be even more players like this in the coming years.
Here’s a look at some potential breakout candidates for this season.
Age: 20 | Drafted: No. 7 overall, 2015
2016-17 NHL stats: 82 GP | 6 G | 24 A
I debated putting Provorov on this list, only because his rookie season was basically good enough to qualify as a breakout campaign: He put up 30 points while appearing in all 82 games last season. Provorov also finished the season with Philadelphia’s highest average ice time, at nearly 22 minutes per game. It’s fair to say he already has arrived — but I think he’ll have an even bigger season in 2017-18.
It seemed as though Provorov improved throughout last season, becoming an all-situations type of defenseman. There were some early struggles, but coach Dave Hakstol stuck with the rookie and let him grow into his game. It turns out the young Russian was a quick study. As the Flyers start turning things over to some of their other younger defensemen, including Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin, they’ll need to rely on Provorov even more. It’s fair to expect a boost in both minutes and points for the 20-year-old defenseman.