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NHL Players Poised to Break Out in the 2021 Season
Superstars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews don’t grow on trees. They’re born with a special talent, and they spend countless hours perfecting their craft.
For argument’s sake, let’s forget about the transcendent hockey players for a moment – they’re few and far between. However, there are a handful of up-comers on their way toward establishing a presence in that very next tier.
Who are these rising hockey stars that I speak of?
Take a look as I unveil four potential NFL breakout players for the 2021 season.
Brayden Point – Tampa Bay Lightning
- DOB: 3/13/96
- National Team: Canada
- Position: C
After scoring an NHL-leading 14 goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this 24-year-old Canadian is officially set to take flight. A five-point performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals certainly stands out, and Point was also the guy who nailed the game-winner in the fifth-overtime against Columbus.
Already hailed an elite center by many, Brayden surprisingly wasn’t an All-Star in either of the last two seasons. Nevertheless, he the league in game-winning goals in 2017-18 (12) and topped the NHL in power-play goals (20) the following year.
Playing alongside Nikita Kucherov on the first line in Tampa is only going to support Brayden stuffing the stat sheet, and the Lightning are undoubtedly one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. In other words, don’t expect Point to be left off out of the All-Star Game in 2021.
Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks
- DOB: 11/12/98
- National Team: Sweden
- Position: C
Another young center deemed as one of NHL’s players to watch in 2021 is Elias Pettersson. Entering his third year with the Canucks, the 5th-overall pick in 2017 has quickly erased any doubts about not being bulky enough to succeed at this level.
The 6’2” 176-pound skater won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2019 and has been honored as an All-Star in each of the past two seasons. After posting a modest plus/minus of +3 as a rookie, Pettersson delivered a +16 mark this past year.
Elias has averaged virtually a point-per-game throughout his career and should be on the uptick heading into season #3. The kid just turned 22 in November.
I’m a bit miffed that numerous NHL player rankings are slotting him outside of the top 15 centers.
Miro Heiskanen – Dallas Stars
- DOB: 7/18/99
- National Team: Finland
- Position: D
Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch, and Al MacInnis. Those are the only defensemen in NHL history to score more points in a single postseason than Miro Heiskanen contributed in 2020. Heiskanen has been extolled in the same conversation as the great Scott Niedermayer, hinting that a Norris Trophy in 2021 could be well within Miro’s grasp.
The Finnish defenseman has repeatedly flashed his adaptive skillset in the offensive zone, but it’s his ability to control the backline that makes him stand out.
According to the analysts at NHL Network,
Highlighted as a can’t-miss prospect when the Stars plucked him third overall in 2017, this 21-year-old passed every initial test with flying colors. He’s now on the brink of superstardom – especially if Dallas can make another serious run at the Stanley Cup.
- DOB: 2/13/01
- National Team: Finland
- Position: RW
The 2nd-overall pick in 2019 underwhelmed in his first season in the Big Apple. We know Kaapo is a terrific skater and there’s no denying he can score the puck. However, when push came to shove, Kakko generated a paltry -26 plus/minus this past year.
The good news for the Rangers organization is that Kaapo is eager to develop. With a year under his belt getting caught up to NHL game speed, Kaapo is in line to take massive strides.
This NHL breakout candidate saw more time on ice in the bubble (15:53) than he did during the regular season (14:17), demonstrating that David Quinn and his staff are gaining confidence in the 19-year-old right-winger.
The more and more comfortable Kakko becomes with his teammates, the quicker we’ll start to see consistent production.
When it comes touting NHL’s rising stars in 2021, I’m bullish on all four of these names to break out.