The banner crop of rookie NHL forwards did not disappoint last season. Many became impact players during their first campaign and several are positioned for additional success this season.
Here is how the second-year forwards stack up:
Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers: Somehow he went more than a month without scoring a goal last season, between Feb. 25 and March 30. Then he scored 11 times in April, including six in his last three games. He has the skill to score 30 to 40 goals every season. But will he mature in his second season and struggle with the dreaded sophomore slump?
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: The departure of veteran center Stephen Weiss puts the offense on his young shoulders. He made his case for the Calder Trophy by scoring 21 points in 29 games through February and March before fading to just six points in 12 April games. Assuming he makes a full recovering from hip labrum surgery – and assuming that young centers Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov break out as expected -- Huberdeau should score 50 to 60 points this season.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal Canadiens: He challenged Huberdeau for the Calder, scoring 15 goals and adding 13 assists with a plus-10 rating in 44 games. He scored twice in five playoff games but suffered a minus-7 rating. Gallagher scored 41 or more goals in his last three WHL seasons, including 41 in 54 games in 2011-12, and should become a perennial 30-goal threat.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues: He scored 10 points in his first eight NHL games and made the transition from the KHL look easier. Then he drew tougher checking, suffered a concussion and allowed his conditioning to lag. He scored just nine points in his other 30 games as rookie. He failed to score a goal in April and became an extra player during the playoffs. But with David Perron exiting the scoring line mix, Tarasenko is expected to play a primary offensive role this season.
Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens: He played in all 48 games, producing nine goals and 18 assists with a plus-14 rating. Also scored three points in five playoff games. Galchenyuk, 19, should assume a bigger role after averaging just 12:19 in ice time last season. His 2.83 points per 60 minutes at even strength was 13th in the NHL, better than Rick Nash (2.77), Martin St. Louis (2.77), Ryan Getzlaf (2.76), Patrick Kane (2.67) and Steven Stamkos (2.65). Teaming with Lars Eller brought out the best in him –12 points during a stretch of 13 games. He scored three goals and added three assists in his last seven games. He missed most of the 2011-12 season due to injury, but scored 83 points in 68 games the year before for Sarnia of the OHL.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks: He bolstered the supporting cast by scoring 10 goals and adding 17 assists with a plus-17 rating while playing in all 48 games. All but three of his points came at even strength. He scored 15 points with a plus-8 rating in 14 March games. Coach Joel Quenneville wants to test him at center, a move that could move him down to a third-line role.
Jaden Schwartz, Blues: He was just so-so in the American Hockey League during the lockout (19 points in 33 games for Peoria) and produced just 13 points in 45 games for the Blues. But given his success in college (88 points in 60 games at Colorado College) and his leadership for Canada at the World Junior Championships, he figures to emerge on one of the three scoring lines in St. Louis. Coach Ken Hitchcock love his tenacity on the puck during last spring’s playoffs and sees him as a potential replacement for the retired Andy McDonald.
Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks: He was the key piece coming back from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade. He has Top 6 talent but he is still adapting to the North American game. He scored 10 goals with a plus-9 rating in 48 games last season for Ottawa. He stepped up in March, scoring five goals and earning a plus-3 rating in 14 games. He scored 24 goals in 49 games during his final season in the Swedish Elite League.
Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning: The former Harvard star (23 goals in 34 games in 2011-12) started the season in Syracuse and scored 38 points in 44 American Hockey League games. He arrived in the NHL in February and was playing 18 minutes per game in March. He scored 19 points in 38 games and will compete with rookie Jonathan Drouin and newcomer Valtteri Filppula for a bigger role in the post-Vincent Lecavalier Era.
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: He produced 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) with a plus-9 rating in 42 games. He was a peripheral power play performer, scoring just four points with the man advantage. He averaged 13:33 per game in playing time. He figures to fill the No. 3 center slot behind Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris and bid for some work o the power play.
Cory Conacher, Senators: Coming out of the lockout, he earned a primary offensive role in Tampa Bay. He scored nine points in his first six games and 18 in his first 19. Then he fell into a secondary role before departing to the Senators in the Ben Bishop trade. In 20 regular season and playoff games for Ottawa, he scored just eight points. And Conacher sat out some postseason games as a healthy scratch.