It can take years for skilled young forwards to finally move up into primary offensive roles. Some players are ticketed for bigger things year after year.
Here are several players who finally seem ready to escape that "almost-ready" category:
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers: He finally became a point-per-game player last season . . . in the AHL, where he scored 33 points in 33 games during the NHL lockout. His 26 points in 47 Flyers games disappointed fans expecting his breakout season. His one offensive surge -- 16 points in 15 February games – proved he has the ability to become an impact forward. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the new front-line mix in Philadelphia.
Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators: He seemed to emerge as an impact forward last season until getting hurt. He scored 19 points in 25 games last season before suffering his season-ending injury. Once he returns from surgical repairs on both shoulders, he could become the finisher Barry Trotz so desperately needs. Wilson, 23, figures to improve on his career scoring pace (0.49 points per game) now that his game as matured.
Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes: He seemed ready to break out last season when he scored 15 points in his first 20 games. But he finished with just seven goals and 19 assists in 48 games. Boedker, 23, has been an iron man – playing all 130 games the last two seasons and a team-high 886.53 for forwards during the lockout-shortened campaign.
Derick Brassard, New York Rangers: The perpetual Columbus prospect finally played like a sixth overall pick after landing in the Big Apple in the Marian Gaborik trade. He scored 11 points in 13 regular season games 12 points in 12 playoff games, relegating Brad Richards to the supporting cast. Brassard, 25, has played 322 games but is just now hitting his athletic prime.
Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres: He has on the cusp for a while now, scoring 123 points in his 187 NHL games. Many experts expected his breakout last season, but he produced just 10 goals, 21 assists and a minus-14 rating in 47 games. He started out at center, moved to the wing and lost his way along the trail. But has improved his shots-per-game game average steadily over the last three years and he was a primary power-play performer.
Nick Bonino, Anaheim Ducks: He should step up to anchor the second line this season after scoring 13 points in 27 games last season. Bonino, 25, has scored just 33 points in his 112 NHL games. But at Boston University, he scored 88 points in 77 games during his final two college seasons. In 19 games for Syracuse in 2011-12, he scored 22 points in 19 games.
Carl Hagelin, Rangers: He arrived in pro hockey with a mature game after playing four seasons at the University of Michigan. He has scored 62 points and earned a plus-31 rating in his first 112 NHL games. Hagelin, 25, scored 11 points in eight games with Sodertalje SK in his native Sweden during the lockout last season. Then he became arguably the top Rangers forward at even strength. If he makes a strong comeback from his shoulder injury – and finds his place on the power play -- he could put up some serious numbers this season.