At every turn, good young forwards are emerging in the NHL. The league is awash with young offensive stars just waiting to break out.
Some have enjoyed some measure of respect already and others seem ready to make their first impact during the next year or two.
Here are some forwards with plenty of growth potential:
Taylor Hall, LW, Oilers: Stick him on a top NHL line right now – next to a Ryan Getzlaf, for instance -- and he would be a threat to score 35 to 40 goals. What an explosive talent this kid is. As it was, he scored 22 goals in 65 games for Edmonton last season. If he can avoid getting too comfortable (a common problem for second-year pros), he should put on quite a show this season.
Tyler Seguin, C, Bruins: He had the luxury of easing into the NHL last season on a loaded Boston roster. But those six points in two games against Tampa Bay in the playoffs signaled that his arrival time is upon us. Marc Savard isn’t coming back from post-concussion syndrome, so Seguin should earn a prominent role on one of Boston’s top lines.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Avalanche: Colorado created a big hole up front by trading away power forward Chris Stewart. Then the Avs reloaded during the draft and added this big, skilled and physical winger. Of the Class of '11, he is regarded as the most immediate impact player. "He just works very, very hard," Kitchener coach Steve Spott told the Denver Post. "But he can beat you with a pretty play too. He's tough, very strong and quick around the front of the net. He'll score a lot of hard-working goals but some beauties too."
Brayden Schenn, C, Flyers: He should walk onto a third-line in Philly, helping fill the void left by the departure of both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. He got a taste of the NHL last season. His sturdy two-way play at the World Junior Championships suggests that he could become a Richards-type force at the highest level. One concern: With the Flyers rushing him a bit, he will develop his offensive skills fully or settle for a permanent third-line level?
Nino Niederreiter, W, Islanders: He put up epic junior hockey numbers (41 goals in 55 regular-season games) after his nine-game NHL trial last season, so he is ready to play on one of the top lines for this perpetually rebuilding team. He seems to love the spotlight and he joins a team desperate to develop another marquee player.
Kyle Turris, C, Coyotes: The third overall pick in the 2007 draft finally appears ready for takeoff. He scored 25 points in 65 games last season and cleaned up his plus-minus rating. But he also sought a free-agent contract that paid him upper-tier money. As we all know, that franchises loses tens of millions per year. Would Turris be worth the investment? Is he really ready to become a cornerstone player?
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Oilers: Edmonton figures to take a good look at the first overall draft pick this fall, but this highly skilled playmaker will likely need another year to mature before taking on the NHL full-time. Wayne Gretzky got away with being skinny, but he was The Great One. Also, this league has changed quite a bit since Gretzky retired. Nugent-Hopkins needs to back on some muscle before he can become a point-per-game player for the Men of Oil.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C-LW, Panthers: The third overall draft pick figures to spend another year in the QMJHL, but this high-upside forward arrived at rookie camp looking to make a mark. “I came here with the idea to be prepared to make the team,” Huberdeau told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after starring in a scrimmage.
Max Pacioretty, W, Canadiens:He is best known for getting knocked out by hulking Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, prompting a police inquiry in Montreal. But his 24 points in 37 games suggest that he could blossom into a 55- to 60-point scorer. He was a point-per-game play at the University of Michigan and then starred in the AHL before earning scoring line work the Habs.
Mike Santorelli, C, Panthers: The former Predators prospect stood out in his first full NHL season, delivering 20 goals and 21 assists for Florida. Before that, he was a point-per-game player at Northern Michigan and in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals. Now he is excited to be part of a revamped Panthers lineup. “Just talking to a lot of the guys, everyone is so excited,” he told NHL.com. “The additions are such great players. I look forward to playing with them and being teammates with those guys. I think it's an exciting time for us as a team. I think the team's going to be a lot better this year. I'm just excited to get going now. I can't wait to get down there."