The NHL is filled with young talent. Many rookies and players on entry-level contracts are fighting to make a name for themselves in a league of supreme talent. The Metropolitan Division has no shortage of rising stars who are ready to breakthrough toward stardom and tenure with their organization.
Let’s take a look at the top five Metropolitan Division players who are on the verge of a breakout season.
5. Elias Lindholm- Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off a forgettable 2013-14 season which saw them finish in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. However there was one bright spot that year which was Elias Lindholm’s rookie season. The 19-year-old center scored nine goals and 12 assists (21 points) through 58 games with the Hurricanes. Injuries and being sent down to the AHL Charlotte Checkers limited his role with the NHL club. Lindholm has skill and hockey sense that will see him to a successful 2014-15 season.
4. Eric Gelinas- New Jersey Devils
Although the 6-foot-4, 210 pound defenseman had limited playing time with the New Jersey Devils last season, it appears that he is part of the Devils’ plan for 2014-15. Eric Gelinas is best known for his hard and accurate shot that beat goalies seven times during the 2013-14 season. Gelinas is also quite a skilled skater for a player of his size. Many have compared his shot to that of Nashville’s defenseman Shea Weber. On a team that prides itself on creating responsible and NHL durable defensemen, Gelinas should flourish in the coming years.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov- Washington Capitals
The 22-year-old Russian center joined the Washington Capitals towards the tail-end of the 2013-14 season. He played 17 games and scored 9 points (3 G, 6 A). Kuznetsov was the Capitals first overall pick at the 2010 Entry Draft but played the last three seasons in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League. Kuznetsov has gained notability for his puck-handling and skating skills while maturing. The Capitals hope that he will adapt to the NHL’s speed and physicality while racking up the points besides superstar Alex Ovechkin.
2. Olli Maatta- Pittsburgh Penguins
The young Finnish defenseman became a household name for Pittsburgh fans last season. 19-year-old Olli Maatta had a successful rookie campaign with the Penguins, producing nine goals and 20 assists (29 points). The Penguins expect Maatta to assume a larger role with the club after losing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to free-agency. Maatta looks ready to become a staple on defense for a Penguins team that is hungry to make a fresh start.
1. Chris Kreider- New York Rangers
The American-born winger is already a fan-favorite in New York and Chris Kreider is poised to play to the expectations he has been given. Injuries limited Kreider to only 66 games with the Rangers last season. However, he made his presence felt in the playoffs when New York won the Eastern Conference Championship and qualified to play for the Stanley Cup for the first time in 20 years. Kreider’s strength and speed are his biggest assets. If Kreider can stay healthy throughout the regular-season, he is capable of scoring 25 goals next season.
James Stolfi is a hockey fan/ former goalie turned journalist from the New York metro area. A recent college graduate, majoring in Digital Media/Broadcast Production. He can be contacted on twitter @JamesStolfi.
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