2017/18 Breakout Players
Every year, there are players who have drastically improved their games and in this article I talk about the 3 players who are picking up career high numbers as they have made a big impact for the organization they play for.
The high scoring New York Islanders have been one of the best offensive teams this season and that has been mainly due to the elite playmaking skills that Josh Bailey has shown playing on the top line. Currently as of February 22nd, Bailey has 15 goals and 47 assists in 57 games for a total of 62 points. Those 47 assists places Bailey in the top 5 category with other elite playmakers such as Jakub Voracek, Blake Wheeler, Sidney Crosby, and Claude Giroux. So what has been the reason to see his offensive play have such a big rise this season? Well it has to be playing on the top line with superstar John Tavares and the goal scoring machine of Andres Lee which has really helped out Bailey’s production as the chemistry in the line has looked really good. He is also being heavily used on the power play as that is where a majority of his points are coming from as he has been performing as a quarterback. Another offensive surge from Bailey has been his goal scoring total as the 28 year old forward has been shooting more at the net which has resulted in his 15 goals as he is highly expected to surpass his career high total of 16 goals back in the 2009-2010 season. With his strong contribution to the Islanders this season, the team has rewarded him with a 6 year 30 million dollar extension to stay with the same organization that drafted him 9th overall back in 2008.
The next player on this list is the St Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton who has really revamped his game this season. Currently in his 2nd season with the Blues after spending the 3 previous seasons as a backup to Pekka Rinne in Nashville, Hutton has put up career high numbers as he is rocking a goals against average of 1.87 and a save percentage of 938 which ranks him number 1 in both categories in the NHL. The 32 year old has also been competing with teammate Jake Allen for starter minutes as head coach Mike Yeo has been platooning both goalies this season. With Allen struggling, Hutton has emerged as the starter and with his play in net has helped keep the Blues in a tight Western Conference playoff race. In his final year of a 2 year contract, it will be tough to see what the Blues will do with their goaltending in the summer but all eyes lead to Hutton quite possibly taking his impressive season to another organization with an increased pay raise for the stability he brings as a backup goalie.
Mikko may be the youngest player on this list but has he ever looked so good this season as one of the only bright spots on a struggling Colorado Avalanche squad. Last season as a rookie in 75 games, he picked up 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points. This year he has vastly improved by collecting 19 goals and 37 assists for 56 points in 60 games. He is expected to finish the season with over 25 goals and over 70 points as he looks to be joining a list of young rising stars in this league. Playing on the first line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog has really boosted his confidence with the great chemistry being shown on the ice. Also getting the top power play minutes slotting in as the right winger is where 23 of his 56 points have come from. Just imagine the bigger impact we will see from Rantanen in a few years as his growth in the NHL continues as the Colorado Avalanche may have gotten a steal in 2015 drafting the Finnish forward 10th overall.