In preparing for your upcoming fantasy hockey drafts, one of the keys to watch for players who are poised for a breakout season. If you draft purely off of last season's stats, you're always going to miss out on some of the best performers. If you managed to snag Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, or Bobby Ryan last season, you were well ahead of the game. Here are 4 names at each position to consider that others may overlook this year:
Tim Connolly – If Connolly can ever stay healthy for an entire season, he's going to make some GM in your league look brilliant for taking a chance on him. He wrapped up last season with 14 points in 10 games, so why not take the chance on him this year? Buffalo has few other options, and someone has to play with Vanek. Take that chance on him this season and thank me in the spring.
Nathan Horton – If Horton were to be moved to a better team, he would not be so anonymous on draft day. As it stands, he has not come near to his true potential as a goal scoring threat. Now entering his sixth season, look for a major leap in his goal and point totals. He should lead this team in scoring.
Milan Michalek – Michalek seemed to be primed for a breakout season last year, but Setoguchi took his role in the school play. Expect him to arrive at the show this year instead. He has the potential to be a big time scorer for the Sharks, and most GMs will not even have him on their radars this fall.
Jordan Staal – Yes, this is his fourth NHL season and he still has not topped 50 points. Oh yeah, he's 21. This may be the year people start talking about the terrific trio of centers in Pittsburgh.
Braydon Coburn – Coburn is entering his fourth NHL season, and has shown that he is going to be a solid defensive option in the fantasy world for years to come. This could be the season that Coburn breaks out in the 40-50 point range. Do not miss the opportunity.
Drew Doughty – 27 points as a rookie in LA is more than was expected from Doughty last year. While it may not come as a surprise if it happens, Doughty could easily break out into the 40-50 point range this season. The Kings are starting to turn the corner, and Doughty will be playing major minutes, especially on the power play.
Alex Goligoski – With Gill and Scuderi on the move, a good deal of playing time will finally be coming for Goligoski. He may not be shot-blocker that the other two were, but points are what matters in fantasy hockey, and he has shown he knows how to contribute there. Do not be surprised to see a big season from the 2nd year player.
James Wisniewski – Wisniewski has been on the verge of breaking out for 2 seasons now, both of which were hampered by injuries. With Pronger leaving Anaheim, and Niedermeyer getting greyer in the beard, the opportunities will start to open for this rising star. Do not be surprised to find him in the 40-50 point range in 2009.
Jonas Hiller – Hiller seemed to surprise everyone by nudging Giguere out of the # 1 spot in Anaheim. He was the star of the playoffs in the first 2 rounds before falling to Detroit. It's his first season entering as a # 1. He has the potential to rise to the top 10 by season's end.
Cristobal Huet – Huet's stock rose considering when Khabibulin left for Edmonton. For the first time, he's a legitimate # 1 goalie on a very good team. Huet has performed well enough in his career to think that this could have been a breakout season.
Pekka Rinne – Nashville sees to get a new hot goaltender every season. Their farm has to be drying up soon, so expect Rinne to break the trend and hang in there. The Predators have a strong defense to support the goalie stats. Rinne may be on the verge of really breaking out.
Simeon Varlamov – If he plays as well in the regular season as he did in the playoffs, Washington may have a legitimate fantasy star in net for the first time ever. However, the Caps are not all that interested in the whole defense thing, so even if he is a star, his stats may not qualify him as a # 1.