With NHL training camps opening this week and the regular season less than a month away, the 32 clubs are looking for young players to break out after playing in Europe, the NCAA, or the AHL to make their mark in the big show. For contending clubs, finding players on their entry-level contracts is essential to stay under the $83.5 million salary cap, while rebuilding teams are looking for youngsters as potential building blocks.
We start our look at the possible breakout players from the Pacific Division:
Jamie Drysdale – The slick-skating defenseman was selected sixth overall in 2020 and had 32 points as a rookie in 2022, but missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. Drysdale is currently an unsigned RFA, but fully healthy the 21-year-old could be a top pairing blueliner.
Leo Carlsson – Selected second overall after Connor Bedard at the 2023 Draft in Nashville, the 18-year-old thrived against adult players in the SHL last season and will get a chance to make the Ducks roster out of training camp. It may be a year too early, but the 6’3”, 198 lb. center could be ready to make an impact.
Matt Coronato – The speedy winger scored 20 goals at Harvard before signing with the Flames at the end of the year. Coronato has the scoring ability to step into the top six with Calgary and that role could increase if GM Craig Conroy trades some of his one-year rentals during the season.
Jeremie Poirier – A Memorial Cup-winning defenseman with Saint John, Poirier transitioned well from junior to the AHL last season, scoring 41 points (9 goals, 32 assists) with the Calgary Wranglers. The Flames have three defensemen in Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, and Noah Hanifin entering the final year of their contracts, and Poirier like Coronato could step into an NHL role at some point during the season.
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Dylan Holloway – A scoring star at Wisconsin, the 21-year-old split time between AHL Bakersfield and playing a depth role with the Oilers. With a chance to move up the Edmonton lineup, Holloway’s offensive numbers could go up significantly.
Philip Broberg – Selected eighth overall in 2019, the slick-skating Swede began to show his offensive promise in the AHL in 2022, but only scored eight points in 46 games with the Oilers last season. There is potential for the 22-year-old to put up points if he partners with a more experienced blueliner to cover for his defensive shortcomings.
Los Angeles Kings
Brandt Clarke – The 20-year-old blueliner had a remarkable 2023, scoring nearly two points per game in the OHL regular season and playoffs, as well as winning gold at the 2023 World Juniors. Clarke could step in with the Kings and take over some of the power play and offensive duties of veteran Drew Doughty.
Quinton Byfield – Byfield has played parts of three seasons in the NHL and progress has been slow, but the big 21-year-old started to score at the end of last season and had four points in the playoffs against Edmonton. The former second-overall pick has a lot of talent and could be ready to break out.