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In this edition of the hotstove we share our breakout picks from the Pacific Division.
I'm going to go with Sam Bennett. Despite ranking 8th among Flames forwards in ice time per game - this includes Jiri Hudler, who was traded at the deadline - Bennett still scored 18 goals, and tallied 36 points while posting solid underlying numbers in terms of possession and points per 60 at 5 v 5. A lot of times young players really break out in their 3rd year and I think Bennett will flourish under new head coach Glen Gulutzan.
If you're in a yearly league Bennett is a prime sleeper pick. If you're in a keeper league I recommend getting him before his value goes through the roof.
I couldn't narrow it down to just one player because the pacific division is loaded with young talent.
Sam Bennett in Calgary is very talented and I think he's going to have a strong year.
Nail Yakupov will rejuvenate his career playing alongside McDavid and Lucic on the NHL's most dynamic line. McDavid can carry the puck and provide probably close to elite level defense to go with his insane ability to do things at top speed, while Yakupov should have no trouble being open and using his shot. Plus, Lucic is there to clean up the garbage and cross check people in the neck.
Another breakout player is Leon Draisaitl because he's going to see a quantity of bad competition that players like him are rarely afforded.
The scary thing about the Oilers - and I agree their D isn't great and their management is brutal - is that something like Draisaitl, Maroon and Puljujarvi will get to play (assuming a healthy lineup) against almost exclusively bad competition.
This is an example of how you can use rookies/ECL players to exploit the salary cap and get a favorable advantage. And its the reason I think Draisaitl will have a big year.
I am wont to argue that quality of competition doesn't really matter when comparing players for analysis purposes, in part because long-term favorable matchups in the NHL are extremely rare. However, much like Kessel on the third line in Pittsburgh, I think this might be an exception to the rule because with McDavid and RNH ahead of them, it should be a fairly regular thing for these players to face competition who won't be effective at stopping a 1st line capable offensive attack.
So to sum up: Sam Bennett and all of the Oilers.
Central Division breakout players
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