Silver Nuggets: Most Likely to Excel

I don't have anything clever to write here, but you never read this anyway.

So far we've talked about who's most likely to surprise and disappoint this season--but I have one question left: Who is most likely to excel in this coming season?

I find this question to be the hardest to answer myself. There are plenty of good candidates, but I think it comes down to three guys for me, so in order from least to most likely, here's who I've got:

Erik Karlsson - He only played 17 games (not including playoffs) last season, but notched an impressive 14 points--a pace that was slightly below his previous 78/81 Norris Trophy year. But it's important to note that Karlsson scored those 14 points without the luxury of being used like he was in 2011-12 thanks to injuries across the defensive corps. The loss of Jared Cowen, especially, meant that Karlsson had to play penalty kill minutes and wasn't free to focus on offense all the time. In addition, after five games, he lost teammate Jason Spezza, which meant there was less talent on the ice for him to work with--and allowed defenses to key on him even more than normal. In that context, I think Karlsson's point total might be even more impressive than what he did the previous year.

Since his return to the ice, he's continued his rehab and says he's had his best summer working out ever. Minus some numbness in his foot, he's sounding like he'll be coming back at about 100%. A healthy Cowen should ease his penalty kill minutes, and a healthy Spezza and the addition of Bobby Ryan gives him even more talent on the ice to work with. He's already shown that he's a game changer, but I think he could be primed for a monster year, even by Karlsson standards.

Kyle Turris - Turris matched his career high in points last season in one fewer game, and while he did that as a second-line center in 2011-12, he did it as primarily a first-line center in 2013. I like it when we see players' responsibilities increase without an appreciable drop-off in production. It makes me think that they can succeed even more if given a chance at a mismatch. I've written in the past that I think second-line center is the best position to be in if you're on the Ottawa Senators--Turris excelled there behind Spezza (6G, 2A in 7 games where Spezza played in 2013) and Mika Zibanejad excelled there behind Turris when Spezza was lost.

Now Turris bumps back down to that spot, and gets an upgrade at his turnstile LW in Clarke MacArthur. His RW has yet to be determined thanks to Daniel Alfredsson's departure, but the candidates to replace him are not lacking in talent--merely experience. Considering that Turris was already playing very well at 2C last season, I think a full season with upgraded linemates might really show off what the Senators have in the guy. Like with Karlsson, the table is set in his favor, except in his case, it will be the first time in a while: He's got stability in the offseason, stability in coaching staff, stability in linemates, and a training camp to build chemistry. That hasn't happened for him since 2010. He couldn't ask for a better opportunity to really show what he can do, and so far he's made the most of all of his opportunities in Ottawa.

Bobby Ryan - This is my official choice. He was also mentioned by others in the most likely to disappoint Nuggets--and that's fair, but I just can't see it.

In my mind, we know Ryan is already a 30-goal scorer. He hit 35 in 2009-10, and 34 in 2010-11. But the key here is that he reached those numbers primarily playing second-line minutes. Ryan has played behind the top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Teemu Selanne for most of his career. And that's not his fault. Selanne is a legendary Hall of Famer, and Perry is a Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy winner.

But in Ottawa, Ryan is going to get the top line minutes, which means he's going to share the ice with Ottawa's best players in Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson. And no offense to Saku Koivu or Sheldon Souray, but Spezza and Karlsson are better. There's never been a question about his talent, merely his opportunities. There's no coincidence that most of Ryan's best highlight goals come when he was playing with talents like Getzlaf and Perry--he'll now be playing with similar talents in Ottawa full-time. Not only that, but head coach Paul MacLean has a history of putting his players in positions to succeed--don't forget he helped turn Karlsson from a mercurial threat to a full-fledged superstar. The team got Ryan to provide offense; MacLean is probably going to make the best of those skills. It's easy to look at Ryan's numbers and label him as a 30-goal guy, but I think he's got more in him, and I think Ottawa is the perfect set of circumstances to bring it out.

Sens Links

  • Z. Smith. Only you could be so bold. [Senators Extra]
  • Here's a list of players and schedule for next month's rookie tournament in London. Ontario, because no one's going to England. Lots of guys from our Top 25 under 25 series in there. [SE]
  • Craig Anderson shows the difference between 2012 pads and 2013 pads [Twitter]
  • The Senators are doing a great feature with their young players. Get to know Curtis Lazar. My first impression hasn't changed: He talks like a leader. [Senators]
  • And here's Cody Ceci. He's not quite as entertaining. But he's more talented. [Sens]

NHL Links

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