1. Loui Eriksson- This Swedish born star has been turning heads since he was an 11 year old playing on a U-16 team. Now, in the NHL, Eriksson is continuing to do so. Up until last year, when he was honored with a spot in the 2011 NHL all-star game, he was not given nearly enough credit for his play. He has been incredibly consistent over the past 4 years on a team that surprisingly has not made the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. Eriksson may be the most important key for the Stars if they are going to turn their unlucky string of losing seasons around.
2. John Tavares – The New York Islanders first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has been exactly what the struggling Islanders hoped he would be. Some have over looked Tavares’ skill set because the Islanders have not made the playoffs since he was drafted, but he is certainly making his presence known. In his three seasons as an NHLer he has increased each one by at least 10 points, tallying 81 last year. Already an assistant captain, he has proven to be a leader on the ice and in the locker room. He may not be the most talked about number 1 draft pick over the past couple seasons but make no mistake in thinking that Tavares is one of the most productive offensemen in the league.
3. Patrice Bergeron – The magnificent playoff run that the Boston Bruins had to capture the Stanley Cup in 2011 was headlined by goaltender Tim Thomas. Unfortunately, this led some people to overlook Patrice Bergeron and his 20 points in 23 playoff games. But don’t for one second think he is just a points man. In his 8 seasons with the Bruins he has only once finished with a negative plus/minus. This has engraved him as one of the best two-way players in the game and won him the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward for the 2011-12 season. His credentials don’t end there, either. Since the 2005-06 season, Bergeron has not gone under 50 points, except in 2007-08/2008-09 seasons when he was battling a concussion. Luckily for Bruins fans, Patrice recovered and now is an un-replaceable part of a core group of Bruins players that will keep a winning team in Boston for years to come.
4. Logan Couture – It may be to soon to judge, but it is still safe to say that Logan Couture is becoming a star. Couture was drafted 9th overall by the Sharks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, after being apart of the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. With only two full seasons under his belt, he has surpassed the 30 goal margin both times. This earned him a nomination for the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year in 2010-11. Although the Sharks have put together a string of winning seasons, they have fallen short of the cup each time. However, there is no doubt in the Sharks organization that Logan Couture could be the man who finally helps them win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
5. Stephen Weiss – Dave Tallon’s transformation of the Florida Panthers was filled with the addition of multiple players, but the most important player has been with the organization for over a decade. Stephen Weiss was drafted by the Florida Panthers 4th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has only improved his play. The last three seasons he has scored at least 20 goals, and was given an “A” for his role in helping the Panthers back to the playoffs. Expect to see the Panthers fighting for a playoff spot on a regular basis, and for Weiss to be leading the way.
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