BOSTON: The top four is set on defense, and it already has one undersized player in Torey Krug, but Matt Grzelcyk made a case during the playoff run that he’s ready to make a big contribution. In his three seasons, he’s progressively had more minutes, more responsibility and more production.
BUFFALO: Casey Mittelstadt’s rookie season was underwhelming by eye-test or analytics standards. Shuttled between center and left wing in the bottom six, he never gained comfort and confidence. But with his pedigree, he’ll produce more if he moves up in the lineup.
CAROLINA: Everything was better for left winger Warren Foegele in the playoffs. The solidly built rookie had just 15 points in 77 regular-season games but tallied nine points in 15 playoff games with additional ice time. Quick with a nice two-way game, Foegele can kill penalties, too.
COLUMBUS: Power forwards are hard to find these days, but there’s definitely something to right winger Josh Anderson. Through three full seasons, Anderson’s points per game have been on a steady incline, and he’s in line to break 30 goals in 2019-20. His ill nature is icing on the cake.
DETROIT: After spending the second half in the NHL, Filip Hronek is primed to grab a full-time job on the blueline. Hronek improved his penalty killing in the AHL in the first half and came back a much better D-man. As he proved in the World Championship, he can produce offense.
FLORIDA: Amid criticism he was mismanaged by ex-coach Bob Boughner, Henrik Borgstrom gets a clean slate with Joel Quenneville. Borgstrom played just 12 minutes a game in his rookie season. If he receives more top-six ice time with better offensive players, his past suggests he’ll score.
MONTREAL: In 120 career NHL games, Victor Mete is still looking for his first goal, but his defensive game has been solid. He is a smart, puck-moving defenseman who has lots of upside. His skating ability gives him the potential to be an impact player at both ends of the ice.
NEW JERSEY: The beginning and the end of Jesper Bratt’s campaign were downers due to injuries, but the middle was very promising. The 2016 sixth-rounder upped his points per game as a sophomore, and the winger’s hockey sense and versatility make him one to watch next season.
NY ISLANDERS: Every team could use a player like Devon Toews. Though the Quinnipiac product spent some time with AHL Bridgeport, he made enough of an impression to find himself with a meaty role in all eight playoff games. At 25, the mobile defenseman is ready for the next level.
NY RANGERS: As the rebuild continues, that means opportunity for Tony DeAngelo. The offensively gifted defenseman was scratched numerous times, but he had an eight-game point streak in February and logged a healthy amount of minutes otherwise. Look for 30-plus points from him.
OTTAWA: Once the dust settled and all the trades were made, Colin White was Ottawa’s No. 1 center. His defense, one of the hallmarks of his game, suffered on the NHL’s worst team, but he did put up good numbers for a rookie. White will get the opportunity to pick up where he left off.
PHILADELPHIA: Center Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick from 2017, saw modest gains in points, ice time and faceoff win percentage in his sophomore season but, with another summer of training, Patrick could easily take off next year. New coach Alain Vigneault will be the X-factor.
PITTSBURGH: At 23, Jared McCann is already on his third NHL team, but the Penguins seem like a fit. After getting dealt from Florida, McCann found a home on Sidney Crosby’s left wing and complemented the superstar well. McCann plays a two-way game and has untapped offense.
TORONTO: Assuming he’s not traded or doesn’t endure a contract impasse, Kasperi Kapanen has the potential to jump into the 60-plus point range, particularly if he continues to play with Auston Matthews. In his first full NHL season, Kapanen impressed with his speed and skill.
TAMPA BAY: In his rookie season, Anthony Cirelli proved himself to be the best penalty killer on the NHL’s best penalty-killing team. And he scored 19 goals despite playing fewer than 15 minutes a game. If the Lightning move Tyler Johnson, it would vault Cirelli into a second-line role.
WASHINGTON: With the trend towards giving starters more rest in the regular season, don’t be surprised if goalie Pheonix Copley takes on even more of a load from Braden Holtby. Copley had similar numbers to Holtby, and he has the size and frame to make a difference.
ANAHEIM: The case can be made Ondrej Kase broke out in 2018-19 but just couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make it last. The 23-year-old winger scored at a 30-goal pace (11 goals in 30 games) in his third NHL season, but a concussion and torn labrum cost him 52 games of staying power.
ARIZONA: Conor Garland’s past shows that as soon as he’s comfortable at a certain level, he raises the bar the next season. He did that in the QMJHL with Moncton, then in the AHL with Tucson. After impressive spurts in 47 NHL games, the winger is poised to blossom next season.
CALGARY: As an NHL rookie, defenseman Rasmus Andersson showed poise and maturation, but most of all a lot of ceiling space. With a booming shot and limitless puck patience, he is sure to start producing. He’ll get more time on the power play than his one-minute average this season.
CHICAGO: Smooth puck-mover Henri Jokiharju gained tons of experience in 2018-19, first as Duncan Keith’s partner, then winning gold with Finland at the WJC, then with AHL Rockford (because the Hawks wanted him to play more). He’ll assume an important top-four NHL role in 2019-20.
COLORADO: Juxtaposed with fellow 2016 top-10 picks like Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk, two-way pivot Tyson Jost disappointed in his first two full NHL seasons, scoring 23 goals in 135 games. But he’s just 21 and flashed potential in the playoffs with three goals in his final three games.
DALLAS: Jason Dickinson, a 2013 first-rounder, didn’t settle in as a full-time NHLer until this season. He’s a tenacious, intelligent and a disruptive penalty killer. He earned work as a first-liner on Tyler Seguin’s left wing and has a chance to stay there given Dallas’ lack of forward depth.
EDMONTON: Mikko Koskinen has the demeanor and experience to use his first full NHL season as a stepping stone for a career that can take off. At 30 and with 10 prior seasons in Finland and the KHL, the 6-foot-7 stopper just needs a bit of defensive team aid to establish his groove.
LOS ANGELES: A player’s fourth NHL season is often the one in which he breaks out. So Adrian Kempe has two chances to make this work. Did his 25-game NHL trial in 2016-17 count as Year 1? If so, he’s bound to bloom in 2019-20. He showed promise as a sophomore but struggled this season.
MINNESOTA: Ryan Donato evolved into a scoring-line forward after arriving in the Charlie Coyle trade. Playing 3:03 more per night than he did as a Bruin, Donato notched four goals and 16 points in 22 games, which pro-rates to 15-45-60 over 82 games. He’s earned top-six work.
NASHVILLE: Dante Fabbro, easily Nashville’s top blueline prospect, left Boston College, turned pro and played 10 games for the Preds between the regular season and playoffs. He projects as a well-rounded minutes eater and is ready for a significant NHL role.
SAN JOSE: Other teams knocked on GM Doug Wilson’s door to try to pry Tim HEED loose. The 28-year-old veteran of Sweden’s top league has offensive instincts but has been stuck in a seventh ‘D’ role for two years. That will change for the pending UFA – in San Jose or a new city.
ST. LOUIS: It wasn’t a surprise Robert Thomas made the Blues, as his high hockey IQ meant he could play anywhere in the lineup. He busted out for 19 points in 33 games after the all-star break and will be asked to do far more than grind next year. He has a Selke-Trophy ceiling long term.
VANCOUVER: Tanner Pearson’s career has been so cyclical, it makes sense he’s due for another breakout. He arrived as a flashy 21-year-old rookie in L.A.’s Cup run in 2014, then blossomed for 24 goals a few seasons later. Two teams later, the winger made a good impression in Vancouver.
VEGAS: Shea Theodore is coming off a big spike in production, but there’s more noise to be made. The 23-year-old offensive blueliner doubled his goal total to 12 while adding a new dimension to the power play. It wouldn’t surprise many if he upped his point count from 37 to 50-plus.
WINNIPEG: Another year, another predicted Jack Roslovic breakout. The speed and smarts are there. The consistency and ice time haven’t been. But cap constraints might stop the Jets from retaining UFA Kevin Hayes, meaning someone has to climb the depth chart.