Most likely to Succeed is our newest series which points out one player from every team and explains why that player is poised to increase their point totals. While some teams may have more than one player likely to breakout and some none, we will focus on the ones who actually should improve with a full healthy season. File this article under a sleeper-type but sleepers would not be called that if people saw them coming.
While teammate Ryan O’Reilly received the early press by impressing scouts, it was third overall selection Matt Duchene who came away with the Calder Trophy nomination. Although the young center failed to take home his first chance at NHL brass his season looked very consistent and promising.
His 24 goals and 31 points merited mention on the Yahoo! top 100 list making me believe a breakout season could be in the future. With only a slight increase in points, Duchene could be looking at a very solid 30-40 campaign. When you consider most of his damage came on the second line and he only found solid linemates later in the season, the chance of improving increase even more dramatically. Despite the second line duty he regularly found top minutes on the powerplay.
Wojtek Wolski may have left a hole on the left side of Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart which would instantly make Duchene a must-own left wing. However, the team may chose to keep him at the pivot position and build a dynasty similar to the Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg era.
To predict the Avalanche will improve on their shocking yet believable season would be foolish but expecting a player of this caliber to quickly reach higher levels seems reasonable. For some reason I have found forwards in the Western Conference to break out faster and more often, which also bodes well for the soon-to-be sophomore.