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.
Despite failing to make the playoffs two seasons in a row following a lengthy playoff run the Dallas Stars are deep at forward. They hold two excellent playmaking centers in Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro and a potential superstar in Loui Eriksson. However, their most valuable asset may be a young forward with extensive talent in putting the puck in the back of the net.
James Neal scored 27 goals last season playing with both Eriksson and Richards making us feel a 30 goal season should be expected. Considering Neal put up 24 goals the season before on a dismal Stars team without Richards, his success seems a bit more than a product of his linemates. In fact, it really only assures he continues to produce despite his raw skills and age.
At 23-years-old he makes an argument to be listed as the top left wing on the team, despite another Yahoo! error. Brendan Morrow failed to show the same scoring of three years ago as he struggled to pot 20 goals even with an excellent playmaker in Ribeiro. He will still bring a plethora of grit and leadership to the team but should help the team more by not being the system’s centerpiece.
This next season will mark the first in Dallas without Mike Modano or Jere Lehtinen as the Stars begin to get younger and re-shape their identity. To do so veterans like Ott and Morrow need to realize they can only thrive if the young players help carry them, which Neal (and Eriksson) seems fully capable of doing.