The Next Wave: Top 2015-16 Breakout Candidates

Updated: October 5, 2015 at 1:36 pm by Brock Seguin


Last season we saw Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg and Tyler Johnson turn themselves into Fantasy Hockey superstars. Johnson had the highest average draft position as a 12th rounder, while Tarasenko was going in the 15th and Forsberg in the 16th. By season’s end, Tarasenko was among fantasy’s elite contributors, Johnson was a low-end No. 1 centre and Forsberg was a high-end No. 2 with multi-position eligibility. Heading into 2015-16, these three players will be drafted in the early rounds, so who can you get in the later rounds that could produce at a high-level this season?

1. Jonathan Huberdeau – LW – Panthers (Yahoo ADP: 147.5 / Round – 14.0)
2015-16 Projection: GP-80, G-21, A-39, P-60

Huberdeau had a great rookie season that earned him a Calder Trophy, but he endured an ugly sophomore slump in 2013-14 and then had a nice bounce-back year last season. Huberdeau didn’t have a great start to the year, but finished the year with 21 points in his final 20 games. He is just 22-years-old and the Panthers figure to be a competitive team this season. Huberdeau tops the list of breakout candidates and should drastically outplay his draft position.

2. Alex Galchenyuk – C – Canadiens (Yahoo ADP: 154.0 / Round – 14.7)
2015-16 Projection: GP-81, G-25, A-33, P-58

Since he was selected 3rd overall in 2012, Galchenyuk has 104 points (42G / 62A) in 193 career games. Those numbers aren’t terrible, but there’s a lot more scoring in this 21-year-old. He is coming off of his best year yet and is poised for a breakout year in 2015-16. Montreal desperately needs another 30- goal scorer behind Max Pacioretty—that could be Galchenyuk.

3. Aleksander Barkov – C – Panthers (Yahoo ADP: 167.2 / Round – 15.9)
2015-16 Projection: GP-80, G-24, A-32, P-56

Barkov’s first two NHL seasons have produced modest results, but have also been plagued by injury. He will turn 20-years-old in early September and this big centre is ready to lead the Panthers back to the playoffs. He scored 48 points in just 53 games as a 17-year-old in Finland, now three years into his NHL career you should expect big numbers from the 2013 No. 2 overall pick.

4. Mikael Granlund – C – Wild (Yahoo ADP: 164.9 / Round – 15.4)
2015-16 Projection: GP-73, G-12, A-42, P-54

I called Granlund to breakout last season and it didn’t materialize, so maybe I was a year too early. His last two years have produced nearly identical results, but it was his late season stretch after the Olympics that has me excited about Granlund. In 17 games after coming back from Sochi, he had 13 points but now he needs to put that together for a full year. Eventually he will be one of the NHL’s premiere playmakers and 2015-16 should be his first 40-plus assist season.


5. Evgeny Kuznetsov – C – Capitals (Yahoo ADP: 172.9 / Round – 16.6)
2015-16 Projection: GP-80, G-18, A-31, P-49

Kuznetsov played just 13:20 in 80 games during the regular season but saw his minutes jump to 16:37 per game in 14 playoff games. The increase in playing time saw his points-per-game jump from 0.463 to 0.5 in the much more close-checking playoffs. Entering this season he should be a key member of the Capitals’ top-six and should play a lot more than he did last year. Make sure he is on your radar, because he is a superstar in the making.

6. David Pastrnak – LW – Bruins (Yahoo ADP: 174.1 / Round – 16.6)
2015-16 Projection: GP-77, G-20, A-31, P-51

Pastrnak came over to North America after being drafted 25th overall last summer and made an immediate impact. The 19-year-old torched the AHL and forced his way into the Bruins lineup. Playing just under 14 minutes per game, Pastrnak registered 27 points (10G / 17A) in 46 games and the Bruins have said that he will be a bigger part of the offence this season.

7. Nail Yakupov – RW – Oilers (Yahoo ADP: 168.2 / Round – 16.0)
2015-16 Projection: GP-80, G-21, A-27, P-48

The curious case of Nail Yakupov. He had a great rookie year and then he has been awful in each of the last two seasons. Still just 21-years-old Yakupov’s future is still bright. He will be given every opportunity to succeed in Edmonton and the addition of Connor McDavid could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Yakupov. He could end up on McDavid’s wing opposite Taylor Hall and that sounds like the makings of a return to glory for the young Russian.

8. Olli Maatta – D – Penguins (Yahoo ADP: 135.2 / Round – 13.0)
2015-16 Projection: GP-78, G-7, A-31, P-38

Maatta had a nice start to the 2014-15 season before it was derailed by a shoulder injury. He posted nine points (1G / 8A) in 20 games, but that’s where it stopped. Entering his third pro season he is back at full health and poised for a big year. He logs monster minutes on the Penguins top-pair and is bound to be their go-to defenseman when Kris Letang inevitably misses games.

9. Morgan Rielly – D – Maple Leafs (Yahoo ADP: 167.9 / Round – 15.0)
2015-16 Projection: GP-82, G-10, A-29, P-39

Rielly is coming off of a nice sophomore season and is one of the lone bright spots for the Maple Leafs coming into this year. New head coach Mike Babcock should love Rielly and his tremendous skating ability and should lean on him to log big minutes. He has a tonne of offensive upside but needs to be turned loose. Look for that to happen this year.

10. Mathew Dumba – D – Wild (Yahoo ADP: 167.5 / Round – 15.0)
2015-16 Projection: GP-79, G-12, A-24, P-36

What’s not to like about Dumba? He is a great skater, he has a big slapshot and he loves laying big hits. 2015-16 will be his first full NHL season and he should play big minutes on the Wild’s power-play and second pairing. Dumba’s shot makes him a candidate for 10-15 goals and his ability to rush the puck gives him 30-plus assist potential.

11. Damon Severson – D – Devils (Yahoo ADP: N/A / Round – N/A)
2015-16 Projection: GP-80, G-9, A-25, P-34

I wouldn’t recommend drafting a lot of Devils, but if you are going to pick one in the late rounds, Severson is your guy. Severson scored 25 goals with 88 assists (113 points) in his final two years in the WHL and had a nice rookie season going before he fractured his ankle in December. He has good size (6’2” / 205 lbs.) and an absolute cannon on the point. The Devils don’t have many options so Severson should be a key member on their power-play come October.

Editor’s Note: This article was featured in our Fantasy Hockey Draft Guide that is still on sale. For a full complement of Fantasy articles, rankings and projections for over 300 skaters and goalies, buy one HERE

Aleksander Barkov, Alex Galchenyuk, Damon Severson, David Pastrnak, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mathew Dumba, Mikael Granlund, Morgan Rielly, Nail Yakupov, Olli Maatta, Tyler Johnson, Vladimir Tarasenko