Fantasy Hockey: Carter Hart, Ryan Donato lead breakout candidates for 2019-20

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/7156/" data-ylk="slk:Carter Hart">Carter Hart</a> this season as he takes the starting role between the pipes. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Carter Hart this season as he takes the starting role between the pipes. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

By Sasha Yodashkin, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

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Every year, there's a new crop of breakout players in the NHL. The skaters below are all candidates to be among those that break out during the 2019-20 campaign. All of these players have previous NHL experience, be it in the regular season or playoffs, but none of them have broken the 40-point mark in a season, while neither goalie has reached 20 career wins.


Ryan Donato, Minnesota Wild

Donato failed to carve out a prominent role in a deep Bruins forward corps, but he spread his wings after being traded to Minnesota in February, racking up 16 points in 22 games — a 60-point pace when extrapolated to a full 82-game slate. The 23 year old forward did so despite registering a subpar 6.3 shooting percentage with his new club, so he'll be in a good position for a full-on breakout with a top-six role and prominent power-play time likely to come in his first full season with the Wild.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes

Svechnikov is being universally pushed as a breakout candidate, and for good reason. The second overall selection from the 2018 draft potted 20 goals while totaling 37 points as a rookie last year, and he doesn't turn 20 until March 26. Svechnikov's ceiling will climb even higher if he joins elite pivot Sebastian Aho on the top line and/or No. 1 power-play unit, but the young Russian will be a threat to break the 30-goal mark even if he remains in a middle-six role this season.

Ondrej Kase, Anaheim Ducks

Kase's potential breakout was put on hold by a torn labrum in January after he racked up 11 goals and 20 points in 30 games (a 55-point pace), but it could come this season if his recovery doesn't hit a snag. The Czech winger is ticketed for a top-line role and posted 38 points over 66 games in 2017-18. Kase doesn't lack skill or opportunity, so his health is the only thing in question.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens

Like Kase, Kotkaniemi has the classic mix of skill and opportunity required for a breakout campaign. Born on July 6, 2000, Kotkaniemi was the youngest regular in the NHL last season, but he still managed to post 34 points and a plus-1 rating in 79 games while playing a center position that demands strong play in all three zones. The Canadiens don't have a true No. 1 center, so Kotkaniemi could really take off statistically if his growth continues and he ascends to that role. It seems more like a matter of "when" than "if" for the third overall pick from the 2018 draft.

Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres

Olofsson took his time coming over from Sweden, but the seventh-round selection from the 2014 draft arrived on North American ice as a polished product last season. He produced 30 goals and 63 points in 66 games with AHL Rochester, then added two goals and two assists in six NHL contests following a late-season call-up. Olofsson will be eyeing a top-six role in camp and should be an impact player if he lands one.

Owen Tippett, Florida Panthers

There's one spot open in an otherwise robust Panthers top-six forward group, and Tippett has the potential to grab it by the horns and flourish on what would likely be a line with Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman. The 10th overall selection from the 2017 draft would be making the jump straight from junior hockey, but he has seven games of NHL experience under his belt from the 2017-18 campaign and dominated OHL competition with at least 74 points in each of the past three seasons.


Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

After being selected fourth overall in the 2017 draft, Makar made the jump to the NHL level during last year's playoffs. Despite the tremendous degree of difficulty of the situation, the 20 year old blueliner made an immediate impact with six points and a plus-3 rating in 10 games. The Avalanche saw enough from Makar to make them comfortable with trading incumbent No. 1 defenseman Tyson Barrie for forward help in the offseason, so he'll get the keys to the car from the get-go. It wouldn't be surprising to see him eclipse 0.5 points per game while skating big minutes and quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit this season.

Noah Hanifin, Calgary Flames

Hanifin is coming off a solid 33-point campaign, but there could still be another level to the 22 year old blueliner's game. The fifth overall selection from the 2015 draft made a leap defensively during his first year with the Flames, improving his plus-minus rating from minus-20 in his third year with Carolina to plus-18 while watching his point total climb for the fourth consecutive campaign. Now that Hanifin has solidified that part of his game, he can turn his sights on taking a similar leap offensively. If resident No. 1 defenseman Mark Giordano — who turns 36 on Oct. 3 — takes a step back, Hanifin could emerge as the new face of Calgary's blue line.

Vince Dunn, St. Louis Blues

Dunn is going to be a major part of the equation in St. Louis' title defense. After a promising rookie season in which he totaled 24 points, the talented blueliner showed major improvement in 2018-19 with 35 points, including 12 goals. Plenty of the Blues' best players made names for themselves this past postseason, but Dunn still has room to take his game to another level and will be in a great position to do so in 2019-20.


Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

Hart's 2.83 GAA last season doesn't jump off the page, but it doesn't do justice to just how well he played with 16 wins and a .917 GAA in 31 appearances as a 20 year old rookie. He'll be Philadelphia's starter in the crease from the get-go this season, and he could deliver a special campaign if a Flyers defense that hemorrhaged quality chances last season bounces back to even merely league average.

MacKenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils

The Devils are going all in this year with Taylor Hall set to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason, so they won't tolerate another down year from goalie Cory Schneider, who posted a 3.06 GAA last campaign and hasn't registered one better than 2.82 in any of the past three seasons. Blackwood is Schneider's biggest competition in net, and he's coming off a promising rookie campaign that featured a 2.61 GAA and .918 save percentage in 23 games. If New Jersey's busy offseason yields improvement as expected and Schneider doesn't right the ship, Blackwood could end up being the starting netminder for a playoff contender.

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