Nikolaj Ehlers is a great example of the “breakout player” life cycle in the NHL.
The Winnipeg Jets forward was heralded as a prospect, as the ninth overall pick in 2014. He made a leap in quality from his rookie season in 2015-16 to his second campaign in 2016-17, and then stayed around that level for the next few seasons. The analytics community excitedly backed his game, positioning Ehlers in the coveted “most underrated player” conversation.
In 2020-21, the breakout came as the production finally caught up with the potential: 46 points in 47 games, a stellar 3.5 points per 60 minutes of play. When he left the lineup due to injury, his absence only underscored his importance to the Jets.
Nik Ehlers had arrived.
It happens every season, whether it’s a player who was flying under the radar getting his due or a player who finds his game just as he finds the right situation to enhance it — such as increased ice time or better linemates.
Here are 10 players who are primed to have breakout seasons in 2021-22. Some are names you already know. All have a chance to be household names soon.