Here’s every NHL team’s player to watch break out this year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick /
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The theme for the 2018-19 season promises to be one of teams looking to break away from the pack.

The Vegas Golden Knights were able to break through in their inaugural season because of the solid performance by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, which was to be expected, given his experience and role in helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win three Stanley Cups during his time there.

But the Golden Knights don’t get to the finals in their first season without a breakout season by forward William Karlsson, who set personal highs in goals, assists and points a year after being pretty much an afterthought in Columbus.

So this got us to thinking: Who else is due to break out and help their team to new, previously unseen heights? Can it be Nolan Patrick in Philadelphia? Can it be Brady Skjei for the Rangers?

Here’s a look at the player best suited and in the best position to break away from the pack to boost his team’s chances of being better.

Anaheim Ducks: Nick Ritchie

Yes, this is the season Nick Ritchie will break loose. I know, I know, he’s unsigned, bad way to start this.

But he’s going to get a deal.

And he’s going to be getting more ice time while playing alongside projected linemates Patrick Eaves (grizzled veteran) and Kalle Kossila (fresh-faced kid). The veterans on the Ducks are aging in a hurry, which means as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry (both 33) and Ryan Kessler (34 and on injured reserve) continue to wear down under the intense workload and travel schedule, someone is going to have to step up to fill the gaps.

And why not Ritchie, the strapping (6-foot-2, 234-pound) winger who would just as soon score a goal as crush you into the boards? The 10th-overall pick in 2014, Ritchie needs to add a tad more offense (28 points and 27 points in the last two seasons, respectively) in order for the Ducks to stop being that team that almost goes all the way. And because Ritchie has relative youth (he’s 22) and relative girth, he’s got the stamina and the style to play a lot. Durability will go a long way on this team.