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Evgeny Kuznetsov tops NHL Network's breakout players

Capitals forward tied for ninth in scoring with 77 points last season @NHLdotcom

When the 2015-16 season ended, Matt Murray, a goalie who had played 13 regular-season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was holding the Stanley Cup. The championship not only capped an incredible playoff run for Murray, it was the finishing touch on a breakout season for the 22-year-old goalie.

Murray was one of many players in the League to emerge last season.

Researchers and producers from NHL Network picked their top 40 breakout players of the 2015-16 season for a special program to be broadcast during the summer. Here is a look at who they selected:

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals
In his second full NHL season, Kuznetsov led the Capitals with 57 assists and 77 points in 82 games. He more than doubled his point total from the previous season, when he had 37 points in 80 games. Kuznetsov had five power-play goals, 18 power-play points and four game-winning goals.

Kuznetsov, 24, tied for ninth in the NHL in points and helped the Capitals to a 56-18-8 record. They won the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents' Trophy. He led the Capitals with a plus-27 rating and was third in shots on goal with 193. Kuznetsov added another element to Washington's offense; the Capitals had primarily relied on Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in previous years.

2. Artemi Panarin, F, Chicago Blackhawks
Though other big-name rookies got more attention more before the season, Panarin, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Blackhawks, won the Calder Trophy and led all rookies in goals (30), assists (47), points (77), power-play points (24) and game-winning goals (seven). The 24-year-old had two goals and five assists in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Panarin finished second on the Blackhawks in goals, assists and points behind Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane, who was his linemate for most of the season. Panarin had his first NHL hat trick when he scored three goals on three shots in a 5-3 win against the New York Rangers on Feb. 17.

Video: Breaking down Martin Jones' playoff goaltending

3. Martin Jones, G, San Jose Sharks
Jones won the Stanley Cup as Jonathan Quick's backup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, but played 34 games in his first two NHL seasons. After he was traded to the Boston Bruins and then to the Sharks before the 2015 draft, Jones became a starter for the first time in his NHL career and was outstanding.

Jones, 26, went 37-23-4 with a 2.27 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and six shutouts in 65 games. He finished third in the League in wins, ninth in save percentage and tied for second in shutouts. Jones helped the Sharks to the their first Stanley Cup Final, going 14-10 with a 2.16 GAA, .923 save percentage and three shutouts in 24 playoff games.

4. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets
In his third full NHL season, Scheifele nearly doubled his career high in goals, going from 15 in 2014-15 to 29 last season. He had career highs in points (61), plus/minus (plus-16), power-play goals (seven) and shots (194).

Scheifele, 23, played in 71 games and had 11 power-play points, three game-winning goals and a career-high 14.9 shooting percentage. He was first on the Jets in goals, second in points and tied for first in power-play goals.

Scheifele ended the season on a 10-game point streak (six goals, nine assists), and had an eight-game point streak earlier in the season. He had his first NHL hat trick in a 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on March 5.

5. Matt Murray, G, Pittsburgh Penguins
Murray, who turned 22 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, topped off his rookie season by helping to lead the Penguins to the championship. He went 15-6 with a 2.08 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout in the playoffs, allowing two goals or fewer in 13 of 21 starts.

During the regular season, the highly-touted prospect was recalled several times from Wilkes/Barre-Scranton of the American Hockey League and went 9-2-1 in 13 games with a 2.00 GAA and a .930 save percentage. 

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Murray denies Marleau, preserves lead

6. Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers
In his third NHL season, Barkov had 28 goals (four more than his previous two seasons combined) and 59 points (one fewer than his previous two seasons combined). The 20-year-old was plus-18, had 16 power-play points (nine goals) and scored the first shorthanded goal of his NHL career. Barkov had eight penalty minutes and was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy for skillful and gentlemanly play.

Barkov led the Panthers in goals and was tied for third in points. He had eight game-winning goals, scored five times on six shootout attempts and had three game-deciding goals. Barkov helped the Panthers win a division title for the second time in their history, and he scored two goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

7. John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
In his third season with the Ducks, Gibson started nearly half of their games (38) and had a 21-13-4 record with four shutouts. Gibson also had a 2.07 GAA, tied for second among qualifying goaltenders, and a .920 save percentage.

Gibson allowed two goals or fewer in 26 of 40 appearances and had winning streaks of four and five games during the regular season. He made two starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

8. Kyle Palmieri, RW, New Jersey Devils
Palmieri, acquired by the Devils from Anaheim at the 2015 NHL Draft, played 82 games and had career-highs in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57); his previous highs were 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points. Palmieri had 11 power-play goals and 23 power-play points; he had seven power-play goals and 14 power-play points in his first five NHL seasons combined.

Palmieri led the Devils in goals, points, power-play points and shots on goal (222), and he had a four-game goal streak from Dec. 4-11. Palmieri played an average of 17:48 per game, three-plus minutes more than his previous career-high.

Video: NJD@PIT: Palmieri tallies two goals in Devils' win

9. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Gostisbehere was a finalist for the Calder Trophy after he had 17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points and eight power-play goals, which all led rookie defensemen. Gostisbehere did all that in 64 games; he wasn't called up to the Flyers until mid-November.

Gostisbehere, 23, transformed Philadelphia's offense, set a rookie record with points in 15 straight games from Jan. 19-Feb. 20 and had five game-winning goals, including a rookie-record four in overtime. He finished fifth on the Flyers (first among defensemen) in scoring, fourth in goals and was tied for third with 22 power-play points. He averaged 20:05 of ice time. Gostisbehere also had a goal and an assist in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.

10. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
Despite being limited to 45 games because of a fractured collarbone, McDavid was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He had 16 goals, 32 assists and 48 points during his rookie season with the Oilers, including three power-play goals and 11 power-play assists, and finished fourth in assists and points by a rookie.

McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had a 15.2 shooting percentage. His 1.07 points-per game ranked third in the League (behind Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane and Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn) and was the highest by a rookie since Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07 (1.09).

11. Vincent Trocheck, C, Florida Panthers
Trocheck had career-highs in goals (25) and points (53) in 76 games. He had a plus-15 rating, four power-play goals and 13 power-play points, averaging 17:46 of ice time. Trocheck tied for third on the Panthers in goals and was fifth in points. The 22-year-old more than doubled his goal total from the previous two seasons combined (12 goals in 70 games).

Trocheck had 30 points and two power-play goals in his career prior to last season. He had a career-high 14.4 shooting percentage and scored four game-winning goals. He set the tone for his season on opening night with a career-high four points in a 7-1 win against the Flyers. Trocheck scored a goal in four consecutive games twice last season.

Video: FLA@TBL: Trocheck ties the game with a gorgeous shot

12. Thomas Greiss, G, New York Islanders
Greiss had never played more than 25 games in a season, but he shattered that by playing 41 games (38 starts) and finished with a career-high 23 wins. Greiss went 23-11-4 with one shutout and led Islanders goalies in games played, starts and wins. He had a 2.36 GAA and a .925 save percentage that was third in the League among qualified goalies.

Greiss was a major factor in the playoffs, helping the Islanders advance past the first round for the first time in 23 years. He had a 2.46 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

13. Boone Jenner, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
The 23-year-old scored a career-high 30 goals, almost doubling his total from 2013-14 (16 goals), and had a career-high 49 points in 82 games, more than the 46 he had in his first two NHL seasons combined.

Jenner had nine power-play goals (second on the team) and led Columbus with 14 power-play points. He finished second on the Blue Jackets in goals and tied for third in points. He averaged 16:25 of ice time per game, had a 13.3 shooting percentage and finished with three game-winning goals. Jenner also scored a shorthanded goal and won 53.1 percent of his faceoffs.

14. Petr Mrazek, G, Detroit Red Wings
Mrazek, 24, nearly doubled his career highs in games played (54, up from 29 in 2014-15) and starts (49, up from 26 in 2014-15). He started the majority of the games for the Red Wings and didn't disappoint; Mrazek won 27 games and had a 2.33 goals-against average (tied for 13th), a .921 save percentage (tied for 10th) and four shutouts.

Mrazek allowed two goals or fewer in 35 of 54 games, including a stretch in which he allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of 13 starts, going 9-2-2. He helped the Red Wings qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 25th consecutive season.

15. Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres
The No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel played in 81 games and had 24 goals (second among rookies) and 56 points (second among rookies) including eight power-play goals and five game-winning goals for the Sabres. He finished second on the team in scoring.

He scored in his NHL debut on Oct. 8 and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He had four two-goal games and ended the season on a five-game point streak. Eichel, 19, had a career-best four points in a 6-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 26. His play helped Buffalo improve by 12 wins and 27 points from the 2014-15 season.

Video: BUF@NJD: Eichel's great effort for empty-net goal

16. Brayden Schenn, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Schenn set career highs with 26 goals, 33 assists and 59 points; he'd never had more than 20 goals or 47 points in any of his first four full NHL seasons. Schenn, 24, had 11 power-play goals and tied for third on the Flyers with 22 power-play points. He had the third most power-play ice time on the team (282:14), behind forwards Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. Schenn had a 14.6 shooting percentage (tied for first on the Flyers) and five game-winning goals, which also tied for the team lead. He finished third on the Flyers in points.

17. Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Parayko led all rookies and finished fifth in the League in plus-minus (plus-28). He had nine goals and 33 points, finishing second among rookie defensemen in points. Parayko averaged 19:23 of ice time per game and played in all situations. He had three power-play goals and seven power-play points.

The 23-year-old played 79 regular-season games in his rookie season and had three-game-winning goals. He had his first career two-goal game on Oct. 13 against the Calgary Flames, his third game of the season. He contributed two goals and seven points in 20 playoff games.

18. Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal Canadiens
In his fourth NHL season, Galchenyuk set career highs in goals (30), points (56), power-play goals (nine), power-play points (16) and game-winning goals (four). He also scored his first overtime goal. Galchenyuk's goals and points have increased in each of his four seasons.

The 22-year-old had a shooting percentage of 14.9 and averaged 16:15 of ice time in 82 games. He tied for the team lead in goals, was second in points and first in power-play goals. Galchenyuk had a four-game goal streak from Nov. 22-28 and had five two-goal games in an eight-game span from Feb. 24-March 10, including two goals in three straight games from March 5-10.

19. Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings
Larkin, 19, became the first teenager to be on the Red Wings' opening-night roster in 16 years when he suited up against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 9. He had a goal and an assist in that game and finished with seven multipoint games. 

Larkin finished with 23 goals (third among rookies), and 45 points (sixth). He led the Red Wings in goals, finished tied for third in points and was first with a plus-11 rating. Larkin led Detroit with five game-winning goals and had four power-play goals.

Video: DET@TBL, Gm2: Larkin goes five-hole to tie game

20. Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks
Hertl was an important part of the Sharks' run to the Stanley Cup Final. He finished fifth on the team in points (46) and fourth in goals (21). Each was a career high for Hertl, who has seen his assist and point totals increase in each of his first three NHL seasons.

Hertl was plus-16 and had three power-play goals and a career-high seven power-play points during the regular season. He had three game-winning goals. In the playoffs Hertl had six goals and 11 points in 20 games, including two goals in a 3-0 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

21. Robby Fabbri, C, St. Louis Blues
Fabbri, 20, tied for the team lead during the playoffs with 15 points, the second highest total by a rookie in franchise history (Joe Mullen had 18 in 1982). Fabbri had four goals, 11 assists and five power-play points in 20 playoff games, helping the Blues advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.

During the regular season, Fabbri had 18 goals (including three game-winners), 19 assists and eight power-play points in 72 games. He had a three-game goal streak from Dec. 21-26, and two four-game point streaks.

22. Max Domi, LW, Arizona Coyotes
Domi, the son of former NHL player Tie Domi, made his much-anticipated NHL debut in October. He finished with 18 goals and 52 points in 81 games. Domi scored a goal and had an assist in his first NHL game and had multiple points in three of his first four games. Domi had five multigoal games, including a hat trick in a 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 12.

Among rookies, Domi, 21, was second in assists (34) and third in points. He had three power-play goals and 15 power-play points (fifth on the Coyotes). Domi had an 11.5 shooting percentage, was plus-three and averaged 16:22 of ice time in 81 games.

Video: ARI@EDM: Domi tosses puck to young fan with sign

23. Zack Smith, C, Ottawa Senators
Smith set career highs in several offensive categories, including goals (25), points (36) plus/minus rating (plus-16) and shooting percentage (20.7). He was second on the Senators in goals, second in the League in shorthanded goals (five) and had four game-winning goals.

Smith had a five-game goal streak in March and had two streaks of three games. The 28-year-old had two two-goal games, four power-play goals and was a key member of special teams for the Senators.

24. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers
The 20-year-old had two goals and nine points in 37 games in 2014-15, but had a much more successful 2015-16 season; Draisaitl played in 72 games and had 19 goals and 51 points, finishing third on the Oilers in goals and second in points.

Draisaitl was used on the power play, scoring five goals (tied for second on the Oilers), and had a shooting percentage of 14.3. He began the season with seven points in his first three games and had two three-game goal streaks. He had a career-high four points (all assists) in a 7-5 win against the New York Rangers on Dec. 11. 

25. Leo Komarov, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov had 12 goals and 35 points in 104 games from 2012-15, then exceeded those totals with 19 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. Komarov had four power-play goals, seven power-play points and two game-winning goals.

Komarov had three two-goal games and was the Maple Leafs' representative for the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game. He had a shooting percentage of 14.6 and finished second on the team in goals and third in points. The 29-year-old also killed penalties and scored one shorthanded goal.

26. John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars
Klingberg led Stars defensemen in goals (10), assists (48), points (58) and plus-minus (plus-22). In his second season with the Stars, he had two power-play goals and four game-winners, including three in overtime. Four of his goals came during a five-game stretch from Feb. 2-11, when he had a goal in four of five games; he also had three points in a game three times.

Klingberg had 22 power-play points, tops among Stars defensemen. He ranked fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring, and his plus-22 rating was sixth. He had a goal and four points in 13 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm6: Klingberg tallies on two-man advantage

27. J.T. Miller, C, New York Rangers
In his fourth NHL season, Miller set career highs across the board with 22 goals, 21 assists, 43 points and a plus-10 rating in 82 games. Miller had two power-play goals and tied for the team lead with five game-winners.

Miller averaged 15:02 of ice time per game and had a shooting percentage of 16.3, a career high and best on the Rangers. The 22-year-old had eight goals in eight games from Jan. 16-Feb. 4 and had three assists in the Rangers' only win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 4-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

28. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Ottawa Senators
Pageau's third NHL season was by far his best; the 23-year-old had 19 goals (he had 14 in his career before 2015-16), 24 assists (he had 11 in his career) and 43 points after totaling 25 points in 87 NHL games during parts of three seasons. He also had a team-best plus-17 rating.

Pageau excelled on the penalty kill, scoring an NHL-best seven shorthanded goals. He averaged 16:42 of ice time per game, a total that has increased in each of the past three seasons. His 14.3 shooting percentage was third on the Senators.

29. Rickard Rakell, C, Anaheim Ducks
Rakell had 20 goals, 23 assists and 43 points. He increased his goal total by 11 from 2014-15 and his points by 12. The 23-year-old had a bigger role with the Ducks and flourished offensively. He was a key component of the power play and had four power-play goals and six assists.

Rakell, 23, had 11 multipoint games, finished tied for third on the Ducks in goals and was fourth in points. Rakell had a shooting percentage of 11.8 and saw 16:04 of ice time per game (both career highs). He also had a team-high seven game-winning goals, including two in overtime.

30. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres
Ristolainen elevated his game to another level in his third NHL season. He played in all 82 games and had nine goals, 32 assists and 41 points, all increases from 2014-15. He led Sabres defensemen in scoring and had four power-play goals.

Ristolainen, 21, led the Sabres in average total ice time (25:16), almost three minutes more than the next-closest skater (defenseman Zach Bogosian, 22:20) and had the first game-winning goal of his career. He had two multigoal games, including his first hat trick, with all three goals coming in the third period of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Dec. 10.

Video: CGY@BUF: Ristolainen's goal ties the score at 1

31. Ryan Spooner, C, Boston Bruins
Spooner had 13 goals, 36 assists and 49 points in his third full NHL season, all with the Bruins. Each was a career high; his previous bests were eight goals and 18 points in 2014-15 and 11 assists in 2013-14. Spooner increased his point total by 31, largely due to the fact that he played in 80 games (he had never played more than 29 in a season).

The 24-year-old had six power-play goals, 17 power-play points and four game-winning goals. Spooner had eight multipoint games, including a career-high four points (all assists) in a 6-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 18.

32. Victor Rask, C, Carolina Hurricanes
Rask had 21 goals and 48 points. The second-year center played in 80 games, just as he did in 2014-15, when he had 11 goals and 33 points, and proved to be an integral part of Carolina's offense. 

Rask, 23, had five power-play goals and a team-high 18 power-play points. He scored five game-winning goals (second on the Hurricanes), including two in overtime. Rask had six multipoint games, including two two-goal games and one three-assist game. His 13.1 shooting percentage was second on Carolina to Jordan Staal's 13.2.

33. Michael Stone, D, Arizona Coyotes
On a team with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of the premier defensemen in the League, Stone made a name for himself in his fifth season with the Coyotes. He had six goals and career highs with 30 assists and 36 points. Stone did most of his damage on the power play; he had 14 power-play points (all assists) after putting up 13 power-play points in 204 games prior to 2015-16.

Stone, 26, averaged 22:27 of ice time per game, second on the Coyotes behind Ekman-Larsson (24:46). He had seven two-point games and four point streaks of at least three games.

34. Sam Reinhart, C, Buffalo Sabres
Reinhart, selected by the Sabres with the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, played nine games in 2014-15 but earned a full-time role last season. Reinhart wasn't the Sabres center everyone was talking about before the season (that would be Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft), but he was productive: in 79 games, the 20-year-old had 23 goals, 19 assists and 42 points. He had eight power-play goals (tied for the team lead) and three game-winners.

Reinhart finished tied for third in the League in goals among rookies and eighth in points. He had three multigoal games, including his first NHL hat trick in a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 10.

Video: CBJ@BUF: Reinhart deflects Eichel's shot to tie it up

35. Erik Haula, C, Minnesota Wild
In his third full NHL season, Haula set career-highs in goals (14) assists (20) and points (34); he had 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points in his first two seasons combined. Haula made the most of his shots on goal; he had a 14.1 shooting percentage that ranked second on the Wild.

Haula, 25, had two shorthanded goals and was a team-best plus-21. He won 53.3 percent of his faceoffs, which ranked fourth on the Wild among players who took at least 20 faceoffs. Haula had a goal and three assists in five playoff games.

36. Joonas Donskoi, F, San Jose Sharks
Donskoi had a good regular season but raised his game in the playoffs with six goals and 12 points; none was bigger than his overtime goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins that gave the Sharks their first win of the series. He had three multi-point games in the playoffs.

Donskoi, 24, had 11 goals, 25 assists and 36 points in 76 regular-season games, including a five-game point streak from Jan. 16-24. In his rookie season, Donskoi had success on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau that carried over into the playoffs.

37. Anthony Duclair, F, Arizona Coyotes
Duclair was a big piece of the trade that sent Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers on March 1, 2015, and he had a solid rookie season in Arizona; his 20 goals ranked fifth among first-year players, and his 44 points ranked seventh.

Duclair, 20, didn't take a lot of shots but made the most of the ones he did take; with a shooting percentage of 19.0, he was tied for fourth in the League among players who took at least 50 shots. He ranked third on the Coyotes in goals, scored two game-winners and had his first NHL hat trick in his third game of the season, a 4-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks.

38. Brad Marchand, F, Boston Bruins
Marchand had been a consistent scorer, with at least 20 goals in four of his past five seasons. But in 2015-16 he topped 30 for the first time, scoring a team-leading 37, which ranked sixth in the League. He was a key member of the power play (six goals) and penalty kill (four shorthanded goals) and had six game-winning goals (tied for the team lead).

Marchand, 28, led the Bruins with a plus-21 rating. He had four two-goal games and scored 12 goals in February. Marchand scored a goal in seven straight games to start the month, part of a stretch in which he scored a goal in 12 of 13 games.

39. Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames
Backlund, 27, had a career year in his seventh NHL season. He had personal highs in games played (82), goals (21), assists (26), points (47), plus-minus (plus-10), shooting percentage (13.5) and game-winning goals (four). He had nine power-play points (three goals) and led the Flames with three shorthanded goals.

Backlund had two goal streaks of three games and blossomed into a top-six forward. He had six goals and two assists in the final four games of the regular season, including a hat trick in a 7-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on April. 7. 

40. Tyler Toffoli, C, Los Angeles Kings
Toffoli led the Kings in goals, scoring a career-high 31, and had career bests in assists (27), points (58), shots on goal (213) and shooting percentage (14.6). He scored the first goal of the game 11 times, which led the League.

The 24-year-old had nine power-play goals to tie for the team lead, and scored four game-winning goals. He had nine goals in the Kings' first 10 games. Toffoli had five multigoal games, including his second NHL hat trick in a 5-0 win against Vancouver on Dec. 28, and led the League with a plus-35 rating.

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