While these five players may not be well-known stars on their respective teams, each one has the potential to take the leap in 2019.
He's not Steven Stamkos, and he's not Nikita Kucherov, but the 5'10" Brayden Point might be the Lightning's best player this season. A third-round pick in 2014, Point scored 32 goals last season, 12 of them game-winning. He's on pace to blow that number out of the water. With Stamkos being only pedestrian this year, it's Point that's going to lead the Bolts to big things in the spring.
Erik Karlsson, who? Okay, not quite. But Thomas Chabot, a 21-year-old defenseman for Ottawa, has shown the offensive skill from the blueline that’s thrilled Sens fans. While he hasn't replaced Karlsson, Chabot’s already exceeded his own production from last season. He might be better at even strength than on the power play, rare for an offensive defenseman. He's young, but he's the future of the Sens—and the next great blueliner in the NHL.
When Elias Lindholm was picked fifth overall in 2013 by Carolina, he was seen as the draft's most NHL-ready pick. He came straight over to the Canes, and while he was never bad, he wasn't lightning the world on fire, either. An offseason trade has changed that. Playing on a line in Calgary with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan has done wonders for the 24-year-old Swede, who is on pace to set career highs in every offensive category. A change of scenery has helped and now he'll get a chance to be a productive member of a playoff team.
Undrafted out of Minnesota-Duluth, and once cut by his father, Pionk has been the best defenseman on the surprising Rangers. He leads the team in ice time, and while his offensive production isn't towards the tops of the league, he can do things like this:
With Matt Murray out "longer term" the reins in net in Pittsburgh fall to Casey DeSmith. DeSmith is a journeyman. Undrafted out of New Hampshire, he spent some time in the ECHL before putting up some good numbers in the AHL. He's played well thus far, but if the underachieving Pens want to return to the playoffs and make noise once again, it's going to happen under a productive DeSmith—who has shown so far he's up to the task.