With the 2013/14 season rapidly approaching – 27 days!!!! – it’s time to look towards the upcoming season with an eye on expectations.
Every year, every team has its breakout players; the guys who rise to prominence either as a rookie, totally out of nowhere, or as an established player making a big jump. Each team also has its share of disappointments (some more than others). Over the next several days, we’ll look at three of each for the Avalanche for 2013/14 and just why their name is mentioned.
We’ll continue with the good vibes today; a look at our second breakout candidate for the Avalanche. Like Gabe Landeskog before him, this pick may not surprise everyone, but his leap forward this year will be undeniable.
Some will argue that Ryan O’Reilly had his breakout season in 2011/12, racking up 18 goals and 55 points, exceeding expectations of just about anyone ever. But consider that ROR is just 22-years-old. He’s entering his fifth year, a contract year, and will breakout for real real (not for play play).
In his four years with the Avalanche, O’Reilly has made a name for himself as a fine two-way forward; someone who plays with an edge and a passion that gets his team going. In year three, O’Reilly developed a scoring touch, making him more than just a quality defensive forward and transforming him into one of the finer two-way players around. After a contract struggle last year, he returned for the final 29 games of the lockout-shortened 2012/13 season and put up 20 points – good to match his 55 from the year prior when you extrapolate over a full season.
Speaking of that contract: after the Calgary Flames ended the stalemate for the Avalanche and O’Reilly by offering him a two-year offer sheet, the Avalanche matched. That deal will expire after this season, paying him $6.5M this year. Why is that important? Well it’s the first obvious breakout factor: typically (or at least it’s assumed), guys play better when a pay day is on the line. O’Reilly has got to be seeing dollar signs flashing in front of his face this year and he knows he can get Paid (that’s right, capital P) with a great performance this year and he wouldn’t need an offer sheet to make that happen this time.
Another reason for a real, huge breakthrough season for O’Reilly is his aforementioned age. He’s just 22, easy to forget considering he’s entering year five. He’s still growing as a player, young and full of energy and skill, but he’s seasoned enough to know what he’s got to do to be successful on the ice. That experience will help him grow this year and a full year back with the team will help him find consistency.
Finally, there’s Matt Duchene. There were those BS rumors floating around not too long ago that he and Dutchy weren’t exactly friends, feuding with one another behind the scenes. Both guys dispelled that notion and went right back to playing with one another last year.
This year, ROR will be on Dutchy’s wing (thanks to a glut at center) with PA Parenteau, eternally underrated as a consistent 70+ point scorer. Speed will be the name of the game for this line and they have oodles of it. Duchene is an elite talent who can create for himself and others, while Parenteau is an underrated playmaker. That leaves O’Reilly to benefit and he will do so in spades.
Look for O’Reilly to hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career, right around 25 or so, while setting a new career-high in assists (37 is his best) and points, topping out around the 70-point mark.
The stars all appear to be lining up for Ryan O’Reilly to have a big season this year. Now it’s just a matter of making it happen.
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