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Fantasy: 5 breakout candidates to target this season

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Finding quality depth in your fantasy league is arguably as important as drafting top-end talent. That's especially the case in keeper leagues, where most of the NHL's star power is already snatched up.

Landing a breakout player or two can often be the difference between a good team and a championship one. So, with that in mind, here are five burgeoning players you can bank on to become major contributors this fantasy season.

Tim Stutzle, C, Senators

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Stutzle isn't a breakout candidate in the sense that he's an unknown commodity. Rather, all signs point to the Ottawa Senators youngster reaching a new level of superstardom in 2022-23.

One can naturally assume the 20-year-old will continue his upward ascension with another year of growth and development under his belt after he managed a respectable 58 points last season. On top of physical maturity, Stutzle looks poised to receive a major upgrade on his wings, with newcomers Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux currently slotted beside him on the second line.

Stutzle may have a tough time cracking Ottawa's first power-play unit, but a reinforced lineup should help up his production significantly at five-on-five. He's also an underrated contributor physically - he recorded 125 hits last season - which boosts his value in banger leagues.

Seth Jarvis, LW/RW, Hurricanes

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Jarvis quietly racked up 40 points in 68 games as a rookie, doing so while averaging under 14 minutes per contest. Rod Brind'Amour notoriously spreads his ice time among his forwards as evenly as he can, as no Hurricanes attacker logged more than 18:57 this past season. But despite limited opportunity on a game-to-game basis, Jarvis is worth a chance late in your draft as a larger role for the 20-year-old looms.

Jarvis found impressive chemistry with Sebastian Aho a season ago, meaning a top-line look could be in the young winger's future. He, Aho, and one of Teuvo Teravainen or Andrei Svechnikov on the opposite flank would make for a tenacious trio with outstanding offensive upside.

Carolina has other top-six options, but at this stage, Jarvis is the most promising. Beat your opposing general managers to him before it's too late.

Evan Bouchard, D, Oilers

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Bouchard displayed his offensive gifts in spades last season, recording 43 points in 81 games despite minimal exposure to the Oilers' lethal top power-play unit.

Although the first squad is quarterbacked by Tyson Barrie, who's paid for his power-play prowess, one wonders if Jay Woodcroft would consider bumping the veteran for Bouchard if Edmonton's man advantage hits any sort of cold spell. Extended exposure to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl would make Bouchard a must-have player and potentially launch him into keeper-worthy status.

We understand you may not want to draft a player stuck in a lineup logjam, but Bouchard's five-on-five production alone makes him worth thinking about. Anything else is just gravy.

Alexandar Georgiev, G, Avalanche

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Georgiev's role with the defending champion Avalanche is an intriguing one. Brought in to replace Darcy Kuemper in goal, Georgiev is worth rostering if he can beat out Pavel Francouz for Colorado's starting role.

Georgiev was once considered an emerging star but got lost in the fold as Igor Shesterkin became the guy in New York. The Avs are banking on a fresh start to help Georgiev return to the form he showed through his first three seasons, which featured a .913 save percentage across 77 appearances.

Even if Georgiev doesn't put up Vezina-caliber stats, he should be targeted by fantasy managers as a capable 1B option in goal with starter upside. Colorado is good enough to win with just about anyone between the pipes, and it's unlikely Georgiev puts up waiver-wire numbers on a team that spends the majority of its games with possession of the puck in the offensive zone. If he doesn't float your boat, try Francouz. Drafting an Avalanche goalie is perhaps the easiest way to secure wins for your team.

Matty Beniers, C, Kraken

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Beniers is generating Calder Trophy buzz as the regular season inches closer, and for good reason. The 2021 second overall pick racked up nine points in his first 10 NHL games after debuting for the Kraken last spring.

That's not a big enough sample size to guarantee that Beniers will become a star in his first full season, but it's clear he has the skill to carry his weight in the pros. As it stands now, he should be Seattle's first-line center with top power-play exposure to boot.

Considering the Kraken reinforced their top six this offseason with the addition of Oliver Bjorkstrand and have three solid left-wing options in Jared McCann, Ryan Donato, and Jaden Schwartz, Beniers should have every opportunity to make a name for himself playing with quality, offensive-minded linemates.

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