Luke Evangelista has breakout potential for Nashville Predators in 2024-25

Evangelista somewhat quietly had an excellent rookie year for the Predators, and is a prime candidate to breakout in his second fulltime NHL season in 2024-25.
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Luke Evangelista (77) skates with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Luke Evangelista (77) skates with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Scanning through the potential starting roster for the Nashville Predators in 2024-25, it's a bit of a task to pinpoint who might be next to hit a breakout season.

First and foremost, the Predators figure to be active in the offseason in upgrading their roster, and that might mean trading away some current players. They also have six unrestricted free agents and it's highly unlikely they retain all of them. Call it basically a zero percent chance that happens.

So with that laid out there first, who are the locks to be on this roster next season? We can confidently say Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Ryan O'Reilly will be on this team. After that veteran trio, no one is really a mortal lock. Not even Juuse Saros.

Luke Evangelista has the highest breakout potential for Preds in 2024-25

Now this is where the youth of the roster comes into the picture. There's no reason to expect General Manager Barry Trotz to tear apart his youth core unless a juicy trade opportunity comes across his desk that he just can't refuse. Everyone is throwing around Mitch Marner, which I'm still wholeheartedly against.

Leading the youth core and their future breakout potential is Luke Evangelista. He took a promising step forward in his development in his first full NHL season in 2023-24. He managed right around 0.5 points per game, or 39 points in 80 games total. Not bad for a raw talent that just hit age 22 in February.

Looking ahead, Evangelista is oozing with breakout potential going into his second fulltime season in the NHL. He still has one year left on his entry level contract and then will be an RFA for the 2025 offseason. If he really levels up in a big way in 2024-25, then that first standard NHL contract will be a good one for Evangelista.

The most promising factor in Evangelista's game that I saw last season was his confidence with puck possession and rounding out his two-way game. He was third on the team in his even strength Corsi rating at a sizzling 55.2 percent. That's higher than the top line players Filip Forsberg, Ryan O'Reilly and Gus Nyquist. And again, as a rookie.

Another underlying metric that speaks well to Evangelista's raw ability to create offense and find the net is his percentage of shots that went on net. Evangelista potted 16 goals in his rookie campaign, and 61.9 percent of his shots taken went on net. An impressive rate from a rookie.

Now where does Evangelista need to go from here to make sure he continue to trend upward in his second fulltime NHL season and avoid that "sophomore slump". He'll need to see his ice time likely increase from his 13:57 he averaged last season.

Moving without the puck and having that ice vision is vital to him elevating his game to the next level, but he was showing positive signs of that in spurts throughout his rookie season. Just like this breakout goal he scored in March after aggressively getting up ice to receive the puck and show off his pinpoint accurate shot we know he has and just needs more opportunities to use it.

What's the next step for Evangelista's game?

Evangelista's ice time was really low and predictably way under what the veterans on the team saw. It will be interesting to see if Head Coach Andrew Brunette gets Evangelista more ice time and more opportunities to elevate his offensive numbers into the 50-plus point range. To tally 39 points in such little ice time is still very impressive nonetheless.

Where Evangelista projects into the starting lineup on opening night of 2024-25 is almost impossible to predict right now. We have to first learn who gets re-signed in free agency, who is added and also who ends up being traded. The first veteran I think of is Nyquist.

If the Predators get involved in a big time trade, Nyquist would make sense to be possibly offered in a deal. He's coming off a fountain of youth type of year and is now going into the final year of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2025. Might be better to unload him now, which would pave the way for Evangelista to maybe slot into a top line role with O'Reilly and Forsberg.

If Nyquist is retained into next season, then I don't see a reason for Brunette to break up the ridiculous chemistry that top line built. You keep the veterans together, and Evangelista probably stays in his second line role with Tommy Novak and someone else to be named later.

But what if Evangelista ends up being the one traded? That seems almost unfathomable to me, but one thing you have to always keep in mind is that anything is possible. I didn't see Ryan McDonagh getting traded either, but here we are. Although I can't see Trotz parting ways with such a highly talented homegrown player like Evangelista.

Evangelista passed his first test as a rookie and showed he can make it in the NHL regularly, even if he's a little undersized. He needs more ice time in 2024-25, and to earn that he'll need to continue to show coaches he's a well-rounded player.

A reasonable bar to set for Evangelista in 2024-25 is at least hitting the 50-point mark. None of the players in this current crop of young core that is so wildly popular among the fanbase has hit that mark yet. Tommy Novak has come close hitting 43 points and 45 points respectively.

Quite frankly I think I'm setting the bar too low for Evangelista at 50 points. If he stays on this trajectory, he can hit 60 points next season. He needs better ice time and to cash in more on his shooting and he'll easily hit 50 to 60 points.