With training camps set to open later this week and with rookie camps under way, we thought that we would evaluate some of the players to watch this upcoming NHL season. Being based in the West we get a little tired of hearing about the Eastern based teams all of the time so our list may be a little biased towards players based on Western teams. Quite honestly the West has provided the greatest entertainment value in recent years with multiple Stanley Cup championships for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
20 NHL Players to Watch
There is some great young talent in the game. Here is a look at some of the players to watch in the 2014-2015 NHL season. For all of you hockey poolies out there, these are the players you might want to take a risk on if they are available in your hockey pool.
- Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars – Boston gave up on this guy way too early. Yes he is a bit of a free spirit and yes he may have a slight ego, but he’s also got the skills to back it up. 84 points in 80 games last season with the Stars, Seguin could even score more than the 37 goals he potted last season. With the addition of forwards Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, Dallas has definitely improved their offensive capabilities.
- P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadiens – it is always interesting to see how a player performs after signing a big contract. We like P.K. Subban. He’s got some great skills, has even better quotes and while his charismatic personality sometimes gets him in trouble, this guy is pure entertainment. Either love him or hate him, there’s no denying that you’d love to have him on your team.
- Ryan Miller – Vancouver Canucks – wow that still doesn’t sound right does it? After a debacle of a year in Vancouver last season especially between the pipes, the Canucks landed a new starting goaltender in Ryan Miller. Miller has had a couple of sub-par season but we think that Vancouver might just be what the doctor ordered for this netminder.
- Jason Spezza – Dallas Stars – Spezza left the only NHL team that he has ever known joining a nice cast of supporting players in Big “D”. Does anyone remember that Spezza was a minus 26 in Ottawa last year. This could be a major plus for the Stars or a major bust.
- Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – the great 8 had an up and down year last year. This season will tell if Ovie is still one of the elite hockey players of today’s game. Factor in newly acquired and very defensive minded coach Barry Trotz to the Caps and we will see how the Capitals captain responds.
- Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning – probably our favorite player in the game today. It will be interesting to see how Stammer responds coming back from a pretty serious leg injury from last season and a full season without Martin St. Louis. He’ll look to challenge for the league lead in goals but we feel that his scoring production might drop this season.
- Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks – we thought for sure that the Sharks were going to go to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, but after being up three games to none to the Kings in the first round the Sharks suffered one of the greatest collapses in the history of the game. Look to “Little Joe” to emerge as one of the leaders on this team and while he may not improve upon his 79 points (good for ninth overall) in the league from last season, he tends to put up points in bunches.
- Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers – this guy is also part of trade rumours which is quite comical because this guys skills are off the charts. Jordan Eberle is a created player who needs to play in the right situations. He is a playmaker, a shooter and is very smart with the puck. The Oilers coaching staff wasted his efforts at times last year by trying to stifle his creativity. Look for the Oilers big line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle to be more consistent this season. Eberle could easily be a 75-80 point guy.
- Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins – there have been a lot of changes in Pittsburgh this off season. It will be interesting to see how Crosby adjusts.
- Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche – can you say sophmore slump? We’ll see.
- Arron Ekblad – Florida Panthers – will this rookie crack the Panthers lineup and stay with the team? What kind of ice time will he receive? Who will he be partnered up with? How will he contend with nagging off season injuries?
- Kyle Turris – Ottawa Senators – is this guy ready for the spotlight and the pressure that will be expected from him to produce offensively for the Sens?
- Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings – does Doughty become complacent this year or is this the year that he challenges for the Norris? Teams are going to play the Kings tighter this year, how will that impact Doughty and the defensive core?
- Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers – will switching jersey numbers to the number ten improve the terrible season that Yak had last year or will this guy mature and produce at the level he did in junior and in his inaugural season in the NHL? We think that a trade might be in order for this guy so that he can play his style of game.
- Sam Gagner – Arizona Coyotes – how well will Gagner adapt to life in the desert? He received some quality ice time in Edmonton over the years and did not always deliver. Will he receive increased responsibility with the Desert Dogs? We personally we happy to see him leave Edmonton. A fresh start may be good for the diminutive forward.
- Thomas Vanek – Minnesota Wild – not sure about this guy and not sure about this team. Definitely one to watch though.
- Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs – we like Dion, even with all of the “baggage” that comes along with him. Leaf fans (and media) are hard on this guy at times and we think that as captain of the Leafs there is some maturity that needs to happen with Dion in order for the Leafs to become regulars in the post season.
- Scott Hartnell – Columbus Blue Jackets – this was a good pick up for the Blue Jackets. It will be interesting to see how Hartnell performs in Ohio.
- Ondrej Pavalec – Winnipeg Jets – we feel that this is a do or die season for the Jets goaltender. Apparently he has been training hard all summer and has dropped weight to become more of an agile goaltender. He’s still going to be on a short leash with Jets’ management, and even a shorter one with Jets fans who inherited a terrible team in the Atlanta Thrashers.
- Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks – 47 points in 73 games was all Daniel Sedin could muster last season. Remove Ryan Kesler from the Canucks conversation and do we really expect the Sedins performance to improve dramatically? We do expect that it will improve but not to the point per game level they once performed at. We like what Trevor Linden has done thus far, but this team could be in for a world of hurt again this season. Were they really that awful last season? The answer is a simple yes. However the team cleaned house from a management perspective (Edmonton Oilers take note) and could again join the post season with some dedicated efforts this year.
There you have it, a look at 20 players to key an eye on this NHL season. Of course we expect to see some surprises, and we hope we see some positive things happen for the Canadian NHL teams. At the start of the season all 30 teams are in first place, then again all 30 teams are also tied for last place. In a couple more weeks the season will begin and the quest will begin anew for Lord Stanley’s Cup