Here he takes a Scott Stevens-caliber hit from his own teammate, Alexei Ponikarkovsky. He'll be out for a while.
Here he takes a Scott Stevens-caliber hit from his own teammate, Alexei Ponikarkovsky. He'll be out for a while.
Ilya Kovachuk sent shock waves though the NHL by retiring from the New Jersey Devils so he could finish his career in Russia.
He walked away from the last 12 years and final $77 million on his contract. The Devils signed off on his departure, but Kovalchuk gutted the franchise with his awkwardly timed decision.
In the process of doing so made every general manager employing top Russian players a bit more nervous.
The Kontinental Hockey League is becoming a worthy rival of the NHL in global competition. It is expanding well beyond the borders of Russia to Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Russian billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko bought Hartwall Arena in Helskinki and prompted the Finnish club Jokerit would join the KHL for the 2014-15 season.
The KHL offers competitive pay, bigger ice surfaces and more player-friendly scheduling than the NHL. When Gary Bettman shut down the NHL last season, the KHL brought many Russia stars home and made a favorable impression on them.
Kovalchuk, 30, served as captain of the powerful SKA St. Petersburg team during the lockout. He will return to that role after leaving the Devils and he figures to wear the “C” for Russia during the Olympics in Sochi.
“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk explained in a statement. “Though I decided to return this past season, (Devils GM) Lou (Lamoriello) was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me.”
The rise of the KHL complicates life for NHL general managers, including Doug Armstrong of the Blues. Here are the reasons why:
European players, especially Russians, are less willing to spend time in the American Hockey League making their adjustment to the North American game. The ambitious KHL has made the European market much bigger. The Blues have several unsigned draft picks playing in Russia, including goaltender Konstatin Barulin and forwards Viktor Alexandrov. (Winger Sergei Andronov proved to be an exception to this rule. He left Russia before last season to sign an AHL deal with Peoria.)
Established European players will be more difficult to woo to the NHL. Armstrong hoped to sign center Jori Lehtera to fill his No. 2 center slot, but the Finnish star opted to continue playing in Russia. Armstrong had to turn to free agency instead, landing Derek Roy for about twice the money he hoped to pay Lehtera. That contract created a salary cap crunch that contributed to the David Perron trade.
More Russian players may elect to stay in Russia or return there in their prime. The Blues convinced elite Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko to sign his entry-level deal to play in the NHL, but the KHL will keep wooing him. Signing Tarasenko when he becomes a restricted free agent could become a bigger challenge.
Over the long haul, Ilya Kovalchuk’s departure could help the New Jersey Devils. The latter years of his contract would have proven burdensome to the franchise.
He had 12 years and $77 million on the contract he walked away from. Devils hockey czar Lou Lamoriello gained considerable long-range payroll flexibility with Kovaluchuk off to finish his career is Russia.
But in the near term the Devils will be hard-pressed to replace his goal-scoring. This team will need young forwards like Travis Zajac (20 points in 48 games last season) and Adam Henrique (16 points in 42 games) to take big steps forward next season.
“Time will tell, but it definitely puts us in an awkward position as far as the makeup of our team,” goaltender Martin Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger. “We counted on Kovy to give us offense. In our minds we didn’t have to worry about some part of our offense. He was the power play. He played the whole two minutes.
“Out of the blue this kills some spirit. Everyone is going to be scratching their heads to see where we go from here to replace him and maybe change the makeup of our team. I don’t think you can find a guy that does what he does, who plays the amount of minutes he does. It frees up (cap) room in the future, but right now it’s kind of tough because everyone is under contract for next year. Not a lot of free agents out there. This came maybe a couple of weeks too late.”
By committing to Kovalchuk, the Devils were unable to keep Zach Parise and David Clarkson from exiting as free agents the last two seasons. After losing Clarkson to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lamoriello overpaid ($24 million!) to add big winger Ryane Clowe.
This team still has franchise stalwarts Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias, but those players are in their twilight years. Lamoriello spent this year’s first-round pick to land future No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks.
The Devils’ loss of their first-round pick in 2014 – their league punishment for circumventing the salary cap on Kovalchuk’s contract – exacerbates the situation.
The New Jersey Devils will have to make their playoff push without top winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who will miss up to a month with a shoulder injury suffered Saturday night.
Kovalchuk is the team’s second leading scorer with 10 goals and 17 assists. But his solid all-around play makes him New Jersey’s most valuable forward.
He plays in all game situations and leads all NHL forwards in playing time with 25:13 per game.
So how does the team adapt? The addition of former 21-goal scorer Matt D’Agostini in a trade with the St. Louis Blues helps some. Winger Harri Pesonen will come up from the AHL to lend a hand.
In another week, Dainus Zubrus (wrist) could come back from the injured list. But none of these guys is a Kovalchuk.
“When you lose your top player and top point getter, it's something that's hard on a team's morale, especially for the first few games,” goaltender Martin Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger. “But life has to go on. It's important that guys take it in their own hands to fill the void.
“A lot of our offense goes through him, especially the power play. It'll be an adjustment. It gives opportunities to other players.”
As the lockout dragged on, more NHL players joined European teams. Earlier we gave you our first-team honorees.
Here are our second and third NHL refugee all-star teams – and some honorable mentions -- for players toiling overseas:
W – Jaromir Jagr, Rytiri Kladno, Czech Republic: A minor groin strain slowed this would-be Dallas Stars newcomer for a spell, but he has 18 goals and 23 assists in his first 27 games back home.
W – Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg, Russia: He started quickly to earn the KHL’s player-of-the-month honors in October. The New Jersey Devils star has scored 14 goals and 20 assists in his first 29 games.
C – John Tavares, SC Bern, Switzerland: In 25 games he has scored 16 goals and added 23 assists. The Spengler Cup Tournament gave him a taste of international play. “You can really feel the mystique of this tournament,” Tavares told reporters. “The history, the crowds . . .”
D – Marek Zidlicky, Rytiri Kladno, Czech Republic: Jaromir Jagr’s teammate-for-now has three goals and 22 assists in 25 games.
D – Sergei Gonchar, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Russia: In 32 games he has three goals and 20 assists. Penguins have taken note and may make a trade pitch for him.
GT -- Semyon Varlamov, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Russia: He had three shutouts in his first 14 games while posting a 1.56 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. The Colorado Avalanche hope to see similar form should the NHL resume playing.
W – Henrik Zetterberg, EV Zug, Switzerland: The veteran Detroit Red Wing has scored 13 goals and added 16 assists in his first 20 games.
W – Ales Hemsky, HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice, Czech Republic: He has always been a pass-first player for the Edmonton Oilers. But in his 25 games overseas this season he scored 14 goals and added 17 assists.
C – Tomas Plekanec, Rytiri Kladno, Czech Republic: Playing with Jagr sure is fun! He has 20 goals and 22 assists in his first 28 games. He seldom scores like that for the Montreal Canadiens.
D - Victor Hedman, Barys Astana, Russia: The super-sized Tampa Bay Lightning youngster flashed his puck-moving skills while earning 18 assists (to go with one goal) in his first 26 games.
D – Mark Streit, SC Bern, Switzerland: In his first 29 games the New York Islanders star scored seven goals and added 18 assists.
GT – Tuukka Rask. HC Skoda Plzen, Czech Republic: If the NHL resumes, he will assume the starting role for the Boston Bruins. He sharpened up those skills while earning one shutout in his first 17 games with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
W – Chris Stewart, ETC Crimmitschau, Germany: In 15 games he scored 6 goals and added 14 assists. Earlier the St. Louis Blues power forward played five games (earning one assist) for Bili Tygri Liberec in the Czech Republic.
C – Pavel Datsyuk, CSKA Moskva, Russia: In his first 27 games the Detroit Red Wing has nine goals and 23 assists.
C – Nicklas Backstrom, Dynamo Moskva, Russia: In his first 18 games the No. 1 Washington Capitals center has 10 goals and 15 assists.
C—Jason Spezza, Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, Switzerland: In his first 28 games the New York Islander has nine goals and 21 assists.
C – Joe Thornton, HC Davos, Switzerland: He drives San Jose Sharks fans crazy by refusing to shoot more pucks on goal. In first 30 games overseas this season he scored 8 goals and added 23 assists.
C -- Daniel Briere, Eisbären Berlin, Germany: Could he enjoy a bounce-back season for the Philadelphia Flyers? Maybe. He scored seven goals and added 23 assists in his first 19 games.
C – David Krejci, HC CSOB Pojistovna Pardubice, Czech Republic: In 22 games this would-be Boston Bruins center scored 14 goals and added 11 assists.
D – Lubomir Visnovsky, HC Slovan Bratislava, Russia: In 26 games he scored six goals and added eight assists.
GT -- Cory Schneider, Ambri-Piotta, Switzerland: In his first seven games he posted a 2.82 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. The potential Vancouver Canucks starter is playing in the Spengler Cup with Fribourg Gotteron.
Because the NHL isn't coming back any time soon. Luckily, that league offers plenty of color.
As the NHL labor talks stagger forward, fans must be wondering where the best hockey is being played elsewhere in the world.
The Kontinental Hockey League has grabbed the most talent, but Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Germany have also gobbled up lots of players.
For the sake of these rankings, I split the massive KHL into its two division. We also included the first and second-tier leagues for the other European countries.
Most of the players listed below have some NHL experience. Some, like Ilya Kovalchuk, are established NHL stars who are locked out.
Other players are former NHLers playing out the string overseas. The listings do not include many world-class players who never made it big in North America.
I would love to see how these teams would stack up in a tournament format:
1) KHL WEST
Forwards: Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Radulov, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mikhail Grabovski, Alexi Ponikarovsky, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jakub Voracek, Nikolai Zherdev.
Defense: Zdeono Chara, Anton Babchuk, Dmitri Kulikov, Andrei Markov, Andrej Sekera, Lubomir Visnovsky, Dmitry Kalinin, Shaone Morrisonn.
Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne, Niklas Backstrom, Ilya Bryzgalov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov.
The western half of the NHL has gobbled up the best goaltenders in addition to elite talent up front and on the blue line. This mythical team would be the runaway favorite in our make-believe tournament.
Forwards: Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Henrik Zetterberg, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Logan Couture, Tyler Ennis, Brooks Laich, Max Pacioretty, Patric Hörnqvist, Linus Omark, Simon Gamache, Peter Sejna, Jason Williams.
Defense: Mark Streit, Roman Josi, Luca Sbisa, Jared Spurgeon, Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Joel Kwiatkowski, Mark Popovic, Brian Pothier.
Goaltenders: David Aebischer, Jussi Markkanen.
There are worse places to play than Switzerland, which is why so many players gravitated toward the Alps. This team would have ample firepower up front but not much depth on the blue line or quality in goal.
3) CZECH REPUBLIC
Forwards: David Krejci, Jaromir Jagr, Ales Hemsky, Tomas Plekanec, Roman Cervenka, Michael Frolik, Vladimir Sobotka, Jiri Tlusty.
Defense: Andrew Ference, Tomas Kaberle, Rostislav Klesla, Roman Polak, Jakub Kindl, Michal Rozsival, Ladislav Smid, Marek Zidlicky, Radem Matinek.
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Michal Neuvirth, Ondrej Pavelec.
Many solid Czech players returned home, beefing up an already good league. This is a well-balanced team of NHL-proven forwards, defensemen and goaltenders.
4) KHL EAST
Forwards: Evgeni Malkin, Nik Antropov, Nikolai Kulemin, Nail Yakupov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Frolov, Jan Bulis, Nikita Filatov, Stanislav Chistov, Niko Kapanen, Mats Zuccarello.
Defense: Sergei Gonchar, Victor Hedman, Nikita Nikitin, Oleg Tverdovsky, Brent Sopel, Deron Quint.
Goaltenders: Karri Ramo, Michael Garnett, Jan Lasak, Chris Holt.
The best goaltender on that side of the league might be Konstantin Barulin, a Blues draft pick who has remained in Russia. Malkin would give this team a chance.
Forwards: Mikkel Boedker, Valtteri Filppula, Jussi Jokinen, Frans Nielsen, Rich Peverley, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, Tommy Wingels, Lauri Korpikoski, Jarkko Ruutu, Ville Nieminen, Brian Willsie, Ville Peltonen.
Defense: Erik Karlsson, Jason Demers, Philip Larsen, Jonas Junland, Alec Martinez, Kris Russell, Stephane Robidas.
Goaltenders: Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymäki.
This country gets stronger by the day, thanks to the lockout. Karlsson would have to generate a lot of offense from the blue line, but he’s good with that. Niemi provides a legit No. 1 goaltender.
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Jamie Benn, T.J. Galiardi, Marcel Goc, Chris Stewart, Wayne Simmonds, Mike York, Matt D’Agosinti.
Defense: Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, Doug Janik, Mathieu Roy, James Pollock, Shawn Belle.
Goaltenders: Sébastien Caron, Jason Bacashihua, Scott Langkow.
This country hasn’t reached out to NHL goaltenders, so it lags behind the rest. German is also thin on the blue line.
Forwards: Anze Kopitar, Matt Duchene, Carl Hagelin, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Read, Alex Steen, Mikael Backlund , Patrik Berglund, Fabian Brunnström, P.J. Axelsson, Jason Krog, Ladislav Nagy, Oscar Moller, Sami Pahlsson.
Defense: Douglas Murray, Christian Backman, Niclas Wallin, Cody Franson, Tom Preissing, Kyle Cumiskey, Jonathan Ericsson, Niclas Hävelid. Ole Kristian Tollefsen.
Goaltenders: Alexander Salak, Martin Gerber.
This country wasn’t going to reach out to locked out players. Some litigation changed that, but Sweden has yet to woo top-end defensemen or goaltenders.
Forwards: Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner, Bryan Bickell, Andreas Nodl, Steve Regier, Jan Mursak, Jamie Lundmark, Matt Keith.
Defense: Corey Potter, Andy Delmore, Rob Davison, Patrick Coulombe, Alan Letang, Curtis Murphy.
Goaltenders: Alex Auld, Patrick DesRochers.
With Switzerland filling up, some notable NHL forwards landed in this country to add firepower. But this team would struggle in its own zone.
Zach Parise wants to remain with the New Jersey Devils. And the Devils franchise really, really wants to keep him.
Can the Devils make this happen?
Sure, but it will definitely not be easy. Consider all the variables:
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is shelved by a groin muscle strain – not that the team would admit it.
“With what happened in the Buffalo-Boston game there, I'm going to just say it's an upper body injury," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told the Vancouver Province. “We're not quite sure what's allowed on the goaltenders and what's not allowed. I'm very serious. I always in the regular season tell you what's going on with the players.”
Yes, well, NHL goaltenders are on red alert after Bruins power forward Milan Lucic plowed Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller and knocked him out of action with a concussion.
Elsewhere on the NHL injury front:
Florida lost winger Scottie Upshall for upward of two months with an unspecified lower body injury suffered last week. So the team would like to get Mikael Samuelsson back from his sports hernia. He has yet to play for the Panthers since coming over from Vancouver in a trade. Samuelsson is skating on his own but not practicing with the team.
Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby looks ready to return. He looked fine playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal during Monday’s practice, but still wasn’t activated for Tuesday’s game. He is truly day-to-day now with his post-concussion syndrome.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green returned after missing six games with an ankle injury . . . only to suffer a groin muscle strain. It’s been a tough couple of years for Green.
Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk looked ready to return this week from a lower-body injury, but he missed his fifth game Tuesday night against the Bruins. Teammate Travis Zajac (Achilles tendon tear) is skating on his own but not especially close to returning to action.
Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov may finally be recovering from knee surgery. He has been able to go full tilt in practice for the Canadiens and stay on the ice afterward to scrape rust off his skills. Now he needs to see how the knee holds up during full-contact bumping and grinding.
Detroit defenseman Ian White will miss at least several games with a facial fractures suffered while blocking a shot against Dallas. Mike Commodore will move into the lineup in his absence.
Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook suffered a lower body during a 6-3 victory over Edmonton. He left that game early, but traveled with the team to Vancouver for its next game.
These ratings include fantasy rankings from ESPN.com and NHL.com and hockey pool rankings from The Hockey News.
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (ESPN-2, NHL-1, THN-2): Last season had to be a statistical outlier for hockey’s best pure goal scorer. His 32 goals were 14 fewer than his previous low total. Washington should get back into offensive high gear now that the team solved its goaltending issue. Ovechkin scored 29 points in the final 22 games last season and he delivered 50-plus goals, 100-plus points and 50-plus PIMs in four of his five NHL seasons.
Daniel Sedin, Canucks (ESPN-1, NHL-4, THN-5): He could easily score 104 points again playing with his pass-happy brother. Two years ago he scored 85 points in his just 63 games.
Corey Perry, Ducks (ESPN-5, NHL-3, THN-10): His 50-goal season might have been a once-in-a-lifetime event. But he was also the only player score more than 65 points and earn more than 100 PIMs last season. Two years ago he delivered a 27-goal, 76-point and 111-PIM campaign.
Martin St. Louis, Lightning (ESPN-14, NHL-9, THN-9): He has to slow down at some point, right? After all, he is 36 years old. But is famously durable and his pairing with Steven Stamkos makes him an excellent bet for point-per-game production.
Zach Parise, Devils (ESPN-13, NHL-14, THN-12): He is back to full speed after playing just 13 games last season due to a knee injury. He has a 45-goal season to his credit. But it remains to be seen how New Jersey’s offense will come together under a new coach.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Devils (ESPN-19, NHL-17, THN-19): Danger! He is minus-101 in his career and as a Devil he has scored just 87 points in 108 games. Be he established himself as a elite goal scorer by burying 40 or more goals in six straight seasons.
Dany Heatley, Wild (ESPN-33, NHL-39, THN-26): His two 100-point seasons make him a perennial high pick, but how will he fare in Minnesota? He had a span of five straight seasons with 39 or more goals. He is coming off his worst NHL season and he is coming to a team lacking great firepower. His season will ride on his working relationship with Mikko Koivu.
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (ESPN-47, NHL-26, THN-15): How will Joel Quenneville’s experiment – Kane filling the No. 2 center role – play out? Coach Q loves to shuffle lines for balance, so he tends not to produce great fantasy commodities. On the other hand, Chicago should have an awesome power play and Kane has 30-goal, 90-point skill.
Milan Lucic, Bruins (ESPN-45, NHL-50, THN-80): He broke out last season and emerged as the rare 30-goal, 100-PIM commodity with a massive plus-minus as well. Boston might be even better this season, so don’t expect backsliding.
Bobby Ryan, Ducks (ESPN-20, NHL-28, THN-37): If he stays on the top line with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, he will be a 35-goal, 70-point threat with a nice PIM element. That was the NHL’s best unit last season. The downside appears to be 30 goals with a nice PIM element, so that’s not much of a downside.
Rick Nash, Blue Jackets (ESPN-35, NHL-27. THN-25): He has never had a great playmaker to team with in Columbus. The addition of fellow 40-goal threat Jeff Carter doesn’t change that. But Carter does make the power play more dangerous.
Jarome Iginla, Flames (ESPN-22, NHL-18, THN-33): He is entering of his career with a team lacking much firepower. He suffered a three-year decline in points, goals, power-play points and shots, prompting the team to reunite him with playmaking winger Alex Tanguay last season. But monstrous numbers are a thing of Jarome’s past.
Alexander Semin, Capitals (ESPN-34, NHL-41, THN-31): He has been all over the map in his career, highlighted by a 40-goal season featuring a plus-36 rating and 66 PIMs in 73 contests. After scaling back its offense last year, will Washington crank it back up? Will Semin see much top-line duty? Can he glean enough from the power play to have a bounce-back season?
Claude Giroux, Flyers (ESPN-37, NHL-37, THN-14): Philly is counting on him to produce after its extreme makeover. But with three of last year’s top six forwards gone, will the Flyers be able to assemble multi-line firepower? His 21 points in 23 playoff games in 2010 foreshadowed his breakout last season.
Patrick Marleau, Sharks (ESPN-36, NHL-33, THN-28): An ever better San Jose power play -- with Brent Burns offering a second hammer on the blue – should allow Marleau to do his usual damage. But can the reconfigured San Jose build two strong lines at even strength? Or we will look back on Patrick’s epic 44-goal season as a fluke?
Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (ESPN-62, NHL-48, THN-41): Coming back from appendectomy, he could find himself playing wing on the No. 1 line. Or he could center the second line if Kane can’t handle that. Either way he is a solid 30-goal, 70-point threat.
Chris Stewart, Blues (ESPN-59, NHL-73, THN-49): After moving to St. Louis, he scored 15 goals in his final 26 games. He will play with T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund at even strength and he should flourish as the “net front” guy on the power play.
Nathan Horton, Bruins (ESPN-43, NHL-68, THN-56): He recovered from a concussion suffered in the playoffs, but that incident raised the threat of re-injury. He scored 14 goals in his last two regular season games and scored 17 points in 21 playoff games, so he is trending well.
Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs: (ESPN-63, NHL-62, THN-42): He shoots, shoots and shoots some more. That should make him a perennial 30-goal scorer with the potential to break through for 40 if the pieces around him come together.
Thomas Vanek, Sabres (ESPN-68, NHL-64, THN-48): This former 40-goal player should flourish in an extremely deep offense. Derek Roy’s return from a quadriceps tear, the arrival of Ville Leino and the development of various offensively skilled youngsters bodes well for him. Scored 32 goals last season.
Marian Gaborik, Rangers (ESPN-72, NHL-35, THN-24): He has played more than 65 games just twice in the last seven seasons. His production fell 20 goals last season. But when he does play this season, he’ll put up big numbers with newcomer Brad Richards adding the speed and playmaking ability this team sorely lacked.
Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (ESPN-53, NHL-47, THN-62): He played just 122 games the last two seasons in Chicago and scored just 49 goals. But earlier in his career he delivered three 40-goal seasons, so there is always hope for a revival.
Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (ESPN-76, NHL-67, THN-107): Solid PIM and plus-minus guy will pick up some goals, too – but his 35 goals in 2009-10 look like a fluke. His plus-34 rating and 121 PIMs were not flukes, however.
Ryane Clowe, Sharks (ESPN-103, NHL-78, THN-70): He is a solid threat to score 60 points and early 120 PIMs. As long as he can keep a spot on one of the top two lines and hold a spot in the power play, he could offer Lucic-like production.
Taylor Hall, Oilers (ESPN-118, NHL-92, THN-23): Back from an ankle injury that limited him to 65 games last season, Hall is a serious 30- to 40-goal threat. The only question is whether the breakout comes this season or next.
Loui Eriksson, Stars (ESPN-109, NHL-69, THN-46): The departure of Richards will punch a hole in the Dallas offense. His point total climbed the past three seasons. He had a 36-goal season in that span and a 46-assist season. Those are his high ends.
Johan Franzen, Red Wings (ESPN-41, NHL-59, THN-104): Goal scorer! He is the finisher in Detroit’s deep, talented lineup. He scored 10 of his 28 goals last season on the power play, which should be a good unit again this season.
Michael Cammalleri, Canadiens (ESPN-86, NHL-77, THN-73): His goal totals have plunged from 39 to 26 and 19 the past two seasons. The addition of Erik Cole gives Montreal another scoring threat, but that doesn’t help this winger. He needs a better playmaker.
Scott Hartnell, Flyers (ESPN-77, NHL-71, THN-121): This PIM monster could also put up points IF the Philly lines come together. He has been a steady 50-point, 150-PIM producer.
Martin Havlat, Sharks (ESPN-78, NHL-58, THN-47): He has finally stayed healthy, missing fewer than 10 games in each of his last three season. He is a steady producer who should offer 60-point to 80-point production in San Jose from low-scoring Minnesota.
Michael Grabner, Islanders (ESPN-88, NHL-94, THN-97): He scored 26 goals in the final 44 games to emerge as a significant scoring threat. But can he sustain that? The Islanders have a breakout offensive team, so he is a decent bet.
Simon Gagne, Kings (ESPN-126, NHL-117, THN-143): He finished well last season, scoring 27 points during a 30-game span. He had 12 points in 15 playoff games, too. His reunion with Mike Richards should be fruitful.
Alex Tanguay, Flames (ESPN-92, NHL-121, THN-78): He will get every chance to post 20/50/70 numbers playing next to Iginla, his favorite offensive cohort. If they split up, his value becomes almost nil.
Ales Hemsky, Oilers (ESPN-127, NHL-113, THN-65): He scored 64 points in 69 games over the last two seasons. When he’s healthy, he’s a point-per-game player. Edmonton’s rapidly evolving offense will guarantee his success.
Drew Stafford, Sabres (ESPN-139, NHL-158, THN-108): Can he build on his breakout 31-goal season? Sure, if he can anchor in on one of Buffalo’s scoring lines. There is ample competition for scoring jobs at even strength and on the power play.
Dustin Brown, Kings (ESPN-95, NHL-91, THN-75): He is steady, durable but unspectacular – with 60 points as his apparent ceiling. He should be a good plus-minus asset and he’ll get 50 to 60 PIMs too.
Shane Doan, Coyotes (ESPN-89, NHL-105, THN-125): This reliable power forward should be good for 50 to 70 points, depending on how the young Phoenix forwards come together. Keith Yandle’s development as a power-play quarterback helps keep him relevant.
Steve Downie, Lightning (ESPN-132, NHL-THN-144): He is the only NHL player with the potential to deliver both 40 points and 200 PIMs. His offensive chemistry with Steven Stamkos earns him some good even-strength opportunities.
Brenden Morrow, Stars (ESPN-128, NHL-99, THN-124): The departure of Brad Richards will make it difficult for Dallas to assemble two good scoring lines. He scored 33 goals and added 76 PIMs, keeping him ranked among the elite power forwards.
Jamie Benn, Stars (ESPN-142, NHL-107, THN-45): Finished well, scoring 22 points in his last 20 games. But he played with Brad Richards, who is long gone. Let’s see how the Dallas lines shake out. He scored 22 goals the year before as a rookie.
James Neal, Penguins (ESPN-83, NHL-87, THN-67): He flopped after coming to Pittsburgh, scoring once in 20 regular-season games and once in seven playoff games. But he could be 25- to 30-goal scorer if Pittsburgh regains Sidney Crosby and its offensive edge.
Teemu Selanne, Ducks (ESPN-125, NHL-89): He is 41. He has been prone to injuries. But when he plays, he still scores at a 25-goal, 60-point pace. The Anaheim power play will give him a chance to remain productive.
Jaromir Jagr, Flyers (ESPN-57, NHL-97, THN-102): He declined from 123 to 96 and 71 points with the Rangers, then headed to Russian where he was a point-per-game player in the NHL. Philly Paul Holmgren wants 45 to 65 points from him this season. That should be doable in this lineup.
Patric Hornqvist, Predators (ESPN-111, NHL-154, THN-136): He slipped from 30 goals to 21 last season, but he remains a potential power-play threat. Nashville is leaning heavily on young forward this season, so the offensive chemistry is something of a mystery.
James van Riemsdyk, Flyers (ESPN-208, NHL-93, THN-57): His seven goals in 11 playoff games convinced the team he is ascending offensive talent. That made it easier for Philly to ditch three of its top six scorers. He has 30-goal, 60-point potential.
Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (ESPN-84): He looks ready to score as a rookie. Colorado needs the offense, so this blue-chip prospect will get every opportunity to play with one of its two playmaking centers.
Dustin Penner, Kings (ESPN-80, NHL-103, THN-147): He figures to settle on one of the top two lines in deep LA offense. He also figures to cash in on the power play as the team’s power forward, with Ryan Smyth gone. He should rebound nicely.
Andrew Ladd, Jets (ESPN-71, NHL-100, THN-93): He graduated neatly into a scoring line role and delivered a 29-goal, 30 assist season. But can he sustain that level of success after signing a big contract to retain that role?
Jason Pominville, Sabres (ESPN-212, NHL-162, THN-86): He is four years removed from his 34-goal season and three years removed from his career-best 80 points. He should improve on his 52 points of last season with Buffalo’s offensive upgrades.
Kyle Okposo, Islanders (ESPN-186), NHL-130, THN-55): By scoring 17 points in a span of 29 games, he teased fantasy GMs with his potential. He scored 52 points in 80 games the year before. The Islanders seemed poised for an offensive breakout and he could be part of that.
Tyler Seguin, Bruins (ESPN-206,NHL-140, THN-63): After a 22-point rookie season, he could graduate into a 50- to 60-point role as a second-year player IF he can stick on the second line. He has high-end scoring potential.
Jussi Jokinen, Hurricanes (ESPN-176, NHL-161, THN-95): He fell back from a 30-goal campaign, but remains a 60-point threat as Eric Staal’s wingman. Too bad he doesn’t get credit for shootout goals.
Matt Moulson, Islanders (NHL-153, THN-100): He has had back-to-back seasons of 30 goals while playing with John Tavares. But how much of that is Moulson and how much is Tavares? What if the Isle splits these two up?
Daniel Alfredsson, Senators (ESPN-163, NHL-128, THN-165): Coming back from a back injury and a terrible statistical year – 31 points and a minus-19 rating in 54 games – as he nears 40. But he racked up 70 points or more during a decade-long span, making him one of the fantasy hockey’s most reliable performers.
Devin Setoguchi, Wild (ESPN-70, NHL-108, THN-137): Moving from San Jose guarantees him a top-6 role, perhaps even top-line duty in Minnesota. Can he get back to his old 31-goal form? He will get every chance.
Ville Leino, Sabres (ESPN-130): He gets a chance to move into a playmaking center role in Buffalo, replacing Tim Connolly. He’ll get every chance to score 20 goals and earn 40 assists.
Chris Kunitz, Penguins (ESPN-138, NHL-112, THN-131): IF Sidney Crosby plays this season and IF Kunitz can stay healthy, he could produce at a 60- to 70-point pace and pick up some PIMs.
Ray Whitney, Coyotes (ESPN-144, THN-163): He’ll have a prime role at even strength and on the power play, but the lack over proven Phoenix talent up front raises concerns about how many scoring chances he’ll get.
David Booth, Panthers (ESPN-158, NHL-155): Returned from a concussion to record a minus-31 rating. But Florida’s dramatically revamped roster sets him up for a bounce-back season. His high shots total suggest another 30-goal season is possible.
Mikael Samuelsson, Canucks (ESPN-104, NHL-131): He is a decent supporting cast scorer, more of a 20-goal scorer than a 30-goal guy. Mason Raymond’s injury assures him of a solid second-line role and some second power-play unit opportunity.
Brian Gionta, Canadiens (ESPN-140, THN-167): He still put nearly 300 shots on goal, but not enough of those shots went in. If Montreal’s disappointing offense can get back into passing gear, he could score 30 goals.
Nikloai Kulemin, Maple Leafs (ESPN-174, NHL-160, THN-89): He broke through will a 30-goal season and could build on that as Toronto finally develops some offensive continuity. He foreshadowed that breakout with 15 points in a 16-game during the previous March.
Teddy Purcell, Lightning (ESPN-103, NHL-143, THN-77): He scored 21 points in 31 games after the All-Star break, moving himself into position for second-line, second-PP work. Tampa Bay’s lack of offensive depth gives him a golden opportunity.
Martin Erat, Predators (ESPN-154, THN-129): He is as close to a “top gun” as anybody on the Nashville roster. He scored 50 points despite missing 18 games with a back injury. If the Preds come together offensively, he could rise up to 65 points.
Nathan Gerbe, Sabres (THN-90): This tiny talent scored 13 points in 19 games down the stretch. Buffalo is loaded up front, which can be a good thing or a bad thing for him – depending on where he settles in the offense.
Blake Wheeler, Jets (ESPN-133, THN-123): Can he blossom into a NHL scorer? Winnipeg will give him that chance after rescuing him from Boston’s supporting cast. Wheeler scored 45 points as a Bruins rookie, so there is hope.
Rene Bourque, Flames (ESPN-145, NHL-122, THN-145): The good news: He is a top-six forward in Calgary. The bad news: That team lacks offensive depth.
Ryan Callahan, Rangers (ESPN-201, NHL-123, THN-130): He rose to the top line last season in New York and scored 48 points in 60 games. While he has room to grow, he may have to do that on the second line and the second PP unit.
Jacob Voracek, Flyers (ESPN-204, THN-71): Can he move into the top six in Philly? If so, he will have value. If not, he will remain a sub-50-point player with minimal PIMs.
Daniel Cleary, Red Wings (ESPN-160): When healthy, he has scored at a 50- to 60-point pace. But injuries have dogged him in Motown and created opportunities for younger forwards to graduate into bigger roles.
Ryan Malone, Lightning (NHL-174, THN-160): He struggled to stay healthy last season, which cost him an opportunity to play on the second line and second PP unit. He should be a 30-goal threat with some PIMS, but he failed on both front last season.
Guillaume Latendresse, Wild (ESPN-213): He once scored 25 goals in a 55-game span after coming to Minnesota, so Wild fans hold out hope that he can return to that level. But can he stay healthy?
Ryan Smyth, Oilers (NHL-170, THN-169): He is no longer a consistent force, but he could still deliver 25 goals on an emerging offensive team. Back home in Alberta and surrounded by high-end prospects, he could turn back the clock this year.
Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (ESPN-211, THN-170): He has been quite the newsmaker during the preseason, but it has yet to be seen if he can remain a viable 40 point/100 PIM player in Philadelphia.
Mike Knuble, Capitals (ESPN-180): If Washington restarts its offense, he’ll cash in as a solid second-line, second-PP player with 25-goal skills.
Milan Hejduk, Avalanche (ESPN-192, THN-128): He topped 20 goals every year for a decade, serving as one of the more reliable fantasy forward options. Now he is in the twilight of his career, hoping for Colorado to re-emerge with help from young guns Gabriel Landeskog and Peter Mueller.
Kris Versteeg, Panthers (ESPN-216, THN-151): He has been a decent 50-point threat at earlier stops, but how will he fit into the revamped Florida offense?
Peter Mueller, Avalanche (ESPN-220, THN-158): He scored 20 points in a 15-game span for Colorado after arriving from Phoenix. But he missed all last season with post-concussion syndrome, so “buyer beware” is written all over him.
Erik Cole, Canadiens (ESPN-228, NHL-134): He is up on Montreal, trying to deal with all that pressure. The Canadiens struggled to score last season. Eric Staal isn’t by his side. He has been prone to injuries. All of this adds up to a 25-goal season at best.
Tuomo Ruutu, Hurricanes (ESPN-187, THN-120): He moved back on the radar screen with 57 points playing next to explosive rookie Jeff Skinner. Can that pairing become even more productive this season?
Sergei Kostitsyn, Predators (ESPN-190, THN-112): A change of scenery woke him up. He became a 50-point scorer in Nashville. Given the subtraction of veteran talent there, he will get a chance to sustain that level.
Evander Kane, Jets (ESPN-205, THN-81): He is a robust player, likely to rack up some PIMs. Can he become a 50-point player too? Sure.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Canadiens (ESPN-225, THN-138): There is a lot of skill here, but he has never progressed past the 50-point level in scoring. He is a useful fill-in for short spurts.
Steve Sullivan, Penguins: (ESPN-189): He appears recovered from a career-threatening back injury. IF Sidney Crosby makes a comeback and rejuvenates the Pittsburgh offense, Sullivan could be one of the forwards benefiting. He has a 60-point ceiling.
Wojtek Wolski, Rangers: (THN-178): He had 18 points during an 18-game span for Phoenix, but he got nowhere near the point-per-game level in New York. He is worth tracking as a possible waiver-wire pickup if he finds work on one of the top two Ranger lines.
Mason Raymond, Canucks (THN-157): On the mend from back surgery, he could score at a 50- to 60-point pace when he returns to action. Track him as an injury replacement player for deeper into the season.
David Perron, Blues (ESPN-175): He is unlikely to play until deep into the season due to post-concussion syndrome. He has 25-goal skills, though, so he bears watching as a waiver wire pick-up or a draft-and-stash player.
Andrew Brunette, Blackhawks: He is nearing the end of his career, but he could become a power-play specialist in a potentially high-scoring Chicago attack. He still has 25-goal hands.
Vaclav Prospal, Blue Jackets (THN-171): He scored 23 points in 29 games with the Rangers, but injuries ruined his season. Columbus signed him after Kristian Huselius suffered a serious training injury.
Justin Williams, Kings (ESPN-161, NHL-142, THN-132): If he stays healthy and earns a spot in LA’s top six, he could score 60 points. Those are big ifs.
Troy Brouwer, Capitals (THN-140): If he can fit into Washington’s top six, he could finally become fantasy factor.