By Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press
The 2014-15 NHL season opens Oct. 8. Here are 10 players fans should keep an eye on:
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
Subban starts a US$72-million, eight-year contract hoping nothing changes in the way teammates and coach Michel Therrien looks at him. But that price tag comes with lofty expectations, whether or not the 2013 Norris Trophy-winning defenceman is a captain or an alternate for the Habs.
Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks
If the Canucks are going to make last season a blip instead of the beginning of a downward spiral, Miller will be at the centre of the revival. After struggling with the St. Louis Blues, Miller should be back in his element facing more shots behind a weaker Vancouver roster.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche waved goodbye to Paul Stastny, who went to St. Louis, knowing full well they could replace him with the Calder Trophy-winning MacKinnon. Matt Duchene doesn’t hurt either, but MacKinnon is the one who could raise his game the most.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith are why the Blackhawks’ core is so strong, but Saad is just 21 and has already flashed offensive potential. After 47 points in 2013-14, Saad could be poised for a breakout season on one of the NHL’s best teams.
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Back from a knee injury suffered during Canada’s gold-medal run at the Olympics, Tavares is the Islanders’ best hope of rebounding from a disappointing season. Tavares begs watching because he won’t have Matt Moulson or Thomas Vanek on his wing.
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
Nyquist was the hottest scorer in the NHL after the Olympic break with 23 points in 24 games, and in the process he helped the Red Wings to their 23rd straight playoff appearance. Is he Detroit’s next great Swede or was that one untouchable stretch?
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Fourth in the league in scoring with 84 points on 37 goals and 47 assists, Seguin broke out last season back at his natural centre position and with Jamie Benn on left wing. Seguin is just starting to show what he can do in the NHL.
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
His trade demand met at the deadline and settled in where he calls home, Luongo can go back to reminding everyone that he’s still a top-10 NHL goaltender. The 35-year-old will give the young Panthers a chance to be much better than bottom-feeders.
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hedman had more points (55) last season than in his previous 105 games combined, showing that the 23-year-old’s offensive game is coming together. Only three of his 13 goals were on the power play, and an improvement there would be a boon for the Lightning.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite a wrist injury, Crosby had one of the most productive seasons of his NHL career. After missing time in training camp, how well Crosby recovers will determine rookie coach Mike Johnston’s success.
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