Scott Laughlin, host of NHL Game Day (heard weekly at 1 pm Eastern/10 am Pacific on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio Channel 91), presents his list of key players for each of the 31 National Hockey League teams. These are the players who will help make a difference this season. They may be the reason a team makes the playoffs, or goes deep into the post-season. They may also be the reason a team comes up short if they don’t realize their potential.
Washington: Braden Holtby—Sub-par regular season (2.99, .907) was forgotten because of what he did at Playoff time. No Grubauer, incumbent on Holtby to have a much better regular campaign.
Pittsburgh: Matt Murray—Bubble had to burst at some point for the young goaltender (2.92, .907). Injuries and personal loss affected him. Fresh start, a return to form?
Philadelphia: Nolan Patrick—Took over second line Centre position in the second half of last season. 25 goals and 50 points realistic for this emerging star.
Tampa Bay: Steven Stamkos—Now the best modern-day player to “have not won the Stanley Cup”. The time is now!
Boston: Ryan Donato—Dark-horse candidate to win the Calder. Whirlwind year is behind him. Part of a B’s forward group that looks good now, better in years to come.
Toronto: John Tavares—who says you can’t go home?!? 7 Yrs., $77M. Not a bad second line Centre. Off to a great start!
Columbus: Artemi Panarin—Jackets’ game-breaker. Is he coming or going?!?
New Jersey: Cory Schneider—Devils didn’t do much during the off-season. A return to form and full health by their number one goaltender could solidify another post-season berth.
Florida: Mike Hoffman—another marksman for the Panthers up front. Fast, with a great release. Could shine in South Florida.
Carolina: Scott Darling—Big contract and ineffective last season. Dropped lbs. Will it translate into a more consistent season?
NY Islanders: Robin Lehner/Thomas Greiss. Isles will be better defensively under Trotz. Goaltending has to be much better.
NY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist—The King says he’s in on a rebuild. We’ll see.
Detroit: Dylan Larkin—No Zetterberg. This is now Larkin’s team.
Montreal: Carey Price–.900 and a GAA over 3 won’t be good enough to keep Montreal competitive. CP31 needs to be what he was 3 or 4 years ago for Habs.
Ottawa: Craig Anderson—Good season, bad season, good season, bad season…good season?
Buffalo: Jack Eichel—No longer insulated by Ryan O’Reilly. Time to grab hold of the team Jack!
Nashville: Pekka Rinne—Vezina Trophy winner inconsistent in Playoffs. Last season in Music City USA? Sarros is biding his time.
Winnipeg—Jack Roslovic/Bryan Little—who plays #2 Centre more this season?
Minnesota: Ryan Suter/Zach Parise—Vets with big contracts and injury questions. Could determine if Wild sticks around in Central.
Vegas: Shea Theodore—Armed with new contract, will have to be very good for Knights who’re missing Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games of season.
Anaheim: Ryan Kesler—Even Ryan Johansen hopes this vet can get healthy and be productive! (maybe that’s a stretch).
San Jose: Erik Karlsson—The courting period is underway for Karlsson who will win his third Norris in 2019.
Los Angeles: Ilya Kovalchuk—The 35-year-old is back. How much does he have left? Off to an impressive start!
Colorado: Tyson Jost—Avs need secondary scoring in back of their amazing top line. Time to step up.
St. Louis: Jake Allen—for the first time in three seasons, needs a campaign without any major bumps in the road, needs to be consistent. If he is, watch out for the Blues!
Dallas: Jason Spezza—Third coach in three seasons for this vet. Dallas is in need of scoring behind the Big 3. Contract year.
Calgary: James Neal—Flames needed an edge and a 25-goal scorer to boot. Enter Neal.
Edmonton: Cam Talbot—Contract year. Oilers’ 25th ranked on PK last season. A return to form could go a long way.
Chicago: Cory Crawford–.929 at the time injury ended his season. Rest of Hawks’ netminders had a .902. Big difference.
Vancouver: Elias Petterson—Favorite for Calder. Could be as advertised.
Arizona: Alex Galchenyuk—Banged up to start the season. Insulated by Stepan. Can he get back to 30 goals?