Training camps open up around the league tomorrow, so we take a look at five compelling storylines heading into camp!
1. Sheldon Souray drama I have a good feeling we have not heard the last from Souray himself or Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. Souray basically threw the organization under the bus in April, expressing his desire to be traded. Even though Tambellini wasn’t able to meet those demands, he has decided to not allow Souray to play with the Oilers this pre-season. Whether this diminishes any hope of a trade is anyone’s guess, but it certainly can’t help. Now that the Kovalchuk Saga has concluded and RFA’s have re-signed, this could become the daily hot topic around the hockey world.
2. Toronto’s young centers You will laugh at me for saying this, but Toronto has a chance to make the playoffs. Personnel wise, they have the defense and goaltending to compete on a nightly basis. The x-factor to their season will be how much and how often the offense can produce. The offense as a whole may hinge on two young centers entering the first full season of their NHL careers. Tyler Bozak tallied 27 points in 37 games with the Leafs, while Nazem Kadri (pictured) had another successful season in the OHL after narrowly missing the final cut. Both have high expectations, but will be counted on right away. Are they up for the challenge?
3. Chicago Blackhawks’ retooling Gone is the goaltender that, while inconsistent, won 16 playoff games (Antti Niemi). Gone is the budding power forward that blossomed into a force (Dustin Byfuglien). Gone are the young depth forwards that were reliable in both zones (Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd). And that’s just scratching the surface as five other players from last year’s roster are no longer in Chicago. GM Stan Bowman filled those holes with mostly youngsters (some through trade). The most interesting thing to watch with the defending champs will be which rookies emerge from the pack to receive regular playing time.
4. Rookies making debuts There is an impressive list of rookies vying for a spot on their respective NHL rosters. Here’s my count, in no particular order: Tyler Seguin (BOS); Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi (EDM); Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder (VAN); Evgeny Grachev and Derek Stepan (NYR); Jonathan Bernier and Brayden Schenn (LA); Alex Pietrangelo (STL); Ryan Ellis (NSH); Nazem Kadri (TOR); Jared Cowen (OTT); Jacob Josefson (NJ); Kevin Shattenkirk (COL); Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kyle Turris (PHX); Eric Tangradi (PIT). How many of these bright, young prospects will be able to make the cut?
5. Cheechoo’s revival attempt Does Jonathan Cheechoo have anything left in the tank? After falling off in San Jose and failing to fit in with the Senators, the prolific goal-scorer from three-to-four years ago is hoping to make the Dallas Stars on a tryout basis. He has reportedly been working with Brendan Morrow and Mike Ribeiro during informal skates, trying to find chemistry with them. I think it’s a low-risk move by the Stars to try to find a cheap right winger that may be able to revive his career in Big D. If it doesn’t work out, you have to wonder if Cheechoo still has a place in the NHL.
These are five things I’m keeping a close eye on this pre-season. What about you?
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.