Some longtime talent, and a promising rookie, demand attention
Sidney Crosby, coming off Stanley Cup and World Cup of Hockey titles, has to top any list of NHLplayers to watch this season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar may never approach the 36-goal, 120-point season he had a decade ago when he won the first of two Hart Trophies as NHL Most Valuable Player. But he can strike a balance between being patient with the puck and aggressive with or without it when needed.
“He just wins,” said Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who has coached Crosby at the Olympics and World Cup.
Crosby has been diagnosed with a concussion and his availability with the regular season beginning Wednesday was unknown Monday.
Here are some other players to watch when the season starts this week: Alex Ovechkin, Capitals: As a scorer, the 31-year-old Washington winger isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Ovechkin had 50 goals last season, reaching the milestone for the third straight year. He won his fourth straight and league-record sixth Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer. No one else has won it more than twice since the 1998-99 season, when the trophy was first awarded. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks: The Chicago winger won his first Hart Trophy, easily surpassing his previous career highs with 46 goals and 106 points. Kane couldn’t celebrate the accomplishment too much because the Blackhawks, who had hoisted the Cup in 2015 for the third time in six years, were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. Kane and Co. will be fired up to make another run. Connor McDavid, Oilers: If the 19-year-old captain can stay healthy, no one will be surprised if he has a 100-point season. McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick last year, had 48 points in 45 games during his injuryshortened rookie season. The smoothskating center looked like one of the game’s greats at the World Cup. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs: Toronto has a reason for hope, for a change, thanks to the 6-foot-3, 216-pound center it drafted No. 1 overall. Matthews appeared to belong on the ice with the best hockey players on the planet at the World Cup, perhaps giving him a boost of confidence as an NHLrookie. P.K. Subban, Predators: Nashville acquired a motivated player in a blockbuster trade this summer, adding the 2013 Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and sending captain Shea Webber to Montreal. Subban scored a career-low six goals last season for the Canadiens and will get every opportunity to bounce back with the Predators. Carey Price, Canadiens: Montreal’s franchise and fans likely breathed a sigh of relief during the World Cup when it was clear Price, who missed more than 10 months with a knee injury, is healthy and still one of the game’s best goaltenders.
With Price and Webber, the Canadiens will be tough to score against. Brent Burns, Sharks: Reigning Western Conference champion San Jose might want to give the gap-toothed, big-bearded defenseman a deal before he becomes a free agent next summer. If they don’t, Burns may take his on- and off-the-ice act to a team that will pay him perhaps $7 million to $8 million a year with a long-term contract.