It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Everyone’s undefeated. Well, everyone but the Ducks and Kings.
For the 28 teams that didn’t start their seasons in London, it’s time to make the final cuts and have their first full practices with a set team.
The ’07-’08 season is set to have a full helping of new story-lines, emerging superstars, and contract-breaking slumps.
Here’s of list of some not-so-high profile players to keep your eyes on:
Darryl Sydor, Pittsburgh Penguins
Darryl Sydor is coming from a defence-first, trapping team in Dallas, who’s top scorer was Mike Ribeiro. Now as a Pittsburgh Penguin, Sydor won’t have to be as defensively responsible, and as previous quarterback of the powerplay in Dallas, it’s obvious that he can flourish in a more offensively-minded team.
It will be interesting to see how he, and the rest of the Penguins’ veterans will react to having the twenty-year-old Sidney Crosby calling the shots in the dressing room.
Mike Knuble, Philadelphia Flyers
Mike Knuble is set to play on a line with two players that put up a combined 163 points last season in Simon Gagne and Daniel Briere. These two players will also pull in a combined $16 million over the next season. Because of this, there is absolutely no pressure on Knuble, who had 54 points last year.
He’ll get powerplay time with those two players as well, so head over to your hockey pool website and pick him up off waivers because he is going to get a lot of secondary assists playing aside these two elite players.
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins
He’s not a secret anymore. The eighteen-year-old wasn’t expected to even make the Penguins last season, let alone put up 42 points with 29 goals. But how can opposing teams focus a defensive game plan on him when they still have to worry about NHL MVP Crosby and Calder trophy winner Evgeni Malkin?
Jordan will once again see the weaker checkers and flourish because of it. Look for Staal to improve his last year’s totals, especially on shorthanded tallies.
Taylor Pyatt, Vancouver Canucks
The feeling out of camp is that Pyatt may not be paired with the Sedins as he was for the better part of last season. Alain Vigneault is looking at various line combinations as he normally would, and has said possible Sedin-linemates could include: Markus Naslund, who was magic with the twins last season before they were forced to be split up; Ryan Shannon, who is already looking like a great acquistion; and of course Pyatt, who had a lot of success with the Sedins last year. But if Pyatt isn’t given the chance to play with the twins, it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he is able to put up, as he might be thrown into a make-shift line with Brendan Morrison and Matt Cooke.
Lubomir Visnovsky, Los Angeles Kings
Arguably the most under-rated defenceman in the NHL. He consistently puts up numbers but constantly flies under the radar of the media, which may be the cause of his success. This season, with a younger, more talented L.A. Kings squad, with the likes of Alexander Frolov, Anze Kopitar and Ladislav Nagy up front, Visnovksy will pick up even more assists than his 40 last season. In addition, he has Rob Blake and Brad Stuart worrying more about the back end, leaving him with more time to rack up points.
October 3rd couldn’t come any sooner. Rejoice, hockey fans.