The Watch List
The Canucks are a much stronger team when Ryan Kesler is healthy. Has he finally shaken the injury bug?
Last week we had a look at the Eastern Conference's watch list, and now it's the West's turn. Which players have the potential to really turn heads this year? Keep your eyes on these 14 players.
Anaheim - Jakob Silfverberg
- The 22 year old was one of the pieces the Ducks picked up in return for Bobby Ryan, so it's safe to say there's going to be some extra eyes watching him this season. Silfverberg picked up 10 goals in 48 games last year for the Sens, and looks to compete in a top 6 role for the Ducks this coming season. Anaheim will be counting on him to bring some offense to the table, and could double his numbers, especially if he lands on a line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Calgary - Sean Monahan
- Finally accepting that they needed to strip things down to the foundation and rebuild, the Flames made a big step in the right direction when they drafted Sean Monahan 6th overall at the NHL entry draft in June. A big, strong young center with top line potential to build around for the future, Monahan is everything Calgary has needed for a long time. The key now is to develop him properly. The Flames say Monahan will have every chance to make this team, and will likely get the 9 game NHL trial at the very least. But would he benefit more from dominating in junior rather than toiling with a very weak Calgary team?
Chicago - Brandon Saad
- The rookie was very impressive last season, playing often on a line with Jonathan Toews and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy last season. This season Brandon will look to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and it seems the cards may be stacked against him. With Bickell's new contract and playoff performance, it looks like that plum assignment next to Captain Serious might already be taken. Can Saad put up those kind of numbers without Toews?
Colorado - Gabriel Landeskog
- Speaking of the sophomore slump, it hit Gabriel Landeskog hard last season. After a fantastic rookie year stepping straight into the NHL at 18, Landeskog hit a wall in 2013. Given the teams captaincy last summer, Landeskog suffered a concussion early in the year and never really found his game upon returning. He must bounce back if the Avalanche have any illusions (or delusions?) of competing for a playoff spot. The good news is that Landeskog's shooting percentage was actually higher than it was during his impressive rookie campaign, so as long as he can stay healthy it's likely he can return to form.
Dallas - Tyler Seguin
- The good: At 21 years old, Tyler Seguin has been to the Stanley Cup finals twice, winning once. He's also shifting back to his natural position at center and now has the long awaited opportunity to be 'the guy' on his team. He's also looking to take on a leadership role, which bodes well for the Stars, provided of course that he's up for it. The bad: He was moved off of a Cup contending team for his off-ice issues involving partying too hard and not working hard enough. Oh, and the first news headline he made after the trade to Big 'D' was for a homophobic tweet that appeared on his Twitter account shortly after the trade, which Seguin says was the work of hackers. So which Seguin are the Dallas Stars getting? The good, or the bad?
Edmonton - Taylor Hall
- Like John Tavares, he was drafted 1st overall. Like John Tavares, he stepped into the league at 18 years old and impressed. Like John Tavares, he has evolved into a top end scorer in the league. And now, like John Tavares did for the Islanders last year, it's time for Taylor Hall to take that next step into the upper echelon of the NHL's elite. The Oilers are loaded with elite level talent up front but they need Taylor Hall to emerge and lead the way if the Oilers are to take the next step.
Los Angeles - Jake Muzzin
- Take a guess who led the Kings defenders in goals scored last season. Drew Doughty? Nope. Slava Voynov? Guess again. It was Jake Muzzin, who came from out of nowhere to put up 7 goals for the Kings in his rookie year. He also led the club in the plus/minus department and gave the Kings another weapon to use on the power play. Was he playing over his head, or do the Kings have yet another fantastic young player on the blue line in the lineup? His star may be rising in a hurry.
Minnesota - Nino Niederreiter
- The Islanders tried to rush him to the NHL before he was ready and it was an unmitigated disaster. He and the Isles never seemed to see eye to eye and the Isles finally dealt him to the Wild this summer. The good news is that Niederreiter finally got a full year in the AHL and played very well, scoring 28 goals and 50 points for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The former World Junior sensation has a lot of untapped potential and it seems as though he will finally get the chance to deliver on some of it with the Wild. Lord knows the Wild could use more offense, will 'El Nino' heat things up in Minnesota, or has the damage already been done?
Nashville - Viktor Stalberg
- It's the same old story in Nashville, they need more goals. And with Martin Erat gone, there are even more questions about who among the forwards can step up and provide the kind of offense the Preds have always seemed to lack. It might be a tall order to expect Viktor Stalberg to be that guy, but every little bit helps. He picked up 20 goals in his last full season and the Predators will give him every chance to match or exceed those numbers. He'll be relied upon in a top 6 role and will likely see some power play time as well. He could be on the verge of a big season.
Phoenix - Mike Ribiero
- After the ownership situation got a 5 year reprieve (I don't think it's over yet), the Coyotes went out and celebrated by signing Mike Ribeiro to a 4 year deal. Ribeiro had a strong year last season with 49 points, but only 22 of those were at even strength, and he was playing on the power play with Alex Ovechkin. The Coyotes don't have anyone even close to that caliber, so Ribeiro will have to improve on his even strength game to have success. He's a world class playmaker, but will need someone to finish.
San Jose - Brent Burns
- He'll still be battling players in front of the crease, but this time he'll do it as the forward fighting for position. Shifting to full time forward on a team that could use more even strength goals (the Sharks were 28th in the league in the category last year), Brent Burns has the capacity to be absolutely dominant for the Sharks. A 6'5 monster crashing and banging in front of the net is a nightmare for opposing goaltenders.
St. Louis - Chris Stewart
- Chris Stewart had a resurgent season last year, leading the team in scoring with 18 goals and 36 points. He resembled much more closely the dominant power forward type he was expected to become when he broke into the league with the Avs. The Blues sure would love if he could continue to make strides in his game. Elite level power forwards are highly coveted in the NHL and Stewart has all the tools to become one on a consistent basis. He just needs to keep putting it together.
Vancouver - Ryan Kesler
- Again, skipping the obvious selection here (let's give Roberto a pass this time). Injuries have been a factor for Kesler the last few years. Since getting injured late in Game 5 against the Sharks in 2011, Kesler has been a shell of the player fans know he can be. His work ethic has definitely not been the problem. His style often leads to those injuries that have hindered them, but Kesler is most effective when he's playing on that edge. Can he stay healthy this year while still playing that style? With new bench boss John Tortorella in town, Kesler is sure to be leaned on even more, as he seems like the perfect fit for a coach like Torts. Kesler's combination of skill, grit and determination make him the kind of player who can really thrive under Tortorella. Now if he could just stay healthy...
Winnipeg - Devin Setoguchi
- A fresh start for the beleaguered sniper might be exactly what he needs. He may not hit 30 goals again but the Jets will give him every opportunity. He'll get top 6 minutes and likely some power play time on a club that needs more offense. He will have every chance to put up numbers with the Jets. Can he find some chemistry with Little, Jokinen or perhaps Mark Scheifele? If Setoguchi can rediscover his scoring touch it would be a big help for the Jets as they move into a much tougher division.
Who's on your watch list out west?