We begin our preparations for the upcoming Fantasy Hockey season with a look at players who have moved onto new teams or others who will play more prominent roles with Eastern Conference teams this year.
Boston: The Bruins brought up Center Carl Soderberg for a six-game cameo appearance late last season and the offensively gifted forward chipped in two assists while playing in a bottom six role. He will not crack the lineup at center but may have a shot at a third line wing position as he may have an edge over the likes of Reilly Smith and Jordan Caron. The Bruins have also added experience on the wings with Loui Eriksson (a proven front line player acquired from Dallas) and the free agent signing of Jarome Iginla. On defense, we look for Dougie Hamilton to play a much more prominent role (with added PP time) while Matt Bartkowski and playoff hero Torey Krug may also earn regular ice time from the start of the season.
Buffalo: Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis move into the top two center slots from the start this year. Winger Marcus Foligno is entering his third season as an NHLer and hopes to make a big jump toward the high expectations that the club has for him. He'll get top-six ice time. Jamie McBain hopes to slide into the top two defense pairings and needs to bounce back from a subpar year in Carolina last year and reclaim his status as an offensively gifted rearguard who could add some punch to the power play from his point position.
Detroit: Stephen Weiss was signed as free agent to slide into the second line center position. He's been a solid playmaker throughout his career and he's very excited about joining the Wings after a finally ending his career-long playoff drought in Florida last year. Joakim Andersson needs to show more than he did last year (3 g, 5 a, in 38 gp) to hold onto the third line pivot role. Daniel Alfredsson signed up, as a free agent to fulfill his desire to play with the bevy of Swedish stars on this roster in his NHL swan song-he'll be very motivated to retire on a high note. Top defenseman prospect Danny Dekeyser will get a shot in the top four spots on the Wings blueline and could get significant power play time as well.
Florida: Jonathan Huberdeau moves into the number one center role with Weiss's departure and hopes to build on a decent rookie campaign (14 g, 17 a in 48 gp). Drew Shore, another sophomore, will need to improve on his numbers (3 g, 10 a, in 43 games) if he hopes to hold onto a second line job. Veteran Scott Gomez was signed with the opportunity of rediscovering his offensive game here. Bobby Butler has a chance to play top six minutes after bouncing around in bottom six situations in Ottawa and Nashville during earlier NHL career stops. Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson both need to step up on defense to live up to their lofty first round draft selections and should both have ample opportunity to do so.
Montreal: Daniel Briere brings leadership skills as well a playmaking ability to push for top six minutes at center here after dropping down in the Flyers depth chart last year. Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta both have to bounce back from injury plagued seasons. George Parros was brought in to provide some much-needed toughness. Alex Galchenyuk hopes to earn top six minutes on the wing in his sophomore year after a decent rookie effort (9 g, 18 a, in 48 games). Rafael Diaz could add some much needed offense from the blueline if he can only stay healthy (1 g, 13 a in 23 gp).
Ottawa: The Sens rebounded from the Alfredsson departure by adding a young sniper, Bobby Ryan, via trade. That should really bolster the top scoring unit and their power play. Having a healthy Jason Spezza should do much the same up front. Ditto for Star blueliner Erik Karlsson. Clarke MacArthur will add leadership and scoring in a third-line role and he could easily move up to the top six as well. Big Jared Cowan is another young blueliner who hopes to resume the upward trajectory of his career after injuries sidelined him much of last season.
Tampa: GM Steve Yzerman looked to Detroit to sign Valtteri Filppula and slide him into the Lightning's second line center spot, replacing the departed Vincent Lecavalier. Alex Killorn is a young pivot who adds to the offensive skill at center here. He may push for second line minutes. Jonathan Drouin, one of the top prizes in the most recent Amateur Draft, will get a top six opportunity, as a playmaking winger here. Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback will begin the season as the largest goalie tandem in NHL history and the Lightning hope that their net coverage translates to more wins for the team.
Toronto: The Leafs addressed part of their wish list in signing David Clarkson to bring added toughness and strong two-way play to their forward ranks. They also added Dave Bolland, who along with Jay McClement, rank among the best defensive (checking) centers in the league. They also raised some eyebrows with the trade acquisition of goalie Jonathan Bernier, who will battle incumbent James Reimer for the number one role in net. On defense, NHL veteran Paul Ranger is another "below-the-radar" addition who could pay a nice dividend. Resigning Tyler Bozak undoubtedly makes his buddy Phil Kessel happy, but many wonder if he is a legit number one NHL center.
Carolina: Elias Lindholm was a bit of surprise as the 5th overall pick in the 2013 Amateur Draft but the Hurricanes are hoping he can provide some offensive depth in a third line role at center. On defense, Andrej Sekera was signed as a free agent to add to experience to the top four spots here. Mike Komisarek also signed on to provide some depth and experience (but very little offense) back there. In goal, Anton Khudobin was brought is as a quality backup for Cam Ward who hopes to rebound from an injury-ravaged campaign that saw him appear in only 17 games last year.
Columbus: Marian Gaborik begins his first full season in Columbus away from the bright lights of Broadway. He thrived in a similar circumstance with Minnesota and could really surprise with a big year here. Nathan Horton surprised many observers when he left Boston to sign a big free agent deal with the Jackets, adding another quality piece to this club. Curtis McElhinney signed up to be Sergei Bobrovsky's backup here. He's a career backup and hasn't been able to parlay a string junior career into anything more than that.
NY Rangers: Derek Brassard tallied 11 points in 13 games after being traded to the Rangers late last year and he may force the Rangers into dropping highly paid pivot Brad Richards into a third line role, if the veteran cannot rediscover his offensive game after scoring only 11 goals in 46 games last year. The Rangers are very thin in the left wing and yet have four players, with varying skills and experience, vying for roles here. Speedy Carl Hagelin may have the inside track on a first line role, while big (6'4", 220) career minor leaguer Brandon Mashinter is hoping to push ahead of Chris Kreider and Benoit Poulliot for the second line spot.
NY Islanders: Pierre-Marc Bouchard signed as a free agent and will bring plenty of experience and secondary scoring to this young lineup. Cal Clutterbuck also joins the Isles this season and will bring some toughness, a strong checking element and will chip in on offense as well. Evgeni Nabokov resigned for another year (at age 38) and the Isles hope that they can hand off the number one role to his understudy Kevin Poulin in the near future.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils traded their top pick in the 2013 Amateur Draft to answer the question of who will succeed Martin Brodeur. Former Canucks netminder Cory Schneider will split the net with the future Hall of Famer and then take the lead role in the near term. The Devils were somewhat decimated by the departures of Ilya Kovalchuk (KHL) and David Clarkson. In response they have added Ryan Clowe, Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder, all very experienced players, but the first two are very likely well past their best days in the NHL.
Philadelphia: Vincent Lecavalier didn't waste too much time after being amnestied by the Lightning and signing up to another multi-year deal with the Flyers. After toiling for two years in the minors, Tye McGinn is poised to make the most of his opportunity to grab a job on the left wing-maybe even a second line role. Mark Streit was added in free agency and will be charged with assuming the quarterback role on the Flyers' power play. Ray Emery will compete with Steve Mason in the most recent attempt to solve the longest running NHL drama-the Philadelphia goalie riddle.
Pittsburgh: Jussi Jokinen came over to the Pens at the trade deadline last year and immediately added significantly to the scoring depth in Pittsburgh. He'll get the chance to do that from day one this year. Matt D'Agostini and Beau Bennett may compete for some quality time on the second and third line wing positions. The winner of a second-line role will see a spike in their scoring totals. Rob Scuderi was brought back as a free agent and will get a shot at a top four, shut down role on defense. He may even pair up with top scoring d-man Kris Letang. Tomas Vokoun may get a larger than expected share of the net if Marc Andre Fleury's recent struggles continue.
Washington: Mathieu Perreault will get an early shot at the second line center role here. Martin Erat, a veteran who has carved out a nice career on right wing in Minnesota will get a shot at top six minutes here. Troy Brouwer parlayed a strong playoff into a big contract but his offensive production is really linked to first-line minutes opposite Alex Ovechkin. If the Caps split them up, don't overrate him. Braden Holtby may be ready to join the front ranks of NHL goalies this season, after posting solid numbers last year (36 gp, 2.58 gaa, with 23 wins).