Tomas Vokoun's departure opened the door for the 31-year-old, who has a 36-16, 2.30 GAA record during the past two seasons. With the Preds' trying to draw 14,000 fans per game to ensure their future in Nashville, Mason becomes even more important now that Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya and other key players from last season are gone.
2 of 15David E. Klutho/SI
Johan Franzen | left wing | Detroit Red Wings
The Wings cleared out Todd Bertuzzi and Kyle Calder to give more ice time to this two-way 27-year-old, who reached career highs of 30 points and 20 last season. As they gradually hand the reins to younger stars, the Wings would like greater offensive output from Franzen.
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Erik Johnson | defenseman | St. Louis Blues
Drafted first overall in 2006, Johnson is the gem of the Blues' rebuilding effort. Big (6-4, 222 pounds), tough, mobile and offensively gifted, he may remind more than a few Blues fans of the long-departed Chris Pronger.
4 of 15David E. Klutho/SI
Rick Nash | left wing | Columbus Blue Jackets
The top overall pick of 2002 co-led the NHL with 41 goals in 2003-04, but a long, mystifying slump saw him finish last season with only 27 (though he did match his career-high of 57 points). Nash needs to do much more to fulfill his potential and help the Jackets pocket their first winning season.
5 of 15Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Jonathan Toews | center | Chicago Blackhawks
The highly-anticipated rookie, drafted third overall in 2006, brings scoring touch and two-way grit. Along with 2007 overall top pick Patrick Kane, Toews gives the long downtrodden Blackhawks hope and a favorite for the Calder Trophy.
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Dustin Penner | right wing | Edmonton Oilers
The undrafted winger, who scored 29 goals last season, was the center of a summer firestorm when he was pinched from the Ducks with a five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet. The big (6-4, 243) 25-year-old must live up to his contract and potential as Edmonton tries to right itself after a playoff-less season that followed an unexpected run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
7 of 15Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Ryan Smyth | left wing | Colorado Avalanche
The respected "heart and soul" leader stunned the Islanders this summer by heading for the Rockies and a five-year, $31.25-millon deal. He'll team with captain Joe Sakic to give the up-and-coming Avs an abundance of clutch character and power play potency.
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Roberto Luongo | goaltender | Vancouver Canucks
He's coming off a 42-22-6, 2.29 GAA Vezina- and MVP-worthy campaign in which he carried the lightly-regarded Canucks to the Northwest crown and an epic first-round playoff triumph over Dallas. A true workhorse (franchise-record 76 games last season), Luongo could seize the undisputed title of NHL's best netminder this season.
9 of 15David E. Klutho/SI
Dion Phaneuf | defenseman | Calgary Flames
The rugged backliner will be dishing his thunderous hits under the guidance of fiery new coach Mike Keenan, who vows a more intense and focused team. The big question is how much Phaneuf will miss his old blueline partner Roman Hamrlik, who was signed by Montreal. He seemed to tail off whenever Hamrlik was out last season.
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Niklas Backstrom | goaltender | Minnesota Wild
With Manny Fernandez gone to Boston, the 29-year-old Finn has the Wild's net all to himself. He chalked up an impressive 23-8-6, 1.97 GAA slate in 41 games last season and held his own in Minny's first-round playoff loss to the Ducks. This season will be his proving ground.
11 of 15Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
Mike Modano | center | Dallas Stars
The 37-year-old, the last holdover from the team's days as the Minnesota North Stars, begins the season as America's all-time goal-scorer (507) and is only seven points shy of Phil Housley's career points record for a U.S.-born player (1,233).
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Todd Bertuzzi | right wing | Anaheim Ducks
The once-feared power forward has been a ghost of his old self in recent years. A back injury limited him to 15 games last season, and the deadline deal that sent him to Detroit from Florida failed to ignite his old spark. GM Brian Burke, who presided over Bertuzzi's best days in Vancouver, believes that a new home with the rugged Cup-champion Ducks will do the trick.
13 of 15Noah Graham/Getty Images
Patrick Marleau | center | San Jose Sharks
San Jose's captain and career-leader in games (717) signed a two-year, $12.6 million extension for the stated purpose of leading his highly-regarded team to the Stanley Cup. The Sharks were a huge playoff disappointment last season, falling to Detroit in the second round as Marleau failed to record a point. Atonement, anyone?
14 of 15Robert Beck/SI
Anze Kopitar | center | Los Angeles Kings
A rising star and one of the big surprises of last season, the hulking 6-4, 220-pound, 20-year old Slovenian scored 20 goals and 61 points, becoming a key member of the Kings' rebuilding effort along with highly-touted defenseman Jack Johnson and goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
15 of 15Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Peter Mueller | center | Phoenix Coyotes
There may not be much to cheer in Phoenix these days, but Mueller, drafted eighth overall in 2006, is a major source of hope in the Coyotes' kiddie corps. The 19-year-old, who had 21 goals and 57 assists in the WHL last season, has good size (6-2, 205) and instincts and is a Calder longshot.
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