The Red Wings aren't likely to fully recover the 90-plus goals that departed via free agency, but Leino should do his part to soften the blow. The 2008 Player of the Year in Finland excelled in a 13-game tryout last season, scoring five goals and nine points while fitting in flawlessly with Mike Babcock's puck possession scheme. He'll be asked to chip in 20-25 from a third line perch alongside Valtteri Filppula and Jason Williams.
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After paying his dues in Rockford, the grinding winger is about to get his chance as a result of Adam Burish's injury...as long as his own lower body injury doesn't get in the way. Skille's not a significant offensive threat, but his speed and tireless board work would make him a useful depth player.
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The team's first-round pick (21st overall) was expected to make a brief appearance at camp, but the smooth-skating, quick-thinking blueliner's play has him in the mix for this season. It's always a risk to throw an 18-year-old to the wolves, but Moore's on-ice maturity and ability to quickly assimilate new lessons will force the Jackets to re-consider what's best for his development.
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The fourth-overall pick from 2008 looked overmatched in eight games with the Blues last season, but time spent back in junior allowed him to re-establish himself. The 19-year-old has impressed in camp with his transition skills and savvier defensive postures. Another nine-game stint is likely. After that, it's up to him.
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After nearly making the cut last fall, the brawny center returned to Boston University and finished second in NCAA scoring while leading the Terriers to the national title. He was penciled in as the third-line center, but his chances to start the season in Nashville dimmed slightly when he suffered a groin injury. Any rehab stint in the minors will likely be brief. The Preds don't have better options and Wilson needs time to prove himself at the NHL level before Jason Arnott tests free agency after the season.
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He tore up the junior ranks after being among the final cuts last season, earning recognition as CHL Player of the Year and assaying a critical role on Canada's world juniors team. His second chance has been delayed by a bad back, but he's been skating alongside Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows on what could be an important line for the Canucks. The fly in the ointment? Salary cap issues may necessitate a return to the OHL.
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The 25-year-old winger has done everything asked of him in a make-or-break camp. A former Golden Gopher, he brings speed and energy that make him a logical fit for the third line.
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The 6-2, 207-pound winger fills a clear need for size and sandpaper. He's not pretty, but he competes every shift, finishes his checks and isn't afraid to wade into the muck out front.
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The third-overall pick of 2009 has earned comparisons to Joe Sakic for his hockey sense, creativity and leadership skills. He put the total package on display during camp and challenged the Avs to cut him. The team is making a concerted public effort to lower expectations, but off the record, they're thrilled. "He's for real," said one team official.
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The Coyotes drafted Ferriero (pronounced FAIRY-oh), but failed to sign him. Given a chance by the Sharks prior to rookie camp, the Boston College grad earned a contract and trip to main camp where he had three goals in four games while keeping Dany Heatley's spot warm on Joe Thornton's line. A longshot to make it this far, Ferriero caught the attention of coach Todd MacLellan and could stick. "He's been one of our top players," the coach said.
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The prize return in the Chris Pronger trade is a potential top-flight defender. While he lacks Pronger's physical inclinations, Sbisa is a smooth skater who makes smart decisions with the puck. Confident and creative, he's also just 19. The Ducks may decide live through a bumpy learning curve in order to take advantage of what could be Scott Niedermayer's swan song. A year under the captain's wing could be the best path for Sbisa's development.
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His soft hands and hard shoulders were evident in the preseason. The 20-year-old is comfortable on either wing and has been defensively responsible, suggesting that he may be ready to make the jump directly from juniors.
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Thomas Hickey (D) and Brayden Schenn (C)
The offensive-minded Hickey seems like the ideal counterbalance to stay-at-home Matt Greene on the third blueline pairing. The fourth overall pick of 2007 has impressed with his poise and passing skills. Schenn's play may have earned the 2009 first-rounder a nine-game introduction to the league, but with Brandon hosting the Memorial Cup next spring, he'll be returned to junior sooner rather than later.
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Lost in the blinding glare of linemate John Tavares in Oshawa, MacLean quietly led the OHL with 61 goals in 2007-08. After a year in San Antonio getting acclimated to the pro game (he netted a respectable 21 goals), MacLean looked confident in the preseason skating on the Coyotes' top line with Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi, displaying improved skating and power play savvy. He could start the season back in San Antonio, but won't be there for long.
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After two years honing his craft in Providence, the 22-year-old Finn is ready to back up Tim Thomas. With the Vezina-winner likely to carry the mail for Team USA at the Olympics on top of his Bruins responsibilities, Rask's ability to deliver 25-30 quality starts will be critical to Boston's success.
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There'll be considerable pressure on the second-year blueliner to eat up some of the minutes created by the loss of Jaroslav Spacek and Teppo Numminen, and expedite his own development process. With Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman and Nathan Paetsch headed to free agency next summer, now's the time for Butler to get his game in order. A good place to start: he needs to make smarter decisions with the puck and fire it at the net more often.
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Probably best not to get too worked up about his five preseason goals, but it doesn't take too many looks to imagine Stalberg helping the Leafs this season. A sixth-round steal from the 2006 draft, Stalberg has impressed with his speed, willingness to initiate contact and those kitten-soft mitts.
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After working through some of the kinks in his up-and-down rookie season, D'Agostini could quickly step into an important role. He showed some touch last season, scoring 12 goals in a limited debut, but his effectiveness along the boards may slide him onto a line with Cammalleri or Gomez.
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There are several puck-moving types on the Sens blueline but none who dish the biscuit with such creativity and aplomb. Just 19, Karlsson looks like a prayer answered for a team that was short of a true offensive defender. His slick passing dazzled observers in the preseason and could earn him a spot on the team's first power play unit.
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After bursting onto the scene during the playoffs, the young Russian became Washington's fourth starting goalie in the last three years. The questions now: can he hold onto the job and is he ready to handle the outrageously high expectations for this team? There's no denying that Varlamov has the talent to be a special stopper in this league, but his meltdown against the Penguins underscored a young player who is just starting out on his journey.
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Among the final cuts, the former first-rounder will likely be the first call-up in case of injury to a top-six forward. He already has the hands. All he needs now is some seasoning.
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The oversized Swede not only matched Tampa's long-term needs, he looks ready to immediately address last season's most gaping hole. Hedman (77) dazzled in camp, utilizing his poise, strength and skating to gobble up staggering quantities of ice time. His workload likely will be reduced when the games start to count, but he'll be the go-to guy before season's end.
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Evgeni Dadonov (RW) and Dmitri Kulikov (D)
Dadonov, the 71st overall pick in 2007, signed a three-year deal with the Cats earlier this month despite being an RFA in the KHL. His countrymen were not pleased and protested vigorously before backing down. Kulikov, a 2009 first-rounder, has shown in camp the puck sense and mobility the Panthers need. It's thought that the development of both players would be best served in the NHL, but only one may get the chance.
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Bogosian's train was derailed early on last season when a broken leg sidelined him for two months, but he was a monster over the final 48 games -- a constant physical threat who led all freshmen blueliners with nine goals and excelled under an increasingly onerous workload that topped out at 28:32 in one March game. The arrival of Pavel Kubina means Bogo doesn't have to skate on the top pair, but there's every reason to believe he could.
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James van Riemsdyk
"You have to hand it to the kid," a scout told SI.com. "There was a roster that looked like it had no room and he just forced his way onto it. They've really got a player there." JVR earned his spot, likely on the third line, with his willingness to battle for possession and a knack for finishing chances in tight. He still has to work on his play away from the puck, but his apparent desire to make the effort has won the trust of the Flyers' coaching staff.
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After four years of doing nothing to prove himself worthy of being a first-round pick (23rd overall, 2005), Bergfors may finally have earned a job in New Jersey with a strong finish to camp. The undersized winger has yet to display the scoring touch that first caught the eye of Devils' scouts, but he's developed into a reliable two-way player who can be a presence along the boards despite an obvious lack of size.
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Goligoski's play ranked as the most pleasant surprise of camp. Already comfortable with his offensive game, he looked considerably more poised and confident in his own zone. Although he can still be outmuscled by bigger forwards, the Penguins have confidence that he can handle an upgrade in responsibilities.
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At 21, Anisimov lacks the experience of some of the players ahead of him on the depth chart, but as he demonstrated last season in Hartford (37-44-81), he brings a dynamic offensive game that would be miscast in a depth role. Look for the Rangers to figure that out quickly and bump him to the second line where he can maximize his impact, or return him to Hartford to continue his development on a top line.
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Expectations are running unfairly high that the OHL scoring sensation will emerge as the Isles' answer to Sidney Crosby. He's not that guy, but Tavares can be an impact player, perhaps as soon as this season. He'll have to adjust to the faster pace and larger opponents, but his hockey sense -- and uncanny ability to get to the seam just as it opens up -- should serve him well. He may not win the Calder, but as long as he shows progression, this will be a successful season for the top pick.
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