With the NHL season just around the corner, The Canadian Press takes a look at 10 players to watch in 2016-17.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
A finalist for the Norris Trophy last season as the NHL's top defenceman, Burns seems to get better with age. The 31-year-old registered 27 goals and 48 assists for San Jose in 2015-16 before adding 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in the playoffs. Burns looks primed for another run at winning his first Norris, and will be key for the Sharks as they look to build on last spring's run to the Stanley Cup final.
Has there been a season in Crosby's career where he wasn't one of the players to watch? His 12th year in the league won't be any different. Crosby rebounded from a slow start in 2015-16 to lead the Penguins to a victory in the Stanley Cup final before helping Canada win the World Cup of Hockey. The 29-year-old was named MVP of both last season's playoffs and the recent World Cup, and already appears to be in mid-season form.
The Canucks made a big splash in the off-season by signing Eriksson to a six-year deal worth US$36-million. The 31-year-old looks set to start on the first line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin after playing alongside the talented twins for Sweden at the World Cup. Eriksson scored 30 goals last year in Boston and could surpass that number with the Canucks if both he and the Sedins can stay healthy.
At this time last year, the Blackhawks sniper was being investigated by police following an alleged sexual assault. Prosecutors eventually declined to file charges because of a lack of credible evidence. Despite the controversy, Kane finished the season with a league-high 106 points (40 goals, 66 assists) to become the first American to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. The 27-year-old enjoyed personal highs, but will be looking for a return to team success after Chicago was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The top pick at the 2015 draft played just 45 games in his rookie season thanks to a broken collarbone suffered in early November. McDavid still managed to rack up 16 goals and 32 assists to grab one of the three nominations for the Calder Trophy, and the Oilers made him the youngest captain in team history when they game him the honour at 19 years and 266 days. He will be the undisputed heartbeat of the Oilers as the club looks to turn the corner after 10 miserable seasons without playoff hockey.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Taken first overall by the Leafs at June's draft, the 19-year-old will be under the microscope. The franchise did pretty much everything in its power to finish last in 2015-16 and earn the right to select Matthews, who is the centrepiece of the rebuild in a city starved for a winner. The Leafs have made the playoffs just once since 2004 and how the flashy centre deals with Toronto's media circus and rabid fans could go a long way in determining his early success.
If there was any doubting Price's value to the Canadiens, it was confirmed last season. The club was leading the NHL standings when its star goalie went down with a knee injury in November. The winner of the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy in 2015, Price was expected to miss six to eight weeks, but instead sat out the rest of the year.
The Canadiens went just 21-34-4 over their final 59 games, the worst record in league over that span, in a spectacular tumble down the standings. Price, 29, looked strong for Canada at the World Cup, but his health will be a big factor in determining Montreal's fate in 2016-17.
Shock waves went through the hockey world this summer when the Canadiens dealt Subban to the Nashville Predators for fellow defenceman Shea Weber. A contrast in styles, how Weber and Subban fit into their new surroundings will be one of the season's storylines. The trade wasn't popular in Montreal, so if the Canadiens struggle Weber could be a lightning rod for criticism.
After helping lead Washington to the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the regular-season in 2015-16, the Capitals and their captain were left disappointed by another early playoff exit. Ovechkin's 50 goals saw him top the league for the fourth straight year, and the sixth time in his career, but a championship — or even a trip to the Stanley Cup final — remains elusive. Will this be the year Ovechkin and the Capitals finally break through?
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