If you missed the rest of the list it is right here. The most engaging players in the world are ready to storm the ice. Make sure you know who they are.

5: Jonathan Drouin

A new city, a new team, a new coach and even a new position. Drouin was traded from an offensively focused team, under a coach who kept the pace uptempo in Tampa Bay, in Montreal he’ll be playing under a very strict defensive coach. He also enters the season one of the two or three best offensive forces on the Canadien’s roster. Last year it would have been hard to argue he was even fifth among the offensively blessed Tampa Bay Lightning, this year he’ll be playing center something he hasn’t done at the pro level. Will he thrive and finally give the Habs a lead center? Will he be only marginal in the position? Will he be back to wing before Thanksgiving?

4: Sean Monahan

Last spring Monahan was the only light, bright or otherwise, for the Calgary Flames in the playoffs. He scored four goals, and did it with a rather listless team around him. Will he ride that wave of individual dominance this year and become the team’s new heartbeat? Is he the true offensive successor to Jarome Ignila? How about being the emotional catalyst #12 was? How has his relationship with the rest of the roster changed after an almost universally shameful playoff disaster? Whatever a certain Twitter account might say, I don’t expect a boring year and neither should you.

3: Derek Stepan

Last year Stepan was anything but engaging, over the offseason he was central to the makeover of two teams. His former team is the perhaps the most rearranged team in the east, and the Arizona Coyotes absolutely made the most impactful changes in the west. Stepan is facing more than just a new town, and team. He is one of the oldest players on the roster in the desert and one of the few players to have NHL playoff experience. It is not a stretch to say he is the most battle test player in town still in his prime. Is a bigger role under fewer bright lights what pushes this guy to a new level? Or does he wilt in a small city much as Jeff Carter did during his brief stay in Columbus?

2: Matt Duchene

Despite being at the center of what is currently the longest running, most talked about trade speculation, he has not been moved. After nearly two years of running speculation he is still in the mile high city. The number of times observers have heard from “credible sources” that talks were in progress is high and likely to grow. He’s tried to put on a good face, but no reasonable person expected him to make it past the NHL entry draft in a Colorado Avalanche jersey. The fact that he has yet to land in another uniform is mind boggling. Every delay is value lost. How will he handle another season of speculation and questions? Will he decide to sit until a trade is executed? Where will he be playing the day after the trade deadline? On a team headed for the playoffs or in yet another meaningless game where most of a flaccid roster is counting the shifts until they get to go on vacation for the summer.

1: Jack Eichel

Eichel almost needs two spots on this list. One spot for things directly about him, and one spot for how those around him will react, behave, and where they end up. He just signed a long contract that left money on the table for signing other high end players. But he also has yet to turn in a full and healthy season. Sure last season he beat the previous years 81 game point total in twenty less games, but that’s still 22 games missed in two seasons without the wear and tear of the playoffs. Just making it 82 games will be a challenge. Crossing over into the next strata of offensive weapons is another.

The other half of the equation is; coach, players, and general manager. His linemate Evander Kane has been the center of much trade speculation. Last year’s coach, a Stanley Cup winner, was shown the door after a brief stay not so long after Eichel spoke about the season. More than one older, possibly wiser player’s have to be a bit miffed that they were called on the carpet by someone who won’t even be able to drink legally in the US for a while. If, and its a big if, Eichel instigated the ousting of Dan Bylsma than how secure are new general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Phil Housley, both of whom lack the cache of a cup winner?

There was a nice quiet day of trades in the NHL heading into the Expansion Draft that will allow the Vegas Golden Knights to plump up their organization.

4: In Division Trade

When you make a trade within your division, you’re almost certainly always saying that someone involved is irrelevant. When the Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev went down we learned something. We already knew the Canadiens make goofy trades for frequently non-hockey reasons. So we either learned that Yzerman doesn’t in anyway value the player he spent a year refusing to trade even when Drouin failed to report to the AHL, or that he’s revealed the depth of his respect for the Montreal organization.

It’s almost certainly the latter. Given the lack of skilled, speedy offensive centers who can keep up with Jonathan Drouin in Montreal, and who the head coach is, the math isn’t hard. Yzerman expects Drouin to be less impactful in Montreal than he was in Montreal. Clearing five point five million from his cap didn’t hurt, but sticking a player on a team who you can expect to produce at about seventy five cents on the dollar doesn’t happen often, when it’s a division rival its cheap at twice the price.

3: Commitment?

For years the Arizona Coyotes were wed in holy matrimony to Mike Smith, the Calgary Flames on the other hand had a soured soiree with Chad Johnson. Smith had Vezina quality seasons in a Coyotes uniform, and was also awful With nearly 500 regular season starts, the veteran has seen a lot, but its likely the 35 year still has a few good seasons on the clock.

Johnson has played only about a quarter as many games and is one of the better gents in a backup roll in the NHL. In a starting role he’s untested.

The question is are the Coyotes unwilling to keep their commitment for the final two years of Smith’s contract, or was the newest Calgary Flame wanting out of town due to the uncertainty that seems to be as thick in the wind as the sand?


2:  Franchise or Franc-choice?

Nathan Beaulieu was talked up in two languages as the best thing to happen to Montreal’s blueline in a long time just a couple years ago. In the Montreal tradition, like McDonagh, Subban, Weber, and half a dozen others expected to be NHL contributors, he’s moved along, and again to a division rival. The Buffalo Sabres who just added their general manager, add a defensemen picked 17th for a third round pick. Is Beaulieu going to achieve what McDonagh or Subban have? Probably not, but Yannick Webber was let go for nothing by the Montreal Canadiens, and like his fellow recovering Hab P.K. Subban, he just ran to the Cup finals.

With just over 200 games played in the NHL, we’re starting to see who he really is. Was it not speaking French? A lack of faith in him from Julien, or just another Habs blunder.

1: Two Little is Not Enough

The Coyotes did make a move. They should have made more. With teams like the Matt Dumba, and Hampus Lindholm or even Codi Ceci potentially available, the most vulnerable team to losing anyone did themselves a great disservice by not making a second notable move to enhance the defense. Even if they decided not to keep Dumba or another player after a trade, its certain the value he holds would allow them to pick up another piece or two to help them move in the right direction.

Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and hockey fans across the world! By special request, a new drinking game for the trade deadline.

To properly prepare for this you should have three beverages to work with, a stomach pump reserved, and enough paid time off for Monday and Tuesday at least. I recommend a light, dark, and medium colored liquid.

Every third time you drink, you should switch drinks. Puck Sage, the NHL, various news outlets, and your alcohol beverage vendors take no responsibility for your actions.

Take Three Drinks:

  • Every-time someone is rumored to go back to where they played college or junior.
  • Someone is traded to a former team
  • A general manager is heard to say this is a good trade for both sides.
  • Someone mentions the salary cap.
  • A coach or GM says they look forward to having someone join the team.
  • There are more players you don’t recognize in a trade than ones you do.
  • Potential playoff matchups are mentioned.
  • Off season coaching and or management moves are hinted at for a team involved in a trade.
  • How much time is left until the deadline is mentioned.


Take Two Drinks:

  • Whenever the phrase “add depth” is used.
  • Someone talks about how a player found out they were traded.
  • The number of trades made at this years deadline is mentioned.
  • Line/paring combinations are mentioned before a newly acquired player leaves their former home city.
  • The draft position of a player involved in a trade is mentioned
  • Someone mentions a coach having to make roster decisions.
  • A player previously traded at the deadline gets traded.
  • The highlight reel for a player being interviewed shows a player in a uniform other than the team they were just traded from.
  • Someone is called more than just a rental.
  • Someone compares the current volume of trades to last years number.


Take One Drink:

  • Anytime a player is reunited with a former teammate or coach.
  • A player uses the word exciting.
  • A general manager mentions how long they’d discussed a deal before it happens.
  • The number of draft picks exceeds the number of players.
  • Someone says a team is stockpiling
  • A graphic is used to explain anything.
  • A media person calls a trade big.
  • Someone says “hockey IQ” or “hockey sense”.
  • Any NHL award is mentioned.
  • A placeholder picture for a player calling into a deadline show has the player already in the uniform of  their new team.
  • Yandle, Eriksson, Boedker, Drouin, Staal, Russell, Bickell, Yakapov or other players expected to move are mentioned.
  • Salary retention is speculated about or explained.

Experts will remember to print this out and get it laminated so that any unfortunate fluids won’t mar your ability to rally and continue.

Last season was not the best year in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was also not the worst. This year for the first time since the 1998-99 season the Lightning will be without Vincent Lecavalier. The former 100 point man, part of the team’s only Cup win, was bought out. Regardless of who is named captain in his void, the player that will be matched in most minds with the is Steven Stamkos. To be successful this year, the team needs more from everyone who isn’t named Martin Saint Louis. Matt Taormina will have to contribute more than he did for the New Jersey Devils, Victor Hedman will again have to justify his 2nd overall selection in the 2009 NHL draft. Sami Salo, and Mattias Ohlund will have to not just roll the clock back but impart what they know about the NHL game to younger players.

While Jonathan Drouin is the crown jewel of their off season, what success the team has this year will come from other sources. Two of those are Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback. Without at least one of these goalies stepping up and delivering 45 or so games of .920 sv% goaltending this team has little chance of making the playoffs. Ryan Malone, Eric Brewer and Valterri Filppula are all valuable veterans, and they need to take the game to their opponents end this season and keep it there.

The Lightning will open the season with a three game trip. First up are the Boston Bruins and their Stanley Cup finals opponents the Chicago BlackHawks. The final stop on the road is a 7:30 date with the Buffalo Sabres. When they get home their cross state rivals the Florida Panthers will greet them. Finishing up the opening gamut are the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is by no means an easy way to open the year, but there are winnable games.

Number of days 1-5: 9

Number of cities:  4

Best opponent: Chicago BlackHawks or Boston Bruins

Weakest Opponent: Florida Panthers

Home games: 2

Projected points: 4

If head coach John Cooper can get everyone playing well, the team will no doubt improve over last years 14th placing in the east.  The turnover in forwards and the introduction of Cooper’s style last year will no doubt help the transition, but the roster isn’t isn’t overwheming, but it isn’t among the NHL’s very best, but they won’t be a bottom five team if things go well. Developing the young players like Drouin and any other prospects who make the team should be priority one this year.

Two trades:

Cal Clutterbuck & the 70th pick went from the Minnesota Wild to the New York Islanders for Nino Niederretter.

Cory Schneider went from the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils straight up for the 9th overall pick, which Gillis used on Bo Horvat of the London Knights.


Nathan MacKinnon of the Mooseheads, goes to the Avalanche. It isn’t a surprise that they went with someone other than Jones, but it should be a disappointment. The Teams defense has been awful for years, and some years not even that good.


Aleksander Barkov, a center that might be the perfect solution to upping their offensive ante. The Panthers need depth at every position, and this is a solid start.


The Tampa Bay Lightning completely ignore their need to build a defense, and draft a Center and Left Winger Jonathan Drouin. Very highly regarded player, but is this the pick that eventually dooms Yzerman’s tenure as general manager?


Seth Jones is taken by the Nashville Predators, they could have taken a center here and not done themselves a disservice, but a guy with the potential to replace (and surpass?) Ryan Suter.


Carolina selected Elias Lindholm and gave themselves a very solid option at center in a year or two, and will give them a lot of flexibility going forward.


Calgary finally got a top notch center in Sean Monahan. They will need to add more on the wings. With the centers taken in the last two or three years, this is a pretty smart pick as they just about have to hit on Monahan and one or two more


It was not a surprise that Darnell Nurse was the second defenseman taken, just a surprise that Edmonton took him. The Oilers are a year or two from now a notch or two above


With all the questions surrounding Tyler Myers, the Sabres went back to the well and picked defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.


After trading Cory Schnieder for this pick they select Bo Horvat a strong two way center who may start in the NHL on their third line. We all know London Knights players are going to be solid in all three zones, so this might be a positive turning point for the Canucks after trending downward for a couple years.


The Stars tool big bodied RW Valeri Nichushkin as their pick. With not many larger forwards on the team this is a solid pick.

The draft always has surprises, in fact they’re more the rule than the exception. Here’s a few things that would surprise me today:

Any of:

Jones, MacKinnon,  or Drouin falling outside the top 10, although one falling out of the top five is possible.

A goalie:

being drafted before the fifth defensemen. With Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Pulock, Josh Morrissey, and Shea Theodore all expected to go in the top 25 or 30 it is hard to justify taking a goalie before any of them.

Max Domi:

failing to be drafted in the first round. Name recognition, and his highlight real passing and scoring ability alone are enough to get him a lot of attention, playing a solid game is what will likely see him drafted in the top half of the first round.

Jordan Subban:

falling out of the second round. With one brother of having just won a Norris trophy, and the other having been taken last year in the first round,  general managers might just be swayed to take him higher than the end of the second where he has been ranked (about where P.K.  was taken).

Less than:

10 players and or picks traded before the end of the second round. With the Tyler Kennedy to San Jose for a 2nd round pick we’re only eight away from that total.

Either of:

Valeri Nichushkin or Elias Lindholm falling outside the top 10. When your name gets compared to Henrik Zetterberg and Patrice Bergeron before you’ve even walked into an NHL locker room, you are not a talent to be passed over lightly.

More than:

Six goalies going in the top two rounds. There’s a lot of cheap goalies available right now, and I don’t see many general mangers taking goalies this high without great, great need.