As we go through preseason, I continue to see players who are electric and showing immense talent across the board. As such, I decided to create a list compiling the player from each team who I'm most excited to watch this season. To be clear, this list is not a list of the best players on the team, it's a list of players who ‘could' end up being amazing by the end of the year. Some of these players are top prospects, some have had great preseasons, some were lower line guys who might be seeing top 6 or 9 minutes this year and some are players who had a great minor league season last year. If you are looking for a deep late round sleeper, some of these names could help out. While they could end up being a sleeper or free agent pickup which could help your team win, they could just as easily:
1. Not make the team
2. Get hurt early on.
3. Prove that while they were a great prospect, they need more time to develop
Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen (C ). The Finnish talent has a new home with the Hurricanes and as such, he should be provided every opportunity for that breakout season. The 18th overall draft pick in 2012 has been showing flashes of brilliance in most of the Finnish youth tournaments and at times, with the Blackhawks last year. He scored 35 points in 78 games and while he's projected to be on the third line with Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm, he can crack the top 6 of he starts breaking out. If he ended up on a line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask he could chase 50 points this year.
Other prospect to watch: Haydn Fleury, the 7th overall pick in 2014 should get his first taste of the pros with the Hurricanes this year, he scored 41 points in the WHL last year and has good vision and a propensity to score when so inclined.
Columbus Blue Jackets: This is a tie: Zach Werenski (D) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (C ) are the two big names to watch here. Both lead the Lake Erie Monsters to the title last season and both should provide some needed production to the Blue Jackets. I imagine Oliver will be the more immediate impact as he's all but clinched a top 6 spot on the second line with Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky but Zach might be the long term winner as his skill should vault him to a top 4 defensive spot by the end of the season. Both have speed, great shots and projections for Oliver would be in the low 40's for his rookie year while Zach should net in the high 20's.
Other prospect: Obviously Pierre-Luc Dubois is a name to watch this season as the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft.
New Jersey Devils: I've been outspoken about Pavel Zacha so I'll move to a new name: Steve Santini (D) . Fresh off a 19 point season with BC last year, Steve has a chance to clinch a top 4 spot on the Devils blue line. With his puck moving capabilities and those minutes, he could see a 20 point season with high PIM. He's a physical defensemen who is quite mobile and this should translate well to the NHL.
NY Rangers: Jimmy Vesey (LW). The Harvard alum is coming off a 46 point season in 33 games with the Crimson. He is a pure scorer who has shown some toughness and resolve in preseason after taking a nasty hit by Radko Gudas and going on to score a goal. If he lands on the second line with Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash, he could see his assists come up to battle his high goal potential. Jimmy could see a 40 point season if he can stay healthy from any future nasty hits or concussions.
Other player to watch: Jesper Fast saw his point total go from 14 points in his rookie year to 30 last year. On a the third line with JT Miller and Kevin Hayes, Jesper has a chance to continue his growth.
NY Islanders: Matthew Barzal ( C). Scoring 88 points in 58 games last year in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds, the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft is looking to be the third line center for the Islanders. Always more the passer than the scorer, Barzal will be fun to watch if he can get a pure scorer on his line. Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera are solid vets and Brock should benefit from the passing but if he finds a few shifts with John Tavares, it will be fun to watch. He's probably a year out from solid point production but I wouldn't be surprised if he passes 30 points.
Other prospect: Keiffer Bellows would be a perfect fit for Matthew Barzal, it's looking like he'll be playing at Boston University this year so his production value is down the line a bit.
Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Konecny (LW). It's looking like the 24th pick in the 2015 draft is going to make the team but the question remains if he will make it past the 9 game "tryout" for rookies to count as a season. He is very quick and capable of scoring (56 points in 31 games with OHL last year). His big concern is staying healthy, he has a history and it could plague him if it acts up. If he stays with the team for the season, projections have him on the second line with Sean Coutrier and Jakuv Voracek.
Other prospect: Ivan Provorov will have a place amongst the defensemen. The 7th overall pick in 2015, he is a highlly touted defensemen who can score (73 points in WHL last year).
Pittsburgh Penguins: Brian Domoulin (D). After a rookie season where he saw 16 points in 79 games, Brian is on record saying he will be looking to boost his offensive numbers this season. Add to that his pairing with Kris Letang as the first defensive pairing and he while it won't be easy, it's not impossible for him to reach 30 points as he did with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 62 gamse in 2014. Additionally, it wouldn't be impossible for him to hit 100 hits or blocked shots as he sat at 77 hits and 68 blocked shots last season. The Boston College alum has done a good job of creating a name for himself in his short professional career thus far.
Other player to watch: Conor Sheary, coming off a 10 point season over 44 games might land on the top line, IF (big IF) that happens, he will be upwards of 30+points.
Washington Capitals: Zach Sanford ( C). The rookie out of Boston College has had a great preseason. Barry Trotz is impressed with him, moving him to wing to theoretically get him some playing time on the third of fourth line to start the year. Sanford has good size for the NHL and he sees the ice well, but he will have some natural skating and skills to work on to succeed at the professional level. Being on a point rich team, it's possible he could get to 20 points.
Other prospect: Jonas Siegenthaler has done a good job on defense with great positioning and solid playmaking, but he will likely be one of the last ones cut.
Prost! Up next the Central Division.