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Players to watch
Latest: Wednesday October 04, 2000 12:40 PM
By Pierre McGuire, Sports Illustrated
Last season, we were pretty good about choosing 10 players to watch in the 1999-2000 campaign, picking, among others, Daymond Langkow, Steve Duchesne and Owen Nolan to show up more often on the scoresheet than some might have expected. This year we're taking another crack at it, with the players to watch for 2000-01.
Click on any of the thumbnail images below for a bigger and better look at each player.
Brian Savage, Montreal
Savage returns after a near-fatal hit in which he sustained a fractured vertebrae and ligament damage in his spinal column against the L.A. Kings last Nov. 20. Savage has great hands and a real nose for the net, he also looked strong in the preseason. The fact that his contract is up after this season is a motivating factor, too. He should score upward of 30 goals this season, with substantial time on the power play -- one area where the Canadiens should shine.
Andreas Dackell, Ottawa |
One of the smartest players around, Dackell is also a great penalty killer because of his instincts and hustle. Once Dackell reports to camp he should be back on a line with Alexei Yashin and Shawn McEachern. Last season his offensive numbers (10 goals, 35 points) weren't at the level they should have been for a player with his skill level. Expect Dackell to rebound this year.
Brian Rolston, Boston |
Rolston possesses all the speed in the world to go along with fantastic defensive instincts. He has one of the most underrated shots in the league, and anytime Rolston is killing a penalty, he's a serious threat to score. Look for coach Pat Burns to loosen the leash on Rolston a bit, allowing him to use his offensive skills more than he's had the chance to in his six-year NHL career. This year the hockey world will get a chance to see him explode offensively.
Steve Maltais, Columbus |
This minor-league scoring machine will have a chance to finally prove he can play at the big-league level. His nose for the net and ability to finish plays will be a big benefit for the Blue Jackets. Just as Andrew Brunette was a scoring dynamo for Atlanta last season, expect Maltais to produce similarly this season.
Tommy Albelin, Calgary |
Albelin had a great preseason, thanks in large part to the fact he's 100 percent healthy. Look for Albelin to play a major role on the Flames' highly effective power play (17.9 percent success rate). Some players slow down with age; this guy, at 36, seems to get better and healthier with it. Consistency will be a huge factor in his success this season.
Jeff Halpern, Washington |
Expect a bigger year from the Caps forward. He is a favorite of the coaching staff because of his hockey sense and work habits. Halpern will also get to play with better players. His ability to adjust to game situations makes him that much more valuable. The former Princeton star's numbers (18 goals, 29 points) will go up now that he's in his second year and is a little more familiar with the league.
Roman Simicek, Pittsburgh |
He has great offensive skills, and while he's a rookie in terms of NHL experience, Simicek is 29 years of age with a ton of international experience. (The Czech native is a ninth-round pick of the Pens -- No. 273 overall in 2000 -- who played in the Finnish Elite League.) He should thrive in the Czech-friendly environment created in Pittsburgh. It won't hurt that he's a favorite of coach Ivan Hlinka's. He'll need to adjust to playing on the smaller rinks, but once he does, the points should follow.
Fredrik Modin, Tampa Bay |
This former Maple Leafs forward can shoot the puck through a concrete wall, he's very strong and he's maturing as a player. Expect big things this season, as the team around him should be much better. His quality ice time should rise, and he should produce even more often.
Jere Karalahti, Los Angeles |
The Kings have the chance to have one of the best power plays in the league, and Karalahti is a key to that success. Last season (48 games, six goals, 16 points) was an experiment for him, now he knows what it takes to make things happen at the NHL level. He is now focused enough to know that he can be a difference-maker for the Kings.
Dan Cleary, Edmonton |
Cleary had a great preseason, and should build off that. His playmaking ability is starting to come through. Being insulated by a vast array of strong players in Edmonton will only help him produce more. The time has come for this former first-round pick (13th by Chicago in 1997) to put up the numbers that most thought he would be able to generate.
Photographs (top to bottom) by Damian Strohmeyer, Doug Pensinger/Allsport, Bob Rosato, Jay LaPrete/AP, Ian Tomlinson/Allsport, Lou Capozzola, Lise Aserud/AP, Steve Babineau/Allsport, Robert Beck, Bill Janscha/AP
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