NHL: The Top Five Players to Watch When the League Resumes
The exhibition games are winding down and the road to the Stanley Cup gets underway Saturday. Games are scheduled for the first nine days of the month in Toronto, Ontario, and Edmonton, Alberta. It got me thinking about five NHL players to keep an eye on when the calendar turns from July to August to start play.
5. Zach Werenski – Defenseman – Columbus Blue Jackets
The six-foot two-inch player from Grosse Pointe, Michigan is a plus-nine through sixty-three games. He was a top ten pick back in 2015 and has one short-handed tally, but I think he will get another one sometime in these playoffs. Werenski scored Columbus’s second during Thursday’s exhibition against a strong Boston Bruins team. He has five power-play goals this term, so I look forward to watching him along the blue line during special teams opportunities in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. That best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series will get underway Sunday night.
4. Kyle Connor – Left-Winger – Winnipeg Jets
The twenty-three-year-old has seen his goal total go up. He had thirty-eight in seventy-one appearances. The end of his fourth year will be spent in Edmonton, and in his team’s 4-1 exhibition win versus Vancouver, he and Mark Scheifele assisted on the final Jets goal scored by Blake Wheeler. Winnipeg is two years removed from their conference final appearance and took the eventual champs to six games last year. I value experience, and I really like the aforementioned trio of forwards on Connor’s line, so the Jets should be a tough team to play against in a loaded Western Conference. Winnipeg’s first game will be the last one to start on the first night of play. They encounter the Calgary Flames in their pursuit of the Cup.
3. Leon Draisaitl – Center – Edmonton Oilers
Last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner amassed 110 points. He also had ten game-winning goals in seventy-one regular-season games. Leon Draisaitl and his Edmonton Oilers will look for more scoring in their Stanley Cup Qualifier Western Conference series against the Chicago Blackhawks at noon Pacific Saturday. He should feel comfortable with the ice surface at Rogers Place being in familiar surroundings. He has worked well with Connor McDavid, who has ninety-seven points himself, this season, so this will be a difficult team to stop.
2. Jordan Binnington – Goalie – St Louis Blues
A Stanley Cup champion in his first year, now what can he do for an encore. He and the Blues set sail in their quest for back to back titles for the first time since the Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the feat in 2017. The twenty-seven-year-old has three shutouts in this campaign with a .912 save percentage. They began the Round-Robin against Central Division rivals Colorado in Edmonton late on the second afternoon of the eighth month of 2020. Both of those teams were vying for the best record in not just the Central but the Western Conference, so fans should expect, even in their first game, some high-quality hockey.
1. David Pastrnak – Right Winger – Boston Bruins
The twenty-fifth pick of the 2014 Entry Draft is having a productive season with ten game-winning goals for the Boston Bruins. It led them to gain the most regular-season points prior to the March stoppage with 100. David Pastrnak is on a side who will partake in the Round-Robin to find out their seeding and matchup in the Eastern Conference. It will commence against the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday afternoon at three o’clock Eastern Time. Pastrnak did find the net against Columbus Thursday night, so the rust should be off come by the time the puck drops in the province of Ontario.
Who do you feel are the best players to watch when the NHL restarts? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: NHL app, Fox Sports Southwest