ANAHEIM DUCKS PATRICK MAROON, Left Wing While it certainly helps that Maroon has gotten opportunities to play alongside scorers like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, he was very valuable to the Ducks in his own way last season. Maroon is a pest with great determination in moving the puck forward and creating scoring chances for his teammates. ARIZONA COYOTES ROB KLINKHAMMER, Left Wing Klinkhammer doesn’t score a ton, but he’s a big and physical player who tied for the team lead in plus-minus at +6 last season. The Coyotes figure to struggle scoring goals in general, so they’ll need Klinkhammer to be a physical defensive presence for them. BOSTON BRUINS JOHNNY BOYCHUK, Defensemen Boychuk is a big, physical defenseman who has been a staple on the Boston penalty kill. It’s likely that Boston will lose Boychuk due to salary cap issues, which would be a shame because he does a lot to help his team win. BUFFALO SABRES CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF, Defensemen There wasn’t much reason to cheer in Buffalo last season, but the Sabres at least have a steady defensive presence in veteran Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff is the team’s best player at shutting down opposing attacks and regaining possession of the puck. CALGARY FLAMES MIKAEL BACKLUND, Center Not only did Backlund find his way with 39 JAMES WISNIEWSKI points last season, he became a trusted option against other teams’ top lines in the defensive zone. Backlund has developed into a two-way center and one of the most valuable players on the Flames. CAROLINA HURRICANES NATHAN GERBE, Left Wing Don’t let Gerbe’s diminutive stature (5-5) fool you. He’s a high-energy player who also has passing and goal-scoring abilities. Gerbe trains with one of the best short players in NHL history in Martin St. Louis, and the training is definitely paying off. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS BRANDON SAAD, Left Wing Saad isn’t the most prolific scorer on the Blackhawks, but does just about everything well. He can shoot, he can pass, he can protect the puck, and he can play defense too. Players like Saad are a big reason Chicago continues to succeed at a high level. COLORADO AVALANCHE TYSON BARRIE, Defensemen The 23-year-old Barrie had a breakout season last year, scoring 13 goals and 25 assists in just 64 games. Barrie also notched a +17 rating and was excellent at helping the Avalanche maintain possession of the puck. If Barrie can improve his defense he could become a not-so-secret superstar very soon. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS JAMES WISNIEWSKI, Defensemen Wisniewski might not receive many accolades, but here’s something he has in common with players like Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith, and Shea Weber: those players each scored 50 points last season. Wisniewski has developed into a piece the Blue Jackets can build their defense around. DALLAS STARS ANTOINE ROUSSEL, Left Wing Roussel is a player who loves to drop the gloves, as he had a whopping 209 penalty minutes last year. That’s not why he’s on this list, though— he’s an improving scorer with a physical style and a way of getting under opponents’ skin. DETROIT RED WINGS TOMAS TATAR, Center Tatar began last season having to fight to make the Red Wings roster. Then he had to wait for an opportunity to play, and he made the most of it. Tatar established himself as a good scorer and playmaker and not only secured a spot on the roster, but became a key player in Detroit.
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