Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Building a roster out of 22 of my most intriguing names to watch this season

One of the things I like to do as a new season approaches is go through all 32 teams and pick out the guys that I think could turn into the most fascinating stories as the season goes on. As always, there’s no real criteria here other than that I’m singling out players and personnel who I’m especially interested in watching this year, with the only firm rule being that I’m limited to one name per team. That’s only fair – we all know that your personal favorite team is the most interesting one in the league by far, and we can’t have them taking up the whole list.


We’ll do this roster-style, with 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, plus a coach and GM and some honorable mentions. Some picks will be obvious, others might be odd, and you’re welcome to share your own in the comments down below.


Alexandar Georgiev, Avalanche
The defending champs are a star-studded team full of players that are all sorts of fun to watch. But with apologies to Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, I didn’t go back-and-forth too much on who the pick is here. The Avs won a Stanley Cup despite an extremely so-so playoff run from Darcy Kuemper, and that’s led to some narratives that this team can win with anyone in net. Maybe that’s true, but it’s still kind of fascinating to see them gamble on a career backup who wasn’t very good last year. Can he be good enough to keep the league’s best team on top of the favorites list? And if he isn’t, how long do they wait before they look elsewhere?

Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils
Let’s not beat around the bush: Blackwood stunk last year before getting hurt, and it was a big part of why the Devils cratered despite playoff-worthy underlying numbers. It’s tempting to write him off, and the Devils kind of did by going out and getting Vitek Vanecek. But let’s not forget that Blackwood is still just 25, and it was only a year ago that he was being mentioned as a possible Team Canada consideration. If he gets back on track, the Devils could surprise us. If he doesn’t, maybe you really do write him off for good.

Honorable mentions: Jonathan Quick is finally into the last year of his forever contract, and you wonder if that could make him an option for any number of contenders who might be interested in trusting a playoff run to a Conn Smythe winner with two rings. Factoring in contract and expectations, Philipp Grubauer is coming off one of the worst seasons by any goalie in the cap era, and can’t possibly be as bad again… I hope.

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