5 Hockey Players to Watch out for 2008-2009

Brace yourselves, the 2008-2009 NHL season is hitting the ice, and potential stand out players are plentiful this year. Which of the up and coming big boys will rise above the rest and make a name for themselves in the annals NHL history? Which young lads might be the shining light that leads their team to Stanley cup victory? Let’s have a look at five players that you should refrain from blinking while watching this season.

Nicklas Backstrom- Washington Capitals The suave Swede, Backstrom has impressed scouts and fans with foresight for some time now, earning himself the SEL (the Swedish Elite League) rookie of the year award. Please don’t compare him to Forsberg just because he’s Swedish, compare him to Forsberg because he’s a brilliant playmaker who can see the rink like Steve Nash would (you know, if he gained 150 pounds, donned some hockey equipment and was allowed to dribble the puck). Okay, I know what you’re thinking, Toto, we’re not in Sweden anymore – but I’m more than confident this young playmaker will adapt swiftly with certainty to the style shift inherent in moving to the NHL. He has all of the hallmarks of a future great, and with 69 points in his premiere season a lot of Swedish hopes are riding on this golden boy shining in 08-09.

Steve Stamkos– Tampa Bay Lighting Things haven’t gone too well since Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in ’04 – it’s been downhill and slippery going. Heavy investment in three players (Lecavalier, St-Louis and Richards) served to unbalance the talent on the team to the point where it seems to have toppled over. Having barely made the playoffs for 2 consecutive seasons, both successful runs found them bounced from the quarter finals. By finishing in last place last year, their greatest accomplishment since the Cup, the Lightning had the opportunity to bring in some new blood, and selected Steve Stamkos with their 1st overall pick. No doubt this will help the future of the Tampa Bay franchise to look bright once again.

Steve Stamkos is certainly a light among a lineup that wasn’t dim to begin with. From Unionville Ontario Stamkos managed to pound out 105 points in a single season with the Sarnia Stingers. An impressive outing, he scored 58 goals and 47 assists for Sarnia, of which 42 were came in a sixty game streak – not too shabby. Stamkos proved he was a consummate leader when he fronted team Canada in the under 18 world championship, helping to give Canada a 3-0 record.

Sergei Kostitsyn

He’s not tall, but he’s not small. Weighing in at 196 lbs this Montreal Canadiens player impressed the home-team crowd with 27 points in only 52 games during his rookie season, placing him at 14th overall among last year’s NHL rookies. This stat is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was only called up after 1/3 of the season had already been played. Selected only in the 7th round of the 2005 draft, Kostitsyn has been particularly impressive with his excellent passing ability, strong bodychecks (no really: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb8kVOp-zEU). In addition to his regular role he was placed up front a few times on the powerplay over the course of 08, so don’t be surprised if the younger Kostitsyn racks up a lot of points during the coming Canadiens season.

Patrick Kane

Kane comes out of the cradle of hockey civilization: Buffalo, and you better believe he’s able. The Buff native was picked up for a three year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks (c’mon, feel the Illinoise!) and you can bet Chicago fans are loving that decision. Kane is coming out of his rookie season with the Calder Trophy hoisted overhead – he made his mark in 07-08, but now that he’s all grown up and doesn’t have the rookie label, he’ll be expected to up his game-play to the next level and contribute like a superstar. He has the potential, nobody would deny that, but potential and reality only converge with a hell of a lot of hard work. There aren’t too many areas to fault Kane on, but we’re hoping to see him step onto the ice this season with a little more muscle on his frame, and a little more pep in his step when he isn’t stick-handling. If he evolves into a superb player when he doesn’t have the puck, and bulks up to his hulking contemporaries, there’s a chance this boy from Buffalo will make the Blackhawks take off.

Carey Price

Amid of flurry of confusion and French-Canadian anxiety last season, the Habs ousted Huet to Washington, and Carey Price officially became the go-to goalie for the Montreal Canadiens. He performed admirably for such a young player in the limelight through the season, though had some hard times in the playoffs and was replaced by Jaroslav Halak for a game. Regardless he still managed to get a save percentage of .901 and perform a perfect shutout in 11 playoff games. Last year he finished at the top of the heap compared to other rookie goalies with 24 wins, 1 179 saves, a .920 overall save percentage, three shutouts and two assists in just 41 games. The pressure is mounting this year as he starts off the season as Montreal’s #1 from the start, but Carey Price has proved in the past that he can win under pressure and with the team that Montreal has this year, we can be pretty sure we’ll be enjoying hockey on the terraces of Montreal well into the summer of ’09. Be sure to grab some Montreal Canadiens tickets as early as possible this year, they’ll surly be sold out fast in no small part to the excitement Price brings to the action.

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