Semyon Varlamov (G, WAS) – Currently a cranky groin muscle, Semyon Varlamov has apparently been dealing with this nagging injury during training camp. He’s faced shots in practice as recently as this past Saturday, so the young netminder’s return should be imminent. Expect him to have to fight fellow keeper Michal Neuvirth for playing time going forward.
Ondrej Pavelec (G, ATL) – One of the more bizarre events that played out in this young season was the sight of Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsing to the ice unchecked two minutes into Atlanta’s season opener against the Washington Capitals. Pavelec was diagnosed with a type of fainting spell called a neurocardio syncope episode. While early tests on his heart and blood are promising, he hit his head on the ice after collapsing and sustained a concussion. While initial reports had him missing the team’s forthcoming West Coast swing, he’s rumored to start games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks with backup Chris Mason riding the pine. That said, be sure to monitor the situation and if you have room, pick up Mason as a handcuff.
CALDER CUP CONTENDERS
Sergei Bobrovsky (G, PHI) – Coming out of camp, the Russian rookie was generating quite a buzz and as indicated by the above injury report on Michael Leighton, Sergei Bobrovsky is benefitting from Leighton’s surgical misfortune. Bobrovsky has booted veteran netminder Brian Boucher to the bench and with the incumbent starter laid up until at least mid-November, there’s enough time for Bobrovsky to cement himself into a more advantageous position and potentially become this year’s Semyon Varlamov.
Tyler Ennis (LW, BUF) – The 2008 Buffalo Sabres first round draft pick spent most of the 2009-2010 season lighting the lamp for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League (AHL), putting up an impressive 65 points and 23 goals, tying him for the AHL lead among rookies. A late-season call-up by the Sabres in place of the oft-injured Tim Connolly found Ennis racking up nine points in the last 10 regular season games and then carrying over this success into the playoffs, where he finished with a team-best three assists and tied Jason Pominville with a team-best four points. Playing on a line with scoring machine Derek Roy only enhances Ennis’ value and makes him a dark horse candidate to steal the Calder out from under current favorites, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
Tyler Seguin (C, BOS) – Picked second overall by the Boston Bruins, Tyler Seguin is a frontrunner for the Calder Cup. Boston may currently have him buried on the third line to ease his transition into the pro game, but they’re also giving him major power play minutes. Meanwhile, Seguin scored his first NHL goal during the Bruins’ second game of the season against the Phoenix Coyotes on a nifty feed from linemate Michael Ryder. Often described as a young Steve Yzerman, Seguin finished with the highest amount of points in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and was the top ranked North American skater in the draft class of 2010.
Taylor Hall (LW, EDM) – The Edmonton Oilers’ first-round 2010 pick and second pick overall after Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall has found his nascent career tied to Seguin thanks to their draft ranking and the fact that they tied for scoring during the 2009-2010 OHL season with 106 points apiece. Hall also helped lead the Windsor Spitfires to its second straight Memorial Cup, (minor league hockey’s Stanley Cup equivalent) and duly became the first player to be awarded consecutive Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophies, which go to the tournament MVP. His role as part of the Edmonton Oilers youth movement promises high rewards for poolies and a quicker rise to relevancy for Wayne Gretzsky’s old team.
Jordan Eberle (RW, EDM) – Fellow rookie Taylor Hall may be getting all the print in the Canadian press, but Jordan Eberle is no slouch himself. He is not only the leading scorer in Canadian junior hockey history, but finished the 2009-2010 Western Hockey League (WHL) season second in scoring with 106 points in 57 games, one point behind the leading scorer in eight fewer games. Playing on a line with Hall and new captain Shawn Horcoff, Eberle scored two goals in the Oilers’ 4-0 opening night win over the Calgary Flames. Most impressive was his second lamp lighter, a sweet short-handed toe-drag that smoked defenseman Ian White and flummoxed goalie Mikka Kiprusoff , who got finished off by a wicked backhander. Expect more of the same.
Logan Couture (C, SJ) – The 2007 San Jose Sharks first-round draft pick saw his stock rise after going on a point-per-game scoring pace in juniors during the 2005-2006 season, racking up 64 points in 65 games and finishing third in rookie scoring behind John Tavares and Sergei Kostitsyn. The speedy pivot spent most of last season bouncing between San Jose and its Worchester affiliate, only to get called up for the parent club’s playoff run. Couture finished with four goals, two of which were scored against the Colorado Avalanche in game 5 of the first round. Currently bouncing between the third and fourth line, Couture managed to score the game-winner in the opening night tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Monitor him closely.
Derek Stepan (C, NYR) – A member of the U.S. junior hockey team, Derek Stepan led the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championships in scoring with 4 goals and 10 assists in 7 games and captained the United States to win their second gold medal ever by defeating Canada in overtime. So is it any wonder that the New York Rangers made him a second round pick behind Michael Del Zotto in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft? And while Stepan came in to camp fighting for a roster spot, he ended up landing on the third line between John Tortorella favorite Ruslan Fedoteno and play-making agitator Sean Avery. Stepan responded to Gotham’s bright lights by becoming the first player in Rangers history and fourth in NHL history to score a hat trick in his NHL debut. While it’s far too early to make up a Calder Cup nameplate, Stepan’s low-key approach and positioning are earning raves and make him worth a flyer.
P.K. Subban (D, MON) – A second-round draft pick for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, P.K. Subban made a big splash during the Habs’ playoff run last season with eight points in 14 games and becoming the third rookie blueliner in Canadiens’ history to register three helpers in one game when he accomplished that feat in game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. A popular sleeper pick for poolies, Subban will be getting major minutes while team powerplay quarterback Andrei Markov recovers from a knee injury that will have him out until early November. Expect the Habs to still give major minutes to this high-risk, high-reward blueliner based on prior history.