USHL Preview: Who will rule in 2014-15

Ryan Kennedy
Muskegon's Matheson Iacopelli (Photo courtesy of Brandon Anderson/USHL)

The United States League may have lost its playoff champs in the Indiana Ice, but the junior circuit gained two expansion teams in Bloomington and Madison. The USHL has become a great league for players on the cusp of NCAA careers and this year will be no exception. I surveyed a crew of insiders to get power rankings and added a player to watch for each franchise. As a note, Team USA (the National Team Development Program) is not included in the standings since both the under-18s and under-17s play in the league and because the playoffs are kind of an afterthought; the best of the NTDP are always at the world under-18s at the time, so USHL post-season success is fleeting at best.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Chicago Blackhawks

The Hockey News
Patrick Sharp. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

2014-15 record: 46-21-15

Acquisitions: Michael Leighton, Kyle Cumiskey, Brad Richards, Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Departures: Jason LaBarbera, Brandon Bollig

Top five fantasy players: Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Chicago fell short of a third Stanley Cup in five years, but its 2013-14 was still excellent. The Hawks were a Game 7 overtime goal away from the Cup final and return with the same stars and a couple notable upgrades. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Los Angeles Kings

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Los Angeles Kings celebrating their 2014 Stanley Cup championship. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 46-28-8

Acquisitions: David Van Der Gulik, Adam Cracknell

Departures: Colin Fraser, Willie Mitchell, LInden Vey

Top five fantasy players: Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: If L.A.’s offensive orgasm in the playoffs carries over into 2014-15, the team has a real chance at winning the Western Conference. After averaging just 2.42 goals per game last season, the Kings went nuts during the post-season, humming along at a 3.38 clip. Backed by Jonathan Quick, they already own the league’s No. 1 defense, and their playoff explosion shows they have the weapons to run with the West’s big guns during the regular season, if they only use them. Should they do so, the Presidents’ Trophy is well within reach, especially if freshly minted Marian Gaborik scores like he did in the playoffs. Read more

OHL preview: Who will rule in 2014-15

Ryan Kennedy
Peterborough's Nick Ritchie (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If you hadn’t been beaten over the head with the news already, the top prospect in the NHL draft this year is Connor McDavid of the Ontario League’s Erie Otters. But will the stellar center’s team win the title? He’ll have to do a lot, since there’s no guarantee left winger Andre Burakowsky will be back in town – the Swede could go to the Washington Capitals or even the American League. Similarly, Kingston may get Sam Bennett back, but he might end up in Calgary, while Darnell Nurse could be in Edmonton. But even without Nurse, the Soo Greyhounds will be strong. I surveyed a group of experts to find out how strong, then added a player to watch on each team.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: New York Rangers

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The New York Rangers around the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 45-31-6

Acquisitions: Ryan Malone, Kevin Hayes, Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Nick Tarnasky, Cedrick Desjardins, Mike Kostka, Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick

Departures: Darroll Powe, Justin Falk, Brian Boyle, Brad Richards, Stu Bickel, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett

Top five fantasy players: Martin St-Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: A Rangers team that gave the Kings a modicum of resistance before falling in five games in the Stanley Cup final suffered some losses – and made some gains – over the summer. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Montreal Canadiens

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P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 46-28-8

Acquisitions: Joey MacDonald, To Gilbert, Jiri Sekac, Manny Malhotra, P-A Parenteau

Departures: Ryan White, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, Josh Gorges, Daniel Briere, Louis Leblanc

Top five fantasy players: Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Last season, an inspired playoff run was derailed in the Eastern Conference final by an injury to superstar goalie Carey Price. In 2014-15, the Habs are hungry to go further, and they’ve got the talent to do it. Price is their most crucial player, but just behind him in the importance department is P.K. Subban, fresh off signing an eight-year, $72-million contract extension. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Minnesota Wild

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Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 43-27-12

Acquisitions: Justin Falk, Jordan Schroeder, Joel Rechlicz, Stu Bickel, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter

Departures: Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Steve Kampfer, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

Top five fantasy players: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: It was a slow, steady progression for Minnesota last season, from 94 (pro-rated) points to 98 points, from a No. 8 seed to a No. 7 seed, from the first round of the playoffs to the second. None of it was a fluke. The Wild own one of the NHL’s elite farm systems, and it was only a matter of time before the young guns made significant impacts at the NHL level. Blueliner Jonas Brodin did it in 2012-13, and last season was Mikael Granlund’s turn to break out. He’s matured into a legit top-two center, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling. Charlie Coyle looks like a handy power forward and Nino Niederreiter, a high-end prospect acquired from the Islanders, scores in the clutch and hits like a truck. Bruising blueliner Mathew Dumba could make a leap this season, too. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: San Jose Sharks

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San Jose Sharks (Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 51-22-9

Acquisitions: John Scott, Tye McGinn, Taylor Fedun

Departures: Brad Stuart, Martin Havlat, Dan Boyle

Top five fantasy players: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Had San Jose closed out Los Angeles in Game 4, 5, 6 or 7 of their opening round series, the landscape would look a lot different in California. The Kings would be the ones regrouping from a first-round loss and Stanley might have found a summer home farther up the coast. But the Sharks again couldn’t execute that springtime killer instinct, and they still come across as an aging group of pretenders. That said, San Jose has young cornerstones in Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl and has already started the transition to building around them instead of 35-year-olds Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The team has the utmost faith in GM Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan, and those two men have a ton of faith in a roster that saw just cosmetic changes made to it. Read more