Eastern Edge – Ones to Watch: Part 1

Russ

2017-08-22

Robin Lehner - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

There are always players with interesting questions heading into their respective training camps. It could be that spiffy new hotshot rookie/first round pick or a new player coming to the team via an offseason trade. Maybe it's a big free-agent signing. It could even be that player coming off of an unusually good or bad season and we all want to know whether that trend is likely to continue or will the player revert back to their usual numbers.

Below is one player from each club from the first half of the Eastern Conference teams that I will be watching with interest this coming season.

 

Boston

Talk about a baptism by fire; the Bruins top offensive defenseman, Torey Krug goes down to injury just as the playoffs are about to begin, and they plug Charlie McAvoy right into Krug’s spot in the lineup. Fresh off another strong season at Boston College, —  26 points in 38 games — and without any NHL games to acclimatize, the 19-year-old defenseman finished second in Bruins playoff ice time behind only grizzled-warrior Zdeno Chara. McAvoy also led the Bruins in power-play minutes during the playoffs while scoring three points in six contests. His point totals this season will be limited with Krug back in the lineup, but even with second-unit duty with the man advantage, he could hit 35 points.

 

Buffalo

This summer, Robin Lehner signed a one-year, prove-it contract for $4 million. The Sabres aren’t ready to commit to him being their No. 1 goalie for more than one season, so the pressure will be on the oft-injured Swede to perform this year.

Last season, Lehner played in 59 NHL contests, his highest yet. His .920 save percentage tied him for 10th best amongst qualified goaltenders in the league. If Buffalo improves, and it looks like they're headed in that direction, his 2.68 goals-against average will come down, making Lehner a potentially rewarding pick to target in your draft.

 

Carolina

About to enter his fifth NHL campaign, Elias Lindholm is showing signs of why he was taken fifth overall in 2013. The 22-year-old forward's point totals over those five years are not screaming breakout season, 21, 39, 39 and 45 points, however, during a 36-game stretch between December 23 and March 25, Lindholm showcase his upside and scored 33 points. I don’t expect him to score at a 75-point clip for an entire season, but it does show what he is capable of. He could legitimately hit 60 points this year if things break right.

 

Columbus

Bjorkstrand is also entering the final year of his entry-level contract and will be an interesting player to watch. This guy can score goals. In his final two seasons of junior, he recorded 50 and 63 goals in in 69 and 59 games respectively. He split last year between the AHL (26 points in 37 games) and the NHL (13 points in 26 games).

The right side in Columbus is a little crowded with Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno, but Bjorkstrand was still getting a little love, logging a