In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll look at early storylines to follow for teams in the Eastern Conference.
Boston Bruins – Hall on PP1
While the goalie battle between Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark will be important to follow, it'll take some time before we can properly evaluate that situation. Instead, I think we should watch how Taylor Hall fares as a new fixture on Boston's top power-play unit. Early indications suggest he'll be stationed near the net, tasked with retrieving pucks and creating plays in tight. I think some will overestimate Hall's fantasy value because of his presence on PP1. The way I see it, most of the offense will still flow through your usual suspects: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. As such, the idea of Hall being on the first power-play unit may end up being more valuable than his actual production on the top unit. If someone in your league is willing to pay top-dollar for Hall right now because of his lofty potential on the top unit, you may be wise to sell high.
Buffalo Sabres – Youth Movement in the Middle
With Eichel sidelined and unlikely to continue his career in Buffalo, the door is wide open for the team's young centers to play big minutes this year. It'll be interesting to see what kind of ice time Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt get, as well as what they do with the increased opportunity. Since there isn't any pressure on the Sabres to win games this year, the young guns should get more freedom to showcase their talent as the organization continues to evaluate what pieces they want to move forward with. Having a long leash may help the kids produce more, since they don't have to be overly focused on making the right play to avoid being benched.
Carolina Hurricanes – Hurricane Kotkaniemi
The Montreal Canadiens have been criticized in their development of Jesperi Kotkaniemi because they rushed him into the NHL and didn't always place him in a position to succeed. During his time in Montreal, he didn't see many minutes beside high-end players and wasn't given much of an opportunity to develop chemistry with consistent line mates. It looks like he'll get a chance to play with top talent in Carolina as he's pencilled in beside Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas to start the year. Now, the Hurricanes are a deep team and Kotkaniemi could quickly fall out of the top-six if he doesn't meet expectations. Keep an eye on the young Finnish forward during these first few weeks to get a sense of what kind of year he has ahead of him.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Lessons from Larsen
It's especially important to pay attention to player deployment when a new coach takes over. With Brad Larsen ent