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NHL Barometer: Talented Youngsters Set to Make an Impact

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

This week's article includes a 'Cane with a big opening game, a Russian netminder filling in nicely in Philly, a Rangers' winger down for an unknown amount of time and two veteran wingers waived this past week.

First Liners (Risers)

Brandon Sutter C, CAR Of course we have to lead with the player who scored twice in the first game of the season. Sutter, who didn't start 2009-10 with the parent club but was brought up early in the year, gained valuable experience and ice time in the midst of the 'Canes poor campaign. He picked up from where he left off last year, notching one goal at even strength and one of the man advantage in the season opener against Minnesota. Overall, Sutter should continue posting solid numbers this season.

Artem Anisimov, C, NYR Anisimov had a middling rookie year with 12 goals and 16 assists, but it's important to keep in mind that much of that production came while he played on the third and fourth lines. Anisimov indicated that he felt more comfortable skating on those two lines while he adjusted to the NHL. Rangers head coach John Tortorella moved Anisimov to the second line and he responded with a solid preseason. The Rangers have several center options, but Anisimov has a copious amount of talent and should thrive in that role.

Nikita Filatov, LW, CMB Filatov, selected sixth overall in 2007, returns to Columbus after a year in the KHL following his struggles playing under former coach Ken Hitchcock. Filatov is still only 20 years old and in terms of pure untapped talent, as good as any player in the world with game-breaking speed and a dizzying arsenal of moves and shots that could make him a perennial 40-goal man someday. This year, he begins the season on the Blue Jackets' second line, skating with fellow young guns Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek, which should be an incredibly fun trio to watch.

Taylor Hall, LW, EDM In what really comes as no surprise, Hall, the first overall draft pick this year, will open the season with the Oilers. Hall will play on a line with fellow rookie Jordan Eberle and be centered by Shawn Horcoff. Like any rookie, Hall will experience his ups and downs, but his ability and skill should see him through them. Don't be surprised if Hall, Eberle or Magnus Paarjavi-Svensson, the Oilers' other star rookie, wins the Calder Trophy.

Drew Stafford, RW, BUF Stafford scored and had three assists in Sunday's preseason finale, a 9-3 thrashing of Philadelphia. If there is one player on the Sabres roster to tab for a breakout season, it would be Stafford, who has underperformed over the past two seasons. There are two reasons for this: one, he figures to play on the top line, and also log power-play minutes alongside Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. Plus, his value and likely draft position has likely sunk so far based on those two poor years that he will come cheap enough to be a potential late steal.

Alex Goligoski, D, PIT While Goligoski is not one of Pittsburgh's top-four defensemen, he still should see enough action to make him valuable. Goligoski picked up his play late in the preseason and carried that over to the first game of the regular season, in which he notched a power-play goal. He has shown the propensity to be streaky in the past, so jump on board now and hope the ride lasts a while.

P.K. Subban, D, MTL Subban is looking to continue where he left off last year in the playoffs, where he scored eight points in 14 playoff games. The brilliantly talented defenseman was a first-team AHL All-Star and was elected to the league's All-Rookie team. He's coming off an AHL season where he registered 18 goals, 35 assists, and had a mind-boggling plus-46 rating in 77 games. Subban opens this year in Montreal, where he will be counted for blue line production, especially early on while Andrei Markov is sidelined.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI Bobrovsky, who signed as a free agent in May after playing last season for Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the KHL, got the nod on opening night and stopped 29 shots to pick up the win over the Penguins. The Flyers previously said that Brian Boucher would open the season as the starter while Michael Leighton was out with a back injury, but instead, they turned to the rookie. Boucher still might be the guy who gets most of the work during Leighton's absence but Bobrovsky unquestionably has a golden opportunity here to make his mark and earn more starts going forward.

Jonathan Bernier, G, LA Bernier was brilliant in his second full season in the AHL. He sported a 30-21-6 record, 2.03 goals-against average, .936 save percentage, and nine shutouts. He opened some eyes by going 3-0 with a 1.30 GAA in three starts for the Kings, filling in for the injured Erik Ersberg in March. The 22-year-old carried that fine play into the preseason, beating out Ersberg for the backup job to Jonathan Quick. If Quick falters, as he did in last year's playoffs, Bernier could step in and not look back.

Others include: Matt Cullen, Tyler Bozak, Eric Belanger, Tyler Ennis, Cal O'Reilly, Nino Niederreiter, Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, David Perron, Jordan Eberle, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Nathan Horton, Michael Grabner, Alexander Steen, Anton Babchuk, Brent Seabrook, Chris Campoli, Alexander Urbom, John-Michael Liles, Chris Pronger (will likely only miss one game returning from offseason knee surgery) Rick DiPietro, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Keri Lehtonen.

Training Room (Injuries)

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C, MIN Bouchard has been placed on injured reserve to begin the season with a concussion. He traveled with the Wild for the first two regular-season games in Finland, but it's not clear when he'll actually play in a game. Still, Bouchard is making progress in his return from a concussion that basically wiped out last season and he should return at some point this fall, so keep him on your radar screen.

Vaclav Prospal, LW, NYR Prospal, originally thought to only miss two weeks with soreness in his right knee, which is the same knee that he had surgery on last December, is more than likely to be out a lot longer. He's been told not to skate until at least the middle of the month and there is some speculation that he will eventually need season-ending surgery. Nothing has been determined yet and Prospal has too much potential value to waive, but be prepared in case the news comes down that he will miss an extended period of time.

Jordan Staal, C, PIT Staal, out with an infection in his right foot; will miss a minimum of 10 games after being placed on the long-term injured reserve list Wednesday. Coach Dan Bylsma originally put an estimate of 5-to-12 games on Staal's absence before he was put on the IR, so this still falls right in the range of that estimate. It's possible that Staal will be out longer, but he now can worry about getting healthy rather than rushing back. When Staal does return, he may center the second line with Evgeni Malkin shifting to wing.

Brian Campbell, D, CHI Campbell is expected to be out four to five weeks with a right knee sprain, which he suffered in a collision with Eric Tangradi along the boards in the second period on October 2. Campbell missed more than a month at the end of last season with a broken clavicle and broken ribs, only to return during the playoffs and help lead Chicago to the Stanley Cup. His absence gives more value to Seabrook, who should pick up much of his power play time.

Semyon Varlamov, G, WAS - Varlamov, who has been nursing an undisclosed injury most of the preseason was officially placed on IR Wednesday. Varlamov, who has not appeared in a game since September 22, is likely to miss the opening game Friday. Be cautious, as he's had injury problems since he came into the league. If you own him, be sure to snag Michal Neuvirth, who will likely see an increased workload in Varlamov's absence. Plus, there had been some speculation that Neuvirth could wrest a bigger portion of the goalkeeping tandem and Varlamov's absence could expedite that.

Others include: Chris Drury, Peter Mueller, Todd Bertuzzi, Ales Kotalik, Kris Draper, Matt Stajan, Markov, Joe Corvo, Filip Kuba and Leighton.

Fourth Liners/Press Boxers (Fallers)

Peter Regin, C, OTT Regin had been in a preseason battle with Nick Foligno to win a coveted top six forward position in Ottawa, but it looks like Foligno has the inside track on the spot. While Regin may start the year on the fourth line, it's likely that he'll see plenty of action on Ottawa's second power-play unit as well as filling in for any injured top-six forwards during the year. You'll want to downgrade your expectations fantasy-wise for the Danish forward, but he should still manage around 40 points if all goes well.

Brendan Morrison, C, CGY
Morrison signed with the Flames this past week after being cut by Vancouver. While Morrison had a bit of a rebound campaign last year and could see some top-six forward time, temper your expectations for him. In addition, much of his value may be tied to the return dates of Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan, so monitor those situations closely when determining if you want to pick up Morrison.

Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, SJ Cheechoo signed a tryout contract with Worcester, a minor-league affiliate of the Sharks. Cheechoo participated in the Stars' training camp but failed to impress. At least now, with the Worcester Sharks as a tryout player, Cheechoo can try to inch his way closer to San Jose, where he was the Rocket Richard Trophy winner back in 2005-06 with 56 goals. Even if Cheechoo does play well enough to get a call up, don't expect much from him.

Bill Guerin, RW, FA Guerin, like Cheechoo, is on the outside looking in. But unlike Cheechoo, he has not signed anywhere. Guerin, who was a long shot to make the Flyers, was released on Monday. He may get a look from another team if injuries strike, but his age and potential salary demands, compared to those of a younger player, make that unlikely.

Erik Gudbranson, D, FLA An offer was on the table for Gudbranson, but the Panthers' first-round pick reportedly didn't sign the entry-level contract. Both coach Pete DeBoer and general manager Dale Tallon spoke about their hopes of getting the first-round pick signed this season, but instead of making his NHL regular season debut, Gudbranson will return to his juniors team. Gudbranson still has a ton of value in keeper leagues, but those in single-leagues who drafted him when it looked like he would be in the Sunshine State can feel free to waive him.

Chris Mason, G, ATL Mason, who signed with Atlanta this offseason and Ondrej Pavelec, alternated starts in net during the preseason; a situation that looks like it will continue into the regular season. Pavelec is getting the nod in the Thrashers' opener, which is a bit surprising as most felt Mason would get the lions' share of the action between the pipes. Mason played a key role in helping the Blues make a late-season push for a playoff spot last season, and some have pegged Atlanta as a possible playoff team this year, while looking for Mason to play a similar part in those efforts. However, for now, Mason will need to bide his time and take advantage of his starts to earn more time in net.

Others include: Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe, Todd White, Tim Kennedy, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Bobby Sanguinetti, Sheldon Souray and Brian Boucher.