CHRIS KREIDER RANGERS
Weak defense and inconsistency crushed the high expectations New York fans had for him last season, but that experience has him better prepared to deliver on his vast promise. A power forward with speed and soft hands, he could skate opposite Rick Nash on the Rangers' top line.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
PETER LAVIOLETTE FLYERS
Expectations are always high for Philly, especially this season, with the team up against the ceiling of the salary cap. The Flyers missed the playoffs last spring for the first time since 2006--07, which leaves Laviolette little wiggle room. This year it's win or find a new gig.
ANDREW MACDONALD ISLANDERS
He lacks offensive polish and isn't especially physical, but the 6'1", 190-pound defenseman has emerged from sixth-round obscurity in the 2006 draft to excel in a high-minute, shutdown role. His reads and positioning should be required viewing for young blueliners.
IN THE CREASE
BY PIERRE MCGUIRE
THE RANGERS' FORWARDS should thrive under new coach Alain Vigneault, who favors a more wide-open system than John Tortorella did. But New York's power play must improve. Skilled center Derick Brassard, acquired in a deadline trade with the Blue Jackets in April, will help make that happen.... Speaking of Columbus, this season will be a coming out party for center RYAN JOHANSEN, 21, who played well down the stretch in 2013.... The news last week that 6'3", 210-pound minutes-eating defenseman Joni Pitkanen will miss the season with the broken heel he suffered last spring is a death blow to the Hurricanes. Carolina won't have enough depth on the blue line unless G.M. Jim Rutherford can swing a major deal.
SCOTT LEVY/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (KREIDER)
JEFF VINNICK/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (JOHANSEN)