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Sixteen familiar faces in new places for 2015-16

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which begins Wednesday.

Peter Laviolette and Barry Trotz are linked now and forever because the former replaced the latter as the Nashville Predators coach last season. What happened benefitted the Predators and Trotz's new team, the Washington Capitals.

Laviolette, the second coach in Predators history after Trotz's 15 seasons there, brought the Predators to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 104 points. Trotz guided the Capitals to 101 points and a playoff spot.

Neither the Predators nor the Capitals made the playoffs in the previous season. If they had, Trotz and Laviolette likely wouldn't have their link. Instead, they made immediate impacts in their new places last season.

Who will be the familiar faces making immediate impacts in new places this season?

Here is a list of 16 candidates, ranked in order of impact potential, with the qualifiers to be on the list being only that the person has prior NHL experience (read: no rookies), but none playing, coaching or working for his new team:

1. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, right wing

Kessel is No. 1 because his impact vaults the Penguins higher in the Stanley Cup discussion. The Penguins needed to bolster their offense by finding a legitimate scoring wing to play with center Sidney Crosby. They found one of the best right wings in the NHL, a player with a top-five shot matched by his top-five speed. It's not ridiculous to predict 50 goals for Kessel this season as long as he stays healthy. It's far from ridiculous to predict the Penguins as the Eastern Conference champions.

2. Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs, coach

It'll be fascinating to watch how Babcock, a serial winner, handles losing. No matter what his impact has been in training camp, the Maple Leafs are not built to contend this season. Babcock predicted pain would be coming when he left the Detroit Red Wings to go to Toronto, and he'll likely be correct. However, it also will be fascinating to see how quickly he can turn the Maple Leafs into a legitimate opponent. If Babcock does this right, the Maple Leafs should be a team nobody wants to play after the All-Star break through at least the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline.

3. Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers, coach

McLellan inherits a team with a future franchise star in rookie center Connor McDavid, which means the pressure is on right away. The Oilers, the NHL's worst team during the past six seasons (0.812 points per game), are expected to make a significant jump in the standings this season. McLellan has spent the early part of his tenure instilling the work ethic and dressing room culture he feels is necessary to win. He has to mold a group of talented players who at times have shown glimpses of being stars into a team.

4. Dan Bylsma, Buffalo Sabres, coach

Bylsma is in a similar situation as McLellan, except most of his top players never have played together in a regular-season game. Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, Cody Franson and Robin Lehner have never played a game that counts for the Sabres, who have finished 30th in the NHL standings the past two seasons. The Sabres made moves this summer to make them good enough to move up in the Eastern Conference. Like the Oilers, they're now a team to watch.

5. Lou Lamoriello, Toronto Maple Leafs, general manager

After 28 years and three Stanley Cup championships with the New Jersey Devils, Lamoriello, who turns 73 on Oct. 21, was hired as general manager of the Maple Leafs. In doing so, he accepted the challenge of trying to reinvent a team notorious for struggling or underachieving while working for a boss (Brendan Shanahan) who was his former player, with an assistant general manager (Kyle Dubas) who is 43 years his junior, and under the scrutiny of the biggest market in the NHL. He's already made an impact by implementing some of his rules (no facial hair on players, no broadcasters on the team plane). The challenge continues as he works with Shanahan and Babcock to try to turn around the franchise.

6. Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils, general manager

Shero replaced Lamoriello as Devils general manager May 4. He is tasked with trying to turn around a team that Lamoriello built, one that has gone south since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. Shero brought in coach John Hynes, who he worked with in the Penguins organization. Hynes never has coached in the NHL, but he was successful in the American Hockey League. The Devils are trying to build around goalie Cory Schneider and a young defense corps. It's Shero's job to have patience with that defense group and to acquire more scoring. He was one of the most active traders during his tenure as the Penguins' GM.

7. Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton Oilers, general manager

Chiarelli, who spent the past nine seasons as Boston Bruins general manager, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, already has made an impact in Edmonton by hiring McLellan, selecting McDavid with the first pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, trading for goalie Cam Talbot and defenseman Griffin Reinhart, signing free-agent defenseman Andrej Sekera, and re-signing defenseman Oscar Klefbom to a seven-year contract extension. Like Shero and Lamoriello, Chiarelli needs time to evaluate his new team, but he never was afraid to pull off a blockbuster trade with the Bruins and odds are he won't be with the Oilers.

8. Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets, left wing

Saad spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup twice and playing alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. His production increased on a season-over-season basis from .586 points per game in 2012-13 to .602 in 2013-14 to .634 last season, when he had 52 points in 82 games. He now brings his experience to Columbus, where he will start the season on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno. Saad could become a 70-point forward this season, if not better. His 52 points last season was an NHL-career best.

9. Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres, center

After six seasons of being one of the most impactful and underrated centers with the Colorado Avalanche, O'Reilly is getting a chance to be a No. 1 center. His tenure might not last long with Jack Eichel quickly coming along behind him, but O'Reilly is exactly what the Sabres need. He's a veteran two-way, top-six center who could have 60 or more points while making his linemates better. He also is in it for the long haul after signing a seven-year contract extension with the Sabres on July 3.

10. Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks, coach

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson brought in reinforcements for DeBoer, the former coach of the Florida Panthers and Devils, by signing defenseman Paul Martin and forward Joel Ward on July 1. They will help DeBoer as he tries to steer the Sharks back to the postseason after they missed last season for the first time since the 2002-03 season. DeBoer prefers a high-tempo, aggressive forechecking system. It worked well for him in New Jersey during the Devils' run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. That remains the only season in which a DeBoer-coached team has gone to the playoffs.

11. Patrick Sharp, Dallas Stars, left wing

The Stars have high expectations this season in part because of the addition of Sharp, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Chicago Blackhawks. Sharp will get a chance to start the season on the top line with reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn (87 points) and Tyler Seguin, who was fifth in goals (37) and seventh in points (77) last season despite missing 11 games. Sharp has a chance to make an impact on that line, on the Stars' power play, and in the dressing room with his winning experience.

12. Justin Williams, Washington Capitals, right wing

Forward T.J. Oshie, also new to the Capitals, might have more points than Williams, especially because it looks like he's going to start the season on a line with Alex Ovechkin. However, Williams' impact as a veteran with winning experience playing alongside younger players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky should be significant. His impact in big games undoubtedly will be under the microscope. Williams is tied with Hockey Hall of Fame member Glenn Anderson for the NHL lead in Game 7 points with 14. Williams' teams are 7-0 in Game 7s; Washington is 3-6 in Game 7s since 2008. Williams has won the Stanley Cup three times; the Capitals never have won it.

13. Dougie Hamilton, Calgary Flames, defenseman

It's not often that a 22-year-old defenseman coming off a strong season in which he established himself with 42 points and a 54.93 shot-attempts percentage (best among defensemen on the Boston Bruins last season) is traded during the offseason. That's what happened here, and the Flames should benefit from acquiring Hamilton, arguably the Bruins' most consistent defender last season. The Flames need to beef up their possession numbers; they were 28th in the League last season with a 44.43 SAT percentage. Hamilton should help them do that. He makes an already solid defense corps better and younger.

14. Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings, defenseman

After a decade with the Capitals during which he had 360 points in 575 games, Green arrived in Detroit with a three-year, $18 million contract and the hope of playing a more significant role than he did last season under Trotz, when he was the Capitals' No. 5 defenseman and a power-play specialist. He'll be in the Red Wings' top-four defense group and should contribute on the first power-play unit. Green, though, will have to start the season without presumed defense partner Danny DeKeyser, who will miss most of October because of a sprained ligament in his left foot.

15. Milan Lucic, Los Angeles Kings, left wing

Lucic has 20-goal, 50-point ability. He did it riding shotgun on David Krejci's wing in Boston, and he could do it riding shotgun on Anze Kopitar's wing in Los Angeles, especially if Marian Gaborik is on the other side. That line, with stability, has the ability to be for Los Angeles what Lucic, Krejci and Jarome Iginla were for Boston during the 2013-14 season, when Lucic had 24 goals and 59 points. He dipped to 18 goals and 46 points in 81 games last season largely because Krejci wasn't healthy and Iginla signed with the Colorado Avalanche. Lucic should rediscover his touch as one of the League's premier power forwards in Los Angeles.

16. Alexander Semin, Montreal Canadiens, right wing

Semin is coming off a season with the Carolina Hurricanes in which he was trying to overcome offseason wrist surgery while adjusting to a new coach (Bill Peters) and a new style of play. He struggled, the Hurricanes bought out the final three years of his contract, and he signed for one year with the Canadiens on July 24. Now Semin, who is two seasons removed from being a point-per-game player for the Hurricanes, will get a chance to start the season on the Canadiens' second line with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. He is healthy and looking to make a splash to secure his NHL future.

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