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The EJ5: Erik Encore

by Matt Sitkoff

5. Facing Reality ... Wings start the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era

4. Something Special ... 18 year old American-born D Seth Jones tops NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of North American skaters. EJ thinks this guy is the real deal.

3. No Sure Thing ... In 2007, the Kings used the fourth overall pick to take WHL D Thomas Hickey. Tuesday, they lost him to the Islanders on waivers. Nearly 24, he's yet to play an NHL game. Fortunately, the Kings did use the 95th pick in the same draft to grab Miami University's Alec Martinez, who helped them win the franchise's first-ever Cup last June.

2. Optimistic Oilers ... After finishing near the bottom of the league for the past several seasons, Edmonton fans believe their team is ready to return to playoff contention. A big reason ... 22-year-old rookie defenseman Justin Schultz, who tore up the AHL during the first half of the season.

1. Erik Encore? ... Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson had a bust out year last season, putting up 78 points in 81 games. Can the 22-year-old pick up where he left off???

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