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Trotz, Kesler among new faces in new places

by Brian Compton continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which begins Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Twenty-nine teams spent the offseason trying to determine a way to unseat the Los Angeles Kings, who won the Stanley Cup for the second time in the past three seasons. Some teams made major changes, others minor alterations.

Six teams have new coaches and general managers, one Hockey Hall of Fame member now working as a team executive and one future Hockey Hall of Fame member heading from the Eastern Conference back to the West.

Here's a look at 14 fresh faces, in no particular order, who will be expected to make an impact with their new teams this season:

1. Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals -- For the first time in nearly two decades, Trotz won't be behind the Nashville Predators bench. The 51-year-old was relieved of his duties at the end of last season but quickly was hired by the Capitals, who could use some stability in this capacity. Don't expect Trotz to try to change Alex Ovechkin's game, but you should anticipate the Capitals being a more responsible team in their end of the ice and one that should push for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

2. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks -- One of the best two-way centers in the NHL moved on from the Vancouver Canucks after more than 10 years with that organization. With Kesler now in the mix, the Ducks boast one of the top 1-2 combinations in the League at center with Ryan Getzlaf. Kesler, 30, had 25 goals and 43 points in 77 games last season.

3. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames -- Treliving has been busy since being hired as general manager in April. The former Phoenix Coyotes assistant GM entered the 2014 NHL Draft with five picks in the first three rounds, which included the selection of center Sam Bennett in the first round (No. 4). Treliving also shored up his goaltending when he signed Jonas Hiller in July. The Flames might have some more work to do before they become a playoff team, but Treliving is determined to turn them into an annual contender.

4. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers -- The No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft could make an immediate impact in Florida, so much so that he may make the top pairing alongside veteran Brian Campbell. Ekblad (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) had 23 goals and 30 assists in 58 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League last season.

5. Mike Johnston, Pittsburgh Penguins -- This will be Johnston's first head coaching opportunity in the NHL; the 57-year-old has previously worked with the Vancouver Canucks and the Kings. He spent the past five seasons with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League and guided the team to a record of 54-13-5 last season. There will be a ton of pressure on Johnston to lead the Penguins to not just a successful regular season but a significant run in the playoffs. The Penguins won the Metropolitan Division last season but blew a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round, which cost coach Dan Bylsma his job.

6. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers -- The third player selected at the 2014 draft, Draisaitl is yet another addition to Edmonton's cupboard of talented youth. The 6-1, 210-pound center is expected to be in the lineup when the Oilers open the season Thursday against Calgary and is primed to contribute immediately. Draisaitl, who turns 19 on Oct. 27, had 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games last season with the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL.

Jaroslav Halak
Goalie - NYI
RECORD: 29-13-7
GAA: 2.25 | SVP: .921
7. Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders -- The Islanders allowed 261 non-shootout goals last season, the third-most in the NHL. That statistic should improve dramatically with Halak as New York's new No. 1 goaltender after the Islanders acquired his rights from the Capitals on May 1 and signed him to a four-year contract three weeks later. Halak will be backed up by another newcomer, Chad Johnson, who won 17 games with the Boston Bruins last season.

8. Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche -- The future Hockey Hall of Fame member fell short in his bid to win the Stanley Cup with the Bruins and signed a three-year contract with Colorado on July 1. The 37-year-old can still contribute on the ice; he had 30 goals and 31 assists in 78 games last season. But the impact he'll have on the Avalanche's young dressing room could prove to be invaluable.

9. Willie Desjardins, Vancouver Canucks -- The 57-year-old has worked his way up from junior hockey to become an NHL head coach and will try to get the Canucks back on track and in the playoffs. Desjardins coached the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League to a Calder Cup championship last season and he won two championships while coaching the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL. Desjardins replaces John Tortorella, who was fired May 1 after one season.

10. Brendan Shanahan, Toronto Maple Leafs -- One day before Toronto's disappointing 2013-14 season came to an end (12 losses in the final 14 games), Shanahan was named team president. The Hockey Hall of Fame member played a role in extending coach Randy Carlyle's contract for two more seasons, but Carlyle will be working with new assistants in Peter Horachek and Steve Spott after Scott Gordon, Greg Cronin and Dave Farrish were fired. Shanahan knows it will be a process to turn the Maple Leafs into an annual contender, but he's hoping the additions of defenseman Stephane Robidas and forward Leo Komarov will help Toronto fight for a playoff spot.

Paul Stastny
Center - STL
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 60
SOG: 150 | +/-: 9
11. Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues -- The Blues scored 57 more goals than they allowed last season, which tied them with Anaheim for the best differential in the Western Conference. Can they improve on that statistic? It's possible now that they have Stastny, who signed a four-year contract with St. Louis after spending the first eight seasons of his career in Colorado. The 28-year-old had 25 goals and 35 assists in 71 games last season and gives the Blues another quality center behind David Backes.

12. Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators -- Laviolette replaces Trotz, the only coach the franchise had known since its inception in 1998. It's expected Laviolette will try to push the pace a bit, creating an up-tempo offense that will be highlighted by James Neal, who was acquired from Pittsburgh during the 2014 draft. If he's successful in doing so, and goalie Pekka Rinne stays healthy, the Predators should fight for a playoff spot.

13. Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars -- Spezza had been with the Ottawa Senators since they used the No. 2 pick on him at the 2001 draft, but he will get a fresh start in Dallas as the No. 2 center behind Tyler Seguin after the Stars acquired Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson for forward Alex Chiasson, prospects Nicholas Paul and Alex Guptill, and a 2015 second-round draft pick. Spezza, 31, had 23 goals and 43 assists in 75 games last season.

14. Johnny Boychuk, New York Islanders -- New York general manager Garth Snow shored up his goaltending with the additions of Halak and Johnson, but he may have saved his best move for last when he acquired Boychuk from the Bruins on Saturday. The 30-year-old averaged more than 21 minutes per game last season and brings a fiery attitude that could prove to be contagious. Boychuk's arrival, along with the addition of Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks, dramatically decreases the chances of the Islanders missing the playoffs.


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