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'Who are these guys?': Quick primer on fresh faces

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

The rosters are set and the 2014-15 NHL season is ready to commence.

With four games Wednesday night and 12 more Thursday, numerous players will be making their NHL debuts. Some, like the Tampa Bay Lightning's Jonathan Drouin or the Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, entered training camp as favorites to end up on the opening night roster.

Others are more of a surprise, and earned a place on the roster when it wasn't expected. Here's a look at some of the players who might cause fans to say, "Who are these guys?"

William Karlsson, Anaheim Ducks

Karlsson, 21, was expected to battle fellow Swede Rickard Rakell for a role at center behind Ryan Getlzaf and Ryan Kesler, but both players ended up making the roster. A second-round pick (No. 53) in 2011, Karlsson led HV71 in scoring (37 points in 55 games) in the Swedish Hockey League in 2013-14 before putting up 12 points in 17 American Hockey League games at the end of the season.

Justin Hodgman, Arizona Coyotes

Hodgman, 26, is an undrafted journeyman who earned one of a few openings in Arizona. He has played in the International Hockey League, ECHL, AHL, the Finnish Liiga and the Kontinental Hockey League, and last season he spent time with three KHL clubs. He's expected to be an extra on opening night, but just getting to this point is quite a story.

Bobby Robins, Boston Bruins

Robins, who turns 33 years old later this month, is expected to make his NHL debut on the fourth line against the Philadelphia Flyers. He spent the past three seasons in the AHL, racking up 687 penalty minutes in 275 games. The probability that he and Zac Rinaldo cross paths seems pretty high.

Marko Dano/Alexander Wennberg, Columbus Blue Jackets

Dano and Wennberg were two of Columbus' three first-round picks in the 2013 draft. Both are on the roster to start the season in part because of a rash of injuries. Wennberg is NHL.com's No. 13 prospect for the 2014-15 season, though Dano is expected to start on the second line and Wennberg on the third.

Andrej Nestrasil, Detroit Red Wings

A third-round pick (No. 75) in 2009, Nestrasil beat out several more highly touted prospects to earn a spot with the Red Wings. Some of that was his contract status (he'd have to go through waivers to be sent to the AHL), but he also had a great camp and may play Thursday because of Pavel Datsyuk's injury.

Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers

Nurse is a high-profile prospect, drafted at No. 7 in 2013 and checks in at No. 18 on NHL.com's list for this season. Nurse was far from a lock to make the Oilers roster; he earned his spot and a trial run at the NHL level by beating out Martin Marincin, who played well in 44 games for Edmonton in 2013-14. Nurse would have to go back to Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League if he doesn't stick for the entire season.

Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils

Severson was a second-round pick (No. 60) in 2012 and has two games of AHL experience, but he is one of seven defensemen on the Devils roster. Where he fits remains a question. The Devils also have Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas and Jonathan Merrill to go with veterans Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky and captain Bryce Salvador.

Anthony Duclair, New York Rangers

Duclair had 50 goals in 59 games for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14, but he was the surprise of Rangers camp and should be in the lineup on opening night. There's a need for more offense with Derek Stepan injured, and Duclair is going to get a chance to see if he can fill the net at the NHL level.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Philadelphia Flyers

Bellemare, 29, was born in Paris and will join Antoine Roussel and Stephane de Costa as French natives to see recent NHL action. He signed with the Flyers in June after nine years in the Swedish Hockey League, and made the team when Philadelphia decided to not keep an enforcer.

Chris Tierney/Mirco Mueller, San Jose Sharks

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said younger players would get a chance this season, and the Sharks will have a pair of rookies in the lineup Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings. The group will grow to three when Barclay Goodrow is healthy. Tierney was a second-round pick in 2012 (No. 55) and will center the third line (eventually with Goodrow next to him). Mueller, NHL.com's No. 29 prospect, was a first-round pick (No. 18) in 2013 and is expected to play on the second defense pairing with Brent Burns.

Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals

Burakovsky entered camp with a chance to earn a roster spot and performed so well he will be centering the second line against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. A first-round pick (No. 23) in 2013, Burakovsky appears to have won the job ahead of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is expected to center the fourth line. Kuznetsov is NHL.com's No. 3 prospect and a fashionable preseason Calder Trophy candidate, while Burakovsky checks in at No. 14 on the list.

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