10 questions for the start of NHL training camps

1. How will the banged-up Flyers handle their first Camp Tortorella?

The Philadelphia Flyers will get their first look at life under coach John Tortorella in training camp, and they’re already shorthanded.

Sean Couturier is out week to week with an upper-body injury, keeping the 29-year-old center out of the start of camp and potentially for the start of the season too.

Couturier didn’t play after Dec. 28 last season and had back surgery Feb. 11. He said on Sept. 12 that he was feeling good and would be ready to go for camp, but the Flyers updated his status Monday and said he would be re-evaluated during training camp.

The Flyers were 13-34-6 without Couturier last season.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis is also expected to start the season on long-term injured reserve. He played four games last season because of a lower-body injury.

All of the injury news is happening with Philadelphia’s first training camp under Tortorella set to get underway.

The new coach has been vocal about how he feels the Flyers’ culture needs to change, telling SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on Sept. 7 that he has “major concerns about the (locker) room,” so it will be interesting to what happens through camp without Couturier and Ellis.

Video: The crew on Flyers expectations under Tortorella

2. Who will be the Maple Leafs starting goalie on opening night?

Teams never want their biggest question mark entering camp to be in goal, but that’s exactly the case with the Maple Leafs, who have Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray competing for the No. 1 job.

Toronto signed Samsonov as an unrestricted free agent from the Washington Capitals and acquired Murray in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. Jack Campbell, Toronto’s No. 1 goalie last season, left as an unrestricted free agent, signing a five-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

Neither is a slam dunk for Toronto, but Samsonov and Murray, if healthy, could be a solid tandem based on their experience and potential.

Samsonov is 25 and is seven years removed from being a first-round pick (No. 15). He played 44 games last season, the most in his three NHL seasons, but he had his highest goals-against average (3.02) and lowest save percentage (.896).

Murray is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017), but his game dipped the past two seasons with the Senators. He was 15-25-3 with a 3.23 GAA and .899 save percentage in 47 games.

3. Will the Golden Knights discover a No. 1 goalie?

Robin Lehner will miss the entire season because of hip surgery, leaving Logan Thompson, Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit to compete to be the Vegas Golden Knights starting goalie on opening night Oct. 11 at the Los Angeles Kings.

Between the three, they have a combined 166 NHL starts. Brossoit is the veteran with 86. Hill has 63 and Thompson has 17.

Thompson’s strong finish last season, when he was 9-4-3 with a 2.75 GAA and .911 save percentage in 17 games from March 10 through the end of the season, might make him the favorite going into camp, but it’s a clean slate with new coach Bruce Cassidy.

The Golden Knights acquired Hill from the San Jose Sharks on Aug. 29 for a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. They got him to add to the depth at the position and to fuel more competition for playing time with Thompson and Brossoit.

Video: Golden Knights offseason outlook

4. Who will be Colorado’s No. 2 centers?

Nazem Kadri had an NHL career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) as the Avalanche’s No. 2 center last season. He had another 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping them win the Cup.

But Kadri’s impact was so strong that he priced himself out of Colorado.

The Avalanche did not have the salary cap space to keep him and Kadri instead left as an unrestricted free agent, signing a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Calgary Flames, creating a huge hole in Colorado’s lineup.

The likely candidates to fill the spot are JT Compher, Alex Newhook, Ben Meyers and Evan Rodriguesbut a wild card is Mikko Rantanenwho has played primarily as a right wing but gained some experience at center last season when Kadri was injured in the playoffs.

5. Will Lambert make changes to the Islanders’ identity?

Lane Lambert is in for Barry Trotz as the New York Islanders coach, hired May 16, but he is not new to the team.

Lambert was the associate coach under Trotz for the past four seasons. He also was an assistant under Trotz with the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators since 2011.

Lambert’s coaching style and philosophy have no doubt been influenced by Trotz, but the 57-year-old also wants to carve his own path, and he likely has some fresh ideas and concepts that could help the Islanders become a potentially faster and more offensive team .

The Islanders missed the playoffs last season, when they were 23rd in goals per game (2.79). They were the only team in the NHL that did not have a player with at least 60 points; Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal each had 59.

6. Who will be the Devils’ No. 1 goalie?

The New Jersey Devils have two goalies that they like and trust Vitek Vanecek and Mackenzie Blackwood, but they’re not sure if either can be a No. 1 they can rely on.

They won’t figure it out until the season begins and they’re playing games regularly, but training camp will help determine who between Vanecek and Blackwood is going to get the first crack at being No. 1 on the depth chart.

The Devils acquired Vanecek in a trade with the Capitals on July 8 and signed him to a three-year, $10.2 million contract 11 days later. He was 20-12-6 with a 2.67 GAA, .908 save percentage and four shutouts in 42 games (39 starts) last season.

Blackwood was limited by injuries last season and went 9-10-4 with a 3.39 GAA and .892 save percentage in 25 games.

The Devils used an NHL-high seven goalies and missed the playoffs by 37 points.

7. Will Gaudreau and Laine play on the same line?

The plan going into the Columbus Blue Jackets’ training camp is to see what kind of chemistry forwards have Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Lane can develop, because there’s a good chance they will play on the same line and the same power-play unit.

Gaudreau signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus ($9.75 million average annual value) on July 13 after finishing last season with 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) for Calgary.

Laine re-signed with the Blue Jackets (four years, $8.7 million AAV) on July 22. He had 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games for Columbus last season.

Gaudreau is expected to be the left wing on the top line and Laine the right wing. Gaudreau is the playmaker on the power play and Laine the shooter.

Assuming they play on the same line, the next question is who is the center? The top candidates are Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Cole Sillinger. Rookie Kent Johnson has an outside shot at the position too.

8. Who among the 2022 NHL Draft class will be in the lineup on opening night?

It certainly seems that Juraj Slafkovsky, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, would have to fall apart in camp with the Montreal Canadiens to lose his roster spot. They’re going young in a rebuild and Slafkovsky has an NHL-ready body at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds.

External expectations will be high on the 18-year-old Slovakian forward, but the Canadiens will try their best to manage them internally because Slafkovsky is one of the faces of their rebuild.

Slafkovsky can play with Laval in the American Hockey League if he doesn’t make the Canadiens’ roster.

Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick to the Seattle Kraken, is a favorite to crack the lineup, potentially as one of the top three centers along with Matty Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, etc Alex Wennberg if Yanni Gourde moves to the wing.

Wright can’t go to the AHL because he’s 18 and was drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League. If he doesn’t make the Kraken, he would be back in the Ontario Hockey League.

Defenseman Simon Nemec, no. 2 to the Devils, has an outside chance, but New Jersey is expecting him to start the season with Utica of the AHL.

Logan Cooley, the No. 3 pick to the Arizona Coyotes, will play at the University of Minnesota this season. Similarly, Cutter Gauthier, the No. 5 pick to the Flyers, will play NCAA hockey at Boston College.

Video: NHL Tonight on Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky

9. What players on PTOs will earn contracts?

Eric Staal will try to find his way back into the NHL with the Florida Panthers, but first he has to earn a contract.

The 37-year-old forward, a veteran of 1,293 NHL games, is one of several players entering training camp on professional tryout contracts.

Staal did not play in the NHL last season. He represented Canada at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and had four points (one goal, three assists) in five games. He played four games with Iowa of the American Hockey League as preparation for the Olympics.

He last played in the NHL for the Canadiens in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, when they lost the best-of-7 series to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games. Staal had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 21 playoff games that season.

Jimmy Vesey is entering training camp on a PTO with the New York Rangers, the same team that signed him to his first NHL contract before the 2016-17 season. Vesey had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 68 games with the Devils last season.

Forwards Artem Anisimov (Flyers), Jake Virtanen (Oilers), Zach Aston-Reese (Maple Leafs), Derick Brassard (Senators), Alex Chiasson (Coyotes), Cody Eakin (Flames) v Sonny Milano (Flames), and defensemen Calvin de Haan (Carolina Hurricanes), Danny DeKeyser (Vancouver Canucks), Jason Demers (Oilers), Scott Harrington (Sharks) v Michael Stone (Flames) are also entering their respective camps on a PTO.

10. Who is going to take Marchand’s place on the Bruins’ top line?

Brad Marchand has begun skating but he’s not expected back in the lineup for the Boston Bruins until late November or early December, leaving a hole at left wing on the top line centered by Patrice Bergeron.

Pavel Zacha is the frontrunner to fill Marchand’s spot with Jake DeBrusk a possibility to be on the right wing. The Bruins acquired Zacha from the Devils for forward Erik Haula on July 13 and signed him to a one-year, $3.25 million contract Aug. 10.

The 25-year-old had an NHL career-high 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 70 games last season.

The Bruins should then have a second line that features David Krejciwho returns to Boston after playing in the Czech Republic last season, in the middle with David Pastrnak on his right and Taylor Hall on the left.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.