The Boston Bruins will head into the 2012-13 season with the expectation that they can once again contend for the Stanley Cup.
They may have lost oddball goalie Tim Thomas to a "personal" decision to leave the NHL for at least a season, but general manager Peter Chiarelli has one of the most talented rosters in the league.
Players like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and David Krejci are some of the best offensive players in the NHL, and they will get a boost from the return of Nathan Horton, who missed the second half of the season following concussion-related issues.
The defense is among the best in the league with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference, and Tuukka Rask appears to be a solid replacement for Thomas.
The Bruins will depend on their veteran talent, but Chiarelli also has the start of a youth movement that will allow talented players to assert themselves.
In the upcoming season, it would be a shock if defenseman Dougie Hamilton was not one of the leading contenders for the Calder Trophy given to the league's best rookie (source: TheHockeyWriters.com). Hamilton has size, a booming shot, can carry the puck and excellent defensive skills. His talent excites NHL scouts as well as Chiarelli, and it should do the same for head coach Claude Julien.
It will be difficult for some of the Bruins' other defensive prospects to make the team this year. However, Torey Krug and Tommy Cross both have legitimate talent.
Krug played two games at the end of the season for the Bruins last year. While he is small at 5'9", 180 pounds, he has a solid shot, can carry the puck and should be an offensive force. Cross has size and strength at 6'3", 195 pounds and a high skill level.
Forwards Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are expected to play with the Providence Bruins this year. Knight is a solid skater with top offensive skills. At 5'11", 186 pounds, he has the quickness and agility to become an impact player, but the 20-year-old needs time to develop.
Spooner, 20, also depends on speed and quickness. He is an accurate passer and a fine stickhandler who can score. He's also on the small side at 5'10, 172 pounds.
While Krug, Cross, Knight and Spooner may have a difficult time getting to the big club in 2012-13, all four should contribute to an NHL team before long.