The lockout is over, the torture for fans of the NHL around the globe has ceased, and the players, owners and fans are all ready for the season to begin.
Though the final points of the new CBA need to be ironed out, the NHL season will begin in 10 to 14 days, depending on the schedule the NHL releases. The two start dates being discussed are January 15 or 19.
The Toronto Maple Leafs stand to gain the most from an abbreviated NHL season.
Not only do the Leafs hit their stride in the middle of winter, but they also have incredible organizational depth, which should bode well when some of the veterans begin to break down with the accelerated NHL schedule.
The Toronto Marlies are currently leading the AHL's Western Conference with 45 points and are nearly unbeatable at home. Much of their success has been due to their incredible depth, deep enough to lose guys like Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and Joe Colborne to various minor injuries and loan Leo Komorav to the KHL until a new CBA was signed.
Their veterans have also helped immensely, as guys like Keith Aucoin, Ryan Hamilton, Paul Ranger, Mike Kostka and Mike Zigomanis have led by example and allowed the Marlies' youngsters to play to their capabilities.
So with limited roster space, which Marlies players or Leafs prospects stand a chance at making the opening-night lineup?