Training camps used to be a place where NHL players reunited, got back on their skates and started to think about getting in shape for the regular season. That is no longer the case, as returning players are expected to have spent the better part of the offseason working out diligently and focusing on the upcoming season.
With this year's compressed schedule and the Sochi Olympics on the horizon, players want to start peaking much earlier than usual. A poor October could mean that playoff hopes will begin to fade for some clubs, and individual players could find themselves no longer being considered for a highly coveted Olympic roster spot.
Training camps have seen some fierce battles for spots, and preseason games—such as recent tilts between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, and the Edmonton Oilers versus the Vancouver Canucks—featured some spirited play.
With this in mind, let's explore the biggest takeaway from every NHL team's training camp so far.
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Salary information is from capgeek.com.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The defence core has taken a hit.
Francois Beauchemin had a great 2012-13 season. The bruising defenseman had 24 points last year and was a dominant physical force night after night. He also had to have offseason knee surgery that he is still recovering from.
He has made remarkable progress and could be ready for Anaheim's opener on October 2nd. Obviously, it will take him some time to round into top form, though.
Sheldon Souray is also out for a few more months after sustaining ligament damage to his wrist in August. Souray had a really good season last year, highlighted by 17 points and the 20-plus minutes of ice time he averaged.
Promising defender Luca Sbisa has also been hit with the injury bug. Sbisa suffered an ankle injury last Monday against Pacific Division rival Phoenix Coyotes. While Sbisa is likely out for only two weeks, he will need to be ready to go for the regular season.
The Ducks should be able to withstand all of this, but these injuries have been a key component of their training camp.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Ryan Spooner is playing his way onto the team.
The Bruins have a lot of depth at all positions. They have a number of NHL-ready centremen with Ryan Spooner being one of their most promising pivots. Spooner had an excellent OHL career and has followed it up by being an offensive standout in the AHL.
By all accounts, Spooner has begun to develop some edge to his play. This was one of the few remaining elements that he had to add to his arsenal.
The major issue is that the Bruins are flush with NHL centres. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Gregory Campbell all fit the bill in the middle.
It seems obvious that Spooner is ready for NHL play, but will the B's find room for him at his natural position, or will they move him to the wing?
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Sabres will rely on youth for scoring this season.
The Buffalo Sabres are in the midst of a major transition. While goaltending remains relatively stable, several new defencemen could be on Buffalo's opening-day roster, and youth will be served up front.
The Sabres are one of the youngest, if not the youngest team in the entire NHL. The team averages just 26.41 years across the board. It was a team that struggled to score last season, finishing 22nd in the entire league in goals with only 118 in 48 games.
While veterans Steve Ott and Tomas Vanek will be expected to produce offensively, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno will be leaned on heavily as well.
There is a lot of promise in Buffalo, but fans will need to be patient as the burden of scoring falls on these emerging forward talents.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Life after Miikka Kiprusoff begins now in Calgary.
There are a number of intriguing storylines in Cowtown as the Flames enter a rebuilding phase. And although there are plenty of roster spots available as the team gets ready for the 2013-14 campaign, the focus lies squarely between the pipes.
The Flames have failed to make the playoffs since 2009, and it will be challenging to end the drought this year. It appears that Karri Ramo, who put up good numbers in the KHL last year, has the inside track for the No. 1 spot. It is no slam dunk, though, as veteran Joey MacDonald will likely receive serious consideration as well.
One wild-card possibility is relative unknown Reto Berra. The young Swiss netminder is a former St. Louis Blues draft pick and stands 6'4".
Fans are likely to be frustrated on many nights with this young team, and goaltending is likely to be an issue all year long.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Hurricanes have a rebuilt defence group.
The Hurricanes have a number of talented forwards, with their top line being one of the better ones in the Eastern Conference. In adding one of the most talented forwards from the 2013 NHL draft, Elias Lindholm, there is no shortage of young talent up front.
The weakest part of the 2013 squad was the defence and the team's overall defensive play. The new group of defenders includes former Buffalo Sabre Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey, Mike Komisarek and promising NHL prospect Ryan Murphy.
The Hurricanes were 29th in the league in goals against in 2013, so the team really has nowhere to go up but up. If this team plays better defensively and gets some solid goaltending from the newly formed tandem of Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, the Hurricanes could contend for a playoff spot this season.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Blackhawks are poised to be a force in 2013-14.
The Chicago Blackhawks had an excellent 2012-13 regular season and followed it up with a successful run to the Stanley Cup. The core from that team remains for this season, and there is every reason to believe that the Hawks can pick up right where they left off last year.
The Blackhawks did lose some role players along with backup goalie Ray Emery. While there are some question marks about Emery's replacement, veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, Corey Crawford will be relied upon heavily to shoulder the load in goal.
Young and talented forwards Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad could both be big contributors this year. While Pirri has been hurt for most of training camp, the AHL's leading scorer from 2012-13 should get every opportunity to make the parent club this season.
All signs point to the Blackhawks defending their divisional crown and making a strong push to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Avalanche should have a greater focus on offence.
All indicators seem to be that the Colorado Avalanche will not be focusing on playing a defensive style of play under new head coach Patrick Roy. The Avalanche didn't seem to have a firm identity under former coach Joe Sacco.
While the blue line has a lot of question marks coming into this season, Colorado is loaded at the forward position. Nathan MacKinnon, despite having all kinds of offensive talent, may not get a lot of minutes in the top-six grouping given all of the depth up front.
The Avalanche could be challenged in their own zone, but with Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, Alex Tanguay and Paul Stastny leading the charge, the team should score a lot of highlight reel goals in 2013-14.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Blue Jackets plan to build on late-season success.
Much like the Detroit Red Wings, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have a much better travel schedule with their move to the Eastern Conference. While making the playoffs will be challenging in the East with two more teams than in the West, the Blue Jackets could be one of the biggest surprises in the league.
Ryan Johansen should join the Blue Jackets on a regular basis, and the former first-round pick will have some big expectations placed on him. The Jackets also added Nathan Horton in the offseason, and while he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, his impact could be huge once he is healthy.
2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will be counted on to anchor the club. If he can continue his stellar play from last season, highlighted by a .932 save percentage, the Blue Jackets will be more than justified in their optimism as training camps wind down.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Stars have a lot of changes to manage in 2013-14.
This past offseason was one of the busiest in recent history in Big D. The Stars not only have a new head coach with Lindy Ruff now in the fold, but the Stars also added young star Tyler Seguin to be their first-line centre.
Seguin will now get an opportunity to play at his natural position, but he will be learning a new system under Ruff. It will be a system that focuses on good defensive play while allowing offensive stars like Seguin and Jamie Benn to be creative once they cross the opposition's blue line.
The Stars made additional changes as well, so other notable newcomers Sean Horcoff, Rich Peverley and Sergei Gonchar will also be learning a new system as veterans from other organizations. It will not be surprising if the Stars are not firing on all cylinders immediately, but once they get going, they could be a dynamic team in a hurry.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Red Wings will depend on some young defencemen.
The offseason has been a busy one for the Red Wings. They will now play in the Eastern Conference (finally) after too many seasons of playing in the Western Conference. They parted ways with a number of players and added two impact forwards in Daniel Alfredsson and former Florida Panther Stephen Weiss.
The biggest takeaway from the Wings camp is that the club will depend heavily on some younger defencemen. Detroit's blue line began to change last season, but this year will see even more reliance on Jakub Kindl, Danny Dekeyser and Brendan Smith.
The defence core still has Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson as its top-pairing anchor. If the Red Wings encounter injury issues, they may have to look to even more youth since they don't have a lot of veteran depth on the point.
Biggest Takeaway from Camp: Darnell Nurse could be even better than advertised.
There have been a number of stories coming out of Edmonton Oilers training camp. The lack of organizational depth at centre has reared its ugly head once again with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continuing to recover from shoulder surgery, and now Sam Gagner is on the shelf courtesy of Zack Kassian's errant stick.
But the biggest takeaway has been the emergence of Darnell Nurse, who has leapfrogged other excellent prospects Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin, both of whom have proven not to be ready for prime time. While Nurse may not be physically mature enough to play at the NHL level, his play has been excellent to date.
Nurse has demonstrated exceptional mobility, and his decision-making is well beyond his 18 years of age. While it remains to be seen if he will stick for the year, it would seem that he has a legitimate shot at being a bottom-pairing defender for the Oilers if he can continue to play this well against full NHL rosters. Whether or not he should be presented with such an opportunity, given his age and experience, is a question the organization needs to answer.
Update: The organization has made the decision to send Nurse back to the OHL.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Tim Thomas could be the Florida Panthers' starter.
It is not difficult to feel for young Jacob Markstrom. The former second-round pick signed a new contract in the summer and fully expected to be the No. 1 guy in Florida. However, the Panthers obviously believed they needed some upgrading at the position. General manager Dale Tallon has given Tim Thomas the opportunity to be, at the very least, a second choice to Markstrom.
Thomas may see his first preseason start this Thursday and appears to be playing well in camp. The Panthers had issues scoring last year, but they also had a lot of concerns in net as well. Markstrom's goals-against average was over 3.00 and his save percentage was just .901.
There is some time for the Panthers to make a final decision, but it would not be a stretch to see the veteran Thomas be named goaltender 1A, if not the clear-cut starter when the season begins in October.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Expect more of the same from the Kings in 2013-14.
The Los Angeles Kings remain one of the best teams in the Western Conference and, indeed, in the NHL with their entire core back this season. Continuity has been a theme since the 2011-12 Stanley Cup season, and there have been no significant personnel losses over the past two seasons.
Jonathan Quick will be the starter once again, although there will be a new backup goalie, as Jonathan Bernier was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty, the Kings have two of the best young defenders in the game. Coach Darryl Sutter's team will continue to play a big-body, disciplined syle of play this season.
While some rookies have an outside shot at making the NHL roster, expect Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli to lead the charge offensively. The Kings should be a powerhouse in the Pacific Division given their superior talent level at all positions.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The second line remains in flux well into training camp.
The Minnesota Wild had a good regular season last year, and while they were hit hard with injuries once the playoffs began, there is a lot of reason for the Wild to be optimistic about the upcoming season. It could be argued that questions remain about goaltending, but the biggest takeaway from camp is that the second line remains in a state of flux.
It appears that Dany Heatley will be bumped from the first line and get second-line minutes this season. Who his centre will be has not been settled. Mikael Granlund seems to make the most sense, but Charlie Coyle could also be used in that spot. Newcomer Nino Niederreiter seems the likeliest candidate to join this line as a winger.
This line could be very important in the highly competitive Central Division. If the Wild want to push the St. Louis Blues—and possibly even the Chicago Blackhawks, who are likely to be ahead of them in the standings—the second line will have to be productive all year.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Canadiens seem happy with what made them successful last season.
The Montreal Canadiens exceeded a lot of expectations last year, so they won't have the luxury of anyone taking them lightly this year. While there have been some good additions, such as Daniel Briere, to the roster, the Canadiens will continue with a core of players that played very well last year.
Carey Price was not dominant throughout the year, and if he hopes to crack the top three for the Canadian Olympic team, he'll need to be sharp through February. The defence will be anchored by Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, who should be as good as ever as his game continues to improve.
While there has been tinkering up front, the Habs will again be led by Max Pacioretty, and the defence will be counted on to produce points.
Outside of marked improvement needed on the penalty kill—it was under 80 percent and ranked 23rd in the NHL—the Habs are poised to challenge for a playoff spot in the East.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Nashville should be a more offensive-minded club.
Long-time head coach Barry Trotz has always had a solid two-way system in place in Nashville. While the team has never had a multitude of offensive dynamos, scoring by committee should be possible with the group of forwards that GM David Poile has brought into the Music City.
The Preds still lack a superb finisher, but newcomers Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen should help Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson, David Legwand and Mike Fisher in the attacking zone. Nashville will still play a disciplined style, but expect them to score more goals than last season. They were 14th in offence in the Western Conference in 2013.
Another factor that should help generate offence is the improvements on the blue line. Highly regarded Seth Jones should play the entire season, and with Roman Josi and Shea Weber taking up big minutes, don't expect the Predators to spend a lot of time in their own end this year.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: A lot of new faces need to come together quickly.
The New Jersey Devils had one of the busier offseasons in the entire NHL. The biggest splash was at the NHL draft and the addition of Cory Schneider in goal. He will push Martin Brodeur for playing time all season long.
The Devils have also added Jaromir Jagr, Ryan Clowe, Damien Brunner and Michael Ryder. Ryder had 21 points with the Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13. There are also some young players who could push for roster spots given the personnel losses the Devils have experienced—most notably, Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL.
Most of the players the Devils have acquired are NHL veterans, so for the Devils' sake, hopefully the group will mesh quickly. With this year's compressed schedule, the Devils will need to get off to a similar start to last year if they hope to return to the playoffs next spring.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Solid in most areas, but goaltending could be a concern.
The New York Islanders battled the Pittsburgh Penguins admirably in last year's playoffs. They have a young, dynamic core that should only improve this year.
Led by Hart Trophy hopeful John Tavares, the Islanders won't sneak up on anyone this year, as opponents know the Islanders are a quick-strike team that should have even more firepower this year. The Isles also have a number of blue-chip prospects on defence that could have an impact as early as this season.
The biggest takeaway, though, is whether the Islanders have enough talent between the pipes. Evgeni Nabokov was very average at times last year in posting a pedestrian .910 save percentage. Without a proven NHL duo in goal, former goalie and current GM Garth Snow may have to seek help via a trade.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Rangers have a lot of depth for the upcoming season.
The club had an up-and-down 2012-13 season under former head coach John Tortorella. It seems obvious that Alain Vigneault will have an even deeper team than what Tortorella had in 2013.
The Rangers could use Derek Stepan without question, but with players like Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore ready to contribute up front, the Rangers should be able to roll four lines this year. The Rangers didn't have that luxury at times last year with Tortorella sending messages to several players throughout the season.
If Alain Vigneault can get Brad Richards back to where he should be offensively, the Rangers are going to pose a lot of problems for opposing teams. A balanced attack is very challenging to defend, and New York should have just that in 2013-14. The defence core remains intact from last year, and it is as solid as any other in the NHL.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: If healthy, the Senators are even better than last season.
The biggest story in Ottawa over the offseason was the loss of long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson. However, in Bobby Ryan, the Senators have an even better scorer than Alfredsson, and if everyone can remain healthy, the club should make a push to win the Eastern Conference regular season.
The most talented young defenceman in the game today is Erik Karlsson. He appears to have returned to full health after his quick recovery from Achilles surgery. This bodes well for the Ottawa attack, as Karlsson is arguably the best offensive defenceman in the NHL. The Senators power play will be significantly improved with Ryan and and a healty Karlsson.
While it is impossible to predict injuries, it would be hard to conceive that Jason Spezza will fall victim to injury once again. With the amount of talent on this team, the outlook is very bright in Canada's capital city.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: With Ilya Bryzgalov gone, questions still remain in goal.
The Philadelphia Flyers have strengthened their roster both at forward and defence since the end to a disappointing 2012-13 regular season. They also decided to part ways with the mercurial Bryzgalov and signed veteran Ray Emery, who lost just once in regulation in 2013 with the powerhouse Blackhawks.
The 30-year-old netminder also had a .922 save percentage and will have incumbent goaltender Steve Mason pushing him for the No. 1 spot. While both Mason and Emery have had some good seasons in the past, neither goalie has been a dominant No. 1 guy for an extended period of time.
The Flyers defence should be much stronger this year, so the pressure on both goaltenders will not be as intense as it might have been otherwise. Hopefully both goalies will excel, but there are real concerns once again for Flyer fans who have been without a legitimate No. 1 starter for far too long.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Coyotes need Mike Smith to be at the top of his game.
The Phoenix Coyotes are not likely to score a lot of goals due to their personnel and the style of two-way play that coach Dave Tippett demands. While some young, talented forwards might make the team, they are not going to be able to make the Coyotes an offensive juggernaut overnight.
The Coyotes have a solid defence group led by the very underrated Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but the key is big Mike Smith. Smith had injury difficulties last year and failed to achieve the numbers he had in 2012-13. He recently signed a six-year extension, so with potential concerns over his future out of the way, the Coyotes need him to be at his best.
The Pacific Division could shape up to be the best in the entire league. The line between winning and losing will be even finer than it was last year. If Smith doesn't put up big numbers, it could be a long season in the desert.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Penguins' goaltending tandem still raises huge questions.
The Pittsburgh Penguins received great goaltending in 2013 during the regular season. The playoffs were another matter. While Tomas Vokoun was adequate in most games, the playoffs saw Marc-Andre Fleury struggle mightily once again.
Fleury has not achieved a .900 save percentage in any year since the 2008-09 playoffs. Vokoun is not getting any younger, and the Penguins are judged solely on their playoff performances. These two simply cannot inspire confidence in the rest of the team.
The team should score as many goals as always, but unless there is a significant transformation over the course of this season that extends into the playoffs, this goaltending duo cannot be expected to lead the team next spring.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Sharks might have challenges scoring at even strength.
The San Jose Sharks were one of the better teams in odd-man situations last year. At even strength, the Sharks had challenges and were just 24th in the league in team scoring. The team made some additions in the offseason, including signing the recently injured Raffi Torres.
Torres could be out for several months with his ACL injury. The Sharks still have some great offensive players, but newly acquired Tyler Kennedy will have to chip in as well. And more scoring from the bottom-six forwards will have to happen.
The Pacific Division will be a dogfight from the start of the year, and the Sharks will need to be much more consistent than last year. If they rely too heavily on the power-play unit, they could struggle to make the NHL's second season.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo might be the best defence duo in the NHL.
The St. Louis Blues have depth, size and a lot of skill. The Blues are a heavy team with forwards that can make life miserable for their opponents on a regular basis. David Backes, Ryan Reaves, Chris Stewart and now veteran winger Brenden Morrow will ensure this happens.
The biggest takeaway from Blues training camp is that with Alex Pietrangelo now signed through 2020, the Blues have one of the best top-pairing defence duos in the NHL. This tandem might play close to 30 minutes a night when needed.
Bouwmeester might be the most fluid skater in today's NHL, and Pietrangelo is a heady player with tremendous offensive skills. This pair could be the key to the Blues challenging the Blackhawks for Central Division supremacy in 2013-14.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Lightning have a true goaltending battle for the No. 1 spot.
Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop have a lot of promise, but between the two of them, they have just over 100 NHL starts. The Lightning have question marks in a few spots, but none bigger than in goal.
Both goalies are huge, athletic men who have tremendous potential to be dominant netminders. For that reason, one goalie does not necessarily have the inside track as training camp winds down.
As with most organizations, it appears the club would like to have a definitive No. 1 starter by the start of the season. With only a handful of preseason games remaining, both goalies will be closely watched by head coach Jon Cooper and his staff.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: No replacement for Cody Franson has emerged.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had an eventful training camp with the ongoing goalie battle for the No. 1 goalie spot and, of course, the recent brawl with the archrival Buffalo Sabres.
While these have been interesting storylines, the lack of movement on signing talented defenceman Cody Franson is the story of Leafs training camp. While the Leafs have not been saying a lot publicly, there can be no doubt that neither Paul Ranger nor rookie Morgan Rielly can in any way match Cody Franson's tremendous skill set.
Rielly is a great prospect, but it is rare that a 19-year-old can play at the NHL level with a high degree of consistency.
Franson had a positive Relative Corsi number and finished eighth in scoring among defenceman in 2013. With the Leafs having bolstered their forward group since last spring's disappointing playoff finish, the entire team seems poised to take a step forward. With Cody Franson not in the mix, however, the step may not be as large as it would otherwise be.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Scoring depth still a question mark for the Canucks.
The Sedin twins remain as two of the better scoring forwards in the league. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows can also be counted on to score regularly when healthy.
After that, there are some real issues with depth scoring with the Canuck forwards. The defence core will contribute offensively, without question, but with David Booth out, secondary scoring from Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian will be much needed.
Unfortunately, these secondary players have not contributed offensively for any extended period of time at the NHL level. If a few players don't step up their offensive games, the Canucks are going to be challenged to score in the tough Western Conference.
The Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: Australian-raised Nathan Walker is sticking with the organization.
The Washington Capitals came into training camp with some high expectations given the way they ended the 2013 regular season. While their playoff run wasn't exceptional, Adam Oates implemented a new system that took some time for the team to learn.
The Capitals did not need to make any significant changes to their NHL roster. The biggest takeaway from their training camp is a great human interest story.
Australian-raised Nathan Walker has earned a spot with the Capitals' AHL affiliate in Hershey. He has played some high-level hockey in the Czech Republic, and a dream that started with the Disney Mighty Ducks movies is one of the better ones in recent years. Walker will pick up a lot of hockey fans as his story becomes more well-known.
Biggest Takeaway from Training Camp: The Jets will be expected to make the playoffs this season.
The Winnipeg Jets have had some of the best and most boisterous fans in the league since their return to the Manitoba capital. Winnipeg home games have been some of the loudest in the NHL despite the Jets posting mediocre results at best.
Clearly, this is the year the Jets need to take the next step and make the playoffs. The Jets have made significant contractual commitments to Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Bryan Little and Evander Kane.
By adding some depth scorers in Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik, the time is now for the Jets. If promising rookie centre Mark Scheifele has an offensive impact in 2013-14, there's a good chance the Jets will be playoff-bound next spring.