The new season is about to begin and it's time to take a look at each club's franchise player. Their franchise player is the player they build their entire team around, the center of their puzzle. He is their most important player to their success.
He displays leadership and is more than just a one dimensional player. Each team has more than one player who could be considered their franchise player, as others don't have such riches, here's a look at each team's franchise player.
Getzlaf is a special player, one who any NHL team would love to have. He's a very physical player who demands respect and earns it on a nightly basis. He is essential to the Ducks offense and has improved his point total every single season.
He's the kind of player that Joe Thornton needs to be. Getzlaf uses his body and strength to his advantage, is one of the best puck handlers in the league, and is a great player maker from anywhere on the ice. He plays with the same Tenacity Mark Messier did in his illustrious career.
At only 24, with one cup ring already, I wouldn't be surprised if Getzlaf brings a couple more Cup wins to Anaheim. He is a shoo-in for team Canada this year at the Olympics as well.
Kovalchuk is one of the best wingers in the NHL who happens to play on one of the worst teams in the NHL. Kovalchuk has put up great numbers in his career while not having a strong supporting cast outside of the few seasons Marian Hossa and Marc Savard were there.
Besides Savard, Kovalchuk has never had a No. 1 center to work with...If Kovalchuk had a center to work with he could be even better goal scorer which could be scary for other teams as he already averages over 40 goals a season.
His contract ends at the end of this season and may be moved by the trade deadline for a huge package if a deal can't be made but for now Kovalchuk has been and is the man in Atlanta.
Chara is the biggest player in the NHL and he anchors their power play with the NHL's hardest shot.
Chara is the Bruins best defensemen who follows in the footsteps of other great defensemen from B-town such as Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and old time hockey player Eddie Shore, after winning his first Norris Trophy.
Zdeno is their captain and has taken the team to great strides in each of his first three seasons in Boston, having lead them to the Eastern Conference champs. Expect Chara to lead them farther into the playoffs this year.
In 2006-2007 the Sabres scored 308 goals, the second highest total for a team since the lockout. Now though, Thomas Vanek is the Sabres fewest offensive weapons now.
The team that went to the Eastern Conference finals two years in a row and former President trophy winners has been torn apart through free agency or trades.
At the end of @007 both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere left, next year Brian Campbell was traded away, this year Ales Kotalik.
As well as Teppo Ninnimen retired. In 2007, Edmonton tried to pry Vanek away with an offer sheet which forced Buffalo to match in order to keep him at a cap hit of $7.14 million, much more than Buffalo intended on giving him that year.
He scored 40 goals this past season in 73 games and Buffalo would've had a much better chance of making the playoffs had he and Miller not go down with injuries this year at the same time.
With Vanek in the line up until 2013-2014 they'll have a chance every year to make the playoffs.
This is a no a contest, Jarome Ignila is also their all-time franchise player. Iginla is the team's leader in games, goals, and points.
He'll most likely be in a Flames jersey until he hangs up his skates or could pull a Ray Bourque and demand a trade in his final years to a cup contending team, if he hasn't delivered them a Cup in Calgary. Iginla is one the NHL's best right wingers and leaders.
He'll score highlight reel goals or have highlight reel fights it makes no different, he'll do whatever it takes to win games for his clubs and never takes a night off. He came close in 2004 to winning a Cup by leading the Flames to seven games in the Stanley Cup finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He has scored at least 30 goals in every season since the 2000-2001 season and also won the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy, Lester B. Person and Art Ross in 2001-2002 becoming the first NHL player to win the Art Ross trophy who wasn't named Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Jaromir Jagr in 21 seasons.
He won the Richard trophy a second time in 2003-2004 as well. The Flames offense surrounds Iginla and will again this year as well.
Eric is the most talented of the four Staal brothers, his finest season to date has been the first season after the lockout where he scored 45 goals. 55 assists, and 100 points all of which are career highs as of now. Eric lead the team to their first Stanley Cup as well that year with 28 points in 25 games.
He hasn't performed as well as he has that year but with Paul Maurice behind the bench for a full season this year he could bring his numbers in the '90s range as he produced far better when Maurice took over mid season last year.
Staal led the team to a surprising Eastern Conference finals appearance this year but was out gunned by the eventual Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins, Staal is determined to lead his team to challenge the Washington Capitals as Southeast Division champs to take the team to the finals again this year.
At 24 years of age, Staal is just entering into his prime and could be much dangerous with his experience gained with his five years in the NHL so far this season. Expect Carolina to climb higher in the Standings with Staal climbing higher in the scoring race.
This was a hard one to decide, who was more important to the Hawks, Kane or Toews? I went with Toews as he is their captain and he's only 21 years of age.
While both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are scheduled to be RFA at the end of this season, if for financial reasons, if they can't retain both Toews and Kane, they'll no doubtingly go with Toews as they wouldn't want to lose their captain going forward for what seems like greatness for this franchise.
Toews improved his goal total from 24 to 35 in his second year. As well as lead his team to the Western Conference finals against Detroit. I can't wait to see his game elevate even more this season and see if he can join the elites in the top 10 in scoring.
He was third in team scoring in both the regular and the playoffs, he could take the next step and lead the team with getting a chance to play with Hossa as another option to Kane in December when he returns from surgery.
With long time captain and all time franchise player Joe Sakic retiring this year, there really is no clear cut franchise player to take his mantle. One could say Milan Hejduk would take his spot, I'd say no, as I feel his production will decline even more.
The best candidate is Paul Stastny. He had a very impressive rookie year in 2006-2007 scoring 78 goals in 82 games. Those points broke Alex Tangauy's record for rookie points of 51 for the Colorado Franchise.
In his rookie year, he not only broke his father's franchise record of 16 game streak but also the NHL's of 17 from Teemu Selanne with a 20 game point streak that saw him score 29 points.
After playing in every single game in his rookie year, he was limited to 66 the following season and 45 this previous season. Stastny is no doubt their number one center and will be heavily depended on to carry the ginormous shoes of Sakic.
That is a tall order but the Half Slovak/Half U.S player will be up to the task better than anyone else on their roster. Any success this season, if any, will be based on Stastny's health and production. Stastny is only 23 and will be hitting his prime soon.
He'll be one of the elite centers in the league if he stays healthy and continues his production.
Rick Nash was considered to be just a one dimensional player who hadn't played to his full potential, except for his 41 goal campaign in 2003-2004, which he tied Kovalchuk and Iginla for most goals in the league.
Despite never having a number one center to play with in his entire career and virtually no supporting cast as well until this previous season, Nash has complied 194 goals and 355 points in 441 games. Ken Hitchcock is solely the reason why Nash went from goal scorer to a complete two way player.
He took the puddy of clay of Nash's talent and formed one of the best two way left wingers in the league.
He's their captain, he scores highlight reel goals, he has risen his production of points and assists under Hitchcock and is now dependable on the penalty kill and is dependable to play the final minutes of games while holding a tight lead.
He is a very strong physical player as well, who can dangle through defense men off of their feet( see this single handed effort/game winning goal against Phoenix, as well possibly one of the best goals I've ever seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBQArUjP89w ), he can grind along the boards and hits with power like Ovechkin. Nash is a lock for Team Canada at the Olympics this year and will look to take his team with Mason and co. back into the playoffs and for a deeper run.
Morrow took over as the franchise's player for current stars forward Mike Modano in September 2006 when Dave Tippet named him the Star's captain. It's no coincidence last year either that the Star's struggled so badly without their captain in the line-up, having only appeared in 18 games from a torn ACL.
They made strides here and there without him, but Morrrow is a significant piece to their game offensively/defensively as well as leadership. He's not a big player at 5'11 205 pounds but Morrow is a very skilled physical two way player and is definitely a shoo-in for team Canada.
Both his leadership and two way style will be just what Yzerman will be looking for when he makes his final 23 spot roster in December, it's exactly what makes him the Star's franchise player as well.
It's so hard to choose one player as the franchise player for this team. Pavel Datysuk gives great competition for this role as does career Red Wing and captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
Although, Lidstrom is probably heading into his final season in the NHL and Zetterberg has been consistent in both the regular season and playoffs for the Wings and will most likely be named their next captain when Lidstrom retires.
Having won the Conn Smythe in 2008's Cup win also gives him the notch over Datsyuk. While Datsyuk has enjoyed back to back 97 point campaign's and a Hart nomination this year, he wasn't a offensive force this year in the playoffs and Zetterberg was given the task of containing Sidney Crosby in the finals this year which he did do a great job.
It was the other Penguin Evgeni Malkin that gave the Wings the most trouble as well as Fluery shutting down their more talented offensive team. Zetterberg recently just signed a 12-year deal at $73 million that keeps his cap hit a respectable $6.05 million a season and will keep him a Red Wing for his whole career.
Having said that Steve Yzerman was inspiration for this deal and staying a Wing for life, it only makes sense that he replaces Yzerman as the team's franchise player.
Hemsky is no doubtingly their best talent on their team but he has never reached his full potential as he could be a bigger offensive producer with another talented sniper on his line.
Hemsky is a great play making right winger but he could also produce more if he shot the puck more often instead of making a great pass.
He has great hands and can combine that a fast past which is not easily done. He'll lead this team in every offensive category this year again and if he takes his game to the next level and plays 79-82 games the Oilers could be a surprise team in the playoffs next year.
After trading away Star goalie Roberto Luongo in 2006, then Oli Jokinen in 2008, then Jay Bouwmeester this past summer, the Panthers new franchise player is David Booth. Many people outside of Miami haven't heard of him, no worries most people in Miami don't even know who he is.
Last year Booth Scored 31 goals and 60 points for a team just screaming for offense which is why he is considered the next franchise player. In order for the Panthers to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season they'll need Booth to elevate his game and goal production even more.
He'll be a big big factor to their offense and team success next year, hopefully for the few Panther fans the team won't trade him away but they shouldn't worry about that as he signed a new deal keeping him a Panther until 2014-2015 season.
The team will now focus on trying to build this franchise around him, maybe finding a No. 1 center in free agency who likes privacy and sun to complement his game and goal scoring ability. But they probably have better success of that in trapping a drafted player.
A year ago I might've said Anze Kopitar or Dustin Brown, who are both great choices but now I'm leaning on Drew Doughty to take the mantle. He was very great in his rooke year as an 18 year old defense men in the NHL playing in 81 games.
Which is very rare for a player his age at his position to play a full season playing big minutes. While he plus/minus was a low -17, hopefully that improves this year with more experience for all of the Kings players.
He was named to the NHL's all rookie team as well. Doughty is only going to be 19 this season but will be heavily depended on and given a very large role on the blue line. He didn't seem to crack under the pressure last and he doesn't seem like a player who will have an sophomore slump.
He will improve on his 27 point total and minus 17 rating this year. I'm predicting a 41-point season with a plus-three rating.
I considered very hard that maybe Niklas Backstrom would be a better option, but I opted with Koivu. While losing Backstrom to an injury would be bad, Josh Harding could very well step up to replace him, if Koivu was injured, the Wild's offensive is fully crippled.
He has made great strides in his game since his debut in 2005-2006 where he scored 21 points in 64 games to a career high 67 points in 79 games in a Lemaire system. With promise of giving their fans a more up tempo play, expect Koivu's production to sky rockey to the 90 point range this season.
While the only notably winger is oft-injured Martin Havlat and aging Owen Nolan, Koivu will have other options with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Andrew Brunette. Koivu will heavily be depended on to deliver offensively for this club as well as shut down the opposing team's top end talent and power play's. Kouvi is their leader and the man in Minnesota now.
With the departures of Saki Koivu and Alex Kovalev the franchise player role is solely rested on the shoulders of young net-minder Carey Price.
The Habs haven't given up on him on being the next great goaltender to follow the steps of Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy which could've been even more pressure to add to a young goaltender than already having to be the starter for them at age 20.
Price could be a much better goaltender in a different market as playing in Montreal is one of the hardest city's to play for.
Their fans love you when you're great and hate you when you hit a slump. Price has shown glimpses of being a very good goaltender but with his play last year he can't fully be held accountable having it be his first full season as a starter on a team that was full of problems and injuries.
If their recent roster overhaul of Scott Gomez, Mike Cammarelli, Brian Gionta, Paul Mara, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, and Travis Moen pay off and find chemistry with each other and the remaining Hab players maybe Price will have a season that resembled his rookie Campaign in 2007-2008.
Last season Weber announced to the hockey world that he is the man in Nashville and an elite offensive defense men. Last year he was the first defense men to score ten goals and finished with 23 goals and 53 points.
Weber has a rocket from the blue line and will create rebounds and chances for their forwards on both five on five and the power play. Weber lead his team in shots with an impressive 251.
He has a good defensive side to his game as well with 192 hits and 95 blocked shots. He's no Zbynek Michalek with 271 but again you don't want a player of Weber's caliber to get injured from a shot.
Zach Parise had a career year last year that saw him score 45 goals and 94 points. He was third in goals and fifth in points in the NHL as well was first in both categories for U.S born players. He has developed into a fine two way player who could even improve his game under Lemaire.
Some are probably predicting his production to decrease under Lemaire but I don't think he'll use such a defensively system as he has a lot more options at offense than he did in Minnesota.
In his last years as coach for his first tour with the Devils they were in the top 10 in goals for. Parise will become a better two way player and if his production does take a dip, it won't be a step backwards as he'll be a better well rounded player.
He plays in traffic, he hits, scores goals and is versatile that he can excel at center or wing for the Devils. At age 25 he'll be hitting his prime and will have his best years coming, he'll be a big reason the Devils don't take the dive, many predict they'll always take at the beginning of the season.
He has the ability to take this team deep into the playoffs for the first time since 2003. He'll lead the Devils in points and goals and will see his role enhanced to be groomed to be their future captain.
He has all the goods and will be like with the Devils, the most skilled and important player for Team U.S.A at the Olympics this year. More great things are to come from Parise.
I'm sorry but this is the only team on this list where I don't have an answer for but after this season where John Tavares makes his debut, other youngsters Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey will get a full season, that the Islanders will have a franchise player.
The trio won't be as great as the Islander youngsters of the '80s with Mike Bossy, Bryon Trottier, Mike Smith, and Denis Potivin, but they're the biggest hope for the Islanders right now to regain a fan base before this once great franchise might be facing the same problems as Phoenix.
A healthy Rick Dipietro would certainly help this team as he is planned to be their goaltender until he's 40, when old back-up Garth Snow signed him to a 15 year deal. Rick was drafted No. 1 overall in 2000 over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik.
He has failed to live up to expectations because he is so injury prone. After a hip surgery last year to hopefully prevent him from having season ending injuries, Dipietro can be in the running again to reclaim his throne of this franchise.
He is a very above average goaltender but hasn't been able to put together a string of injury free seasons to show that, he can back stop this team to success if healthy. Now some may disagree with this, but I will say I am an anti-Dipietro person, so it was very tough to write that sentence.
There may be hope for this once historic franchise. At least this season they're prepared with three starting goaltenders.
The Rangers found a diamond in a rough with King Henrik. Drafted in round seven, 205th overall, he is certainly that as he has been nominated for the Vezina three times in his first four years playing.
He also won over 30 games in his rookie season as well and has improved or leveled his win total every season.
No matter how many overpriced, underachieving veterans Sather signs, he knows his team still has a fighting chance to make the playoffs and go deep.
They have never gone past the second round but King Henrik was the sole reason why the Rangers were able to take the much more talented offensive team the Washington Capitals to seven games losing 2-1.
If the signings of Gaborik, Prospal, and Kotalik work, which is a possibility, as Gaborik had surgery to repair his groin, Kotalik will be reunited with Chris Drury, and Prospal can be a great set up man for Gaborik.
If the Rangers can score goals now, the Rangers could be very lethal with Henrik back stopping them to glory.
Alfredsson is the Senators go to guy, even though he's now 36. His prime days maybe behind but Aflie is still a great right winger who puts up nearly a point per game or more. He has been very consistent offensively and defensively for this team for over a decade.
He's their captain and most lethal complete player. If one man can make Heatley re-accepted by Ottawa, it's Daniel. He's a great leader and has ton of heart. Unfortunately for him, others on his team don't.
As has been shown since the second half of the 2007-2008 season after having a great start after losing in the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. The Senators have had between 94-113 points from 1998-1999 to 2007-2008 season and a big factor has been Alfredsson.
He can still be a big threat offensively and could break the 1000 point mark this year.
Unfortunately for the Flyers management, Richards couldn't have had his break out season in 2006-2007, where they could have saved themselves from the overpriced contract of Daniel Briere. Briere is a good player, but he was better in Buffalo.
He was signed to be their No. 1 center but because of a career year by Richards in 2007-2008, as well as Jeff Carter emerging into a star, Briere is down to No. 3 center. At over $7 million cap hit, that's too much.
But Richards earned himself the C after scoring 75 points in 73 games. He improved that total to 80 points in 79 games this past season as well. A big improvement from the 32 points in 50 games he had in 2006-2007. Richards is their go to man for the power play, plays top minutes and key situations.
He's tough with a tons of amount of skill. He's a prototype Flyer player and resembles Bobby Clarke a little too. If the Fylers can get over the hump this year and get to the Finals it will be largely due to this man.
Shane Doan is the type of player every GM wishes they had, unfortunately he plays for Phoenix. He's never had any supporting cast but has managed to put up respectable numbers. He plays with largely unmatched heart, he has great hands, play making abilities and great shot.
Unfortunately for him, no one on his team is capitalizing from it. He leads by example and never takes a night off. He plays his hardest every night but is greatly unrewarded by playing in the World Championships for team Canada and golf every spring.
He can do it all play in any kind of situation and hopefully his dedication will rub off their younger players to take this team to a new level, where people will actually watch their games and find themselves in the playoffs.
I believe that Evgeni Malkin is more important to this team than Crosby is as a player, but Crosby is more marketable and he saved the franchise from going under and relocating. They're both great players and are the best 1-2 punch in the NHL, well it's more like a 1-1.1 punch.
They're probably the two best centers in the league. Malkin however is more versatile, he is great both on center and the wing. They're both good in the face-off circle but Malkin plays with more of an edge than Crosby does.
They're both great play makers and after this season I see Malkin has a slight edge over Crosby actually and Malkin is the definitely the better scorer. Malkin won the Art Ross trophy and the Conn Smythe, this also gives him the edge. As well as Malkin isn't known to be a cry baby.
I'm sorry to all the Sidney lovers but Malkin is the better player but I know if management had a choice to keep one it'd be Crosby because of his marketability, baby looks, and the media and NHL love him.
He's also their captain and as I don't know for sure this is true, I will admit this, but I believe Crosby is the youngest player to ever captain a team to the Cup, if I'm wrong please correct me. But They're a tie as the franchise player. Malkin has the better skill and Crosby is a world class media player.
Thornton is a great player, he has great hands, he's a big body, has great reach, has a great shot, wins face-offs but he's never gone past the second round of the playoffs and has been questioned about his heart and dedication if he can lead a team to the promise land every year of his career.
He's lead the team in points in all four seasons in San Jose and will again this year. Joe could be a bigger threat if he listens to what Phil Esposito has been telling him ever since he was a Bruin, to shoot the puck more.
Espo has stated numerous times, anytime he talks hockey with Big Joe, he told him to shoot more, instead of looking for the pass. Joe is one of the best play making centers in the world, he has the most assists in the NHL since the lockout.
His goal totals could be better, if they were San Jose would probably get past the second round. As well if he used his body and strength the way Ryan Getzlaf does.
They're very similar players but unlike Thornton, Getzlaf has won a cup and was a virtual part as well. Big Joe is 30 now. he could be hitting his decline in production, if so he must convert his style of play to be just as productive. He needs to reach down for more because it is there.
David Backes emerged this year by scoring 31 goals and has taken the throne of Franchise player from aging Keith Tkachuk. He was a minus-three but with solid goal-tending from Chris Mason and Ty Conklin, Eric Johnson and Eric Brewer hopefully playing a full year, that will change.
He is behind the charge of the Blues becoming a legitimate team again, making the playoffs again since 2004 last year. He plays in traffic, he hits, and with more experience will be a better rounded player.
He will definitely improve his goal totals and points this year with a healthy Paul Kariya to center with or Perron taking another step in his game, as well as Eric Johnson feeding him the puck from their zone.
He could finish this year in the 40-goal range and 70-80 point range. Backes will be the player this team will surround with quality talent to play with and will be vital to their success.
Lecavalier signed a contact that will keep him a Lightning for the remaining of his career last summer and the contract kicks in this season. Vinny had his worst goal and point total input since the 2002-2003 season with 29 goals and 67 points in 77 games.
A big factor to that was ownership issues, coaching changes, and the non-stop trade rumors. Well management seems set with Rick Tocchet as their coach, the trade rumors have stopped since July 1 when his no trade clause kicked in, but there's still ownership issues.
As well Vinny has only St. Louis to play with. Ryan Malone isn't as good of a match with Vinny as St. Louis is, as well as Prospal was bought out. If Alex Tanguay does sign the offer the Lightning have offered him, he could be a great fit for the team and himself.
He would be a great match with Vinny as he is the reason management have offered Tanguay the contract, as Vinny wants to play with him. Tanguay could have the career year he wants to make more money next summer by playing with Lecavalier as well.
Vinny will bring back his goal total to the 35-45 range and his point total to 85-97 range if he stays focused. He doesn't have the team surrounding him he once did that won the Cup and their defense is weak despite the additions of Mattias Ohland and first round draft pick Victor Hedman.
Hedman needs to prove himself in the NHL first before he's considered an upgrade. The team also doesn't have a proven goal-tender. But Lecavalier will be leading the charge and will be responsible for any success this team might reach.
The franchise player role has been left void since the team departed ways with Mats Sundin after the 2007-2008 season. They haven't replaced his leadership or production.
This team is in rebuild mode and despite not having big names at forward they as a collection score goals. They improved their blue line and have 10 defense men who can play in the NHL, with Kaberle leading the way.
He's their most offensively defense men going into this season and could come back to form that saw him score 67 points in 2005-2006. While never a goal scorer, he is a good play maker and leads the break out.
With all the trade rumors, he could use that to light a fire under his ass and improve his game, to show that it was a good thing he didn't or couldn't get traded.
This team always flirts with the playoffs and with solid solid goal-tending and sound defense they may surprise everyone with making the playoffs.
Thus, making Brian Burke possibly one of the best GM's in the league and may make the NHL think about making a award for GM's. Kaberle as of now, stands to be there franchise player but that doesn't say much, I'd much rather give Ron Wilson or Brian Burke the title.
Many may argue that Luongo is their franchise player and they may be right. The way I see it, the Canucks still managed to be competitive without him when he was injured, they weren't as dangerous but they were still competitive with Curtis Sanford, Cory Schneider, and Jason Labarbera. Luongo still won 33 games out of 54 games with a 2.34 GAA and a .92% and 9 shutouts.
He charged them to the Northwest division crown but my counter to his value is he hasn't taken the team past the second round of the playoffs, was flaky against the offensive Hawks, and is asking for over $8 million a year in his contract extension.
He will be the highest paid goal tender in the NHL and he hasn't gone deep in the playoffs. That contract if not over 10 years, heavily front loaded will cripple the Canucks budget. The Sedins have lead the team in scoring in all categories since 2006-2007. They're their offense.
They both signed cap friendly contracts paying them $6.1 million a season. That's a great deal for two players at $12.2 million cap hit, who provide much of their offense in order for them to win their games 2-1 or 2-1 in a shoot out.
With further improvements from Ryan Kesler, Andrew Burrows, and Jannik Hansen, and addition Mikeal Samuelsson to improve their offense then maybe Luongo gets the nod over them. Fact is, Vancouver wouldn't be winning many games behind Luongo if the Sedins went elsewhere.
Alexander Ovechkin as well as being this team's franchise player, he is very vital in broadening the NHL. Which has been hard for him to take more of the spot light off of Crosby as he's Russian.
Despite this Ovechkin has jumped head first into the North American culture and has improved his English very well. He's the most exciting player in the NHL making high-light after high-light goals. He has great speed, a heavy hitter, underrated passer, great hands, and did I mention one hell of a shot.
Some say Ovechkin scores the most because he shoots the most. Well that is true but Ovechkin doesn't just shoot the puck when he has it, he shoots it to make opportunities in front of the net as well.
He'll shoot the puck from anywhere in the offensive zone and if it doesn't go in more than likely there's a rebound in front of the net for someone else to knock it home.
Ovechkin has improved his game defensively, which has made Boudreau trust Ovechkin to play the final minutes of tight leads and is seeing more PK time.
He's learning to be a better overall player, always improves his game in some aspect every year. He's a back to back Hart Trophy and Lester B. Person, and Rocket Richard winner.
He'll most likely win the Rocket Richard and will be a finalists for the Hart and Lester B. Person again, and will be neck and neck with Crosby and Malkin to win the Art Ross trophy. But none of those mean anything to Ovechkin as he wants the Stanley Cup more.
After a second round loss, expect Ovechkin to more determined to lead his team to the promise land. He has a great cast around him in Backstrom, Semin, Green, and now Knuble to improve his numbers, theirs, and the teams. Expect Ovechkin to score 55-68 goals and 110-120 points barring injury.
His team will win the Southeast division again under him and could win the Eastern Conference crown despite their thin blue line and questions over their goal tending.
The Capitals always have a chance to be a contender with Ovechkin there and that's why they signed him to the richest NHL contract ever at 13 years at $124 million.
Expect Ovechkin to be given the C very soon as he's been leading the team with his unmatched energy and excitement for the game and his heart. Ovechkin has broken the mold of the stereotype that's been given to Russians that they're too soft and they're emotions match those of robots.
No one in the game shows more emotion than this man and it has caught on in the league and has made the product better.