1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Last years youngest team added veteran help in Petr Sykora and Daryl Sydor to an already talented core. With Sidney Crosby up front and Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the Pens should build on last season.
2. Buffalo Sabres: Yes, the leaders are gone, but the students learned enough to carry the load. Derek Roy looks ready for an 80 point season, and Thomas Vanek should continue with another 40 goal year. Better team defense will be the X-factor.
3. Tampa bay Lightning: Usually a big 3 is not enough to carry a team, but when you have Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, it could prove to be. They will be good, but need a top flight goalie before making the next step.
4. Ottawa Senators: Last years Cup finalist remains mostly intact but lost their best secondary scorer in Mike Comrie and best offensive Defenseman in Tom Preissing. Needs to find other scorers outside of Spezza and Heatley and Ray Emery needs to show consistency.
5. New York Rangers: No team in the league can match the Rangers down the middle with Gomez and Drury. Gomez should flourish with Jagr and Drury should keep the locker room in check. Still need work on the defense. Lundqvist is now the East's best goalie.
6. Atlanta Thrashers: The X-factor of the East. Great talent with Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kari Lehtonen in net. Can Lehtonen rebound from a terrible playoff? Hartley could be first coach fired if team falters early.
7. Philadelphia Flyers: Spent a lot of money to build this team back. Briere gives Gagne his best center ever, while Timmonen and Smith, combined with younger talents such as Coburn and Kukkonen, give them a very formidable defense. Can Biron prove he is a playoff goaltender?
8. Montreal Canadiens: They did lose Souray, but got a better defensive replacement in Roman Hamrlik. Smolinski brings toughness and leadership. Need to find a way to make up for Souray's lost PP production. Halak trade could bring much needed help up front.
9. New Jersey Devils: Brodeur may still be great, but losing Rafalski and Gomez will hurt. Elias and Gionta must carry the scoring. D looks weaker.
10. Washington Capitals: Ovechkin finally has some help, but it will take a year for things to click. he will challenge for the scoring title with Nylander as his center. Backstrom and Semin give them a very good second line.
11. Carolina Hurricanes: Will further prove their 2006 Stanley Cup was result of a hot run. Ward must show he can be consistant while someone needs to show they have number 1 D potential. Staal still one of the games best young players.
12. Toronto Maple Leafs: Toskala is an upgrade, but still lacking pieces to make a run. D still looks to have problems. Sundin and Blake will have to carry the scoring until Wellwood returns.
13. Florida Panthers: There getting better, but will be lost in a strong Eastern Conference shuffle. Jokinen and Horton bring top scoring. Frolik should develop in the same mold. Corey Murphy is a great addition to the PP. Vokoun gives them what they missed with Luongo, a steady hand.
14. Boston Bruins: A lot of young talent that needs time to gel. Claude Julien brings his devils style to Boston. Has good scoring up front with Bergeron, Savard and Kessell.
15. New York Islanders: Only Buffalo can say they lost as much as the Isles in free agency. Comrie and Guerin will score goals, but are not Smyth and Blake. D looks slower with addition of Andy Sutton.
1. Anahiem Ducks: Will not score as much as last year, but will still smother teams with physical style. Bertuzzi is a huge question mark. How much will the team miss Neidermayer with the addition of Schneider?
2. Detroit Red Wings: Lost almost an entire scoring line with Bertuzzi, Lang and Calder departing. D gets even more dangerous with Rafalski. Can Hasek stay healthy to carry the load?
3. Colorado Avalanche: maybe the most successful free agency period of any team adding Smyth and Blake. Smyth gives Sakic a grinding winger to pick up those garbage goals. Statsny is a star in the making. Hannan, Liles and a healthy Leopold make a very good top 3.
4. Vancouver Canucks: With Roberto Luongo in net, who needs goals? Sedin twins need somebody to step up and help carry the load. Can Markus Naslund rebound from a horrific season? Bieksa could be the number 1 D-man by mid-season.
5. San Jose Sharks: May be playoff disappointments, but still keep producing. Thornton is one of the best in the game. Jeremy Roenick gives them even more depth and could be poised to produce under less expectation. Matt Carle must step up and replace Scott Hannan. Can Nabokov prove to be a legit number 1?
6. Calgary Flames: Iron Mike will install a tough attitude immediately. Kiprusoff will again be called on to carry the team. Can Daymond Langkow carry on last years production? Others need to step up and score to make a run.
7. Dallas Stars: Marty Turco is one of the best, but he has no one up front to get him a lead. Need to trade D depth (Boucher, Daley) for scoring help. Modano is another year older, but can still produce consistently.
8. Minnesota Wild: Gaborik and Demitra are a scoring machine when Gaborik is healthy. Backstrom was a nice surprise last year, can he continue it as the legit number 1? Petr Klaus is a darkhorse Calder candidate.
9. Nashville Predators: Lost a lot of scoring, but can play tough defense to win games. Radulov must take his game to the next level and replace some of the lost production. Chris Mason was great in spot duty, but can he shoulder the entire load? Arnott is a leader.
10. Edmonton Oilers: Weakest team in the leagues toughest division. Souray gives them a dangerous PP. Penner must prove he was worth all the money. May need to get an upgrade in goal with Roloson.
11. St. Louis Blues: The 1998 NHL All-Star Game is alive and well in St. Louis with the addition of Paul Kariya and return of Keith Tkachuk. Can they do it in 2007? Stempniak is a budding scorer, while Erik Johnson makes an already solid D better. Jay McKee must finally stay healthy in order to make the playoffs.
12. Chicago Blackhawks: Nik Khabibulin didnt forget how to play overnight, now he finally has talent in front of him. Martin Havlat should flourish with Robert Lang getting him the puck, IF he can stay healthy. Jonathan Toews is the odds-on favorite for the Calder, great passer with a solid scoring touch. Buffalo native Patrick Kane will be asked to produce early. A young but talented D could use a veteran presence. Seabrook and Keith are the top pairing for now.
13. Los Angeles Kings: They built around Kopitar with mid-level FA talent (Preissing, Stuart, Handzus, Nagy, Calder). Cammalleri got his big pay day, now needs to continue playing at that pace. Jonathan Bernier is a great young goalie, but they need an upgrade for a playoff run. Jack Johnson is a stud in the mold of Rob Blake.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets: Hitchcock will have them playing hard right out of the gate. Rick Nash should be a 40 goal scorer. Gilbert Brule will make him more dangerous. Mike Peca is a great leader who Hitchcock will lean on. Adam Foote and Sergei Federov are eating cap, and wont be around the entire season.
15. Phoenix Coyotes: A scrap heap right now. Jovanovski and Doan are only legit talent. Lots of young talent that needs time to grow, but should be good (Hanzal, Mueller, Michalak). BAD goaltending situation cant get much worse.
************COMPLETE SABRES PREVIEW COMING TOMORROW************