Puck Blog

Kovalchuk, Stamkos among players to watch

There are certain NHL players who will command fans’ attention no matter where or when they are playing: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, to name a few.

There are also unknowns coming into each season who create a buzz and have everyone eager to see how well they acclimate to the League — in 2010-11 that list includes top draft picks Taylor Hall of Edmonton, Tyler Seguin of Boston and Erik Gudbranson of Florida.

Who are some of the other NHL players who will be under the microscope this season and bear watching?

Ilya Kovalchuk ranks right up with Crosby and Ovechkin among the elite players of the past decade, but he bears some extra watching because this will be his first full season with the New Jersey Devils after coming over in a February trade from the Atlanta Thrashers. There’s also the issue of Kovalchuk’s brand-new 15-year contract, which took most of the summer to finalize after the League rejected the Devils’ original 17-year deal because it circumvented the salary cap. Kovalchuk is a two-time 50-goal scorer, a plateau that’s never been reached by a New Jersey player. If he opens the season, as expected, on a line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, it could happen.

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