In the midst of the intensity and the pandemonium, hockey players are bound to sustain devastating injuries during the course of their careers. The truth is, injuries regularly occur because of the emotion and fervor that is constantly being displayed on the ice.
For these NHL stars, their 2015-16 season was notably cut short because they were sidelined by injuries. Yes, it is unfortunate to suffer those injuries during the prime of their careers, but that doesn't mean it will halt their endeavor to work harder than ever before. Their prolonged absence from the sport of hockey builds an even stronger desire within to succeed and smash their personal-bests.
As we take a detailed look at the comprehensive list of the sorely injured players last season, it must be mentioned that their presence on the ice was markedly missed, as they all play an integral and imperative role of their respective NHL teams. After a troubling year riddled with injuries, how will the superstars of tomorrow fare next season?
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15 Nail Yakupov
As a former 1st overall pick in 2012, his on-ice performances have been quite underwhelming to say the least. His career-high season in points was two years ago in 2014-15, and though it may seem like a profusion of young players around the NHL are rapidly improving, Yakupov is not one of them. With the undergoing youth movement in Edmonton, he hasn't been able to achieve much personal success. He missed a majority of last season with a lower-body injury, and hasn't seen much ice-time when he was healthy. Will he finally be able to live up to his expectations this year after a summer filled with trade speculation? Well, he just recently got the boot from Edmonton in a trade that landed him in St.Louis. One thing that is for sure is that he will still need to arduously battle for a roster spot with the Blues roster as deep as it is.
14 Mike Smith
The undisputed starting goaltender of the Arizona Coyotes was limited to only 32 games last season because of a core muscle surgery. The team certainly missed him as they failed to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, placing fourth in the Pacific Division. They weren't able to depend on their goalie when they needed to, thus making Smith's absence evident. At 34 years of age, he still considers himself the no.1 goalie in Arizona and believes the best is yet to come. With a profusion of young talent in their line-up, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder and Michael Stone, there's no reason to doubt Arizona's chances to make the playoffs if Mike Smith can stay healthy this upcoming season.
13 Patrik Berglund
The Swedish St.Louis Blues center-man missed nearly half of last season after re-aggravating a shoulder injury in the off-season prior. He made his 2015-16 debut on Jan. 2 and continued to help guide the Blues to another playoff appearance. They finished 2nd in the Central Division and lost to Stanley Cup finalists San Jose Sharks. His most productive points campaign was in 2010-11 when he garnered 22 goals and 52 points. At 28 years old, the likely third-line center will have to prove he belongs on the deep St.Louis Blues roster. There are younger guys than him, for example Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, who have already climbed up the Blues roster. If he wants to stay on a competitive team like St.Louis, he'll have to seize every moment and regain his scoring touch.
12 Brendan Gallagher
The feisty 5'9" Montreal Canadians winger was sidelined with two injuries during the 2015-16 season, first, broken fingers, and then a lower-body injury. With only 53 games on his belt last season, he still managed to produce a third-consecutive 40-point season. Along with the loss of Carey Price to injury, the Montreal Canadiens could not sustain their high-quality level of play and soon plummeted to the bottom of the standings. Gallagher has a propensity for scoring goals in the dirty areas and using his physical explosiveness to gain possession of the puck. Watch for his adrenalized presence on the ice this upcoming season, for he and the Canadiens will surely be aiming to make the Stanley Cup playoffs and bring glory to Montreal once again.
11 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
As another former Edmonton Oilers 1st overall pick in 2011, he was limited to only 55 games and could not utilize his talent to bring success to Edmonton. The Burnaby native plays a strong two-way game and possess exquisite hockey IQ and vision. Along with the other youngsters in Edmonton, they have incredible individual aptitude, but have not been able to click as a team. Nugent-Hopkins has had multiple instances of injuries and struggles, thus not reaching his full potential. His lack of strength and size have hindered his development to being an elite NHL center, but with the upcoming season fast approaching, the former 1st overall pick has ample opportunities to emerge into the limelight. With the newly-minted "A" on his chest, he now has an incredibly potent role to play in the city of Edmonton.
10 Kyle Turris
The 27-year-old Ottawa Senators center-man was sidelined because of a lower-body injury and a high ankle sprain suffered near the beginning of 2016. It was certainly not a good start to the second half of the season for him, as the Ottawa Senators ultimately could not hold onto a playoff spot and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Donning the "A" for the Senators, his presence was evidently missed as Erik Karlsson and company couldn't hold down the fort. Turris is a multi-talented no.1 center for the Senators, who regularly plays on a line with Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, both of whom are now on the verge of entering their prime and have already posted successful point campaigns with Ottawa. For Turris, the 2016-17 season will be a year for him to regain his best form and return to normalcy, including a strenuous endeavor to best his personal record of 64 points.
9 James van Riemsdyk
During the Toronto Maple Leafs' mortifying 2015-16 season that ended in a last-place finish, James van Riemsdyk was stricken with a broken foot in January and suffered a setback during his attempt to return, forcing the Leafs to shut him down in late February. Before he was injured, he was pace to score 60 points, one point shy from his personal-best - 61 points. With the expeditious injection of youth happening in Toronto, including the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly, there is no doubt that van Riemsdyk has much to hope for this upcoming season. Even though making the playoffs next season might not be entirely feasible, van Riemsdyk and company still have a lot of positives to be optimistic about, and in the coming seasons, they will definitely be an auspicious team.
8 Jaroslav Halak
As the undisputed starter for the New York Islanders, he was limited to only 36 games because of multiple injuries - two upper-body injuries, a lower-body injury and a groin injury. Needless to say, Halak did not have the best of luck last season in terms of staying healthy. Despite his various injuries, the Islanders still managed to qualify for the playoffs and were ultimately ousted in the 2nd round. As the main starting goalie for the European team that made it to the finals of the World Cup this fall, his stunning performances highlighted and orchestrated their near successful efforts. For a goalie coming off an injury-riddled season, his World Cup experiences surely boosted his self-confidence and should act as a preview as to what he has in store to display during the upcoming season.
7 Ondrej Palat
The 25-year-old Czech winger is famed for his chemistry with Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson. Forming a youthful triple threat, they have all blossomed into future NHL superstars and have helped take some weight and expectations off of captain Steven Stamkos. After a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2015, Palat was limited to 62 games with two lower-body injuries over the course of last season. He had a considerably slow start to the season, as did Tyler Johnson, but they helped guide the Lightning to a second straight playoff berth. But this time around, their efforts were cut short after a defeat to the Penguins in the Conference Finals. As Palat and company battle their way through the 2016-17 season, they will all definitely be aiming to beat their personal-bests and reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
6 Logan Couture
For Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks, the 2015-16 season was a season full of triumph and heartbreak. It was the first time for many of the Sharks players that they had played in the Stanley Cup Finals, but were ultimately crushed after their distressing defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games. Before all of the playoff drama, Couture was sidelined because of a fractured right fibula and a lower-body injury, both suffered near the tail end of 2015. Though his season was cut short, he appeared in all 24 playoff games and garnered 30 points to top it all off. This past September, he appeared in the World Cup of Hockey and won a much-deserved gold with Canada to top off his eventful year. When the upcoming NHL season commences, Couture will certainly be aiming to qualify for the playoffs once again and avenge the Sharks' Stanley Cup Finals defeat.
5 John Carlson
Coming off a career-high in points with 55 during the 2015-16 season, the 26-year-old defenseman was limited to 56 games because of two lower-body injuries. Entering into the playoffs, the Capitals were among one of the favorites to win, and a recovered John Carlson posted 12 points in 12 playoff games. With a boatload of expectations for the Capitals next season, the offensive defenseman will need to regain his best form and be the formidable quarterback of the team. The flashy American defenseman is known for his offensive abilities, as well as his incredible hockey vision, intelligence and puck-moving skills. With the Capitals' no.1 defenseman on the verge of his prime, the coming years will be a testament to his proficiency to lead the back-end of the team and his capability to compete in the league as an elite NHL defenseman.
4 Jaden Schwartz
The streaky 24-year-old winger's 2015-16 season was majorly cut short after a devastating fractured left ankle injury that he suffered in late October. Although he missed the majority of last season, he was able to make his long awaited return in early February to the Blues team that was endeavoring to make the playoffs for the fifth time in as many years, in which case they did. The 14th overall pick in 2010 hasn't played a full season with the team since he was drafted, and was recently stricken with an elbow injury this past week. For Schwartz and the Blues, they should be desperately hoping for a quick recuperation because of his past struggles with staying healthy. However, when he is healthy, he is a lethal threat for a Blues team that is still in pursuit of the coveted Stanley Cup.
3 Evgeni Malkin
The illustrious Russian center-man has won many accolades during his career, but not without a few obstacles along the way. Malkin has a long history of injuries, and last year was not an exception. First, he suffered a lower-body injury, and then a month later, he suffered an arm injury. The Penguins certainly missed his on-ice dominance, but they proved their worth when they held onto a playoff spot during his absence. At the age of 30, the powerful center-man proved that he could still compete with the best of the bests, guiding the Penguins to his second Stanley Cup championship win. After posting a points average higher than a point per game in the last five seasons, look for Malkin to replicate his success in the coming seasons, as he shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down his production rate, whether or not he stays healthy throughout the NHL season.
2 Carey Price
As one of the best goaltenders in today's era, Carey Price suffered a tremendously tragic lower-body injury in November, which turned out to be more serious than initially thought and ultimately forced the Canandiens to shut him down for the rest of the season. From there on out, the Canadiens began their humiliating decline in the standings. Price is the paramount reason why the Canadiens have been playing so well, so without him, they could not sustain their high level of play. After putting a season of mediocrity and disappointment well behind his back, Price showed that hockey world what they were missing when Team Canada won the World Cup this past September. After the experiencing the painful dejection of last season, and with Price in his groove once again, the Montreal Canadiens are sure to treasure his dominance this upcoming 2016-17 season.
1 Connor McDavid
For those who don't know who he is and how skilled he is, let me take it in perspective for you by reminding you that he is often compared to "The Great One," earning him the nickname "The Next One."
After being selected 1st overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he was dreadfully injured in November of 2015 with a shoulder injury. It would eventually force him to miss nearly half the season and prevent his chances from being the favourite to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Despite his tragic injury suffered so early in his auspicious career, McDavid was able to average higher than a point per game, which is impressive especially for a young rookie like him, and live up to his expectations, unlike a few of his fellow former no.1 overall picks (Yakupov for example).
In the coming years, no doubt will he shine in the limelight, along with his young, talented teammates, and help bring Edmonton out of the sewer of the NHL. He alone was not able to endeavor towards that last season, as he was hindered by a shoulder injury, but this year, watch out for McDavid as he is projected to challenge for the 2016-17 NHL scoring title. With such a promising future ahead of him, there is no doubt in my mind that he is the right choice for the no.1 spot in today's compelling article.
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