With a brand new National Hockey League season around the corner, it's time to take a final look back at last season before we wipe it from our memories completely.
The Los Angeles Kings proved their worth as a legitimate threat to be the first dynasty of the "New NHL" era, and will be looking to repeat this year while capturing their third Stanley Cup in four years.
Teams will be placing a big target on the backs of the Kings - Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and San Jose are all Western powerhouses looking to knock the Kings off their perch as rulers of the West, while Boston, Pittsburgh, New York and Montreal will battle it out for the right to reclaim the Eastern Conference's former glory as the superior conference.
While the teams as a whole present interesting story lines in their own right, what about the players who ruled the headlines throughout the regular season? Some were in the headlines for the wrong reasons - be it injuries, off-ice issues, or the like - while others flourished and grabbed national attention through impressive on-ice performance and substantial improvements in the developments as professional hockey players.
The players featured on this list wowed us with incredible finishes to last season - goal scorers who got in the zone, play-makers who we're setting up their teammates at will, and goaltenders who could not be beaten by even the best of scoring chances. The challenge for those players then becomes: can they carry that momentum into next season? For the fans, teammates, coaches and management of these players, the hope remains that these players can not only replicate the way they finished last season, but also improve upon the impressive numbers they put up during crunch time of the regular season.
These players could make or break the fate of their teams' playoff chances in 2014-2015, so they will no doubt be worth following all season long.
20 Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
19 Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild
18 Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
17 Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
16 Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins
15 Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars
14 Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
If you're Canadian, you'll get the reference:
"YOU'RE THE NUMBER ONE COP ON THE FORCE, BOBROVSKY"
13 Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils
12 Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
11 Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
10 Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
9 Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lighting
8 Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
7 Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
6 Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
5 Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
4 Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
3 Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
2 Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
1 Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux had a strange year to say the least. His numbers were atrocious through the first month of the season: he only had 6 assists in 11 games in October. The firing of Peter Laviolette and the subsequent hiring of Craig Berube seemed to have ignited Giroux, who ended up finishing 3rd in points with 86. While he was on fire for most of the season, Giroux was unstoppable in the final 23 games of the year, where he netted 9 goals and added 20 assists for a total of 29 points, the most of any player in the league over that span. Giroux will be looking to get hot from the start of the season this time around, and is a good bet to do just that.
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