The start of the regular season is just around the corner, but there are still plenty of decisions to make as teams finalize their opening night rosters. Last week, Ryan Dadoun went over some plot lines to keep on and I will examine some big injury news that could impact decision-making going into the 2018-19 campaign as well as some rookie developments.
Perry out five months following knee surgery
Corey Perry suffered a torn meniscus during the pregame warmups on Monday prior to an exhibition game against Arizona. He underwent surgery for that on Wednesday and while he was there he had a damaged MCL repaired, which he has played through for several seasons. Perry has struggled to produce over the last two years. He went from 19 goals and 53 points in 82 games in 2016-17 to 17 markers and 49 points over 71 matches in 2017-18. Missing around five months won’t help him bounce back this campaign, but perhaps he can get back on track in 2019-20 if his knee holds up.
It’s not all bad for the Ducks, as the team will have the opportunity to play some young talent and inject some speed into the top-six forward group due to Perry’s absence. Troy Terry could start the regular season alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Ondrej Kase, who has been playing with Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg, is a candidate for that line as well and was already a strong contender for a spot on one of Anaheim’s top-two lines because of an injury to Patrick Eaves.
The Ducks could also have prospects Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois and/or Isac Lundestrom in the lineup as bottom-six forwards to start the regular season as potential injury replacements. They have all impressed at training camp along with college free-agent signing Kiefer Sherwood. An injection of youth could be a blessing in disguise for the team.
Blues Jackets lose Jones for four-to-six weeks with knee injury
Seth Jones sustained a second degree MCL sprain during Tuesday’s preseason match against Buffalo. His absence will be a big hole for Columbus entering the 2018-19 campaign, especially after he broke out last season with 16 goals and 57 points in 78 games.
The good news for the Blue Jackets is that Zach Werenski appears to be on track to be available for the regular-season opener. He has been brought along slowly at training camp following off-season shoulder surgery, but is set to make his preseason debut on Friday. Werenski will likely be leaned on heavily once he returns to game shape and he should be expected quarterback the top power-play unit.
Galchenyuk will miss season opener
Alex Galchenyuk is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. He is not expected to play in the first game of the regular season for the Coyotes. It’s unclear when he will be available to return, but an update on his condition may come shortly. It’s a shame too, as he was having a very good training camp, while seeing playing time between Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer. Christian Dvorak has been progressing from a lower-body injury, but it’s uncertain if he will be ready for the start of the year, so the Coyotes will have to find some centers as replacements.
Dylan Strome should get an opportunity to fill in at center after he returned to action from an upper-body issue on Monday night. Keller was tried out in the middle in Monday’s preseason match as well, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he started on the year as a winger alongside Derek Stepan on the top line.
Detroit's banged up defense
Mike Green is not projected to be available for the start of the regular season because of viral infection. He is apparently over the worst of it, but it will take some time before he is back to 100 percent. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill revealed on Wednesday that Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Danny DeKeyser were question marks for the start of the year because of short-term injuries. He described them as being day-to-day issues, but was vague when it came to exact timetables or additional details. This could force Detroit to have a young defense corps when the regular season opens.
Dennis Cholowski and Libor Sulak are viewed as frontrunners for roster spots, while Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts could also be in the lineup for opening night. They would join veteran defender Niklas Kronwall and Nick Jensen on a very inexperienced Detroit blue line.
2018 NHL Draft picks vying for roster spots
Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin is pretty much a lock to start the year in the NHL and there are other players looking to claim roster spots on their respective teams following their selections in the 2018 Draft.
Andrei Svechnikov also appears to stand a very good chance of sticking with Carolina. He shined in his preseason debut and the Hurricanes feel it wouldn’t benefit his development to return to CHL this campaign.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi has improved each day at training camp and he looks poised to crack Montreal’s roster for the start of the season. He has contributed one goal and two assists in five preseason games, while generating plenty of other chances. The 18-year-old has impressed coach Claude Julien. Kotkaniemi has logged plenty of time alongside Jonathan Drouin at training camp, but could be a fit for Montreal’s third line going into the year alongside Artturi Lehkonen and Paul Byron.
Filip Zadina has produced two goals and one assist in five preseason outings for the Detroit Red Wings. He has been seeing time alongside Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou. Zadina has plenty of potential as a scoring winger, but Detroit has the flexibility to send him to Grand Rapids of the AHL.
Brady Tkachuk has been seeing time alongside Mark Stone for most of training camp. He has one goal in two exhibition outings. Tkachuk could bring plenty of value to the table this season and serve as a bright spot in what could be a very difficult year for the Senators.
Martin Kaut has seen action with Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot during camp with the Colorado Avalanche. He has received praise for his work on the team’s second line. He is eligible for minor-league assignment if he doesn’t make the team, but could see NHL action at some point this season if he gets demoted.
Tolvanen heads to the minors
Eeli Tolvanen was assigned to Milwaukee of the AHL on Wednesday. He was having trouble adjusting to the smaller rinks of the NHL, but he was making progress at training camp. Tolvanen has outstanding offensive upside, but he probably wasn’t going to get a chance to showcase those skills on the fourth line of a deep Nashville roster in 2018-19.
The problem with his demotion is a clause in his contract that states he can return to Jokerit of the KHL if he plays at least 10 games in the AHL. If he goes back then he would have to play out the entire season before he can return to the Predators. It’s possible that his desire to play in the NHL will keep him in minors longer, but the threat of the KHL could scare Nashville into giving him a promotion before the 10-game mark.