The Top Players YOU Should Be Watching

Every season there are a few diamonds in the rough that emerge in the hockey season that you may or may not notice. Well, there are a few out there that have caught my eye and next season…you should be watching them as well.

7. Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils).

(c) 2009 Michelle Kenneth

So this has become a bit of a joke of sorts…at least what I have to say about Parise. For instance, I get a little passionate on the subject matter about how insane it is that Parise gets no love across the board from the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby get so much more attention than Parise. Alex and Sid have the multi-million dollar sponsorships from Gatorade and CCM while Parise…he’s on the side of the LIBRARY encouraging kids to read.

Then all of a sudden the world started paying attention to what I was talking about when Parise tied up the gold medal round with a goal late in the third period. It wasn’t Crosby’s gamewinner in overtime the world was talking about. They were talking about that kid, Parise. “What team is he from?” was the question everyone was asking after the Olympics.

Trust me, Zach didn’t need some big sponsorship or the NHL to promote him. He just went out there and did what he does best…play hockey the way all of us in the Devils territory knows he can play.

If you weren’t watching him after the Olympics, you should be now.

6. Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers). Before people start flying off the handle on this one…I’m talking about hockey skills alone (not who he is as a person). Mike Richards in Las Vegas (c) 2009 Michelle Kenneth

I met Richards in Vegas last summer. I also know stuff about him that would put him on my Players I Love To Hate List, BUT that’s information that’s not supposed to get out.

BUT as a hockey player…he has proven me wrong about him. If you take the personal stuff out of the picture, he’s the guy that produces in ways you can’t even imagine. He does things out on the ice that makes you think…wait a minute…that came from Mike Richards?

He can prove that he is indeed worth every penny. He’ll make his hockey talk for itself as one of the reasons why you should love him.

5. Vladimir Zharkov (New Jersey Devils).

Vladimir Zharkov

Sharkey was one of those Devils I put as #2 on my list of players that should be put on the Devils roster this past season. But what did I see in this kid that only had 10 assists the entire season?

I saw an opportunity. But after some time I thought something’s not meshing right. Could this be another Niclas Bergfors situation where he’s reached as much potential as he can as a New Jersey Devil?

No. The future of Zharkov and the Devils may rest in the continuance of Ilya Kovalchuk as a New Jersey Devil. Kovalchuk has much to teach the young Russian. After a while I thought…this could be a language barrier between Zharkov and his teammates. If that is the case, having someone like Kovalchuk whose English is great (sure, there are a few snafoos here and there, but his English isn’t so bad) and speaks native Russian…this could be what Zharkov needs to excel.

I refuse to believe that the player I saw in the pre-season was just a fluke. I saw something great in him. I’m just waiting for it to re-surface again.

4. Michael Del Zotto (New York Rangers).

Michael Del Zotto

Not only is he a cutie, but during pre-season, when I got a look at Del Zotto, I thought…this kid is going to go far. His first season with the Rangers wasn’t so bad for a rookie defenseman.

He tallied the same number of points that the #1 defenseman for the New Jersey Devils acquired this season…37 points. Only difference…Del Zotto had 3 more goals to his name than Devils Andy Greene did. [Of course, I would compare him to the Devils.]

Del Zotto may get a lot of BS from fans and the media…that’s only because he’s in New York. The Rangers are one of the toughest teams in the league to please.

But Del Zotto…his numbers prove he’s right on target on becoming a much better defenseman over the years. This is year one for him, he can only get better.

3. Jhonas Enroth (Buffalo Sabres). If I were the Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, I’d be placing my cards on Enroth to come to the Devils. This goalie has been in the Sabres system for a couple of seasons now. With the Devils need for a future GT to replace Martin Brodeur when he retires, I’d bring in Enroth to start playing in Lowell/Albany so that he can learn the Devils ways now.

Not only would Lou get a young goalie from the start…let’s talk salary cap: “Enroth has one year left on his entry-level deal that will pay him $866,666 when he plays in the NHL.” (SB Nation)

Not a bad price for a goalie that could be worth a major franchise investment for the future of the Devils.

Enroth is currently out with an ankle sprain, but he should be good to go come the fall.

2. Ondrej Pavelec (Atlanta Thrashers). While some may look at Pavelec as an average goaltender, I saw that there was something more in him. There are times that a Facebook friend is in town and I don’t remember they’re going to be in town until I see they’re on the roster. Usually that is my key to tune in to what is happening on the ice with this specific player…imagine my surprise to see the Czech goalie prove a little something here and there out on the ice.

When you’re only playing for half of a season, you really can’t show your true assets and skills. That was the case for Pavelec this past season. BUT if Atlanta were to nurture and unleash what Pavelec can do on his own…they could have a Henrik Lundqvist on their hands.

That is what I saw in Pavelec.

1. Niclas Bergfors (Atlanta Thrashers). Bergie started off his rookie season playing for the New Jersey Devils. Ironically enough, when I went back to see which of the young players I thought should make the Devils roster, at the top of my list was Niclas Bergfors.

Not only did he do amazing things on the top line with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, but he also did amazing things with Atlanta after the Devils used him as trade bait for Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils gave up a future with Bergfors for something perhaps even more amazing and more established for the NOW.

Bergie, on the other hand, came up against a brick wall in his development as a New Jersey Devil. The best thing that the Devils could do for him was to trade him…and he sure has been shining in Atlanta. Steadily ranked #2 in all rookies this season, who would have thought that a kid that was completely off of the radar could shine so brightly when John Tavares (New York Islanders) has been leading the rookie race?

Bergfors is definitely one to watch as he begins his new legacy with the Atlanta Thrashers.

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