Vincent Trocheck – In a season in which the Panthers were derailed by injuries and bad luck, Trocheck was one of the bright spots. The 23-year-old led the team with 54 points last season, playing big minutes and taking a bulk of the team’s draws.
Matt Duchene – A great player trapped in a bad situation in Colorado. Duchene is one of the most dynamic, creative players in the league and that has shined the brightest in international play.
Logan Couture – The future of the post-Thornton Sharks. He was star of San Jose’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2016, scoring a playoff-high 30 points in 24 games.
Mitch Marner – Played mostly wing as rookie with Nazem Kadri centering, but Marner obviously projects long-term as a pivot. Marner and Auston Matthews will be one of the NHL’s premier 1-2 punches for years to come.
Sean Monahan – Carries the load in Calgary alongside Johnny Gaudreau. Monahan has played all but two games the past three seasons, averaging 28 goals and 61 points over that span.
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Fell back a bit last season from the pace he set in his breakout 2015-16 season, when he put up 77 points. But he’ll be a great player going forward and a wonderful compliment to Nicklas Backstrom in Washington’s top-six. The Caps were smart to lock him up for eight years this summer as a restricted free agent.
Bo Horvat – Horvat’s ceiling might not be as high as some guys on this list, but he’s taken another step forward every year since coming into the league in 2014-15. He might not be an ace pivot on a Stanley Cup contender, but he’s a strong two-way player that’s not easy to play against.
David Krejci – Krejci is one of the NHL’s more underrated players and better playmakers when at his best. Unfortunately, injuries have got the better of the 31-year-old in past seasons (despite playing all 82 regular season games last season). However, he’s going into 2017-18 healthy and will have David Pastrnak at his side, so don’t be shocked if there’s a renaissance of sorts for Krejci this season.
Alex Wennberg – Wennberg exploded for 59 points, 46 of which were assists, last season. The 23-year-old, who just signed a 6-year, $29.4 million deal with the Blue Jackets, is one of the best young playmakers in the league. He has 78 assists over the last two seasons.
Joe Thornton – One of the better centers in league history, Thornton is climbing the all-time lists while still being a major contributor to the Sharks.
Derek Stepan – Stepan has averaged 57.3 points per 82 games since coming into the league in 2010-11, and has recorded 50 points in each of his last four seasons. He’s the best center the Coyotes have had in quite some time.
Nathan MacKinnon – Much like Matt Duchene, a player who will truly blossom when he’s part of a competitive team.