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Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News previews the NHL season with a look at the top players, championship contenders and more.

Top Hart Trophy candidates 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton – An electrifying, entertaining star poised to win a Stanley Cup.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh – His position in NHL history is secure, but Crosby’s desire to win remains strong.

Auston Matthews, Toronto – Likely to enter MVP consideration, conversation very soon.

Top 5 West forwards

Connor McDavid, Edmonton – The way McDavid does everything at high speed is amazing.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago – One of the NHL’s greats, but showed a bit of mileage last season.

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton – Forms a formidable combo with McDavid on a championship-caliber team.

Patrick Kane, Chicago – Blackhawks will be leaning on Kane and Toews heavily.

Jamie Benn, Dallas – Stars have a loaded roster, and Benn is poised to break out into stardom.

Top 5 East forwards

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh – Always seems to raise his game at the most important time.

Auston Matthews, Toronto – Difficult to imagine how Matthews can top an unbelievable rookie season.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh – Crosby is lead dog in Pittsburgh, but Malkin is a Hall of Fame talent.

John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders – Will Tavares be a free agent July 1? It’ll be the story of the season/summer.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington – At his point, Ovechkin is holding off some outstanding younger talent.

Top 5 West defensemen

Brent Burns, San Jose – Possesses one of the game’s hardest shots and is an elite skater.

Ryan Suter, Minnesota – Plays major minutes, rarely makes mistakes, and leads an upcoming team.

P.J. Subban, Nashville – Is thriving away from the spotlight of Montreal.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles – Don’t let the Kings’ downfall take away from Doughty’s all-around brilliance.

Duncan Keith, Chicago – There’s a lot of miles here, but Keith still plays Norris-caliber major minutes.

Top 5 East defensemen

Erik, Karlsson, Ottawa – Always has been a star, but last season Karlsson took his game to otherworldly.

Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay – Hedman’s game is still evolving, and few players have his size and skating ability.

Ryan McDonagh, N.Y. Rangers – A steadying force on an evolving Rangers’ roster, he’s always in Norris consideration.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh – It’s actually mildly shocking Pittsburgh won the Cup with Letang injured.

Shea Weber, Montreal – Weber is getting older but he remains one of the game’s foremost defenders.

Top 5 West goalies

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota – Dubnyk resurrected his career with the Wild, with a non-flashy brand of goaltending.

Cam Talbot, Edmonton – Was outstanding his first season in a hockey-mad market, showing elite poise.

Corey Crawford, Chicago – A Stanley Cup-winning goalie who doesn’t get rattled and played so many big games.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles – Needs to rebound after an injury-marred season.

Martin Jones, San Jose – Jones will be under pressure this season on a Sharks roster that is getting older.

Top 5 East goalies

Carey Price, Montreal – The Canadiens made changes in the offseason, but Price remains the key star.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus – Slipped in playoffs after a Vezina-winning regular season on surprising Blue Jackets.

Braden Holtby, Washington – One of many Capitals who are elite during regular season — then slip in playoffs.

Matt Murray, Pittsburgh – Two consecutive Stanley Cup-winning seasons put Murray among the best.

Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers  – The playoffs showed Lundqvist can still be a game-changer.

Top 3 rookies

Nico Hischier, New Jersey – June’s No. 1 overall pick reminds scouts of Pavel Datsyuk.

Mathew Barzal, N.Y. Islanders – Promising offensive star could push Islanders into playoff contention.

Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay – The Lightning traded one potential star (Jonathan Drouin) for another (Sergachev).

5 coaches on hot seat

Barry Trotz, Washington – How many more epic collapses can the Capitals have?

Randy Carlyle, Anaheim – Is the window closing for the Ducks to win another Stanley Cup?

Joel Quenneville, Chicago – Quenneville didn’t seem thrilled with summer moves, which weakened the Blackhawks.

Jeff Blashill, Detroit – Is presiding over a roster that many analysts believe is in decline.

Jared Bednar, Colorado – Tough to judge his coaching because the roster is so terribly bad.

5 championship contenders

Pittsburgh – Suffered some personnel losses, but still enough here to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Edmonton – The pieces appear in place for the Oilers to take over the West.

Tampa Bay – This group should be motivated after last season’s disappointment.

Toronto – There’s too much pure talent here not to think they’ll be right in the hunt.

Dallas  – GM Jim Nill has constructed a team that looks ready to make a big jump.

3 dark horses

Calgary – Goaltending is a question, but the Flames are deep everywhere else.

Minnesota – The Wild don’t have major weaknesses on paper.

Columbus – Can the Blue Jackets can another significant step forward after last season’s rise.

5 bottom feeders

Vegas – An expansion team that will suffer a lot of losses — but shouldn’t be completely awful.

New Jersey – The Devils will lose a lot, but there are some intriguing pieces here.

Vancouver – Don’t want to admit they are in a rebuild.

Colorado  – With all these high-end draft picks, the Avalanche are still awful.

Detroit – Strange to put Red Wings in this category, but this roster appears to be slipping.

Pressure is on

Washington Capitals – Always a regular season powerhouse, and bitter playoff disappointment.

Joe Sakic, Colorado – After such a terrible season, Avalanche didn’t make major changes.

Chicago Blackhawks – GM Stan Bowman made some daring moves to keep this machine rolling.

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