NHL hockey is a team sport, and, generally, the best NHL players hate spotlighting their personal achievements. However, individual storylines are part of what makes hockey captivating. The 2022-23 NHL season is full of compelling narratives about players for fans watching games on NHL CENTER ICE.

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Who will win the NHL scoring title? Who’s poised for a breakout NHL season? Who is the NHL’s best goalie? Who could lead his NHL team to the Stanley Cup?

These are just a few key questions as we check out 10 NHL players to watch in 2022-23.

Connor McDavid: Edmonton Oilers


At 25, Connor McDavid has already won four Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer. Yet, the lightning-fast Edmonton Oilers center’s main goal is to emulate legends like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier by captaining this team to its first Stanley Cup since 1990.

McDavid astounded the hockey world when he led the NHL playoffs with 33 points in 16 games last year. Expectations for the Oilers are heightened after reaching the Western Conference finals. McDavid must step up, along with German superstar Leon Draisaitl. 

Auston Matthews: Toronto Maple Leafs


When Auston Matthews scored 60 goals in 2021-22, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ sniper became the first NHLer to hit that mark since Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. With his ultra-deceptive release, the Arizona-raised 25-year-old — the reigning NHL MVP — could hit 70 goals this year.

However, Matthews arguably faces even more pressure than McDavid to help his team win the Cup. Toronto’s drought infamously stretches back to 1967, and Matthews’ club has suffered six straight first-round exits.

Andrei Vasilevskiy: Tampa Bay Lightning


Strong contenders abound for the title of the NHL’s best goalie, from Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers to Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. Yet having led the NHL in wins for five straight seasons, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning remains a cut above. 

“Vasy” yearns to backstop the Lightning to their fourth straight Stanley Cup finals. The big Russian was angry after Tampa Bay’s three-peat dream ended against the Colorado Avalanche in June. At 28, Vasilevskiy has all the tools to make the Lightning champs again.

Matthew Tkachuk: Florida Panthers


Arguably, Matthew Tkachuk surpassed Boston’s Brad Marchand as the NHL’s most gifted agitator last season. With the Calgary Flames, the 24-year-old winger stickhandled and smirked his way to a career-best 104 points. But Tkachuk ticked off Calgary fans when he declined to sign a long-term contract and got traded to the Florida Panthers in July.

The Panthers, who led the NHL with 122 points last year, got swept in the second round by Tampa Bay. Can Tkachuk take them deeper?

Jonathan Huberdeau: Calgary Flames


When the Florida Panthers dealt Jonathan Huberdeau to Calgary for Tkachuk, it meant a big adjustment for the superstar, Quebec-born center. Coming off a personal-best 115-point season, Huberdeau had spent his entire 10-year NHL career with Florida.

The 29-year-old impressed Calgary coach Darryl Sutter in the pre-season. Sutter dubbed Huberdeau “probably the best passer that this team has had, maybe ever.” Anticipation runs high as the Flames seek their first Cup since 1989.

Mason McTavish: Anaheim Ducks


Mason McTavish didn’t just make his NHL debut in 2021-22 with nine games for Anaheim. He played for five other teams, including the Canadian Olympic team in Beijing. McTavish also won championships with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and the Canadian World Junior team.

Blessed with clutch scoring abilities, the 19-year-old should vie for rookie of the year honors versus other young NHL players, like Buffalo’s Owen Power and Columbus’ Kent Johnson.

Elias Pettersson: Vancouver Canucks


Despite recording new career bests with 32 goals and 68 points for Vancouver last season, Elias Pettersson expects much more.

Entering his fifth NHL campaign, the 23-year-old Swede possesses a blistering one-timer and incredible stickhandling skills. If he consistently exhibits the form that gave him 18 points in 17 playoff games in 2020, the sky’s the limit for “Petey.” 

Jack Hughes: New Jersey Devils


Jack Hughes faced enormous pressure as the first overall draft pick in 2019. The nifty American centre had an injury-curtailed breakout season last year with 56 points in 49 games.

With a supporting cast that includes captain Nico Hischier and star defenceman Dougie Hamilton, Hughes is under the microscope with New Jersey seeking its first playoff berth since 2018.

Johnny Gaudreau: Columbus Blue Jackets


When Johnny Gaudreau left the Calgary Flames to sign with Columbus as a free agent, it was shocking. “Johnny Hockey” could have commanded more money than the seven-year, $68 million contract Columbus handed him. Also, the Blue Jackets are unlikely to contend for the Cup. Gaudreau explained that the Ohio capital was the right fit for his family.

Can the diminutive left wing reach new heights after his 115-point season in 2021-22?

Nathan MacKinnon: Colorado Avalanche


Hockey pundits have long cited Nathan MacKinnon as a legitimate rival to McDavid and Sidney Crosby as the NHL’s best player. The Nova Scotia power forward delivered a playoff-high 13 goals last year when the Colorado Avalanche won their third Stanley Cup all-time. He then became the NHL’s highest-paid player.

Productively partnered with towering Finland native Mikko Rantanen, the 27-year-old MacKinnon could win his first scoring title before garnering a second consecutive Cup.

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