For the last couple of days, and continuing for the next few days, I have been and will be looking at each team in the NHL and identifying a couple of players in particular that fit into one of two categories based on the once popular kids game, Chutes and Ladders. The players in the “chutes” category will be players who exceeded expectations last season, and will have a difficult time avoiding a slide in the coming season. The “ladder” category will consist of players who are ready to climb a level in their play and step up a notch. Feel free to brows back to see previous teams, and look for more teams in the coming days.
Chutes: Jean-Gabriel Pageau – The hype surrounding the remarkable run Pageau went on in the playoffs overshadowed the fact that he was a player who had played less than a dozen NHL games. While the performance was remarkable, it will be a tough act to follow for the young forward. He might stick in the NHL for the full season, but don’t expect him to score at the pace he did in his audition last spring. Some have even suggested playing him in a top 6 role, but I would temper the expectations and let him develop at a more natural pace.
Ladders: Erik Karlsson – Senators fans expect nothing less than a return to Norris form from Karlsson, who has had a full summer to rehab his torn achilles. He did what he could upon returning so early from the injury for the playoffs, but he wasn’t the same player with the same mobility. He is too competitive not to do what it takes to get back to 100%