With 2015 now in its final days and a new year fast approaching, here's a look at the NHL players to watch in 2016.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 28-year-old Penguins captain is off to the worst start of his career. Can Crosby regain his scoring touch in the new year? The Penguins playoff hopes could depend upon it.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.
After one of the most dominating single-season performances by an NHL goalie, a nagging knee injury sidelined the 28-year-old for much of 2015-16. Price is expected back in January. The struggling Habs hope he quickly regains his form.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Will he re-sign with the Lightning, or test the free-agent market in July? If he does the latter, will he come home to Toronto by signing with the Maple Leafs? Expect the future plans of the Lightning captain to remain a hot topic in 2016.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks.
The 27-year-old Blackhawks winger is on pace for a career-best 115-point campaign. Kane has thus far dominated this season's NHL scoring race. He's also the early favourite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars.
The Stars' dynamic duo are right behind Kane in the league scoring race. Not only are Benn and Seguin the NHL's top offensive tandem, they're also leading a hockey renaissance in Texas.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals.
Alex Ovechkin remains the Capitals superstar, but Holtby is their MVP this season. The 26-year-old is currently this season's dominant goalie and perhaps the main reason behind the Capitals' recent surge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators.
Is this the season the Predators trade their captain? They desperately need a reliable top-line centre and Weber's name continues to surface in trade rumours. The 30-year-old blue-liner lacks a no-trade clause, and could fetch a big return for the Preds.
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames.
The Flames are struggling to regain last season's form, but Gaudreau remains their hottest star. The 22-year-old sophomore winger is not only Calgary's best player, he also ranks among the league's top-10 scorers.
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the Jackets mired near the bottom of the NHL standings, the trade winds are swirling around Johansen. Like his team, the 23-year-old centre is struggling this season. If he doesn't regain his form soon, Johansen could be on the move.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers.
The much-hyped McDavid was surging in the rookie scoring race until sidelined in November by a broken collarbone. Expected to return to action in January, all eyes will be on the promising 18-year-old centre.
Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, Arizona Coyotes.
The young Coyotes forwards are currently among this season's rookie scoring leaders. Domi and Duclair are fast becoming the talented foundation upon which the Coyotes hope to build a future Stanley Cup contender.
Auston Matthews, Zurich, Swiss National League.
The 18-year-old centre is projected as the top prospect in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with The Hockey News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.