Top storylines from Canadian training camps

From left to right: Nazem Kadri, Daniel Briere and Ales Hemsky. (Sportsnet.ca/Associated Press)
September 10, 2013, 1:38 PM

Here are the top 10 storylines to watch for at Canadian NHL training camps:

Maple Leafs Kadri and Franson unsigned

Nazem Kadri would slide into Toronto’s lineup perfectly as the second-line centre behind Tyler Bozak and ahead of Dave Bolland. Cody Franson would play top-four minutes on the blue-line. Only problem is, neither restricted free agent has a contract yet. Leverage is hard to come by for RFAs, so deals could be done sooner rather than later, but until they are it’s a major question for the Leafs. Toronto GM Dave Nonis also must consider extending defenceman Dion Phaneuf and forward Phil Kessel now, before their contract seasons get underway.

Tortorella’s first impression on Canucks

Like he did with the Rangers, coach John Tortorella sent Canucks players a list of what to expect at training camp as far as fitness testing. It’s going to be a lot different than life under Alain Vigneault, something centre Ryan Kesler readily acknowledges. How the Canucks take to Tortorella’s style is a storyline that will develop throughout the early part of the regular season, but the first taste of it could be a culture shock.

Senators move on from Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson’s gone, something centre Jason Spezza said the Senators were prepared for, just not the former captain leaving for another team. Filling the leadership void is the first step in Ottawa’s process, while the addition of Bobby Ryan on the ice will also help. Spezza said even during Alfredsson’s tenure, leadership happened by committee, so there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue. He and defenceman Chris Phillips are the favourites to wear the C.

Flames roster wide open

With the rebuild going full tilt in Calgary, there aren’t many veterans around who have roster spots locked down. More than any other camp in the league, young players have a chance at cracking the lineup. That includes No. 6 pick Sean Monahan, who could have much more than a bit part for the Flames. With Miikka Kiprusoff officially retired, Karri Ramo figures to be the starting goaltender, but Swiss star Reto Berra could earn the backup job as he battles Joey MacDonald.

Rielly in a tough spot in Toronto

Defenceman Morgan Rielly is perhaps too good to go back to the WHL, and he’s too young to play in the AHL. But the 19-year-old might not be able to crack the Maple Leafs blue-line, which already has a developing prospect in Jake Gardiner. Rielly wants to make sending him back to Moose Jaw a "hard decision" for management and the coaching staff, and it’ll be up to him to prove he belongs for more than just a cameo.

Canadiens blue-line without Emelin

Defenceman Alexei Emelin’s right knee injury from late last season will keep him out until December. P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov are the rocks on the blue-line, and it’ll be up to Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges to help make up for Emelin’s absence early on. How the hard-hitting but slowing Douglas Murray fits in during training camp and exhibition games is worth watching.

Scheifele and Trouba fitting in with Jets

The future is now for centre Mark Scheifele and defenceman Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg’s top prospects who have been given time to develop. They’re expected to be in the NHL for good, but it’s not quite certain how big of roles they will have. Scheifele could slot in as the third-line centre if he embraces that responsibility, and Trouba might be good enough to challenge for top-four minutes on defence.

Briere’s place with Canadiens

Daniel Briere signing in Montreal was a feel-good story, but now the question is how he’ll help the Canadiens remain a playoff team. He played centre and wing for the Philadelphia Flyers, and that back-and-forth could continue. David Desharnais and Briere could figure that out during training camp.

Hemsky stuck in Edmonton

Dallas Eakins is the Oilers’ new coach, and every top-six forward is 25 years old or younger. That leaves veteran right-winger Ales Hemsky in a difficult situation. General manager Craig MacTavish tried to trade Hemsky but instead announced the 30-year-old was off the market. He’ll likely be a third-liner counted on far less than he was the last time the Oilers made the playoffs, 2006.

Maple Leafs goaltending competition

James Reimer’s 2.46 goals-against average and franchise-best .924 save percentage last season notwithstanding, the Maple Leafs traded for goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings. General manager Dave Nonis said he liked having Reimer and Bernier as a great tandem, and it’s conceivable that they’ll split regular-season starts evenly. Who starts opening night at the Montreal Canadiens will be determined over the next few weeks.

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