Top 10 NHLers who must step up: West

Tyler Seguin, Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley.

With the 2013-14 season right around the corner, that means that the players who struggled last season will start the year with a clean slate.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 players from the Western Conference that need to step up their games in the coming season.

Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars

When you are a former second-overall pick in the NHL draft and have played three decent seasons in the league including a Stanley Cup championship, a lot is expected of you.

While Seguin did not do terribly on the ice, it was off the ice where he got into some trouble.

On July 4, Bruins’ management decided that they had enough and shipped Seguin to the Dallas Starsalong with Rich Peverley and defenceman Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and defenceman Joe Morrow. It is a trade that on paper, should make the Stars a better club.

With that said, Seguin needs to step up this season and show that he is a professional both on the ice and off it.

Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

The play of Phoenix Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith was not the reason why the Coyotes missed the playoffs this season but he could have been better.

Smith finished the season with a 15-12-5 record and posted a 2.58 GAA, a .910 save percentage and five shutouts.

Again, these numbers were not bad but things have to be different for Smith this season. During the off-season, the Coyotes signed Smith to a six-year contract that will average $5.7 million per year, meaning Smith needs to get back to playing like the goaltender who earned this contract.

With a new contract in hand and the future of the franchise on solid ground, Smith needs to have a big year and prove that he is worth all the dough the Coyotes are throwing at him.

David Perron, Edmonton Oilers

At 25 years of age, there is no doubting the skill of new Edmonton Oilers’ forward David Perron.

With the Blues, Perron displayed his offensive talents and put up decent numbers but was never able to do so on a consistent basis. That made him expendable and on July 10, the Blues traded Perron to the Oilers.

For Perron to be successful, he needs to be able to find room to shoot, be able to go to the dirty areas to score goals and play with skilled players, something the Oilers have an abundance of.

Perron got what he wanted with a change of scenery. Now he needs to step up and show that he is one of the better forwards in the league.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the world but he certainly did not play that way this past season.

In 43 games, the 30-year-old Finnish netminder was 15-16-8 with a 2.43 GAA, a .910 save percentage and five shutouts. Those numbers are not bad but they are not what the Predators and their fans have become accustomed to.

There is no doubt that losing defenceman Ryan Suter hurt as the Predators’ defensive corps was a lot younger last season than in seasons past. With that said, Rinne did show some flashes of brilliance of last season but did not do so often enough to get his team into the playoffs.

For the Predators to get back in the playoffs this upcoming season, they will need to have Rinne at his world-class best.

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

When healthy, Vancouver Canucks’ forward Ryan Kesler is one of the league’s best power forwards and defensive players.

Unfortunately, Kesler was not healthy last season. Kesler played in just 17 games last year due to a fracture in his right foot and since the 2011 Western Conference Finals, Kesler has had a torn labrum, hip and wrist operations and a fracture in his right foot.

Kesler hustles, blocks shots, drives to the net and knows how to produce as he even had 13 points (four goals and nine assists) in the 17 games he did play in last year.

For the Canucks to be better this upcoming season, they need a healthy Kesler and he needs to step up and show the team he can be just that.

Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks’ forward Martin Havlat is an offensive talent of sorts but in his 12 years in the NHL, he has either shown that he is injury prone or too inconsistent.

For Havlat, it was the latter last season. Havlat, who was healthy last year, played in 40 games but had just eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points.

If Havlat can be the offensive specimen that everyone knows he has in him, the Sharks will be a much more dangerous hockey club this upcoming season.

Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild

The Wild have a lot of offensive talent with the likes of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu but one player who has not lived up to the way he used to play is Dany Heatley.

In 36 games last season, Heatley had 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points. At 32 years of age, Heatley has a lot left in the tank. He can score goals, he can play physical, he can pick corners and do so much more offensively than he did last year.

If Heatley can begin to resemble the player he once was, the Wild will be a much scarier hockey team to play against this upcoming season.

Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs last season by four points and had they been able to get big saves when they needed it from netminder Ondrej Pavelec, it might have been a different story for the Jets.

In 44 games last season, Pavelec went 21-20-3 with a 2.80 GAA, and a .905 save percentage. In terms of starting goaltenders, these numbers were below average and for the Jets to make the playoffs, they need better goaltending.

Pavelec will need to be at his best every time he is between the pipes this season if he wants to get the Jets into the postseason.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Cory Perry may have put up 36 points in 44 games last season but one area he did struggle in was scoring goals.

Perry scored 15 goals in the regular season and did not have a single goal in the post-season when his team needed him the most. He also only took 128 shots last season, which put him just 46th in the league.

With the loss of Bobby Ryan, Perry will need to play like the sniper he was the previous two seasons to make the Ducks a better hockey club.

Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog burst onto the scene in his rookie year in 2011-12 and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year after putting up 52 points (20 goals and 32 assists).

Last year, however, Landeskog came back down to earth in a tough way. Landeskog, 20, had just 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) in 36 games and was also a minus-4.

Hopefully for Landeskog and the Avalanche, this was just a sophomore slump. Landeskog has a lot of offensive talent and can produce if he is in the right situation and the right frame of mind.

With a new coach and a new season on the horizon, Landeskog must get his game back on track if he wants to help the Avalanche get into the playoffs this year.

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