Often, players around the league will be thrust into new situations and responsibilities because of injury or ineffectiveness on the part of someone else. Sometimes they thrive in this new role, and sometimes they just can’t quite make it work. Here are a few players who will be changing roles this season:
Dylan Larkin – Moving to C – As Ansar Khan of Mlive writes in his latest column, the Red Wings are looking for an answer down the middle after the departure of Pavel Datsyuk to the KHL. Larkin, originally drafted as a centerman out of the US development program, will be moved back to the position for the upcoming year.
In his own words, he’s “going to have to work on faceoffs and little details that are going make me a better player all around and better in the defensive zone.” Indeed, if the Red Wings want to replace Datsyuk’s excellent two-way game, Larkin will need to concentrate on the defensive end a little bit more. He clearly has all the talent to make it work offensively.
William Nylander – Moving to W – In a case of the opposite transition, Nylander of the Maple Leafs is preparing to play much of this season on the wing of Auston Matthews, a pair that head coach Mike Babcock wants to keep together for a while to see if he can create some chemistry. While Babcock admits that Nylander may still take some draws on the right side, he won’t have to be as responsible for the defensive side of the centering a line – something that he struggled with last season.
Another possible Maple Leafs candidate for the transition is Mitch Marner, the uber-prospect who some think is too small to play center in the NHL. If he makes the squad, he’d be hard pressed to knock one of Matthews, Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak out of that role, leading to a potential pairing with one of them to start his young career.
Tomas Hertl – Moving to C – While this one actually happened midway through last season, it’s important to note that Hertl will be coming into this camp as a center, and will be pushed to develop and stay at the spot. He’s spent much of his career thus far on Joe Thornton’s wing, but will now be a big piece of the Sharks down the middle. Even on the third line, Hertl can provide impact with his blazing speed and nifty offensive hands; if he’s to become a future first line centerman though, he’ll have to develop the defensive game just like Larkin.
Mikael Granlund – Moving to W – Another player who made the switch late last year, Granlund excelled on the wing and impressed GM Chuck Fletcher so much that he’ll be moved there again this year. The Wild’s signing of Eric Staal makes sure of that, as they now have a handful of centers that could suit up on the top two lines. Granlund will be allowed to focus on his offense, something that the Wild think will do him wonders. The 24-year old has provided strong play-making ability in his short career, racking up 101 assists in 240 games; from the wing, perhaps he’ll be able to build on his career-high goal total of 13 last season.