It's time to focus on the upcoming World Junior Hockey Tournament, with a list of 50 (and then some) Players to Watch.
1. Victor Hedman, D, Sweden - Modo (SEL) - Battling Tavares for the first overall spot in the 2009 draft, Hedman is going to be a man among boys in the WJC, as he's managed 10 points and a plus-14 rating in 25 games against grown men in the Swedish Elite League.
2. John Tavares, LW, Canada - Oshawa (OHL) - Long considered a contender for the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Tavares' production has declined on a mediocre Generals team, yet he's still second in the OHL with 52 points in 31 games.
3. James van Riemsdyk, RW, USA - New Hampshire (HE) - Second overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, van Riemsdyk has excelled with the Wildcats, scoring 26 points in 17 games, and was a force in the WJC last year.
4. Nikita Filatov, LW, Russia - Syracuse (AHL) - Electrifying talent who was drafted sixth overall by Columbus in 2008. As an 18-year-old, he's put up an impressive 17 points and plus-6 rating in 23 AHL games.
5. Colin Wilson, C, USA - Boston University (HE) - Big, strong pivot who was the star of the draft combine last summer before getting taken with the seventh overall pick in 2008; now leads the Terriers with 21 points in 18 games.
6. Oscar Moller, RW, Sweden - Los Angeles (NHL) - Perhaps surprisingly made available for the tourney by the the Kings after putting up 13 points and a minus-2 rating in his first 30 NHL games, but should be an elite forward playing against teenagers.
7. Cody Hodgson, C, Canada - Brampton (OHL) - Picked by Vancouver with the tenth overall pick in 2008, Hodgson was a late cut from Canucks camp, but has been superb since returning to the OHL, scoring 20 goals and 42 points, with a plus-10 rating, in 23 games.
8. Jonathon Blum, D, USA - Vancouver (WHL) - First-round pick of the Predators may be the top player in Canadian Major Junior Hockey this season, putting up a mind-numbing 44 points and a plus-41 in just 28 games.
9. Viatcheslav Voynov, D, Russia - Manchester (AHL) - A second-round pick of the Kings in 2008, Vojnov is more than holding his own in the AHL as an 18-year-old, with 12 points and a team-leading plus-4 rating in 24 games.
10. Jordan Schroeder, RW, USA - Minnesota (WCHA) - Smallish forward still may be a top-ten (top five?) pick in the 2009 draft. As a freshman for the Golden Gophers, he has 21 points in 16 games.
11. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Canada - Niagara (OHL) - The fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, Pietrangelo started the year in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and has only recently been returned to the OHL, where he has 15 points and is plus-3 in nine games.
12. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, Sweden - Timra (SEL) - One of the elite prospects for the 2009 draft, Paajarvi-Svensson has 11 points and a minus-7 rating in 32 games.
13. Dustin Tokarski, G, Canada - Spokane (WHL) - A fifth-round pick of the Lightning, after starring in a Memorial Cup run last season, Tokarski is dominating in the WHL this season (1.97 GAA, .938 SVPCT). Will battle for time with Chet Pickard, Nashville's first-round pick in 2008.
14. Thomas McCollum, G, USA - Guelph (OHL) - A first-round pick of the Red Wings in 2008, McCollum is putting up sensational numbers (2.13 GAA, .928 SVPCT) in his third season as Storm starter.
15. Thomas Hickey, D, Canada - Seattle (WHL) - Canada's captain was the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Undersized blueliner isn't putting up huge scoring numbers (18 points in 26 games), but has an impressive plus-13 for the Thunderbirds.
16. Mikael Backlund, C, Sweden - Vasteras (Sweden) - Flames' 2007 first-rounder hasn't had a good season in Sweden and it's been rumoured that he won't return home after the WJC. On the plus side, he played very well for Sweden in the WJC last year.
17. Zach Boychuk, LW, Canada - Lethbridge (WHL) - Picked 14th overall in 2008, Boychuk was injured at the start of the season but did get into a couple of NHL games with Carolina before getting sent back to junior, where he has 26 points and a plus-18 rating in 21 games.
18. P.K. Subban, D, Canada - Belleville (OHL) - A second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, the returning blueliner has 37 points and a plus-27 rating in 29 games this season.
19. Ryan Ellis, D, Canada - Windsor (OHL) - Underized draft-eligible blueliner is having an outstanding season with the top team in the OHL, putting up 48 points and a plus-31 rating in 30 games, and should be an effective power play presence at the WJC.
20. Dmitry Kulikov, D, Russia - Drummondville (QMJHL) - Draft-eligible defenceman, currently rated as a mid-first-rounder, has put up impressive numbers (5-30-35, plus-18 in 30 games) with the Voltigeurs.
21. Colten Teubert, D, Canada - Regina (WHL) - Big and nasty defenceman was taken 13th overall by the Kings in the 2008 draft, and has improved his puck skills, putting up 22 points and a plus-14 rating in 33 games.
22. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, USA - Boston University (HE) - A 2007 first-round pick of the Avalanche, Shattenkirk has good puck skills and has put up 11 points in 16 games with Terriers.
23. Kirill Petrov, C, Russia - Kazan AK-Bars (KHL) - Big body and big talent was a third-round pick of the Islanders in 2008, but has been injured for much of this campaign.
24. Jacob Markstrom, G, Sweden - Brynas (SEL) - Taken by the Panthers with the first pick of the second round in 2008, Markstrom is a promising goaltending prospect, who covers a lot of the net with his 6-foot-3 frame.
25. Tyler Myers, D, Canada - Kelowna (WHL) - Drafted 12th overall by the Sabres in 2008, the towering 6-foot-7 defender has improved significantly, scoring 20 points and a plus-9 rating in 27 games this season.
26. Eric Tangradi, LW, USA - Belleville (OHL) - 6-foot-4 power forward was a second-round pick of the Ducks in 2007 and has 49 points with a plus-17 rating in 34 games with the Bulls this season.
27. Angelo Esposito, C, Canada - Montreal (QMJHL) - Finally made the Canadian team on his fourth attempt and, while his offensive production had dipped in previous seasons, he's on a better goal-scoring pace this year with 15 goals (and 27 points) in 21 games. A first-round pick of the Penguins in 2007, he was traded to Atlanta in the Marian Hossa deal last spring.
28. Ryan McDonagh, D, USA - Wisconsin (WCHA) - Taken 12th overall by the Canadiens in 2007, McDonagh has nine points in 18 games with the Badgers.
29. Maxim Mayorov, LW, Russia - Syracuse (AHL) - A fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2007, Mayorov is making a nice transition to the North American game, putting up 12 points in 27 AHL games as a 19-year-old.
30. Maxim Goncharov, D, Russia - CSKA Moscow (KHL) - A fifth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007, Goncharov has been a solid contributor to his KHL team with nine points and a plus-7 rating in 33 games.
31. Jordan Eberle, RW, Canada - Regina (WHL) - Drafted 22nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2008, Eberle is a first-rate scorer with 23 goals and 42 points in 33 games.
32. Harri Sateri, G, Finland - Tappara Tampere (Finland) - A fourth-round pick of San Jose in 2008, Sateri impressed in last year's WJC when he split duties with Tampa Bay first-rounder Riku Helenius.
33. Ian Cole, D, USA - Notre Dame (CCHA) - A 2007 first-round pick of the Blues, the physical puck-moving defenceman is off to a strong start in his sophomore season with the Fighting Irish, tallying 11 points in 19 games.
34. Drayson Bowman, LW, USA - Spokane (WHL) - A third-round pick of the Hurricanes in 2007, Bowman starred for last year's Mem Cup champs and has 33 points and a plus-13 rating in 30 games.
35. Erik Karlsson, D, Sweden - Vastra Frolunda (SEL) - Small puck-moving defenceman was a first-round pick of the Senators in 2008 and has three points in 28 games in his first full year in the Swedish Elite League.
36. Aaron Palushaj, RW, USA - Michigan (CCHA) - Taken in the second round by St. Louis in 2007, the sophomore winger leads the Wolverines with 25 points in 18 games.
37. Jamie Benn, RW, Canada - Kelowna (WHL) - A fifth-round pick of the Stars in 2007, Benn is one of Canada's bigger forwards and he leads the WHL in goals per game with 24 in 27.
38. Dmitri Kugryshev, RW, Russia - Quebec (QMJHL) - Taken in the second round by the Capitals in 2008, Kugryshev leads the Remparts with 39 points in 31 games.
39. Tyler Ennis, C, Canada - Medicine Hat (WHL) - Small sniper who was a first-round pick of the Sabres in 2008, and leads the Tigers with 36 points in 31 games this season.
40. Jacob Josefson, C, Sweden - Djurgardens (SEL) - Potential first-round pick in 2009 has a solid seven points in 33 games.
41. Vladimir Ruzicka, C, Czech Republic - Slavia Praha (Czech) - A fourth-round pick of the Coyotes in 2007, the son of the former NHLer of the same name has six points in 29 games in his second full season in the Czech league.
42. Brett Sonne, C, Canada - Calgary (WHL) - The second-leading scorer in the WHL with 55 points in 34 games, Sonne was a third-round pick of the Blues in 2007.
43. Jyri Niemi, D, Finland - Saskatoon (WHL) - A third-round pick of the Islanders in 2008, Niemi's production has dipped significantly (from 14 goals and 34 points in 49 games last year to two goals and 11 points in 29 games this year), but the 6-foot-3 blueliner still has a big shot from the point.
44. Evgeni Dadonov, RW, Russia - Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL) - A third-round pick of the Panthers in 2007, Dadonov has seen his numbers dip from last season (20 points in 43 games last year down to eight in 28 games this year).
45. Joakim Andersson, C, Sweden - Vastra Frolunda (SEL) - A third-round pick of the Red Wings (and who knows Sweden better?) in 2007, Andersson has good size and has scored eight points in 32 games.
46. Tomas Knotek, C, Czech Republic - Halifax (QMJHL) - Undrafted after a productive rookie season in the Q, Knotek now leads a subpar Mooseheads team with 23 points in 25 games.
47. Evgeny Grachev, C, Russia - Brampton (OHL) - Drafted in the third round by the Rangers in 2008, the 6-foot-3 pivot is off to a good start since arriving in North America, scoring 19 goals, 35 points and a plus-11 rating in 30 games.
48. Niklas Lucenius, C, Finland - Tappara Tampere (Finland) - Picked by the Thrashers in the fourth round in 2007, Lucenius had six points in six games in last year's WJC.
49. Cade Fairchild, D, USA - Minnesota (WCHA) - A fourth-round pick of the Blues in 2007, the mobile blueliner has 14 points in 16 games with the Golden Gophers.
50. Timo Pielmeier, G, Germany - Shawinigan (QMJHL) - A third-round pick of the Sharks in 2008, the German puckstopper is having a tremendous season in the Q, posting a .926 save percentage.
Some Others To Watch:
Mattias Tedenby, LW, Sweden - HV71 Jonkoping (SEL) - A first-round pick by New Jersey in 2008, Tedenby still plays a limited role in the Swedish Elite League, scoring just two points in 17 games this season.
Tomas Vincour, RW, Czech Republic - Edmonton (WHL) - Draft-eligible winger has good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and has put up 28 points in 35 games in his second season in the WHL.
Michal Jordan, D, Czech Republic - Plymouth (OHL) - A fourth-round pick of the Hurricanes in 2008 (where else but Carolina for Michal Jordan?), the lanky defender is having a solid second season in the OHL, putting up 18 points and a plus-3 rating in 29 games.
Andrei Loktionov, C, Russia - Windsor (OHL) - Drafted by the Kings in the fifth round in 2008, Loktionov is a solid contributor (21 points in 20 games) on the OHL's top team.
Marcus Johansson, LW, Sweden - Farjestads (SEL) - Draft-eligible forward who has put up a respectable five goals and seven points in 31 games in the Swedish Elite League.
Andrej Nestrasil, LW, Czech Republic - Victoriaville (QMHL) - Lanky winger, who is draft eligible this year, leads the Tigres with 30 points in 36 games.
Simon Hjalmarsson, LW, Sweden - Boras (Sweden) - Playing in the Swedish Allsvenskan (a level below the Elite League), the 2007 second-round pick of the Blues leads his squad with 22 points in 27 games.
Tommi Kivisto, D, Finland - Red Deer (WHL) - Draft-eligible defenceman who has been steady with Red Deer, putting up 16 points in 37 games.
Zdenek Okal, LW, Czech Republic - Medicine Hat (WHL) - Tiny winger is having a fine first season in North American junior hockey, scoring 32 points with a plus-11 rating in 36 games.
Sergei Korostin, RW, Russia - Peterborough (OHL) - A third-round pick of the Stars in 2007, Korostin was traded from the London Knights to the Petes this season and he has put up 13 points in 16 games with Peterborough since the trade.
Danil Alistratov, G, Russia - Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL) - Only listed at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, Alistratov has been the No. 1 goalie for his KHL team as an 18-year-old, posting a respectable 2.65 GAA and .899 SVPCT.
Sergei Gayduchenko, G, Russia - Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (KHL) - At the other end of the size spectrum, this 6-foot-5, 222-pound puckstopper was a seventh-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2007.
Juha Metsola, G, Finland - Lethbridge (WHL) - His numbers (2.72 GAA, .908 SVPCT) haven't been as outstanding as they were last season (1.98 GAA, .916 SVPCT), but Metsola is still quite capable if Sateri doesn't handle the full workload.
Andrew Raycroft, G, Colorado (3-0, 1.95 GAA, .936 SVPCT in last 3 GP)
Mike Commodore, D, Columbus (1-3-4, plus-1 in last 5 GP)
Duncan Keith, D, Chicago (1-5-6, plus-9 in last 5 GP)
Michael Ryder, RW, Boston (6-1-7, plus-6 in last 6 GP)
Colin Fraser, C, Chicago (1-5-6, plus-4 in last 5 GP)
Alexander Steen, LW, St. Louis (1-5-6, plus-1 in last 6 GP)
Chris Mason, G, St. Louis (0-5-1, 4.45 GAA, .869 SVPCT in last 6 GP)
Sheldon Souray, D, Edmonton (0-1-1, minus-5 in last 4 GP)
Christian Ehrhoff, D, San Jose (0-0-0, minus-2 in last 12 GP)
Ryan Smyth, LW, Colorado (0-1-1, minus-4 in last 4 GP)
Bryan Little, C, Atlanta (1-0-1, minus-5 in last 5 GP)
Dany Heatley, LW, Ottawa (0-0-0, minus-4 in last 4 GP)
"We won the hockey game. It was a good goal. They can put up whatever score they want. That player did not try to kick it in. It was a great victory." - Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, who didn't agree with officials blowing a call on a no-goal ruling
"It's typical Devils fashion. We're not very exciting to watch, and maybe our team goes unnoticed a little bit, which is fine with us." - Devils G Scott Clemmensen.
"We tried to play a lazy game." - Sabres D Jaroslav Spacek, after a loss to New Jersey
"I watch a number of players who have played at a very high level - certainly regarded around the league as top quality players - and I don't think we are getting the results from them we have to get." - Senators GM Bryan Murray
"We're an unbelievable team. We're young and we got a lot of heart on this team and we know we're good. I think that's what really makes us even better is that we go out there know we can win every night." - Blackhawks RW Troy Brouwer.
"When you're giving up five, six goals a game, it's hard to win." - Blues D Barret Jackman.
Scott Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org