NHL Rankings: Top Five Central Division Newcomers

By Sean Fitzgerald

The Central Division produced the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, the biggest surprise team and the Stanley Cup champion. When new players join this division, they are expected to make an immediate impact. While last season saw players like Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, Devan Dubnyk and others join the division, this year was relatively quiet. Here are top five Central Division newcomers

Jan 29, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Buffalo Sabres left winger Cody Hodgson (19) in action against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Chris LaFrance-USA TODAY Sports

5. Cody Hodgson, Nashville Predators — Remember when Hodgson was a promising younger player? Yes, I don’t remember either. Hodgson had one strong season with Buffalo after being traded from Vancouver. Now Hodgson could be a great fit with Predators because his ice time figures to shrink. When he played fewer minutes in Vancouver, he was a considerably better player. He also figures to have a better plus/minus rating because the Predators are way better that Sabres ever were when Hodgson was there. The Predators love to rehab players, an example being Ribeiro. Hodgson is still young and hopefully can prove himself this year.

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4. Mike Reilly, Minnesota Wild — Reilly has to yet to skate in an NHL game for the Wild, but he is their biggest addition of the offseason. Reilly collected 42 points in 39 games at the University of Minnesota last season. He is 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds. He ranked third in the nation with 21 powerplay points and tied for eighth with a plus-25 rating. He was a draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets but did not sign. He signed with Minnesota as a free agent. He could give the Wild another solid defenseman and help reduce Ryan Suter’s minutes. Reilly’s addition and a full season of Devan Dubynk in goal could help the Wild challenge for the division title.

May 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save on a shot by that goes by the head of Washington Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer (20) during the first period in game seven of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

3. Troy Brouwer, St. Louis Blues — The Blues traded Team USA star T.J. Oshie for veteran forward Troy Brouwer. Brouwer is a power forward added to the oft-maligned group of Blues forwards. Brouwer will have to up his game to match the level of production Oshie had with the Blues. Oshie produces 55 points last year while Brouwer only produced 43 points last season with Washington. Brouwer, like Oshie, hasn’t always lived up to his billing.

Mar 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov (42) takes the ice before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks — The Blackhawks were forced to trade Brandon Saad because of his contract demands. The Blackhawks made sure to get a player they were targeting for a number of years in return. Anisimov hopes to solve the Blackhawks’ second-line center issues. The Blackahwks have been plagued by not having a consistent second-line center. Anisimov recorded 7 goals and 20 assists last season. His best season was in 2013-14 when he recorded 39 points. The Blackhawks have faith that he is the answer, because they gave Anismov a contract extension.

Apr 9, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Derek Roy (8) tries to get a shot past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) during the third period at Rexall Place. Sharks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

1. Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars — The Stars felt that their starting goalie Kari Lehtonen wore down last season. Lehtonen posted the lowest save percentage of his career last season at .903. With the Stars having playoff aspirations, they signed Niemi to split time with Lehtonen. Niemi career save percentage is .916. In 61 games last season, Niemi had a .914 save percentage. The Stars are hoping that by platooning their two goalies, they will be able to make the playoffs. Despite the addition of Niemi and Johnny Oduya, the Stars still have major holes on their blue line.

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