from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,
As we await labor peace between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, we still don’t know whether we’ll get a mid-January or early-February start to the season, but we’re likely six to eight weeks away from NHL regular-season games. It’s time to start thinking about the 2020-21 season as a tangible thing. When it launches, we’ll see a handful of players on the hot seat to deliver great seasons for various reasons. Maybe they want to excel in contract years. Maybe they want to justify the dollar figures on new contracts. Who has the most to prove in 2020-21? Here is my annual list, sorted alphabetically, expanded from five to 10 names this time.
Bobby Ryan, Detroit Red Wings
Ryan had an alcohol problem and decided in 2019-20 it was time to face it head on. He entered the league’s player assistance program in November and, upon returning to the Ottawa Senators lineup in February, went public with his struggles, hoping his story might help others battling similar demons. His courage helped him win the Masterton Trophy. It did not yet score him a long-term commitment from an NHL team, however. After Ottawa bought him out, the Red Wings signed him to a one-year contract. The pandemic-imposed NHL shutdown gave Ryan extra time to work on his sobriety and be with his family, so there’s a chance he’ll be his best self in a long time when he suits up with the Wings.
Ryan, 33, doesn’t land on his list because he faces “pressure.” I include him because he has the opportunity, in a contract year, to show what he can bring as a goal-scorer now that he has his life on track. Everyone will be rooting for him.