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5 Chicago Blackhawks Players to Watch in 2014-15 NHL Season

5 Chicago Blackhawks Players to Watch in 2014-15 NHL Season

2014-15 NHL Season Chicago Blackhawks 5 Players to Watch
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The Chicago Blackhawks are heading into the 2014-15 NHL season with revenge on their minds after a gut-wrenching Game 7 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final. The roster itself will be largely the same, but players' on-ice impact can vary widely from year to year; improvement versus stagnation in this respect means everything for Chicago. Here's a look at five Blackhawks players to watch closely next season.

5. Brad Richards

Brad Richards Chicago Blackhawks
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5. Brad Richards

Brad Richards Chicago Blackhawks
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Brad Richards looks to be the first legitimate second-line center to play for the Chicago Blackhawks in four years, but there are questions surrounding how much he really has left in the tank. The New York Rangers demoted Richards to the fourth line for two postseasons in a row, as he seemed to lose his legs near the end of both years. It will be interesting to see how Richards holds up for the Blackhawks towards the end of 2014-15.

4. Bryan Bickell

Bryan Bickell Chicago Blackhawks
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4. Bryan Bickell

Bryan Bickell Chicago Blackhawks
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Few will question Bryan Bickell's game come playoff time, but he has made regular season disappointment into an unfortunate habit. With Chicago in a cap crunch, Bickell's million annual cap hit doesn't look so nice when he's taking 82 games off every year. If he's still on the roster at the beginning of the 2014-15 season — something which is very much in doubt — Bickell should and will be trying to impress from day one.

3. Nick Leddy

Nick Leddy Chicago Blackhawks
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3. Nick Leddy

Nick Leddy Chicago Blackhawks
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Nick Leddy oozes potential, but none of it has manifested yet, despite him closing in on 300 total NHL games. Like Bickell, Leddy needs to take a considerable step forward next season if he wants to continue playing in Chicago in the future.

2. Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp Chicago Blackhawks
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2. Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp Chicago Blackhawks
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The 2013-14 season was a mixed bag for Patrick Sharp. Sharp followed up the best 82-game campaign of his career with an absolute dud of a postseason that had sizable factions of Chicago fans ready to trade him away for just about any decent second-line center available. Fair or not, there will be a magnifying glass on Sharp early next season. If he still isn't playing well, expect the discontented chatter and trade rumors to rev up in force.

1. Brandon Saad

Brandon Saad Chicago Blackhawks
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1. Brandon Saad

Brandon Saad Chicago Blackhawks
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In Games 5, 6 and 7 against Los Angeles, Brandon Saad took his game to a level that Chicago hadn't ever seen from him before. His ceiling was always thought to be something resembling a lesser version of Marian Hossa, but in those three games against the Kings, Saad looked every bit as dominant as No. 81 was during his prime.

Sean Sarcu is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter or add him to your network on Google.