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Five fun NHL teams you won't see on national TV much

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

The Sharks on Canucks won't be on national TV much, but are worth watching. (USATSI)
The Sharks and Canucks won't be on national TV much, but both will be worth watching. (USATSI)

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Hockey is back, and it has been exciting so far, but not all of the excitement can be nationally televised. For instance, if you didn't have GameCenter Live or Center Ice, you probably didn't have a chance to see Patrick Roy's Incredible Hulk act as it happened Wednesday night.

Actually, you won't get to see much of Roy at all without a package that allows you to watch most NHL games. Obviously, not every team in the league has the type of mass appeal that can bring in and hold the attention of a national television audience.

So for those of you who do have some way of watching more than what you can find on NBC Sports Network or NHL Network, I decided to put together a list of five teams that should be worth your time this year, even though they might not be an American television audience's cup of tea.

These teams were picked based on a couple of things, but the first is overall talent. You want to watch good hockey, right? The second is level of intrigue. That kind of interest is usually tied to young players or the team's style of play makes for an exciting viewing experience. Another is just pure curiosity, as in something really weird could happen in any given game or the head coach might do something crazy (eyes on you, Patrick).

1. San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are scheduled to make just five appearances on NBC Sports Network this year and two on NHL Network, which actually isn't too bad. That said, the Sharks have the potential to be one of the most exciting teams in the league this year.

Their roster may be getting older, as the core centered around Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle is in the last year of lengthy contracts, but that doesn't curtail the excitement. The emergence of Logan Couture as one of the league's dynamic offensive talents is really a sight to behold. Couture has 167 points in 232 career NHL games, including 89 goals, and it looks like he's just getting warmed up.

Then throw in Vezina finalist Antti Niemi, who has the ability to commit highway robbery at any second, and you have a team with intrigue at both ends of the ice. There's also the ongoing experiment with Brent Burns transitioning from defense to forward. He proved to be quite the scorer after making the switch.

Lastly, this is a team trying to shed the playoff choker reputation in a bad way. With the roster they've put together, the Sharks really could be a lot of fun to watch this season.

2. Colorado Avalanche: If only the TV folks had the foresight to know what happens when you put a volatile all-time great behind the bench of the team he helped bring to prominence as a player. The Avs will only play on NBC Sports Network three times all season, which considering how boring and bad Colorado was last year isn't much of a surprise.

The Avs not only have Roy, whose outburst was the talk of the NHL on Day 3 of the new season, but the young forward crop is filled with budding stars.

Nathan MacKinnon was the first overall draft pick in June and had a pair of assists in his NHL debut. His path to the NHL mimics that of fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native Sidney Crosby very closely and the expectations are extremely high. With his explosive skating, MacKinnon could be a thrilling player to watch.

And don't forget about Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. All three look poised to help usher in a new era of Avalanche hockey.

The downside to the Avs is that their defensive corps is still shaky at best and you never quite know what you're going to get out of Semyon Varlamov in net. This seems like a team in transition, hoping to find its way back to the glory days that included two Stanley Cup titles. They still may be a long ways away from that, but watching the march toward it could be fun.

3. Vancouver Canucks: After last season's drama with Roberto Luongo, the Canucks very well could have that soap-operatic vibe again this year.

Luongo seems committed to staying in Vancouver, mostly because he probably doesn't have much choice. Then throw in powder-keg John Tortorella as the new head coach and you have yourself a humdinger of a hockey club to follow on and off the ice.

How the Canucks make the transition to the more defensive-minded and abrasive Tortorella's style remains to be seen, but the first time Torts benches one of the Sedin twins for not blocking a shot could make for some exciting theater.

The Canucks still have many of the same pieces from their Stanley Cup runner-up season in 2011. The clock is ticking, however, on their ability to contend.

Vancouver will only be on NBC Sports Network once all season, though eight appearances on NHL Network make up for that. No one really knows how it's all going to work for the Canucks this year, but it sure could be fun to find out as it happens.

4. Edmonton Oilers: Hoping to see one of the most exciting young cores of talent in the NHL? Well, too bad. The Oilers will not play once on NBC Sports Network and only have one scheduled appearance on NHL Network in the US.

So if you were lucky enough to find the budget to purchase one of the NHL's packages, this is a team you really should catch a few times this year. Edmonton's forward group is bolstered by three former No. 1 overall picks in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Add to that the exciting Jordan Eberle, and you have a four-pack of potential game-breaking players. Even moreso when you include dynamic young offensive defenseman Justin Schultz.

The Oilers still have some weaknesses on defense, but Devan Dubnyk is an underrated netminder who might get a little more attention if people could actually see him play on national TV every now and again.

The Oilers' rebuild is getting ever closer to reaching the competitive stage. This very well could be the year they break through. It's also worth tuning in just for the home blue jerseys with the orange shoulders. Everybody loves a classic.

5. Nashville Predators: With just three appearances on NBC Sports Network and one on NHL Network, the Preds are not a team that really moves the needle much. That's probably due to a relative lack of offensive prowess, which can certainly be boring to watch.

But this year there's a reason to get excited about defense. Seth Jones, the Texas-born son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and the No. 4 overall pick in June, very well could be the next great American hockey prospect. His story, background and, most of all, talent make him very much a player worth tracking. He'll be part of a team that has had a high level of success in turning defensive prospects into stars (see: Weber, Shea; Suter, Ryan).

The Preds' blueline also boasts one of the league's very best defensemen in Weber and a potential rising star in Swiss rearguard Roman Josi. Not to mention it doesn't hurt that the Preds have all-world goalie Pekka Rinne in net (though he didn't look it Thursday night).

So, what about that pesky goal-scoring problem? The Preds acquired star prospect Filip Forsberg from the Capitals in a trade last season and he could help stoke the offense. With Swedes Patric Hornqvist, who could use a bounce-back season, and new Predator Viktor Stalberg, who came over from Stanley Cup champion Chicago, the Preds should be expected to score more frequently than they did last season.

And if all that fails, at least the Preds are good for a few Carrie Underwood (Mrs. Mike Fisher) sightings on the home broadcasts every year.

 
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