Second-half turnaround candidates

Updated: January 11, 2012, 12:17 PM ET
By Craig Custance

As much fun as the first half of the NHL season is -- with the hope that comes with training camp, the arrival of new stars and storylines and a great event like the Winter Classic -- nothing beats the stretch run of an NHL season.

This season is set up no differently. The trade deadline is primed to be as active as ever, with many contenders eager to deal, and flush with the cap space to do it. The playoff race is tight, especially in the West, where the No. 12 team (Calgary) is just four points out of a playoff spot.

So, with the help of some players, coaches and an anonymous scout, let's look ahead to what's in store for us in the second half of the season.

Turnaround candidates

On Tuesday afternoon, I emailed an NHL pro scout I trust to help us out with our second-half primer. I wanted to know the three players he thought were ready to bounce back after a disappointing first half.

The scout started by sharing his thought process. He considered Ryan Getzlaf and Rick Nash, but he doesn't see a dramatic turnaround coming for either guy. He noted the improved play of Eric Staal, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, but ruled them out since they're already on the path to a better season after slow starts. Here are the three he settled on, with his comments: