Well here we are again! Another NHL season is upon us and it can’t come fast enough for me. So I thought I would toss out some predictions for this upcoming season to pass the time until the first puck drops in the Leafs/Habs game (Go Leafs!).
I’m going to steal my format directly from Sports Illustrated and Sportsnet because I’m not original enough to come up with anything on my own at the last second here. Well that’s not true, I might have a category or two related to beer…
- Anaheim – Way too good and got better in the off season.
- St.Louis – One last dance for Hitchcock and Backes but Tarasenko is a legitimate superstar in the making.
- Chicago – Come on. It’s the Hawks. Toews/Kane/Keith/Seabrook/Crawford… Nuff said.
- Nashville – Not a lot of flash and dash but a very solid roster anchored by Weber and Rinne.
- Los Angeles – They’re back and with a vengeance! Lucic has been brought in to take care of biz!
- Calgary – They’re defence is too much to overlook, add Frolik and Sam Bennett. Sheesh!
- Dallas – Seguin/Benn, the return of Nichuskin, adding Sharp. But the goaltending… Can it hold up?
- San Jose – There’s still a very good veteran squad here. Questions on defence and in net though.
- Minnesota – Dubnyk returns to form… Scoring continues to suffer.
- Winnipeg – This is a heavy team. That defence led by Byfuglien and Trouba is scary but Pavelec…
- Edmonton – Juuuuust outside. McLellan and McDavid lead, everyone follows them up the standings.
- Vancouver – The Sedins are good but not THAT good. Virtanen will be the next Corey Perry.
- Colorado – Woof! What a dog’s breakfast this lineup has turned into. Watch out for Rantanen though.
- Arizona – Auston Matthews already has a street named after him in Glendale.
- Tampa Bay – The young depth on this roster is mind boggling. Drouin emerges this season.
- New York – The Rangers are far too good on defence and in the net.
- Washington – This is the year Kuznetsov makes everyone forget about Nik Backstrom.
- Pittsburgh – When’s the last time the NHL had multiple 50 goal men on the same team?
- Brooklyn – Tavares and Co. continue their ascension whilst giving Matt Martin meaningful minutes.
- Columbus – Injuries killed them last year. Healthy bodies = playoffs and a nightmare for their opponents.
- Florida – The return of Jagr’s mullet and Ekblad’s mystical beard propels them into the playoffs.
- Montreal – Price/Subban can only do so much but scoring will be an issue as always.
- Philadelphia – That defence is staggeringly bad. Good thing they’ve got Giroux and Voracek.
- Boston – Speaking of bad defences… I feel for Rask. Chara is breaking down like an old pinto.
- Detroit – This ain’t Babcock’s boys anymore. Kiss the 25 year run of playoffs goodbye.
- Buffalo – Ginger Jack will have this team climbing the ranks but Lehner will be the ball and chain.
- Ottawa – Let’s be honest, last year was a fluke but Karlsson, Turris, Bobby Ryan and Mark Stone are nice…
- Carolina – I really want to say it’s about time these guys took a step but sadly they’re still horrible.
- Toronto – Well Babcock did say there was going to be painful times ahead… #FreeNylander
- New Jersey – Has a team ever scored less than 100 goals in a non-lockout season?
STANLEY CUP FINALS
It is so hard not to take Anaheim from the West. So much depth and experience at every position makes me want to choose them. My wildcard out the Western Conference is the Calgary Flame. Skill, grit, and a defence that rivals any in the league.
Out of the East I would like to go back to Florida. If Tampa can stay healthy in net then they should make it back to the Finals. My wildcard in the Eastern Conference will be Columbus. I like their style and team makeup. Very similar to Calgary.
I’ll take the Ducks to win it all. Boy I hope they don’t burn me in the 1st round like St.Louis did last year.
In the West I think that defenceman Justin Schultz (EDM) will be the breakout man. Good timing too as he’s only on a one year deal. He’s gonna get some fat cash and he’d better give Todd McLellan his cut because he’ll be the man solely responsible for it.
Notable exclusions: Nail Yakupov (EDM), Markus Granlund (MIN), Alexander Burmistrov (WPG)
In the East I like Evgeny Kuznetsov (WAS) to be the breakout man because he’s been marinating for a couple years now biding his time and now with regular Ovechkin center Nik Backstrom sidelined for the beginning of the season, Kuznetsov is primed to get some cherry minutes alongside his fellow countryman.
Notable exclusions: Jonathan Drouin (TB), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Morgan Reilly (TOR), Jeff Skinner (CAR)
PUKE AND RALLY!
Who is going to resurrect their career this year? Names like David Clarkson (CLB) come to mind, Jacob Markstrom (VAN), Alex Semin (MTL), and Sam Gagner (PHI) as well. But there are two guys who I’m really looking to get back on track.
Both TJ Oshie and Dion Phaneuf should benefit from the changes that have taken place in their careers. With Oshie, it’s the move to Washington and a chance to play in a much more offensive Eastern Conference. For Phaneuf it’s the opportunity to play for a coach that knows exactly how to use him to his advantage. For the love of Pete, Babcock was trying to trade for him while he was in Detroit. So that should be enough of a sign right there that there’ll be an uptick in the stats department for Phaneuf… Not sure about the +/- though…
PUMP AND SLUMP
Who is going to hit the skids this year? I don’t want to say Taylor Hall because I shat on the guy a lot but I do wonder if his ego can handle having McDavid on the team. It’d be easy to pick on a sophmore like Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad, or Filip Forsberg but I’d like to go with Jarome Iginla. I think his time has come and playing for an underachieving Avs team will start to take it’s toll on his body and his stats.
TOP 10 ROOKIES
- Connor McDavid – He’ll lose out to Eichel in the Calder race due to being in the Western Conference.
- Jack Eichel – He’s going to be the Ricky Bobby of the NHL. Pisses excellence every morning and loves the way his kids talk to you.
- Sam Bennett – Little Gilmour is about to take the NHL by storm and everyone is going to love him except the ones that play him.
- Artemi Panarin – It never hurts to play on a line with either Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane…
- Sergei Plotnikov – He’ll prolly have his stats padded a bit playing alongside Malking… Probably?…
- Nik Ehlers – The Danish Selanne. Lightning fast moves and a shot release that’ll have fans drooling.
- Max Domi – Flash and dash and a mouth to boot! He’s not gonna have fun losing all year but he’ll be a joy to watch.
- Noah Hanifin – Remember Aaron Ekblad? This guy might be better.
- Dylan Larkin – First teenager to make the Red Wings since Gordie Howe? He was a monster for the Univ. of Michigan and at the World Juniors last year.
- Jake Virtanen – As I said above, he’s the new Corey Perry. He’s so mean and strong, he can skate like the wind and he’s not afraid to get mucky.
Hart: Steven Stamkos (TB)
Art Ross: Sidney Crosby (PIT)
Norris: Duncan Keith (CHI)
Vezina: Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Calder: Jack Eichel (BUF)
Adams: Todd McLellan (EDM)
Rocket: Alexander Ovechkin (WAS)
I hope you enjoyed reading my gawd awful predictions for the upcoming season. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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