• Keith Walsh

NHL Season Preview

Four months, four long months without the beautiful sport of hockey and tonight it's finally back. That's right ladies and gentleman the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL regular season tonight. It has been way too long since we've had meaningful hockey and I could not be happier that it is back. We have four games to kickoff the start of the season including a matchup between the last two Stanley Cup champions. Lets get right into our 2019-20 NHL Season preview...

The lasting image of the 2018-19 NHL season saw the St.Louis Blues raising the Stanley Cup. A team that sat in last place on January 3rd climbed all the way back made the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup. So who is going to be the team to hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of this season? As always there were plenty of changes made by every team during the offseason as each team tries to put together the pieces for their own Stanley Cup winning team. In the end there can only be one team who stands alone at the top of the NHL Mountain.

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division-

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Atlantic division has been dominated for the last few years by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They ran through everyone in the regular season last year winning 62 games and racking up 128 points and taking home the President's Trophy. But as we all know that does not always lead to postseason success. Tampa Bay ended up getting swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. I'll spare the Lightning fans by not talking about last year anymore. On paper once again this team should be a top team in the league and will most likely run away with the division again. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point will lead the way offensively for Tampa as those three are going to put up some huge numbers. Tampa has so much depth and talent that they will be a tough matchup for any team. They're defense is just as good as their offense as its anchored by Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev who are two of the top defenseman in the league. Oh and by the way, they added Kevin Shattenkirk who, after a down year last year will more than likely bounce back and have a great season. With all of their talent up front and on defense you almost forget that they have the best goaltender in the league...Andrei Vasilevskiy who is still only 25 years old. Some may not agree bit Vasilevskiy is the top goaltender in the league regardless of who is in front of him. The kid is an absolute stud in net and can single handedly win them a lot of games. We all know the Lightning will be a top team in the Eastern Conference it's just a matter of if they can finally get over the hump and carry over their regular season dominance to the playoffs.

Projection: (54-20-8) 116 points, 1st in Atlantic.

Toronto Maple Leafs: For the second straight season the Maple Leafs fell to the Boston Bruins in 7 games in the first round of the playoffs. Last year's big addition of John Tavares was not enough to propel them past the big bad Bruins. Will the third time be the charm? The biggest issues the Leafs had faced over the past few seasons has been their defense and goaltending. Well they addressed the defense issue as last year they added Jake Muzzin before the trade deadline and now this past off season they went out and added Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci. Those two should really help stabilize the back end for the Leafs and give their young forwards even more confidence to go for it all on every shift. There was no holdout this year that will carry over into the season as they locked up Mitch Marner a few weeks back and will be at full strength to start the season. Up front they should be pretty dangerous as Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander should all post some pretty big numbers. With the defense being upgraded the only question for the Leafs will be how well will Frederik Andersen play. I am not a Leafs fan but if I was, I would have zero confidence in him being the one to help lead them to a Stanley Cup. From what I have seen from him he just doesn't have it to make the key saves in big moments and while he may look good in the regular season, come playoff time the Leafs may be faced with another first round exit.

Projection: (44-27-11) 99 Points, 2nd in Atlantic.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins were one win away from being crowned the Stanley Cup Champions but were they really all that good? They beat the Leafs in the first round, then the Blue Jackets in round two, and then the Hurricanes in the conference final. I give them credit for getting the job done and getting to the Cup Final but, if they would have played the Lightning or Capitals would they have still made it? I don't believe they would have, the Bruins are a good team but they aren't getting much younger and Tuukka Rask is not what he once was. They have some solid young guys up front like Pastrnak and Debrusk to go along with Marchand, Bergeron, and Backes. Those guys will put the puck in the net on a consistent basis but while they shouldn't have a problem scoring, their defense is still a concern. Yes McAvoy, Carlo, and Krug are all solid but, they still rely way too much on Chara who just isn't as reliable as he used to be. With Rask it is just a matter of consistency, he is a great goaltender and has proved he can get the job done. The past few seasons he has shown signs of slowing down as he gets older. It may sound crazy to some but the Bruins could be on the outside looking in come playoff time this year especially if they get off to a slow start.

Projection: (41-31-10) 92 Points, 4th in Atlantic,1st Wild Card

Florida Panthers: The Florida Panthers had a very busy off season that saw them add new head coach Joel Quennville and bring in Veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. This was a team that was in the playoff hunt towards the end of the season and now with a true number one goaltender they may be one of the more surprising teams this year. Up front they have the likes of Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov who will provided plenty of offensive fire power. The biggest concern for them is their defense as other than Aaron Ekblad and an aging Keith Yandle they do not have much to rave about. They have some younger guys on the back end who will be looking to prove themselves but, they will be leaning a lot on Bobrovsky to keep them in games and steal some wins for them. Bobrovsky has proven that he is more than capable of carrying a team to the playoffs and last year was finally able to pickup his first career playoff series win which will help his confidence. Look for this team to get off to a quick start and catch a bunch of people by surprise.

Projection: (43-32-7) 93 Points, 3rd in Atlantic.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens missed the playoffs by two points last season as they were led by their young core and the great goaltending of Carey Price.Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year and most had them finishing at the bottom of the barrel. But with one of the top goaltenders in the world and a bunch of young and hungry guys, they proved that they could compete with the top teams. Will the success from last year be duplicated? It's most certainly possible but, I can't say I think that it will. They have a great young core with guys like Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Nick Suzuki. Those young guys will have a chance to shine with expanded roles this season and have the chance to put up some solid numbers. It's no question that Carey Price is still one of the top goalies in the league. With him in net the Canadiens have a chance to win night in and night out. As long as he can stay healthy they could be a team that could sneak into the playoffs.The defense is a major area of concern for the Habs as other than Shea Weber they do not have anyone that is super reliable on the back end. Teams should be able to expose some of their defenseman and it could really end up hurting them in the long run.

Projection: (41-36-5) 87 Points, 5th in Atlantic.

Buffalo Sabres: Last season there were a lot of people that were really high on the Buffalo Sabres as a team that could be a dark horse. They were competitive, but in the end failed to make the playoffs. It's tough to say exactly how good the Sabres can be, they have loads of young talent and their roster is a lot better than it was last season. Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, and Kyle Okposo lead the way offensively and will gladly welcome some big new additions in Marcus Johansson, Curtis Lazar and Jimmy Vesey. Those guys make up for a pretty decent top six and give the Sabres some decent scoring options. On the back end Rasmus Dahlin is another year older and has a full year of NHL experience under his belt. Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, and new addition Colin Miller give Buffalo a solid top four defensive core. The goaltending however could be an issue for them as they do not have a legit number one goalie. Carter Hutton played well last year and so did Linus Ullmark but neither guy really has proven they can be relied on for a full season. The wild card here is the third netminder in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the 20 year old is coming off of surgery but could easily steal the starting spot when healthy if given the opportunity. I don't see them making the playoffs but they could be a team that is hanging around the Wild Card race towards the end of the year.

Projection: (38-37-7) 83 Points, 6th in Atlantic.

Detroit Red Wings: The storied franchise that made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons has been on a major decline over the past few seasons. Last season was no different as they finished towards the bottom of the league. They are in a clear rebuilding stage and are trying to get younger but the talent is just not there yet. Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha will be the bright spots up front for the Wings but their aging defense will not do them any favors. Even with some of the younger guys on the back end don't expect them to be able to stop some of the better teams in the league. Jimmy Howard is getting older in net and Jonathan Bernier has not lived up to his full potential. It could be another long season for the Red Wings and their fan base as they can look forward to having another high draft pick.

Projection: (30-44-8) 68 Points, 8th in Atlantic.

Ottawa Senators: Last year was a dumpster fire of a season for the entire Ottawa Senators organization. Not only did they finish last in the standings they didn't even have their first round pick for the draft thanks to the Matt Duchene trade. Who could forget the Uber video of their own players just roasting the coaching staff among many of other things that went bad for the Organization. But it's a new season and the Ottawa Senators are more than happy to be getting a fresh start. Just about everyone is projecting them to finish dead last in the league again but hear me out, they may not be all that bad. They have some of the best young talented players in the league who are going to get a lot of playing time. Guys like Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Anthony Duclair all have something to prove and are all capable of putting up a lot of points. Add them in with veterans like Bobby Ryan and Artem Anisimov they could be one of the more surprising teams this season. When it comes to their defense they have drastically improved that since last season. The addition of Nikita Zaitsev to go along with Thomas Chabot and Ron Hainsey, and it will not be as easy to score on the Senators. If goaltender Craig Anderson can return to his play that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals a few seasons back they could be a dark horse playoff team. Now, I can't see everything going that well for them based off of how ugly things got last year, but anything can happen in the NHL.

Projection: (32-43-7) 71 Points, 7th in Atlantic.

Metropolitan Division-

Washington Capitals: The defending Metropolitan champions will look to get back to the top of the NHL mountain after getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the surging Carolina Hurricanes. So are the Caps still the favorite to win the division? Yes they are, Brayden Holtby is still in net, Alex Ovechkin is still a top five player in the league and they still have plenty of depth to roll a solid four lines. Scoring goals for the Capitals will not be an issue as Ovie, Oshie, and Backstrom will lead the way and they should get some good numbers out of guys like Jakub Vrana and Carl Hagelin. On defense they will have a different look as Matt Niskanen is no longer the steady workhorse on the back end as he was traded for Radio Gudas during the off season. They still have Orlov and Carlson to eat up a lot of minutes and provide some offense from the back end as well. It will be a tight race at the top of the Metro but I still expect the Caps to come out on top.

Projection: (48-28-6) 102 Points, 1st in Metro.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Swept by the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs the Penguins are still trying to figure out what went wrong. Phil Kessel was shipped off to Arizona in return for Alex Galchenyuk to try and help them get more consistent scoring up front. Crosby and Malkin are still around and Jake Guentzel will look to build off his 40 goal season. While the Penguins are stacked up front their defense is not looking like it will be a strength this season. Kris Letang will be the workhorse back there and he will get his numbers but they do not have a shutdown defenseman at all. Brian Dumoulin is decent but he has shown that he can get beat pretty easily by speed. Marcus Pettersson is going to be playing a more important role this season as well, as Jack Johnson is likely getting traded within the next few days. In net Matt Murray is still young and has two Stanley Cups to his name but he struggled at times last year as they didn't have a reliable backup to get the job done. While the Penguins have been a top team in the East things may not come as easy this year.

Projection: (46-27-9) 101 Points, 2nd in Metro.

New York Islanders: If you think that the New York Islanders have any chance of duplicating the success they had last season, I want what you're having. Will they be good and possibly make the playoffs? Yes, they will but they will not be a top three team in the Metro division. Matt Barzal and Jordan Eberle will lead the way up front but they might be relying too heavily on some of their young guys. The addition of Derek Brassard will stabilize things down the middle for them but to expect guys like Matt Martin and Josh Bailey to do what they did last year is a bit of a stretch. On defense Johnny Boychuck is another year older, Nick Leddy is average at best and Scott Mayfield is not good at all. One of the bright spots for them on the back end is going to be Noah Dobson, the 19 year old looks to have made the team with his solid play in the preseason. He could be a huge boost for their defense and will help hold things down back there. As for the goalie situation, they have a nice 1-2 punch with Thomas Greiss and now Semyon Varlamov. But they let the better goalie get away from them as Robin Lehner is now with the Chicago Blackhawks. While I still think they will be competitive I don't see them as a playoff team and there might be a lot more bad than good this year.

Projection: (36-39-7) 79 Points, 6th in Metro.

Philadelphia Flyers: Another year and another miserable season for the Philadelphia Flyers last year as they started off slow and never really got things going in the right direction. They come into this season with a new GM and a new head coach in Alain Vigneault. The Flyers finally have an NHL caliber coach with Alain Vigneault and also added two former NHL coaches in Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien. They have plenty of experience behind the bench to go along with a talented team on paper. Up front the Flyers are led by captain Claude Giroux along with Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Jake Voracek. They added center Kevin Hayes in the off season who should help even their lines out and give them more balance. On the back end they are anchored by Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and new additions Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. Their defense should be improved from last year as they brought in two guys who are great at clearing the puck out of their own end. In net it is officially the Carter Hart show, the 21 year old came in back in December and proved that he could play at the NHL level. Hart should be the backbone of this team and the Flyers will go as far as he will take them. The offense will hopefully find more consistent scoring with a new system and the defense should be much more reliable. If the Flyers can finally put it all together they could be a force in the Eastern Conference.

Projection: (47-29-6) 100 Points, 3rd in Metro.

New York Rangers: Another team in the early stages of a rebuilding process got a major help when they ended up getting the 2nd overall pick in this past June draft. With that pick they selected Kappo Kakko who is an elite goal scorer that gives their offense an immediate boost. Add in the addition of Artemi Panarin and the Rangers offense could rack up the goals. The problem with the Rangers will be their secondary scoring, as other than Panarin and Kakko who is going to score on a consistent basis. Chris Krieder and Mika Zibanejad are going to be relied on heavily to fill that role. So far in their careers they have failed to produce at a consistent level. Now onto their defense...they added Jacob Trouba who is a top two defenseman but other than Marc Staal Is old and not the player he once was. They have a young group of defenseman back there who lack a whole lot of experience. They may struggle going up against teams that have enough depth to roll four lines throughout the game. Henrik Lundqvist is getting older and time is starting to catch up with him. While he is still a great goalie, with the defense they put in front of him his numbers may suffer. I don't expect him to get as many starts as he typically does which could help him avoid injury but if the Rangers are trying to be a playoff team they will need to rely on Hank heavily.

Projection: (34-36-12) 80 Points, 5th in Metro.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The team finally picked up their first playoff series win and then lost in the second round to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins. Then just like that everyone left. Okay, well not everyone but close enough, Matt Duchene is now in Nashville, Sergei Bobrovsky is now with the Panthers, and Artemi Panarin is now a New York Ranger. That is a lot of talent that needs to be replaced for one team, so who is going to step up for the Blue Jackets? Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, and Pierre Luc Dubois will look to make up for the scoring that was lost with two of their top forwards moving on. Thats a lot of points to ask out of those young guys who aren't used to carrying the load. On defense Seth Jones is going to be a workhorse along with Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski. While they didn't make any major additions they should still be an average team possibly a little bit better. How well they do will be based off of how well Joonas Korpisalo plays now that he is the number one guy in net.

Projection: (31-42-9) 71 Points, 7th in Metro.

Carolina Hurricanes: They took the league by storm last year, made the wild card and ended up losing in the Eastern Conference Finals. That isn't going to happen this year, Mark my words the Hurricanes are going to be BAD this year. They still have plenty of talent on offense and even their defense might be better than it was last year. But, there is no way and I mean absolutely no way that Petr Mrazek or newcomer James Reimer have the same sort of success like they did last year. It's just not going to happen. Sebastian Aho got paid this summer and has to live up to that contract which is a lot of pressure for someone not used to being relied on that much. He will have some help with the likes of Ryan Dzingel, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov but will they be able to score enough to win games on a consistent basis? Their defense is actually pretty solid, Jake Gardiner, Dougie Hamilton, and Brett Pesce lead the way along with another newcomer and now Stanley Cup Champion Joel Edmundson. The goaltending will be the biggest concern and ultimately the downfall for this Hurricanes team.

Projection: (27-45-10) 64 Points, 8th in Metro.

New Jersey Devils: The number one overall pick and P.K. Subban...thats a solid off season for a team that finished with the third worst record in the league last year. This year is going to be a lot different for the New Jersey Devils as they are going to give the top teams in the Metro a run for their money. Of course any team can look good on paper and completely fall apart once the games start counting. Up front they now have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Wayne Simmonds, and Jack Hughes. That's a solid number of scoring options for a team that struggled to score last season. On the backend P.K. Subban will contribute on the offense, as well as settle things down defensively. They also have Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen who are somewhat reliable and can also contribute offensively as well. Now, in net Cory Schneider is the number one goalie as of now but, I have a feeling Mackenzie Blackwood will take over that role midway through the season. Schneider is not the guy who is going to lead the Devils to the playoffs he had the chance and couldn't do it. He will struggle again this year and when he does Blackwood will come into lead the way and help the Devils make a playoff push.

Projection: (44-30-8) 96 Points, 4th in Metro.

Western Conference:

Central Division-

Nashville Predators: A first round exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars ended what was another 100 point season for the Predators. During the off season the team decided that they no longer needed defenseman P.K. Subban and traded him to the New Jersey Devils. Usually losing a player of that caliber would hurt the lineup but in Nashville's case they still have a great defense without P.K. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattis Ekholm will hold down the fort on the back end this season. Put those guys in front of goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros and once again Nashville should be a top team in the Western Conference. Up front they added the big centerman Matt Duchene who will give them even more offensive fire power to go along with the likes of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson. The Predators should have no problem finding the back of the net this season. The only concern for the Predators will be if age finally catches up with Pekka Rinne.

Projection:(49-22-11) 109 Points, 1st in Central.

Winnipeg Jets: If its any consolation prize, the Winnipeg Jets can take pride in knowing that they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. I'm sure Jets fans don't look at it that way but hey someones gotta look on the bright side. While the offense of the Jets is stacked their defense is a complete liability as they traded away Jacob Trouba and now, Dustin Byfuglien's future is up in the air with possible retirement. the Jets don't have the defense like they've had in years past. They will be relying heavily on the young stud they drafted in Ville Heinola. The 18 year old will have to step in and play some big minutes for this Jets team. Up front Patrik Laine finally signed a contract and will be ready to go for the start of the season. Between Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler they are going to have to put up some big numbers to get this Jets team back to the playoffs.

Projection:(40-35-7) 87 points, 6th in Central

St.Louis Blues: Things were so bad at one point last season for the Blues that teammates were fighting each other at practice. Fast forward to June and they are lifting the Stanley Cup and celebrating with their fans at a parade. You can't make this stuff up even if you tried to. It's extremely hard to repeat as a champion but the St. Louis Blues are set up to where they have a legit chance to do so. Up front they are led by Vladimir Tarasankeo, Ryan O'Reilly, and Brayden Schenn. They are one of the most balanced teams in the league as they can roll four lines and get contributions from each of them. Their defense is just as good with Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, and now Justin Faulk. They are going to be a hard team to beat and as they showed last season when they get on a roll they are hard to stop. Jordan Binnington will start the season as the number one goalie as he stole the show in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will look to carry that success into the new season.

Projection:(42-29-11) 95 Points, 4th in Central, 1st Wild Card.

Dallas Stars: The Stars came within one game of a trip to the Western Conference Finals. When you talk about a balanced team and a team that can wear you down the Stars are the first team that comes to mind. They are loaded with talent from the top line to the 4th line on offense and all six defenseman could easily slide into a top two role. As if Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alex Radulov weren't dangerous enough during the off-season they went and added veterans Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski. All of their forward lines are going to be a threat to score anytime they are on the ice. On the back end they have two guys that just eat up minutes and can shut down any teams top line. Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg are two of the top defenseman in the NHL. With those two clearing the way it should make things a lot easier for Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. The biggest question will be if the two goaltenders can stay consistent throughout the year.

Projection: (43-30-9) 95 Points, 3rd in Central.

Colorado Avalanche: If you're a fan of the Colorado Avalanche, after seeing what they did last year and in the playoffs you should be very excited. So much young talent on this team it's ridiculous. Up front they have Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon leading the way. They went out and added Joonas Donskoi and Valeri Nichushkin to add even more depth to their lineup. This team is going to score a lot of goals this season and are going to be a lot of fun to watch. On defense they have Ian Cole and Erik Johnson as the veteran leaders to go along with the young guys like Cale Makar and Nikita Zadorov. In net they have Phillip Grubauer who proved once and for all that he is a legit number one goalie. The Avs are going to surprise a lot of people this year and I am calling it now they are going to have a real chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

Projection: (47-26-9) 103 Points, 2nd in Central.

Chicago Blackhawks: After failing to make the playoffs last season, Chicago will be poised to get back into the postseason. While it will not be easy, the talent they have up front should be enough to get them back into the playoffs. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes are too skilled to not have great seasons and those two will do everything they can to carry this team. Their defense still has the great veterans in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith who will once again be relied on to shut down the oppositions top line. In net Corey Crawford‘s age is starting to show so they went out and signed Robin Lehner who will help take a lot of the pressure off of Crawford. They aren't going to wow a lot of people but they should be good enough to sneak into the playoffs as the 2nd wild card team.

Projection: (38-30-14) 90 Points, 5th in Central, 2nd Wild Card.

Minnesota Wild: A few years back the Wild went all in by signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Looking back on those deals and they have not been worth the contracts. Individually, they have both been great but the Wild just could never get the job done when it counted. This season will be no different, they just do not matchup well with any of the other teams in their division as they lack the firepower when it comes to scoring. Devin Dubnyk in net is usually solid but the support in front of him will not be enough to get them far.

Projection: (33-44-5) 71 points, 7th in Central.

Pacific Division-

Calgary Flames: A first round exit for the Flames last season has left a bad taste in their mouth all summer long. A group of talented young forwards will look to duplicate their success from last season and attempt to go on a long playoff run. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk will lead the way up front as they are going to put up some nice offensive numbers. On defense T.J. Brodie along with Mark Giordano will look to shut the opposition down. While the defense is not their biggest strength it should be good enough along with decent goaltending from Cam Talbot and David Rittich to lead them to a division title.

Projection: (47-29-6) 100 Points, 1st in Pacific.

San Jose Sharks: Every year it seems as if it will finally be the year the Sharks get the job done and win the Stanley Cup. Then every year it never happens. While they lost some key pieces during the off season they still will compete for the top spot in the Pacific. Forwards Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier are poised for another breakout season to lead the way offensively. On the back end they still have Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson who will produce a lot of offense as well as keep things clean in their own end. In net Martin Jones is the man who will get the bulk of the starts and look to lead the Sharks back to the playoffs once again.

Projection: (44-30-8) 96 Points, 2nd in Pacific.

Vegas Golden Knights: The third year in the league for the Golden Knights and they will look to get back to the Stanley Cup Final after getting bounced in the first round last year by the Sharks. After a down year, William Karlsson will look to get back to his scoring ways. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty will also look to have a bigger impact in their second year with the team. On defense Deryk Engelland and Braydon McNabb will look to lock things down in front of Marc Andre Fleury. Injuries played a big part in the early part of last season for Vegas but if they stay healthy they could repeat their success from their first season.

Projection: (42-30-10) 94 points, 3rd in Pacific.

Arizona Coyotes: They are young, they are talented, but they are still the Coyotes. The addition of Phil Kessel will provide a spark for their offense but until their young guys like Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse prove they can be consistent at the NHL level dont expect much out of the Yotes. They have some solid defenseman as well, none better than Oliver Ekmann-Larsson who is an absolute stud on the back end. He tends to fly under the radar playing for the Coyotes but he is a lot of fun to watch. As for the goaltending, Antti Raanta has yet to prove he can be reliable on a full time basis. This team won't be all that bad but don't expect too much out of them.

Projection: (38-35-10) 86 Points, 5th in Pacific.

Vancouver Canucks: Last season the Canucks were a little bit of a surprise team as they were in the hunt for the playoffs longer than most thought they would be. Ultimately they fell short but there are a lot of things Canucks fans can look forward to. Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Bo Horvat lead the way on offense. Those three should provide plenty of scoring for the top line. But who else is going to contribute for them? They have yet to establish quality depth scoring and until they do this team won't go far. On the back end they have some great defenseman including newest addition Tyler Myers. Pair him with Alex Edler and add in Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev, the top four shapes up really nice. In Net Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko will split time. It's tough to say how good they will be as I haven't seen enough out of either goalie to trust them to lead this team far.

Projection: (38-34-11) 87 Points, 4th in Pacific.

Anaheim Ducks: Quack, Quack, Quack...These Ducks aren’t quite as Mighty as the squad that Gordon Bombay had in the Mighty Ducks movies. They have a young core and some solid veteran players but I don‘t see them making too much noise out west. Ryan Getzlaf is getting towards the end of his career and Adam Henrique has been average his entire career. They will rely heavily on their young guns Troy Terry, Max Comtois and Ondrej Kase. On the back end Cam Fowler will be the guy who is relied on most with Hampus Lindholm being the number 2 guy. Other than those two the Ducks will be rotating guys in and out of the lineup to figure out who fits best. The goaltending duo of John Gibson and Ryan Miller should play well but they won’t be leading the league in any categories.

Projection: (33-39-10) 76 Points, 6th in Pacific.

Edmonton Oilers: The Edmonton McDavids... I mean Oilers do not have much to get excited about, other than getting to see Connor McDavid play every night. It’s a real shame that the best player in the NHL has to play with a bunch of nobody’s. Other than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl this team could qualify as an AHL team. Those guys will definitely put up some numbers but other than those three, points are going to be hard to come by for the Oilers. On Defense, they have at least three solid players in Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefbom. Those three will be solid but, it won’t be enough to stop them from being one of the worst teams in the league. The only hope they have is if Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith stand on their heads all year long. The odds of that happening are very small.

Projection: (25-43-14) 64 points, 8th in Pacific.

Los Angeles Kings: The Stanley Cup window for the Los Angeles Kings may have closed sooner than most thought but they will still be a competitive team. They still have Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown up front. Those guys along with Ilya Kovalchuk should provide a decent amount of offense the lead the way. The depth is not nearly where it was during their long playoff runs but they still have a decent 4 lines they can roll. On the back end Drew Doughty is pretty much on an island back there. Alec Martinez is a solid number two but it’s all downhill after that. That means Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell are going to be leaned on to steal some wins and give the Kings a shot at making the playoffs.

Projection: (30-39-13) 73 points, 7th in Pacific.

Playoff Projections:

Eastern Conference: 1.Tampa Bay Lightning

WC (2).New Jersey Devils

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

3.Florida Panthers

1.Washington Capitals

WC (1).Boston Bruins

2.Pittsburgh Penguins

3.Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference: 1.Nashville Predators

WC (2).Chicago Blackhawks

2.Colorado Avalanche

3.Dallas Stars

1.Calgary Flames

WC (1).St.Louis Blues

2.San Jose Sharks

3. Vegas Golden Knights

Stanley Cup Prediction: Dallas Stars vs Tampa Bay Lightning- Winner Tampa Bay Lightning

Important Dates:

October 2nd-Opening night

October 4th- NHL Global Series(Flyers vs Blackhawks-Prague,Czech Republic)

October 26th-NHL Heritage Classic(Flames vs Jets)

November 8th-9th-NHL Global Series(Sabres vs Lightning-Stockholm,Sweden)

November 29th-Thanksgiving Showdown(Bruins vs Rangers)

January 1st- NHL Winter Classic(Predators vs Stars)

January 23rd-26th-NHL All Star Weekend(St.Louis Missouri)

February 15th-NHL Stadium Series(Kings vs Avalanche)

February 24th-NHL Trade Deadline

April 4th-Regular Season ends


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