The NHL season kicks off tonight with four games to open the season. The Pittsburgh Penguins will raise their fifth banner in franchise history before they set their sights on a three-peat. Will they do it? I think they will get close, but this year, someone new (and young) will hoist the Stanley Cup.
NHL League Wide Predictions
Atlantic – Tampa Bay Lightning: I cannot wait to watch the Lightning this year. Steven Stamkos is back after playing in only 17 games last year. Nikita Kucherov is coming off a 40-45-85 campaign and will prove it wasn’t a fluke. There shouldn’t be much to worry about between the pipes either when you have Peter Budaj backing up a star in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Not only do they get back into the playoffs, they win the division.
Metropolitan – Pittsburgh Penguins: Boring, I know. It’s never fun to go with the chalk, but how can you not go with the reigning champs? Behind the stars of Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel, they have rising stars in Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel. Plus, Kris Letang is back and healthy. I have full expectation that they will be playing well into the spring.
Central – Minnesota Wild: When you look at the Minnesota roster, it’s hard not to think “complete”. Everywhere you look, there is a balance of veteran and youth. The trade with Buffalo that brought them Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno only adds to it. Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba building up the blue line in front of Devon Dubynk leads to them being defensively sound.
Pacific – Edmonton Oilers: If you build it, they will come. Oh, and if you repeatedly lose, top picks in entry drafts come your way. We all saw the dog days of Edmonton. 1st overall pick after 1st overall pick. Well, one of those happen to be Connor McDavid and boy is he a star. A once in a decade -like player and reigning Hart trophy winner. Sprinkle in top draft picks like Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, and add a bruiser like Milan Lucic, the offense becomes explosive. All joking aside, management in Edmonton has done a great job to get out of the basement.
Atlantic – Tampa Bay Lightning, Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs: Tampa Bay is just going to be stronger than the others this year. The one scenario that could throw a wrinkle into Tampa Bay’s division run is Carey Price. If Price can stay healthy, along with the addition of Jonathan Drouin and the strengthening of the Montréal blue line, things could get interesting. Auston Matthews leads Toronto into that third spot.
Metropolitan – Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals: I love this Columbus team. The addition of Artemi Panarin wont go unnoticed, it’s just Pittsburgh has the edge. I’m a little nervous with what Washington lost but still think they have enough in the tank to make the playoffs.
East Wildcards – New York Rangers, Boston Bruins: What Washington lost, New York found. Kevin Shattenkirk signed a 4 year deal to man the blue line in Madison Square Garden and King Henrik will prove he’s not done. An interesting Bruins team squeaks in to the final wild-card spot.
Central – Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars: The Wild and Blackhawks are going to battle all year for the top spot, but ultimately the Wild will claim it in the final week. It’s going to go down to the wire. As for Dallas, Ken Hitchcock is back where it all began and brings them back to the postseason.
Pacific – Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames: This will be the strongest playoff division. All three could come out at the end of the season in the top spot. Edmonton comes out on top, but all three teams will be separated by just four points.
West Wildcards: St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks: I’m going to stick with these two, but I’m not super confident. St. Louis has been absolutely plagued by the injury bug. You got to feel just absolutely terrible for Robbie Fabbri. Wishing him a speedy recovery. And while losing Patrick Marleau will be felt, I believe the sharks still have enough to get to the playoffs.
East: Pittsburgh Penguins over Tampa Bay Lightning
West: Edmonton Oilers over Dallas Stars
Stanley Cup Champions:
Edmonton Oilers: This is what I alluded to. Somebody younger will be hoisting the cup, and that somebody is Connor McDavid. Todd McLellen wins at the Jack Adams award after bringing the first Stanley Cup back to Edmonton since 1990.
Hart: Sidney Crosby
Vezina: Carey Price
Norris: Erik Karlsson
Calder: Charlie McAvoy
Rocket Richard: Connor McDavid
Lady Byng: Anze Kopitar
Jack Adams: Todd McLellen