NHL 2017-2018 Season Preview
By MATTHEW ROTHSTEIN
The new NHL season is underway with the defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins looking to win an unprecedented third consecutive Stanley Cup title this June. Here are my predictions for this year.
1) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning look primed for a bounce back season after missing the playoffs last year. Led by superstar center and captain Steven Stamkos and rising star right wing Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning look primed for a deep run this June.
2) Toronto Maple Leafs
In 2016 the Maple Leafs franchise changed for the better when they drafted Canadian center Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Now after a first round exit in the playoffs last year their young and talented roster should become a much larger threat and should be thought of as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
3) Ottawa Senators
After a shock Eastern Conference Finals berth last season, the Senators will just edge into the playoffs via a wild card spot. With one of the best defenseman in the league Erik Karlsson and a deep group of experienced forwards, the Senators will be a team nobody wants to compete against this June.
4) Montreal Canadians
The Canadians who have won the most Stanley Cups in the history in the NHL look to have another successful season. They also have the best goalie in hockey in Carey Price. However they do not have enough scoring in their lineup to be a playoff team.
5) Florida Panthers
The Panthers will be a solid team this season but will fall short of the playoffs. They have a deep lineup, but their lack of a star goalscorer will be their downfall.
6) Boston Bruins
The Bruins re-signed forward David Pastrnak this season who was second on the team in goals behind Brad Marchand. The Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien last season , should score plenty of goals but allow just as much if not more.
7) Detroit Red Wings
I expect the Red Wings to struggle this season. They still have star center Henrik Zetterberg but he is 36 and his age is starting to take a toll. It may be time for rebuilding in Detroit.
8) Buffalo Sabers
The Sabers are a very young team who have a bright future behind center Jack Eichel. However, they are still a few years away from being a competitive team in this division.
1) Pittsburgh Penguins
The back-to-back Stanley Cup champions certainly have the roster for a third straight championship and will never out of contention with superstar center Sidney Crosby.
2) Washington Capitals
Although the Capitals have been consistently the best regular season team in hockey, they have fallen short of the Stanley Cup every year of the Alex Ovechkin era, and time on the championship window of this team is running out quickly.
3) New York Rangers
The Rangers have a very deep, battle-tested lineup, but they lack a go-to goal scorer. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist struggled in last year’s playoffs. Despite that I expect them to achieve another playoff berth.
4) Columbus Blue Jackets
A surprise playoff team last season certainly has the pieces to make another run and should be a playoff team especially with the addition of Artemi Panarin from the Blackhawks.
5) New York Islanders
Led by star center John Tavares, the Islanders should be a playoff team this year. However, their lack of secondary scoring and consistent goaltending could be an issue. Expect them to just sneak into the playoffs with the second wild card spot.
6) Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers were gifted with the second pick this spring and selected center Nolan Patrick. However, they still have plenty of defensive and goaltending issues that will haunt them this season.
7) Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are a young team with plenty of potential, but are also in the hardest division of hockey. They certainly could surprise some people. However, their downfall will be their poor goaltending.
8) New Jersey Devils
The Devils selected Nico Hirschier with the first pick of last year’s draft. However, this team has limited talent and will not be a contender.
1) Chicago Blackhawks
With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are still the best team in the Western Conference and are serious contenders this June.
2) Nashville Predators
The Predators were one win away from a Stanley Cup last season and still have the best defensive group in hockey. Expect to see them once again deep in the playoffs.
3) St. Louis Blues
The Blues have been very solid for a long time, but have not been able to make a run to the Cup. However, they will be very competitive this year, and, if all goes right, could challenge the best the league has to offer.
4) Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have a very young, talented group of forwards and have the potential to leapfrog the Blues if this lineup can play to its full potential.
5) Dallas Stars
The Stars improved vastly this offseason at the blue line by adding Marc Methot from the Senators and goalie Ben Bishop from the Lightning. They should be competitive, but I expect them to just miss the playoffs.
6) Minnesota Wild
The Wild are a very solid and consistent team that surprised a lot of people last year with their success. However, they play in a very competitive division and could struggle against teams like Nashville, Winnipeg and Chicago.
7) Colorado Avalanche
The worst team in the NHL last season should continue to struggle this season with trade rumors surrounding center Matt Duchene. The Avalanche will find themselves in a similar spot this year.
1) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks who were one win away from a chance to represent the West in the Stanley Cup last year before ultimately falling short in their own building. Still they are the most complete team in this division and have the players needed to represent the West in June.
2) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers led by the best player in the West Connor McDavid and breakout star Leon Draisaitl look like they could finally be a force to be reckoned with out West.
3) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have been a consistent threat in the West and even made the Stanley Cup in the 2015-2016 season. With star defenseman Brent Burns and a solid core of veteran players, expect the Sharks to stay relevant this year but their future looks bleak with their lack of young talent.
4) Calgary Flames
Mike Smith was acquired from the Coyotes as well as Travis Hamonic from the Islanders this offseason which certainly helped improve the blue line. With young forward Johnny Gaudreau, expect the Flames to receive a wild card berth and give the top seeded Blackhawks a run for their money in the first round.
5) Los Angeles Kings
After an underwhelming season last year, the Kings will try to rebound but I think they will struggle once again this season. They lack scoring depth and will once again miss the playoffs.
6) Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes have been terrible the past few seasons and I expect a little bit of an improvement. With a new coaching staff and some promising young players I sense a small improvement, and they will benefit from playing in the worst division in hockey.
7) Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are trending down after another poor season last year. Their veteran twins brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin are now 37 and look to be on the tail end of their career. The Canucks should begin to gear towards the future.
8) Vegas Golden Nights
The newest team in the NHL will unfortunately struggle heavily this year. However, they drafted some promising players in the expansion draft and have a bright future ahead of them.
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