2020/21 NHL PREVIEW

EAST DIVISION

Philadelphia Flyers

The fans thought it would be an amazing 3-1 series comeback. The Islanders finished off the Flyers on their quest for the cup this past postseason. But aside from bad playoff memories, the Flyers are a legit threat to contend for The Stanley Cup. The Flyers had an impressive regular season posting 89 points, and were awarded the top playoff seed in the Eastern conference after they swept the competition in their play in games. This Flyers squad is built to win now as they have a balance of both veteran and young talent filled throughout their roster. Looking towards their goaltending, Carter Hart has shown flashes of being a top five goaltender in the NHL at just 22. Carter also posted an impressive .914 save percentage, but the key step Carter must take to become a solidified goaltending star is his consistency on the road. On the offensive side, Travis Konecny has been improving every year, and just last year, he led the team in points (61) and was named to his very first All-Star game at just the age of 23. As a team, the Flyers are rank in the top 10 of both goals for and least number of goals against. The team also allows a league-best of only 27.1 shots against. Ever since their head coaching hire of Alain Vigneault, the Flyers have turned a page in their gameplay by bonding closer together as a group to be both an offense and defensive powerhouses. The Flyers have one goal going into this season, and that is to win. As fans, we should expect the Flyers to represent the East division when it boils down to four remaining teams as they have a deep roster that can contend for the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins

With questions on who is going to replace Zdeno Chara, the probability of acquiring a scoring second-line winger, and with the loss of powerplay captain Torey Krug the Bruins have not made much noise this offseason entitling all fans to call for the firing of GM Don Sweeney. News Bruins fans should take note of is that an injury update on the status on of there injured star players. The report made it clear that McAvoy will be back to start the season, Marchand’s opening night status is questionable, and Pastrnak will not be available for at least a month after the season begins. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they have been placed in the eyes of hockey fans deemed the hardest division. However, with these difficulties in mind, don’t expect anything less of what we saw the 2019-20 President’s Trophy winners show us last season as they missed Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug for periods of time and still didn’t miss a beat. As for the Bruins ceiling, this season expects them to contend for the top spot in the division and make noise in the playoffs.

New York Islanders

With just under $3.5 million in cap space, how will Lou Lamoriello sign Mathew Barzal as time continues to inch closer and closer to puck drop? Creating cap space for the Islanders will be an issue as three of their five highest-paid players are a no-trade clause. This offseason, many criticized the Islander’s decision to trade defenseman Devon Toews because of the role he played on the Islanders back end all year. Devon had the second-most points among all Islanders defensemen during the regular season and tied for the top spot in playoff scoring between defensemen on the Islanders’ back end. In the 2019-20 season, the Islanders were one of the most defensively sound teams ranking 27th in total goals allowed. Hopefully, with Devon’s absence, the Islanders can stay in this elite category. Last playoffs, fan’s dreams were crushed when Anthony Cirelli slipped one in five-hole to send the Lightning on their way to the finals. Never less this season, all Isle’s fans should come in with a sense of hope that they will repeat their success. Of all the East division teams, they went the farthest in the playoffs and ended up knocking two East divisional opponents out on their path to the conference finals. The islanders also were the only team in the eastern conference to take the Bolts to a series of over five games. With proven success against new divisional opponents, it is safe to say that this defensive-minded team at full strength this team will be competing for the top of the East division.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Will this be Jim Rutherford’s last year as the Penguins general manager? Many fans have stressed the personal grievances against Jim as many do not see eye to eye with the trades he has made. Since becoming the Pens general manager, he has traded six first-round picks, one of which led to the selection of rising star Mathew Barzal. On a positive note, the Pens have managed to add Kasperi Kapanen to their roster. Kapri is a top six winger that has incredible speed and is an excellent penalty killer. With his speed being paired up with Crosby or Malkin’s stardom, fans shouldn’t be shocked if he has over 20 goals even in this condensed season. The Pens also added two bottom-six defenders in Cody Ceci and Mike Matheson to solidify an above-average defensive team. But the biggest news this offseason was the Pen’s decision to trade Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Matt Murray. The goal going into this season hasn’t changed over the past 10 years, and that is to win the cup, but is this roster enough to compete in what will be the most intense schedule demanding season? What fans should expect this season is the Pens to be fighting the last playoff spot. Although they have added what some hope to upgrade, this team will be faced with strong competition and won’t afford stretches of disappointing play.

Washington Capitals

It’s going to look funny this season seeing big Z step away from the Bruins to come to suit up for the Capitals in what will look like a classic photoshopped image when sports outlets are speculating where the next big free agent would sign. Starting from the crease, all hockey fans were saddened to hear that the new free agent signing Henrik Lundqvist won’t be strapping the pads on this season due to a heart condition. This forces second-year goaltender Ilya Samsonov to take on a much higher workload throughout the season. Capitals fans shouldn’t be alarmed but rather excited to see what Ilya will prove to hockey fans: he is a bonified starting goaltender. From a team outlook on things, the Capitals were ousted by their former coach Barry Trotz and his Islanders. This playoff series raised concern for a fan as it demonstrated that the Capitals aren’t good in high-pressure situations. Against the Islanders, it was common to see them blow 1 or 2 goal leads. But the nail in the coffin was that after the Islanders would get momentum, the Capitals would curl up in a ball and let them dominate the rest of the game. Hopefully, new head coach Peter Laviolette will be able to answer the reason for these in-game slip-ups. What Peter brings to the table is a hunger to win. Peter was denied a Stanley Cup in the 2017 finals and hadn’t got the chance to redeem himself back ever since. In past seasons making the playoffs for the Capitals has seemed like a give me, but all fans should note that this season’s competition will be stiffer.

New York Rangers

The future looks bright for Rangers fans as they have completed the league’s fastest rebuild. The big offseason news that swept the hockey world was winning the lottery to select highly anticipated prospect Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft. Over the past years, the organization has compiled a young core of players highlighted by Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko. Adding what many have proclaimed to be the best CHL prospect since Sidney Crosby and a forward group that already consists of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, expect the Rangers to repeat their success in the scoring category as last season, they ranked fifth goals for. In this playoff, the Rangers didn’t fare well against the Hurricanes in the first round as they put up a fight in the first game but faired no match in the next two and ultimately got swept and were the first team to be sent home. This issue was mainly due to the Rangers’ strategy going into every game with last season, this being to try and outscore their opponents. This may have worked last season, but this season won’t be an easy task as they must play in a division with many elite defensive teams. To contend for a playoff, spot the Rangers must tighten up on their roster’s back end because they also let in the eighth-most goals against. With the roster that they have going into this year, what fans should expect to see is them competing for around a fifth or sixth seed in their division at best. But what all Rangers fans should note is the days of being stuck in the lottery team are soon to be over!

New Jersey Devils

There is no doubt that all Devils fans want to know if Jack Hughes will step up in his sophomore season as Devil. Last season the 2019 1st overall pick put up the lowest point total by a first overall pick in their rookie season since Joe Thornton totaled just seven points in the 1997-98 season before Jack was even born. Aside from Jack Hughes, the Devils managed to assemble a very talented goalie tandem comprising of the youngster Mackenzie Blackwood and veteran Corey Crawford for a reasonable dollar amount. The Devils roster is looking similar apart from adding forward Andres Johnsson through a trade with Toronto this upcoming season. Andres will likely suit up to be a top-six left winger with the Devils and provide a speedy presence to either Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes’ line. In terms of what fans should expect to see this season, you shouldn’t get your hopes up. This roster still lacks a defined star player. Although the roster may not look the sharpest now, most of the team’s key pieces are still developing. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald has done a good job since stepping into the role by signing a solid goalie duo and acquiring depth players in trades this offseason. The jar may look empty now, but with a young talented group of players, expect this team to upset anyone on any given night. Nevertheless, they still have missing holes throughout their roster; therefore, expect to see them within the sixth or seventh place in the division.

Buffalo Sabres

“Will Taylor Hall be enough to keep Jack Eichel pleased” “is this year our year to make the playoffs.” For the foreseeable future, it’s safe to say that the Sabers need to “trust the process.” Even with that, they landed the top forward in the 2020 free agency class. The Sabers roster still lacks the luster that is needed to contend for a playoff spot. With an imposing top line that potentially could consist of Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart, this big three will be sure to come in big when needed. However, the Sabers continuously struggle with the lack of depth in the bottom six of their forward roster. This year’s focus should continue the path of player development. The Sabers have managed to put together an awe-inspiring group of young talent consisting of Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, Jack Quinn, and Dylan Cozens. Another addition to The Sabers organization under the radar is their new general manager hire, Kevyn Adams. The significance to this new hire is that many have speculated that he was part of the reason Taylor Hall decided to decide to play for the Sabers this season. With a new general manager that could attract high-class free agents and a deep young talent pool, the future is looking better, but as for this season’s hopes, anticipate them to be at the bottom of the league, hoping to strike gold in the draft lottery.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Tampa Bay Lightning

Was it a surprise to anyone that the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup? Throughout the playoffs’ entirety, they proved to us that their team had no weaknesses to it. By looking at their roster from their goaltending, defense, and forwards their team has star-caliber players everywhere. Some important milestones the Bolts achieved were forwards Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, both scoring 30 points in a playoff run since Crosby and Malkin did it in 2009. Also, there Conn Smythe winning defenseman Victor Hedman had 22 points, ten being goals, which have only been done by 2 other defensemen, Paul Coffey and Brian Leetch. The biggest concern going into this season is if the Lightning will maintain their elite play without their former MVP Nikita Kucherov? The 27-year old underwent hip surgery, and a statement from the team made it clear he won’t be active for the entire season, including playoffs. To answer if they will continue to dominate is yes. The Lightning so much talent throughout their roster, and by the look of it, Brayden Point will be filling the role of the top center. The other question is how Steven Stamkos will fit back onto the team? During the 2020 playoffs, he only played about three minutes, but his impact was huge as he netted a goal that changed the series. This season expects the Lightning to continue to be at the top of the league’s standings and a probable Central division champion. The Bolts won’t be without their best player but anticipate players such as Anthony Cirelli and Blake Coleman to step up their game and have a bigger impact on the team’s success.

Carolina Hurricanes

Do the Carolina Hurricanes have any weaknesses to their team? By looking at their roster, it is evident that they have managed to put together a perfect balance between offensive and defensive talent and combinations of speed, grit, and size to all correspond to be a tough team to play against every night. Defensively the Hurricanes had the 4th best penalty kill and allowed the 2nd most shots against per game (29.3) while also taking the 3rd most shots a game (33.3). But what this team still lacks going into this season is a defined starting goalie. In the 2020 postseason, we saw Peter Mrazek and James Reimer split time in the crease. With the constant uncertainty, if they even have a regular starter and the health of the two veterans always in the air, it provoked trade rumors about the Hurricanes adding a star-caliber goalie. The rumors of them pulling the trigger on this trade have picked up recently, leading many to believe their top target would be Fredrick Anderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The package to acquire him would be certainly at least one of their top four defensemen and maybe even some salary retainment of what is going Toronto’s way. This season fans should predict to see the production Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svecknikov jump once again and solidify themselves as the next generation of NHL stars. In terms of where they will finish at the end of the year, anticipate them to be within close reach of the first in the Central division spot and a for sure playoff lock.

Dallas Stars

What a redemption story it would have been if head coach Rick Bowness defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final as payback for firing him. This season the Stars are going to have to bring their best effort into each game. This is because they will be left without Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop for the first two months of the season. Seguin led the Stars in points last season, meaning offensive production from other key players like Joel Pavelski, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov will be needed to win games with Seguin’s absence. From the goal-tending perspective, the area of concern isn’t as big. Anton Khudobin, who served as the backup for Ben Bishop, started 26 games last season, winning 16 of them and led the stars to the Stanley Cup Final. The concern for this season is that in this condensed season, rest for goaltenders won’t be easy to come by, and besides, if the Stars don’t have a reliable back up, there will be no other choice than to increase Khudobin’s workload to the max. The Stars have found what looks like to be one of the NHL’s new elite defensemen on the blue line. Miro Heiskanen put up an astonishing 26 points in 27 playoff games and proved he would be the Stars roster’s future. This season the Stars will be looking for players to step up to help them succeed and repeat their last season’s success. With this in mind, fans should still expect the Stars to remain elite and come within a top thee seed in the Central division.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The 2020 NHL playoffs proved that the Columbus Blue Jackets are the best-coached team in hockey combined with having the league’s best defensive pairing. Recently trade rumors were speculating that forward Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out of Columbus, but these rumors were quickly shot down as the Jackets decided to re-sign him to a two-year deal worth $10 million. Last season, the Blue Jackets struggled to score, but this issue didn’t affect their ability to win games because, defensively, they let up league-wide fourth-least goals per game (183). Their defensive success is not only responsible for Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, but credit should also be given to their elite goalie tandem. In the playoffs, and especially against Toronto, they proved that either of them could perform at an elite level on any given night. To combat their scoring woes this offseason, the Jackets acquired Max Domi from the Montreal Canadians. The Jackets wasted no time with him and quickly signed him to a two-year deal with a similar cap hit given to Dubois. Max should be stepping in to fill the second-line center’s role and will most likely be seeing powerplay time. Going into this season, Jackets fans should note that there are three other Stanley Cup contenders in their division. With this in mind, to make the playoffs, they must play consistently throughout the entirety of the season to make the final playoff spot in the Central Division.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers have made it clear that they want to win now. The biggest question going into this season is if Sergei Bobrovsky will have a bounce-back season. After the Panthers awarded him a huge payday in the offseason of 2019, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner posted a career-worst goals-against average (3.23%) and his lowest save percentage (.900%) in over nine seasons. This issue may be the reason for his struggles because he has been faced with more shots per game this season (32.3) than he faced in the past four years in Columbus. In addition to their defensive struggles, the Panthers let up the fifth most of goals against (224) while also being a bottom 10 penalty-kill percentage (80.7%). The Panthers were a strong powerplay team, but in the 2020 free agency, they lost their top two powerplay goal scores in Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. To combat the loss of these scores, they added all-star winger Anthony Duclair. The 25-year-old signed just a one-year deal worth $1.7 million will be looking to prove to everyone in the league that he is worth a long-term contract worth a high dollar amount, so expect him to be hungry and wanting to score. This season hopes that the Panthers can contend for the remaining playoff see in the Central division at best. By looking at the other teams in the division, the Panthers lack the depth and defense needed to stop the other teams in their division from walking all over them. The strength in the Panthers’ game last season was the ability to score goals. However, this season with the loss of two of their top four scorers, the Panther’s additions to the lineup won’t make up for losing their key pieces.

Nashville Predators

Other than Roman Josi on the blue line, the Predators roster isn’t very impressive. The Predators roster had once looked promising as it seemed filled with depth players, goal scorers, elite defensemen, and a star goaltender. However, the Predator’s plans for success began to crumble after their 100 point season in 2018-19, as they slowly started the next season. By the middle of January, they had no choice but to fire their head coach Peter Laviolette. The Predators just made the cut to go to the 2020 playoffs, but their time there was short-lived as the Coyotes eliminated them in the first round. Looking at their season goal total of 212, the number wasn’t higher can easily be attributed to their weak power play that ranked seventh last. The justification for the powerplay’s struggle is that the Preds do not have any defined goal scorers on their team. In fact, no one on their roster scored over 25 goals, which isn’t the biggest issue except when you have three forwards on your roster that makes over $6 million. The Predators tried to combat their scoring struggles with the addition of Matt Duchene in 2019. After signing him to a seven year $56 million contract, his point production hasn’t been to the standard they hoped it would turn out to be. Overall, the Predators won’t have much going on this season. By looking at the competition in their division and how they played last season, it’s safe to say they will not be a playoff team this season.

Chicago Blackhawks

Wouldn’t all Blackhawk fans like to hit the fast forward button this season and skip on over to next? With news breaking recently that Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews will be out for is looking to be the entire season. Aside from Toews being hurt, a news story that made headlines this offseason featuring the Blackhawks captain was him airing out his issues with the current Blackhawk management staff. Toews had felt that they were making moves that didn’t put the team’s chance at success first, which seemed to bother him. This team has fully committed to it, but the likely hood of them deciding to go into a full rebuild may be a likely scenario if they continue to put up poor results. In the last playoff, the Blackhawks were able to pull off an upset against the oilers first round. However, this season will not get the chance to be the 12th seed in a conference a go to the playoffs. Instead, they must be able to place the top four in a division that looks like there won’t be any room for them come playoff time. This decision on this team’s future going forward will be a major one, and if not executed properly, general manager Stan Bowmen will be the next one to leave.

Detroit Red Wings

With the highest chances of winning the 2020 NHL draft lottery, fans’ hope of Alexis Lafreniere becoming a Red Wing this offseason didn’t go to plan. What possibly could have been a franchise-altering talent they ended up with the fourth overall pick. The Red Wings wish that by selecting Lucas Raymond that he and their past lottery picks, such as Filip Zadina and Moritz Seider, can step into the lineup as soon as possible. Other than Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi, there was little to no supporting cast. The key to getting back on track this season is for their offseason additions to step up into the role of helping their core pieces score more goals, something the Red Wings struggled to do all last season. In terms of winning, the Red Wings won’t be close to a playoff spot anytime soon. The Red Wings still haven’t made a roster addition to their team that can make you say, “this is going to help them win now.” Although that may not be said now in the future, hopefully, their prospects become what is hoped by Red Wings coaches and management staff. This team won’t be leaving the bottom of the league standings anytime soon. This season’s best-case scenario is that their young players develop and solidify themselves on the starting roster and that there back in the draft lottery in hopes of a top-three draft pick.

NORTH DIVISION

Colorado Avalanche

Is this Avalanche roster ready to win now? The simple answer to this question is yes. The Avalanche roster is stacked with talent, and whether it’s from there, Cale Makar, Nath MacKinnon, or Miko Rantanen, this roster can beat you down in many ways. The only question going into this season is their goaltending. The hope was that by acquiring Philip Grubauer, he would take the role as the #1 stater. However, he had dealt with injuries last season and sustained one during game 1 against the Dallas Stars in the playoffs. This opened the door for Pavel Francouz, who also started 34 games in the regular season in the absence of Grubauer. Francouz’s play wasn’t bad, and going into this season, the Avalanche will be looking to give either one of them a fair shot at winning the #1 starting goaltender position. With Grubauer also on the last year of his expiring contract, he will prove to others that he deserves another contract and a job in the league. It’s safe to say that whichever goaltender is hot will start, so expect the best out of both of them every night. A key roster addition to this roster was Devon Toews. Devon is a solid top 4 defender who will slide onto the second defensive pairing and possibly time with young stud Cale Makar. Devon is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who can skate like the wind and will for sure fit the play style of this Avalanche team. This season’s goal should be to win the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche came close last year, but their roster has improved this season, and their key pieces are more experienced and will be hungry to get the job done.

Vegas Golden Knights

The biggest question going to this season for the Golden nights isn’t who their starting goaltender will be, rather if Marc-Andre Fluery’s agent made the meme himself or if it was outsourced as an attack against the Golden Knights coaching staff. All jokes aside, the Knights roster looks like, yet again it’s ready to contend for the Stanley Cup. The obvious big news this offseason was signing the most desirable free agent Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year contract paying him $8.8 million a year. However, this signing forced the Golden Knights to trade some of their key pieces on both forward and defense to clear cap space. Although the move may have forced them to give up some players for a smaller return, there is no doubt that they are a better team by adding Pietrangelo. One of the moves made to clear cap room was the trade that sent center Paul Stastny to the Jets. This move may not seem big, but it raises the question if they have the depth at the center position to contend in the playoffs. The solution to this issue is that the Knights hope that William Karlsson can return to his scoring ways in previous seasons with the Knights. As for the team’s goaltending situation, it’s likely to start the season that Robin Lehner will be the team’s #1 goalie, sparking trading rumors around the possibility of their star backup Fleury being traded at some point during the season. Fans of the Knights shouldn’t be worried throughout the season if they make the playoffs; rather, they should be more concerned about their chances of being crowned champs!

St. Louis Blues

What would look like a massive hole in the Blues defense when Alex Pietrangelo decided to leave for Vegas, they went out and signed a pretty good replacement in Torey Krug. Krug has been an awesome defenseman for the Bruins his entire career posting 337 points in 523 career game games. Krug was their powerplay captain and was the main reason that their powerplay was ranked first overall in the last seven seasons. The Blues powerplay last season was ranked 3rd (24.3%); however, it will be even better with the additions made this offseason. Aside from Torey Krug, the Blues signed Mike Hoffman to a PTO. The 31-year-old is expected to sign a larger contract after training camp when they figure out their cap situation. Hoffman has put up five straight 50+ point seasons and will be a good replacement for the injured Vladimir Tarasenko, who will be sidelined all season due to an injury. A vital component that is needed for the Blues to continue their triumph is their leadership. Just recently, they announced that Ryan O’Reilly would become the next captain of the Blues. This may seem like nothing. However, Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t feel fair that O’Reilly got it because he has only been with the Blues for 2 seasons. The opinion of this decision was only made public by Tarasenko, but who knows if other players feel this way. In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t be a major issue contributing to their success. The Blues last season felt they were shortchanged in the playoffs and will surely be back there this season.

Arizona Coyotes

Should the Coyotes blow up their team? The Coyotes have recently put themselves in a tough situation due to the loss of their draft picks for violating league rules. These penalties have really burned them and are responsible for the loss of 1st and 2nd round picks. With the loss of valuable assets, it’s hard for the Coyotes to continue moving forward as a team because they don’t have the assets to make a trade if they wanted to. Just recently, the Coyotes traded forward Derek Stephan to the Sens for a second-round pick. The Coyote’s return in this trade was great as they cleared $6.5 million in cap space and gained a valuable pick for a player that posted just 28 points this past season. The strongest area on the Coyotes roster is for sure their goaltender Darcy Kumper. Last season Darcy was rolling until he got in mid-December, sidelining him for the rest of the season. However, Darcy returned to the lineup come playoff time and was part of the reason the Coyotes made it past the first round. Looking ahead to this season, the Coyotes have a good chance of making the playoffs. The top three seeds in the division will most likely be taken, but the fourth seed is up for grabs between them and Minnesota. In summary, the Coyote’s playoff chances look good to start the season; however, they must win games against weak teams and show up every night.

Minnesota Wild

Going into his season, the Wild don’t have much to look forward to. Although they had an eventful offseason, Wild’s moves won’t make them a playoff team once again. The roster additions made this offseason was highlighted by Marcus Johansson, Cam Talbot, and Nick Bonino. Although they may help in the short term and provide some depth scoring, the Wild don’t have a top 6 forward group that will be able to put the puck in the net every night. What looks like the Wild are moving towards is a rebuild. Over the past year, the Wild have traded players such as Jason Zucker, Ryan Donato, and Luke Kunin for draft assets. In exchange for these players, they have gotten a solid return that includes a first-round pick and a third-round pick. As a fan of the Wild, you should anticipate players such as Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin to be on the trading block next. Just this past season, rumors began to pick up about the option of Matt Dumba to be traded to Toronto. However, the Leafs may be out on Dumba after signing T. J Brodie, but the likelihood of another contender wanting to acquire him is a strong possibility. This season the Wild are in too tough of a division to have the chance to even squeak into a final playoff, and it will be likely that they will end up in the draft lottery.

San Jose Sharks

All hockey fans should expect to see a better effort from the Sharks this season. Last season they finished 3rd last, and to top that off, they didn’t even have their 1st round pick. Looking at the Sharks roster, they don’t have bad talent. In fact, they have a solid defensive core and decent forwards up front that can score nightly. The issue that held them back last year was their inability to play consistently. This issue was mainly because some of their key forwards had injuries and didn’t play a full season. But some stretches looked really bad. The hope going into this season is that everyone can remain healthy, and players such as Logan Couture and Thomas Hertel can get back into their regular scoring patterns. Between the pipes lasts season Martin Jones had an off-year. The Sharks hope that last year was a fluke and Jones would continue his past play. Nonetheless, as insurance, the Sharks added Deven Dubnyk, who will compete with Jones for the starting job. There is no clear starter for this team, but by its looks, whichever goalie is playing well will be getting the start. A move that could have an impact this season was the addition of forward Ryan Donato. Ryan is just 24, and last season he had 14 goals in 62 games with the Wild. Ryan will most likely be playing on the second line with Evander Kane and Thomas Hertel. By playing with better players than what he was used to in Minnesota, Ryan will take the next step in his game and will most likely see a jump in his points and help the team as another solid scoring option. This season the Sharks will be a better team if they remain healthy and can get a good performance on a nightly basis from their goaltenders. As for playoffs, there is no doubt they will be closer than last year, but in a division where other teams got better over the summer, it’s not looking like a strong possibility

Los Angeles Kings

Many questions are going into this season for the Kings. There is no doubt that this team is going to be in the lottery for the foreseeable future. With the loss of many key pieces from their 2014 Stanley Cup championship, the Kings roster looks dull and lacks the ability to contend anywhere near a playoff spot. Their special teams rank in the bottom ten. They scored the second-lowest number of goals at just 177. There is no clear solution to transform this roster back into a playoff team in the next couple of years, sparking whether they should trade players like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, or Jonathan Quick? The answer to this should be no. The Kings certainly have high-profile prospects such as Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte. Still, their high-profile veterans’ presence isn’t overshadowing the development of their prospects, but rather there will help with their growth as players. Kopitar, Quick, and Doughty have all won their respective Stanley Cups and awards. A team that is fortunate enough to have players of this caliber should be thrilled. The only question in terms of their roster this season is if Quinton Byfield or Alex Turcotte will be playing. Both of these players are top-five draft picks. Is this the year the crack they crack the roster, or will they be taking waiting longer so they can develop into stronger and more complete players?

Anaheim Ducks

There is no doubt that the Ducks aren’t going places anytime soon. Over the past two seasons, the Ducks have been a lottery team trading away their key pieces for more draft capital. Throughout the past years, the Ducks have drafted what is looking to be one of the NHL’s most impressive prospect pool underlined by Trevor Zegras, Jaime Drysdale, Same Steel, Max Jones, and Maxime Comtois. All highly talented prospects look like they will be full-time Ducks sometime in the future as many of them have already had experience on the Ducks roster, and all of them, in fact, have represented their countries at the World Juniors. The major splash that was made this offseason by the Ducks was their signing of Kevin Shattenkirk. The 31-year-old came off a Stanley Cup this past season with the Lightning. The Ducks hope to gain more offense from the defensemen and help with the powerplay struggles by adding him. Of all teams last season, their powerplay ranked 30th (14.7%). Kevin’s success on the powerplay has gone down as he has been getting older, but he wasn’t given the opportunities he once had in Tampa. For the Ducks, this year, don’t be shocked if Kevin steps into the second powerplay unit and even gets some time on the first unit. While the future may look bright, it’s a no-brainer that this team isn’t close to the playoffs, at least for this season. As a fan, expect to see them once again in the lottery, hoping that they are awarded the 1st overall pick.

PACIFIC DIVISION

Toronto Maple Leafs

Can the Stanley Cup curse finally be lifted this season so all Leaf fans can enjoy what hopefully won’t be a once in a lifetime achievement? Going into this year, the Leafs did their best to fix the team’s issues that all fans of the game agreed needed to change. They added Joe Thornton to be a veteran presence around the young core, T. J Brodie signed, so they finally have a shutdown defense partner for Morgan Reilly and, last but not least, Wayne Simmonds for the needed bottom 6 grit. Every season this team is always under pressure to succeed, but is this the year they can finally make a playoff run? Looking at the North division, many could agree that this new division benefits the Leafs. Last season the Atlantic division was filled with cup contenders, but this season, the North has them the favorite to win. One of the bigger questions going into this season is the Fredrick Andersen contract situation. In the last year of his contract with the team, Fredrick is in the Leaf’s best interest to sign him. The issue is the dollar amount. It’s no secret the Leafs put themselves in a bad cap situation, and getting Andersen to sign a team-friendly deal will be a problem because around the league, there is interest in Andersen. There is no question the Leaf’s defense did get better this offseason. They added T. J Brodie to play big minutes and hope that the veteran signing of Zach Bogosian will bring a much-needed physical presence to their back end. Going into this season, Leaf fans should be more confident in this roster than the ones assembled in the past.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have the best combination of 2 forwards in the NHL. With Leon Draisaitl coming off an Art Ross Trophy and the MVP award with the combination of the league’s best player Connor McDavid, the Oilers’ forward group looks great. The focus yet again going into this season is their defense. Oscar Klefbom, who is regarded as the team’s best defenseman, won’t be playing this season due to an injury. With this absence in place, it begs the question, who will step up? The likely option will be Darnell Nurse, as he now will be going into his 5th NHL season. Over the offseason, they also added Tyson Barrie, who could go back to his ways in Colorado and become the elite offensive defender he once was. The most interesting addition to the team this offseason was Kyle Turris. The situation in Nashville didn’t end up working the way he thought it would, leading him to be bought out this offseason. Kyle is on a low risk two year deal with the Oilers and tries to prove the doubters wrong that though he didn’t deserve to play the game anymore. The biggest thing that the Oilers must tune-up this ahead of this season if they want to be successful is their five-on-five defense and their penalty kill. Last season they let up the sixth most even-strength goals. This is a large area of concern because the Oiler’s special teams rank high, yet they fall behind when it comes to five on five play. The solution that could fix this issue is to have their forwards play better defensively. This team is ready to make the playoffs, but if they choose to advance, it’s up to their defensive play

Vancouver Canucks

Most hockey fans could have agreed that no one expected the Canucks to perform the way they did during the 2020 NHL playoffs. The Canucks had a phenomenal run and couldn’t have done it without the star play from their goaltending and young talent. Going into this season, the Canucks must prove that last year’s effort wasn’t just a fluke but rather just the beginning of future success. They first need to prove that the loss of Jacob Markstrom won’t affect their winning ways. This offseason, to combat his loss, they signed Braden Holtby. With Thatcher Demko already on the scene, many are curious about sharing the time between the pipes. The best guess is that they probably will play about the same amount of games, but as for who is starting opening night has yet to be determined. To remain among one of the best teams in the division, the Canucks will need another jump in the point production from their young cornerstones, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser. This won’t be a huge ask because they have already shown signs of greatness and improvement in their young careers as their career progresses. The final part the Canucks need to overcome to continue their winning is to overcome the there offseason losses. They lost many players to free agency, and many felt they would take a step back this season. However, everyone should realize they went out and got replacements highlighted by Braden Holtby and Nate Schmidt. These replacements are just as good, if not better, than what they had. With this in mind, expect them to be back in the playoff mix, hoping to redeem themselves

Calgary Flames

The Flames had an impressive 2020 offseason. They ended up signing Jacob Markstrom and Christopher Tanev, who both played on the Vancouver Canucks. Markstrom had an impressive season last year and was named to his first all-star game. The addition of Markstrom will add what was missing in Calgary, being a solid starting goalie. Tanev last season played on the Canucks first defensive pairing and proved he can be a backbone on a playoff team’s defense core. These two additions are a sure help and will positively impact the team’s success this season, but to take the next step, the team must be able to get another highly productive season from Johnny Gaudreau. The 27-year-old recorded his lowest point total (58) in over 5 seasons with the Flames. If the Flames want to remain in the conversation of being a top team in the North division, they need Johnny to step up and play his game. Another important factor that will be needed to win this year is for the addition of their depth signings to work out. Josh Leivo and Dominik Simon were both added this offseason with the intent of being able to play hard every night and potentially getting ice time with the top 6. Depth scoring was something Calgary missed last season, but they feel this fills the holes from the management standpoint. What fans of the Flames this season should expect is another playoff appearance, but it won’t guarantee.

Winnipeg Jets

Do Jets fans think that Patrick Laine will remain in Winnipeg for the entirety of the season? The Jets are in an interesting spot this season as many are confused about the team’s identity. The Jet’s offensive talent and goaltending ranks amongst the best in the league; however, the team’s defense has seemed to slip up. By looking at their roster, their defenseman going into this season don’t compare to the elite core they once had, consisting of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot. These big shut down defenders are not part of the team anymore, and the significance of their absence has been covered up by the team Vezina winning goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and the great job he has done in the net for the Jets. The key to their continued success relies heavily upon his performance. If the Jets don’t get another Vezina season or something relatively close to it, they could be in trouble. The issue with this is although the Jets offense looks to have loads of great players when it comes to scoring goals, they are an average team. The Jets have been able to win close games because their goaltending ends up bailing them out, but if we see a down year from Connors game, the Jets will struggle to win games. Last season the Jest finished just outside what would’ve been in a regular year a playoff spot. Fast-forwarding to this season, the Jets haven’t made many improvements to their team that would guarantee them a playoff spot this season.

Montreal Canadiens

It’s safe to say that the Montreal Canadiens are in an interesting spot. The Canadiens have proved that they can be a playoff team and have no trouble going up against tough opponents regularly. However, many still ponder that their roster isn’t good enough to make the playoffs this year. This idea may be true as last season they just squeaked into the Stanley Cup qualifiers being the 12th seed but upset the 5th seeded Penguins. Looking forward to this season, the Canadiens need to focus on developing their young players, particularly Nick Suzuki and Jasper Kotkaniemi. These young centers have shown flashes of greatness throughout their young careers, but they haven’t yet fully grown into the players the Habs want them to be. Moving onto their defense the defense it’s still unclear who will be taking the spot of the 6th defenseman. The 3 likely candidates that have emerged lately are youngsters Cale Fleury, Victor Mete, and Alexander Romanov. The three of these defensemen are young and have huge potentials, and if one makes it over the others, it wouldn’t be the biggest deal because, in the coming seasons, their aging defense core will need replacement. Looking at the goalie position, there is no question that Carey Price will be the team’s starter until he retires. But as a backup option, they acquired Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues. Allen is a solid backup and will be expected to play on nights to feel that Carey needs a night off. Although GM Marc Bergevin added many new additions to the team ranging from goal scorers to bruisers, they are just one piece away from the playoffs this season.

Ottawa Senators

What looked like it was going to be a long a worrisome rebuilding process, the Senators have managed to speed up the process that now puts their future playoff hopes within a closer reach. There is still no doubt that this season will be finishing last in the North division, but the focus this year won’t be to win games but rather to build on their strong foundation of prospects and young players. The big offseason news around the Senators was them trading and later signing goaltender Matt Murray. They acquired the former Stanley Cup champion for a 2nd round pick. The situation in Pittsburgh wasn’t working out for Matt over the past season. It seems he has lost his grove. Ottawa’s new scenery may be a good chance for him as it almost acts as a fresh start. Moving on, some of their young players, such as Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk, have already having seasoned experience. These two players, in particular, have proved that they can be studs. That is why the Senator’s future best must fit their needs in particular. So far, they have done a good job of this by adding Matt Murray and having high draft picks that will come up big for them when they get to the NHL level. This season will most likely be another clunker, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

NHL AWARDS

  • ART ROSS
  • ROCKET RICHARD
  • ADAMS
  • CALDER
  • SELKE
  • VEZINA
  • NORRIS
  • HART
  • SMYTHE
  • Connor McDavid Oilers
  • Alex Ovechkin Capitals
  • John Torterella Blue Jackets
  • Alexis Lafreniere, Rangers
  • Ryan O’Reilly Blues
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy Lightning
  • John Carlson Capitals
  • Nathan McKinnon Avalanche
  • Nathan McKinnon Avalanche
  • ART ROSSConnor McDavid Oilers
  • ROCKET RICHARDAlex Ovechkin Capitals
  • ADAMSJohn Torterella Blue Jackets
  • CALDERAlexis Lafreniere, Rangers
  • SELKERyan O’Reilly Blues
  • VEZINAAndrei Vasilevskiy Lightning
  • NORRISJohn Carlson Capitals
  • HARTNathan McKinnon Avalanche
  • SMYTHENathan McKinnon Avalanche
  • Connor McDavid Oilers
  • Alex Ovechkin Capitals
  • John Torterella Blue Jackets
  • Alexis Lafreniere, Rangers
  • Ryan O’Reilly Blues
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy Lightning
  • John Carlson Capitals
  • Nathan McKinnon Avalanche
  • Nathan McKinnon Avalanche

Coaches Who Will be Fired

  • Jeff Blashill Red Wings
  • John Hynes Predators
  • Claude Julien Canadiens
  • Paul Maurice Jets
  • Rick Tocchet Coyotes

EAST DIVISION 1st ROUND:

Philadelphia Flyers 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 2
New York Islanders 4 Boston Bruins 3

CENTRAL DIVISION 1st ROUND:

Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Carolina Hurricanes 4 Dallas Stars 0

EAST DIVISION FINALS:

New York Islanders 4 Philadelphia Flyers 1

CENTRAL DIVISION FINALS:

Tampa Bay Lightning 4 Carolina Hurricanes 3

SEMIFINALS:

Tampa Bay Lightning 4 New York Islanders 3

WEST DIVISION 1st ROUND:

Colorado Avalanche 4 Arizona Coyotes 0
Vegas Golden Knights 4 St. Louis Blues 2

NORTH DIVISION 1st ROUND:

Toronto Maple Leafs 4 Calgary Flames 3
Vancouver Canucks 4 Edmonton Oilers 1

WEST DIVISION FINALS:

Colorado Avalanche 4 Vegas Golden Knights 3

NORTH DIVISION FINALS:

Toronto Maple Leafs 4 Vancouver Canucks 3

SEMI FINALS:

Colorado Avalanche 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 2

STANLEY CUP FINALS:

Colorado Avalanche 4 Tampa Bay Lightning 3

STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS:

Colorado Avalanche

Predictions made by Adrian Battiston on January 12, 2021. Special Thanks to Richard Biver for our Goalie Mask Designs.
Special Thanks to Brett Czajkowski who wrote the team previews.