We’ve done our best to predict the regular season. No playoff predictions were included and it’ll be a separate post before the start of the postseason. These are just predictions and we’re aware many will disagree and we could be very, very off. But we tried our best.
*Note: Brent took this about 70 per cent seriously.*
BEN (3rd)- Boston is going to have a powerhouse once again. Their forward depth is excellent and look for Charlie McAvoy to have another breakout year. Adding Jaroslav Halak was a small but nice move to add some stability in net, but the team is aging and players like Patrice Bergeron, David Krjeci and David Backes are all both regressing and locked under contract long-term. Look for Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to carry more of the load upfront than they did last season.
BRENT (3rd)- They haven’t made any significant moves to improve. Toronto added Tavares and Tampa is Tampa.
MICHAEL (3rd)- There’s going to be a playoff rematch this year. But now players are a year older and most of their guys like Chara, Bergeron and Kerjci aren’t getting any younger. They have the experience and they’ve proved they can win, but Father Time is undefeated. One part is age, one part is other teams in the division improving. I think most of the top Atlantic teams, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo, all improved over the summer and Boston may have a harder time getting points. It’ll be interesting to see if they can still keep up, they’re not going to be where they were last year, but they’ll compete.
BEN (6th)- Buffalo made very visible moves like drafting Rasmus Dahlin and trading for Jeff Skinner, but some of the smaller moves are going to help a ton as well. The team already had Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo in the lineup, and they’ve now added a ton of secondary scoring as well in Conor Sheary, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. After Buffalo’s top two lines last year they had nearly nobody that could contribute well in their bottom-six, they’ve now got a forward group that is significantly more deep, even without Ryan O’Reilly. A big question is whether Carter Hutton can establish himself as a legitimate starter. He’s never played more than 40 games in a season and his stats weren’t great before last season. This reminds me of the Brian Elliott “trade for a capable backup from St. Louis” which was a nightmare for Calgary. I think they’re still a little bit off the playoffs, but this offseason was the first major step they’ve taken to become competitive again.
BRENT (5th)- They’ve got the soon-to-be rookie of the year who’s going to help their defence but they’re still missing too many pieces to be a real playoff team.
MICHAEL (5th)- They could either just make it into the playoffs or just miss it. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Rasmus Dahlin is a huge boost but remember they already had Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and got Jeff Skinner. They traded away O’Reilly which I didn’t agree with, but they’ll be a fun team to watch. Playoffs are a 50/50 at this point.
Detroit Red Wings
BEN (7th)- I think Detroit’s rebuild is actually much more on track than people acknowledge. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Vanek, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard can all fetch a decent trade deadline return and once that happens, the team will be much younger. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t bring up many prospects this season. I’d be keeping Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen away from burning the first year of their entry-level contracts on a meaningless year. Do what you can to tank and get another high-end prospect, then come back next year with your group of prospects all at once in Leafs-like fashion and see where you really stand.
BRENT (6th)- Losing Henrik Zetterberg, their culture is really starting over. They had the playoff streak era and now it’s time for them to reset.
MICHAEL (7th)- They aren’t where they once were, but that’s almost necessary. They need a high profile prospect. Larkin can’t cut it alone, their defence is lackluster and their goaltending situation is murky at best. Their prospect pool isn’t great yet. This is a team that desperately needs a rebirth in every aspect and this isn’t going to be a pleasant year, but if they end the year with Jack Hughes that makes it worth it.
BEN (4th)- The Panthers are criminally underrated. If they’re in the Metropolitan division, they’re taking a divisional playoff spot. They have five very good forwards in Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Evgeni Dadonov and now Mike Hoffman. Obviously the Hoffman off-ice situation is a concern, but from looking at the team on paper, they’ll be a major offensive threat. Their defence is very top-heavy, led by Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad with not a ton of star power coming from the rest of the defence core but if Roberto Luongo can stay healthy, he’s still one of the top goalies in the league. You may disagree on the Luongo part, but then look for yourself and discover that he’s held at least a .921 save percentage in three of his last four seasons.
BRENT (4th)- Florida is on the cusp of their prime.
MICHAEL (4th)- Last year the run they made at the end to almost make the playoffs was surprising. But they’re a team that’s had some misfortune the last couple years, but they’re close to where they were in 2016. They have a really nice young core and Aleksander Barkov as captain is a good choice. Roberto Luongo is a good goalie if he can stay healthy and I think their defence core is underrated.
BEN (6th)- I don’t think Montreal will be as poor as many people think. Carey Price will bounce back and they’ll be competitive. Up front, the team actually has a good young group. The problem is they’re all supplementary pieces for a better core that doesn’t exist yet. That being said, once the likes of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki enter the league, they’ll already have a good, fairly young supporting cast of Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher. That being said, the Canadiens are a very small team up front and Kotkaniemi shouldn’t be wasting a year of his ELC on this season, similar to Zadina in Detroit. The major concern is the defence core. Shea Weber is out for a while, but mainly, this is a core of defencemen who are all on the wrong side of 30 years old. Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen will help with that, but they desperately need to start transitioning to a younger defence.
BRENT (7th)- The only offseason moves they made were getting rid of two of their best scorers and giving captaincy to a guy who’s about to miss five months.
MICHAEL (6th)- Carey Price is going to be better this year. The problem is there’s not much else Montreal has. Trading away Max Pacioretty really hurts their scoring and Tomas Tatar could surprise us, but how is that defence core going to look without Shea Weber? Montreal could surprise us but Carey Price really needs to bounce back if they want a chance.
BEN (8th)- I do feel bad a bit. But this is a disaster. If there’s one thing they can do now, it should be keeping Brady Tkachuk away from the NHL. They’ve got a good prospect, take the time to develop him and save that ELC for later. I’d also be trading Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. The Erik Karlsson return was underwhelming in the sense that it didn’t bring back a real A-level prospect. Between Duchene and Stone who are 27 and 26 years old respectively, the Senators need to get back a really solid prospect like Montreal did in Nick Suzuki. They need to make the trades and go for quality over quantity this time.
BRENT (8th)- Sorry Ben, I know it’s your hometown but I don’t think anyone is going to argue me on this. Trading away Erik Karlsson and not getting much in return was the final step in cementing themselves as a basement team for the next couple of years.
MICHAEL (8th)- Ottawa is for sure in dead last. What’s there to say that hasn’t been said? I’ll just sum up their summer as a nightmare. It’s hard to sell fans that that this team is going to be competitive after trading away Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman. They’re potentially going to lose Mark Stone and Matt Duchene this summer due to their situation and I don’t know how many players of value they’ll have left after this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
BEN (1st)- It’s hard to say they won’t win the Stanley Cup. That being said, those were the predictions last year. They’re just so solid and really don’t have any areas of weakness. Not to discredit the Leafs or other Atlantic teams, but Tampa Bay is maybe the top team on the paper in the NHL.
BRENT (2nd)- They didn’t make significant moves, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t think Tampa can keep the same pace they did last year though. Is Nikita Kucherov going to be that good again? It’ll be a close race for first in the division.
MICHAEL (1st)- They have a loaded offence, their defensive core is one of the best I’ve seen and Andrei Vasilevskiy is going to be in the running for the Vezina again this year. They’re one of the most complete teams in the league and if they don’t win the Stanley Cup it’s not for a lack of talent.
Toronto Maple Leafs
BEN (2nd)- I feel a bit silly trying to give a broad overview the team in a few sentences because of how specific the writing gets for a Leafs blog. In reality, the Leafs are a real contender this season and I think where they end up will be partiallly based on the success of players that have yet to play a full season. We know what Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, etc. can do. We don’t know what Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo, etc. can do. With breakout seasons, they could help to push Toronto to the top of the Atlantic.
BRENT (1st)- I’ve got to go with my employer. With the addition of John Tavares, if this team stays healthy I think they can take the Atlantic.
MICHAEL (2nd)- Tavares was a huge add, but I don’t know they’ll win the division. Their offence is amazing, the defence has been criticized, but they can get the job done. Freddy Andersen is going to be one of the top goalies in the league.
BEN (5th)- Adding Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan is huge. Carolina has quietly assembled one of the best defence cores in the entire league. Other than Justin Faulk, each defender is pretty reliable defensively. That being said, I’m still not fully understanding why Jeff Skinner absolutely needed to be dealt, especially if that’s the return they landed. Overall though I do think Carolina is moving in the right direction, but goaltending will be a major question this season, with Scott Darling needing to have a bounce-back year.
BRENT (3rd)- This is where maybe I shouldn’t be credible but I think they’re 2019’s New Jersey Devils. Who’s their Taylor Hall? No idea. But they have no expectations and they have no restrictions on their ceiling or basement.
MICHAEL (6th)- I liked the Dougie Hamilton trade and then I liked them adding Calvin de Haan in free agency to an already pretty stacked defence. Then they celebrated by moving Jeff Skinner. Their offence was pretty dry already, then trading a guy who has the potential to score 30 goals, you’ve got to wonder who’s going to be putting the puck in the net. Andrei Svechnikov could but I think scoring will be problem for them along with goaltending. If Scott Darling has a better season they can surprise people, but their defence and goaltending will need to be great, because their offence won’t cut it.
Columbus Blue Jackets
BEN (3rd)- This is the place they get as long as Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin stick around for the season. Look for Pierre-Luc Dubois to have a big season and turn some heads. The Blue Jackets are pretty good depth-wise when it comes to forwards and have four lines who can all contribute. I like Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner who can get under the skin of opposing players, yet are still real contributors. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones also make for one of the better 1-2 defence duos in the league.
BRENT (4th)- Nick Foligno is still there, he’s great. But seriously, I think the push they’ve been making is going to be halted with the Bobrovsky/Panarin situation. Panarin could be moved mid-season depending on how the season goes, Bobrovsky same thing.
MICHAEL (3rd)- They were close to taking a divisional spot last year and they can take one this year as long as Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin play out the season. They have nice young pieces in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. This team could go anywhere from a Cup run to missing the playoffs, they’re a bit of a wildcard.
New Jersey Devils
BEN (7th)- The Devils didn’t add much and judging that they could only force five games after an MVP-calibre season from Taylor Hall, I don’t see them making the playoffs again. The bulk of their team is made up of secondary players, with the likes of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher expected to carry the load. Corey Schneider has been extremely underwhelming in his past two seasons, following up a 2016-17 save percentage of .908 with a .907 last season.
BRENT (5th)- Taylor Hall can’t do that again.
MICHAEL (5th)- It’s odd to me that they didn’t add this summer and they even lost Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon. They surprised people last year but they haven’t done much to improve after getting beaten pretty easily by Tampa Bay in the first round. Unless there’s a midseason trade I don’t see them finishing where they did last year either.
New York Islanders
BEN (8th)- The Islanders are my eighth place team, but I don’t think they’re going to be dismal. I see them being far ahead of at least Ottawa and Detroit. But I’d be surprised if Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson all found themselves in Islanders jerseys at the end of the season. With Matthew Barzal young, the Islanders should look to rebuild on the fly, especially with Noah Nobson and Oliver Wahlstrom coming soon.
BRENT (7th)- I think losing Tavares is bad, but they’re not Ottawa. They have a team that can compete.
MICHAEL (7th)- They’re not going to be a good team, but I don’t think they’ll be as bad as many think they’ll be. Losing Tavares hurts, but they’ve got Matthew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Nick Leddy, etc. It’s a decent team but they’re pretty top-heavy. The biggest thing for me is how is Robin Lehner going to do? He had a tough time in Buffalo, but if he gets back to form, he can be a much better goalie than we saw last year.
New York Rangers
BEN (6th)- I’m predicting this based on their current roster. The Rangers have made it clear they’re rebuilding, but right now, I don’t think they have a weak team by any means. But with seven of their eight highest paid forwards under contracts that expire within the next two seasons, I think there will be even more changes to come in New York. If the Rangers finish last, it’s not because they’re the worst team in the Metropolitan, it’s because they continued to sell players off in a necessary rebuild.
BRENT (8th)- Brent didn’t give reasoning. But he’s very confident they’ll finish last.
MICHAEL (8th)- I think last place makes sense based on the rebuild and that should be the goal. They shouldn’t be looking to compete for the playoffs because as constructed the team isn’t going to make it. It’s difficult for Henrik Lundqvist because he’s been their rock for such a long time and I hope one day he does find a Cup but in terms of the Rangers right now there’s not much there. A lot of their pieces are probably going to be traded, heck even Lundqvist could be traded. This is a team that may not look the same in April that it does now.
BEN (4th)- With the addition of James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers are going to have a very strong offence. Nolan Patrick is poised to have a much better year production-wise and Sean Couturier is coming off of a breakout year. But Philadlephia is extremely front-loaded and doesn’t have much secondary scoring or a lot of help in the bottom-four of their defence core. As is the question with the Flyers every year, you have to wonder what their goaltending situation will be like. This is a team that’s very close to being a contender but is still missing a few good pieces to be able to really challenge. I think they’re the Minnesota Wild of the East. They’ll find their way into the playoffs but won’t make much noise.
BRENT (6th)- It’s hard to bet against Gritty- but I am.
MICHAEL (4th)- Adding James van Riemsdyk was big for their offence, though I’ll miss him in Toronto. Their defence is solid and their offence is a little top-heavy, but their top forwards at the top are all very good. My question is their goaltending. Brian Elliott is iffy, Michael Neuvirth hasn’t always stayed healthy and I don’t know if Calvin Pickard will play. If their goaltending is sorted out, they can take a divisional spot, but for now they’re falling a little outside of the top three.
BEN (1st)- Just based on their second round exit, it seems like there are a lot of people counting Pittsburgh out as a legitimate contender. The Penguins are still absolutely a threat and I’d put them close to Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston. The key is Matt Murray. If Murray can return to form, this is a really, really dangerous team. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel will combine for close to 270 or 280 points if they stay healthy. To get that from three players is wild and with Patric Hornqvist, Derrick Brassard and Jake Guentzel— who’s coming off an incredible playoff stretch— they’re still a team that can walk all over others.
BRENT (2nd)- You can’t bet against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They still have their core, I don’t know how Matt Murray will fare, he’s supposed to be the goalie of the future but I think this is still an audition. Could he have an Antti Niemi fall from grace? Malkin is going to quietly put up 90 points again— he could score 70 goals and nobody would notice. Jake Guentzel is a playoff performer but doesn’t have the same consistency in the regular season.
MICHAEL (2nd)- They didn’t three-peat but they’ve got their core together. This team will be a threat as long as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang are all healthy. Matt Murray didn’t have a great year but he’s a rising star and he could bounce back in a big way this year. They should take second place easily.
BEN (2nd)- I didn’t think the Capitals would win a Cup in the Ovechkin era, but here we are. I think the Capitals will challenge once again, but missing Tom Wilson is going to hurt, even with that awful, awful contract. Braden Holtby should be back to where he’s been in past years and the Capitals should be really competitive again, with few changes from last season.
BRENT (1st)- Nobody expected them to really contend for the Cup last year but I have them winning the division again. They could start slow with Tom Wilson likely out, but I think they’ll take the Metropolitan Division pretty easily. I think Evgeny Kuznetsov has the capability to establish himself as a top-10 player in the league. Alex Ovechkin may start to decline slowly, but Kuznetsov will step in.
MICHAEL (1st)- The Cup win will only give them motivation. It’s the same team returning from last year minus Philipp Grubauer. They might have a little lest rest than other teams, but they’re the top dog in the Metropolitan Division.
BEN (3rd)- Injuries are leaving some questions to be asked about this team, especially up front. Corey Perry is huge for the success of the team and even though he’s on a decline, he’s still one of the team’s top forwards. But Rickard Rakell is on the cusp of being a special player and between the defence core and John Gibson, I think this is a playoff team. Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm make up a very solid defence that are one of the few top-four groups that can both put up points and are all very solid defensively as well. Between the four of them, they contributed 132 points and a plus-69 rating last season. Gibson had an incredible .926 save percentage in 60 games last season and has had at least a .920 save percentage in each of the last three seasons. Even if he slips, former all-star Ryan Miller still had a .928 save percentage last year, so they’re completely fine defensively and between the pipes.
BRENT (6th)- Corey Perry isn’t a superstar anymore. Ryan Getzlaf alone up front isn’t good enough. I don’t think they have the pieces to be a contender.
MICHAEL (5th)- Anaheim, as constructed, is alright, but the problem is their depth, some guys are getting hurt. I think it’s going to be a tough year for them if John Gibson can’t live up to expectations. Age is catching up and for them to maintain their stance in the Pacific Division they’ll need to make some moves. They fell off pretty hard in the playoffs with the team they had and I don’t see them improving anytime soon unless Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler all step up and perform to the level they had in past years, which I don’t see happening.
BEN (5th)- They’re better, but they’re not there yet. Players like Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak and Brendan Perlini all need to take the next step in their game in order for this team to make a playoff push. Dylan Strome also absolutely needs to work out, which I think he will. The x-factor with this team is Antti Raanta. Raanta was very good for the Coyotes last year and posted a .930 save percentage in 47 games on one of the worst teams in the league. If you look at his body of work, the year before that he posted a .922 save percentage in 29 games with the New York Rangers and a .919 save percentage in 24 games the year before that. If you look all the way back to 2014-15, he even posted a .936 save percentage in 14 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has an excellent track record and if he can continue to be the goalie that Arizona hoped for when they acquired him, he could make a massive impact on a surprise Coyotes success story this season.
BRENT (7th)- They added Alex Galchenyuk and hopefully Dylan Strome works out. But their core, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Derek Stepan, Alex Goligoski, etc. isn’t overly young either.
MICHAEL (4th)- They’re a better team than people are giving them credit for. They’ve been a struggling team for so long, but if you look at what happened the second half of last year, they were a really solid team. If that carried over through an 82-game season they’d be in the playoffs. They have a solid defence led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, up front they have Clayton Keller, Alex Galchenyuk and Antti Raanta played great in net the second half of the season. If Raanta plays that way again, the Coyotes could win a lot more games than expected.
BEN (6th)- I like the James Neal signing, but as far as I’m concerned, Elias Lindholm’s peak is a solid secondary scorer and Noah Hanifin can’t actually play defence. They’re both good, young players, but Dougie Hamilton was the top defenceman on their team and losing him is a huge blow. Mike Smith, though still a number one goalie, can’t compete with the top goalies in the league right now and if they want to make the playoffs, Smith can’t just be good, he’ll need to be great. This is a team that has quietly transitioning to a very good young core, but they’re not beating out other teams in the Pacific for a spot.
BRENT (4th)- They’ve taken some risks with their trades. Looking at their team, now they’ve got a solid top two lines.
MICHAEL (6th)- I still don’t know what this team is. There’s too many question marks. Dougie Hamilton may been a necessary trade, but he was an integral part of their blue line and I’m concerned. I could be proven wrong if Noah Hanifin develops, but for right now it hurts the team. They got James Neal and Elias Lindholm, but I think a lot still has to go right for them to make a deep run.
BEN (7th)- They’ve put all of their eggs in the same basket. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can only do so much, even if you add in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Their offence isn’t as much of a concern as their defence though. They’re relying so much on Oscar Klefbolm and really, their defence core is just not good enough. Evan Bouchard is an excellent prospect, but it’d be a lot to ask for him to come in and be the best or one of the best defencemen on the team. Cam Talbot needs a rebound year. Really, to find themselves back in the playoffs, every single player not named Connor McDavid needs to be better.
BRENT (3rd)- There was a lot of hype, then the gears stopped turning. Last year showed Connor McDavid can’t do it alone. They have a young team, they’ve had success before and they’ll learn from last year’s failure.
MICHAEL (7th)- They jumped the gun and signed some big contracts and it’s hurt their depth. Right now it seems that Edmonton is still relying on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Cam Talbot needs to have a better season but it’s hard for me to say that they can really compete. In order for them to compete again they need to move out some contracts like Milan Lucic, as difficult as that would be.
Los Angeles Kings
BEN (4th)- Adding Ilya Kovalchuk is interesting, but along with Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar, the three will be expected to carry the bulk of the load on offence. Adding Dion Phaneuf does make that defence core quite a bit better and really helps to round out the top-four. The Kings’ defence is extremely underrated and it could seriously be a difference-maker for them taking a wildcard spot.
BRENT (5th)- They had an outstanding run a few years ago with playoff success. They used to throw teams around in the playoffs, but they haven’t made major adjustments to stay relevant and it’s not going to keep working for them.
MICHAEL (3rd)- They had an early playoff exit but getting Ilya Kovalchuk makes them a wildcard. On one hand he could be great offensively and cruise to 60+ points but there’s also the chance he struggles readjusting to North American ice. They still have a lot of the core pieces from their two Cup wins in Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick but they’re getting up there in age and eat up a lot of their salary. Jeff Carter missed a lot of time last year and he’s a huge part of their offense. A fully healthy Carter will make a big difference and they should try to limit Jonathan Quick’s games when they can during the regular season. If they do that, they can surprise some people in the playoffs.
San Jose Sharks
BEN (1st)- I think most would have the Sharks leading the division. But Martin Jones needs to be consistent. I see him in a similar position as Jake Allen— both have a great team in front of them, but don’t inspire a ton of confidence with their inconsistencies. I really do hate to blame goaltenders, but if San Jose doesn’t come out of the Pacific Division this year, chances are Martin Jones hasn’t had a very good season.
BRENT (1st)- Joe Thornton, y’know? They’ve got Marc-Edouard Vlassic, Brent Burns, then they add Erik Karlsson— three elite defencemen. They’re always close, but Karlsson is a huge add.
MICHAEL (1st)- The Erik Karlsson trade looks really good on their end. They didn’t have to give up much and this team now has two Norris Trophy defencemen. They’re a top-five team in the league now and it’s a mix of veterans and good relatively young players. They’re everything you’d want for a Cup contending team.
BEN (8th)- They’re going in the right direction for sure. They have a very, very good group of prospects in Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko, not to mention Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat already on the roster. They’ll be last but better than last season and look for them to be a top team in a few years.
BRENT (8th)- They struggled enough WITH the Sedins last year already.
MICHAEL (8th)- They’re in the same boat as the Red Wings and Rangers in that they have to rebuild. They’re not great even after signing all their elite fourth liners. That being said, they’ll be a fun team with Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and others. It’s going to be a solid team in a couple years and they’ve got some good prospects in the system like Thatcher Demko. This year is just going to be a forgettable season, but that’s okay. The future core of their team will be more or less set if they can get a nice piece at the draft this year.
Vegas Golden Knights
BEN (2nd)- Vegas is going to be very good again, but I’m concerned defensive weakness could show through in Nate Schmidt’s absence. Nevertheless, adding Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny to go along with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson makes this team a contender once again. If Martin Jones slips in San Jose and Marc-Andre Fleury performs again, Vegas could become back-to-back divisional champions.
BRENT (2nd)- They added Max Pacioretty in place of James Neal. We’ll see.
MICHAEL (2nd)- They’re the best team in the Pacific outside of the Sharks. They got Max Pacioretty and didn’t have to give up a ton to get him. Losing James Neal will hurt but replacing him with Pacioretty then adding Paul Stastny, they still have a really good team after going all the way to the Cup Finals. They could prove last year isn’t a fluke and if they fall, it’s not going to be far.
BEN (7th)- Chicago is the example of what the salary cap can do to a team. Managing it poorly will result in a very front-loaded team of declining veterans. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all locked in long-term, but Kane is the only one at the same level that he once was. Corey Crawford is one of the best goalies in the league, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. This is a team that needs to start getting younger and do what they can to free up some cap space.
BRENT (7th)- Too much money is tied up in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook haven’t been the same either. Alex DeBrincat will be very good but they don’t have enough complementary pieces.
MICHAEL (7th)- It’s been a great run but the league has passed them by. They’ve become a top-heavy team in the worst way possible. It’s unfortunate because Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have all been so great but Corey Crawford has been integral to their success and we don’t know how much he’s going to be playing this year. It’ll be a tough year for Chicago and they really need to restock their team.
BEN (6th)- Colorado is going to be right on the verge of making the playoffs again and it’ll be a close call. But they quietly got quite a bit better in the offseason, getting help in every position with the additions of Matt Calvert, Ian Cole and Philipp Grubauer. Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are dangerous up front and with young talent like Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard and who knows, maybe Jack Hughes (thanks Ottawa), this is a team that will be very good in a couple years.
BRENT (5th)- I don’t know if it’s Matt Duchene leaving, but they surprised and made the playoffs. They have a good group of young players to do it again.
MICHAEL (6th)- Last year was a surprise. But they have a great top line and some good young forwards, decent defence and their goaltending situation looks much better than last year. Not to say Jonathan Bernier wasn’t decent, but getting Philipp Grubauer will help, especially with Semyon Varlamov’s shaky health history. Due to the strong division though, unless they make a move I don’t see them making the playoffs again.
BEN (6th)- For me, Dallas is the definition of front-loaded. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov drive the majority of their offence and if any got injured long-term, Dallas is going to struggle to score. Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg will soon make a great duo, but Heiskanen may need some time to develop. Ben Bishop is inconsistent on a season-by-season basis, but at the same time if he performs like he can, he could help to get this team to the playoffs. But there’s still a problem with depth on this team whether they make the playoffs or not.
BRENT (4th)- This is one of my wildcard teams. Tyler Seguin is a superstar. But they need to bring some younger players up to replace guys like Jason Spezza. They don’t have enough legimate NHL defencemen. But they do have Roman Polak.
MICHAEL (4th)- They’re bringing back Valeri Nichuskin, their top line is great and this is a team that could’ve made the playoffs had it not been for a late-season collapse last year. I think they could surprise people this year.
BEN (4th)- Minnesota is underrated in the sense that they’re always in the mix to be in the playoffs but nobody considers them a contender. They need another piece or two and should go get them. Their core players range from 25 to 35 years old and this is the time to make the run. Go trade for Artemi Panarin. Do something. They have a ton of good pieces and they’re so close to being a legitimate contender, but they need to add a piece to keep them from another first or second round exit.
BRENT (6th)- It’s about age with the likes of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal leading the team. Devan Dubnyk is consistent but won’t carry the team.
MICHAEL (5th)- They’re the definition of mediocrity. They’re a team that can make the playoffs, but they won’t compete once they’re there. Devan Dubnyk is underrated and they have some good pieces, but I don’t see them doing much once the playoffs come around once again.
BEN (1st)- This is my pick to come out of the West. They have the best defence core in the NHL and have a solid forward group to go along with it. If Pekka Rinne can perform to his ability, the Predators will once again challenge for a Stanley Cup. It wouldn’t hurt to add another complementary piece up front, but one way or another, they’re one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
BRENT (2nd)- You can’t bet against P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. Craig Smith is also my dad’s name so I can’t bet against them. Dan Hamhuis will come in as a shutdown guy. Nashville doesn’t have much of a weak spot.
MICHAEL (1st)- Aside from Tampa Bay they’re the most complete team in the league. Their offence is great from top to bottom, their defence is stacked and Pekka Rinne is still one of the top goalies in the league even with his age. This is a team that was in the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, they’re my prediction for the President’s Trophy and they could definitely be back in the Cup Finals this year.
St. Louis Blues
BEN (3rd)- In an offseason they went from maybe a playoff team to maybe a Central Division winner. Four top-nine players were all just added to an already strong forward group. Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Patrick Maroon will all be key pieces for the blues this season. Their defence isn’t outstanding but it’s not necessarily a weak spot either, but Jake Allen is going to be the difference. If Allen has an amazing season and ends with a .920 save percentage, this team has a chance to compete with Nashville and Winnipeg. If he continues to be inconsistent, they’re not going anywhere.
BRENT (3rd)- Tyler Bozak will put up a 206-point season. St. Louis has always been right below the threshold of being a truly elite team and I think they’re still not there. Is Jake Allen really a true top goalie? Vladimir Tarasenko was on the cover of NHL 17 and maybe he spent a bit too much time playing it because he was off last year too. I don’t think they’re a top team yet.
MICHAEL (3rd)- What a summer. They made one of the biggest moves getting Ryan O’Reilly and they made nice free agent signings, mainly David Perron and Tyler Bozak. The question mark is Jake Allen. I wonder if he’ll be the goalie they need and he’ll have to prove that this year, otherwise St. Louis will need to make a move to address their goaltending.
BEN (2nd)- Winnipeg is one of the most well-rounded teams in the league and they could absolutely end up first in the Central Division. They have a loaded, dangerous offence and the best trio of right-hand shot defencemen in the NHL in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. Connor Hellebuyck will need to perform once again, but if he does, the Jets will be a contender.
BRENT (1st)- They’re the future of the league. They have the right pieces, the right fan base, the right swagger. Patrik Laine is going to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, Mark Scheifele has come into his own and if Connor Hellebuyck can be a fraction of what he was last year, he’ll still be a top 10 goalie in the NHL. There isn’t necessarily a weak point on their team and they have a genuine chance to win a Cup in the next few years.
MICHAEL (2nd)- Last year was a fun season and they desperately needed it. The only problem for them isn’t that they’re not talented, with the likes of Blake Wheeler, Mark Schefiele, Patrik Laine, Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck, etc. it’s that they’re in the same division as Nashville. If it wasn’t for Nashville, they’d win the Central.
That wraps up our predictions. If you’ve somehow made it to this point, thanks for sticking around for all 6500+ words and let us know what you think!