The National Hockey League will be here before you know it. The preseason contests begin on September 15th and the regular season will get underway on October 3rd. Most teams are set and have made their moves in the offseason so we thought it was time to make our preview before they drop the puck. Let’s do this by divisions and they will be in the order of projected finish.

Eastern Conference

  Metropolitan Division

1) Pittsburgh Penguins

Record Last Year: 47-29-6

Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby showed no signs of slowing down last year. This year they will get a full year from Derick Brassard along with Phil Kessel. The offense has a chance to click. The defense relies on Kris Letang and Justin Schmaltz to keep the unit solid.

Goalie Matt Murray was a bit of a weak spot but there is hope he can return to better days as he will have Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith as backups. Look for Daniel Sprong, who has 26 NHL games to his credit, to get lots of playing time and another youngster to watch is Teddy Brueger.

Final Thoughts: They have a great offense but need some help at goalie. They could be anywhere between first, second, or third place.

2) Washington Capitals

Record Last Year: 49-26-7

They are the defending Stanley Cup champions for this year and if Alex Ovechkin has any say in it they will repeat. Almost everyone is back from the championship season but can they all duplicate their success? After Ovechkin, they can score with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Lars Eller.

Braden Holtby was solid last year but he had a small dip in his total wins. The backup job will be a battle between Phoenix Copley and Ilya Samsonov. Look for a pair of rookie forwards to possibly get some ice time in the NHL as Travis Boyd and Shane Gersich battle for a roster spot.

Final Thoughts: This team could win again but the chances of playing at that high level again may not happen.

3) Columbus Blue Jackets

Record Last Year: 45-30-7

This team is young and headed in the right direction with Artemi Panarin but the question remains if he will sign or will they need to trade him with his contract up next July. The same thing is true of Sergei Bobrovsky and his contract. If they play with this hanging over them they may not win as many games.

Bobrovsky has been the primary goalie for the previous six seasons and will be difficult to replace. However, they will ask Joonas Korpisalo to handle the duties. the first rookie to make the roster is likely to be Vitaly Abramov as he lit up the junior league the past two years.

Final Thoughts: This team could be in any of the first three spots in this division but slide to third until the contract issues are resolved.

4) Philadelphia Flyers

Record Last Year: 42-26-14

The Flyers made a ten point jump from the season before that looks good for the upcoming season. The offseason saw the organization re-acquire left winger James van Riemsdyk with a five-year deal. The arrival of some of the younger players such as Philippe Myers and Morgan Frost bode well for the future.

Philadelphia has the #1 prospect in hockey as their backup goalie in Carter HArt. If Brian Elliott gets injured or has to miss a few games, Hart will be given his chance. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek will be asked to continue their high level of play as each of them had career years.

Final Thoughts: Things are trending upwards for the Flyers but the season hangs in the balance with their goalie play.

5) New Jersey Devils

Record Last Year: 44-29-9

Taylor Hall had 93 points and captured the Hart Trophy and now he will be asked to do it again. Rookie center Nico Hischier had 52 points which was a big gap from first to second on the team. The Devils are a speedy team that will count on Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood to solidify the unit. Sami Vatanen was acquired in November and good things began to happen.

Cory Schneider is the primary goaltender that posted a .950 save percentage and a 1.78 goals-against average. Rookies Joey Anderson and Michael McLeod could make the roster for New Jersey.

Final Thoughts: The Devils need further development from their young guys coupled with another career year from Hall.

6) Carolina Hurricanes

Record Last Year: 36-35-11

There is plenty of new for the Hurricanes as they have a new owner, new coach new GM and several new players. The Hurricane will likely get their previous two first-round selections on the ice with center Martin Necas and right winger Andrei Svechnikov getting plenty of time. Jordan Stal and Newcomer Dougie Hamilton along with Calvin de Haan should help this team to be a bit more over average.

The goalie situation was horrible last year and nothing was done to improve it. Starter Scott Darling couldn’t get the job done and the backup goalie wasn’t any better. Petr Mrazek was added for depth. Rookie Warren Foegele will figure into the fourth line for new coach Rod Brind’Amour.

Final Thoughts: They could slip below the Rangers unless goaltenders get better.

7) New York Rangers

Record Last Year: 34-39-9

New York City hockey fans are likely to be treated to many losses this year between the Rangers and Islanders. Last season, the team announced in February they were going to a rebuild mode. It was a bit of a surprise as they had been to the playoffs in 10 of the 12 previous seasons. The offseason saw a flurry of trades involving veterans for prospects. Former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was just a shell of himself last year and much improvement is a need for a decent season.

Longtime netminder Henrik Lundqvist is back and hopefully healthy after some knee issue last year. He faced the 4th most shots in the league and seem out of focus at times in 2017. Backup Alexander Georgiev will be ready when called on to play. Rookies Filip Chytil and center Lias Andersson are two that could make an impact this year.

Final Thoughts: It will be a long season for the Rangers. Look for more changes to be made.

8) New York Islanders

Record Last Year: 35-37-10

This organization couldn’t keep their star player in town as John Taveras took off for his hometown. There are a few players that seem to produce as Matthew Barzal, Calder Trophy winner, with 63 assists and 85 points. Anders Lee had a career-best 40 goals and six others had 20 goals or more last year. The defense was pathetic and they will need to look to rookie Devon Toews to help out.

Mainstay goalie Jaroslav Halak has left town and Thomas Geiss or newly signed Robin Lehner will get the majority of starts. Look for recently drafted Noah Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom to push for roster spots when the Islanders break camp.

Final Thoughts: New York City has no good hockey and the Islanders are flailing.

Odds to win the Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh Penguins +190
Washington Capitals  +210
Philadelphia Flyers +550
Columbus Blue Jackets  +600
Carolina Hurricanes  +1000
New Jersey Devils  +1200
New York Rangers  +1600
New York Islanders +1800

Atlantic Division

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

Last Years Record: 54-23-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be asked to duplicate or better his good numbers as the netminder as he finished with 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage. He is 25 years old and is a difference maker for the Lightning. He was third in voting for the Vezina Trophy. He will have Louis Domingue as his back-up. Rookie Anthony Cirelli had five goals and 11 points in just 18 games and the organization is counting on him to continue is play.

Nikita Kucherov led the team with goals and had over 100 points for the season. In addition, Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde each added goals and veteran Steven Stamkos was solid with 27 goals and 86 points. Victor Hedman leads the defense as he added 17 goals and 63points in 2017.

Final Thoughts: This team is on the cusp of getting a cup but that can’t seem to get over the hump. It’s time to deliver.

2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Record Last Year: 49-26-7

The Maple Leafs were on the verge but it wasn’t to be. Now they have added hometown boy John Tavares to the fold. He received a seven-year pact for $77-million. The Leafs will be plenty with plenty of young players that may go throw some growing pains this year. The biggest needed that wasn’t addressed was the defense. They allowed the fourth most shots on goals and were weak on the right side.

Frederik Anderson will begin as the primary goaltender. He was fourth in the Vezina Trophy voting as he led the league in saves. Curtis McElhinney is a capable backup when he is called on to play. Center Par Lindholm will get the call from the Swedish League for the fourth line.

Final Thoughts: The defense is keeping them from the top spot in this division.

3) Boston Bruins

Record Last Year: 50-20-12

Almost everyone involved with this team was pleased. They are moving ahead of schedule and look to jump over a few more teams on the way to the Finals. The top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak amassed 228 points and 99 goals. That may sound low but two of them were out for a large chunk of the year. On defense, 41-year-old Zdeno Chara, showed no signs of fatigue as he averaged over 22 minutes per contest. Charlie McAvoy came on for 32 points and averaged 22 minutes per game.

Goalie Tuukka Rask completed the year as the sixth in the NHL with a 2.36 GAA in 53 starts. The spot is incapable backup hands of former star Jaroslav Halak. Rookie Ryan Donato will slip into the third line and a few others will fight for roster consideration.

Final Thoughts: The team is likely to win or lose based on the third line production.

4) Florida Panthers

Record Last Year: 44-30-8

The Panthers made several moves within the organizational structure after the season finished in 2016-17. These were sound moves for Florida as things went better than expected last year. The Panthers added Mike Hoffman so that he could escape Ottawa and the online abuse his wife heaped on Erik Karlsson wife. Aleksander Barkov will continue as the top playmaker for this year. The entire defensive unit has returned for 2018-2019.

Roberto Luongo and James Reimer will be tandem goaltenders that will share ice time this year. Michael Hutchinson will be third in line as the netminder. Rookies Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett will look to battle for spots on the roster.

Final Thoughts: The team is looking up and doing things correctly, but are not ready to make big moves to deep playoff contests.

5) Buffalo Sabres

Record Last Year: 25-45-12

With the first pick in the draft, the Sabres selected Rasmus Dahlin. Now the youngsters will need to produce. The group is center Casey Mittelstadt and Brendan Guhle. Buffalo scored the fewest goals last year. Several members of the defense should return after health issues last season.

Carter Hutton is the new starting goalie for the Sabres after a very good backup year for the Blues. Linus Ullmark is the backup goalie. There are many rookies that will play but it is Jack Eichel that is the key to this team and is primed for a possible 100 point season.

Final Thoughts: This may be optimistic for Buffalo to finish 5th again this year.

6) Montreal Canadiens

Record Last Year: 29-40-13

The offense was woeful as they finished 29th in the NHL in scoring. The team must develop a better attitude to be successful. Max Domi and Max Pacioretty along with Brendan Gallagher must score to have team success. Shea Weber must get healthy for the defense to be clicking on all cylinders.

Goalie Carey Price is the highest paid goaltender in NHL history and he has a ton to prove after his worst season ever. Antti Niemi returns as a vital backup. Rookies such as Jesperi Kotkaniemi will push others to get on the ice after being selected #3 pick.

Final Thoughts: The Canadiens didn’t really address the offensive drought.

7) Detroit Red Wings

Record Last Year: 30-39-13

The Red Wings missed the playoffs again. The goal scoring was 28th best in the league as Henrik Zetterberg fell to just 11 goals on the year. Dylan Larkin led the team with 63 points. The defense isn’t much better as they lost 27 contests by one goal. This must improve as they have a ton of rookies looking to break into the roster.

Jimmy Howard will be the starting goalie as he played well last year with a .910 save percentage. Jonathan Bernier was signed to be the backup in Detroit. It will just take time for this once glorious franchise to get back to glory.

Final Thoughts: It’s a good thing the Senators are in their league or to the bottom they go.

8) Ottawa Senators

Record Last Year: 28-43-11

The Erik Karlsson dilemma will hang over their head until the day he is traded. The scandal involving his wife and bullying is ugly and makes the locker room look like “crazy town.”

Final Thoughts: This is a sad team that will disappoint all that love them.

Odds to win the Atlantic Division

Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Ottawa Senators

Western Conference

Pacific Division

1) San Jose Sharks

Record Last Year: 45-27-10

Logan Couture is the teams best offensive player as he led the Sharks with 34 goals on his way to earning his 8-year, $64 million contracts. Evander Kane is one of the main guys and adds in Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton to solidify the lines. Some of the younger players showed some pop in their stick as Tomas Hertl had 22 goals, Timo Meier added 21 goals, Chris Tanney contributed 17 goals, and Joonas Donskol netted 14 goals. The defense features Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Justin Braun. Joakin Ryan was added to develop depth in the defense. Brenden Dillon will get third line time to provide help.

Martin Jones is back for his third season and will continue to have Aaron Dell as his backup. They could use an upgrade here but they are steady. Rookie Annti Suomela was signed as a free agent from the Finnish League. It’s possible, but not likely, that Josh Norris and Ryan Merkley can jump from the draft to the ice

Final Thoughts:  It will be a battle all season for the Sharks and Golden Knights to win this division.

2) Vegas Golden Knights

Record Last Year: 51-24-7

This was an improbable season as they began their first year in the NHL. Several players put together career years including William Karlsson with 43 goals and 78 points along with Jonathan Marchessault and his 75 points. Five players each had 20 goals last year with four of them returning. In the offseason, the Golden Knights added center Paul Stastny but lost David Perron. Vegas will look to make Shea Theodore as the piece on defense to build around. Collin Miller and Nate Schmidt were decent scoring defensemen and Deryk Engelland partnered with Brayden McNabb for a solid pair on defense.

Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease had a fantastic season and became the face of the franchise. He is a three-time Stanley Cup winner and was a great veteran to keep this club focused. The backup goalie job will be fought between Malcolm Subban and Maxime Legace. Vegas has a plethora of young talent they snatched last season in their first draft. Some possible faces that may crack the lineup are Nick Suzuki, Cody Glass, Nicolas Hague, and Zach Whitecloud. Last season was not a fluke as the Golden Knights have some good players.

Final Thoughts: This will be a dogfight with San Jose all season but I do expect a second-year small dip.

3) Calgary Flames

Record Last Year: 37-35-10

Jimmy Gaudreau was good on offense along with Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton. After those players, things didn’t happen in the scoring department as the Flames were 27th in scoring last season. Matthew Tkachuk is likely to get things going as he just getting started at 20 years of age. The defense is hoping to get on-track from a dismal season last year. Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik look to get better as Travis Harmonic and T.J. Brodie couldn’t get any steam rolling early in the year.

The Flames are relying on 37-year-old Mike Smith to carry their fortunes for another season. A few young goalies in the wings are Jon Gilles and David Rittich that are waiting for Smith to break down. A few rookies may get some playing time and they include Spencer Foo, Juuso Valimake, Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube, and Rasmus Andersson.

Final Thoughts: Many have this team winning the division but until they can learn to score more consistently, they won’t win. In fact, fourth place was under consideration.

4) Anaheim Ducks

Record Last Year: 44-25-13

Rickard Rikell led the team with 34 goals and 69 points. It’s been a while in Anaheim when someone besides Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf has led the team. One of the major concerns for the Ducks will be the hip issue that continues to bother Ryan Kesler. The Ducks have publicly stated they wish to play a faster game and move the puck up more than to the side.

Goaltender John Gibson played in 60 games and notched 31 wins. He garnered a .936 save percentage which was 8th best in the NHL. Look for right winger Corey Perry to be moved off the line with Getzlaf unless he rebounds this season.

Final Thoughts: Head coach Randy Carlyle will need to show some improvement if he wishes to keep his job. This team went from 116 points in 2013-14 to 101 points last year.

5) Los Angeles Kings

Record Last Year: 45-29-8

It’s been four years since the Kings were the Stanley Cup champions and the organization still believes the corps players can lead them back to the playoffs rather than rebuild. Ilya Kovalchuk was signed for three years in hopes of taking some of the scoring pressure off Anze Kopitar. Kopitar was amazing with 92 points and he was aided by Dustin Brown and his 61 points. Another area Kovalchuk can help is with the power play. He has 13 power play goals in his professional career.

Drew Doughty is the leader on defense as the Kings have always been known for their defense-first mentality. Dion Phaneuf for a full season will help keep this unit stabilized. The netminder is Jonathan Quick and his .921 save percentage and 33 wins in 64 games. with Kovalchuk at 33 years of age, they concern might be there but remember he accrued 31 goals in the KHL last year.

Final Thoughts: This team just stays average.

6) Edmonton Oilers

Record Last Year: 36-40-6

Last season went terribly wrong for the Oilers. It could be more of the same as $33 million in contracts is back with Connor McDavid, Keon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Milan Lucic. This may not bode well for another season. The offense gets production from Connor McDaid but then it falls into an abyss from there. The defense is basically the same unit that struggled on both ends of the ice.

In a bizarre trend, the Oilers finished the year as the best penalty-killing team on the road, however, they were last at home. Tobias Rieder and Kyle Brodziak are now onboard to help out. The hope is that everyone that underachieved, will get back to form but that will put GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan on risky ground.

Final Thoughts: McDavid is so good but after that everyone is underachieving.

7) Arizona Coyotes

Record Last Year: 29-41-12

Last year this team failed to win for 21 games.  They since have traded Max Domi and received Alex Galchenyuk to become their first line center. Also in the offseason, the organization gave an eight-year extension to Oliver Ekman-Larsson and signed Michael Grabner and Brad Richardson as free agents. The hope is Clayton Keller will continue in his second season adding to his 23 goals and 65 points. Jakob Chychrun returns on defense after two knee surgeries and Jason Demers is ready for playing time.

Goalie Antii Raanta had the best goals-against average at 2.24 and save percentage with .930 last season. Darcy Kuemper will be expected to be the backup for two more years. Look for rookie Nick Merkley get a full season on the NHL ice this season and possibly Ilya Lyubushkin and Kyle Capobianco to fight for a spot on the defensive squad.

Final Thoughts: The team will continue to struggle in 2018-2019 but they may get an uptick in the standings by a spot ot two.

8) Vancouver Canucks

Record Last Year: 31-40-11

The veteran presence has left Vancouver the past two seasons as the Sedin brothers and the trade of Thomas Vanek now leaves plenty of holes. Ths team was 29th in scoring and having trouble determining their lines for this season. Anders Nilsson struggled at goalie and now will face Thatcher Demko for the job.

Final Thoughts: Not much here for the Canucks to work with and are solidly in the last place.

Odds to win the Western Division

San Jose Sharks
Las Vegas Golden Knights
Anaheim Ducks
Los Angeles Kings
Edmonton Oilers
Calgary Flames
Arizona Coyotes
Vancouver Canucks

 

Central Division

1) Winnipeg Jets

Record Last Year: 52-20-10

The Jets had the second-best offense in the NHL with 277 goals. Patrik Lane had 44 goals, rookie Kyle Connor added 31 goals, and Blake Wheeler added 13 points from his previous year. The offense is the key in Winnipeg. Darren Byfuglien is a beast on defense as he is physical every game of the season. Jacob Trouba is a defensive scorer and Josh Morrisey is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL.

Connor Hellebuyck was solid in the not and was a challenger for the Vezina Trophy. His backup will fall to a couple of unproved goalminders in Eric Comrie and Laurent Brossoit. Brendan Lemieux is a rookie that can get plenty of ice time as will Mason Appleton and his knack for scoring.

Final Thoughts:  This is a terrific scoring team but if their #1 goalie has to go out for any reason, this team will be back on their heels. Still the best in the division.

2) St. Louis Blues

Record Last Year:44-32-6

The organization with Doug Armstrong as the General Manager, made some things happen in the offseason. Last year the Blues missed Jaden Schwartz after his injury and he will need to remain healthy. Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo had career years but Vladimir Tarasenko was down in his production. Added to the fold is hometown boy Patrick Maroon and Ryan O’Reilly to solidify the offense. On the defensive end of the ice, the Blues allowed the sixth fewest goals in the NHL and look for Joel Edmundson to team with Pietrangelo to continue to stifle other teams.

The goalie situation was in flux at the completion of the season but the Blues stuck with Jake Allen even though he was a disappointment and allow Carter Hutton to leave. Chad Johnson will be the primary backup at goalie. rookie center Robert Thomas will be given every chance to play.

Final Thoughts: It was tough to decide if the Blues are second best or the Predators.

3) Nashville Predators

Record Last Year: 57-18-11

The Predators wanted to stick together another year and make a run at the Stanley Cup and GM David Poile decided to try that approach in 2018-2019. Filip Forsberg led the team with 64 points in 67 games and Ryan Johansen provided 47 assists. Some of the defensive players such as P.K. Subban can score as he added 16 goals with Mattias Ekholm adding 10 goals.

Pekka Rinne is in the final year of his big contract and at age 36 may see some time be given to other. He did snatch the Vezina Trophy but Juuse Saros is in place ready to assume a starting spot. Eeli Tolvanen is a first round pick from Finland that will get a chance to make the squad.

Final Thoughts: The fortunes of this season may fall on the knee health belonging to Ryan Ellis. If he can’t go, the defense may be in disarray.

4) Colorado Avalanche

Record Last Year: 43-30-9

Nathan MacKinnon had a good year as he was the 5th leading scorer with 97 points in the league. He is part of a young group which includes Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and center Vladimir Kamenev. The defense added Ian Cole, Samuel Girard, and Patrik Nemeth to help solidify the squad.

The goaltender situation has improved with the acquisition of Phillip Grunauer who will now battle with Semyon Varlamov for playing time. Look for rookie Connor Timmins to make the team and could become a nice offensive upgrade.

Final Thoughts: This is a very young team and with that in mind the Aves could surprise or disappoint this year.

5) Dallas Stars

Record Last Year: 42-32-8

Many were high on this team last year but then they lost eight in a row and things fell apart. General Manager Jim Nill made some changes within the coaching staff hiring of Jim Montgomery. The mainstays of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Ben Bishop stay intact. Free agent Roman Polak will help the defense with veteran Marc Methot, and Esa Lindell.

Ben Bishop was steady but not great last year as the organization added goalie Anton Khudobin as a backup. Rookie Miro Heiskanen will get the call sometime this year to help add depth to the defense.

Final Thoughts: The Stars need better goalie work.

6) Minnesota Wild

Record Last Year: 45-26-11

The Wild made the playoffs for the sixth time under Chuck Fletcher but an early exit got him fired and Bruce Boudreau was hired. The offense was helped by the improvement of Jason Zucker and his 32 goal season along with Eric Staal and 42 goals and 76 points. Zach Parise returned from injury and had 12 goals including three in the playoffs. The defense will need to include a healthy Ryan Suter and for center Mikko Koivu to continue his good play.

Devan Dubnyk will return but he doesn’t play well away from as the primary goaltender. The backup will be a battle between Alex Stalock and Andrew Hammond. Rookie winger Jordan Greenway will get some time on the ice now that he finished his Boston University eligibility. Also, look for center Luke Kunin to begin his rehab and get time during the season.

Final Thoughts: The Wild just needs to stay healthy to compete.

7) Chicago Blackhawks

Record Last Year: 33-39-10

The mighty have fallen. It was just a few short seasons ago this team was the force in the NHL. Now it is time to rebuild. Goalie Corey Crawford is badly needed to return to his former self now that he appears to be healthy. Cam Ward has been brought in to begin a tandem at the crease. Two rookies that were former standouts in college are Dylan Sikura and Blake Hillman. It is through them that things could tick upwards.

The former stars, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were a step slow all year and couldn’t return to their former production. Nick Schmaltz was a bright spot with 52 points in his second year. The defense is looking young with Gustav Forsling and Henri Jokiharju teaming with veterans Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Final Thoughts: This team has some nucleus of young players that a mild surprise may happen this season and not get mired in the last place.

Odds to win the Central Division

Nashville Predators
Winnipeg Jets
St Louis Blues
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche