NHL Preview: Analyzing all 31 Teams

Luke Jacobello, Staff Writer

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It’s that time of the year again. Hockey time! The puck has dropped on the NHL season, and it is time to preview all 31 teams and predict how they will do throughout the season. Who will be the team to hoist the Stanley Cup in June? 

 

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are expected to struggle once again. The absence of Corey Perry brings the absence of skill and leadership. Although the Ducks have plenty of talent with captain Ryan Getzlaf and defender Cam Fowler, the talent never seems to come together to generate wins. The Ducks will fall short of the playoffs for the third year in a row.

 

Arizona Coyotes

For once, the sun seems like it is shining bright in the desert. The Coyotes signed Phil Kessel in the offseason, which adds a major scoring threat to their offense. They bring back Oliver Ekman-Larsson to hold the blue line, and young playmaker Clayton Keller returns as well. The Coyotes are set on offense, defense and goaltending. They are playoff bound, but it is not likely that they make it far due to their playoff inexperience. 

 

Boston Bruins

The Bruins are back and are hungry for the cup. After losing to St. Louis in the finals last year, the Bruins are out to finish what they started. They bring back many of their starters from last year, including all-stars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They also bring back former Vezina winner Tuuka Rask. They have a skilled and experienced lineup, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bruins bring the cup home to Boston. 

 

Buffalo Sabres 

A young skilled team, the Sabres are destined for greatness. After a hot-start to last year’s season, the Sabres fell off towards the end and ended up missing the playoffs. They bring back all-stars Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner along with many other offensive threats. They bring back Rasmus Ristolainen to anchor the sturdy defense. The question comes in goal. The goaltenders for the Sabres are not the best. If the goalies play well for Buffalo, they might have a chance at making the playoffs in a tough Atlantic division. If not, the Sabres will have to wait until next year to bring their talent to the postseason. 

 

Calgary Flames 

After a disappointing loss in the first round to the Avalanche in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Flames step back on the ice ready to light up the NHL. The Flames return all-stars Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. They also return veteran defenseman Mark Giordano and many other solid blueliners. Goaltending would be the only concern for the Flames this year, since veteran tendy Mike Smith departed for Edmonton. 

 

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are balanced and fast. They are a team coming off a storied run in the playoffs last year before losing to Boston. The Canes are young and talented, and they are expected to return to the playoffs if Peter Mrazek and ex-Shark James Reimer can give them enough in goal.

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Although talent is not as abundant in Chicago since their last Stanley Cup, the Hawks still have veteran all-stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who are joined by Alex DeBrincat as go-to ’Hawks. Other than the first line, the Blackhawks don’t have many elite scorers. A reconfigured blue line, still led by Duncan Keith and a goalie tandem of Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford, will not be enough to return the Hawks to the playoffs. 

 

Colorado Avalanche 

This is the other popular pick, and look who is playing right wing on the top line next to Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog…none other than Joonas Donskoi, a former Shark. Donskoi is only a place-holder, however, as Colorado eagerly awaits the signing of restricted free agent Mikko Rantanen. Nazem Kadri is a nice addition. In addition, all eyes are on young defenseman Cale Makar, who debuted in the postseason last spring. The Avs should do relatively well this year because of their offensive capabilities. If the goalies can hold their ground, the Avalanche could be serious contenders for the cup.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Fans were thrilled when Columbus stunned Tampa Bay, but the Cup run was quickly aborted with a four-game loss to Boston in the second round. Not long after, Panarin and Bobrovsky were gone, too. Aside from rising stars Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on the blue line, the Jackets’ roster looks mediocre at best. A goalie tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins is not inspiring.

 

Dallas Stars

Dallas is a likable preseason pick thanks to optimism triggered by the signing of free-agent scorers Joe Pavelski (Sharks) and Perry to complement Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Miro Heiskanen emerged as a star on defense last year and goalie Ben Bishop rediscovered his game.

 

Detroit Red Wings

When Detroit’s streak of 25 consecutive playoffs was snapped three years ago, few figured the Wings would become this insignificant so quickly. There’s just not enough here yet, besides the beautiful Little Caesars Arena that recently replaced the historic yet deteriorating Joe Louis Arena. Speedsters Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou are about all the Winged-Wheel fans have.

 

Edmonton Oilers 

New GM Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett bring a winning pedigree to a once-proud franchise that’s missed the playoffs 12 of the past 13 seasons. Connor McDavid appears ready to start his fifth season after sustaining a torn knee ligament in the final game last season. Leon Draisaitl (50 goals, 105 points) emerged to provide a potent 1-2 punch. Look for Tippett to get more from others.

 

Florida Panthers 

Armed with new bench boss Joel Quenneville — the second winningest coach in league history — and top-flight goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida could push for only a third playoff spot in 19 seasons. Forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman should carry the offense while 2014 No. 1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad anchors an iffy blue line.

 

Los Angeles Kings

Those Stanley Cups won in 2012 and ’14 seem so long ago; L.A. has reached the playoffs in only two of the five seasons since, and they hit rock bottom with only 71 points last season. Ex-Sharks and Oilers coach Todd McLellan inherits an aging roster that is not blessed with a lot of firepower or speed. Besides defenseman Drew Doughty, there’s not a lot of prime talent.

 

Minnesota Wild

Paul Fenton was fired as GM late in the offseason, and it’s up to another ex-Shark — Bill Guerin — to pick up the pieces. The roster is sprinkled with aging vets — Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter.

 

Montreal Canadiens

These are not your father’s Canadiens, one with 24 Stanley Cups and a proud fan base, as they are not expected to make the playoffs for a third straight spring. Goalie Carey Price might want to sue for a lack of support. Aside from Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher, the Habs are goal-challenged.

 

Nashville Predators

 

The good news is Matt Duchene gives the Preds a potent second-line center to support top-liner Ryan Johansen. The bad news is defenseman P.K. Subban is gone. The pressure is on the goalie tandem of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, along with a defense corps — led by Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis — to extend Nashville’s postseason run to six seasons.

 

New Jersey Devils

The expectations are high for the Devils this year. After a disappointing 2018-2019 season, the Devils made some key moves in the offseason, signing former Norris Trophy Winner P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds from the Flyers, and Nikita Gusev from the KHL. Taylor Hall is back from injury and Jack Hughes, the number 1 overall pick in this years draft, is expected to make an impact early. The Devils have all the tools to make it to the postseason, but if the goaltenders don’t step up, it could be another disappointing year for the guys in red. 

 

New York Islanders 

The Islanders are expected to fall further back in the Metropolitan division. They do have some talent on the lineup, as former Calder Winner Matt Barzal returns for his third season. However, they lack other offensive threats, and although their defense is sprinkled with veterans, goalkeeping issues will make sure the Islanders are not in the playoffs this year. 

 

New York Rangers

The Rangers are set to have a very good season. They signed Jacob Trouba and Artemi Panarin in the offseason, adding to an already dangerous offense. Alexander Giorgiev played well in goal last year, although the starter is still Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers also selected Kaapo Kakko with the second pick in this years draft, which should give the Rangers even more depth on offense. The future is bright in the bright lights of New York City, and the Blueshirts are expected to make the playoffs for the first time in 4 years.

 

Ottawa Senators 

Nothing to see here. Just move along. The Sens are in the midst of a rebuild with not a lot of talent on the roster other than young phenoms Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot. Craig Andersen is getting old in goal so the Senators are definitely not expected to do well this season. 

 

Philadelphia Flyers

The most pivotal player in the division may be goalie Carter Hart (21 years old) who played very well last year as a rookie. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek pose a top-line threat. Depth will be key, along with continued development from Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere on the blue line. The Flyers are not likely to make it into the playoffs because of the ultra-competitive Metro division. 

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby is 32, Evgeni Malkin 33, and the Penguins are no longer a shoo-in for the postseason. Alex Galchenyuk came in the trade for Phil Kessel, as coach Mike Sullivan’s longtime foil has departed. Kris Letang needs to stay healthy to anchor an otherwise unpredictable defense. Speaking of health, goalie Matt Murray hasn’t played more than 50 games in any of his first four seasons. Casey DeSmith is the backup. Enough said.

 

St Louis Blues

Fresh off their first Cup in their 52-year history, the Blues return with almost the same roster. A late camp trade for Justin Faulk from Carolina only strengthens a punishing blue line. Coach Craig Berube had the “interim” tag removed after he brought St. Louis from last overall on Jan. 3 to champions in June. The big question: How will goalie Jordan Binnington fare in a second season?

 

San Jose Sharks 

After last year’s playoff run fell short of the cup, the Sharks come into the 2019-2020 season as serious favorites to win it all. The depth on this team is unbelievable. From 1st to 4th line, the Sharks have capable players everywhere. Martin Jones is expected to play well in net. The team has a perfect mix of veterans and young stars which make this team dangerous come playoff time. 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

When you think of the Tampa Bay Lighting, you think of well-rounded skill. The Lighting are loaded with talent throughout their roster. From Steven Stamkos to Nikita Kucherov, the Bolts are set at all positions. They have a dominant offense, a sturdy defense, and a brick wall in goal by the name of Andrej Vasilevsky. There is no doubt that the Lighting will return to the playoffs in 2019-2020, but the question is how far will they go this year. 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

With a dominant offense similar to Tampa’s, Toronto boasts one of the greatest pure scorers in the game, Auston Matthews. The Leafs also have Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Morgan Reilly to complement Matthews on the offense. In goal stands Frederik Andersen, who also played very well last year. The Leafs will likely return to the playoffs, but will not go very far because their lineup is relatively young and inexperienced. 

 

Vancouver Canucks

When talking about a goal scoring duo, there is no one better than Elias Petterson and Brock Boeser. Their chemistry on the ice is unmatched and they are expected to put up record numbers in the 2019-2020. The concerns are elsewhere on this Vancouver team. The Canucks have few notable players other than Boeser and Petterson that can rack up points, and the defense and goaltender situations are not ideal. The Canucks will be missing the playoffs for the 2019-2020 season. 

 

Las Vegas Golden Knights 

An immediate success as an expansion team, the Knights slipped from division champs as newbies in 2017-18 to third last season, even though they still made it into the playoffs. Built to play fast, the impressive top-six forward skill could fuel Vegas again. Top lines featuring Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith provide scoring punch while goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and a boisterous home barn provide an intimidating challenge.

 

Washington Capitals

Two years removed from their first Cup, the Caps are still very much in the conversation for the ultimate prize. Alexander Ovechkin is 42 goals shy of 700. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson should supply offensive support and Braden Holtby, 30, is motivated as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

 

Winnipeg Jets 

The Jets bring back a lethal offense which got them into the playoffs last year. They have a brick wall in net by the name of Connor Hellebuyck. And although the Jets lost their best defensemen Jacob Trouba, they 

How the mighty have fallen. And it’s mostly because of contract issues. One young offensive star — Patrik Laine — signed Friday, but Kyle Connor remains unsigned. Suspended defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, 34, suddenly doesn’t know if he wants to play any more and Tyler Myers departed.

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