The NHL season is set to kick off on Wednesday night. Here’s an in-depth look into the more likely outcomes and predictions this season.
The NHL season is set to kick of tonight with the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lighting highlighting the four matchups slated. With the changes surrounding the team’s roster, as well as the flat salary cap effecting all 31 teams, it might be difficult for NHL fans to get a gage on what to expect from the upcoming season.
Honda West Division: Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are by far the most improved team coming into this season with the additions of Devon Toews and and Brandon Saad. The Avs boast having one of best players in the league in Nathan Mackinnon. Mackinnon will be sure to put up video game-like numbers this season while playing along side forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Colorado posted the 3rd best record in the NHL last season with 92 pts and are going to be just as dominant in an already weak Western division. Expect Colorado to notch 46 wins minimum en route to the playoffs.
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Scotia North Division: Toronto Maple Leafs
Performing under expectations has been the theme for the Maple Leafs. With the realignment, Toronto will be facing some relief in the all Canadian division. After playing in the competitive Atlantic Division, the Leafs should have no issue locking up 1st place now in one of the weaker divisions. The bulk of the scoring will be laid on the shoulders of Hart Trophy contender, Auston Matthews. Matthews is coming off an 47-goal season and will have some veteran help this year with the additions of Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thorton. Look for Toronto to hover around the 42-win mark by the time the playoffs are set to begin.
MassMutual East Division: Philadelphia Flyers
Last season the Flyers were one win away from making their first Conference Finals appearance since 2008. The one thing the Flyers have to their advantage is age and experience. The average age coming into the 2021 season is 28, while bringing bring all of the key parts from last year’s playoff run. The one question mark for this very talented team will be goaltender Carter Hart. Hart posted 24 wins, alongside a save percentage of 91.4%. At age 22, Hart is still in the early days of his development. He could very well improve upon some of the inconsistency that plagued the young goaltender last season. As much as it pains this Rangers fan to admit it, expect Philly to win 41 and take the division.
Discover Central Division: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are coming off the franchise’s second Stanley Cup and look to carry that momentum into the 2021 season. Tampa will have to make due without their top scorer in Nikita Kucherov, who received season-ending hip surgery just a few week ago. That will leave open the opportunity for Bolts’ captain Steven Stamkos to finally prove his doubters wrong and have a full healthy season. The injury plagued scorer missed significant time last season due to an abdominal tear. The Lightning will have support in the form of Brayden Point who looks to cement himself as a superstar, as well as Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman. Yearly Vezina Trophy favorite Andrei Vasilevskiy will only look to bolster his already impressive stats against his lower tier advisories. Lightning should problem taking their rightful place at the top of the division with 45 wins.
Award and Staley Cup Picks
Art Ross Trophy: Connor McDavid
Calder Trophy: Tim Stuzle
Hart Trophy: Nathan Mackinnon
Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman
Richard Trophy: Nathan Mackinnon
Presidents Trophy: Colorado Avalanche
Stanley Cup Champions: Colorado Avalanche