For the first time in two years, the Pittsburgh Penguins are not the defending Stanley Cup champions. Coming off a 100 point season, Pittsburgh is expected to be right back in the mix of things this year.
They have some of the best depth in the entire NHL with the likes of Derick Brassard backing up Sidney Crosby. Or Jake Guentzel being a security blanket should Phil Kessel go down. That depth will be back and fresh since they did not have to go on yet another long Stanley Cup run.
There really was not much change on the Penguin roster this year, which should allow them to gell quicker than most teams under Mike Sullivan. Matt Murray’s health is actually the only real question that should concern Penguin fans. He has yet to play in a full NHL season, so keeping him healthy will be a priority.
Prediction: 105 points
The defending Stanley Cup Champions look to build a dynasty in Washington.
For the most part, there was not much change over in the capital outside of Barry Trotz choosing not to return. But, despite the change, it won’t be a big difference considering the team’s new head coach, Todd Reirden, was a member of Trotz’s coaching staff.
Reirden has inherited a team that is full of offensive firepower with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie. In net, Braden Holtby is considered by many as one of the best in the entire league. It should be another strong year for the Washington Capitals.
Prediction: 103 points
Columbus is set up to have another strong year under head coach John Tortorella.
Their core has been together for some quite time now and they have a group of defensemen that is one of the best the league has to offer. That, along with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal gives Columbus a legitimate chance at contending throughout the season.
There is a bit of an injury concern when it comes to Seth Jones. He will be out four-to-six weeks with an injury, but their depth should be able to cover them until he returns. How they manage without him will determine how far they go this year.
Prediction: 101 points
The Flyers have been the talk of the league the last couple of days with the unveiling of their new mascot Gritty. The Broad Street Bullies look to take Gritty’s intimidating look and bring it on to the ice.
Veterans like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier along with youngster Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorav, and Shane Gostisbehere make for a good combination of young and old to contend. The only question that surrounds Philly is who will be in between the pipes? Will Brian Elliot emerge as a number one starter again? Or, will Michael Neuvirth steal the job?
Despite the questions in goal, the Flyers still have one of the strongest lineups the Metropolitan Division has to offer. Look for them to battle it out with Columbus for the number three spot this year.
Prediction: 99 points
The Devils took the league by storm a season ago and now have some big expectations on their backs.
How the team handles those expectations will go a long way in their 2018-19 season. They are still a relatively young team, and higher expectations sometimes make things more complicated for younger players. That is where veterans like Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Ben Lovejoy, and Andy Greene have to keep their young squad focused.
Former number one draft pick Nico Hischier had a very impressive rookie campaign and looks even better this preseason. Expect for him and the rest of the team to be just fine competing for a wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: 93 points
The Blueshirts went in a different direction last year, a direction that placed an emphasis on getting younger. That continues in 2018-19 while trying to compete for a playoff spot.
Under new head coach David Quinn, they look to be a competitive team that gives their all on a nightly basis. The goal this year is to get back to being better on a daily basis as the team seems to really be embracing Quinn’s message.
Despite employing veterans like Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers just do not have the talent to keep up with the big boys of the Metro. Look for them to be a bottom of the pact team, while still being competitive.
Prediction: 81 points
Carolina took a major step forward in their rebuild a season ago finishing sixth in the division. But they are still relatively young and under new head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
They traded away veteran Jeff Skinner in the offseason, and will still be relying on some relatively young players that have not seen what it is like to win in the NHL. That’s the difference between them and the Devils. That’s why the expectation is for them to finish towards the bottom of the league yet again.
There is still a chance they can surprise you. Talent can win games, but the loss of former head coach Bill Peters will be a bigger blow than some expect.
Prediction: 80 points
The Islanders continue to experience what life without John Tavares is going to be like. Whenever the face of the franchise leaves, it is going to be a period of transition and they are learning that right now.
A team that has been constructed around a group of veterans with the young talented Mathew Barzal does not really appear to be headed in the right direction to contend this season. The hesitancy to give their younger players like Josh Ho-Sang and Kieffer Bellows a chance this year ultimately will hurt their contending chances.
In goal Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss look to split the load. Lehner spent the last three seasons in Buffalo, not winning many games. Look for that trend to continue in the Barclays Center, Nassau Coliseum or wherever the Islanders play a game this season.
Prediction: 79 points
- Pittsburgh Penguins (105 points)
- Washington Capitals (103 points)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (101 points)
- Philadelphia Flyers (99 points)
- New Jersey Devils (93 points)
- New York Rangers (81 points)
- Carolina Hurricanes (80 points)
- New York Islanders (79 points)