NHL Season Preview

Ryan Jones, Assistant Sports Editor


The NHL is the most volatile league in all professional sports. This was showcased perfectly during the 2017-2018 season when the Vegas Golden Knights, a first-year expansion team, reached the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals were able to take home said championship, the first Stanley Cup in their existence. The Capitals became the second team in NHL history to win the Cup despite trailing in every series.

Though these two teams were able to battle through the rest to reach the championship, the path to the playoffs is wide open heading into the season, with teams looking to make history of their own. Here’s a look at the four divisions and some early season projections of their best teams.

The Pacific division shook out to be anything but what was expected last year.

The early-favorite Edmonton Oilers finished with a 36-40-6 record, missing the playoffs by 17 points in large part due to their struggles on special teams. Connor McDavid is an early favorite to win MVP coming off of back to back scoring titles.

The Sharks looks to be one of the most improved in the division. With the addition of Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane, and Joe Thornton returning from knee surgery, the Sharks boast one of the strongest defensive top threes in the League, and only increased their offensive that was already middle of the pack last season.

The Cinderella story of the NHL, the Golden Knights are early favorites to make another appearance in the championship in their second season. Vegas has one of the strongest front lines in hockey and gained strength in Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty.

The top two teams in the NHL last season, pointwise, resided in the Central last year (Jets and Predators) and it looks to be a competitive division once again.

New coach Joe Montgomery may be the move the Dallas Stars desperately needed. The team has one of the stronger defenses and a phenomenal goaltender, but were unable to score offensively and on the powerplay last year. Tyler Seguin will play a huge role in this potentially new offense.

Another Cup favorite, the Winnipeg Jets come into 2018 with one of the strongest offenses and with newfound playoff experience, have a good chance at another deep run.

The Predators are still the strong team that made it to the championship two seasons ago, and seemingly have no nagging issues heading into the season, boasting debatably the strongest defensive cores in the league while adding Dan Hamhuis.

No division has a larger talent diversity than the Atlantic.

The Boston Bruins continue to score big on prospects. After numerous injuries to veterans last year, the Bruins young core of Heinen, Donato, McAvoy and Debrusk brought the team to 50 wins. The top line is just as deadly as last year, and with everyone healthy, the Bruins pose a serious threat in the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs broke many of their franchises records last year (most importantly wins) and added one of the best players in the league in John Tavares. Their front will be one to beat in the Atlantic.

The Tampa Bay Lightning showed how dominant they could be in their series against Boston, where they won easily in five games. The team has few flaws other than its penalty kill, which ranked 28th.

The reigning champs have a lot of work to do looking to repeat. Their defense is aging, and with the loss of Barry Trotz, it is hard to imagine another year of comebacks for the Caps.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were unable to three-peat last year, but after losing to the Capitals have gotten some much-needed rest. As long as Crosby and Malkin are on the team and producing, the Penguins will have a shot at the Cup this year. Letang will look to come back from surgery and contribute as well.

After missing the playoffs the season before, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to make the dance this year on the back of Claude Giroux, and after signing James Van Riemsdyk to an extension, could be the dark horse of the division.