As summer turns to fall, the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the NHL season quickly approaches. With that in mind, there are a lot of teams to watch after an eventful offseason. The first is the newest of the NHL teams and that is the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be interesting to see how the Golden Knights approach their first season with the new front office, new roster, new coach, etc. Their roster certainly has enough talent to make some noise in a very weak Pacific division. Led by three-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and notable names such as James Neal and Oscar Lindberg, look out for this team. Probably the most dangerous part about this team is that no one has any film on them.
The next team to watch is the winner of the offseason and that is the Dallas Stars. The signing of former Vezina Trophy winning goalie Ben Bishop was arguably the biggest acquisition of the offseason. Considering that they were in the basement in the NHL last year because of their lackluster goaltending, which means that phenomenal offensive players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will have the ability to hit the ground running. Look for them to be at the top of a division that has been long dominated by both the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues.
Speaking of the Chicago Blackhawks, they made probably the biggest trade of the offseason. Artemi Panarin had a huge season last year for the Hawks, but they decided to deal him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a package that involved longtime former Blackhawk Brandon Saad. Saad helped the Blackhawks win two cups in 2010 and 2013 alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Considering that Artemi Panarin was arguably the Hawks’ second best offensive weapon and they didn’t get much in return other than Saad, look for the Blackhawks to have a little decline this year, but still easily make the playoffs.
Artemi Panarin’s new team in Ohio is going to be exciting to follow this year. Coming off of 108 points and an MVP caliber season from Sergei Babrovsky a year ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets look like they are ready to finally take down the Penguins and the Capitals in the extremely deep Metropolitan division. Look for guys like Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner to have phenomenal repeat seasons.
My two biggest teams to watch this season are very similar in that they are young teams with a lot of talent and good coaching that could make long playoff runs. The Edmonton Oilers led by Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot; look for the Edmonton Oilers to win the Pacific Division and challenge anybody coming out of the West to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. And lastly, the Toronto Maple Leafs with arguably the best coach in the NHL running the show on the bench in Mike Babcock and young stud players like Auston Matthews and William Nylander; look for the Leafs to take the Atlantic and compete with teams from the Metropolitan division in the playoffs.