Sunday, September 24, 2017

Vegas Golden Knights 2017-18 season preview

                  The Vegas Golden Knights will be making history when they step on the ice for the first time this season. It will be their inaugural season, and there now will be 31 NHL teams. The Golden Knights had a very successful first offseason, signing Russian star Vadim Shipchyov, and picking stars like James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft. Here's a look at their inaugural team.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Jonathan Marchessault - Vadim Shipachyov - James Neal
David Perron - Cody Eakin - Reilly Smith
Teemu Pulkkinen - Erik Haula - Alex Tuch
Pierre-Edouard Bellmare - William Karlsson - Oscar Lindberg

Marchessault and Neal were two really good expansion pickups by Vegas. Shipachyov will be a 30 year old rookie coming from the KHL, and should be very good. Perron and Eakin are two more good draft picks. Smith was acquired from the Panthers in an expansion draft trade (like Tuch) and is pretty elite. Tuch, the former first rounder, will finally get a chance to start. Brandon Leipsic and Will Carrier will start in the AHL, but will also be call-ups.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Jason Garrison - Nate Schmidt
Jon Merrill - Luca Sbisa
Brayden McNabb - Deryk Engelland

Schmidt was another good pickup. While Garrison wasn't a great pickup, he's still their best defenseman. Sbisa could be a trade candidate this year, and so could McNabb. Basically everyone is fighting with Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Clayton Stoner and Griffin Reinhart for a spot.

 Marc-Andre Fleury
 Calvin Pickard
A three time Cup champion, Fleury will start the first game in history. Pickard struggled as starter in Colorado when Semyon Varlamov was injured, but has been good in his career as a backup.

As an expansion team, the Knights are bad. I predict they won't finish last in the league or their division, but the will have high odds for the first overall pick in the draft lottery.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vancouver Canucks 2017-18 season preview

                After signing F Loui Eriksson in the offseason, the Canucks season went downhill, and completely crashed. They finished 2nd last in the NHL and last in the Pacific division with 69 points, only ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who had a historic season (a historically bad one) with 48 points. They made a couple quality signings, but they are still continuing the rebuild. Here's a look at what they did in the offseason.

                Notable additions: C Sam Gagner, D Michael Del Zotto, G Anders Nilsson, RW Thomas Vanek, F Alex Burmistrov, D Patrick Wiercioch.

                Notable subtractions: G Ryan Miller, D Luca Sbisa, D Nikita Tryamkin, F Jack Skille, D Philip Larsen, F Drew Shore, F Alex Grenier.

Here are my projected forward lines. 

Dan Sedin - Henrik Sedin -  Thomas Vanek
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser
Loui Eriksson - Sam Gagner - Brandon Sutter
Mike Chaput - Markus Granlund - Jake Virtanen

The Sedins are returning once again, but this should be their final season in Blue and Green. Vanek is a sure bet to be traded. Baertschi's 18 goals in 2016-17 went unnoticed by many. Horvat can become their first line center this year, and Boeser can break out. This is a big year for Sutter and Eriksson. Virtanen just makes the team in my books, but some AHL time could never hurt. Reid Boucher, Alex Burmistrov, Derek Dorsett, Brendan Gaunce, Nikolay Goldobin, Jayson Megna and Anton Rodin are all fighting for spots, but most of them (definitely Goldobin and Gaunce probably others) will be in the AHL.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Michael Del Zotto - Erik Gudbranson
Ben Hutton - Troy Stetcher

Edler and Tanev are vets that I feel like are both underrated and overrated somehow. Del Zotto might not have been the best signing, but is okay. Hutton and Stetcher had good first years, and are looking for similar second years. Patrick Wiercioch is the 7th defenseman.

 Jacob Markstrom
 Anders Nilsson
This is finally Markstrom's year to break out, and even though he's the backup of the future, starter of the future Thatcher Demko will only play if there's a big injury. He'll start in the AHL. Nilsson was a good signing for them. Richard Backman will be Demko's backup, but will be the third NHL goalie if there's a short-term injury.

The Canucks are still a pretty horrible team. I think that they will compete... for the first overall pick in 2017-18.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-18 season preview

              Led by a trio of rookies in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time since the lockout season with 95 points. But, they lost in the first round to the Washington Capitals. To mentor the youngsters, the Leafs brought in Patrick Marleau. Here's a full look at their offseason.

             Notable additions: LW Patrick Marleau, C Dominic Moore, D Ron Hainsey, F Chris Mueller.

             Notable subtractions: D Matt Hunwick, C Brian Boyle.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Patrick Marleau - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown
Leo Komarov - Dominic Moore - Matt Martin

Marleau can really produce with Matthews and Nylander, and vice-versa. If the second line can produce like it did last year, they'll be the Leafs' recipe for success again. Hyman moves down with Marleau on the team, and can play with Kadri and Brown. That's a great line. Since he's been struggling in the preseason, Moore could be a scratch, and Komarov could center, letting Josh Leivo be the 4th line left-winger. Nikita Soshnikov, Eric Fehr, Frederik Gauthier, Kaspari Kapanen, Ben Smith and Colin Greening are in the running for a spot.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Morgan Reilly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Ron Hainsey - Martin Marincin
Reilly and Zaitsev is a very good top line. Gardiner is an underrated defenseman. Marinicin is a below average NHL defenseman, so youngsters Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielson and Andreas Borgman could beat him out, and have Marincin as the 7th d-man.

 Freddy Andersen
 Curtis McElhinney
In his second year in Toronto and as a full-time starter, Andersen is looking for a good season. In his first full-season in Toronto, McElhinney will be the backup. AHL starter Garrett Sparks is the third goalie.

As long as Matthews, Nylander and Marner can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, the Leafs will be good. I think they will once again make the playoffs.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 season preview

         After superstar Steven Stamkos went down with a season ending injury, the Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs by one point, finishing with 94 of them. To revamp their team, the Lightning traded away Jonathan Drouin. They made some other veteran moves to replace him. Here's a look at those moves.

              Notable additions: LW Chris Kunitz, D Dan Girardi, D Mikhail Sergachev, D Jamie McBain, D Mat Bodie

              Notable subtractions: F Jonathan Drouin, D Jason Garrison, F Byron Froese, G Kristers Gudlevskis.

Here are my projected forward lines

Chris Kunitz - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn -  Brayden Point - Vladislav Namestnikov
Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - JT Brown

The entire first line can be very productive when healthy, but "when healthy" are the key words in that line. The triplets are the best non-first line in the league. Point is looking to avoid the soph slump. Erne, the youngster, is trying to beat out Erik Condra, Yanni Gourde, Michal Bournival, Cory Conacher, Gabriel Dumont and Ty McGinn. Long list. Most of those guys will start for Syracuse (AHL), but I think Condra will be the 13th forward.
Here are my projected defensive pairs

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi
Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr

That first pairing led by Hedman, a Norris finalist, is straight fire. Girardi was a nice signing by them. Slater Koekkoek is battling Sergachev, but the former ninth overall pick will win. Also, Jake Dotchin is battling for that spot.

 Andrei Vasilevkiy
 Peter Budaj
This is a big developmental year for Vasilevskiy. Re-signing Budaj will help, especially since he can be a good mentor to Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning did miss the playoffs last year, but they are still a good team. I predict that they will make the playoffs in 2017-18.