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.

                               Forwards
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.

                               Defensemen
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.

                            Goalies
 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.

                            Prediction
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.

                         Forwards
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.
                          Defensemen
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.

                         Goalies
 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.

                                  Prediction
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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

St. Louis Blues 2017-18 season preview



       The St. Louis Blues made the playoffs once again in 2016-17, finishing with 99 points, good enough for third in the Central division, even though they traded D Kevin Shattenkirk mid-season. The Blues surprised everyone (but not me) by getting past the Minnesota Wild in the 1st round of the postseason. They then fell to the eventual Western conference champion Nashville Predators in round two. They pulled off a big trade at the draft, acquiring F Brayden Schenn. Here's a look at their full offseason.

               Notable additions: C Brayden Schenn, F Beau Bennett, F Chris Thorburn, D Nate Prosser, F Oskar Sundqvist.

               Notable subtractions: C Jori Lehtera, F David Perron, F Scottie Upshall, F Ryan Reaves, F Nail Yakupov, F Kenny Agostino, F Ty Rattie.

                   Forwards
Here are my projected forward lines.

Alex Steen - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Patrik Berglund
Robby Fabbri - Ivan Barbashev - Beau Bennett
Vladimir Sobotka - Kyle Brodziak - Magnus Paajarvi

Schenn should come in as a number one center. Tarasenko, a Lady Byng finalist for 2016-17, is a top winger in the game. Schwartz is pretty underrated, after scoring 55 points in 2016-17. Barbashev is looking for a good sophomore season. Bennett is also looking for a breakout year. Fabbri had a Torn ACL last year, and is looking to rebound. Coming from the KHL, Sobotka is looking for a good first full NHL season since 2013-14. Chris Thorburn, Dmitrij Jaskin and Oskar Sundqvist are the extra forwards.

                   Defensemen
Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarson - Colton Parakyo
Joel Edmunson - Robert Bortuzzo

Entering his second season as team captain, Pietrangelo is still a top defenseman. Parakyo is young, and really good. Bortuzzo is in a battle with Nate Prosser for the third pairing spot, but I predict Bortuzzo will win. Prosser will be the seventh defenseman, and Jordan Schmaltz, Petteri Lindbohm and Chris Butler are the extras.

Goalies
Jake Allen
Carter Hutton
Allen is in his second season as a full-time starter, but I think if he doesn't have a good season, his future in St. Louis will be jeopardized. Hutton had a good 1st season in St. Louis, and should have a fine second.

                             Prediction
 I think that Tarasenko will be the Rocket Richard winner, and as a good team, the Blues will win the Central division, as long as Allen has a good year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

San Jose Sharks 2017-18 season preview



            After winning the Clarence Campbell trophy in 2016, the San Jose Sharks finished with 99 points in 2016-17, making the playoffs once again. But, they went home early after losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round. They lost Patrick Marleau, and didn't do much to replace him. Here's a look at their offseason.

           Notable additions: F Brandon Bollig, G Antoine Bibeau.

           Notable subtractions: F Patrick Marleau, F Michael Haley, D David Schlemko, D Mirco Mueller.

                         Forwards
Here are my projected forward lines.

Timo Meier - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward
Chris Tierney - Melker Karlsson - Kevin Labanc

At just 20 years of age, Meier can benefit from playing from Jumbo Joe and Little Joe, who are both game changers. Couture is a really good second liner, who put up 25 goals and 50 points last year. Hansen was a good acquisition for them at the deadline, and can help them in 2017-18. The fourth line is actually young, and can help them a lot. Brandon Bollig and Barclay Goodrow are the extra forwards.

                       Defensemen
Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Paul Martin - Justin Braun
Brendan Dillon - Dylan DeMelo

Burns is the reigning Norris winner. Vlasic is a good top-2 defenseman. The bottom six is good, except for DeMelo, who's more of a 7th defenseman. Braun can put up 30 points, which is good for a defenseman.

Goalies
Martin Jones
Aaron Dell
Since his trade to the Sharks from the Bruins a couple years ago, Jones has been a true NHL starter. In his second year, Dell will once again be the backup. AHL goalies Antoine Bibeau and Troy Grosenick are the extra goalies if needed.


                         Prediction
San Jose is still a good team. But, I think they are falling apart. I think they will make the playoffs this year, but, unless something happens, this will be the last year until the rebuild starts.