Thursday, September 28, 2017

Winnipeg Jets 2017-18 season preview

                      Despite an impressive rookie campaign by Patrik Laine, the Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs in 2016-17 with 87 points. They made a goalie change, bringing in Steve Mason and losing Ondrej Pavelec. Here's a look at their offseason.

                       Notable additions: G Steve Mason, D Dmitry Kulikov, F Matt Hendricks.

                       Notable subtractions: G Ondrej Pavelec, D Paul Postma, F Chris Thorburn, D Mark Stuart, D Brian Strait.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor - Andrew Copp - Marko Dano
Nic Petan - Shawn Matthias - Joel Armia

Scheifele emerged as a top 10 center in the league last year with 32 goals and 82 points. Him and Laine are a force to be reckoned with for the Jets. Wheeler is a top line player, but I put him on the second line since Laine's line is clearly better. Connor played in just 20 games last year, regaining his rookie status. The former 17th overall pick can have a solid rookie season. Petan is still just 22, but he's scored just three goals in 80 career games. He needs to step it up, or he could be out of Winnipeg before you could even say Winnipeg. Matt Hendricks is the extra forward.

 Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Josh Morrissey - Dustin Byfuglien
Dmitry Kulikov - Tyler Myers
Toby Enstrom - Jacob Trouba

Morissey played in 82 games last year in his rookie campaign. Byfuglien (Buf-lin) is a very physical d-man players look out for. Kulikov's horrible last season in Buffalo could've been a fluke. We'll see soon. Trouba played after a trade request this season. I think things are still a little rough from both sides, but Trouba shouldn't be traded yet. Ben Chiarot is the extra defenseman.

 Steve Mason
 Connor Hellebuyck

Mason was a good addition this offseason. This year's a big make-or-break year for Hellebuyck. Michael Hutchinson is the third goalie if needed.

 I think the Jets are a solid team. But, in a very competitive Central division (besides the Avalanche), I predict they will miss the playoffs in 2017-18.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Washington Captals 2017-18 season preview

                 In 2016-17, the Washington Capitals won their second consecutive President's trophy, finishing with 118 points. Even though they got past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1st round, they once again fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in round number two. That led to a bad offseason, which led to Alex Ovechkin trade rumors. Here's a look at that bad offseason.

                  Notable additions: F Devante Smith-Pelly, F Tyler Graovac, F Anthony Peluso.

                  Notable subtractions: F Marcus Johansson, D Kevin Shattenkirk, D Karl Alzner, F Justin Williams, D Nate Schmidt, F Dan Winnik.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Tyler Graovac - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

That first line is the best line in the NHL in my opinion. Burakovsky will get an extended amount of time this year with Johansson and Williams out of town. Smith-Pelly, or "DSP" will also get more time than intended when he first signed in D.C. Vrana's 21 games last year was less than expected, but he should play more this year. Graovac was only acquired for the expansion draft, but will get a 4th line role this year. Trash-on-ice Tom Wilson will attempt to get under 100 penalty minutes for the first time in his career this year.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Orlov broke out with 33 points last year, and should pair with Carlson this year. Djoos hasn't played in the NHL yet, but should have a good rookie season. Him and Bowey are trying to replace Nate Schmidt and Alzner this year. Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness are the extra defensemen.

 Braden Holtby
 Philipp Grubauer
Holtby is still a top goalie in the game. Grubauer's 2.05 GAA last year showed his potential. Pheonix Copley is the third goalie.
The Caps are falling. But, they still are good. I predict they will make the playoffs this year.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins 2017-18 season preview

                The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated their 2016 Stanley Cup championship in very good fashion. They finished second in the Metropolitan division with 111 points, then got past the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators, and won the Cup again. This year, they will look to get the threepeat. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, the Pens didn't need to do much, but here's a look at what they did do.

                Notable additions: G Antti Niemi, RW Ryan Reaves, D Matt Hunwick, D Jarred Tinordi, C Jay McClement (PTO), F Greg McKegg.

                Notable subtractions: C Nick Bonino, G Marc-Andre Fleury, LW Chris Kunitz, C Matt Cullen, D Trevor Daley, D Mark Streit, D Ron Hainsey, D Steve Olesksy, F Oskar Sundqvist, D David Worsofsky.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzal - Evgeni Malkin -Scott Wilson
Carl Hagelin - Bryan Rust - Phil Kessel
Carter Rowney - Jay McClement - Ryan Reaves

That first line has been nothing but successful since being united last season. The only reason I had Kessel on the third line instead of the second is that Kessel and Malkin showed signs of bad chemistry during the playoffs.The HBK line now has Bryan instead of Bonino. I predict the Penguins will sign McClement, since they need a center. They've been reported to have been in trade talks with the Bruins including C Ryan Spooner. If they land him, they won't sign McClement, and their lines will be jumbled around. Josh Archibald, Tom Kuhnhackl and Tom Sestito are the extra forwards.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

 Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Justin Schultz
Ian Cole - Matt Hunwick

If Letang is actually healthy, he's a top defenseman in the league. Schultz and Dumoulin just signed new deals, and are a solid second pair. I really am not a fan of the Matt Hunwick signing, but injuries happen, I guess. Frankie Corrado, Jarred Tinordi and Chad Ruhwedel are the extra defensemen.

 Matt Murray
 Antti Niemi
Murray is now a top goalie after two Cups. Replacing Fleury with Niemi is really bad, but they'll have to live with it. Tristan Jarry is the extra goalie, if needed.

As an Islander fan, it pains me to say it, but the Penguins are an amazing team. They will compete for the President's trophy, and be close to a threepeat.

NHL trade review: Panthers, Coyotes make Demers for McGinn swap

McGinn (64) and Demers (60) with the Sharks

                 Right as preseason starts for most NHL teams, we have a big trade. In need of a right handed defenseman, the Arizona Coyotes acquired D Jason Demers from the Florida Panthers in exchange for F Jamie McGinn. Also, 12.5% of Demers' salary was retained by the Panthers. Also, the two were teammates on the San Jose Sharks.

                 The Coyotes' left side of their defensive core is really good. Oliver "OEL" Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Alex Goligoski on one side is really good. But, with Luke Schenn being the best right handed d-man on the team, a move had to be made. McGinn was one of the few vets in their forward core, but their youth movement there is continuing, with Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer and Brendan Perlini looking to break into the league. This trade makes room for Jordan Martinook to start on opening night without him needing an injury to occur. Demers will most likely play with old Stars teammate Goligoski this year.

                "Any time you can deal from an area of surplus and add to an area of deficit, that's what you're trying to do with a trade. From our perspective, right-shot defensemen are at a premium. They're hard guys to find, especially guys who can play 20 minutes a night and play special teams," said Coyotes GM John Chayka via Craig Morgan of FanRag sports.

                 Demers, 29, scored a career high nine goals to go along with 19 assists for 28 points in 81 games for the Panthers last year. In his eight year NHL career for the Panthers, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks, Demers has scored 37 goals and 134 assists for 171 points in 504 games. He was traded from the Sharks to the Stars in 2014-15 for Brendan Dillon. Also, he's signed for the next four years, including this year.

                 The Panthers are able to unload some salary cap in this deal. McGinn is a solid top 9 winger that the Panthers have needed since losing Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in the offseason. McGinn is also under contract through next year. I'd say a little more, but this tweet by 14 year old Panthers blogger puck under the sun (@sun_puck on Twitter) sums all of that up (also be sure to check out his blog here). "[The trade] Looks good as we dump the Demers contract and open up room for youngsters [Mackenzie] Weegar and [Ian] McCoshen. Plus, it helps solidify our bottom six forwards," he tweeted. One thing I'd add to that is that 24 year old Reece Scarlett, who was acquired from the Devils last trade deadline, can win out that roster spot, while Weegar and McCoshen go to the AHL. Also, I think Florida also could've gotten a late round draft pick as well, just because they retained some salary.

                 McGinn, also 29, had a disappointing 2016-17 season, with just nine goals and eight assists for 17 points, and was a -23. But, in his nine year career for the Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Sharks, McGinn has scored 100 goals and 84 assists for 184 points in 522 games. He was traded to the Avalanche for T.J. Galiardi and Dan Winnik. He was traded to Buffalo as part of the Ryan O'Reilly deal.

                 I think the Coyotes win this deal. Demers is a much better player than McGinn, and is just about a million dollars more expensive, which isn't a lot. So, the Coyotes win.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 season preview

                    After surprising the league and making the playoffs in 2015-16, the Philadelphia Flyers disappointed in 2016-17, with just 88 points, for sixth in the Metropolitan division. But, they beat the odds and won the NHL draft lottery, and were awarded the second overall pick. They used the pick to select C Nolan Patrick. The Flyers didn't do much in the offseason, and lost a lot of players. Here is a look at their offseason.

                   Notable additions: G Brian Elliott, C Jori Lehtera.

                   Notable subtractions: C Brayden Schenn, G Steve Mason, D Michael Del Zotto, C Nick Cousins, C Pierre-Edouard Bellmare, D Nick Schultz.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Travis Konecny - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal - Nolan Patrick - Wayne Simmonds
Oskar Lindbom - Sean Couturier - Michael Raffl
Valtteri Filppula - Jori Lehtera - Mike Vecchione

The first line looks potent on paper, but after 14 goals last year, Giroux needs to have a good year, so the Flyers don't need to consider moving him. Simmonds, the reigning all-star game MVP, can be a good linemate to Patrick, a rookie. After one day at camp, reports showed he showed chemistry with Simmonds and Weal. Lindblom is coming from oversees, and is another rookie to watch out for. Don't be fooled by the fourth line tag. Filppula and Lehtera will still get plenty of ice-time. Vecchione was a Hobey Baker candidate, and is looking for a good rookie season. Matt Read has dropped, and will be a healthy scratch, along with Dale Weise. The Flyers should trade one of them if there is any takers.

Here's my projected defensive pairs.

Shayne Gostisbehere - Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov - Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald - Radko Gudas

Gostisbehere had a sophomore slump in 2016-17, and is looking to follow his 2015-16 season in 2017-18 so he can be successful. Morin and Hagg are two rookies trying to break into the league. Provorov is looking to avoid the sophomore slump. Travis Sanheim, another rookie, can beat out MacDonald.

        Brian Elliott
        Michal Neuvirth
Elliott was a great signing for the Flyers. Neuvirth is an okay backup, but not a starter, like most of his career. Though he's currently injured, Anthony Stolarz will be the third goalie when he's healthy.

The Flyers are still a lot like their 2016-17 team that missed the playoffs. I think they'll compete for a wild card spot, but their mediocrity will hurt them. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ottawa Senators 2017-18 season preview

                   After a bad 2015-16, the Ottawa Senators rebounded in 2016-17, with 98 points, making the playoffs. After getting by the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, the Sens got to double OT in game seven in the Eastern conference finals. But, a goal by Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz ruined their hopes of being Eastern conference champs. With an already strong team, the Sens didn't make many offseason changes, but here's a look at what they did do.

          Notable additions: D Johnny Oduya, C Nate Thompson, F Tyler Randell, F Max Reinhart.

          Notable subtractions: D Marc Methot, C Chris Kelly, F Chris Neil, F Viktor Staalberg, F Tommy Wingels, D Jyrki Jokipakka.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
Clarke MacArthur - Derrick Brassard - Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel - J.G. Pageau - Colin White
Zack Smith - Nate Thompson - Alex Burrows

That first line can be deadly as long as Ryan has a bounce back season. Same goes with MacArthur and the second (it's more like is MacArthur needs to stay healthy). Dzingel and Pageau are coming off solid years, and are looking for a good 2017-18. White is looking for a solid rookie campaign. Tom Pyatt is the extra forward.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Dion Phaneuf - Erik Karlsson
Thomas Chabot - Cody Ceci
Johnny Oduya - Chris Wideman

Karlsson may miss the first few months of the season, and that can totally change their season. Chabot has been great in his junior career, and is looking for a solid rookie year. Oduya was a nice underrated signing for then. Mark Borowiecki and Fredrik Claesson are the extra defensemen.

                       Craig Anderson
                       Mike Condon
At the end of his career, Anderson is still a starter. Condon is a good fringe starter. Andrew Hammond and Chris Dreidger are the extra goalies.

The Sens are a good team. But, their season relies on how severe Karlsson's injury is. If it's not bad, they'll make the playoffs. If it's bad, I think they'll miss the playoffs.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

New York Rangers 2017-18 season preview

            With a very good core, the New York Rangers finished with 102 points, for 4th in the Metropolitan division, making the playoffs. After getting by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, the Rangers fell to the unlikely winners, the Ottawa Senators. In the offseason, the Rangers unloaded Derek Stepan, but signed Kevin Shattenkirk. Here's a full look at their offseason.

                 Notable additions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, C David Desharnais, G Ondrej Pavelec, D Anthony DeAngelo, F Paul Carey, F Dan Catenacci.

                 Notable subtractions: C Derek Stepan, G Antti Raanta, F Oscar Lindberg, D Dan Girardi, F Brandon Pirri, D Kevin Klein, D Adam Clendening, F Tanner Glass.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey - Kevin Hayes - Rick Nash
Michael Grabner - J.T. Miller - Pavel Buchnevich
Matt Puempel - David Desharnais - Jesper Fast

Zibanejad is a solid 2nd line center, but is one the worst first line centers in the league, if not the worst. Same goes for Kreider. Zuccarello is the only first liner on the team, unless Nash can regain his old form. Vesey is in his second year, and I expect a lot more than 27 points out of him. Grabner had a great 2016-17, and is looking for another one in 2017-18. That fourth line is horrible except for Desharnais. Paul Carey and Dan Catenacci are the extra forwards.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Shattenkirk
Marc Staal - Brady Skjei
Brendan Smith - Anthony DeAngelo

If the Rangers play that first pairing, then that can win them games. Skjei was very overlooked in his rookie season. DeAngelo was traded for Stepan and Raanta, and can make the team this year. If he doesn't make the team and is sent to the AHL, Nick Holden will take his place. If he does make the team, Holden and Steven Kampfer will be the extra defensemen.

                  Henrik Lundqvist
                  Ondrej Pavelec
Replaces Raanta with Pavelec is really bad since Lundqvist is injury prone. Pavelec is not a good goalie. They should've targeted another goalie in free agency like Brian Elliott.

The Rangers still have a good team. But after a bad offseason and the rest of the Metro rising, I predict the Rangers will miss the playoffs in 2017-18.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New York Islanders 2017-18 season preview

                 After two straight seasons of making the playoffs, the New York Islanders had a horrible first half of the 2016-17 season. A coaching change from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight led to much better play, but the Isles finished with 94 points, missing the playoffs by a point. That led to some major trades. they acquired Jordan Eberle, but traded Travis Hamonic. Here's a full look at their offseason.

               Notable additions: RW Jordan Eberle, G Kristers Gudlevskis.

               Notable subtractions: D Travis Hamonic, C Ryan Strome, G Jean-Francois Berube, C Mikhail Grabovski.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Anders Lee - John Tavares - Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Matthew Barzal - Josh Ho-Sang
Jason Chimera - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

After Lee broke out last year with over 30 goals, he is now a first line forward. Tavares needs a new extension, but it shouldn't stop him from playing. Nelson needs to have a good season, or could be traded. Ladd needs a bounce-back year also. That kid line could be electric, with Beauvillier having the most NHL experience with about two-thirds of a season. The grinder line returns with Chimera at the left-wing spot. Nikolay Kulemin and Stephen Gionta are the extra forwards. Alan Quine and Shane Prince are injured, but will add depth when they return.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan - Ryan Pulock
Adam Pelech - Thomas Hickey

The "Ledchuk" pairing is very solid. Pulock didn't play at all in the NHL last year, besides one shift, but was outstanding in the AHL. Pelech just signed an extension, and should start. Dennis Seidenberg and Scott Mayfield are the extra defensemen.

                     Thomas Greiss
                     Jaroslav Halak

Since joining the Islanders, Greiss has been a number one goalie. Halak had a bad last season, and will be Greiss' 1B this year. AHL goalies Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis are the call-ups if there's an injury.

The Isles positively impacted their already good team in the offseason. I think they'll make the playoffs in 2017-18.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Jersey Devils 2017-18 season preview

               The New Jersey Devils' offseason was one of the best. After finishing last in both the Metropolitan and Eastern conference with just 70 points, the Devs won the NHL draft lottery, and got the first overall pick. They used the pick to select C Nico Hischier. Besides Hischier, the Devils were still successful in the offseason, acquiring LW Marcus Johansson from the Capitals. Here's a full look at their offseason.

                Notable additions: LW Marcus Johansson, C Brian Boyle, D Mirco Mueller, RW Drew Stafford, D Will Butcher, D Brian Strait.
                Notable subtractions: F Michael Cammalieri, F Beau Bennett, D John Merrill, C Jacob Josefson, F Devante Smith-Pelly, D Yohann Auvitu.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Taylor Hall - Adam Henrique - Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson - Nico Hischier - Pavel Zacha
Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Drew Stafford
Joseph Blandisi - Blake Coleman - Stefan Noesen

Hall is the star of the team. Henrique is a solid top-6 center, and has past chemistry with Hall. Palmieri is a good top line right winger. Zacha is a good young player. Hischier will need to adjust to the NHL. Stafford is underrated, and a pretty good top-9 winger. The 4th line is okay, but the three players on it wouldn't be on most NHL rosters.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Mirco Mueller - Damon Severson
Will Butcher - Andy Greene
John Moore - Ben Lovejoy

Mueller never got a chance to be a full-time starter with the Sharks, but will be one in Jersey. Severson is their best defenseman, and just signed a six year extension. Playing with a vet in Greene can help Butcher, who's a rookie. Steven Santini can beat out Lovejoy or Moore for the starting role. Dalton Prout and Brian Strait are the other extra defensemen.

                                        Cory Schneider
                                        Keith Kinkaid
Schneider is a really good goalie, but injuries led him to having a horrible 2016-17. With Schneider down, Kinkaid had a better year than Schneider. Prospect MacKenzie Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood are the AHL goalies and will be called up if there's an injury.

I think the Devils still have a lot of work to do to be a Cup contender, or a playoff contender. I predict that they will miss the playoffs in 2017-18.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Nashville Predators 2017-18 season preview

                After trading captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban, the Nashville Predators finished with 94 points, and made the playoffs as the second wild card team in the Western Conference. They magically got around the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks, and made the Stanley Cup finals. But, they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. In the offseason, they made a lot of changes. Let's look at what they did in the offseason.

                Notable additions: C Nick Bonino, F Scott Hartnell, D Alexei Emelin, G Anders Lindback.

                Notable subtractions: LW James Neal, C Mike Fisher, F Mike Rebeiro, F Colin Wilson, F Harry Zolnierczyk, F Vernon Fiddler, G Marek Mazenec.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Victor Arvidsson
Scott Hartnell - Nick Bonino - Craig Smith
Kevin Fiala - Calle Jarnkrok - Pontus Aberg
Austin Watson - Colton Sissons - Mikko Salomaki

That first line was dominant last year when Arvidsson had a breakout year. The second line is more of a third line, but I found it weird that Mikko Salomaki had a chance at the second line. Maybe the second and third line switches. Fiala is coming off a major injury in the playoffs, but he should be healthy. The extra forwards are Cody McLeod and Fredrick Gaudreau.

 Here are my projected defensive pairs

Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Roman Josi - Yannick Weber
Alexei Emelin - Matt Irwin

Ekholm and Subban is a really good first pairing. It's a big blow that Ryan Ellis is out for most of the season. That means that Weber will play with Josi. Emelin brings a good physical style of play. I think that Anthony Bitetto is the extra defenseman, and could play instead of Irwin some nights.

                                        Pekka Rinne
                                        Juuse Saros
Rinne is old, but he's still a starting goalie. Saros is very small for a goalie, but still is a good backup. Anders Lindback will either be in the AHL or the third goalie (probably AHL), but will be the backup if either Rinne or Saros go down.

The Predators are still a good team. But, I have one concern for them. Besides their first line, I think they have a below average offense. They are relying on their defense. But, I still think they will once again sneak into the playoffs.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Montreal Canadiens 2017-18 season preview

               Led by superstar goalie Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens won the weak Atlantic division with 103 points in 2016-17. They were able to re-sign center Alex Galchenyuk. Also, they made a monster trade acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Lightning. The Habs had a busy offseason, reconstructing their roster. Let's take a look at what they did.

                Notable additions: F Jonathan Drouin, D Karl Alzner, F Ales Hemsky, D Mark Streit, D David Schlemko, D Joe Morrow.

                Notable subtractions: F Alex Radulov, D Andrei Markov, D Nathan Beaulieu, F Brian Flynn, D Alexei Emelin, D Mikhail Sergachev F Dwight King, F Steve Ott.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Jonathan Drouin - Alex Galchenyuk - Brandon Gallagher
Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Ales Hemsky
Paul Byron - Andrew Shaw - Artturi Lehtonen
Paul Danult - Torrey Mitchell - Andreas Martinsen

That first line with Drouin and the two "Gally's" can put up some good numbers this year. Pacioretty is a first line player, but will be moved down because of the first line. That third line can be good if Lehtonen can have a good sophomore year, and Byron can have another good season. The 4th line is a solid grinder line.

 Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Karl Alzner - Shea Weber
Jordie Benn - Jeff Petry
David Schlemko - Mark Streit

Alzner was signed to be a top-4 defenseman. Due to the P.K. Subban trade, Weber has actually been underappreciated. The rest of the defensemen are pretty good. Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson will be the extra defensemen.

                                   Carey Price
                                   Al Montoya
Price is undoubtedly the best goaltender in the world. Montoya is an okay backup.

The Canadiens are still are a good team. I think that they will make the playoffs in 2017-18.

My interview with #Isles Thomas Hickey

             Scoring an overtime goal is a dream for every hockey player. New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey is used to scoring beyond regulation. Hickey has just 18 career goals, including one in the postseason, but six of them have been in the extra period. That's a whopping 33 percent. Hickey played junior hockey for the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. He played so well in Seattle, that the Los Angeles Kings selected him 4th overall in the 2007 NHL draft. After five seasons for the Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs (now the Ontario Reign), Hickey was placed on waivers by the Kings, and was later claimed by the New York Islanders. Hickey made the Islanders' roster, and became a stable defenseman for them. In 2015-16, Hickey scored an overtime goal in game 3 of the playoffs to help the Islanders beat the Florida Panthers. In his 340 game career, all for the Islanders, Hickey has scored 86 points (17 goals and 69 assists).

           Recently, I was able to speak to Hickey. Here are the questions I asked him.

                Carter LaCorte (me): "Out of all of the Islanders defenseman, do you have a preference of who to play with?"

                Thomas Hickey: "No. I usually play with everyone throughout the year, so I don't really care who it is."

                CL: "Do you pay any attention to the arena situation?"

                TH: "Not really. I'll keep my eyes out, but I think people [overreact to it]. We're hanging on tooth and nail, and our owner are doing everything they can and [we need to] sit back and let them make the tough decisions. We know we are in good hands, so I don't pay attention to it."

                CL: "Do you think John Tavares will re-sign with the team?"

                TH: "I do. But, I don't know anything. We'll see."

                CL: "Is it a big blow to lose Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames?"

                TH: "Yeah, it's a blow because he's good friends with a lot of the guys, but he'll do good in Calgary. We are all rooting for him. We have a lot of depth, but we definitely are going to miss him. He's a great teammate."

                CL: "What do you think of the trade the Isles made acquiring Jordan Eberle?"

                TH: "He's a good friend of mine. I think he'll be a lot better than people think. [I] predict he'll do well and exceed expectations."

                CL: "Last question. What do you think your overall will be in NHL 18?"

                TH: "I don't know what's it's ever been. Hopefully it will be better than last year."

Friday, September 8, 2017

Minnesota Wild 2017-18 season preview

                    In 2016-17, the Minnesota Wild were a surprise team, finishing 2nd in the Central division with 106 points. There were led by Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter, who all had surprisingly good seasons. But, the St. Louis Blues knocked them out in round one. There were quick to make a big trade, acquiring Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno from the Sabres for Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville. Here's a look at the Wild's full offseason.

                    Notable additions: F Tyler Ennis, F Marcus Foligno, C Matt Cullen, D Kyle Quincey.

                    Notable subtractions: F Jason Pominville, D Marco Scandella, C Eric Haula, C Martin Hanzal, F Jordan Schroeder, F Ryan White, F Tyler Groavac, D Christian Folin, G Darcy Kuemper, F Alex Tuch, D Nate Prosser.

Here are the projected forward lines.

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Nino Niederreiter
Eric Staal - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker - Joel Eriksson Ek - Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Chris Stewart

If Niederreiter and Granlund can produce again, that can be a killer line. That second line is really solid. He may only have 15 career NHL games, but Eriksson Ek can be their third line center this year. Zucker and Ennis are two solid top 9 wingers. The grinder 4th line is solid. Foligno is currently an RFA, but I think he'll sign.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
Mike Reilly - Kyle Quincey

That top-4 is really good. Suter is an absolute work-horse on the top pairing. Brodin and Dumba are good, and the Wild gave up a lot to protect them in the expansion draft. Reilly has just 46 games of NHL experience, but can crack the team this year. Quincey was a solid veteran signing for the third pairing.

                                       Devan Dubnyk
                                       Alex Stalock
Dubnyk has been a Vezina candidate since being acquired by the Wild a few years ago. Stalock gets the chance to be the backup this year with Darcy Kuemper gone.

The Wild are a still a good team. Even with a tough division, I think they'll make the playoffs.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Los Angeles Kings 2017-18 season preview

     The Los Angeles Kings were a disappointment in 2016-17, finishing with just 86 points. All-star goalie Jonathan Quick was limited to just 17 games, and first line center Anze Kopitar scored a career low 12 goals. GM Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter were fired, and assistant GM Rob Blake and assistant coach John Stevens took over the head roles. Blake didn't do much, but here's a look at what he did do.

 Notable additions: F Michael Cammalieri, D Christian Folin, G Darcy Kuemper.

 Notable subtractions: G Ben Bishop, F Jarome Iginla, F Teddy Purcell.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Michael Cammalieri - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Marian Gaborik - Trevor Lewis - Nic Dowd
Kyle Clifford - Nick Shore - Andy Andreoff

Kopitar playing with two vets in Brown and Cammalieri is a solid top line. The 70s line will always produce. Gaborik might miss the beginning of the season, so former 1st rounder Adrian Kempe will in if Gaborik is out. The bottom six is pretty good. Jordan Nolan, Jonny Brodzinski and Boko Imama are the extra forwards, but Brodzinski and Imama could be in the AHL.

 Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Alec Martinez - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Christian Folin
Derek Forbort - Kevin Gravel

Doughty is a Norris trophy candidate. He should play with Muzzin, but they to want to spread the skill around. Forbort turned into a solid NHL defenseman last year, playing 82 games. His previous career high was 14 games. Gravel has only 54 career NHL games under his belt, so he can have that successful season this year. Paul LaDue is the extra defenseman.

                        Jonathan Quick
                        Darcy Kuemper

Getting Quick back for a full season is key. He's a huge part of their team. They signed Kuemper to be their backup, after he was Devin Dubnyk's backup in Minnesota. Jack Campbell is the third goalie and AHL goalie, and so is Jeff Zatkoff.

The Kings still are a good team. If Quick stays healthy, they can succeed, but, in a tight conference, I think they won't make the playoffs in 2017-18.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Florida Panthers 2017-18 season preview

            After finishing first in the Atlantic division in 2015-16, the Florida Panthers had a set-back in 2016-17, with 81 points, finishing 6th in the division. They received a really good season from winger Jonathan Marchessault, but lost him in the expansion draft. They also traded Reilly Smith to Vegas, and did not sign Jaromir Jagr. They replaced them with Radim Vrbata and Evgenii Dadonov. Let's take a full look at what the Panthers did.

               Notable additions: RW Radim Vrbata, F Evgenii Dadonov, F Michael Haley

               Notable subtractions: F Jonathan Marchessault, F Reilly Smith, F Jaromir Jagr, F Jussi Jokinen, F Tomas Vanek.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Evgenii Dadonov - Vincent Trocheck - Radim Vrbata
Jared McCann - Denis Malgin - Colton Sceviour
Michael Haley - Derek MacKenzie - Alex Grenier

Huberdeau and Barkov are locks for the top line. Bjugstad will most likely be the third line center, but I like the idea of him as a 1st line winger. Trocheck was an all-star last year. Vrbata and Dadonov come in, and can be playmakers on the second line. Malgin and McCann are still young, but they should be ready for the next step this year. Grenier and Haley, two new guys, are okay 4th liners.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Alex Petrovic - Jason Demers
Michael Matheson - Mark Pysyk

Yandle and Ekblad will definitely play together. Demers and Petrovic and Matheson and Pysyk will most likely play together. They will start in the AHL, but if there's an injury, prospects, Ian McCoshen, Reece Scarlett and MacKenzie Weegar will be called up to start.

                         Roberto Luongo
                         James Reimer
These guys will definitely play where I have them. "Bobby Lou" is still a solid starter. Reimer wasn't a good signing by them last offseason, but will be a backup to Luongo this year.

The Panthers really got worse offensively this year. But, I like their defensive core, so I think they'll improve. They will improve to 87 points, and compete for the wild card. But, in a tough division, they will once again finish 6th in the Atlantic.

Also, check out my YouTube video preview. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Edmonton Oilers 2017-18 season preview

              In 2016-17, the Edmonton Oilers finally exited their 10 year rebuild. They finished with 103 points, for 2nd in the Pacific division. Connor McDavid won the Art Ross and Hart, with 100 points. Leon Draisaitl had a great season. But, the Oilers signed McDavid and Draisaitl to new deals, and they had cap issues. The were forced to trade RW Jordan Eberle to the Islanders for Ryan Strome. They bought out Benoit Pouliot, and replaced him with Jussi Jokinen. Let's look at what they fully did this offseason.

              Notable additions: F Ryan Strome, F Jussi Jokinen, F Mitch Callahan, F Ty Rattie, C Brad Malone, D Keegan Lowe.

              Notable subtractions: RW Jordan Eberle, F Benoit Pouliot, RW Tyler Pitlick, LW Matt Hendricks, C David Desharnais.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Patrick Maroon - Connor McDavid - Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jesse Puljujarvi
Jussi Jokinen - Ryan Strome - Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula - Mark Letestu - Ty Rattie

The first line showed chemistry last season. The second line is very solid. Lucic and Nugent-Hopkins (especially Nugent-Hopkins) could be traded, and Puljujarvi could start in the AHL, so that might not be a line. Strome is really just a third line center, and Jokinen takes the spot of Pouliot. There is a battle for the 4th line right wing spot, and I think Rattie wins it. Mitch Callahan, Brad Malone, Anton Slepyshev and Liro Pakarinen are also fighting for that spot.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera - Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse - Eric Gryba

Every defenseman but Gryba are similar skill-wise. But, there is a little edge for some players. The edge is where they are playing. So, the top pairing is slighty better than the second pairing. Matt Benning, Mark Fayne, Dillon Simpson and Ben Betker will be the extra defensemen or in the AHL.

                              Cam Talbot
                              Laurent Brossoit
Talbot is a solid starter, and Brossoit is a solid backup. It's simple.

I think that McDavid will once again be a Hart finalist. And, once again, the Oilers will be in the playoffs, but this year, be at the top of the Pacific division.  

Also, check out my YouTube video preview here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Detroit Red Wings 2017-18 season preview

           In 2016-17, the Detroit Red Wings begun their demise, finishing with 79 points, for 7th in the Atlantic division. Going into 2017-18, the Red Wings have cap problems, and still need to sign RFA Andreas Athanasiou (he's in their lines at the bottom assuming he'll sign). They didn't do much in the offseason, but they did sign defenseman Trevor Daley to a three year deal, and extended Tomas Tatar (four years). Here's a look at the few things GM Ken Holland did this offseason.

          Notable additions: D Trevor Daley, D Luke Witkowski.

          Notable subtractions: F Drew Miller, F Tomas Nosek, F Mitch Callahan.


 Here are my projected forward lines.

Justin Abdelkader - Frans Nielson - Gustav Nyquist
Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Andreas Athanasiou
Darren Helm - Luke Glendening - Evgeny Svechnikov

The first line is okay, but it would be a second line on most teams. Larkin and Mantha are looking for another good year, as Zetterberg looks to once again avoid a decline. Athanasiou had a good season last year. Sheahan only scored two goals in 80 games last year. He needs to bounce back this year. He is a trade candidate for the Wings. At just 20 years of age, Svechnikov has the chance to make the team this year, or he'll be in the minors. Ben Street is the extra forward.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Danny DeKeyser - Mike Green
Trevor Daley - Niklas Kronwall
Jonathan Ericsson - Nick Jensen

DeKeyser is, in my opinion, their best defenseman. Kronwall isn't a top four defenseman on most teams, but still is in Detroit. There will be a big battle for the six spot in training camp, but I think Jensen wins it. Honestly, Xavier Ouellet could beat out Ericsson. Dylan McIlrath, Robbie Russo, Ryan Sproul and Luke Witkowski are also in that battle.

                           Petr Mrazek
                           Jimmy Howard
This is a 1A, 1B situation between a younger guy, Mrazek, and a vet, Howard. If there's an injury, then Jared Coreau could get the call.

Still rebuilders, I think the Red Wings will take a step back in 2017-18. I think they will finish eighth in the Atlantic division, also known as last.  

Also, check out my YouTube video preview for the Wings.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dallas Stars 2017-18 season preview

         After a disappointing 2016-17 season, finishing with 79 points for 6th in the Central division, the Dallas Stars had what I think is the best offseason by any team. They were horrible last year due to defense and goaltending, but fixed that with the signing of Ben Bishop and drafting Miro Heiskanen. For the forwards, they lost Patrick Sharp, but signed Martin Hanzal and Alex Radulov. Also, here's a look at what they did in the entire offseason.

         Notable additions: G Ben Bishop, F Alex Radulov, D Marc Methot, C Martin Hanzal, RW Tyler Pitlick, F Brian Flynn.

         Notable subtractions: C Cody Eakin, LW Patrick Sharp, RW Ales Hemsky, G Antti Niemi.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alex Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faska - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie - Devin Shore - Tyler Pitlick

The first line is dynamic. Except for Janmark, the second line is really good. I could actually see them trading a younger guy like Janmark and someone like Remi Elie for a top six left-winger that could improve their team. James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault or Reilly Smith from Vegas would be some good candidates. The bottom six isn't the greatest, but it's manageable. Brian Flynn, Adam Cracknell and Mark McNeill are the extra forwards.

Here are my projected defensive pairs.

Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Esa Lindell - Greg Pateryn
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka

Methot and Klingberg is a good top pair. Lindell had a good rookie season, and is looking to avoid a sophomore slump this year. Hamhuis' career is falling, and needs to revive it this year. Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth are the extra defenseman. If their is a long-term injury, Gavin Bayreuther can step in.

                    Ben Bishop
                    Kari Lehtonen

Bishop had a bad last year, but the former Vezina candidate is looking for a bounce back season in Dallas. Lehtonen is going to be a backup this year, after previously starting, but could decrease by seeing less ice-time. Mike McKenna is the injury call-up.

The Dallas Stars improved wildly this offseason. I think, led by Lady Byng winner Tyler Seguin, the Stars will compete for a wild card spot, and make the playoffs.  

Also, check out my YouTube video preview.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Columbus Blue Jackets 2017-18 season preview

                     The biggest surprise of the 2016-17 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets finished with 108 points, for third in the Metropolitan division. But, the fell to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins team in five games. But, GM Jarmo Kekalainen made a blockbuster trade, sending Brandon Saad to Chicago for Artemi Panarin, who's scored over 150 points in the last two seasons. The Blue Jackets didn't do much in the offseason besides that, but here's a look at what they did.

                     Notable additions: F Artemi Panarin, F Tyler Motte, Jordan Schroeder, D Andre Benoit.

                     Notable subtractions: F Brandon Saad, C Sam Gagner, F Scott Hartnell, G Anton Forsberg, C William Karlsson, D Kyle Quincey.

Here are my projected forward lines.

Artemi Panrin - Alex Wennberg - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Brandon Dubinsky - Boone Jenner
Tyler Motte - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Matt Calvert - Lukas Sedlak - Josh Anderson

The top-6 is really good. Dubois, a former third overall pick, is looking to break in to the NHL this year, with two players who are looking for breakout seasons. The fourth line is a good fourth line. Markus Hannikainen and Jordan Schroeder are the extra forwards.

Here are my projected defensive pairs

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Gabriel Carlsson - Jack Johnson

The top pairing with Werenski and Jones is money. Murray is looking to breakout, or his days in Columbus could be over. Johnson could play with Carlsson, a rookie on the bottom pair. Andre Benoit, Markus Nutivaara and Scott Harrington are the extra defensemen.

                                   Sergei Bobrovsky
                                   Joonas Korpisalo
Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina winner, will once again be between the pipes in Columbus. Korpisalo is still young, and looking for a good season.

With a similar core, the Blue Jackets are still good. Led by Norris finalist Seth Jones, they will return to the playoffs in 2017-18. 

Also, check out my YouTube video preview here.