SantoSports Slightly Late NHL Preview

By Mitch Canzano

Contributing Writer

Finally, October has arrived and with that, NHL hockey. After a long offseason that saw the Chicago Blackhawks bring the Cup back to their players respective countries and hometowns, a new season has begun. The Blackhawks are the betting favorites to win the cup at 15/2, with the Lightning (8/1) and Kings (10/1) right behind them.

A new breed of NHL players led by young phenom Connor McDavid have entered the NHL. Along with McDavid, former Boston University center-man Jack Eichel looks forward to a bright future in the NHL.

This season figures to be one for the ages. Here’s how I figure it to go down.

Atlantic:

Tampa Bay 54-24-4 (112)

Montreal 50-24-8 (108)

Ottawa 42-30-10 (94)

Detroit 42-31-9 (93)

Boston 39-34-9 (87)

Florida 38-36-8 (84)

Buffalo 35-43-4 (74)

Toronto 25-49-8 (58)

Tampa Bay bolsters a ridiculously deep and young team that is hungry to win. They will certainly be contenders for the Cup and I see them as the President’s Trophy winners this season.

Montreal, backstopped by defending Vezina winner Carey Price and a strong defensive core will contend with New York and Tampa Bay for top record in the Eastern Conference.

Besides Tampa Bay and Montreal, the Atlantic doesn’t have any other powerhouses, however I believe at least 4 teams from this division will make the playoffs, those being Tampa Bay, Montreal, Ottawa, and Detroit.

Metropolitan:

NY Rangers 51-27-4 (106)

Washington 51-28-3 (105)

NY Islanders 44-29-9 (97)

Pittsburgh 42-35-5 (89)

Columbus 39-34-9 (87)

Philadelphia 38-36-8 (84)

New Jersey 37-42-3 (77)

Carolina 33-42-7 (73)

This division is going to be a tight one all year long. However, King Henrik and the mighty Rangers boast one of, if not the best, defense in the league. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. Look out for the Rangers to contend for a cup again this year.

Besides the Rangers, the Washington Capitals are going to be eager for another crack at the playoffs after a tough exit last year. This young team with stud goalie Braden Holtby look to beat out the Rangers for top spot in this division.

The Islanders may be a surprise team from this division but I believe their lack of consistent goaltending will hold them back from making a strong push in the playoffs.

Central:

St. Louis 48-27-7 (103)

Nashville 46-28-8 (100)

Chicago 45-27-10 (100)

Colorado 42-30-9 (93)

Minnesota 41-30-11 (93)

Winnipeg 40-38-4 (84)

Dallas 39-39-4 (82)

The Central Division is always a strong one and a year after their surprise season, the Nashville Predators look to improve, and with a young core led by veteran defenseman Shea Weber, the sky’s the limit for this team.

The Blues will contend yet again as they have a great defense backstopped by a great 1-2 punch in Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. However, it remains to be seen how the loss of TJ Oshie will affect this team. Vladimir Tarasenko is a rising star and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat his wonderful campaign from last year.

Chicago will be in the mix per usual, but they lost key players in Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go about using the new youth they gained in the offseason. Colorado’s young team looks to improve on a miserable 2014-2015 campaign where they finished near the bottom of the conference.

Pacific:

Anaheim: 52-25-5 (109)

Calgary 45-30-7 (97)

Vancouver 43-33-6 (92)

San Jose 42-36-4 (88)

Edmonton 36-36-10 (82)

Los Angeles 35-38-9 (79)

Arizona 30-45-7 (67)

Anaheim will easily win this division as they don’t have much competition and with a roster like theirs, it’s going to be hard not to finish in 1st. Calgary has a very young team that looks to improve on a solid campaign last year.

Off-season acquisition Dougie Hamilton looks to pad the already great defense of the Flames, and youngsters Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau look to have good years.

Besides those 2 teams, the rest of the spots in the division are pretty much up for grabs. In this division, young talent is prevalent, so it remains to be seen whose youngsters will help their team get to the playoffs.

Playoff Predictions:

Eastern Conference Final: New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning.

Here we go. Again. After what was an incredible series last year between these two teams, I see them matching up again. These two teams both have terrific goaltending as well as great depth. Henrik Lundqvist, along with New York’s terrific defense, will lead this team to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Prediction: 4-3 Rangers

Western Conference Final: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

This series is going to be one heck of a matchup. The Ducks depth is their great strength, and that, matched up with Nashville’s youth and terrific goaltending is going to make for an action packed and close series. Defense and goaltending is very important this deep in the playoffs, and the Predators have some terrific defenders, namely Shea Weber and Roman Josi, who I believe will shut down the Ducks for the beginning of the series. However, the Ducks offense is much too potent, and with consistent goaltending from Frederik Andersen, this team is going to come back to win the series.

Prediction: 4-2 Ducks

Stanley Cup Final:

Teams with depth tend to do well come playoff time, and both the Ducks and Rangers have just that. Goaltending is going to be a huge part in this series, and that category goes to the Rangers. As well, defense will play a big part, and the Rangers have a much better defense than Anaheim. Anaheim has a much better offense, but in the end, it’s hard to see the cup-hungry Rangers lose in the Finals after a disappointing season last year.

Prediction: 4-2 Rangers

Calder Trophy:

Connor McDavid (30G-35A-65P)

Vezina Trophy:

Carey Price (.937SV%, 1.99GAA, 44W)

Norris Trophy:

Shea Weber (15G-34A-49P)

Art Ross Trophy:

Alex Ovechkin (60G-31A-91P)

Hart Trophy:

Alex Ovechkin (60G-31A-91P)

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