Now, for your hockey eve reading pleasure: there are 31 teams in the NHL, but which ones should make your watch list?
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs one time, an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Penguins in 2009. Following years of futility the Hurricanes look like a strong candidate to make the postseason even playing in the difficult Metropolitan division
A young squad led by the likes of Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen, and Noah Hanifin (with the addition of goaltender Scott Darling) should make the Hurricanes a good watch on most nights.
Like it or not it appears the Blue Jackets are here to stay, at least for the next few seasons. Coming off the best season in franchise history, the Blue Jackets will look to build off of that success and hope it translates to the postseason.
Cam Atkinson and new addition Artemi Panarin will lead the offense while Seth Jones and Zach Werenski headline the defense for Columbus. Reining Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will remain one of the top goalies in the league and keep the Blue Jackets in contention all season.
In spite of general manager Marc Bergevin’s best efforts to ruin the team, the Canadiens look to be a very strong contender in the Eastern Conference this season. Shea Weber showed he still has some tread left and can consume heavy minutes on the blue line.
Carey Price will continue to do Carey Price things and make a strong argument for league MVP once again. The addition of Jonathan Drouin over the summer strengthens their offensive attack that already includes Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. In a weaker Atlantic division the Habs should provide plenty of fireworks as they compete for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Crippled by injuries last season that cost them a spot in the playoffs, the Lightning are healthy and ready to make another run at the Stanley Cup. The loss of Drouin in the offseason should be mitigated by the return of Steven Stamkos who missed most of last season with a leg injury.
Nikita Kucherov is coming off a 40 goal season and on the brink of superstar status. The other regular suspects are all back as well including Tyler Johnson up front and Victor Hedman on the blueline. Andrei Vasilevskiy will be out to prove the Lightning made the right move trading away Ben Bishop in favor of the young Russian netminder. Assuming they can avoid the injury bug, the Lightning should be right there in the Eastern Conference mix.
Carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire city on their shoulders, the Maple Leafs will face championship expectations for the first time in decades this season. Rookie of the Year Auston Matthews will look to build on his sensational rookie year that saw him score 40 goals.
Along with Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander will help lead the way up front. The offseason addition of future Hall of Famer Patrick Marleau provides veteran experience to a young core. After turning heads a season ago, all eyes (including yours) should be on Toronto.
The talent is there, now the question is can the Coyotes live up to all the hype? Pegged by some to be this season’s Maple Leafs, Arizona’s young core seems ready for the spotlight. Superstar defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson projects to be his usual self and the addition of Niklas Hjalmarsson solidifies their back end.
Derek Stepan comes over from the Rangers to give them depth and experience up front to go along with the young guns. Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue gives the Coyotes a solid combination in goal for the first time in years. A good start to the season will be key and we very well could see the Coyotes playing meaningful games in the spring.
A disappointing 2016-2017 campaign saw the Stars regress heavily from their 109 point, Central division winning season a year prior. Goal scoring has not been the issue for the Stars in recent seasons and should be even better this year. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are healthy and right in their primes and over the summer the team brought in Alexander Radulov in free agency to add more potency to their attack.
What could hold this team back is the defense and they are hoping the addition of Mark Methot helps fill a hole on the blue line. Another big splash in free agency was the signing of veteran goalie Ben Bishop, who they hope will rectify their issues in the crease.
There are maybe five “must watch” players currently in the NHL and Connor McDavid is undoubtedly one of them. In his second season McDavid captured the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer and the Hart Trophy as MVP. McDavid alone is worth every second you spend watching him.
If McDavid wasn’t enough to sell you on the Oilers, click over for Leon Draisaitl or Oscar Klefbom, two other young stars who are helping push the long suffering Oilers into the Stanley Cup conversation. If goaltending is your fancy they have a good one in Cam Talbot who may have been the team’s MVP behind McDavid last season.
Last season’s Western Conference champions will not be taking anyone by surprise this year. Featuring one of the deepest rosters in the league, the Predators will be right back in the mix for the Stanley Cup this season. Dressing arguably the best defense in the league with P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm the Predators have built from the back out to create one of the strongest teams in the NHL.
Complementing their strong defensive corps the Predators attack is led by young stars Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson. Veteran goalie Pekka Rinne will once again lead the way between the pipes, coming off the performance of his career in last year’s postseason.
Much like the Coyotes, the Jets have the talent to compete, it’s just a matter if they can follow through. Patrik Laine, 2016 second overall pick, had a Rookie of the Year campaign last year only to be outdone by Matthews in Toronto. All signs point to an even better second season from the young Finn.
Along with Laine the Jets also have Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele leading the charge on offense, the latter of whom is quietly becoming one of the best centers in the NHL. A contract dispute muddied the waters between the team and their top defenseman Jacob Trouba but it seems now both sides have settled their differences. Following years struggles since returning to Winnipeg, the Jets finally have the pieces to compete and should be worth your time to watch.
Hockey Fix: Five Teams For When You Just Need Hockey
Because you can always cheer for the other team.
They have Jaromir Jagr now so enjoy him while you can. Bonus: Laugh at the Bruins when Dougie Hamilton appears on screen.
Joe Thornton is still around and you can check in on what stage of yeti Brent Burns has achieved.
See: Philadelphia Flyers
You could do worse, but the show is hard to watch when you know how it ends.
NHL Horror Story: Five Teams You Should Just Avoid Watching
With 31 teams in the league, not every one is going to be fun to watch. Here are five teams you are better off avoiding this season:
They’re miserable to watch when they’re good, why waste your time when they’re bad?
Not even a brand new arena will make this team entertaining.
You can be mad at them when they trade Matt Duchene to Columbus for an embarrassing return.
Vegas Golden Knights
Unless you’re checking in on Marc-Andre Fleury they aren’t going to produce much great hockey.
When you accept a challenge to be worse than an expansion team.