2019-2020 NHL Season Predictions

Matthew Merrifield

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With the NHL season upon us, all 31 teams look to make their push for a playoff spot and ultimately a shot to raise the Stanley Cup. While every team has a mathematical shot, the long 82 game season will take its toll leaving just 16 teams to play for the Stanley Cup. Here’s my take on how the 2019-2020 NHL regular season will turn out.

Atlantic Division:

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Boston Bruins
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs
  4. *Florida Panthers*
  5. Montreal Canadiens
  6. Buffalo Sabres
  7. Detroit Red Wings
  8. Ottawa Senators

*Wildcard team

The Atlantic division might be the most top heavy division in all of hockey this season with three cup contenders in Tampa, Boston, and Toronto.Tampa Bay enters the season once again with the best roster in the NHL. After a shocking exit from last years playoffs  the Lightning return as the favorite to win it all. Boston came one win short of winning it all last year. They will bounce back just fine, and will be one of the top teams this season. Toronto once again was bounced from the playoffs by Boston last year. With one of the most talented rosters this season, a rebound is expected. The Panthers may be the biggest sleeper team  this season. Their young talent continues to grow and with the signing of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky they could turn some heads and sneak into the playoffs. After Florida, the rest of the division consists of teams trying to rebuild. Montreal still has  aging all-stars like Carey Price and Shea Weber that may keep them in the hunt, but they don’t seem to have the depth to earn wildcard spot. Buffalo led by young star Jack Eichel, is still  a ways from competing for a playoff spot. This is Detroit’s first season under Steve Yzerman, and is a start of a long rebuild process that could take a few years complete. Ottawa may be the worst team in the league this season. Although they have young prospects, many are not ready to play for the big club leaving the team in a rough state, and what could be a long season.

Metropolitan Division:

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Carolina Hurricanes
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins
  4. *New Jersey Devils*
  5. Philadelphia Flyers
  6. New York Islanders
  7. New York Rangers
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets

*Wildcard team

The Metropolitan division may not be as top heavy as the Atlantic, but top to bottom it is a lot more competitive. The Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin, are still top dog in the division and could make a run at their second cup in three years. The Carolina Hurricanes will look to build off of their magical playoff run from a year ago. The “bunch of jerks” will build off of their run with an even better season. The aging Penguins may digress slightly from last season, but still having Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin keeps them a solid playoff team. The rest of the division, is going to be a very tight race for the wildcard spots until the very end. The Devils who had probably the biggest offseason in the NHL this year needs solid goaltending from Corey Schneider, and they will be a playoff team. The Flyers are another young team on the rise led by 21 year old goalie Carter Hart. The playoffs could be in reach for the Flyers this year, but with many young players their season is an unknown. The Islanders had great run into the playoffs last year without John Tavares, but with the departure of Vezina finalists Robin Lehner this season could be a bit rough. The Blue Jackets and Rangers are the clear bottom teams in the division. The multiple departures from Columbus including Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin leaves the roster in shambles, and  Although the Rangers have new stars in Kaapo Kakko and Artemi Panarin, the rest of the roster is not up to the task.

Central Division:

  1. Dallas Stars
  2. Nashville Predators
  3. Colorado Avalanche
  4. *Winnipeg Jets*
  5. Chicago Blackhawks
  6. St. Louis Blues
  7. Minnesota Wild

*Wildcard team

The Central division is probably the toughest division to win in hockey this year. Dallas enters the season with lots of potential after a strong performance in the playoffs last season, and I think with Ben Bishop in net they will be the best in the division. Nashville is an aging team on the downturn, but with additions like Matt Duchene they will still be a playoff team this year, but they may struggle come playoff time . Colorado has one of the most dangerous lines in hockey with Landeskog, Mackinnon, and Rantanen which will make them very tough to beat. However, they will finish in third because Dallas and Nashville are better on the back end with defense and goaltending. Winnipeg just two years ago was considered to be the best young and upcoming team, but all of a sudden they are deteriorating quickly. They still have enough to get them a wildcard birth, but it will be tight. Chicago will look to have a bounce back year especially after adding goalie Robin Lehner, but a lack of depth could be their downfall in the end. St. Louis won their first Stanley Cup after a Cinderella run last season. However, I don’t think the slipper still fits and a hangover will cause them to fall. Finally, Minnesota is clearly the bottom team in this division, with a poor combination of aging veterans and a lack of youth. The rebuilding Wild will struggle all season leaving them in last.

Pacific Division:

  1. San Jose Sharks
  2. Calgary Flames
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. *Arizona Coyotes*
  5. Edmonton Oilers
  6. Vancouver Canucks
  7. Anaheim Ducks
  8. Los Angeles Kings

*Wildcard team

The Pacific Division is full of many unknowns this season and it will be interesting to see which teams make it through. San Jose had an interesting offseason that included the departure of their captain Joe Pavelski after they signed defensemen Erik Karlsson to a long term extension. They still have the most depth in the division and a bounce back season from Martin Jones should win them the division. Calgary surprised many last season after they won the division. However, their goaltending is a major question mark, and that is why they will not repeat. Vegas in just their third season is still a contender and will stay close with San Jose and Calgary, but a lack of a true goal scorer will leave them in third. Arizona has been stuck in the cellar for the last few years, but now they have plenty of young talent that could surprise people this year, and that’s why they will be a wildcard team. While the Oilers do have a generational talent in Connor Mcdavid,  the supporting cast around him is weak, and they will struggle to keep up with the top teams in the division. Vancouver is another team with great young talent. They have impressive young forwards including Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, but a lack of defense and goaltending will be their downfall. Anaheim has one of the best young goalies in the league in John Gibson. Unfortunately, just like last year a lack of talent in front of Gibson will leave them towards the bottom of the division. Lastly, the Kings had a great run this last decade, but their reign is over. Their aging veterans with bad contracts and a lack of youth leave them in last in a very tough division.