The NHL will drop the puck on the regular season on Wednesday, October 12. There will be many surprises and disappointments in the long season, but here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.
1.) P.K SUBBAN HAS CAREER YEAR WITH PREDATORS
The Nashville Predators acquired defenseman P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Shea Weber. This isn’t the boldest prediction of the bunch, but he has a chance to rack up some points in the Predators system. If Peter Laviolette and the Predators let Subban be himself then he’ll definitely have some success in Smashville. Subban can skate and can rush the puck up the ice so when he’s on the ice it’s like having a fourth forward out there. He has a good shot, and will have his chances to grab some points on the power play.
He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, so if he can manage to get some shots through with traffic in front of the net, he’ll get some points that way too. Subban is also willing mix it up and throw his weight around. The defenseman might not have as big of a load defensively, which will also help his offensive game.
2.) AUSTON MATTHEWS DOESN’T WIN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted center Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Matthews is the favorite to win rookie of the year, but a rookie will come from the field to win the award. Last season, Connor McDavid was the clear favorite to win the award but he got hurt and that opened the door for Artemi Panarin and Shayne Gostisbehere. Matthews will get plenty of opportunities with the Leafs and will most likely be playing top six forward minutes. He also should find his way onto the power play unit.
The biggest question with Matthews will be can he handle the pressure playing in a big hockey city like Toronto. Does he gel with his line mates and can he handle playing a full NHL season? Some other rookies to challenge Matthews could be Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey and Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi to name a few.
3.) ARIZONA COYOTES MAKE THE POSTSEASON
The Arizona Coyotes will look like a new team once the roster is set. They went out and made a splash in the offseason. Arizona now has a good mix of youth and veteran leadership on the roster. The Coyotes improved the blue line by adding Alex Goligoski, Anthony DeAngelo and Luke Schenn. They also added some depth up front with the additions of Jamie McGinn, Ryan White, Radim Vrbata, Lawson Crouse and re-signed Tobias Rieder.
Arizona also has some youth that can score in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. They will be able to roll out more than one line that has a scoring threat on it and have some depth up front. The blue line won’t be the strongest in the NHL, but it is improved from last season. The defense should allow less goals per game than it did last season. The biggest question will be the goaltending–specifically Mike Smith. The defense has improved enough to cut down on some chances that may have been given up last season.
4.) DALLAS STARS DON’T MAKE THE POSTSEASON
The Stars definitely have the ability to put the puck in the net, and the depth up front to roll more than one line that can score. Jamie Benn and Tyler Sequin will hopefully be healthy to start the season and remain healthy throughout, since they are an integral part of the Stars’ offense. Dallas lost a few guys up front, but will be returning with much the same lineup and the addition of Jiri Hudler.
The biggest lineup change will be seen on the blue line. Dallas lost three of its defenseman to free agency in the offseason. Jason Demers signed with the Florida Panthers, Kris Russell still remains a free agent, and Alex Goligoski was traded to the Coyotes. The Stars did sign veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a two-year deal, but most of the roster spots will be filled with young defensive prospects. The defense will be a question mark this year since there will be a few rookies on the blue line.
The biggest question mark though will be the goaltending duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Neimi. They had their ups and downs last season–especially in the postseason–and will be one of the main reasons that the Stars won’t make the playoffs.
5.) RFAs NIKITA KUCHEROV/JOHNNY GAUDREAU/JACOB TROUBA DON’T PLAY THIS SEASON
This may be the boldest of the five predictions. Kucherov, Gaudreau and Trouba are a handful of players that aren’t signed yet, despite the season being just around the corner. Kucherov, Gaudreau and Trouba are all holdouts at training camp and preseason. Trouba actually requested a trade from the Winnipeg Jets. The teams and the players are far apart in completing deals but have been trying to come up with new contracts that both sides feel comfortable with.
The teams and players have until December 1 to get a deal done or any restricted free agent not signed by that date will have to sit out the rest of the season.