NHL Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders for the 2020-21 season

Posted 2 days ago  |  By Adam Gretz

As the 2020-21 Stanley Cup playoffs get closer we are starting to get a sense for which teams are capable of seriously competing for a championship (the contenders), and which teams are not (the pretenders). Today we are going to take a look at each team that still has a realistic chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs and examining which category they fit in to. The criteria is simple: To be a contender you have to be a team that looks to have a legitimate chance to win a championship. Star power, depth, getting results with a strong process to back it up, having a manageable path through the playoffs with the right matchups. All of that is taken into account. See where your team sits.

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Tampa Bay Lightning: Contender

Tampa Bay Lightning: Contender
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is an easy call. The defending Stanley Cup champions have the same core of players that won it all a year ago and have been the best team in the league for over six seasons now. 

They have one of the best records in the league three-quarters of the way through the season, have great forward depth, an outstanding defense, and the best goalie in the league playing some of the best hockey of his career. 

If that is not enough they added David Savard to their defense at the trade deadline and have yet to get a single game from their best offensive player, Nikita Kucherov, this season. He will be back for the playoffs. Easy contender. Definitely one of the top two or three contenders. 

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Colorado Avalanche: Contender

Colorado Avalanche: Contender
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of the best rosters in the league from top to bottom. They have three superstars at the top (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog), really good secondary scoring, and a young defense that has already become the NHL’s best. It is only going to get better. 

The big question for the Avalanche will be whether or not the goaltending perhaps up to par. Starting goalie Philipp Grubauer is currently on the COVID list, meaning Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson will have to take over the starting job in the short term. How Grubauer plays when he returns will be a big factor for the Avalanche. This is still an extremely impressive roster that is set to compete for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future. 

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Washington Capitals: Contender

Washington Capitals: Contender
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Simply one of the most consistent organizations in the NHL. Always at the top of their division, always near the top of the league standings. Adding Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline is a significant move to add another big, strong, skilled forward to a lineup that is already full of them. The big question will be the goaltending where Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have been solid but at times a little inconsistent. The fact they are as good as they are with that level of goaltending should worry every team they encounter. If they get goaltending, look out. 

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Carolina Hurricanes: Contender

Carolina Hurricanes: Contender
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Hurricanes have been building something special for a couple of years now and are one of the league’s best teams. They have top-line star power at forward with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen, an outstanding defense led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin, and they even have the goaltending this season. 

That has always been a struggle in Carolina, but Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek have done a great job playing the crease this season. Together, they have one of the top-five team save percentages in hockey. 

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Vegas Golden Knights: Contender

Vegas Golden Knights: Contender

It remains remarkable that the Vegas Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender from Day One of the organization’s existence. They are now in year four and might have their best team yet. Mark Stone is an MVP candidate at forward, they have two fantastic defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to lead their blue line, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner give them the best goaltending duo in the league. 

They are every bit as dominant this season as Colorado at the top of the league. The problem: One of them is guaranteed to be eliminated by at least the second round given the divisional playoff format. The winner of that series might end up being THE Stanley Cup favorite. 

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