New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk left the ice in a panic on Tuesday night after taking a skate to the face, but fortunately he is expected to make a full recovery.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters on Wednesday that Boychuk suffered no damage to his eyeball, as the blade of the skate only cut his eyelid. It took 90 stitches to close the wound. Lamoriello noted that plastic surgeons use small stitches, but 90 stitches is 90 stitches.
It was an incredible decade for the NHL that saw a new team enter the league and immediately become a Stanley Cup contender, an old NHL city get a new NHL team and some dramatic shifts to the balance of power in the league thanks to a series of blockbuster trades and free agent signings. We continue our look back at the past decade with the top 25 NHL stories from the 2010s. See which ones make the cut.
1 of 25
The NHL returns to Winnipeg
Terrence Lee, USATI
After two decades without the NHL, Winnipeg finally got its own team again when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated north for the start of the 2011-12 season. Fans flocked to the arena and created one of the most intense home-ice advantages in the league, but the team rarely provided much excitement on the ice. The Jets basically continued to play like the Thrashers, only in a different uniform and in a different city. That finally changed during the 2017-18 season when they won the first postseason game in franchise history (Atlanta or Winnipeg) and reached the Western Conference Final before losing to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
2 of 25
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup
Geoff Burke, USATI
It was starting to look like it may never happen for Ovechkin and the Capitals. After winning three Presidents’ Trophies and then falling short in the playoffs every time and never being able to get past the second round or the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps finally broke through during the 2017-18 season and exorcised all of their postseason demons. They beat the Penguins, they overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Final, for once they were the ones who had the hot goalie, and all of the breaks finally went their way at the right time. Now they have their championship, and no one can ever take it away from them.
3 of 25
Another lockout canceled half a season
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
No sport has struggled with labor peace more than the NHL, and less than a decade after losing an entire season (2004-05) to a work stoppage, the NHL lost another half season in 2012-13 to the third lockout of the Gary Bettman era. The 2012-13 season ended up being a 48-game campaign (similar to the 1994-95 season, also cut short by a lockout) and saw the Chicago Blackhawks win the second of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era.
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The Vegas Golden Knights become an immediate Stanley Cup contender
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This is probably one of the most unbelievable stories in the history of the NHL, let alone the past decade. When the NHL expanded to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season, there were a lot of critics who wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights would be a success. On the ice, expectations were understandably low because they were an expansion team. But their immediate success turned Vegas into one of the hottest tickets in the league. The Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender since Day 1 and reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals.
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Sidney Crosby’s head and neck injuries
David Dermer, USATI
The best player of the generation had the majority of his peak years crushed by a concussion and neck injury that limited him to just 99 out of a possible 224 games between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 season. It all started with a two-game sequence in 2010-11 with hits from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman that cut short what was his best season. Crosby’s career speaks for itself, and he will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in the NHL, but it still feels like we were robbed of fully seeing him at his absolute best.
6 of 25
John Tavares goes home
John E. Sokolowski, USATI
The biggest free agency saga of the past decade had to be John Tavares, the longtime face of the New York Islanders franchise, leaving the team in the summer of 2018 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown club. It gave the Maple Leafs an incredibly talented core and raised the expectations in Toronto to Stanley Cup or bust. Meanwhile, expectations were at an all-time low for the Islanders, but they rebounded under the leadership of new coach Barry Trotz and actually advanced further than the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.
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Barry Trotz leaves the Capitals to join the Islanders
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the Capitals finally breaking through, but it’s big enough of a move that it deserves its own recognition. Trotz became the first coach since Mike Keenan in 1994 to leave a Stanley Cup-winning team the following season. The reason: The Capitals and Trotz could not come to terms on a new contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. He ended up being hired by the New York Islanders and helped orchestrate one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in recent league history.
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Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston
Greg M. Cooper, USATI
With their Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins finally brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time since the 1971-72 season. It was the start of a great run for the Bruins that saw them reach two more Stanley Cup Finals in the next decade. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask were at the center of that run.
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The Penguins go back-to-back
Aaron Doster, USATI
It had been nearly two decades since a team won the Stanley Cup in consecutive years when the Penguins accomplished the feat during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. What made their run so stunning is that it came at a time when everyone had started to close their championship window in the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang era. The Pens needed a coaching change, some major trades and a couple of in-season call-ups in 2015-16 to start their run, but all of it together reopened their window and produced two more Stanley Cups.
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Minnesota breaks the bank on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
Brad Rempel, USATI
On July 4, 2012, the Minnesota Wild made their boldest series of moves ever when they signed the top two free agents on the market — Parise and Suter — to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. This was during the time period when NHL teams were handing out mega-long-term, front-loaded contracts to reduce the salary cap hits over the term of the deal. How did this work out for Minnesota? Probably not as they expected. The Wild have been a consistent playoff team but have never made it beyond the second round and only twice made it out of the first round in the Parise-Suter era. Both players are now in their mid-30s and still have five years remaining after this season on their deals.
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Ilya Kovalchuk leaves for the KHL
Orlando Ramirez, USATI
The New Jersey Devils reached the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Final and were so close to winning another championship thanks in large part to the play of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Within two years, everything fell apart for them. Parise left in free agency for Minnesota following the season, and then one year later Kovalchuk, in the middle of a mega-contract with the Devils, abruptly announced his retirement from the NHL and returned to the KHL. He spent more than five seasons playing in the KHL before returning to the NHL before the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
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Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville
Patrick Gorski, USATI
After winning three Stanley Cups and helping put together one of the most successful teams of the salary cap era, the Blackhawks decided to part ways with Quenneville, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league, early in the 2018-19 season. It was stunning just because of how successful Quenneville was and how many problems the Blackhawks seemed to have had beyond the coach. Quenneville ended up joining the Florida Panthers the following offseason, while the Blackhawks have continued to take steps backward as their championship window rapidly slams shut.
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The Blues go from worst to first
Winslow Townson, USATI
One year after the Capitals finally kicked down the Stanley Cup door, the St. Louis Blues did the same, erasing years of disappointment and misery for their fans. The Blues also made it difficult on themselves, going from the worst record in the Western Conference in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June. As if that was not crazy enough, the player who helped spark the turnaround was Jordan Binnington, a rookie goalie who started the season as a backup…in the American Hockey League.
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The Taylor Hall trade
Ed Mulholland, USATI
On the afternoon of June 29, 2016, there were three major roster transactions across the NHL in a span of 60 minutes that dramatically shook the landscape of the league. The first was the Oilers trading Hall, at the time their best player and one of the best left wingers in the league, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. It was a one-for-one trade, and it stunned pretty much everyone outside of the Oilers front office that the return was so little. Hall went on to win the league MVP two years later, while Larsson has been nothing more than a solid but unspectacular second-pairing defender. It was one of the most one-sided trades of the decade.
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The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI
This was the other massive trade on June 29, 2016. After years of trade rumors and speculation that they might do it, the Canadiens finally traded Subban, one of the most popular players to play for the team in generations, to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one deal for Shea Weber. It was a curious move because Weber was older, had a worse contract and probably wasn’t as good as Subban at the time. But the Canadiens wanted to shake things up and make a bold move, so they did. Weber is still a good player when healthy, but he has started to break down. Subban, meanwhile, helped lead the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He was then traded to New Jersey two years later.
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Paul Holmgren breaks up the Flyers for Ilya Bryzgalov
Len Redkoles, Getty
The Flyers’ quest to find a franchise goalie took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2011 when general manager Paul Holmgren, never one to shy away from a bold trade, traded his two core players (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter) to retool his team around Bryzgalov, signing the goalie to a massive contract. While the Carter and Richards trades brought a lot of talent to Philadelphia, the Bryzgalov contract was a complete disaster that ended in a buyout two years later. Richards and Carter were also reunited in Los Angeles and helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups. The Flyers have made the playoffs just four times in eight years and made it out of the first round just one time.
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The Shea Weber offer sheet
John Russell, Getty
Everybody loves to talk about the potential a restricted free agent offer sheet every offseason, but they almost never happen. And when they do, they almost always get matched. The most intriguing offer sheet of the past decade came in 2012 when the Flyers signed restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $100 million offer sheet. It was just one year after the Flyers overhauled their team for Bryzgalov and was another insanely bold move. The Predators, having already lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in free agency, had no choice but to match the offer. It produced a ton of “what if” scenarios. What would the Predators have done with the draft pick compensation? How would the Flyers build around that contract? Would it inspire other offer sheets in the future?
18 of 25
The Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons
Rick Osentoski, USATI
Between the 1990-91 and 2015-16 seasons the Detroit Red Wings were a mainstay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, qualifying in each of the 25 years and being one of the most stable, consistent and successful franchises in all of professional sports. They reached the Stanley Cup Final six times, won it four times and were always in contention. That run finally came to an end during the 2016-17 season and has started a new streak: missing the playoffs. Barring a miracle turnaround, the Red Wings are on track to miss for the fourth consecutive season and given the makeup of their roster, there does not seem to be much hope of this new streak coming to an end anytime soon.
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The great tank battle of 2014-15
Timothy T. Ludwig, USATI
At the start of the 2014-15 season, everyone in the NHL knew there were two elite prospects at the top of the 2015 draft: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. This was also a time when the team with the worst record in the league was guaranteed one of the top two picks in the draft, which meant at least one of these two potential franchise players. The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were in a year-long race to the basement that actually saw Sabres fans enthusiastically cheering for the Coyotes in a late-season game. The Sabres ended up finishing with the league’s worst record but lost the draft lottery. They picked second and ended up with Eichel. Arizona, meanwhile, was the biggest loser; they picked third and selected Dylan Strome. The Edmonton Oilers moved ahead of both teams and won the right to pick McDavid. The NHL ended up changing the draft lottery rules a few years later.
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The Oilers win four draft lotteries in six years — including Connor McDavid
Perry Nelson, USATI
On the ice the Oilers have been the least successful team in the NHL over the past decade, and their only consistent success has been getting some great luck in the draft lottery. They won the top pick in 2010, 2011, 2012 and then again in 2015. Those picks turned out to be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Connor McDavid. The latter was the big one and it infuriated fans — and teams — across the league because of the way the Oilers squandered their previous draft lottery successes. Edmonton being gifted the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby seemed to be laughably unfair. And just as they did with the previous picks, the Oilers have failed to build a consistently competitive team around him.
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The Department of Player Safety
Tom Szczerbowski, USATI
The NHL had a major head shot problem. Marc Savard’s career was ended by a brutal hit from Matt Cooke. David Booth’s career was derailed by a similar hit from Mike Richards. There was nothing the league could do about them because they were, at the time, legal hockey plays. The addition of Rule 48, focusing on hits to the head, as well as the creation of the Department of Player Safety (led by Brendan Shanahan) at the beginning of the 2011-12 season was supposed to help put a stop to such plays. Suspensions rapidly increased and, eventually, targeted hits to the head started to decline. It is not a perfect system and there are flaws with consistency and enforcement, but things are dramatically better than they used to be.
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Raffi Torres checks his way out of the league
Rocky W. Widner, Getty Images
Torres was one of the most notorious headhunters in the league and was the recipient of some massive suspensions for his constant reckless play. He was given a 25-game ban for an egregious hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was banned for an entire series one year later and then in 2015 earned his most significant suspension when he was given a 41- game ban for a preseason hit on Jakob Silfverberg. He never played another game in the NHL.
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John Scott: NHL All-Star
Aaron Doster, USATI
The NHL has tried everything to make the All-Star game exciting: fantasy drafts, North America vs. The World, and the current 3-on-3 mini-tournament. The latter seems to be the most successful attempt, and it hit its peak during the 2015-16 season when longtime enforcer John Scott was voted into the game by fans. The league tried to talk him out of playing (which did not go over well). He not only played, but he also ended up stealing the show and recording a hat trick in the game.
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The Olympic debate
Pool Photo, USATI
Starting with the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL had been sending its best players to the Winter Olympics every four years, producing an incredible best vs. best tournament. That run ended during the 2018 games, and it remains unclear when, or if, the NHL players will ever go back. The NHL seems determined to make the World Cup of Hockey work and serve as a replacement for the Olympics, but neither the players nor fans seem to share that same level of excitement.
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Columbus stuns Tampa Bay
Aaron Doster, USATI
This was probably the biggest NHL upset of the decade. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins, had the league MVP and scoring champion, a Vezina Trophy winner in goal, a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a Jack Adams-caliber coach behind the bench. It was supposed to be their year to win it all. They not only did not do that, but they also did not win a single playoff game, getting swept in Round 1 by a No. 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets team. It was the Blue Jackets’ first-ever postseason series win, and it came after a bold decision at the trade deadline to go all in. Instead of trading pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets instead added more in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. It gave the city a taste of success but quickly fizzled in Round 2 and over the summer when all of the free agents departed.
The first month of the 2019-20 NHL season has been full of surprises. Teams that we looked at as preseason Stanley Cup contenders have not yet played to expectations. Teams that we considered to be preseason draft lottery contenders have not only exceeded expectations but also are looking like potential playoff teams.
Here we take a look at 10 of the biggest surprises so far this season.
1. Everything about the Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have been a laughing stock across the NHL for more than a decade and have been especially frustrating for the way they have wasted Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The opening night roster looked like it was going to be more of the same during the 2019-20 season. But through the first month of the season, the Oilers find themselves in the thick of the Pacific Division race and as of Nov. 11 had a three-point division lead. The concern is that almost all of the offense has been driven by McDavid and Draisaitl, and that recipe has not exactly worked well in the past. How long they can maintain that remains to be seen, but helping matters so far has been a surprisingly strong performance from goalie Mike Smith and James Neal going through a massive bounce-back season that has already seen him score 12 goals in 19 games. He had just seven goals in 63 games for the Calgary Flames a year ago.
2. The San Jose Sharks might not be good
Everyone knew the Sharks had issues with their goaltending (well, everyone except for the Sharks themselves), and that problem is still as big as it was a year ago. Adding to that: The team in front of the goalies seems to have taken several steps backward. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have not been as dynamic on the blue line, a lot of offense lost from Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi has not really been replaced, and the Sharks are already facing a pretty steep mountain when it comes to making the playoffs. Not everyone has the talent to pull off what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago in going from worst to first, but the Sharks might be a team capable of that IF they can fix their goaltending and if everyone else on the team starts to play to expectations.
The general direction of the team has been bizarre because it hasn’t really committed to any sort of meaningful direction and has signed some really questionable long-term contracts. But the Canucks’ young stars (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes) have quickly become impact players who look like they can carry the team; Hughes is already emerging as possibly another Calder Trophy contender. What is impressive, too, about the Canucks’ start is they are showing a lot of signs that they might be for real, especially with the way they control shot attempts, push the pace and outscore their opponents at even strength.
4. Something might be wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning
Did their latest postseason exit finally break them? The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the most dominant regular-season teams ever, tying a league record with 62 wins and possessing an All-Star roster full of individual award winners. It seemed like it was finally their year to win the Stanley Cup, until they could not even win a single playoff game, losing in four straight to the No. 8 seed, Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a perfect situation for a team to make drastic, knee-jerk changes that would probably do more to set them back than push them ahead. Is that what happened here? The Lightning have not only won just eight of their first 15 games, but they also have not been anything close to what they were in recent years in style.
5. Winnipeg is still in it
This is a pretty big shock simply because the Winnipeg Jets defense did not look to be NHL quality at the start of the season. Jacob Trouba was traded, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers exited in free agency, and their best player — Dustin Byfuglien — is taking a break from the game due to an ankle injury and is reportedly contemplating his future in a situation that will probably bring in a neutral arbitrator. Even with their forward talent it seemed like this was going to be a tough year for the Jets because the defense was just, quite simply, not good. But they are finding ways to compete and are not going away thanks to their forward depth up front and some great goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck.
6. The Rangers and Devils have not shown much improvement
No teams had bigger offseasons than the Rangers and Devils. They had the top two picks in the draft (Jack Hughes to New Jersey; Kaapo Kakko to New York) and made several impact additions to their rosters (Devils added P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds; Rangers added Trouba, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox). More than a month into the season, and neither team has really taken a big step forward, with the Devils being especially disappointing thanks to multiple blown leads of two or more goals. And they are facing some pressure to convince their best player — Taylor Hall — to re-sign after this season. Meanwhile, general manager Ray Shero has just one playoff appearance in five years with the team.
7. The New York Islanders somehow look even better
If you were expecting the Islanders to regress after their surprising turnaround a year ago, you are probably disappointed right now. Thanks to a 10-game winning streak that was broken just last week, they are once again near the top of the NHL standings and look like a team that is going to break the mold for what we think a playoff team should look like.
8. The Toronto Maple Leafs look ordinary
They have not necessarily been bad, but they are not really doing anything to make anyone believe they have the roster — or the coach — to break through the glass ceiling that has been Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second offseason in a row, they made a significant addition to their roster, this time adding defenseman Tyson Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche. But is there anything about their play that makes anyone believe they have what it takes to beat the Boston Bruins? Or any of the top teams in the Eastern Conference? They have not shown it yet.
9. The Blackhawks’ window seems to be closed
After two straight non-playoff seasons, we probably should not be too surprised the Blackhawks are struggling again. What makes it stand out even more is they really tried to improve the roster with the additions of Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan, Andrew Shaw and Robin Lehner. It has not really helped. The defense remains a major problem that is going to be dependent on the goaltending duo of Lehner and Corey Crawford to steal games. Perhaps most concerning is that after a bounce-back performance in 2018-19, Jonathan Toews is once again showing signs of a significant decline offensively. With the money it have invested in him the team needs more.
10. Somebody might actually score more goals than Alex Ovechkin this season
Ovechkin finished as the NHL’s top goal scorer two years in a row and in six of the past seven seasons. He is the most dominant goal scorer ever, is not really slowing down even at 34 years old and is off to one of his best starts ever. He seems like a lock to score at least 50 goals again as long as he stays healthy. That still may not be enough to get him another goal-scoring crown simply because David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) and Draisaitl, who narrowly missed out on the goal-scoring crown a year ago, are scoring goals at such a ridiculous pace. Both players look like they are going to give Ovechkin his best challenge in years.
It is hockey’s most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.
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Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell
With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks’ best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player. 2 of 31
Arizona Coyotes: Phil Kessel
The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL’s best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.
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Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak
The Bruins have the NHL’s best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL’s goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him. 4 of 31
Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner
After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league’s best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel’s playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it. 5 of 31
Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk
Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho
In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player. 7 of 31
Chicago Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat
Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins. 8 of 31
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon
After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon’s career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league’s best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.
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Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson
It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup. 10 of 31
Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski
Pavelski was the Stars’ big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league’s best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career.
Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
One of the league’s fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.
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Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.
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Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
He is one of the league’s best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.
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Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk
Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league’s best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.
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Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal
This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.
Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens’ best and most important players.
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Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg
Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league’s best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games. 18 of 31
New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall
When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season. 19 of 31
New York Islanders: Anders Lee
A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense. 20 of 31
New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin
From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league’s most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild.
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Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk
It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term. 22 of 31
Philadelphia Flyers: James van Riemsdyk
Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games. 23 of 31
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Crosby is known more for his passing and “200-foot game,” but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.
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San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team’s best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks. 25 of 31
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko
He is probably the one player on the Blues’ 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team’s offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team’s championship run.
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Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.
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Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares
There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career. 28 of 31
Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser
It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks’ most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future. 29 of 31
Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty
Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals. 30 of 31
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin
I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment.
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Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine
Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise.
A new NHL season always brings a lot of questions that need to be answered, from the who the contenders and pretenders are, to potential coaching changes, to free agent finds and flops to identifying the breakout players. We dig into all of those areas — plus many more — as we ask 25 important questions about the 2019-20 NHL season.
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What will the Blues do for an encore?
For the first time ever, the St. Louis Blues are entering a season on top of the NHL’s mountain, defending the Stanley Cup. General manager Doug Armstromg strengthened the roster just before the start of the season by trading for Justin Faulk from the Carolina Hurricanes, adding to an already strong defense. A lot of the season will rely on Jordan Binnington’s ability to repeat his second half — and postseason — performance. 2 of 25
Will the Avalanche match the hype?
Big things are expected in Denver this season, and for good reason. The Avalanche advanced to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago, have as much young talent as any team in the league, bolstered their depth over the summer and still have the salary cap space to add much more help if needed. They are poised to make a serious championship run right now. But with great expectations comes great pressure, and they will definitely not be sneaking up on anyone this season.
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How will the Lightning bounce back from their latest postseason disappointment?
Of all the postseason disappointments the Lightning have had over the past five years, their Round 1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was by far the worst. They won 62 games and tied a league record, seemed destined to return to the Stanley Cup Final and then failed to win a single playoff game. They are still the best team in the league on paper, but expectations are going to be through the roof to finally get over the hump. The Blues and Washington Capitals eventually shook their postseason disappointment labels…now it is up to the Lightning to shake theirs. 4 of 25
Will Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs finally do something that matters?
It may seem like a harsh question to ask, but so far the Babcock era in Toronto has produced a lot of hype and nothing but a bunch of third-place finishes and Round 1 losses in the playoffs, including two in a row to the Boston Bruins. Yes, the division is tough at the top. Yes, the Leafs lost two Game 7s to a great team. But they should have higher expectations by this point while a Babcock-coached team has made it to the second round just once in more than a decade. That cannot continue to be acceptable. 5 of 25
Will anyone challenge Alex Ovechkin?
Ovechkin is the most dominant goal scorer in the history of the league and is not slowing down. He has won the league’s goal crown in seven of the past eight seasons and has rarely been challenged. Can anyone top him this season? Look for John Tavares, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak and Steven Stamkos to be the closest. 6 of 25
Connor McDavid or Nikita Kucherov for the scoring title?
These two have been the top point producers in the NHL over the past three seasons and seem destined to hold their places at the top for the near future and continue to compete for the Art Ross Trophy. Who takes it this year? McDavid managed to overtake Kucherov with a late surge two years ago, while Kucherov bounced back in 2018-19 with a 128-point season that was one of the best offensive seasons of the modern era.
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Are the Jets finished as contenders?
It is just really difficult to see a path for them to compete. Their defense was already decimated, and with the uncertainty around Dustin Byfuglien’s future (will he retire or won’t he?) it could quickly get worse. Add in the fact St. Louis, Colorado Dallas, and Nashville all made big moves around them to try and get better, and this is a season that could be really ugly, really fast.
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Which coaches are on the hot seat?
ou know at some point multiple teams will make a coaching change. It could be a bad team that has run out of answers and has no other card to play, or it could be a contender that is off to a slow start and looks to shake things up. Some names to watch: Bruce Boudreau in Minnesota, Paul Maurice in Winnipeg and Jeff Blashill in Detroit. 9 of 25
Which top rookie will win the Calder Trophy?
This year’s rookie class looks to be exceptionally deep with potential impact players all over the league. The top two picks in the draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, will help reignite the Devils-Rangers rivalry, while young defenders Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes should make big impacts in Colorado and Vancouver. Those four seem to be the preseason favorites, but who else will emerge? 10 of 25
Which free agent signings will work? Which ones will flop?
Free agency is always a massive gamble, and there were some pretty significant contracts signed this summer. The early front-runner for most successful signing would seem to be Artemi Panarin in New York, while Joe Pavelski could be just what the Stars need. Sergei Bobrovsky may become an issue five years from now in Florida, but in the short term he should be solid. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kevin Hayes in Philadelphia, Brandon Tanev in Pittsburgh and Tyler Myers in Vancouver all look like investments who are destined to end in a trade or a buyout. 11 of 25
Will the Blackhawks get back to the playoffs?
Not long ago they were the NHL’s most successful team, but they enter this season riding a two-year postseason drought and are still clinging to the hope that their veteran core has a chance to still compete. The offense is there, but did they do enough to address the defense? And if they did not, will they think about moving on from longtime general manager Stan Bowman? 12 of 25
Will the Islanders regress?
No performance was more unexpected last season than the one-year turnaround of the Islanders, going from 31st in the league in goals against to first and overcoming the free agent departure of John Tavares to advance to the second round of the playoffs. But there were a lot of red flags in that performance and the table seems to be set for a regression this season, especially if Semyon Varlamov cannot match Robin Lehner’s performance in goal. Can they find the magic again? Most teams in this situation do not. 13 of 25
Are Panthers a playoff team?
Honestly, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be. They already have some key pieces in place — the biggest being Aleksander Barkov — and they made some huge additions in the offseason with the hiring of a future Hall of Fame coach ( Joel Quenneville) and the signing of a franchise goalie. The latter was the biggest missing piece they had, and for the money they spent and the core they have in place, the playoffs should be a bare minimum expectation this season. 14 of 25
Will the Sabres show any progress?
When the Sabres started to rebuild way back in the Tim Murray era, the expectation was that the process would eventually produce positive results. Those results should have started by now. The Sabres are entering the season riding an eight-year postseason drought (the NHL’s longest) and have stuck in place for most of that time. They have two franchise players (Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin) but not much else around them. They have topped 81 points in a season just once since 2011. They still seem to be light years behind the top teams in their division. 15 of 25
What is the Hurricanes’ ceiling?
Every year the Hurricanes were always a preseason sleeper pick in the NHL, and every year for one reason or another they would find a way to underwhelm. That has all changed and after their trip to the Eastern Conference Final, they will be entering this season with real expectations. Their defense is as deep as any other unit in the league, they have an underrated group of forwards led by Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Nino Niederreiter and Andrei Svechnikov and an exciting style of play that makes them a must-see team. They are for real, and they are not going away. 16 of 25
Will Evgeni Malkin bounce back?
This is the big question in Pittsburgh. Even though his final point total from the 2018-19 season was strong, it was clearly one of Malkin’s toughest years in the league. He slowed down considerably after a fast start and never seemed to be happy with his game. He arrived in camp motivated and with a chip on his shoulder, ready to show he is still one of the game’s best. If he does, the Penguins could once again be tough to beat.
NHL free agency can be a difficult thing for general managers to navigate. They think they are adding the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle but are often times overpaying a player who will one day have to bought out or traded. Sometimes, though, teams make it work. Here we take a look at the winners and losers of the 2019 NHL free agency period. This is ONLY focusing on free agents and not the draft or trades.
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Buffalo Sabres: winner
t has been a strong offseason for the Sabres, who re-signed Jeff Skinner and added Jimmy Vesey and Colin Miller via trade. They also dipped into the free agency pool by getting Marcus Johansson on a cheap deal from the Boston Bruins. They are still probably a long way from the playoffs, but they took a nice step closer this summer. 2 of 23
Calgary Flames: loser
The Flames had one major flaw on their roster during the 2018-19 season in net: goalie. They attempted to address it but did so in a rather disappointing way by signing Cam Talbot, statistically one of the worst goalies in the NHL this past season, to a one-year contract. Maybe getting out of Edmonton and playing behind a better defensive team will help. If it doesn’t, it is an inadequate offseason for the Flames. 3 of 23
Carolina Hurricanes: winner
The Hurricanes picked up Ryan Dzingel on a cheap, short-term deal and also managed to lock up Sebastian Aho on a long-term contract thanks to some help from the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens’ weak offer sheet attempt was an easy match for the Hurricanes and helped them avoid a summer of negotiating with their franchise player. 4 of 23
Chicago Blackhawks: winner
Stan Bowman has been a busy man this offseason, trying to get the Blackhawks back to the playoffs, making multiple trades and adding one fairly significant free agent. That was goalie Robin Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist from this past season with the New York Islanders. Lehner will be a great complement to Corey Crawford and a fantastic insurance policy if Crawford is injured again. 5 of 23
Colorado Avalanche: winner
The Avalanche are building a powerhouse in Denver. They made a blockbuster trade with Toronto to get Nazem Kadri while also adding Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi to help round out their forward depth. This is a Stanley Cup contender right now and is only going to get better, plus Colorado still has more salary cap space than almost every other team in the league.
Columbus Blue Jackets: loser
Gustav Nyquist was a nice addition at a decent value, but the free agency exodus that saw Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel walk out the door leaves several significant holes on the roster.
Before you fill out your postseason bracket, we break down one key matchup across five first-round series that could make or break a team in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s no secret – for the Leafs to trump the Bruins, they need to find an answer for the three-headed monster of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.
The Leafs were tormented by the Bruins’ top line in their seven-game series last postseason. Bergeron and Co. controlled possession, posting a Corsi rating of 64.90, and dominated Toronto in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, 49-26. An encouraging note for the Leafs is that the Corsi number dropped to 54.84 when matched with Auston Matthews and shot up to 75 when going against Tomas Plekanec – suggesting the trio dominated much of the play against a veteran player who is no longer in the league.
Looking at the regular season, both Matthews and Bergeron were out of the lineup for two of the teams’ meetings this season, so we’ll have to see how the coaches choose to deploy their top talent with the pair back in the mix.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders
Goaltending vs. star power
The Islanders claiming home-ice advantage was key, but perhaps their biggest edge sits between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss combined to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy this season, and their dominant play must continue for the team to be successful against the Penguins’ offensive arsenal.
Though neither netminder has a ton of playoff experience, the job will likely be Lehner’s to lose. Since returning from injury on March 19, the 27-year-old has posted a 5-2 record with a .942 save percentage.
Barry Trotz’s club allowed a league-low 191 goals on the campaign and posted a record of 38-2-2 when scoring at least three times in a game. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins boasted the fifth-best offense this year and rostered four players with 70-plus points.
Pittsburgh mustered 13 goals in four games against the Islanders during the regular season, with Crosby and Malkin combining for eight points.
Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
Can ‘Johnny Hockey’ outperform MacKinnon?
Calgary’s Gaudreau and Colorado’s MacKinnon each notched a career-high 99 points this season. Though they play different positions up front, the two will be a joy to watch compete as they best embody the speed and skill that will be on display in this series.
The All-Stars have no problem facing the pressure of playoff hockey, either, as MacKinnon has tallied 16 points in 13 career contests, with Gaudreau posting 11 points in 15.
Both men know how to deliver when it matters most, too. “Johnny Hockey” racked up 39 points and 17 goals in the third period or overtime this season, while MacKinnon contributed 37 points and 15 goals in those clutch moments. When the game is on the line, look for one of these two studs to follow through.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Stingy penalty kill vs. Electric man advantage
Special teams will heavily influence this matchup between one of the greatest regular-season teams ever and a franchise looking for its first playoff series victory.
The Lightning’s power play was lethal this season, clicking at a league-leading rate of 28.2 percent. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, deploy the NHL’s top penalty kill.
The Lightning and Blue Jackets posted similar possession numbers with Corsi ratings of 51.59 and 50.21, respectively. The more even-strength hockey Columbus can play, the better its chances of pulling out the upset – in the regular season, the Lightning erupted for six power-play goals on 11 attempts in their three victories over the Jackets this year.
St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets
Battle in the crease
This Central Division clash is about as even as any playoff series on the slate. The Jets won 47 regular-season games and sported a goal differential of plus-28, while the Blues won 45 contests and were plus-24. Both teams finished with 99 points, but what may ultimately separate the two in this series is the play in the crease.
The Blues netminder was one of the best stories of the season. In 32 appearances, Binnington posted a .927 save percentage and an unbelievable 1.89 goals-against average en route to setting a franchise record for wins by a rookie goaltender with 24. The 25-year-old has yet to face the Jets this season, perhaps to the Blues’ advantage.
Hellebuyck was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season but will need to regain his form in a hurry after taking a step backward this year. The 25-year-old won 10 fewer games and saw his goals against average spike from 2.36 to 2.90.
With two netminders trending in opposite directions, goaltending will be the deciding factor in this series.
After a spell without them, third jerseys are back for the NHL! Now, that may cause fear to rise in your gullet. At least it will if you are old enough to remember that first wave of (largely hideous) third jerseys from the ‘90s. Somehow, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks managed to make themselves look even worse! The NHL didn’t have alternate/third jerseys last year due to switching all their jerseys to Adidas. Now Adidas is able to crank out third jerseys for what is expected to be about 15-20 teams. Some of the looks have been seen before but not for the past few years. Here’s a look at all the third jerseys we know about, ranked in terms of quality.
21. Arizona Coyotes
Apparently we’re at a place where we’re willing to nostalgically accept these Coyotes jerseys as existing? Until they changed their look to a simpler style, Arizona, then Phoenix, was rivaled by only the Minnesota Wild for worse look in the league. We don’t care if they’re ironically bringing back the Kachina jerseys. They still look bad and are WAY too busy for a sports uniform.
20. Anaheim Ducks
Sorry, we aren’t going to buy your nostalgia, take two. The Anaheim logo with the duck-shaped hockey mask was dumb then, and it’s dumb now. However, the purple-and-teal look feels like it has aged a little better. The stripes are nice. The logo is still hot garbage.
19. New York Islanders
There are two things going against the Islanders’ third jerseys. One, it’s basically a replicant of the black third jersey they wore before, but now it’s blue. Two, it’s not an interesting logo, and it’s much worse than the traditional Islanders logo. It also lacks the kitschy fun of the fisherman logo. Just blah all around.
18. Philadelphia Flyers
These jerseys are too basic to be offensive but also too boring to be interesting. They look fine. This is a shrug in hockey jersey form. They better wear it around Halloween.
17. Los Angeles Kings
Straight up, we miss the yellow-and-purple crown look from the expansion era. Instead of that, the Kings are going with another gray alternate, a slight tweak from their 50th anniversary look. It’s not a bad look, but it doesn’t really stir up much in the way of feelings.
16. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks and the Bruins aren’t wearing third jerseys, per se, but they did wear retro looks for the Winter Classic. Both are harkening back to their ‘30s looks. These Chicago ones are kind of crazy because they are just black and white. A Blackhawks jersey without a hint of red? That’s practically sacrilege!
15. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers’ jersey is good and a reflection of their old look for their 40th anniversary. However, it’s not all that different from their usual look. They are just wearing a bright royal blue with the orange. It pops, but it’s not different enough to rank too high.
14. San Jose Sharks
Shocker! The Sharks have a black alternate jersey. Back in the day, “third jersey” basically meant “black jersey,” but now that isn’t the case so this isn’t quite as eye-rolling. They also have made the new logo blacker as well, borrowing from the aesthetic choices of “Spinal Tap.” And there’s a new shoulder logo with a fin poking out of the water, which is actually cool.
13. Ottawa Senators
Everything is terrible about the Senators…save for their expected third jersey. They are bringing back their centennial look, which has a great old school vibe. Their logo is just a big “O.” The simplicity works.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
Like a character from the least-popular Austin Powers movie, the Penguins seem to love gold. That being said, these jerseys really pop. They are bright but not garish, and gold is deeply tied to Pittsburgh sports. The Stanley Cup may be silver, but gold still has its charm in the NHL.
11. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets’ look is cool. The blue they usually sport works great, the lettering of the logo is sharp, and I really like the stripe. It definitely is a classy jersey, but the Jets have such a good look normally, it feels like an unnecessary alternative.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is expected to kick it very old school again by busting out its St. Pats jerseys, a shout out to a defunct hockey team based in the city. Hey, you can always wear it on St. Patrick’s Day and have it be a hit. It’s weird to see the Maple Leafs not wearing blue, but to be fair they also aren’t even wearing the words “maple” or “leafs.” That’s fun in and of itself, and the St. Pats jerseys are pretty nice as well
Youth continues to be served in the NHL, as almost every team has a first-year player making an impact. For this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings — voted on as always by ESPN’s panel of experts — we take a look at some of its best freshmen (or, in some cases, middle schoolers waiting to get the call-up to the big school) of the 2018-19 season thus far.
1. Nashville Predators
Previous ranking: 1
Eeli Tolvanen. There was a time when this talented Finnish winger was being chatted up as a potential Calder Trophy contender, before being demoted to the AHL in the preseason. So far, he has eight points in 14 games with Milwaukee, with four of his seven assists coming on the power play.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous ranking: 2
Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning forward has four points in 15 games, skating 13:50 per night, with a minus-4 goal differential at 5-on-5.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous ranking: 5
Igor Ozhiganov. The 25-year-old KHL import doesn’t have a point in 12 games while skating 13:50 per night. As Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote: “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy — no big goals, or memorable passes. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that in itself is often praise-worthy of a defenseman.” So, congrats on not being noteworthy, Igor.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Previous ranking: 3
Vladislav Kamenev. Acquired from the Predators as part of the Matt Duchene trade, Kamenev had his arm broken by defenseman Brooks Orpik last season, limiting him to just three games. He’s played nine games this season with a goal and an assist, skating just 9:05 per game as a fourth-line center.
5. San Jose Sharks
Previous ranking: 6
Antti Suomela. The 24-year-old Finnish center has two goals and three assists in 14 games. His 1.91 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third best on the Sharks this season.
6. Boston Bruins
Previous ranking: 7
Ryan Donato. One of the most surprising demotions of the season thus far. Donato had one goal in 11 games and was sent down to AHL Providence to work on his offensive game. That’s after his incredible nine points in 12 games debut for the Bruins in 2017-18.
7. Winnipeg Jets
Previous ranking: 8
Brendan Lemieux. The most notable accomplishment for the spawn of Claude Lemieux this season has been a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck. Otherwise, he’s averaged 5:32 per game and is a minus-17 in shot attempts at 5-on-5.
8. Washington Capitals
Previous ranking: 10
Travis Boyd. The depth forward, 25, was injured in the preseason and returned on Nov. 5 with two assists against the Oilers.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous ranking: 4
Juuso Riikola. Injuries on defense for the Penguins gave the 24-year-old Finn some early-season chances. He’s been a bit overwhelmed, to the tune of minus-39 in shot attempts, worst among Pittsburgh defensemen. Yes, including Jack Johnson.
10. Minnesota Wild
Previous ranking: 9
Jordan Greenway. The promising winger was sent down to the AHL after a rough start, playing a couple of games for Iowa. He returned with a rediscovered confidence, and has a goal and two assists in his last four games.
11. Calgary Flames
Previous ranking: 15
Juuso Valimaki. Another Finn! Valimaki, a first-rounder for the Flames in 2017, is skating 14:46 per game. He’s on the plus side of possession but has a minus-5 in goal differential.
12. Vancouver Canucks
Previous ranking: 24
Elias Pettersson. The Canucks star rookie became the first player to record 16-plus points through his first 10 career NHL games since 1992-93, when Dimitri Kvartalnov and Nikolai Borschevsky accomplished the feat. You heard it here first: Elias Pettersson, the new Nikolai Borschevsky.
13. New York Islanders
Previous ranking: 16
Josh Ho-Sang. As usual, interesting things are happening around Josh Ho-Sang. He was on fire for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, including a 12 points in 12 games run. At the same time, he had to apologize for comments he gave to the New York Post about his lack of premium ice time.
14. Montreal Canadiens
Previous ranking: 14
Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He’s 18 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in June, and has seven points in his first 15 NHL games for the resurgent Habs.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous ranking: 17
Calvin Thurkauf. He’s missed a bit with an undisclosed injury, but the former Swiss world junior team captain had 24 points in 75 games with Cleveland last season. He’s got some upside, and the Jackets will have an eye on the AHL to see what the winger does in his second pro season.
We’re just a few weeks removed from the Washington Capitals clinching the Stanley Cup and we’re already looking ahead to the 2018-19 season.
The Capitals kick off their title defense on Oct. 3 at home against the Boston Bruins, a team with high hopes of their own entering the season, and that’s only the start of the fun. Washington will also have a new twist on its rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Caps will get a rematch with their Cup Final nemeses.
With a host of rumored big-name trades, the NHL draft and free agency in the coming days of the offseason, there’ll be plenty more dates to circle on the hockey calendar, but here’s what we’ve already got our eyes on for the upcoming season:
OCTOBER 3, 2018: BRUINS @ CAPITALS
After a summer of raging partying, Alex Ovechkin and Co. will raise their championship banner to the Capital One Arena rafters. Barry Trotz won’t be behind the bench, but it will be the first step in the Caps’ Stanley Cup title defense.
OCTOBER 4, 2018: CAPITALS @ PENGUINS
Any game between these two has been a hyped-up matchup since Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league, but with Ovi having added a Cup to his resume—and the Caps having finally gone through the Penguins to get it—this matchup will have some new twists thrown in for good measure.
OCTOBER 6, 2018: OILERS VS. DEVILS
Ted Lindsay award winner Connor McDavid and the Oilers will face off against reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and the Devils in Gothenburg, Sweden.
OCTOBER 10, 2018: GOLDEN KNIGHTS @ CAPITALS
It’s a Stanley Cup Final rematch, the first time the teams meet in the season. Things may look a little different on the ice for both after free agency (John Carlson, James Neal, etc.), though the competition level shouldn’t disappoint.
NOVEMBER 1-2, 2018: PANTHERS VS. JETS
The Panthers and Jets take things abroad to Helsinki, which will be a fun homecoming for Finnish natives and burgeoning superstars Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov.
NOVEMBER 23, 2018: RANGERS @ FLYERS
The Metropolitan Division rivals will take the ice for the Thanksgiving Day Showdown at Wells Fargo Center in an afternoon matchup that will give fans something to watch as they emerge from turkey-induced comas.
NOVEMBER 28, 2018: DUCKS @ PANTHERS
This game marks a matchup between two teams celebrating their 25th seasons in the NHL. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were part of the 1993-94 expansion, but both have come a long way since their expansion draft days, especially in the uniform department.
DECEMBER 23, 2018: KINGS @ GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The first of four matchups between two burgeoning rivals and a pair of the league’s premier smack-talking twitter accounts. Based on your personal preferences, consider this your notice to prepare to log on, log off or set up your muted terms well in advance. We’re guessing Vegas won’t hesitate to mention a playoff sweep, but we’re also eager to see how Los Angeles fires back.
JANUARY 1, 2019: BRUINS @ BLACKHAWKS
It seems like the Bruins and Blackhawks have been featured in every outdoor NHL game—they’ve combined to be in five of 10 Winter Classic matchups so far—but on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame Stadium, they’ll go head-to-head in the elements for the first time.
JANUARY 11, 2019: SABRES @ HURRICANES
OK, so maybe this one is looking a little too far ahead for a couple of reasons, but if everything goes as planned, this would be the first matchup between the top two picks in the 2018 draft, Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. It should be a fun look at two players leading the way for their rebuilding franchises.
JANUARY 18, 2019: ISLANDERS @ CAPITALS
Barry Trotz, who resigned from the Capitals earlier this week and has all but taken the coaching vacancy with the Islanders just days after, returns to D.C. with his new team.
JANUARY 25-26: NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The always-fun Skills competition takes place on Friday in San Jose at the SAP Center and will provide all the GIF-able moments fans can handle and at least one big-name player will steal the show. On Saturday, buckle up for another installment of the 3-on-3 All-Star tournament and another chance for an unlikely hero to emerge.
FEBRUARY 23, 2019: PENGUINS @ FLYERS The Keystone State rivals bring their game outdoors for the second time in three seasons as part of the NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field.