The best NHL player at every age

From 18-year-old Jack Hughes with the New Jersey Devils, to 42-year-old Zdeno Chara with the Boston Bruins, and every age in between, we take a look at the best current NHL players at every age. Some names you probably expect, while others may surprise you. See who  made the list. We have them all here! 1 of 24

Age 18: Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils

Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, is one of four 18-year-olds to play in the NHL this season. He had a slow start to his career, being held without a point in each of his first six games, but he has shown improvement as the season has gone on. The offensive numbers aren’t great (as should be expected for an 18-year-old) but he has posted strong possession numbers and is looking more and more confident with every game.  2 of 24

Age 19: Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes

Svechnikov is blossoming into a superstar for the Hurricanes. He leads the team in goals and total points, and after scoring 20 goals as an 18-year-old is on pace for 35 goals as a 19-year-old. If he is able to maintain that pace, he would be just the fifth different player since 2005-06 to score 35 goals before their age 20 seasons. That list includes only Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.  3 of 24

Age 20: Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars

Heiskanen was snubbed in the Calder Trophy race a year ago by not even being voted as a finalist. But with the way his career is progressing into Year 2, he might have Norris Trophies waiting for him in his future. He and John Klingberg are going to run the Stars defense for the foreseeable future and be as good as almost any other one-two blue line duo in the league. 

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Age 21: Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks

This is the age where choosing the top player starts to get difficult. Cale Makar was an option here, as were Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois. But Pettersson gets the call for the impact he has made in Vancouver. The 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, Pettersson has been a franchise-changing player for the Canucks and has helped speed up their rebuild by giving them a game-breaking talent up front. He has a chance to be an elite goal-scorer, is a tremendous playmaker and a one-man highlight reel every shift.  5 of 24

Age 22: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

McDavid does turn 23 in the middle of January, so he barely makes the cut for this age. McDavid is the single most dominant offensive player in the league and is going to be the odds on favorite to win the scoring title every season as long as he stays reasonably healthy. He and Leon Draisaitl are the two driving forces behind the Oilers offense, and they are the two players carrying the team. The Oilers’ improved record in the standings will help him win the MVP Award he should have won the past couple of years.  6 of 24

Age 23: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

He might finally be the player to take the goal-scoring crown away from Alex Ovechkin. After scoring 38 goals in only 66 games a year ago, Pastrnak has come back this season with 25 goals in his first 31 games and has become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. His contract ($6.6 million salary cap hit) is going to turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the NHL. 

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Age 24: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013, it took MacKinnon a few years to become a superstar but now that he has, he looks completely unstoppable. After scoring 97 and 99 points the past two years, respectively, MacKinnon is on track for even more production this season and drives the best line in the league (alongside Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) for a young team that is on the verge of greatness.  8 of 24

Age 25: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

He has not played up to his normal standard in the first part of the 2019-20 season, but that does not take away from everything he has already accomplished in his career. He won the 2019 Vezina Trophy (league’s best goalie), was a finalist the year before and has been one of the league’s top goalies since he became the No. 1 starter in Tampa Bay.  9 of 24

Age 26: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Over the past four years he has been the second-best offensive player in the league behind only Connor McDavid. His 128 points during the 2018-19 season (when he was league MVP and scoring champion) was the highest single season output in nearly two decades and helped the Lightning tie an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins. The only thing his career is missing at this point is a Stanley Cup. 

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Age 27: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

He literally just turned 27, and he gets the edge over players like Mark Stone, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Gabriel Landeskog. Couturier is one of the league’s best shutdown centers who also possesses the ability to score 35 goals and 70 points. Put those two things together, and you have one of the best all-around centers in the league at any age.  11 of 24

Age 28: Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers

From the moment Panarin arrived in the NHL, he has been one of the league’s best offensive players. The Rangers signed him as a free agent this past summer to a massive contract, and it might be one of the rare free agent contracts that actually works out as planned. He is good enough to help a rebuilding team stay in playoff contention this season and young enough to still be a part of a contending team in New York in the future.  12 of 24

Age 29: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

It seems crazy to say, but Stamkos might be one of the most underrated players of his era. His production stacks up with the elites (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin), and he could have been even better at this point had he not missed so many games during his prime years to injury and a lockout. He is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the league. 

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Age 30: John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Carlson, who turns 30 in January, has finished in the top five in the Norris Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, and this might be the year he actually wins it. Midway through December he is still on pace for more than 100 points, something no defenseman has done since the 1991-92 season. He is one of the driving forces behind the Capitals’ great start that has them on track for what could be their fourth Presidents’ Trophy in the past decade.  14 of 24

Age 31: Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

You hate him when he does not play for your team, but you wish he did play for your team. Marchand is one of the league’s best all-around players, combining elite offensive production, great defensive play and a knack for being the most annoying player in the league to play against. He tends to take the latter part way too far, far too often, especially when you consider how good of a player he actually is. He should not need to resort to such sideshow acts to make an impact.  15 of 24

Age 32: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

His offensive numbers may not be what they were earlier in his career, but he is still an elite scorer and a fierce two-way player. He has already put together a top-10 career in the history of the league and by the time he finishes, he may be in the top five when you put together his individual accomplishments and team success. He might still have another Stanley Cup ahead of him in his career. 

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Age 33: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin had a down year during the 2018-19 season and was determined to come back this season and show that he is still one of the league’s elite players. He has done that and more, as he has helped the Penguins overcome some significant injury issues early in the 2019-20 season to play like a Stanley Cup contending team. His 1.37 points per game average through his first 20 games would be the third-highest mark of his career. He is also closing in on the 400-goal mark for his career.  17 of 24

Age 34: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

He simply does not slow down. Even at age 34 he is on track for yet another 50-goal season and is still within striking distance of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record. When you consider the era he has played in, it is almost impossible to argue he is not the greatest goal scorer of all time. The only players to ever score 50 goals in a season age 33 or older are Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Hull and John Bucyk. Buyck is at this point the only one to score 50 goals at age 34 or older. Ovechkin, on his current pace this season, will join him and probably over the next few seasons as well. 18 of 24

Age 35: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury continues to climb the NHL’s all-time wins list and will have a chance to finish his career in the top three by the time he retires. He is still as durable and athletic as ever in the crease, but it still might be in the Golden Knights’ best interest to limit his workload a little bit, as they cannot keep relying on a 35-year-old goalie to play more than 60 games in a season and still be fresh for the playoffs. His best playoff performances during his career have come during seasons in which he has played fewer regular-season games. 

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Age 36: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Giordano remains one of the NHL’s all-time greatest undrafted success stories, and his career hit iys peak a year ago with his first-ever Norris Trophy win. He has not been quite as dominant this season (he is 36; it should be expected that at some point he slows down), but he is still an outstanding No. 1 defenseman for the Flames.   20 of 24

Age 37: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

It is starting to look as if he will never get that Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers, but he has still put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career and been the best, most consistent goalie of his era. He is also still playing at a level that might keep the rebuilding Rangers in contention for a playoff spot and maybe another run for him.  21 of 24

Age 38: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Anderson has put together an outstanding career for himself, playing 17 years in the NHL and appearing in more than 630 games for four different teams (Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers). He has performed at a really high level throughout most of those seasons and at times been one of the most productive goalies in the league. He is one of the few bright spots on a rebuilding Senators team that does not give its goalies much help on a nightly basis. He is one of only two 38-year-olds in the NHL this season. The other is his teammate veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey. 

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Age 39: Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks

Miller is the only 39-year-old in the league this season, so he gets this one by default. But that should not take away from the reality that he is still a pretty good goalie and helps form one of the best goaltending duos in the league alongside John Gibson. They have to be nearly flawless in net for the Ducks to have a chance to win on most nights, but they do their best to keep the team competitive. It will be interesting to see if he gets moved to a contender in need of some goaltending help before the trade deadline later this season.  23 of 24

Age 40: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Thornton and longtime teammate Patrick Marleau are the two 40-year-olds in the league this season, and they are on the same roster once again after the Sharks re-signed Marleau as a free agent earlier this season. Marleau has the higher goal total so far, but Thornton is the better all-around player and still has the vision and playmaking to make players around him better. He is one of the best passers who has ever stepped on an NHL ice surface.  24 of 24

Age 42: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Chara is the oldest player in the NHL and is still finding ways to be productive for the Bruins. He is not the dominant player he was during his peak years in the league when he was a constant Norris Trophy contender, but he is still able to play 22 minutes per night for a Stanley Cup contender (a Stanley Cup Finalist a year ago and one of the league’s best teams this season) and make an impact. He already has five goals through his first 31 games and can still make noise defensively. 

By: Adam Gretz

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_best_nhl_player_at_every_age/s1__30769559#slide_24

NHL players, coaches, GMs already on hot seat

With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ firing of Mike Babcock, we have already seen one of the bigger coaching changes in the NHL this season. Babcock was the highest-paid coach in the league, the biggest name behind a bench and the person who was supposed to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. It did not work out, it had not been working for a while, and the change seemed inevitable after another postseason disappointment and the slow start to this season. It will not be the only major change made by a team this season. Here we take a look at some NHL players, coaches and GMs who are also on the hot seat. 

Note: This list does not include Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters, who is currently embroiled in a controversy that seems likely to cost him his job.  1 of 19

Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning (head coach)

Overall, Cooper’s tenure in Tampa Bay has been successful. The Lightning have been one of the winningest teams in the regular season, they have had deep playoff runs (Stanley Cup Final, two other Eastern Conference Final appearances) and won a Presidents’ Trophy with a record-tying 62 wins, all within the past five years. But their inability to close out playoff series and then getting swept in Round 1 a year ago in one of the most stunning upsets in Stanley Cup Playoff history, plus a slow start this season has no doubt put Cooper on his hottest seat yet. A coaching change is the one significant card this ultra-talented team has to play.  2 of 19

Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks (general manager)

All eyes are on Bowman in Chicago. The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs two years in a row, they fired their future Hall of Fame and three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach (Joel Quenneville) and attempted to retool around their core this summer by adding several players to the defense. So far not much of it has worked. A third consecutive non-playoff season should put even more pressure on Bowman than he is already facing.  3 of 19

John Hynes, New Jersey Devils (Head coach)

This is Hynes’ fifth season behind the Devils bench, and to date he has made the playoffs one time. Given all of the talent the Devils added over the summer, expectations were significantly higher this season and the team has — to this point — failed to deliver on them. The most disappointing part of their season is the fact they have lost four games in which they held multiple-goal leads. 

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Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild (head coach)

This just seems to be a matter of when, and not if. You know at some point that first-year general manager Bill Guerin is going to want to bring in his own coach, and with the Wild stuck near the bottom of the NHL standings, it is worth wondering if the team will look to make a change in season. Boudreau is an excellent coach, but he does not have much to work with in Minnesota, and it might just be time for all parties involved to get a fresh start elsewhere.  5 of 19

Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings (head coach)

Who would have ever guessed that Blashill would last longer in Detroit than Mike Babcock did in Toronto? That is exactly what has happened, though, as Blashill remains behind the bench for the Red Wings. But how much longer will he be there? It is impossible to put the team’s struggles on him given the state of the roster, but this is going to be a fourth consecutive non-playoff season for him, the team has one of the worst records in the league and new general manager Steve Yzerman is going to eventually want his own coach. 6 of 19

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (goalie)

The Sharks one Achilles’ heel remains in net where the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is again among the league’s worst. This is a Stanley Cup-caliber team if it can get some saves. Jones and Dell have not yet shown an ability to do that on a consistent basis. 

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Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (forward)

Considering the fact the Kings have pretty much already relegated him to a permanent healthy scratch, it seems that “hot seat” might be underselling his current status with the team. Following a six-year stop in the KHL, the Kings brought Kovalchuk back to the NHL at the start of the 2018-19 season by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract. It has proved to be a rather poor fit from the beginning. He never gained the trust of the previous coaching staff and does not really fit in the Kings’ current long-term plans as they look to rebuild. The only question that remains now is what team he finishes the season with because it will almost certainly not be the Kings.  8 of 19

Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators (forward)

A few years ago he was general manager David Poile’s big in-season acquisition and was supposed to be one of the final pieces of a Stanley Cup puzzle. The Predators immediately signed him to a long-term contract extension and made him a central part of their team. The results have not been what anyone involved expected, and now Turris has found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion this season while his production continues to decline. The Predators are paying him $6 million per year and not getting much of a return at the moment.  9 of 19

Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins (Forward)

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to move on from mistakes, and if Galchenyuk does not start producing more offense he might find himself as the latest example. Acquired in the offseason trade that sent Phil Kessel to Arizona, Galchenyuk went 14 games to begin the 2019-20 season before finally scoring a goal and really has not provided any of the offense the Penguins were hoping to get from him. With his contract up at the end of this season, it would not take much for the Penguins to move on with a trade. 

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Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Goalie)

When the Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency, it was generally accepted that it was going to be a significant long-term risk. He might still be really good for a few years and help get the Panthers back in the playoffs, but what would his career look like on the back end of that contract? So far the Panthers aren’t even getting the short-term gain that was expected. Bobrovsky is off to one of the worst starts of his career and has not looked anything like the two-time Vezina Trophy winner the Panthers thought they were getting. Given his contract the Panthers don’t really have many options other than hoping he figures it out and gets back on track.  11 of 19

Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils (general manager)

The head coach is not the only person on the hot seat in New Jersey. Shero went all in this offseason on trying to fix his roster, but he made the costly mistake of not fixing the team’s biggest issue: goalie. He also has to deal with the Taylor Hall contract and decide whether he can get him re-signed, and if not, whether he has to trade his best player and a former league MVP. 12 of 19

Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres (general manager)

Botterill hasn’t had a lot of time to fully build a team in Buffalo, but ownership is desperate for a competitive team. The Sabres have already made another coaching change, tweaked the roster and have enough core building blocks in place that some meaningful progress should be made. They had a great start to the 2018-19 season before falling apart in the second half and are in danger of going in a similar direction this season. That will not be good news for the general manager. 

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Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators (Head coach)

Laviolette is an outstanding coach and if the Predators ever decided to go in a different direction, he would not have to wait long for his next head coaching job. But every coach has a shelf life, and with the Predators off to a disappointing start — after taking a step back a year ago — it is fair to wonder if Laviollete and Nashville have reached their ceilings together. This seems like a classic “we need a change to shake things up” situation.  14 of 19

The Dallas Stars top line

The duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are not really in danger of going anywhere, but the pressure is on them to perform because for the second year in a row they have found themselves the target of internal criticism for their play. A year ago it came from CEO Jim Lites (in a rather profane manner), and this year it is from head coach Jim Montgomery (before he later apologized). In both cases the criticism was probably a little unfair, but those are the stakes when you are the highest-paid and most visible players on the team.  15 of 19

Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks (head coach)

Green hasn’t done a bad job in Vancouver, and he hasn’t always had a great team to work with, but it all comes down to results. Ask yourself this question: How many head coaches get three years in a row without making the playoffs before being replaced? That is what Green would be looking at this season if the Canucks do not qualify in the Western Conference. It would probably take a huge meltdown for an in-season change to happen, but if they end up missing again, an offseason change could be on the horizon. 

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Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks (Head coach)

The Sharks under DeBoer have been remarkably consistent, winning 45, 46, 45 and 46 games in his first full seasons behind the bench. That includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, another run to the Western Conference Final and six postseason series wins. He has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final (New Jersey being the other) and has a strong track record. But the Sharks expect championship-level play, and so far this season they have not delivered on that. A coaching change might be a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t think it is likely, but if the Sharks keep hovering around the .500 mark with this roster it might became a bigger discussion.  17 of 19

Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Forward)

The options here are limited because Lucic’s contract is essentially buyout proof given how it is made up almost entirely of signing bonuses. Trading him would only get the Flames another undesirable contract in return. But you kind of have to put him on the hot seat given that he started with zero goals and four assists in his first 24 games, while the guy he was traded for (James Neal) scored 14 goals in his first 26 games for the Flames’ biggest rival (Edmonton).  18 of 19

Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks (Defenseman)

It was probably overdue, but Seabrook found himself as a healthy scratch earlier this season and was not particularly happy about it. He still thinks he can contribute, but the Blackhawks at some point need to start thinking about the future and their long-term outlook. Seabrook was a major contributor to three Stanley Cup-winning teams and a mini-dynasty in Chicago, but it is not unfair to say his best days as an NHL defender are in the rearview mirror. At some point you have to begin a new chapter. 

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Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (general manager)

He is not really in danger of being fired because the Maple Leafs are clearly committed to him and his direction. But make no mistake: With Mike Babcock out of the mix, this is now Dubas’ team in every way. His vision, his roster, his coach. I think it can work (and most likely will work), but if it does not there is only one other place to point the finger. 

By: Adam Gretz

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/nhl_players_coaches_gms_already_on_hot_seat/s1__30657080#slide_1

The 10 most disappointing NHL teams so far this season

With the 2019-20 NHL season a quarter of the way through, we are starting to get an idea of what each of the 31 teams should be capable of.

Some teams are exactly what we expected them to be on the good side (Washington, Boston, St. Louis) as well as the bad side (Ottawa, Los Angeles, Detroit).

Others have so far been better than we expected, and some significantly so (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg).

This is not about any of those teams.

This is about the 10 teams that have been a disappointment so far this season. There is still time for some of them to turn things around and accomplish something significant. But they better start that process sooner rather than later because it can be incredibly difficult to make up lost points as the season goes on.

With that in mind, these are the 10 teams that have disappointed us so far.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs.  No team has defined “disappointment” this season more than Toronto.

After a third straight third-place finish and a third straight Round 1 exit, the Maple Leafs made more dramatic changes to their roster this offseason by dumping Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Nikita Zaitsev, and Connor Brown and replacing them with Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Cody Ceci and Jason Spezza.

The early results are not positive.

They remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have not yet had the goaltending that can mask those flaws that have existed for more than three years now. Even worse, the team seems stale under the leadership of coach Mike Babcock, who is too often looking lost and being outplayed. This has been a .500 team through the first quarter of the season, and it needs some dramatic changes — both systematically and to the roster — to get to where it wants to be.

Babcock’s seat is almost certainly getting hotter, and we cannot ignore the fact that a team coached by him has not made it out of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2012-13 season. Since then 28 different NHL coaches have won at least one playoff round, including two (Barry Trotz and Mike Yeo) who have won playoff rounds with multiple teams.

By this point in their development, the Leafs should be Stanley Cup contenders. Not only is this team not quite reaching that level, but it seems to be slipping further away from it.

2. San Jose Sharks.  The Sharks are high on this list because they had an absolutely dreadful start. They were not just disappointing but literally one of the worst teams in the league through the first month.

The same goaltending duo that failed them a year ago is back and still struggling, their two big names on defense have not been as dominant as in the past and they started with one of the league’s worst records. To their credit they are starting to play their way out of that early hole by winning six in a row after a 4-10-1 start. If there is a team that could potentially duplicate what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago, this might be it because of the strong core in place. The Sharks’ biggest weakness is still in net, and the most disappointing part is they do not seem to have any interest in trying to fix it.

3. Vegas Golden Knights.  Had they simply been able to not give up four power play goals on a five-minute power play in a Game 7, this is a team that probably could have gone on another lengthy postseason run a year ago. They brought back largely the same roster, which should have been even better because they were going to get Mark Stone — arguably the team’s best all-around skater — for a full season. The early results have been disappointing though, as they find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in mid-November. Their big problem: goaltending.

Marc-Andre Fleury is still an excellent starter, but they have not found any sort of capable backup to give him a rest, which is forcing Fleury to play entirely too many games for an almost 35-year-old. They can’t expect him to play 60 regular-season games and be fresh for the postseason.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning. A record-setting regular season in 2018-19 was followed by the most disappointing postseason performance in recent league history — maybe the entire league history. The Lightning followed that up by opening the 2019-20 season in rather underwhelming fashion, winning just nine of their first 17 games and not really carrying the play in any of them. They are showing signs of getting back to their 2018-19 level, but they are not consistently there. Nobody should have ever expected them to win 62 games again, but this roster is still way too talented be barely above .500 a quarter of the way through the season.
5. Calgary Flames.  A lot of things went right for the Flames a year ago to allow them to — shockingly — climb to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Some regression should have been expected. But this much? Probably the most disappointing aspect of this team in response to its Round 1 playoff exit to Colorado was to try and get more physical by trading for Milan Lucic instead of trying to counter the speed of a team like the Avalanche. Some of Calgary’s top players are off to slower-than-expected starts (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano), but if they can get back on track it will go a long way toward getting the Flames to where they should be.

6. Nashville Predators.  Losing Filip Forsberg for six games was a big blow, but the overriding issue here is the fact the goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros has been subpar. That can sink an otherwise great team, and right now it is holding the Predators back. One positive development so far: The power play unit that was an insult to hockey has dramatically improved this season. If they can get the netminding back to its normal level, there still might be a potential lengthy playoff run here.

7. New York Rangers.  The Rangers went all in this summer with the additions of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Kaapo Kakko. It seemingly accelerated their rebuild and raised expectations dramatically, but as it turns out, maybe a little too much. They still have major flaws on the roster, especially at defense and center. Even with that, it still feels like this team should be a little better than what it has been. The Rangers may not be a playoff team just yet, and they have been overmatched in too many games.

8. New Jersey Devils.  The Devils were one of the teams to win the offseason thanks to some draft lottery luck (getting the No. 1 pick and Jack Hughes), a couple of huge trades (P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev for next to nothing), an intriguing free agent pick up (Wayne Simmonds) and the return of a healthy former league MVP (Taylor Hall). The problem is they forgot to address their biggest issue, which is in net. The lack of a top-tier starting goalie has played a huge role in some terrible late-game meltdowns that have seen them surrender several multi-goal leads (they have lost four games they led by two goals or more, including two games with three-goal leads) to turn a potentially competitive team into one that is right back near the bottom of the standings. With Hall’s contract status uncertain after this season, returning to the playoffs would have been significant, but they have a long way to go before they are in that discussion.

9. Minnesota Wild.  Former general manager Paul Fenton was on the job for only one year but still managed to leave quite a mess behind for new general manager Bill Guerin. The team lacks star power, has too many big-money players over the age of 30 and made some misguided trades a year ago (specifically the Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask swap). The playoffs always seemed to be a long shot, but through their first 20 games they have the second-worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings. This team is not particularly good, but it should not be this bad.

10. Dallas Stars.  So far this has been a tale of two teams. The Stars were big spenders in the offseason once again, signing Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry as free agents to hopefully fix the depth of what was one of the league’s most top-heavy teams a year ago. Things did not get off to a smooth start.

They won just one of their first nine games, Pavelski had a miserable start, the goaltending struggled and their top duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn could not find the back of the net.

Suddenly, though, things are starting to get back on track. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are stopping everything in net, Pavelski has started to produce, Seguin and Benn are waking up offensively and the team went on a 10-1-1 run after a 1-7-1 start. Keep in mind that this was a team that was a double overtime Game 7 loss on the road from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. There is talent here and a potential contender. The Stars make the disappointment list for their rough start, but they are starting to become the team they should be.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_10_most_disappointing_nhl_teams_so_far_this_season/s1_13132_30569477

By: Adam Gretz

The 10 most surprising developments of the NHL season

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.

3. The Vancouver Canucks might be good 

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.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_10_most_surprising_developments_of_the_nhl_season/s1_13132_30509882

By: Adam Gretz

The best pure goal scorer for every NHL team

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.  1 of 31

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.  3 of 31

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.  9 of 31

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.  12 of 31

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.  13 of 31

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.  14 of 31

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.  15 of 31

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.  17 of 31

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.  24 of 31

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.  27 of 31

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. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_best_pure_goal_scorer_for_every_nhl_team/s1__30275615#slide_31

By: Adam Gretz

25 questions for the 2019-20 NHL season

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.  1 of 25

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.  3 of 25

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.  7 of 25

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.  8 of 25

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. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/25_questions_for_the_2019_20_nhl_season/s1__30112646#slide_1

By: Adam Gretz

Lightning prove the curse of record regular season is real

The fate of the Tampa Bay Lightning proves that there is a curse that follows teams with historic regular-season performances.

The Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season. Then they went out and got swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets, becoming the second President’s Trophy winner to do that.

Moreover, as this ESPN graphic proves, teams that have had historic regular seasons often falter in the postseason.

There is some logic to this. Everything has to go right for a team to set a record in a regular season for the most wins. On top of that, the team could be so focused on winning in the regular season that it feels a measure of satisfaction for what it has accomplished when it’s over. Contrarily, teams that didn’t achieve as much might be hungrier when the postseason comes around.

Still, seeing the Lightning, with the three 40-goal scorers in their lineup, get swept, is nothing short of shocking.

By: Larry Brown

Full Article

The biggest storylines in 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs are set to begin, so settle in for two months of unpredictable chaos, madness and excitement. Some of the big stories worth watching include the Washington Capitals‘ pursuit of a repeat, Tampa Bay’s quest to finally get over the hump and Sergei Bobrovsky’s attempt to solve his postseason demons. All of these are among our 20 biggest storylines to watch in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Can the Capitals repeat?

Winning the Stanley Cup once is incredibly difficult. Winning it two years in a row is even harder. It is something that has been done only three times since 1990, and the Capitals are going to try to add to that list. They still have all of the superstars that made their 2018 championship possible and made some smart additions at the trade deadline to bring in Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen to sure up the defense. They have all of the ingredients at their disposal to do it.

Will the Lightning finish it this season?

After experiencing repeated playoff heartbreak over the past four years, the Lightning are back and better than ever this season. They completed one of the best regular seasons in NHL history, and they enter the playoffs as the clear favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If they do not reach at least the Stanley Cup Final with this roster, it will be their biggest postseason disappointment yet.

The Golden Knights’ encore performance

So much to watch with the Golden Knights. Will they have their over-the-top pregame performances? Will they be able to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final? Can they actually win it all in Year 2? You have to like their chances not only because of the strength of their roster but also because their path through the Pacific Division bracket features two teams with significant question marks in goal. That is a good position to have an advantage in this time of year.

Joe Thornton’s last ride?

The only thing Thornton’s Hall of Fame career is missing is his name on the Stanley Cup, and this might be his last best shot to do it. He is not getting any younger, it is not known how much longer he is going to play in the NHL, and the San Jose Sharks went all in on this season to try to get a championship. They will need a healthy Erik Karlsson to get there and for Martin Jones to get his act together in net after a miserable regular season.

Will the Stanley Cup return to Canada?

A Canadian-0based NHL team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so all the way back in 1993. There are three Canadian teams that have a chance to do it this season with Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg all punching their tickets to the playoffs. The Flames, having finished the year with the best record in the Western Conference, seem to be the team with the best chance to do it, but they have major questions in goal. The Maple Leafs have to get through their arch nemesis in Boston, while the Jets have been trending in the wrong direction down the stretch.

 

Can the Maple Leafs get out of the first round?

If they do not, there is going to be some intense scrutiny in Toronto. Not only do the Maple Leafs need to win as a team, but coach Mike Babcock also needs to advance for the sake of his own reputation. There have been 23 different coaches who have won a playoff series since a Babcock-coached team has, while he has made it out of the first round just once since 2010. That is not what you want from the highest-paid coach in the NHL

The Islanders return to the playoffs

Nobody expected the New York Islanders to be here. After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and then losing John Tavares in free agency, expectations were as low as humanly possible for them at the start of the year. But they defied the odds all year and put together one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in recent NHL history, going from the worst defensive team in the league a year ago to the best this season. How long can their goalies continue their great play and will they find enough offense? Those going to be the big questions for them.

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By: Adam Gretz

NHL playoff primer: 5 intriguing matchups to watch in the 1st round

It’s playoff season once again.

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

Top-line takeover

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.

By: Matt Teague

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2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach