My Predictions and Overviews for the 2018-2019 NHL Season

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My Predictions and Overviews for the 2018-2019 NHL Season

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Jacob Chaimovitch

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Now that all 31 NHL teams have opened their seasons and played at least one game, it’s time that I weighed in on the most successful teams in the off-season from each conference as well as my predictions for the division winners, conference winners, and the Stanley Cup Champion.

Starting with the off-season, I’ll give the best ‘growth’ team and the best ‘buff’ team from each conference. A growth is defined as a team that has developed their younger players and have gotten better without a lot of additions from free agency or trades. A buff is defined as a team who made one or more substantial additions over the off-season from free agency or trades as well as key contract extensions. Without further ado, here we go.

Biggest growth

Western Conference: Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg’s average age is 26.1 years old, over 1 ½ years less than the league average. The oldest skater, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, is skating around like he is 5 years younger than he actually is. With 147 hits and 45 points in 69 games last year and a lethal 6’5” 260 lbs frame, he is easily one of the scariest men on the ice in the NHL. Along with the veterans like Byfuglien, centerman Bryan Little, and winger Blake Wheeler, the Jets have a lively young core that is only getting better. Last year, the 1st line of Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, and Mark Scheifele combined for 187 points. Their average age is 22.3 years. As a team, the Jets haven’t lost anyone that they had on the team that got eliminated in the Western Conference Final and they’re only getting better by year.

Eastern Conference: Buffalo Sabres

Despite finishing last in the Atlantic Division with a less-than-impressive record of 25-45-12, the Sabres have a young core that is only getting better. Jack Eichel, who was named the captain of the team for this season, is a one-of-a-kind athlete and is growing alongside young skaters like winger Sam Reinhart, centerman Casey Mittelstadt, and the dynamic defensive duo of Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen. Like the Jets, the Sabres also have veterans who help teach the young core. Wingers Kyle Okposo and Jason Pominville, centerman Vladimir Sobotka, and goalie Carter Hutton have led the charge. Don’t blink now. In a few years, Buffalo may be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

 

Biggest buff

Western Conference: Vegas Golden Knights

Who would’ve thought that a team that was just starting their franchise at the beginning of last season would be making such an impact on the NHL as quickly as they did? The Golden Knights finished with a 51-24-7 record before marching through Los Angeles, San Jose, and Winnipeg in that order to get to the Stanley Cup Final last year, becoming the best first-year team statistically in the history of the NHL. The best part? They’re not done wreaking havoc on the Western Conference. They resigned Marc-Andre Fleury and Colin Hutton, two key components to the playoff team. But they weren’t done there. They picked up Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny in huge deals with Montreal and St. Louis respectively. Despite losing key components like James Neal and Luca Sbisa, expect Vegas to get another 40+ win season.

Eastern Conference: Toronto Maple Leafs

For those who follow the NHL, you may have seen this coming. For those who don’t, let me explain my choice. Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk are two key pieces of the puzzle that made up the Leafs team that many fans thought would have a good run in the playoffs last year. However, they picked up Par Lindholm, which filled a hole that Leo Komarov made when he was sent to the Islanders two years ago. But that wasn’t all. On top of the crazy good skaters on the Leafs like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Jake Gardiner, they picked up the biggest name in free agency this offseason: John Tavares. Mr. Tavares had 84 points last year with the Islanders and is on track to being a Hall of Famer when he retires. Watch out, Atlantic Division. The Leafs are red hot.

Now that the offseason is taken care of, its time for my picks for divisions, conferences, and the Stanley Cup Champion for the 2018-2019 season. I will give a brief overview of the team and why I picked them for the category. Let’s begin.

Atlantic Division winner: Tampa Bay Lightning

This was easily the hardest division to pick a winner from. Superpowers like Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston rule this division and sneaky good teams like Florida and Montreal lurk in the shadows. It’s going to be an all-out dogfight for this division but Tampa comes out on top. Captain Steven Stamkos, fellow centerman JT Miller, winger Nikita Kucherov, defenseman Victor Hedman, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are too good to be stopped. The Lightning secure the Atlantic by the smallest of margins.

Metropolitan Division winner: Washington Capitals

Fresh off their incredible 2017-2018 season, the defending Stanley Cup Champs have enough weapons and depth to keep them atop the Metro Division for the 4th year in a row. What has stopped them the last three years? Captain Alex Ovechkin is 100% prepared to lead his high-powered team to another successful season, especially with a new coach, Todd Reirden, behind the bench for them.

Central Division winner: Winnipeg Jets

I said it once. I’ll say it again. The Jets are only getting better by year. They came very close to winning the division last year and came very close to heading to the Stanley Cup Final. Right now, no other team is standing in their way in the Central Division other than the team that beat them out last year: the Nashville Predators. Winnipeg can get it done this season.

Pacific Division winner: Edmonton Oilers

There. I said it. Bold, I know, but I believe Edmonton wins the Pacific Division. Despite a bulked up Vegas team and a bulked up San Jose team, Edmonton and their young core will win the division in a tight race. Centerman and captain Connor McDavid, winger Milan Lucic, defenseman Adam Larsson, and goalie Cam Talbot are an elite talent that pulls away from the pack just enough to win the Pacific Division crown.

Eastern Conference Champion: Tampa Bay Lightning

A brutal Eastern half of the playoff bracket results in the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisting up the Prince of Wales trophy for the 3rd time in franchise history. They shock the competition and move forward to the Stanley Cup Final, beating out teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Boston in the process.

Western Conference Champion: San Jose Sharks

Many teams in the Western side of the playoff bracket see powerhouses like Vegas, Winnipeg, and Nashville rip apart the smaller powers but in the end, it’s the heavily bolstered defense and the high-powered offense that hails in San Jose that lifts the Campbell Bowl for the second time in their history. The Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final and they smell blood in the water.

Alright, it’s the moment you’ve all waited for. Who is my pick to win Lord Stanley’s Cup? Let’s break it down. From the East, Tampa Bay and its high-powered offense, firing on all cylinders. The Bolts also have a rather sturdy wall of brick in their defense and a bigger brick wall in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Representing the West, San Jose. If you weren’t aware, the Sharks have one of, if not the, best defense in the league right now. Brett Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, and newly acquired Erik Karlsson lead a hungry defense. Not to mention Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, and the ringmaster Joe Pavelski leading the charge on offense. So, who comes out on top? In terms of goaltending, Vasilevskiy trumps Martin Jones in many categories. In terms of defense, the Sharks are just better at everything defensively. It comes down to two high powered offenses. At the end of seven brutal games in the Final, the San Jose Sharks finally get to drink from Lord Stanley’s flask for the first time in franchise history. Drink up, San Jose. You’ve earned it.

Stanley Cup Champions: San Jose Sharks