Many fans tune in to watch as NHL season starts up

Zach Gitlin, Staff Writer

As the 2018-2019 NHL season was set to begin on Oct. 3rd, all eyes were set on Alexander Ovechkin and the defending champion Washington Capitals. After an incredible postseason run in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals were looking to jump out to a hot and fast start this year. Unfortunately for Washington, their 2018-19 campaign has not gotten off to the hot start they were expecting, as they currently sit at a record of 7-6-3, which places them third in the Metropolitan Division. However, there have been a multitude of teams and players who have stood out to start the year and have jumped to the front of the pack as early Stanley Cup Champion and Most Valuable Player candidates, which is known as the Hart Memorial Trophy in the NHL.

At the start of the year, a heavy favorite to win the Stanley Cup was the Capitals. Understandably, they deserved the recognition after the incredible 2017-18 season that landed them the championship. Yet this year, a new Eastern Conference team has jumped to the front of the pack: the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have always represented a strong franchise, consistently making the playoffs and reaching the Cup Final in 2015. This year, the mood in Tampa is a bit different, and the team has looked excellent out of the gates. So far, the Lightning sit at first place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 12-4-1 and a total of 25 points. The only team that holds a better record in the entire league are the Nashville Predators, who have a record of 13-3-0. However, many people around the league believe that Tampa will be able to edge it out come June. 

“Tampa will win because they have they’re the only team with elite forwards, defenseman, and goalies,” said junior Nate Clateman. 

As for those skill players, Tampa’s forwards are led by All Star Nikita Kucherov, who already has seven goals, 18 points, and a +/- differential of +3. Those statistics have pushed the Tampa forwards to the top of the league, who are also led by Tyler Johnson with six goals, just one short of Kucherov. 

As for Tampa’s defensemen, they are led by former New York Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh. While he only has one goal, as a defenseman he is not expected to have a massive number of goals. Yet, McDonagh already has 11 assists, giving him 12 points and a +/- differential of +12. 

Tampa’s net minder Andrei Vasilevskiy is really who sets the team apart. He already has one shutout performance and a strong save percentage of around .93. Tampa will be a team to keep an eye on throughout the season as they boast a strong chance to go on a playoff run.

The Hart Trophy MVP race will definitely be one to keep an eye on, as there are multiple players emerging early as blue chip candidates.

 “Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, and Blake Wheeler are my candidates for MVP,” said Clateman.

Those top three players will make a strong case for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Nathan Mackinnon is a young forward on the Colorado Avalanche at only 23 years of age. He has come into the early mark of the season with 24 points. Even better, he already has 11 goals and a +/- of six. MacKinnon will look to make a large impact for the Avalanche, as well as the race for MVP. 

Additionally, David Pastrnak will be a solid candidate as well, playing an excellent season for the Bruins,  already with 23 points at just 22 years old. He also already has 17 goals, along with a +/- of +5. 

Finally, one of the last top MVP candidates is Blake Wheeler, who is a bit earlier than the aforementioned candidates at 32 years old. However, Wheeler, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets, has had a great season with 23 points. While he only has three goals, Wheeler’s 20 assists are definitely something to keep an eye on. The Hart Trophy race will be tight and important to keep an eye on down the stretch of the 2018-19 campaign.

One of the last races to keep an eye on is for Rookie of the Year, which already appears to be one sided. 

“Rookie of the Year is easily Elias Pettersson,” said Clateman. 

This is likely true, as Pettersson has already made a mark on the league. Turning 20 years old on Nov. 12, he already has 17 points. With ten goals, seven assists, and a +/- of +7, the center is looking to take home the Rookie honors. While it is still early, Pettersson appears head and shoulders above the rest. Still, it is early and new candidates for the award may emerge later in the season.

Throughout the 2018-19 season, there will be a multitude of things to keep an eye on. How will the Capitals bounce back from their slow start? Are the Lighting for real? Who will take home the Hart Trophy? And will Elias Pettersson keep his lead in the Rookie of the Year race through May? It will all be interesting to see, and fans will be tuning in for an excellent show.