NHL Season Preview

NHL Season Preview

Brian Barr, Contributing Writer

The NHL’s new season is right around the corner, so we have to see who the top contenders are for the next Stanley Cup.  The top contender is the reigning back-to-back Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Lightning still have a very strong core with Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who posted 5 shutouts in the playoffs.  The next best contender is the Colorado Avalanche, coming off of a disappointing second round loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.  The Avalanche have a very good, young defensive core led by all-star Cale Makar.  

“The Avalanche have really built up over the last few years and they are in an incredible position to win the cup.” said 9th grader Ben Lumi.  

The third strongest contender is the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs have one of the best snipers in the league with Maurice “Rocket” Richard Winner Auston Matthews, who led the league with 41 goals in 52 games last season.  The next best contender is the Vegas Golden Knights, who have a very good goalie in Robin Lehner, and a very strong defensive forward in Captain Mark Stone.  The fifth best contender is the New York Islanders, who’s stingy defensive structure has led them to the Conference Championship in consecutive years.  The Islanders have one of the best defensive defenseman in Adam Pelech.  

 “I think that when all the chips are down, he’s a guy who can save the game when you need him to, and will hopefully bring them a championship.” said 9th grader Dylan Saunders.  

There are also a few teams ready to surprise people with a great season.  The first team is the New York Rangers, who are ready to fight it out in the Metropolitan division to get into the playoffs for the first time since they lost the conference semifinals in 2017.  The Rangers have a strong forward group led by Artemi Panarin.  They also have the 2020 number one overall pick in Alexis Lafrenière, and a good defense with Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.  

“The Rangers have a good young core and a veteran leadership and I believe next season will be a big season for them.” said 9th grader Jacob Green.  

Another team ready to be a surprise contender is the Chicago Blackhawks.  Last season the Blackhawks missed the playoffs by 9 points.  The Blackhawks have traded for Vezina Winner Marc-Andre Fleury, who will greatly improve their goaltending.  The Hawks also traded for and extended a number 1 defensemen in Seth Jones, who will help them become a stronger defensive team.  They will also get their Captain and first line center, Jonathan Toews, back after he missed the 2021 season due to illness.  

 “The Blackhawks are ready for a playoff run this season.” said 9th grader Paul Trombley.  

The new team in the league, the Seattle Kraken, will have a tough time making the playoffs and making a run at the Cup after they failed to do what their predecessor, the Vegas Golden Knights, did so well at, getting draft picks in exchange for taking unwanted contracts.  The Knights got 13 draft picks from side deals in the expansion draft, whereas the Kraken got 0.  The Golden Knights would later use those picks for players such as their current Captain, Mark Stone.  Without a lot of picks, the Kraken are going to struggle to get legitimate star power.  The Kraken do have an established goaltender in Philipp Grubauer.  

 “He’s a guy that’s proven over time that he can play at this level, an elite level.” said Kraken GM Ron Francis.  

Free agency this year had star defensemen Dougie Hamilton at the top of most teams lists, but the New Jersey Devils eventually signed Hamilton to a 7 year, 63 million dollar contract.   Hamilton has been a star defensemen for years and will help guide the Devils into contention.   

 “As a player and a person, he has consistently shown a commitment to excellence.” said Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald of Hamilton.  

The next big target was goaltender Philipp Grubauer who was a finalist in the Vezina trophy nominations, and eventually signed with the Seattle Kraken.  Grubauer will help the Kraken immensely in their first season.