NHL 2020-21 Season Preview

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After a quick offseason, the NHL is returning to play on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Let’s ring in the new season by taking a look at which are destined to be in the playoffs at season’s end.

East Division:

1. Boston Bruins

After the league realignment, the Bruins have switched into what used to be the metropolitan division. The Bruins are led by star wingers David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, along with center Patrice Begeron. They play solid defense led by rising star Charlie McAvoy and have excellent goaltending in Tuuka Rask.

The Bruins should be a force to be reckoned with this season.

2. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers had a disappointing end to the season, losing to the Islanders in seven games in the second round. However,  Philadelphia plays a solid team game, led by Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny.
The Flyers also have one of the best young goalies in Carter Hart, who will be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy.

3. Washington Capitals

The Capitals looked lost in the first round against the Islanders, which saw them lose in five games. However, Washington has a brand new head coach in Peter Lavoilete, who is capable of getting things back on track.

The Capitals also have one of the best players in the game in Alex Ovechkin and a great supporting cast including John Carlson and Nick Backstrom.

4. New York Islanders

The Islanders aren't flashy, but they still win. New York plays stout defense, led by stars Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.

The offense is carried by superstar Mat Barzal, who is one of the most electric players in the league. The Islanders will try to get back to the conference finals again this season. 


Central Division:

1. Tampa Bay Lightning 

The Lightning are the reigning champions, but have some questions entering the season. Superstar Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire season after undergoing hip surgery and Steven Stamkos has not been healthy the past few seasons.

Despite their injuries, the Lightning are still loaded with guys such as Bayden Point, Victor Headman and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are a team on the rise, despite losing in the first round last season to the Bruins. The team is led by young stars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov as well as star defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

If the team can get solid goaltending, they will do well this season.

3. Dallas Stars

The Stars fell just short of winning the Cup last season, losing to the Lightning in six games. The team is getting older, so its opportunity to win the cup is slowly diminishing.

However the Stars still have some fire power led by Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Bluejackets made headlines in the offseason when they traded for Max Domi from the Canadiens. Domi will pair with Pierre Luc Dubois to give the team some scoring.

The team’s defense is stout and is led by Zach Werenski and Seth Jones.

West Division:

1. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are going to take the league by storm this year. The team’s first line is dominant featuring Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Lendeskog. The defense is led by young star Cale Makar and Samuel Girard.

Colorado has also bolstered its defense, acquiring Devon Toews from the Islanders.

2. Las Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights landed the big fish when they signed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo this off season. Pietrangelo will pair with Shea Theodore to form one of the best defensive lines in the league.

The offense is led by Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. Las Vegas has elite goaltending in Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.

3. St. Louis Blues

Speaking of Alex Pietrangelo, his former team, the Blues signed former Bruin and star defensemen Torey Krug to fill the void that was left behind.

The Blues also signed forward Mike Hoffman to help score goals due to star forward Vladimir Tarasenko missing a lot of the season due to injury. Goalie Jordan Binnington will have to continue to play well for the blues to go far this season.

4. Minnesota Wild

The Wild are an interesting team, as they have a lot of veterans such as Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello. Rising star Kevin Fiala will look to improve following a breakout season.

North Division:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are one of the most talented teams in the league, however, never seem to find postseason success. In the offseason, they added Joe Thornton, Jimmy Vesey and T.J Brodie to the group of stars they already have in Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly.

Tavares will look to have a big season, as there has been much pressure on him after spurning the Islanders to join the Leafs.

2. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are a young team on the rise, led by superstars Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes. In the offseason, they signed goalie Braden Holtby to create a two headed monster with young star Thatcher Demko.

The Canucks look like a team who will be dominant this season.

3. Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisital are two of the five best players in the league and they play on the same team. Both McDavid and Draisital will put up great numbers; it's the surrounding pieces such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kyle Turris who will need to step up.

On the defensive end, Oscar Klefbom and Tyson Barrie will need to play well.

4. Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens will sneak into the playoffs due to Carey Price. Price is one of the best goalies in the league and he will put the team on his back. Young stars Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will need to step up as well as veterans Shea Weber, Brenden Gallagher and Phillip Danault.

Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at afr5646@psu.edu.