2017-18 NHL Season Predictions

Story posted October 2, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Josh Starr

The 2017-2018 NHL season begins Wednesday, October 4. Here are my predictions for how each division will shape up:

Western Conference:

Central

1st Place: Minnesota Wild

Last season, Minnesota finished with the second-most goals and seventh-least goals allowed in the entire league. Devan Dubnyk returns in goal along with Ryan Suter on the back end, making Minnesota one of the top defensive teams in the league. Offensively, when Zach Parise is your fifth-leading goal scorer, you’re doing something right. For sure, they’ll be going wild in Minnesota this year.

2nd Place: Chicago Blackhawks

After trading Artemi Panarin to Columbus, there is a big hole to fill in this offense. With Panarin by his side, Patrick Kane had the two most productive seasons of his career, tallying 106 points two years ago and 89 last year. It will take time for Kane and his teammates to adjust to new linemates, but this team will still end up as a top 10 offense. With Corey Crawford in goal and Jonathan Toews leading the way, Chicago will finish near the top of the conference.

3rd Place: Nashville Predators

Coming off of a Stanley Cup Finals loss to Pittsburgh, the Preds will be hungry to get back to the Finals this year. Losing Ryan Ellis for the first five months of the regular season is a huge loss, but P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm will undoubtedly be able to fill the void. Last year, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson both contributed 31 goals. Along with the likes of Ryan Johansen and the active defensive corps, goals will be abundant in Nashville this year. The team lost their captain, Mike Fisher, due to retirement, but brought in experienced veteran leaders like Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino to fill that role.

Pacific

1st Place: Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid is one of the best in the game, posting 100 points and leading the league in scoring in just his second season.  With a supporting cast of Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Milan Lucic, the Oilers will continue to score goals this year. Cam Talbot is a stalwart between the pipes and can keep Edmonton in any game.

2nd Place: Anaheim Ducks

With Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry still going strong, the Ducks will remain near the top of the Pacific. With Ryan Kesler out until at least December, Anaheim’s defensive success will take a hit. With Rickard Rakell stepping in for Kesler, an excellent goaltender in John Gibson, and with Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler on defense, they should be able to escape catastrophe without Kesler.

3rd Place: San Jose Sharks

San Jose was a top five defense last season and with Martin Jones in goal and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the back end to halt opposing offenses, their defensive success will continue this year. Not to mention defenseman Brent Burns, who scored a career-high 76 points last year, and Joe Pavelski, who added 29 goals. Joe Thornton is back for another year and even with diminished production, Thornton is a crucial part of the locker room in San Jose.


Wild Card Teams

St. Louis Blues

Dallas Stars


Eastern Conference:

Atlantic

1st Place:  Toronto Maple Leafs

The youth movement was a success last year in Toronto. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander proved to be worth every bit of the hype. They took the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals to six games before succumbing. These young players will only get better from last year’s experience and will find themselves in the Atlantic’s driver’s seat.

2nd Place: Montréal Canadiens

It’s no secret that the Canadiens’ success is directly related to the health of netminder Carey Price. With a lack of depth up the middle, they acquired Jonathan Drouin from Tampa Bay in exchange for their top defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev. Drouin will help the offense in Montréal and as long as Carey Price stays healthy, the Habs will be a solid team.

3rd Place: Tampa Bay Lightning

Steven Stamkos is a top goal scorer and point producer in the league when healthy and he is ready to go for this season. With the departure of Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy has sole possession of the reigns in net for Tampa. He excelled splitting time with Bishop, posting .917 save percentage last year and being “the guy” in Tampa’s net will only give him more confidence going into this season.

Metropolitan

1st Place: Pittsburgh Penguins

After back to back Stanley Cup championships, the Penguins will be in the running for another this year. With the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, and one of the best young goaltenders in the league in Matt Murray, the Penguins are primed for another deep run. The depth of this roster is second to none and with Evgeni Malkin playing on the second line, the Pens are a matchup nightmare for opponents.

2nd Place: Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin will continue to score goals and along with players like Nick Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and TJ Oshie will lead the Caps to be a top three offense just like a year ago. Braden Holtby will continue to be a force between the pipes in D.C. and with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik on the blue line, it will be difficult for opponents to score goals against the Capitals.

3rd Place: Columbus Blue Jackets

After acquiring Artemi Panarin from the Blackhawks, the Jackets will improve upon their already lethal offense. Cam Atkinson scored 35 times last year and Nick Foligno added another 26. On the blue line, Zach Werenski will look to build upon his fantastic rookie season in which he posted 47 points and with Seth Jones having another year of experience, the defense will be even better. Sergei Bobrovsky will be fantastic in goal and Columbus will have another stellar season.

Wild Card Teams:

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Stanley Cup Prediction:

Ducks defeat Penguins

 

Josh Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email joshlstarr16@gmail.com.