No, I’m not usually the hockey writer for N2K but I still love it. Probably my second favorite sport outside of baseball. It’s everything that people look for in a sport, fast paced and hard hitting. But for some reason it flies under the radar of many sports fanatics. Probably because of the lockouts during the last decade, but this season in the NHL has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. So without further ado, here are the seven things I’m looking forward to this season.
- Can The Blackhawks Continue Their Dominance? I don’t like the Blackhawks. I think their fans are fake fans because most of them can’t name three players on the team before they drafted Jonathan Toews. They beat my Bruins with an epic last minute comeback in game six a couple of years ago and I’m still salty about it. But there’s no denying they are the best team in the NHL. This team has a ridiculous amount of talent, veteran leadership and young guns who make up this dynasty. There’s no reason to think that this team can’t continue the dominance that they’ve had over the last six or seven years. With the questions of Patrick Kane (who I’ll get to a little bit later) and if Marian Hossa can continue to be a great player late into his thirties (potential HOF’er??), this team may take a tiny step back, but I still expect them to be there at the end.
2. Star Players On New Teams- Three guys come to mind when talking about this subject, Phil Kessel, Ryan O’Reilly and TJ Oshie. Starting with Kessel, this guy is one of the better goal scorers in the entire league. He played on some really bad Toronto teams but he still put up at least 30 goals in four out of his six seasons with the Leafs. But now he’s on to greener pastures in Pittsburgh, where he’ll play alongside a talented core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and David Perron, just to name a few. The Eastern Conference is wide open once again this year, and the Kessel move could put them over the top. Now to Ryan O’Reilly. From one young team to another, O’Reilly is only 24, but is already a veteran in the league. The trade from the Colorado Avalanche to the Buffalo Sabres will pay dividends as he can grow as this young core grows. He took a step back last year after scoring 28 goals in 2013-2014. If he can regain that 2013 form, this Sabres team could surprise some people. TJ Oshie goes from one playoff team to another, and his addition is huge for the Washington Capitals. His situation is similar to Kessel’s, as he’ll join Alexander Ovechkin, young guns such as Evegny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. To me, Washington is the second best team in the Eastern Conference, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.
3. The Rookie Class, More Specifically Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel- Both of these guys would have gone number one in any other draft ever. But McDavid went first to the Edmonton Oilers due to his comparisons to Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby, only a few of the greatest players to ever play. The hype and praise that he has gotten is deserved, as he casually put up 120 points in 47 games in the best junior league in the world. In the playoffs? Another 21 goals and 28 assists in just 20 games. Is that good? I love McDavid. He won’t be Gretzky but has the talent to be an all-time great. Oh,. and Steven Stamkos, who is the best goal scorer in the league, said McDavid is better than him RIGHT NOW! This kid hasn’t even played a game in the NHL yet and people are on the bandwagon, myself included. Jack Eichel is also an elite prospect and player. Drafted second overall to the Buffalo Sabres, Eichel won the Hobey Baker award as the best NCAA player as a freshman. The only other freshman to do that was Paul Kariya, who went on to have himself a great career. Eichel, from Chelmsford, Mass, dominated Hockey East last winter as he lit the lamp 26 time and dished out 46 assists in 40 games. Both of these players have the potential to be absolute studs in the NHL from day one.
4. What Is Going On In Boston? As I die hard Bruins fan, I can’t help but have many questions about this year. Was it a reload, or the beginning of a rebuild? This team has had a lot of changes in the front office and on the ice. Don Sweeney and his staff essentially butchered the draft. They had the 13th, 14th, and 15th picks and didn’t package them to move up in the draft and reached on all three picks. Not a good start. The Lucic trade was understandable, but they could have gotten more. The Dougie Hamilton trade was ridiculous as he was on the fast track to an elite defenseman. Patrice Bergeron is one of the few players on the team that doesn’t have any questions about him. The additions of Matt Beleskey, Zac Rinaldo and Jimmy Hayes are intriguing but the defense looks shaky, especially with Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara really getting up there in age. Tuukka Rask still doesn’t have a dependable backup and could lead the league in shots faced. David Pastrnak is younger than I am and looks like a star in the league (I clearly did something wrong). It’ll be an interesting year in Boston to say the least.
5. What’s Good With Patrick Kane? The greatest American player in recent memory has been in the news, not for his skill on the ice, but for a problem off of it. Kane is at the center of a rape charge and he has been mum about it since the story broke. Kane is undeniably talented and could have won the Hart Memorial Trophy last year if he stayed healthy. He was huge in the playoffs for the Blackhawks has been a good player his entire career. I think Kane is a little overrated, however. He’s only scored 30 goals once in his career and plays no defense whatsoever. There’s no doubting he’s an electric player with the puck on his stick but this year I want to see him play a complete game. Kane is also in a contract year and theres been speculation that he’ll leave Chicago and head to his hometown of Buffalo to join their young core. But I wouldn’t count on that to happen.
6. Steven Stamkos’ Contract Negotiations- Steven Stamkos has lit up the NHL since his rookie year in 2008. By the end of this year Stamkos will already have 300 goals. He’s arguably the best goal scorer in the league and outside of the year he broke his leg against Boston (I was at that game, it was horrible) he has been one of the faces of the league. But Stamkos is a free agent and Tampa Bay has a lot of young players who will also eventually need to be paid. Stamkos is in for a record deal but if he resigns with Tampa, but they may not be able to keep the core they have built around him. Another factor in his free agency is that Toronto is a viable destination for Stammer. He’s from the area and with the Kessel trade, Toronto has money to spend on him. Stamkos could turn that franchises’ fortunes around with a deal with the Leafs. Expect this story to be one of the bigger stories as we approach playoff time.