With the NHL season kicking off on Wednesday the sports world is finally at its peak again. The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NCAAF are all playing and the NBA is not stealing all the talking points on ESPN, but that’s a topic for a different day.
We all know what teams are usually good, Blackhawks, Kings, Capitals, and Penguins, but there is about to be a major shift in hockey supremacy in the next few years, I can guarantee it. But what 5 teams might we see getting better? Well I have a list of 5 teams I want everyone to watch out for this year, and all the years to follow because they have some interesting talent to recon with.
5. Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel is sidelined with an ankle injury to start the season, but he was very productive last season and I expect him to take even more strides forward this year assuming he can stay healthy. Some key acquisitions made this offseason were Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov, I see them having immediate impacts on this team. Evander Kane and I have this unspoken beef because I hate him and I think he is wasting his talent by acting like a punk. If Kane can adjust his attitude the sky could be the limit for this kid. Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, and Tyler Ennis all have great upside as well. I don’t think Buffalo is a playoff team just yet due to the lack of defense and goaltending, but the offense has potential to be lethal and I think they will be a fun team to watch.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, Auston Matthews, Auston Matthews, and hmmmm Auston Matthews. That’s 4 times you read that because that’s how many goals he had in his NHL debut. The Leafs won the lottery with Matthews and he is going to lead this team back to the playoffs soon. Leo Komarov, Willie Nylander, and Nazem Kadri are his help on this squad. I see so much star potential in Nylander, I can easily see him and Matthews being a Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane soon. Love Toronto claiming Seth Griffith off waivers from my Bruins, good work Don, really loved that move.
3. Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau resigned for 6 years and even more importantly, maybe, they signed Brian Elliot in the offseason to solidify their goaltending. I think Calgary is going to turn it around fast and squeak out 3rd place in the Pacific this season and get back into the playoffs. TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton is a great unit on the back end. Sean Monahan is another young talent that I look for to make a leap this year and help carry the Flames to a great season. The youth of this team is amazing, because they all have so much experience as well, Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland are two other players to keep our eyes on as the Flames make a run at the playoffs.
2. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid finally has his own team. The Oilers named him the captain and they shipped out two form number 1 overall picks this offseason in Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov. This means the Oilers now only have two former number 1 overall picks in McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But the Oilers got better this offseason by adding defenseman Adam Larsson in the Taylor Hall trade, and signing free agent Milan Lucic. I think Lucic and McDavid and be an incredible duo in the NHL, as Lucic has experience playing with fast skaters and scorers like David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Jordan Eberle needs to be great for this team to thrive. Edmonton cannot rely solely on McDavid to bring them to the top, but he sure will try. Leon Draisaitl is another name to watch as Edmonton will finally start to claw its way out of the gutter this season and be playing meaningful games come February.
1. Nashville Predators: The Nashville Predators are going to win the Stanley Cup in 2017. Who wouldn’t love to see that anyways? The Predators have never even made it to a conference final, but this is their year. Trading for PK Subban in the offseason was a massive move and a great one for the Preds. They also appointed Mike Fisher as captain and he has exceptional leadership qualities. The defense on this team is deep and loaded with offensive talent. Of course, Subban, but Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Anthony Bitetto, Mattias Ekholm, and Yannick Weber make up what I believe to be the best defensive unit in the league. Oh and Pekka Rinne is still the goalie down in honky tonk, so watch out. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, James Neal, and on and on this team is incredibly deep, which is why I have them as the number 1 team to watch this season and the future Stanley Cup Champions.