A WAY Too Early Playoff Projection – 2017-2018

To be honest, I’m just bored waiting for hockey season to finally start again. What better way to pass the time than making longshot projections. There should be a few changes to who makes the playoffs this upcoming season, let’s see how close I can get to what really happens this season.

Eastern Conference

Let’s start with how I see the Eastern Conference playing out. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order, and a quick hit on why:

Returning Teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins – The defending Champs are a lock to be near the top of the standings again. There are some people predicting a three-peat, which I think is a bit of a stretch, but they should be in contention at the very least.

Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price will have his work cut-out for him again this year, as the blueline takes a big hit in my opinion. They added some much needed scoring with Drouin, but still didn’t fix for me to consider them a contender for the Cup at this point. They should still make the postseason, but likely another early exit.

Washington Capitals – The Caps are poised to take a step-back this year, but not far enough to drop them out of the playoffs. Ovechkin is still a goal scoring force, but has slowed in recent years. Can Kuznetsov take that next step? Is Oshie really as good as he was last year? They also lost both Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt this offseason on the backend, but with Braden Holtby arguably the best goalie in the past two seasons, they should be fine.

Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs took a major step forward, with big seasons from their rookies, and great seasons from their veterans. They upgraded on forward this year adding Patrick Marleau, and you can definitely put Ron Hainsey as an upgrade over both Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak. They added some size to the backend in Hainsey, something they lacked big time this past season. They should compete for a top spot in the East this year.

Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets had a better year than most expected, and they’ll likely take a step-back this year. They traded Brandon Saad and brought in Artemi Panarin, which is an upgrade in scoring for them. They’re still a young team, but should find a way to make the playoffs.

Boston Bruins – The Bruins, in my opinion, are a bubble team. Their defense corps is weaker than it’s been in years, and while they still have Rask to man the crease, and the likes of Marchand and Bergeron up front, they’ll be in a battle all year to make the playoffs.

Teams Jumping In:

Tampa Bay Lightning – No one would have predicted Tampa to miss the playoffs last year, but with the amount of injuries they suffered, it wasn’t a surprise. The two question marks going into this season for Tampa are the health of Stamkos, and is Vasilevksiy truly a number 1 netminder. They’re built deeper than almost any other team in the East, and should find their way back into the playoffs this year.

Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes are built deeper on the blueline than maybe every other team, save maybe Nashville. They have a good group of young forwards, and should continue to improve next year. The biggest question for Carolina is goaltending, and while the acquisition of Scott Darling helps, is it enough? Time will tell.

Falling Out:

Ottawa Senators – For Sens fans, they’ll argue “We were one game away from the Cup finals last year!”, but that was a big over-achievement for the Sens. They lost Methot on the backend, and while rookie Thomas Chabot should see a lot of ice time, they don’t have a deep enough group on the backend to push their way back into the playoffs. Up front, they lack goal scoring more than most teams going into next season. They’ll be on the bubble, but likely on the outside looking in.

New York Rangers – I picked the Rangers to fall out of the playoffs last year, and they ended up winning their first round matchup against Montreal. Signing Shattenkirk will help, but losing Stepan down the middle will also hurt. I think it’s about time King Hank starts to show decline, and if that does happen, the Rangers are screwed.

Western Conference

Not as much movement in the West, a lot of teams remain strong, while some didn’t do enough to change their fortunes. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order:

Retuning Teams:

Chicago Blackhawks – The Hawks are a perennial powerhouse, and should continue to make the playoffs. Losing Hjalmarsson will hurt them defensively, and they’re likely to drop down the standings a bit. They added good depth scoring in Patrick Sharp, while shipping out Kane’s bestfriend and linemate Panarin to bring Brandon Saad back in. Losing Hossa for the season will hurt them as well, but not enough to make them fall out of the playoffs.

Nashville Predators – Last year’s runner-ups are almost as sure of a pick as any team at this point, stacked with the best blueline in the NHL. Adding Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino up front helps improve their depth scoring as well. Nashville will continue to be one of the better rounded teams in the NHL today.

Minnesota Wild – The Wild had a big season from Eric Staal and Mikael Grandlund, as well as another good season from Devan Dubnyk. They added Marcus Foligno, which improves their bottom 6 forward group, and should have a full season from Eriksson-Ek, which is a big bonus. The Wild should be a lock to make it again next year.

San Jose Sharks – The Sharks were a toss-up for me this year. They lost Marleau and his 27 goals, which I think impacts them more than they think it will. How much does Jumbo have left in the tank? Can he still be the number 1 centre they need? We shall see, but they’re a team I’d keep an eye on early in the season.

St. Louis Blues – The Blues made some good additions this offseason, adding Brayden Schenn into their top six, as well as Beau Bennett as a good depth addition. Jake Allen proved he can be the goalie they need, and their blueline didn’t look any less formidable after removing Shattenkirk at the deadline. The Blues have a good shot at coming out of the West.

Edmonton Oilers – McDavid will continue to carry this team forward, backed-up by the likes of Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot. This team still is not deep enough to make a serious run, and their blueline isn’t built like a champion by any means. If McDavid happens to get injured for a long period of time, I can’t see this team making the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks have a great blueline, and still have a decent forward corps. The question mark for them resides in goal, as Gibson has never been able to stay healthy. They brought in Ryan Miller, but he’s nothing more than a backup at this point in his career. They should still be able to push their way in, but it will be a battle.

 Teams Jumping In:

Dallas Stars – Losing Patrick Sharp doesn’t help Dallas, but adding in Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot, Alexander Radulov and most of all Ben Bishop pushed them further up the standings than anyone else going into next season. Their top-9 forward group is great, and adding in Methot gives them more stability on the backend as well. Look for the Stars to be one of the better teams this year in the West.

 Falling Out:

Calgary Flames – Mike Smith is hardly an upgrade in goal, which was a big issue for the Flames for most of last year. They’re still not good enough up front to be considered a lock for the playoffs, but they did upgrade their backend with Travis Hamonic. Adding someone like Jaromir Jagr would help their biggest need, so if they can add some additional scoring, they could make the push.


There are a few bubble teams in each Conference that could push their way into the playoff picture and should be in the fight to the bitter end. In the East I could see Buffalo, both New York teams, and even Philadelphia making a push. In the West, there are less teams I can see genuinely making an impact. Winnipeg could improve enough to stay in the hunt all year, but past them, other than Calgary I don’t see any other team with a legitimate shot at making a big enough impact.


Drafting Skills: San Jose Sharks

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

San Jose Sharks

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to Minnesota in the package that sent out Charlie Coyle, but brought in Brent Burns. HUGE win for the Sharks. Burns has been a force for the Sharks in recent years. The pick they gave up turned into Zack Phillips who has been a big bust for the Wild, as he hasn’t played an NHL game and spent this season in the Swedish Elite league.

Round 2 – Matthew Nieto (LW) 47th overall – Nieto was put on waivers this season after struggling to adapt to the NHL game, and with the Sharks having already a solid group of forwards. He was claimed by the Avalanche and will receive a shot there, with Colorado being the weakest team in the NHL this season. That being said, Nieto only managed 11 points in 43 games after being claimed. Not what the Sharks were hoping for out of this pick.

Round 3 – Justin Sefton (D) 89th overall –  Sefton is definitely a bust, as he played the last three years in the OUAA, after only ever suiting up for 2 ECHL games.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Tomas Hertl (C) 17th overall – Hertl has shown flashes of brilliance early in his career, but struggles to find consistency. He was injured most of the year, and managed only 22 points in 49 games. Not what you’re hoping for from a top 20 pick. There have been plenty of players taken after Hertl that have performed better for their clubs. He’s gotten plenty of time with some of the games top players as well, with one of the best playmakers ever in Joe Thornton. He’s still only 23, and is by no means a bust, but the Sharks were likely hoping for more from him thus far.

Round 2 – Chris Tierney (C) 55th overall – Tierney made the jump to the NHL fairly quickly, playing half of the season in 2014-2015. He’s played a solid bottom-6 role for San Jose, and has played it well. As a centre, he’s had the unfortunate luck of being behind Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and others in the Sharks lineup all this years, limiting him mostly to 4th line duty. He has performed well in that role, and should get more ice-time in the next couple of years. He scored 89 points in his last OHL season, so he does have a scoring knack that he could potentially unlock at the NHL level.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to the Panthers in a group of picks that gave them their second round selection in 2011 (Nieto). The pick then moved onto the Flyers, who took Shayne Gostisbehere with this pick. Gostisbehere made his breakout in the NHL last year, putting up 46 points in only 64 games. It’s fun to imagine what he’d be like playing the PP with Burns.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Mirco Mueller (D) 18th overall – Not a great pick here by the Sharks. Mueller never scored more than 31 points in his 2 years in the WHL, and only has 6 points in 54 NHL games. Being a d-man is not all about points, however he hasn’t impressed all that much at the AHL level either. He finished the year a -3, and only suited up in 4 NHL games. Tough to see Mueller ever being an impact player at the NHL, unlike fellow d-man Shea Theodore who was taken 8 picks later and looks like he will develop into a top-4 defender in the next year or two.

Round 2 – Gabryel Boudreau (LW) 49th overall – Another bust for the Sharks. Boudreau is currently playing in the OUAA (Ontario University Athletic Association), after only appearing in 12 ECHL games.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to the Red Wings, as a package of their 1st round in this draft to move up two spots to take Mueller. The Wings took Tyler Bertuzzi with this pick, who has grown quite a bit since being drafted and had a great year in the AHL this year. The Wings also took Mantha with the Sharks pick in the 1st round, so this is tough to swallow for the Sharks.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Nikolay Goldobin (LW) – 27th overall – Goldobin was traded this year to Vancouver to bring in Jannik Hansen. Goldobin has shown big flashes of offensive brilliance early in his career, both in junior and at the AHL level. In his first two seasons in the AHL he put up 85 points in 106 games. He’ll have plenty of shot at making the big club in Vancouver next year, as they look to again be one of the weaker teams in the league. Hansen only scored 2 goals in the 15 games he played for San Jose, before only adding 1 assist in 6 playoff games. This was not what the Sharks were hoping for when bringing him in, as they ultimately fell to the Oilers in round 1.

Round 2 – Julius Bergman (D) – 46th overall – Bergman just finished off his second full season in the AHL. He finished with 30 points in 64 games, which is good for a young d-man. He also added 7 assists in 10 playoff games. There will some room on the blueline in the next few years for San Jose, and if Bergman continues to progress he could be a solid addition. He’ll need to work on his defensive zone play, but seems to be figuring out the offensive side early on in his career.

Round 2 – Noah Rod (F) 53rd overall – Rod played this year again in the Swiss-A league, adding 14 points in 27 games. He doesn’t appear to be a future NHL player, as he only played in 2 AHL games before going back to Switzerland. Ideally, he would stay in North America and get used to the game, but if he can’t stick here now, I’m not sure he ever will.

Round 3 – Alex Schoenborn (RW) 72nd overall – Here is another pick that looks like it will miss for the Sharks. Shoenborn played parts of this season in the AHL, but finished in the ECHL. He only managed 4 points in 29 AHL games, and 2 in 6 ECHL games. Hard to imagine the 21 year old improving enough to make the NHL at this point.

Round 3 – Dylan Sadowy (LW) 81st overall – He was traded to Detroit last offseason for a 3rd round pick in the 2017 draft. Sadowy is another pick who played parts of this season in the AHL and ECHL, with 6 points in 38 AHL games and 4 in 6 ECHL games. Sadowy produced well in junior, scoring 36 points in 28 games in his final season, however pro hockey is a different beast.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Timo Meier (RW) 9th overall – Meier played games both at the NHL and AHL level this season, finishing the year with the big club. He only managed 6 points in 34 NHL games, but he possesses a high skill level that should see him excel in the future. He was picked right before Mikko Rantanen, who managed 20 goals this season in his first full year. There’s no doubt Meier is capable of that as well, especially surrounded by the skill he is on San Jose.

Round 2 – Jeremy Roy (D) 31st overall – Roy only played in 10 QMJHL games this season before being injured. He scored 34 points in 45 games in his previous year, after putting up 40+ in the previous two seasons. He has all the tools of a good offensive defenseman, but will need work in his own end before making the jump. He’ll likely start next season in the AHL, which will give him plenty of time to grow his game. He is likely a future NHL player, once he can round out his defensive game.

Round 3 – Mike Robinson (G) 86th overall – It’s always hard to judge goalies this early on. Robinson had good numbers this year in the North American Hockey League, with a SV% of 0.916 and a GAA of 2.99. He’ll likely need a few more years of development before we can truly see what there is here.


Overall, there hasn’t been any ‘WOW’ picks by the Sharks. They’ve missed on a lot of their middle rounders. They’re starting to get a little old, with the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau likely on their last legs. They’ll need to improve on their drafting in the next couple of years in hopes of maintaining their standings positions.

2017 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Round 1

Cup 2017

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 1 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto snuck into the playoffs in the second last game of the season and are set to take on Goliath. Can they play the role of David? I don’t think so. Washington is battle tested and hungry. Many have picked them to win the Cup in the past few seasons and they always seem to falter on the big stage. Will this be their year? They have possible the strongest team they’ve had yet. They will be too much to handle for the Leafs d-core, which is the weakest of all 16 playoff teams. I believe Toronto will steal at least one game, especially if they have a healthy Frederik Andersen. Auston Matthews and co will do their best to play the role of spoilers, and stranger things have happened. If Andersen gets hot, Toronto has a powerful offense, which has made up for their weak d-core most of the season.

Series Result: Capitals in 5 games

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

Boston comes into the playoffs playing extremely good hockey. Ottawa limps into the playoffs. Is that enough to decide the series? No, but Ottawa will be in serious trouble with the red-hot Bruins. The big/mean Bruins will be handful for the Senators, who have been dealing with multiple injuries on their backend over the past couple of weeks. The big matchup to watch will be Patrice Bergeron and Erik Karlsson. Only 3 other defensemen log more minutes than Karlsson, and surely Bergeron can’t play upwards of 26 minutes each game. If Karlsson is healthy, he could be the deciding factor in this series. I still think the Bruins will be too much for Ottawa to handle.

Series Result:  Bruins in 6 games

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers

This was a tough one for me to pick ending so early, as the Rangers have been a powerhouse on the road this year. That being said, Montreal has been the better team all year. Carey Price has been playing well, and looks to carry the team again. Radulov has provided some extra offense for the Habs, and even with the Rangers high-powered offense they have to be considered heavy favourites. King Hank has been struggling lately to say the least. In his 6 starts since coming back from injury, he’s gone 1-3-2 with a combined SV% of just 0.886. They’ll need Lundqvist to be a lot better than that if they hope to win this series.

Series Result: Canadiens in 6

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

There aren’t many players who get under Sidney Crosby’s skin more than Brandon Dubinsky, and you better believe he’ll be a thorn in Crosby’s side all series. The Jackets surprised everyone this season, they were a bubble team for a lot of people, and ended up 4th in the entire league in points. They draw the unfortunate luck of playing the defending champs in the first round. Crosby looks to have taken his game to another level this year, which looks like disaster for Columbus. I feel their luck will run out early in the first round.

Series Result: Penguins in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

A lot of people are picking the Hawks to win the Cup, or at the very least come out of the West. They draw a tough matchup in the Nashville Predators in round 1. This is one series that could change the entire results of the playoffs. Chicago has that winning pedigree, and stars like Kane and Toews who live for these big game moments. Nashville doesn’t have nearly the star power up front, but they sure do on D. PK Subban, Roman Josi , and company will look to shut down the Hawks top 2 lines, and hope to get continued goal scoring from Filip Forsberg. Can they upset Chicago? Absolutely.

Series Result: Predators in 7

(2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues

I’ve picked the Blues in each of the past 2 seasons to win the Cup, and have come up empty. I truly believe this team has what it takes to make a run. They have a tough test in the first round in the Minnesota Wild. Many view the Wild as a defensive team, however only the Penguins scored more goals than the Wild in the regular season. Couple that with the likes of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and friends on D, and Devan Dubnyk in net? This is a Stanley Cup team if there is one. They are built with both veterans and youngsters. They are built deep. The Blues have a great team themselves, led by one of the best pure goal scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko, and they will give the Wild a tough fight – I just don’t think it will be enough.

Series Result: Wild in 7

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

Another interesting matchup, with the younger Flames taking on the seasoned Ducks. Both have great goaltending, which neither can really take the advantage from. The Flames have struggled at times this year, while Anaheim has remained consistent, despite injuries to John Gibson. They’re battle-tested in the playoffs, whereas the majority of the Flames core are not as experienced. They matchup well in terms of offense, but the Ducks have one of the deepest d-cores in the league today. They will have their hands full with Johnny Hockey, but I like their chances of shutting down the Flames big line.

Series Result:  Ducks in 6

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks

Connor McDavid is arguably the best (second in my opinion) player in the world today. That being said, he hasn’t yet experienced playoff hockey at this level. His first matchup will likely be dealing with the brute that is Brent Burns. He’ll have his moments, but Burns has shut-down the best of them. He is a beast, and will impose his will as he pleases. The Sharks are hungry to avenge their Stanley Cup loss last season, and the team is too experienced to get bounced in round 1. The Oilers have some toughness of their own in Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon to name a couple, but they aren’t deep enough to fully challenge the Sharks. This will be a good experience for the young Oilers, but the Sharks are the favourite here in my eyes.

Series Result: Sharks in 6 games

Trade Candidates – Dec ’16

December has just come to a close, and while we’re only a little over a third of the way through the season, it’s becoming more evident who will likely be sellers come the deadline at the end of February. Here is my take on the top 10 players who appear like they could be on the move:

10) Sedin Twins – eventually, one would hope the Canucks realize they’re not built like a playoff team, and accept the rebuild. This would require moving the Twins. This will be quite difficult, as they have another year left after this at a high cap hit. If they wish to stay together, that will only make things more difficult. 

Where to?:  Minnesota, Nashville, Montreal

9)  Jaromir Jagr –  Jagr is not likely to move, as Florida still hopes to make the playoffs, and he enjoys playing there. However, if Florida continues to struggle, I’m sure teams will come calling. 

Where to?: Montreal, San José, Dallas

8) Ryan Miller – Miller still plays at a high level, and can be that extra factor to push a team over the top. Can we see him on the move again near the deadline? All depends again on the Canucks willingness to accept the rebuild. He can help many teams who could use a better 1-2 punch. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles

7) Radom Vrbata – Enjoying a bounce back year, Vrbata can provide secondary scoring at a very low cap hit. He should have many interested suitors the closer we get to the deadline, and Arizona again far away from a playoff spot. 

Where to?: San José, Chicago, NY Rangers

6) James Van Riemsdyk – Big, skilled wingers are hard to come by. Soft hands down low, and with a cheap cap hit for this year and next make him a highly valuable target. Lots of rumours that the Leafs are willing to move him. 

Where to?: Rangers, Minnesota, Nashville

5) Thomas Vanek – Another winger singed out of camp that is having a bounce back year. Vanek, much like Vrbata, can help provide a secondary scoring punch to a team in need. 

Where to?: NY Rangers, San José, St. Louis

4) Jarome Iginla – Iginla is surely towards the end of his career, time to give it another shot at a Cup. That won’t be happening in Colorado. 

Where to?: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal

3) Dennis Seidenberg – Here’s a guy who almost had no place to play this year if it wasn’t for a strong showing at the World Cup. He’s having a decent season on a lackluster team. He’s cheap, and can improve almost any current D-core. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

2) Dmitry Kulikov – Teams looking to add on defense will likely have a hard time finding players available. Kulikov could be one of the few names floating around the market. He can add depth to a team in need. 

Where to?: Dallas, Edmonton, NY Rangers

1) Ben Bishop – many would have predicted Tampa move Bishop this past offseason, but with the expansion draft looming closer and closer, it would make most sense to move Bishop at the deadline for a piece that could push Tampa over the top as they push for Cup. 

Where to?: Buffalo, Vancouver, Colorado

Team Rankings – Oct ’16

My current take on the first month of the 16-17 NHL season, power rankings style:

1) Montreal Canadiens – Does this start ring a bell to anyone? Montreal off to another great start this year, but we all know what happened last time around. Keeping in mind, with a healthy Carey Price they will most certainly help them continue this trend, they’re also sitting near the top of the league (tied 4th) in goals for with 31. Price has already missed time this year, however back-up Al Montoya has looked like he will be reliable. Shea Weber has done his job to silence any critics of the summer blockbuster that brought him to town putting up 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games, along with a team-best +12.

Trending – Even

2) Pittsburgh Penguins –  The defending Cup champions haven’t missed much of a beat, even without their captain to start the season. Having Crosby back in the lineup (4 goals in 3 games so far) has been a big boost for Penguins, as they’ve also recently gotten young goalie Matt Murray back into the lineup. Their in a much better start at this point in the season than they were last year. Barring any big injuries, the Penguins have a strong chance to have a great season.

Trending – Even

3) Minnesota Wild – For myself, this is the biggest shock so far of the 2016-2017 season. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk can claim much of the credit for this on his own, as he posted 3 consecutive shutouts at the end of October. Minnesota’s best acquisition of the off-season was bringing in new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who could be the most underrated coach in all of the NHL. Boudreau has changed Minnesota’s style of play, and so far it appears to be paying huge returns. Can they keep it up? I personally didn’t expect them to be 3rd in NHL points by the end of October, but now I’m beginning to wonder how wrong I actually was about this team.

Trending – Up

4) Edmonton Oilers –  Similar to the Canadiens, this has a lot to do with their star player being healthy. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player on the planet already in only his second season. The things he can do at such a high rate of speed is incredible to watch. Milan Lucic appears to be a fit on his line, and the Oilers are showing both improved D and goaltending. This should be the year they finally find themselves in the playoff picture.

Trending – Even

5) Tampa Bay Lightning – This team is built to win a championship – now. They’re running out of time, as they will lose a couple key pieces to both the expansion draft, and to the salary cap in the next year – despite Steve Yzerman’s wizardry with re-signing star players. Ben Bishop hasn’t been playing like his old self, but could be on the move sooner rather than later with other teams suffering key injuries to goalies. Future goaltender Vasilevskiy has looked great in 3 starts (2.05 GAA, 0.929 SV%). They lost their last 3 games in October after winning 4 of their first 5, so they will look to bounce back before in November.

Trending – Down.

6) Chicago Blackhawks – Off to a 5-3-1 start, the Blackhawks are once again near the top of the Western Conference standings. Richard Panik has been the biggest surprise in the early going, with 9 points in 9 games. It seems Chicago has a way of just FINDING players that can help them score. Panik had been bounced around before landing in Chicago, so one has to believe it won’t last. But then again, it’s Chicago…

Trending – Up

7) NY Rangers – Jimmy Vesey has looked great so far for the Rangers, living up to expectations that he set by opting out and signing with the Rangers this summer. Chris Kreider is enjoying a good year so far, despite missing a few games due to injury. Mika Zibanejad has looked stellar early on. All has been going well so far for the Rangers. Can it keep up? It’s still very early, but they’ve looked like a complete team.

Trending – Even.

8) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have looked pretty good so far this season, posting a 6-3-0 record. Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are up to their usual thing, and Tomas Hertl has looked great early on. With not many years left for Jumbo Joe, you have to think the mind-set in San Jose is win now. They’ll have to add some scoring depth mid-season, but they boast a strong lineup night-in and night-out.

Trending – Up

9) St. Louis Blues – Jaden Schwartz started the year on the IR, Jori Lethera has missed time, but overall the St. Louis Blues have been hit or miss depending on the night. Some nights they look elite, others they haven’t. They managed a great record in October (5-2-2), and they’re hoping they can build off of that going into November. The better they start, the better off they’ll be playing in the tough Western Conference.

Trending – Even

10) Washington Capitals – The Caps have gotten off to a slower start this season, after dominating for much of the regular season last year. Part of the struggle has been scoring goals. Ovechkin has only managed 6 points (4 goals) in 8 games played. Issue is, with those 6 points he sits 2nd in team scoring behind only Marcus Johansson. They’re having some struggles that they haven’t shown in the past, however they still have an impressive record (thanks to Braden Holtby) at 5-2-1 through to the end of October.

11) Detroit Red Wings – Another big surprise – for me at least – is the play of Detroit through October. They’ve gotten excellent goaltending from both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Howard has started 3 games and is currently at a GAA of 0.86 (!!) and a SV% of 0.973. Those numbers are sure to take a hit, but he’s certainly playing well in an expansion year in which he could be taken by Vegas, or traded to one of many teams who could use an upgrade. Also worth noting, Tomas Vanek put up 8 points in 7 games for Detroit in October before getting hurt, very impressive.

Trending – Up

12) New Jersey Devils – The Devils added Taylor Hall in hopes that he would increase their goal scoring, and he’s done well (5 goals in 8 games), however Adam Henrique has fallen off in production through October. He managed to score 2 goals and 2 assists, which isn’t awful, but they were hoping for an increase from him. Cory Schneider continues to be one of the best at his position, sporting a solid 0.941 SV% and 1.86 GAA. The story is the same, goal scoring wanted.

Trending – Even.

13) Florida Panthers – Losing young stud Jonathan Huberdeau before the start of the season really hurt their chances. Enter Jonathan Marchessault. He has put up an incredible 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 games for Florida in October, however they were sitting at 4-4-1 when the month ended. They’re going to need more from Aleksander Barkov (5 points) and Jaromir Jagr (4 points) if they hope to be in a good position when they finally do get Huberdeau back.

Trending – Even

14) Ottawa Senators – The Sens struggled early on defensively, but Craig Anderson has been rock solid as of late. Coming off receiving terrible news regarding his wife’s health, he posted an impressive shutout of the red-hot Edmonton Oilers. If the Sens can play with the emotion that they did in this game, and carry it out further, they can rattle off some wins early on. Mike Hoffman has struggled early this season, posting only 1 goal in October. They’ll need more from him if they hope to climb their way into the playoffs this year.

Trending – Up

15) Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand has continued his strong play from last season, and at the World Cup, putting up 10 points in 8 games. Boston has managed to stay at .500 (4-4-0) despite having time missed by all of Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Backes, and David Pastrnak. If they can get all of the above healthy and into the lineup, they should do just fine.

Trending – Up.

16) Philadelphia Flyers – Last year it seemed as though the Flyers finally found viable goaltending. This year, that’s definitely not the case. They were near the top of the league in goals for, but finished dead last in goals against. Both Mason and Neuvirth have been terrible for the flyers, both sporting a higher than 3.45 GAA and lower than an 0.880 SV%. The offense is there, they just can’t keep the puck out of their own net.

Trending – Even

17) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks started the year missing 2 key players in their lineup due to them remaining unsigned – Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm. Both are now signed, however neither suited up in a game for the Ducks in October. John Gibson has been shaky at times to start the season, and the Ducks finished 3-4-2 in October. Adding these two back into the lineup will be a much needed boost for the Ducks going forward.

Trending – Up

18) Buffalo Sabres – Losing your future star in Jack Eichel, as well as Evander Kane before the season was a gut-punch for the Sabres, who had playoffs aspirations at the start of the season. A big boost to the Sabres is having goaltender Robin Lehner back healthy to start the season. He has missed a couple games due to a stomach virus, but has looked great as of late. The Sabres are hoping they can keep pace in the Eastern Conference until they can get their injured players back later in the season.

Trending – Even

19) Calgary Flames – I think it’s safe to say Brian Elliot would love to forget his three starts in a Calgary uniform in which he surrendered 14 (!!) goals. He has turned it around since then, allowing no more than 2 goals in his next 4 starts. Calgary as a whole has gotten off to a tough start, with Sean Monahan also struggling early (4 points). This team is better defensively than they’ve played, and should be able to produce more offense than they currently have been.

Trending – Up

20) Dallas Stars – The Stars have been struck by injuries early on, as Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, Jiri Hulder, and Patrick Sharp have all missed time. Hemsky will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery, however the key loss is Sharp who’s currently rehabbing from a concussion. If he can come back healthy, with no relapses, this team should still make the playoffs. Goaltending hasn’t been great for the Stars either, but everyone knew that coming in. Perhaps they will look to improve this through trade? Bishop? Fleury? There are plenty of better options for a team this talented than Niemi and Lehtonen.

Trending – Even

21) Colmubus Blue Jackets – Rookie d-man Zach Werenski has outstanding, playing most nights on the top pair, while putting up 6 points in 7 games. He’s definitely put himself in the Calder conversation early on, and has helped ignite offense each night for the Jackets, which they desperately needed help with. Sergei Bobrovsky has started each game, and while he’s 3-3-1, he’s rocking a solid SV% of 0.941 to go along with 2 shutouts. He’s been everything anyone would want in their number 1 goalie. He needs help up front. If the Jackets want to push themselves into the playoffs they’re going to need outside help.

Trending – Up

22) Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks had surprised everyone and got off to a 4-0-1 start which no one expected, beating teams like St. Louis, LA and Anaheim. They lost their next 3 games in regulation to end October at a respectable 4-3-1 record.  The issue that most people predicted has been coming to the front – goal scoring. They managed a league low 17 goals for in October. Their major signing in the offseason, Loui Eriksson, managed all of zero goals in October, with 4 assists and a -4 rating. The Canucks appear to be in for a long season, the nice start will soon be forgotten.

Trending – Down

23) Toronto Maple Leafs –  The rookies in Toronto have been incredibly fun to watch. The Leafs have struggled in the early going to close out a lead, as they’ve blown multiple 3rd period leads. Frederik Andersen has looked better as of late, after struggling early on. William Nylander was just named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, and along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Nikita Zaitsev, the young leafs have looked great in the early going. Add in a little better defensive play and they should be able to round-out their game going forward.

Trending – Up

24) Colorado Avalanche – Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov has not been great, posting a GAA of 3.18. Not the worst in the league by far, but the Avs themselves are only averaging 2.85 goals for per game. So there’s blame to be placed on both sides. The Avs recently called up their number 1 rated prospect Mikko Rantanen, so Avs fans are hoping he jumps starts the offense. So far, he’s come up with zero points in 2 games, not an ideal start.

Trending – Down

25) New York Islanders –The Isles big signing of the offseason has not lived up to expectations at all. Andrew Ladd has managed no goals and only 1 assist so far in 9 games.1 point in 9 games! That’s while spending 99% of the first 6 games on a line with John Tavares. Not what you were hoping for when you signed him to an AAV of $5.5 million. Yikes. The Isles defense have been helping out offensively, scoring 10 of their team’s 27 goals in October. They need more help up front. Fans must be missing Kyle Okposo right about now..

Trending – Down

26) Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are an interesting case. They’ve looked great in some games, and bad in others. They’ve gotten steady goaltending from their tandem, and they’ve gotten good offensive support from rookie Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. But after those three, it falls off quickly. They don’t possess the depth that others do in the division, not to mention that Jacob Trouba is still holding-out on the Jets, hoping for a trade. Time will tell, but as of right now they don’t look like a playoff team.

Trending – Down

27) Los Angeles Kings – Another team hit with injury trouble, which includes start Jonathan Quick. Tough to get by in today’s NHL without your starting goaltender (see Montreal last season). The Kings are also struggling to score, as they put up only 20 in 9 games in October. Hard to win in today’s NHL with that kind of support, no matter who’s in net. They’re now on their 3rd goalie of the season in Peter Budaj, and while he has played better lately, he’s not an ideal number 1 goalie. Things are looking bleak in LA.

Trending – Down

28) Nashville Predators – This has to be the biggest disappointment so far this year. Many were picking the Predators to win the Cup, yet they’ve started the year 2-5-1. Yikes. This team possesses a lot of talent, and boasts the best defensive corps in the league, but they were near the bottom in goals allowed in October. They’ve got to be better than they’ve been, and they can be.

Trending – Down

29) Carolina Hurricanes – A noticeable trend early in the ’16-’17 season was more goal scoring, or, as in the case with Carolina, weaker goaltending. The combo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack has been awful for Carolina. Lack is posting a GAA of 4.00 and a SV% of 0.857, while Ward isn’t much better at a GAA over 3.00, and a SV% under 0.900. One of the only bright spots for Carolina so far is the play of Jeff Skinner, who put up great numbers in October – 5 goals, 6 assists, +1 (somehow) in 7 games played in October.

Trending – Down

30) Arizona Coyotes – Once again, the Arizona Coyotes are dealing with goaltending issues. Mike Smith is dealing with another injury after only starting 2 games. The Coyotes are a young team, with a cupboard full of high-talent prospects. Last year was the emergence of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, this year we’re seeing Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, and more as they try and make an impact for the Coyotes. Time will tell if this team can imrpove, but the future is definitely bright for the Yotes.

Trending – Up


*Stats from NHL.com. Cap info from CapFriendly.com*

Players To Watch – Breakout Candidates

It’s the Eve of the 2016-2017 season, beyond excited to get this year going. Most people have already completed their fantasy drafts for the upcoming season, but here’s who I think will be the player to watch for each team this upcoming year.

Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome. Although he didn’t have as great of a year last year in Erie as many would have thought, the 3rd overall pick from 2015 is set to begin his rookie campaign this season. Adding his size and talent to the young-and-improving Coyotes is a combo that should work out well for both sides. He could wind up 45-50 points in his first year.

Anaheim Ducks – Nick Ritchie. He’s excelled at every level he’s played so far, and managed 30 points in 38 AHL games last year. He struggled last year when called up, but coming into his first full season Ritchie has a lot left to prove. He should get minutes on the ducks top 6, and surrounded by guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry should help Ritchie get to 45 points.

Boston Bruins – David Pastrnak. Slipped a bit in production last year with 26 points in 51 games, however I expect a big season coming from the young forward. He should open the season on the top line with Bergeron and Marchand, which only boosts his value. If he remains there all season, and gets some PP time, he could be near 60 points at the end of the year.

Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart. This is the year where the 2nd pick in 2014 really makes an impact with the Sabres. He showed great chemistry at the end of the year with Jack Eichel, and started to see more ice because of it. He’ll carry that momentum into this season and continue to increase production. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hit 65 points this year.

Calgary Flames – Sam Bennett. Centering the Flames second line, Bennett has steadily improved his overall game in each of the last 2 seasons. While I don’t expect him to shoot the lights out this year, I think it’s reasonable to expect him to approach the 50 point mark in his second full season. If Matthew Tkachuk sticks with the Flames all year, it will give him better linemates than the likes of Michael Frolik and Lance Bouma.

Carolina Hurricanes – Elias Lindholm. Should see some time on the top PP unit coming into his third season. His numbers have held steady at 39 points, should be no reach to see him get close to 50 this year. He’ll have some more skilled linemates this year in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, which could also boost his production.

Chicago Blackhawks – Nick Schmaltz – I don’t particularly believe Schmaltz will have a stellar year, but he is someone to keep an eye on during the season as a late waiver-wire grab. I think eventually he will replace Artem Anisimov on Chicago’s second line between reigning MVP Patrick Kane and most recent breakout star Artemi Panarin. But until then, only choose the top dogs when it comes to the Hawks. They have a very thin bottom 6.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Zach Werenski. Right now he’s been playing top pairing minutes with Seth Jones. That right there is enough to take a gamble on, not to mention the 14 points he had in 17 AHL playoffs games leading to the Calder Cup win. Kid can play. Could he be the newest young d-man to take the NHL by storm? Yes please.

Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon – Last time I’ll say this – this is HIS year! It’s always felt as if he’s on the cusp of an 80-point campaign, but just hasn’t gotten there yet. He showed brilliance at the World Cup, it’s time to start putting it all together. I truly believe he can be among the elite in the NHL.

Dallas Stars – Jiri Hudler – Not exactly lining up with most of my other picks, in that he’s not exactly ‘young’ anymore. Hudler gets a chance to play with a few of the best offensive forwards in the NHL today in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Will he take full advantage of this? He’s an upgrade on the role Patrick Eaves was playing on this line the last few seasons, and even if he bounces off the top line, he’ll still be lining up with Jason Spezza as his centreman. Hudler could hit 60 points if the Stars can manage to stay fairly healthy this year.

Detroit Red Wings – Gustav Nyquist. Expect a bounce back season from Nyquist, he’s far too skilled to be a 40-point player. Will he break 60? Doubtful, only because of the surrounding cast he currently has in Detroit, but he should be a lock for 50-55.

Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid. Just kidding, I expect Leon Draisaitl to take another step forward after putting up 51 pts last year. The Oilers have gotten better around him, and this should free him up a little more. He’ll get plenty of looks on the PP this season, especially with the departure of Taylor Hall. I’d be willing to bet that Draisaitl breaks through the 60 point plateau this season.

Florida Panthers – Jonathan Marchessault. With the nasty injury to Jonathan Huberdeau, this opens up a spot on the top line in Florida. Marchessault has put up great numbers in the AHL (263 pts in 306 games), but the 25 year old has never had a full season in the NHL. This is his chance to take the ice-time while it’s available and make the most out of it. If he sticks there for a few months, he should hit 40 points by year end.

Los Angeles Kings – Teddy Purcell. This team doesn’t really possess a potential breakout candidate in my opinion. Their forward depth is ugly when you look past Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, and… well that’s it. Purcell will get plenty of ice time in the top 6 and on the powerplay, but it looks like this team will struggle to score. Don’t expect more than 40 points out of Purcell.

Minnesota Wild – Matt Dumba. Here’s a guy I would gamble on for a late defensemen to breakout. He showed in junior he can score, and show glimpses last year he can as well. Problem he’s facing is playing time. If he can gain more minutes, he could push past the 30 point mark, and potentially 15 goals if the Wild use him on the PP.

Montreal Canadiens – Alex Galchenyuk. If they ever give this guy the chance to play on the top line, and it looks like he will this year, he could easily breakout for 65 points. Play him a full season with Pacioretty and see if it works. If not, then bring in a centre who does work. Galchenyuk has all the skill, I just feel he hasn’t been fully given the opportunity to play with the best players. Let’s do that this year.

Nashville Predators – Kevin Fiala. The Swiss winger looks to be a lock to make the team and stick there all year. He’s been practicing on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, so if he can stick there… lookout. Adding PK Subban to the mix has only increased the scoring opportunities that will come to this team, and Fiala looks to be right there in the mix. The rookie should be right in between 40-50 points in his first year in the big leagues.

New Jersey Devils – Adam Henrique. Re-united with his old buddy Taylor Hall, Henrique’s value has never been higher. He had 50 points last year with weaker linemates, expect 60-70 this season as he teams-up again with the speedster Hall, who will be playing this season with something to prove.

New York Islanders – Ryan Pulock. The key here will be if Pulock can bump Boychuk off of the top PP unit in New York. He’s got a HEAVY shot, and can put that on display with the likes of John Tavares on your team. He showed some poise late last year when he was called up, and played well in the playoffs for Isles. He had 17 goals 2 years ago in the AHL, so if he can bring that touch to the NHL level, he could be a force from the back-end.

New York Rangers – Pavel Buchnevich. Highly regarded as a rookie to watch, Buchnevich will see plenty of ice on the Rangers’ second line. Will he hit 50 points? It’s tough for many rookies to get to this level, especially in his first year coming over from the KHL, but Buchnevich possesses the skill-set to do so.

Ottawa Senators – Derick Brassard. A trade to Ottawa looks to have sparked Brassard as he’s looked great on a line with Bobby Ryan so far (yes, I know it’s only preseason). He didn’t quite have the most productive linemates last year, but he’s still a top 75 fantasy player in today’s NHL. Don’t reach too high for him, but he should be a lock for 50, and could hit 60 points if the chemistry with Ryan is real.

Philadelphia Flyers – Ivan Provorov & Travis Konecny. Technically cheating, but both of these rookies should have solid campaigns. Provorov has dominated junior for the past couple of seasons and with the injury to Del Zotto, will have plenty of ice-time available. Look no further than the Flyers again this year to have the breakout defensemen of the year on their team, as he could easily put up 40 points for a rookie. Konecny should be able to manage the same, as currently he’s playing alongside Jakub Voracek who has looked to be back to his old-self after an off-year.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Connor Sheary. A full season on a line with Sid the Kid? Sheary possesses the speed needed to keep up with Crosby. If he can continue the chemistry shown late last year and in the playoffs, he could be the new and improved Chris Kunitz. If Crosby recovers from this most recent concussion scare, he should return immediately to the dominance he showed at the World Cup and in the second half of last season. Look for Sheary to put up 25 goals minimum if he sticks with Crosby for an extended period of time.

San Jose Sharks – Tomas Hertl. He showed some great chemistry late in the season with the two Joes. Can he carry it over to this season? If he does, expect high 50’s. He’s got loads of talent, just needs to finally breakout.

St. Louis Blues – Nail Yakupov. I was picking Robby Fabbri here until the trade for Yakupov, but I’ll take one last gamble on the Yak. He’s got the skill, and the work ethic. If he finally gets a chance with good linemates, I think he can regain the magic that made him a 1st overall pick. He sure looked good on McDavid’s wing until the injury earlier last season. I’d take a gamble on 50 points this year, it’s now or never.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Jonathan Drouin. Easy pick, he’s coming into his last season on his rookie contract, and Tampa will have a tough time keeping him. Expect him to perform very well, to showcase his skills for whomever he’ll be playing for in 2017-2018. That is, unless Tampa unloads some other contracts, which is a possibility considering the magic Steve Yzerman has been able to wield recently (see Kucherov contract).

Toronto Maple Leafs – Morgan Rielly. Auston Matthews is hyped to get anywhere from 40 to 60 points. Morgan Rielly looked like a top defensemen at the World Cup this year, logging big minutes for the young guns. Add to the Leafs a much improved offense, and the smooth puck-mover could be in for a good season offensively. Time will tell how much time he gets with the man-advantage, but I’d be willing to be he creeps over 45 points this year.

Vancouver Canucks – Bo Horvat. It’s time to move on from the Sedins and start giving the future more minutes. That starts with Horvat. Give him more time at even-strength, and on the man-advantage. Start seeing what your future looks like, see how much further he can grow. But on a team I envision finishing dead last, I can’t see more than 45 points out of Horvat. If he can click with some linemates, maybe he’ll sniff at 50.

Washington Capitals – Andre Burakovsky. He’s shown some flashes of high-end skill, and it looks as though this year he’ll get the minutes. Playing alongside either Backstrom or Kuznetsov will only enhance his skill, as he did score 87 pts in the one year he played in the OHL. More than likely he’ll end up on the 2nd unit on the PP, however he should still be in reach of 50 points. I’d take a gamble on this young skater going even higher.

Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele. He scored at a point-per-game pace near the end of the season, and proved he has what it takes to be a number 1 centre in this league for years to come. Add in the hard-shooting Patrik Laine, and Scheifele’s point totals should continue to rise. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t hit 70 points this year.

Follow me on twitter @RubberOnIce

(*Credit hockeydb.com – great place to look up historial stats easily)