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The Week Ahead

We're Back!!

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

We are baaaaaack!

 

It’s another start to the NHL season and this is the first column of the regular season. There’s lots to look forward to this season including the return of Ilya Kovalchuk to the NHL after five seasons in the KHL, John Tavares in Toronto, Erik Karlsson in San Jose, Max Pacioretty in Las Vegas and so much more.

 

It will be interesting to see if the Golden Knights are capable of coming even close to last year’s Cinderella story (don’t think so) as well as how much damage has been done to the Ottawa Senators franchise.

 

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld’s Season Pass is now available for the low price of $19.99. You get plenty of extra articles including the minor league report, the power play report and much, much more. Buy it now!

 

Editor's Note: If you love Fantasy Football you have to be playing on DRAFT. It's daily fantasy football snake drafts instead of salary caps. All the fun of season long drafts but with no management and they last for just one week. They take minutes to complete and there's even auction drafts! No more setting lineups or constantly worrying about pros, just draft and win! Right now DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers an exclusive FREE entry into a real money draft when you make your first deposit! Here's the link

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

 

There is a lot of information to get to so let’s get started.

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 1-7

 

 

3 Games - Carolina, Chicago, New York Rangers, Toronto

 

2 Games – Anaheim, Arizona, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas, Washington, Winnipeg

 

1 Game - Edmonton, Florida, New Jersey, Tama Bay

 

INJURIES

 

Corey Perry is out about five months after undergoing knee surgery. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

Note: A tired team is one that has played the day or night before and is going against a team that did not play the previous day or night. The reverse is true for a rested team.

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ San Jose, @ Arizona

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The loss of Corey Perry will hurt the Ducks. Perry has lost plenty of fantasy value in the last couple of seasons and was having trouble keeping up in the faster NHL but he was still a big contributor on and off the ice. Nick Ritchie is one of two RFA’s still unsigned and the Ducks could really use him now with Perry out of action. Ryan Kesler (hip) is likely to miss the start of the season but he is skating. Patrick Eaves (shoulder) could skate with the Ducks this week and if so, will be back 7-10 days later. He missed all of last season save for two games with Gullain-Barre Syndrome so it will be great to see him back in action. Troy Terry is seeing first line action alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell.

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

@ Dallas, vs. Anaheim

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The big trade the Coyotes made in the off-season was to pick up Alex Galchenyuk from Montreal in exchange for Max Domi. Unfortunately, Galchenyuk suffered a lower-body injury in training camp and is currently week-to-week. Christian Dvorak is also out of action and that will give Lawson Crouse a boost on the depth chart. The Coyotes in the interim have moved their rookie sensation from last season, Clayton Keller, to the middle as Dylan Strome has also been hobbled by injury. Jordan Oesterle is someone to watch on the blueline as is Ilya Lyubushkin who had 73 penalty minutes in 50 KHL games.  Hopefully Antti Raanta will be healthy this season and provide the Coyotes with solid netminding.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

@ Washington, @ Buffalo

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Buffalo (Thursday)

 

Notes

Torey Krug has missed training camp action with an ankle injury but was in the lineup Wednesday and should start the season healthy. The same goes for Patrice Bergeron who is expected to return to the ice on Friday as he has been hampered during camp with back spasms. The Bruins have one of the best lines in hockey with Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. John Moore could be paired with Charlie McAvoy on the blueline. Don’t forget about Ryan Donato. He played 12 games at the end of last season with five goals and nine points and should be a top-six forward by Christmas if not earlier. Anders Bjork has been unable to see any action due to injuries and his chances of making the Bruins out of camp are slim.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

vs. Boston, vs. New York Rangers

 

Rested Team: vs. Boston (Thursday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sabres are one of the unknown and exciting teams coming into this season. After missing the playoffs yet again last season and getting the first overall pick in Rasmus Dahlin, they finally have the stud defenseman every team needs. Add to that another rookie Casey Mittelstadt, who was taken in the first round by Buffalo in 2017 and is very highly regarded, and all of a sudden there is plenty of hope in the Queen City. The Sabres added sniper Jeff Skinner from Carolina, UFA goalie Carter Hutton from the Blues as well as Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka from St. Louis in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, and Conor Sheary from the Penguins. That is a lot of change and it’s for the better. Look for Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel to have big years.

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

@ Vancouver, vs. Vancouver

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flames open the season with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks. Matthew Tkachuk will likely start the season off with some penalty minutes in the two game set. The Flames made a big deal with Carolina, giving up Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland while getting back Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Lindholm should be on the top line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and that should up his fantasy value. Dillon Dube has had a great pre-season and could get a shot out of camp. That being said, he should start the season on the waiver wire in your fantasy league. The Flames inked James Neal as a UFA and he will head up the second unit. The Flames look like playoff contenders this season.

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

vs. New York Islanders, @ Columbus, vs. New York Rangers

 

Rested Team: vs. New York Rangers (Sunday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Hurricanes play three games in four nights to start the NHL season so look for Scott Darling to play twice while Petr Mrazek makes his Carolina debut. As mentioned above, the Hurricanes picked up Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton from Calgary. Hamilton will get first power play time in Carolina and should get 15-20 goals and 45-55 points. Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho will once again lead the Hurricanes offensively. Warren Foegele has had a terrific camp and should make the team but his status to start the season could be in jeopardy as he has a two-way contract. The Hurricanes selected Andrei Svechnikov second overall in the draft and he is a goal scorer. Draft him high in big keeper leagues.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ St. Louis, vs. Toronto

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Blackhawks start the season off with three games in four nights. Corey Crawford is still suffering the effects of a concussion that sidelined him on December 23 and has yet to play. Therefore expect Cam Ward to play in two games with Anton Forsberg seeing action in one. The Blackhawks had a horrible season in 2017-18 and missed the playoffs by a healthy margin so they need Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to rebound big time. Patrick Kane also slumped last season but should get 85-90 points this campaign. Keep an eye on Dominik Kahun who has been skating on a line with Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. Gustav Forsling (wrist) is expected to be out until November.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

vs. Minnesota, vs. Philadelphia

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Avs surprised many last season by making the playoffs after finishing dead last in 2016-17. The big line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They made a great trade by dealing Matt Duchene and picking up rookie defenseman Samuel Girard among others. Girard will be a top-two defenseman in the NHL.  Philipp Grubauer will back up Semyon Varlamov this season and should get plenty of action with as Varlamov tends to be injured quite a lot. Tyson Jost needs to step it up this season. Alexander Kerfoot was a pleasant surprise in 2017-18 and hopes to build on his 19 goal, 43 point season.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

@ Detroit, vs. Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

This is an important year for the Blue Jackets as their top two players, Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin head towards unrestricted free agency on July 1. Both do not seem to give an indication that they are willing to re-sign with the Blue Jackets at this time so Columbus has a very limited window of opportunity. A big strength of the Blue Jackets is their blueline with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski leading the way. Jones will miss the first three-five weeks of the season with a knee injury while Werensk underwent off-season surgery on his shoulder and could start the season on the sidelines. Pierre-Luc Dubois is looking to build on a solid rookie campaign and Cam Atkinson will attempt to hit the 30-goal mark again after only 24 last season.

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

vs. Arizona, vs. Winnipeg

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Stars have disappointed over the last two seasons as hopes have been high in Dallas. This year is no different with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov leading the way offensively, while John Klingberg leads the blueline corps. All have big fantasy value and should be taken quite high. The Stars will put Miro Heiskanen in their lineup this season. The defenseman was drafted third overall in 2017 and is very highly regarded. His name came up a lot in trade rumors, especially when the Stars were interested in Erik Karlsson but the Stars would not part ways with the youngster. Ben Bishop should give the Stars excellent goaltending and they finally got away from Kari Lehtonen in net as Anton Khudobin was signed as a UFA, giving the Stars a solid backup.

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

 vs. Columbus, @ Los Angeles

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Red Wings are not the Detroit team of old as they have missed the post-season two years in a row after going 26 straight seasons in the playoffs. They are a young team and got even younger when veteran Henrik Zetterberg called it quits earlier in the month due to back woes. They had a great draft as Filip Zadina, who many thought was the third best player in the draft, fell to them at number six. He is a scorer and should stick with Detroit out of camp. Add in youngsters Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Michael Rasmussen and Tyler Bertuzzi and the future up front for the Wings is strong. Detroit is lacking on the blueline and need some youth in net as Jimmy Howard is now 34. Don’t expect the Red Wings to make the playoffs this season.

 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

@ New Jersey

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes   

The Oilers play only once this week and that’s in Scandinavia, so there is only one chance to see the great Connor McDavid. Talk out of camp was that McDavid was better and faster than last season and if true, he should be close to the 120 point mark if he can remain healthy. Ty Rattie looks to be matching up with McDavid on the top line and if so, his fantasy value goes through the roof. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is slated to be on the other side and that gives him nice value as well. Leon Draisaitl heads up the second unit and look for Jesse Puljujarvi to take a big step forward and show why he was selected fourth overall in 2016. The blueline should be okay with Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson leading the way. Cam Talbot needs to bounce back after a tough 2017-18 season and should get a decent backup in Mikko Koskinen who has returned after playing in the KHL for the last five seasons.

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Panthers are quite talented up front with the likes of Aleksandar Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov as their top line, as well as Vincent Trocheck and the recently acquired Mike Hoffman heading up the second unit. Their blueline of Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and the emerging Michael Matheson is also quite encouraging but they are old in net with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer. If the duo can hold it together one more year then the Panthers are definite playoff contenders, but if not, they could struggle Barkov was named captain of the Panthers at the start of training camp. Jamie McGinn is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

vs. San Jose, vs. Detroit 

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Kings received a couple of unbelievable seasons last year from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown and that led them to the playoffs. After scoring 118 points over the previous four seasons, Brown had 61 points last season, a comeback beyond anyone’s expectations. Kopitar had a career year as well with 92 points, 11 better than any other year in his career and 40 points better than in 2016-17. The Kings signed veteran Ilya Kovalchuk and he should be the third member of the line. Jeff Carter missed most of last season with injury but he should return to the 30-goal mark this season. The defense had a re-birth from Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty is still one of the best in the business. Jonathan Quick is a top-ten goalie, if he can stay healthy, which he managed to last season but not the year before.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

@ Colorado, vs. Vegas

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Wild are a veteran team with some youth sprinkled in. Eric Staal led the way last season and has proven to be a great signing despite a lot of pundits thinking he was finished as an elite player two seasons ago. He had 42 goals and 76 points last season. Mikael Granlund has been terrific in his last two seasons while Jason Zucker took a leap forward last season with 33 goals and 64 points. The Wild have been disappointed with the play of Zach Parise who looks to be well beyond his prime. A return to glory would be great news for Parise and Wild fans. The blueline is led by Ryan Suter but Matt Dumba had an outstanding season last year with 50 points. The netminding is solid with Devan Dubnyk between the pipes. Look for Jordan Greenway to possibly do some damage this season.

 

MONTREAL

               

Games this week

@ Toronto, @ Pittsburgh

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Habs are in a free-fall due to some more than questionable trades and the demise last season of Carey Price. If Price can regain his form (hopefully the Montreal defense will be a lot better) then the Habs will be competitive but a playoff spot is still unlikely. They traded away P.K. Subban and Mikhail Sergachev from their blueline in the last few years and that has hurt as Shea Weber has been injured throughout his stay in Montreal, while Jonathan Drouin seemed lost during most of last season. The trading of Alex Galchenyuk could hurt as he is a better player than Max Domi, who they received in the Galchenyuk deal with Arizona. Max Pacioretty is also gone from the scene as he is now a Golden Knight with Nick Suzuki the big piece they received coming back. The Canadiens did pick up Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft and he should stick but it appears the Canadiens are in for a few bad years.

 

 NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, @ New York Islanders

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Predators were the best team in the West during the regular season last year but could not get past division rival Winnipeg in the playoffs.  They return with a similar team and that bodes well as they are one of the best teams in the NHL. They are strong in net with Pekka Rinne and have Juuse Saros coming on to give them a strong backup. The blueline is one of the best in the NHL with P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm leading the way. The Preds have Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris as their top two centers while Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Victor Arvidsson and Craig Smith fill out a strong top-six. They have Eeli Tolvanen in the minors but need to bring him back before he plays 10 AHL games or he has the ability to return to the KHL this season.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

vs. Edmonton

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Devils were one of the big surprises of last season with Taylor Hall, the Hart Trophy winner, leading the way. They were a speedy team and some of their opponents were surprised by how good they were, especially early in the season.  There is a worry in net as Cory Schneider was unable to secure a victory after December 29 in the regular season but did so in the playoffs. He underwent hip surgery in May but it appears that he will not be ready for the start of the season. Keith Kinkaid was exceptional last season until the playoffs where he struggled. The Devils had a few surprises last season from rookies Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt but they may be regression candidates. Blake Coleman was a pleasant surprise last season, especially in goals and hits. Nico Hischier will look to improve on his first season in the NHL and should as he was selected number one in the 2017 draft.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

@ Carolina, vs. Nashville 

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Islanders got hit and hit hard in the off-season as they lost their captain and  best player John Tavares to free agency and then to the Maple Leafs. That makes things a lot tougher this season, especially for Mathew Barzal who was the Calder Trophy winner. He had 85 points but never saw the opponents top defensive line as Tavares drew that look. It will be different this season five-on-five for Barzal and he may struggle to get to 70 points. The Islanders are weak in net with Thomas Greiss staying and he will be backed up by former Sabre Robin Lehner. The defense will be okay with Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock leading the way. There is still plenty of offense with Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle as part of the top-six.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

vs. Nashville, @ Buffalo, @ Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Carolina (Sunday)

 

 Notes

The Rangers play three games in four nights so look for the veteran Henrik Lundqvist to play twice with Alexandar Georgiev getting one start. The Rangers are in a big re-build and there is a plethora of young talent available including Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich up front. Ryan Spooner was very good for the Rangers after he was acquired from Boston as part of the Rick Nash trade and should be a valued member of the Rangers this season. It should be interesting to see how well Kevin Shattenkirk returns from knee surgery this season. We think he should get around 50 points and should be worth a middle round draft pick.

 

OTTAWA            

 

Games this week

vs. Chicago, @ Toronto

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Senators are in shambles and could be the worst team in the NHL. To makes matters worse, they traded away their first round pick in the Matt Duchene deal and could lose out on Jack Hughes who is projected to go first overall in the 2019 Draft.  The Senators also dealt Mike Hoffman and the great Erik Karlsson away, both to San Jose in different deals but the Sharks quickly sent Hoffman to Florida for more than they gave up to Ottawa. Hmm. Matt Duchene and Mark Stone will lead the Senators offensively (if they are not traded at some point this season) and first round pick Brady Tkachuk looks to be the real deal. The blueline will be led by youngsters Thomas Chabot and Cody Ceci while Craig Anderson will look to rebound from a poor 2017-18 campaign.

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

@ Vegas, @ Colorado

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flyers start the season out west again this season but instead of three games in California like last season to start the year, they are in Vegas and Colorado. They are strong up front and on the blueline but could struggle in net with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth okay goalies at best. They have a stud in Carter Hart but he has yet to play in the NHL and is only 20 so he should get some seasoning in the minors. Claude Giroux had a career year last season so expect a big regression. Sean Couturier exploded last season when given his opportunity and should get 70-75 points this season. Look for big things from Nolan Patrick in his second NHL season. The blueline is strong and led by Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. The future is extremely bright in Philadelphia and the Flyers should make the post-season, especially with some half-decent goaltending.

 

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

vs. Washington, vs. Montreal

 

Rested Team: vs. Washington (Thursday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Penguins are aging but still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to lead them as they are two of the best in the NHL. The rest of the forwards are led by Phil Kessel who actually out-pointed Crosby last season as he had 92 to Sid’s 89. They need Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist to be better as both failed to hit the 50 point mark. There are high hopes for Daniel Sprong but he struggled in training camp and will start the season on the fourth line. The blueline will be headed by Kris Letang who is healthy and should outperform his 51 points of last year. I like Olli Maatta as well and keep an eye on Jamie Oleksiak who should get 20-25 points and plenty of penalty minutes. The netminding will be handled by Matt Murray who struggled last season but won Stanley Cups in each of his first two seasons.

  

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Chicago

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Blues were busy in the off-season as they acquired Ryan O'Reilly in a trade from Buffalo and then signed UFA’s David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon to fill out their offense. O'Reilly will slot into a top-two center spot with Maroon and Vladimir Tarasenko. That has the makings of a strong line. Brayden Schenn should have another strong season and theBlues hope that Robby Fabbri is healthy. Jaden Schwartz will be strong and the Blues hope to squeeze another good season out of Alexander Steen. Alex Pietrangelo will head up the blueline and should be a top-ten fantasy blueliner. The Blues could struggle in net with Jake Allen and Chad Johnson. Either do not give us any confidence between the pipes.

 

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, @ Los Angeles

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sharks keep on improving and the trade that brought Erik Karlsson out west has to be one of the best ever in San Jose history. Their power play will be outstanding with Karlsson and Burns manning the point and Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton up front. They are very strong at forward with Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier expecting to excel. Add to that Antti Suomela who should be their third line center and capable of much more after leading the Finnish SM-liiga in scoring last season. The aforementioned blueline is also very good and adding the strength of Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the mix gives the Sharks a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Martin Jones is strong in net and will be backed up by the competent Aaron Dell.  

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Florida

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Lightning head into the season among the favorites for the Stanley Cup and rightfully so as they are strong everywhere. It starts in net with one of the best goalies in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy who was strong last season, his first as a regular in the NHL. They have a very good defense led by Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and he is backed up ably by Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev who is only 20. The power of the team is up front as they are a strong group of forwards. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller should make up the top line and the second unit is not too shabby either with Brayden Point centering Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. Add in Yanni Gourde who had 64 points last season and you can see why the Lightning could be playing in June. 

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

vs. Montreal, vs. Ottawa, @ Chicago 

 

Rested team:  None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Maple Leafs open the season with three games this week so look for Frederik Andersen to play twice. The Leafs led the way in off-season signings by inking the great John Tavares to a seven-year deal. They lost a few players in free agency like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak but they are easily replaced as the farm system is deep.  In addition to Tavares up front, the Leafs have Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau and also have RFA William Nylander who is at home in Sweden awaiting a new contract. The blueline is a bit suspect but Toronto still has Morgan Rielly and the improving Travis Dermott to lead the way, along with veteran Ron Hainsey. Andersen should provide good goalkeeping. The Leafs are also Cup contenders but there are still a few question marks surrounding the team.

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

vs. Calgary, @ Calgary

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Canucks have a home-and-home series against the Calgary Flames to start the season and look for newcomer Antoine Roussel to make his presence felt right away with some fisticuffs. The Canucks lost their past last season when the Sedin twins retired at the end of the season but there is plenty of hope as they have a lot of young studs to build around. Elias Pettersson is one of the favorites (he is my pick) for the Calder and when you add him to Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat, you see why there is plenty of hope in Vancouver. Adam Gaudette will be part of the group as well but he was sent to the minors on Thursday for more seasoning. The Canucks have so-so goaltending but are relying on their goalie of the future, Thatcher Demko. He will start the season in the minors as well so Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson will be in charge of the cage to start the season. The Canucks have young talent on the blueline as well but they will start the season in the minors or college as Olli Juolevi and Quinn Hughes are their future.

 

 

VEGAS

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, @ Minnesota

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Well, the Golden Knights will be hard pressed to repeat last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final and do not be surprised if they are unable to make it to the playoffs as I expect a lot of players to regress, especially Marc-Andre Fleury. Of course, I thought they would be dead last in 2017-18 and they won the Western Conference. William Karlsson led the Golden Knights in goals with 43 after picking up only six in 81 games with Columbus in 2016-17. They had a strong off-season in picking up Max Pacioretty via the trade route and Paul Stastny in free agency. They lost James Neal to free agency as well. The Golden Knights will have a good blueline but will miss Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games due to a suspension for taking a performance enhancing substance. He is appealing.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

vs. Boston, @ Pittsburgh

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ Pittsburgh (Thursday)

 

Notes

The Washington Capitals are finally the Stanley Cup champions! No one was happier than captain Alex Ovechkin as the team finally got the monkey off their back. The Capitals should be strong in net with Braden Holtby but he was mediocre in the regular season last year with a 2.99 GAA and a .907 save percentage, peripherals that put him near the bottom of the goaltending stats. He was great in the playoffs and that redeemed his season but there is some concern heading into the regular season. John Carlson was outstanding offensively with 68 points to lead all NHL defensemen and then inked an eight-year deal with Washington. Nicklas Backstrom was erratic last season as he had some lengthy slumps to go with some nice scoring streaks. His 71 points were a low total for him. Tom Wilson is a penalty minute machine and Jakub Vrana is due to break through. If not, he could be dealt.

 

WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

@ St. Louis, @ Dallas

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Jets are also Stanley Cup contenders. They are outstanding in all areas of the ice starting in goal where Connor Hellebuyck seized the moment last year and never gave the net back to Steve Mason. Mason is now gone and Hellebuyck will be backed up by Eric Comrie or Laurent Brossoit at times. The blueline features Dustin Byfuglinen, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey while up front, the stars are Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers and sophomore Kyle Connor. That’s a lot of firepower and the Jets are one of the top teams in the league because of their overall strength. They could easily be Western Conference champions (they lost to the Golden Knights in the WCF last season) and lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the season.

Late Note: Comrie was sent to the minors so it will be Brossoit backing up Hellebuyck to start the season.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.