The end of the calendar year is rapidly approaching which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions and 2017 predictions.
USA Today released 10 NHL predictions for the upcoming year on Monday including some interesting notes on the Caps. Will they prove prescient?
The first prediction deals with rising Winnipeg Jets star Patrik Laine and his quest to become the next Alex Ovechkin:
"Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine will outscore Alex Ovechkin this season and for the calendar year of 2017."
As the article notes, Laine currently holds a four-goal lead over Ovechkin (18-14). What it does not note, however, is that the Jets have played five more games than the Caps this season.
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Ovechkin’s goal production declines when the team’s power play is struggling. The team’s struggles with the extra man at the start of the season have been well documented. Now with the power play surging, expect Ovechkin’s goal totals to start climbing.
Laine is an unbelievable talent who has a very bright NHL future, but he is a rookie. Chances are he cannot continue scoring at his current rate over the course of 2017. The other coaches and players get paid a lot of money to find a way to keep players like Laine from scoring. His production will likely decline in 2017 as teams start to get wise to him, especially at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Ever hear of a sophomore slump?
This feels like the type of prediction experts are going to make every year until they’re proven right, much like declaring the San Antonio Spurs are past their prime or Tom Brady can’t lead the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. Eventually, you’re going to be proven right. What we should keep track of, however, is just how many times you were proven wrong before Father Time eventually wins out.
I’m not saying Ovechkin will definitely surpass Laine in goals for either the season or the calendar year, I’m just saying it may not be as obvious a prediction as it may seem.
The second predictions dealing with the Caps had to do with defenseman Dmitry Orlov and former Cap Mathieu Perreault:
"Mathieu Perreault, Dmitry Orlov and Jonas Brodin will be among the most noteworthy Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season."
For those who have been trying to project who from the Caps may get snagged in the expansion draft, Orlov has always seemed a likely candidate. Teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie.
It’s easy to see why Orlov would be a target for Vegas general manager George McPhee. McPhee drafted Orlov in 2009, he is only 25 years old and has top-four skill. Among players on the team, he will likely be near the top of McPhee’s wish list. But this prediction is also dependent on one very large factor: Karl Alzner.
What this ultimately says is that Washington will protect Alzner, Matt Niskanen and John Carlson from the expansion draft, which they will...if they can re-sign Alzner. If not, however, most likely they will protect Orlov over Nate Schmidt, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney.
Ultimately, I think this will be correct. Some have floated Philipp Grubauer's name out there, but with so many teams in the NHL utilizing a two-goalie system, I believe McPhee will have his choice of plenty of netminders who have already established themselves as top starters. Orlov would be my prediction as of now.
Having said that and with all due respect to Orlov, if he is among the "most noteworthy" players on the new Vegas team, it may be a rough first few years for the Golden Knights.
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