1. Tampa Bay- Top 5 scorer (Kucherov), Norris Defensemen (Hedman) and Vezina Calibre Goalie (Vasielevsky). Best team in a top-heavy division. Cup or bust.
2. Toronto- I’m not sure the Leaf’s really needed John Tavares given they have Nazem Kadri and Auston Matthews but that gives them the best offense in the league, the only problem is they have a bottom 5 defense. Freddie Andersen is going to be hung out to dry and he is good enough to handle it. But can they win the 2-1 games?
3. Washington- Same team that won the Stanley Cup, probably will be a hangover but good luck stopping their powerplay. Holtby needs to play like how he did in the playoffs opposed to the Regular Season where he didn’t record a shutout
4. Boston- Best line in hockey and a good mixture of youth. Chara will eventually show his age but Mcavoy could win the Norris soon. Which Tuukka Rask will we get?
5. Florida- Barkov is the most underrated player in the league and will receive Hart votes. Hoffman, Huberdeau and Trocheck headline a very good list of forwards. Yandle can still produce, and Aaron Ekblad is only 22. The only problem is Roberto Luongo is 39.
6. Philadelphia- Giroux had a ‘quiet’ 102 points last year, Nolan Patrick will look to create chemistry with JVR on the 2nd Ivan Provorov will get Norris votes in the future and is one of the best defensemen in the league. The Flyers still have a 30-year Goaltending problem and Carter Hart will start in the AHL
7. Pittsburgh- Crosby, Malkin, Kessel. What more do you need? Eventually Phil Kessel will slow down but the Penguins just find guys. Letang is still capable on the backend but the jury is still out on Matt Murray and how good he really is.
8. Columbus- They could be the best team or the worst team. Panarin and Bobrovsky both want out and if things go wrong, the pending Free Agents could be dealt. Oh yeah, Seth Jones is out for the first 6 weeks.
9. Buffalo– They have potential but aren’t quite there yet. Jeff Skinner will look nice with Jack Eichel, but Casey Mittelstadt will have a tough time replicating the impact that Ryan O’Reilly had as a 2-way player. Rasmus Dahlin is the generational defensemen that people expect him to be but it’s difficult to rely on an 18-year-old. Carter Hutton is good but has never been a fulltime starter.
10. Carolina- Carolina is good but Scott Darling isn’t. Sebastian Aho could have 80 points and Martin Necas is my Darkhorse pick to win the Calder. Jacob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton are a top pairing but once again, the guy behind him isn’t good enough.
11. New Jersey- They’ll take a step back, had cap space in the offseason but didn’t use it. Virtually the same team returning, and Nico Hischier is a year older. Taylor Hall might have heavy legs after carrying the team last season, the Devils better prove worthy to him when he’s eligible for an extension on July 1st.
12. Montreal- May have found the top line Centre they’ve been looking for in Jesperi Kotkaniemi, but they don’t have the forward depth to compete and the Defense isn’t near what you want. Carey Price is still capable though.
13. Islanders- No John Tavares makes for a huge assignment for 2018 Calder Trophy Winner, Mat Barzal but he’ll be the focus of every oppositions game plan. Robin Lehner is a huge question mark in net. Best case for the Islanders is to win the Draft Lottery.
14. Rangers- Not much here, for the first time in a while the Rangers have young prospects in Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil but they’re a way away from competing. Will they trade King Henrik to get him a cup?
15. Senators- Best player was traded for nothing, the next 2 best players are Free Agents at the end of the year and they don’t have their First Round pick this year because they used one this year to take Brady Tkachuk who’s a good player but it’s going to be a sad sight to see Jack Hughes in an Avalanche jersey.
John Tavares. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)