31 NHL Team Previews in 31 Words or Less

Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning look up to no one in 2018-19.

2017-18 saw the long awaited coronation of Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, as well as the amazing breakout success of the Vegas Golden Knights. 2018-19 promises to be another terrific season, with several teams primed to take a run at the Cup. Here are my predictions for all 31 NHL teams this season, in just 31 words or less!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  1st Atlantic

2017-18: 1st Atlantic, Eastern Conference Finals

Despite G.M. Steve Yzerman’s surprise departure, the Lightning are an offensive juggernaut led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Stars Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy carry the defense and goaltending, respectively.

2. Nashville Predators

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  1st Central

2017-18: 1st Central, Central Division Finals

Nashville is loaded with several stars like Filip Forsberg in their prime, plus an elite top four on defense. The big question mark: Can goaltender Pekka Rinne backstop a championship run?

3. San Jose Sharks

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  1st Pacific

2017-18: 3rd Pacific, Pacific Division Finals

The Sharks made the biggest offseason splash, adding Erik Karlsson to a defense that already included Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks’ transition game and power play should be scary.

4. Winnipeg Jets

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  2nd Central

2017-18: 2nd Central, Western Conference Finals

Winnipeg is emerging as one of the NHL’s best teams. The Jets, led by Blake Wheeler, are big, fast, and loaded on defense. Plus bargain goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has few peers.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  2nd Pacific

2017-18: 1st Pacific, Stanley Cup Finals

Vegas shocked the NHL and stunningly rolled to the finals in its inaugural season. Newcomer Max Pacioretty joins a deep offense, while Marc-Andre Fleury anchors the Golden Knights in goal.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  1st Metropolitan

2017-18: 2nd Metropolitan, Metropolitan Division Finals

After winning back-to-back Cups, the Penguins still almost spoiled the Capitals’ coronation. The core, led by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, is loaded, but goaltender Matt Murray needs to be better.

7. Washington Capitals

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  2nd Metropolitan

2017-18: 1st Metropolitan, Stanley Cup Champion

Washington unleashed speed, physical play and solid goaltending in the postseason, culminating in a title. The Capitals have stars on offense in Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov, and goaltender Braden Holtby.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  2nd Atlantic

2017-18: 3rd Atlantic, Atlantic Division Semifinals

By acquiring John Tavares to join Auston Matthews, Toronto jumped to instant contender status. The Leafs should score at will, but their defense remains concerning. It was exposed in the playoffs.

9. Boston Bruins

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 3rd Atlantic

2017-18: 2nd Atlantic, Atlantic Division Finals

The surprising Bruins contended last season, after finally developing a young core to balance stars Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, goaltender Tuukka Rask, and ageless Zdeno Chara. Expect continued growth in 2018-19.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 3rd Metropolitan

2017-18: 4th Metropolitan, Metropolitan Division Semifinals

Despite superstars Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones, Columbus is a hard team to read as Sergei Bobrovsky’s rollercoaster play in goal always determines success. The Blue Jackets still need more balance.

11. Colorado Avalanche

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  3rd Central

2017-18: 4th Central, Central Division Semifinals

Almost out of nowhere, Colorado emerged in 2017-18 behind Nathan MacKinnon’s MVP-worthy season. The Avs could still use upgrades on defense and depth, but this is a dangerous, up-and-coming squad.

12. Minnesota Wild

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  4th Central

2017-18: 3rd Central, Central Division Semifinals

Minnesota’s window is closing. Aging stalwarts Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Ryan Suter still carry the mail. If the Wild stay healthy, and Devan Dubnyk excels in goal, they could surprise.

13. Anaheim Ducks

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  3rd Pacific

2017-18: 2nd Pacific, Pacific Division Semifinals

The slow-footed Ducks might have missed their championship chance as the NHL accelerates. Ryan Getzlaf leads the way and emerging goaltender John Gibson anchors a steady defense. Losing Corey Perry hurts.

14. St. Louis Blues

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 5th Central

2017-18: 5th Central, Out of the Playoffs

After undergoing an extensive makeover, the Blues could return to contender status. This is sniper Vladimir Tarasenko’s team, but St. Louis has balance and a top-notch defense. Goaltending remains a concern.

15. Philadelphia Flyers

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  4th Metropolitan

2017-18: 3rd Metropolitan, Metropolitan Division Semifinals

Philadelphia is a growing squad led by a terrific top line featuring captain Claude Giroux. The Flyers have depth on defense, led by stud Shayne Gostisbehere. Goaltending concerns still wreak havoc.

16. Los Angeles Kings

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  4th Pacific

2017-18: 4th Pacific, Pacific Division Semifinals

L.A. was the surprise winner of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. Top-flight defenseman Drew Doughty and goaltender Jonathan Quick remain the leaders of a team lacking quality young depth.

17. Dallas Stars

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  6th Central

2017-18: 6th Central, Out of the Playoffs

Dallas’ plummet to mediocracy came as a shock. A team led by Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov struggled to score. Finding more depth will be vital in 2018-19.

18. New Jersey Devils

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  5th Metropolitan

2017-18: 5th Metropolitan, Atlantic Division Semifinals

The youthful Devils were one of the league’s best stories of 2017-18. Taylor Hall is a true star, and New Jersey has dependable goaltending, but its core is still maturing.

19. Florida Panthers

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  4th Atlantic

2017-18: 4th Atlantic, Out of the Playoffs

After a terrible trade with Vegas, Florida was left as smoldering wreckage in 2017-18. Led by Alexander Barkov, the Panthers still have a strong core plus ageless workhorse netminder Roberto Luongo.

20. Carolina Hurricanes

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  6th Metropolitan

2017-18: 6th Metropolitan, Out of the Playoffs

After a decade of mediocrity, Carolina is overdue for the playoffs. Sebastian Aho, 21, is the NHL’s best unknown player, while new defenseman Dougie Hamilton adds to an already solid blueline.

21. Chicago Blackhawks

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  7th Central

2017-18: 7th Central, Out of the Playoffs

How valuable is goaltender Corey Crawford? His injury last season triggered Chicago’s nightmare collapse. Even if he’s healthy, the Blackhawks, led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, are sliding downward.

22. Calgary Flames

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  5th Pacific

2017-18: 5th Pacific, Out of the Playoffs

Calgary features a talented young offensive talent led by Johnny Gaudreau and some elite blueliners like Mark Giordano. Offensive depth and goaltending remain glaring issues holding the Flames back.

23. Edmonton Oilers

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 6th Pacific

2017-18: 6th Pacific, Out of the Playoffs

Led by the NHL’s best player, Connor McDavid, and budding star Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton has boatloads of potential. However, the Oilers lack depth and elite defensemen, and that still spells trouble.

24. New York Islanders

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 7th Metropolitan

2017-18: 7th Metropolitan, Out of the Playoffs

Without John Tavares, the Islanders could crumble. New York has Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee — all talented youngsters. It is Robin Lehner’s job to fix lingering goaltending issues.

25. Buffalo Sabres

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 5th Atlantic

2017-18: 8th Atlantic, Out of the Playoffs

A losing culture plagues the Sabres, but by moving out Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo is officially Jack Eichel’s team. Defensive and goaltending issues will likely prevent a return to the postseason.

26. Arizona Coyotes

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 7th Pacific

2017-18: 8th Pacific, Out of the Playoffs

Amid arena concerns, Arizona is building a talented squad. Clayton Keller is a budding superstar, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson anchors the Coyotes’ defense. Disgruntled Canadien Alex Galchenyuk might be a terrific addition.

27. Detroit Red Wings

2018-19 Predicted Finish:  6th Atlantic

2017-18: 5th Atlantic, Out of the Playoffs

Detroit attempted to remain competitive, but now is finally rebuilding. The last piece of the bygone era, Henrik Zetterberg, retired, leaving the team officially in hands of Dylan Larkin and company.

28. New York Rangers

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 8th Metropolitan

2017-18: 8th Metropolitan, Out of the Playoffs

After many years near the top, the rebuilding Rangers are no longer a Stanley Cup contender. The big question is whether veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist will wait out an overdue makeover.

29. Montreal Canadiens

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 7th Atlantic

2017-18: 6th Atlantic, Out of the Playoffs

Not even star goaltender Carey Price can carry a Montreal squad that traded away two of its best offensive players. It’s going to be another long and disappointing year for fans.

30. Vancouver Canucks

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 8th Pacific

2017-18: 7th Pacific, Out of the Playoffs

With the Sedin twins’ retirement, Vancouver moves on to a new era. Forwards Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are excellent foundational building blocks, but the Canucks remain far away from contending.

31. Ottawa Senators

2018-19 Predicted Finish: 8th Atlantic

2017-18: 7th Atlantic, Out of the Playoffs

The Senators were a mess with Erik Karlsson, and should be worse without him. Two years ago Ottawa was one overtime goal away from the Finals. That seems like eons ago.

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