NHL Season Preview: Teams to Look Out For this Year
It is an exciting time for the National Hockey League (NHL) and its fans as the 2019-2020 season began this past Wednesday.
It is an exciting time for the National Hockey League (NHL) and its fans as the 2019-2020 season began this past Wednesday. Though it was a summer of endless celebration for the St. Louis Blues, the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion, other teams made impactful transactions during the offseason, which shifted the league’s hierarchies and created numerous intriguing storylines for the upcoming campaign.
Vancouver’s Young Talent Despite a very exciting run in last year’s regular season, the Vancouver Canucks concluded their season in April without a playoff berth. However, with their young talent on the rise, it is fair to say that Vancouver is in the works of making deep runs into the postseason in the next couple of years. 20-year-old Elias Petterson was a sensation last year with his exceptional skill, putting up 66 points in 71 games played. Drafted fifth overall by the Canucks in 2017, Pettersen put up 28 goals and 38 assists in his rookie season of 2018-2019, making him the standout choice for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the most impactful rookie player. Vancouver’s other young stars, defenseman Quinn Hughes and forward Brock Boeser, have also had their share of significant contributions to the team’s rise. Though having played only a few NHL games, Hughes has shown sparks of great promise as an offensive defenseman, which alongside the acquiring of Tyler Myers as a free agent, will boost Vancouver’s defense.
Tri-State Rebuilds The New Jersey Devils endured a disappointing 2018-2019 season, finishing 29 out of 31 teams in the regular season. However, the Devils’ prospects this year and subsequent years look promising, giving the franchise and its fans hope for the future. Awarded the first overall pick this year, the Devils selected forward Jack Hughes, Quinn Hughes’ younger brother, in the 2019 NHL Draft. Praised for his speed and tremendous poise with the puck, Hughes will play a key role for the Devils going forward. One of the biggest trades this summer involved defenseman Pernell-Karl Sylvester “P.K.” Subban being sent to the Devils from the Nashville Predators. Subban is a force to be reckoned with on defense that will provide a much-needed boost to the New Jersey defense. Forward Nico Hischier, the first overall pick by the Devils in 2017, has also risen to stardom after a relatively quiet rookie season two years ago. Forward Taylor Hall, recovering from an injury that kept him out for half the season last year, will also be the leader of a dynamic Devils offense after being the X-Factor that led the Devils to the playoffs in 2018.
During the 2018-2019 season, the New York Rangers endured a mediocre campaign, finishing with 78 points in the standings. An active offseason has flipped the script for the Rangers though. New York has generated great excitement amongst its fans with the signing of free agent Artemi Panarin from the Columbus Blue Jackets this summer and the drafting of 18-year-old Kaapo Kakko. The Finnish Native made a name for himself playing for team Finland during the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Juniors, making the decision between who would be selected first overall in the draft very tight with Jack Hughes. Panarin, nicknamed the NHL’s breadman, scored 28 goals and 59 assists last season with the Blue Jackets and has hardly missed any games in his previous four years in the NHL. He is undoubtedly an elite forward that will shake up the Rangers’ offense. The Rangers also picked up defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets, adding greater depth to their defense.
The Rest of the League After years of rebuilding, the Arizona Coyotes are ready to compete now, as the team made a blockbuster move this summer by trading for forward Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, regarded as one of the league’s best with 2.58 goals-against average last season for Columbus, signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers, filling in for recently retired Roberto Luongo. Forward Joe Pavelski, former captain of the San Jose Sharks, signed a free agency deal with the Dallas Stars, who in turn lost forward Mats Zuccarello to the Minnesota Wild in free agency. Going into the season, the Vegas Golden Knights are looking to fill in some gaps in their roster with an arsenal of young players that the team owns the rights to after having lost forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to the Colorado Avalanche, trading defenseman Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres, and forward Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes.