After a long, sometimes tedious, Summer, the National Hockey League officially kicks off the 2019-20 season on Wednesday night. The last time we saw hockey that mattered, the St. Louis Blues ended the night by hoisting the franchises’ first Stanley Cup. Will they be able to repeat last season’s magical run? Only time will tell. For now, they will have to settle for opening the year as the top team in our power rankings.
1. St. Louis Blues
Where else would we put them to start the year? The defending Stanley Cup Champions saw minimal turnover in the offseason (Pat Maroon, Joel Edmundson) and look primed to compete in the stacked Western Conference. Will the first Cup in franchise come with an early season hangover. We will know soon. However, not that it really matters considering how the Blues started last season.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
It was a dominating regular season for the Lightning followed by an all-time flop in the playoffs. Despite the devastating loss, the Lightning return the best roster in the league that includes reigning Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov and reigning Vezina winner, Andrei Vasilevskiy. In addition, they added Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon as depth pieces. The Lightning aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
3. Boston Bruins
One game. That’s how close the Bruins came to winning their second Cup this decade. It’s a tough pill to swallow but the Bruins are ripe with veterans who have both won and lost a Cup prior to last season so unfortunately, they are familiar with the territory they are entering. However, despite losing Marcus Johansen in free agency, the Bruins have arguably the second-best roster in the East with a number of young players looking to crack the roster.
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4. Vegas Golden Knights
Mark Stone tallied 11 points in 18 games with the Golden Knights last year after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators. In the process, he secured his second straight 30 goal season. However, Stone was dominating in the playoffs as he notched six goals in seven games for Vegas who lost a heartbreaker to the Sharks in the opening round. Now, he will have a full season with a team that most thought could make a return trip to the Finals last season. Not only do those expectations reign true again this year, but they are also far better equipped fulfil them this time around.
5. Dallas Stars
The Achilles heel for the Stars last year was their inability to score consistently outside of their top line. To fix that, they signed former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski who notched 38 goals last year for San Jose as they made it to within one game of the Stanley Cup. With more balanced scoring and a return to health for goalie Ben Bishop, the ceiling for the Stars is as high as any.
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6. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks will only go as far as Erik Karlsson’s health will take them. No one can deny the talent that Karlsson brings to any teams back end, however, it won’t mean much if he is sitting in the press box for 20-30 games. Unlike in years past, the Sharks aren’t quite as deep from a talent sense with the loss of guys like Joe Pavelski in addition to plenty of questions surrounding their goaltending. If Karlsson is healthy and playing to the level he was in Ottawa, he can mask a lot of those issues for the Sharks.
7. Nashville Predators
It is hard to imagine the Predators power play being any worse than what it was last year. Especially considering the addition of Matt Duchene to the lineup. Even with those struggles last year, they were still a 100-point team. Now, they did lose P.K. Subban, however, they still have arguably the best goalie tandem in the league in Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saaros in addition to a presumably more potent offense with the addition of Duchene.
8. Washington Capitals
The 2017 Stanley Cup Champion Capitals had a relatively quiet offseason outside of the Evgeny Kuznetsov drama and return much of the team that won a Stanley Cup just 16 months ago. In a way, they seem to be the forgotten team among those in the East and surely Alex Ovechkin and the crew wouldn’t have it any other way. The Capitals are still among the East’s premier teams.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
It was an interesting offseason for the Leafs, to say the least. Naturally, the Mitch Marner situation took center stage for the majority of the offseason with it ultimately ending in him signing a long term deal with the team. With the core of John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Marner locked up for the foreseeable future, they will remain one of the most talented teams in the league which will win them a lot of games. However, if they don’t ultimately win the games that matter, things could change quickly for this team moving forward. Starting with Mike Babcock.
10. Colorado Avalanche
Jack Hughes and Kappo Kaako are obviously getting the most rookie hype coming into the season. The top two picks from this past Summer’s draft will be on their team’s opening night roster when the puck drops and will look to make an immediate impact. However, lost in the hype is perhaps the front runner for the Calder Award and that is Avs defenseman and UMASS alumn, Cale Makar. Makar burst onto the scene during a surprising playoff run for Colorado last year and looks to be a mainstay for years to come. In addition, the Avalanche locked up RFA Mikko Rantanen just days ago and they have this guy named Nathan MacKinnon who is arguably the best player in the league.
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