Ted Kulfan’s NHL preview: Top teams, top players … and, well, the Wings

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
 
| The Detroit News

Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News previews the NHL season with a look at the top players, championship contenders and more.

Hart Trophy candidates 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton: This one is easy, McDavid is always among the viable candidates. He’ll be tested in the tough Canadian Division, though.

Auston Matthews, Toronto: The pieces appear to all be there, and Matthews is at the point of his career where he’s ready to lead and dominate.

Brayden Point, Tampa: The hockey community got to see how good Point really is in last season’s playoffs. This is a big-time hockey player.

Top forwards

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton: All Draisaitl did last season was win the Hart Trophy (most valuable player).

Connor McDavid, Edmonton: Most exciting player around.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado: If not McDavid, MacKinnon is the most exciting around.

Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis: Always formidable, O’Reilly has developed into a force with the Blues.

Brayden Point, Tampa: Dominant at both ends of the rink, and has knack for big time goals.

Top defensemen

Roman Josi, Nashville: The reigning Norris Trophy winner is still getting better.

Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas: It’ll be weird not seeing Pietrangelo in a Blues’ uniform. But he’ll be just fine in Vegas.

Victor Hedman, Tampa: The backbone of a Lightning core that has been championship quality for many years.

Seth Jones, Columbus: Jones might be ready for serious Norris Trophy consideration this season.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston: With Zdeno Chara leaving, McAvoy becomes the man in Boston. And he’s ready for the challenge.

More: Red Wings preview: New-look, stacked Central Division does rebuilding team no favors

Top goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa: Was outstanding in Tampa’s Cup run last season.

Carey Price, Montreal: Price could be even better with a quality back-up now.

Tuukka Rask, Boston: Don’t be surprised if Rask returns this season with a chip on his shoulder, after opting out of playoffs in summer.

Robin Lehner, Vegas: Lehner has really emerged last two seasons, and could be pivotal difference in Vegas.

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis: Has a Stanley Cup on his resume, but Binnington slipped in the playoffs last season.

Top rookies

Alexis Lafreniere, N.Y. Rangers: The No. 1 overall pick is in a perfect spot to excel.

Tim Stuetzle, Ottawa: Some scouts feel Stuetzle is better than Lafeniere.

Bowen Byram, Colorado: Another in a long line of elite Avalance prospects.

Coaches on the hot seat

Jeff Blashill, Detroit: The Red Wings need to show continued improvement, development during this long rebuild.

Bob Boughner, San Jose: The Sharks have a star-studded, aging roster. And they’re  under pressure to win.

David Quinn, N.Y. Rangers: The pressure is always there in New York, but this roster is probably a year away from playoff contention.

Championship contenders

Tampa Bay: The defending Stanley Cup champions remain awfully good.

Philadelphia: Perfect mix of veteran stars and rising young stars.

Washington: The addition of Zdeno Chara emboldens a veteran roster.

Colorado: The Avalanche have an emerging lineup that might be a year away.

Vegas: The future is now for this salary cap-strapped roster.

Dark horses

Toronto: This might finally be the right mix the Leafs have been waiting for.

Carolina: If goaltender Petr Mrazek can raise his game in the playoffs, the Hurricanes might be awfully dangerous.

Pittsburgh: Can the Penguins swipe one more Stanley Cup with their aging core?

Bottom feeders

Detroit: The Red Wings won’t be historically bad, as a year ago. But they’ll struggle in a tough division.

Chicago: The Wings might actually be better than Chicago, whose roster looks depleted.

Anaheim: The rebuild isn’t going well for the Ducks.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

Articles You May Like

Detroit Red Wings and the value of maintaining draft capital
Today ONLY! Bet $5, Win $200 if ONE GOAL is Scored in All-Star Game
Red Wings & Sharks Could Produce Big Trade at 2023 Deadline
Why these three storylines matter most for Detroit Red Wings coming out of bye week
Michael Jordan Day? Please. These are the greatest No. 23s in Detroit sports history

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *