Category Archives: Hockey News

Hockey & Coffee: Week of October 8 – 14

Welcome to the newest blog here on LTP that will be posted every Monday morning at 9am that I am calling Hockey & Coffee. So, what exactly is Hockey & Coffee going to be? I will highlight three of the biggest news stories, games, and even trades throughout the ENTIRE NHL, not just the Penguins. I’m going to throw in some different stuff each week with predictions and what to watch out for etc. This gives us writers a chance to write non Penguins articles, and for our readers to get some league wide coverage from us. Now that you know what you are getting yourself into, let’s jump into some headlines…

The Great 8

 

The Washington Capitals are off to a good start to the 2017-18 season. In their first six games played they have a record of 3-2-1 and sit in a wildcard spot in the East. Much of the Capitals success comes in part of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has 9 goals in six games, including two hat tricks in just 13 minutes of ice time. Needless to say, Ovi and the Capitals are off to a red hot start to the season. For me personally, I am not fully convinced by the Capitals just yet. They appear to have some depth issues and clearly their defense is not nearly what is was last season, especially with Matt Niskanen going onto LTIR. However, it is hard to ever bet against Ovi and the Caps; well unless it’s the second round of the playoffs.

Bad Teams, Good Starts

The Colorado Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils, who finished 30th & 27th respectively last year, are both off to a surprisingly good start this year. The Avalanche in my eyes are not as bad as last year showed. They unfortunately had their starting goalie go down early into the season and were forced to play an unproven Calvin Pickard for the majority of the season. As shown already this year with a healthy goalie, this team has some potential to be a middle of the pack team. With the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and newly acquired Nail Yakapov all playing well, they might be able to make a run for a wild card spot if they can hold their own throughout an 82 game season. As far as the Devils are concerned, they have a very very good goaltender who is capable in stealing a game on any given night and have a plethora of young skaters coming up. Will ButcherJesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier are leading the way as far as young guns go in NJ, but some forget about the “veterans” the Devils have. Taylor Hall is still a very good pure goal scorer, and maybe this year he has a breakout year scoring wise when playing with more depth behind him.

MAF Goes on IR

Marc-Andre Fleury was placed on IR Sunday morning after suffering a concussion Friday vs the Red Wings. Fleury was off to a good start with a 3-1-0 record in Vegas. This could have been the worst possible situation for the Golden Knights, the back bone of the team goes down early in the season. It appears newly acquired goaltender Malcolm Subban will start between the pipes during Fleury’s absence. Subban recorded his first victory of the season Sunday night in a 3-1 win vs his old squad, the Boston Bruins. Vegas fans, I would not hit the panic button yet, but boy would my hand be real close to it. Hopefully we hear some good news regarding Fleury’s status in the near future.

A Look Ahead:

  • Games to watch out for: Leafs vs Capitals (Tuesday 10/17),  Oilers vs Blackhawks (Thursday 10/19)
  • Expect a big week from Auston Matthews, (5 points in 3 games)
  • I’m predicting a Patrik Laine hat trick Tuesday vs CBJ
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NHL 2017-2018 Power Rankings: October

It’s that time of year again. Preseason hockey is over and the regular season is just around the corner. All anyone seems to talk about during the off season is their list of top 10 defensemen, top 10 centers, top 10 wingers, top 10 this, and top 10 that. But it’s about time to get to one of the few rankings that is actually sort of relevant; The Power Rankings.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

No, I am not putting the Penguins at the top because I’m a die-hard Pens fan. And no it’s not because I write for a site about the Penguins. The Penguins just came off of yet another season with the greatest trophy in all of hockey, the Stanley Cup. Yes, the Penguins have lost 5 players to free agency and another to the expansion draft but honestly, this offseason the Penguins have only gotten even more dangerous. With young talent Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese on the ready to fill any holes in the line up, the best offense in the league has just gotten better.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

With the addition of Artemi Panarin to an already deep team, the Blue Jackets become one of the best in the league. With reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky in net and defensemen like Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Zachary Werenski, they have a strong defense that allowed the second lowest goals against in the 2016-2017 season.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

With captain, Steven Stamkos, finally back from yet another injury, the deadly team that we all thought we were going to see last year may finally be here. Most teams are either strong on defense or offense, but the Lightning can strike on both. As long as starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is at least OK, the Lightning will be one of the most deadly teams in the league. With newly acquired rookie Mikhail Sergachev to their defense comprised of Norris trophy finalist Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and others, their defense is looking even scarier. That defense paired with an offense including big names like Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Tyler Johnson is absolutely unbelievable. As long as their big names can stay healthy, they will be on top of the pack this season.

4. Edmonton Oilers

Any team with Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the world, has a chance at the Cup. Now, Edmonton may not have one of the deepest of teams, but they have no shortage of offensive talent. With a supporting cast of Leon Draisaitl, and newly acquired weapons, Ryan Strome and aging Jussi Jokinen along with a very consistent goalie in Cam Talbot. With all of that offensive power and a deep run in the playoffs to build off of, the Oilers are certainly a team to be reckoned with.

5. Nashville Predators

Some may be surprised that the reigning Western Conference Playoff champions are listed this low, but with top pairing defensemen Ryan Ellis out until at least December, the real deal James Neal being taken in the expansion, and the retirement of former captain Mike Fisher, the Predators are left with a disturbing lack of depth. Although, with signings of former penguins Nick Bonino, and Scott Hartnell, they have tried to address these issues but there are certainly still a few holes in their lineup. The main reason they are this high is because they still have one of the best top 4 defensive cores in the league even without Ellis. Some would argue that they have 2 of the top 10 defensemen in the entire league.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

In one year the Maple Leafs went from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best teams in the league in a single year. I guess that is what happens when you get Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner in the same draft, along with sophomore William Nylander. All their big guns are now one year older, one year more experienced, and one year better. With the signing of Patrick Marleau, the Leafs offense is extremely fast and skilled, and there is no limit to what they could do as long as their weak defense holds up. And if goalie Frederik Andersen goes down, the Leafs don’t really have an NHL caliber back up. As long as their defense holds up, the Leafs and their young guns could be among the best teams in the league.

7. Anaheim Ducks

Not much has really changed in the offseason, but not much really needed to as they made it to the Western Conference Final this past season. They dodged a bullet by making a deal with the Golden Knights to keep defensemen Sami Vatanen. They basically have the same lineup as last year, because hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

8. Washington Capitals

Now, here is an interesting team. They lost 6 players to free agency this year including key defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner. The Capitals still have a lot of offensive prowess but their defense is significantly weaker which is why they are so much lower than they would have been at this time last year. As long as Braden Holtby plays to his standard, the defense may not have to be as great as it’s former self. They certainly aren’t the same team that won the Presidents Trophy last year, but don’t rule them out of contention just yet.

9. Montreal Canadiens

Honestly, I have pretty much no idea how good this Canadiens team is actually gonna be, but they can’t be too bad with probably the best goalie in the league, Carey Price. Their defense seems to be pretty good, but who knows how good their offense will be. In arguably the biggest trade of the offseason, the Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin who is coming off of quite the season with the Lightning. The Canadiens could once again be one of the top teams in the Atlantic. But just as easily, they could completely miss the playoffs.

10. Chicago Blackhawks

Pekka Rinne single-handedly sent the Blackhawks into a panic attack. After only scoring 3 goals and getting swept in the first round of the playoffs, they made several large trades, receiving a key player from the 2015 championship in return but not without losing a few key players of their own. They lost Artemi Panarin, who was amazing along side Patrick Kane last year. Some of the key players the got in deals this off season were Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad. The Blackhawks are slowly getting worse and are falling behind in the rapidly improving Western Conference, but they aren’t out of the race yet.

11. Ottawa Senators

After a surprisingly deep run last season, the Senators have a few key losses to start off the season. First off, star defensemen Erik Karlsson‘s injury he received during the playoffs last year still hasn’t healed, and no one seems to know exactly when he is coming back. Honestly, he is the only reason the Senators even made the playoffs. If he is out for an extended time period, the Senators could be in a very unfortunate situation.

12. Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars made a ton of moves this season, fixing many of the glaring holes in their team. The biggest of these offseason acquisitions being goalie Ben Bishop. The Stars finally have a solid goalie to keep pucks out of the net. They have an even more improved offense with Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal, and a new top 4 defenseman in Marc Methot. The Stars are a dangerous team and easily could end up as one of the top few teams in the West.

13. St. Louis Blues

The Blues have now have 3 left wingers on IR with the news of Robby Fabbri missing the entire 2017-2018 season. Although they have aquired players like Brayden Schenn that will help fill those holes. The Blues have a great offense headed by superstar Vladimir Tarasenko. If goalie Jake Allen plays like he did at the end of the year and postseason as opposed to the earlier parts of the season, the Blues will once again be one of the top teams in the West.

14. Minnesota Wild

The Wild went on a tear about mid-season last year but soon fell off and didn’t show up for the rest of the season, getting knocked out in round 1. If they can find a way to get back to where they were, they will once again be a solid team. They probably won’t be one of the top teams in the West but they will still be good, especially if Devan Dubnyk plays at a high level like he did most of last season.

15. New York Rangers

After being one of the top teams in the East this past year, they find themselves in the bottom of the top half of the power rankings. Aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has started to show signs of wear, even though he was still pretty good in the playoffs. They are nowhere near as good as they were in past years. They really started to fall off in the second half of last season and that downward trend will probably continue this season. The signing of Kevin Shattenkirk is certainly going to help them but they just aren’t a powerhouse like they were several years ago.

16. San Jose Sharks

They managed to resign Joe Thornton but they lost Patrick Marleau to the Leafs. After going to the Finals in the 2015-’16 season, they had a disappointing playoff run, getting knocked out in 6 games by the Oilers this past season. They still have a good, yet, aging team in this now young and speedy league. It may be hard for the Sharks to keep up with the rest of the NHL.

17. Calgary Flames

The Flames arguably have one of the best defense cores in the league with the recent acquisition of Travis Hamonic. But their awful play in playoffs exposed some severe holes in net that they have tried to fill with Mike Smith. As long as Smith holds up, they should be okay. But if their demons in net haunt them again, the Flames are going to have yet another underwhelming season.

18. Philadelphia Flyers

After barely missing the playoffs last year, they are looking much better after getting the 2nd overall pick and selecting Nolan Patrick. The main issue is in net. They did sign Brian Elliot but he looked awful in the first round of the playoffs last year with the Flames. He doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade over former starter Steve Mason. If Elliot can have a bounce back year, they could easily make the playoffs. Currently, they are just going to be stuck as a bubble team again.

19. Carolina Hurricanes

Here is a team that could see a breakout this year. They have a solid, young defense and have improved their goaltending with Scott Darling. But will it really pan out? If Darling plays well and their offense finds a way to consistently score goals, they will be deadly and a potential playoff team that could surprise a lot of people.

20. Los Angeles Kings

Their team is getting old. Their youngest player is 25 and they have 8 players over 30. They just simply can’t keep up anymore. Their players that brought them their championships in previous years just aren’t as good as they were. They made several poor trades last season, as if they were going for a playoff run, but missed by a decent bit. Unless they change, they are going to be stuck here near the bottom for a while.

21. Boston Bruins

The Bruins aren’t that bad of a team. They shouldn’t be this low, but the league seems to have quite a large and relatively even middle group of teams this year. They were mediocre at best during the playoffs. If I had done this a week or two ago before the David Pastrnak deal, this would have been a very different. But they were able to get him under a good pay and good term for his worth. They still have pretty good goaltender in Tuukka Rask. The Bruins are probably going to have yet another season full of mediocrity.

22. New York Islanders

In any other year, I would say that if the Islanders goaltender held up, they could be a potential playoff team. There are just too many other good teams that a playoff appearance doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Islanders. This is a big year for them, as they need to prove that they are a team that star John Tavares would want to resign with. If they lose Tavares they are going to be in a very bad position. In a stacked Metropolitan Division, it seems as if the Islanders just don’t have what it takes to keep up.

23. Winnipeg Jets

This team is such a hard team to rank, they have so many good players. Yet, for some reason, as a team they haven’t been able to perform. They have attempted to fix the goalie problem with the signing of Steve Mason, but will it be enough? Like a lot of other teams, their goaltending needs to be solid. If they get that, then this could be a scary team with lots of weapons like, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Bryan Little. They should be a good team, but they just haven’t been able to prove they have what it takes. Hopefully this year they can change that.

24. Buffalo Sabers

Things are starting too look up for the Sabers. They have a new coach and a new general manager. They have a fair amount of weapons on offense, a decent defense, and decent goaltending. They just simply need to win, something that has eluded them over the past few years. With Jack Eichel in his contract year, he has even more incentive to step up and be the superstar that everyone expects him to become. I feel like a broken record, but if Eichel and crew steps up, they could be a team to reckon with in the Atlantic Division.

25. Arizona Coyotes

Here we have a team that has significantly changed this offseason. They have made several moves that have gotten them an much improved defense with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jason Demers. Now they don’t seem to have any established offensive threats, but they are trusting that their young and unproven young guns can step up and help put pucks in the net. They also have a new face in net as they got rid of Mike Smith and acquired Antti Raanta. If Raanta proves to be a reliable starting goalie, they will be an extremely hard team to score on. They are going to need more than just good defense to move up the power rankings.

26. New Jersey Devils

Cory Schneider is the only reason the team is even this high, he is great goaltender that really helps make up for their abysmal defense. Now they have gotten Will Butcher. But that is still a really below average top 6. They have an okay defense, but they are still the worst team in the Metropolitan.

27. Vegas Golden Knights

And now we get to the teams that are actually bad. The Golden Knights do have an excuse as they are a brand new expansion team. They have a decent defense but they are going to have a really hard time scoring goals. They really don’t have any true first line worthy guys. They are just going to get smashed by the competition. Former Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fluery will help keep them in games, but you cant win games without scoring.

28. Detroit Red Wings

Here is a team, that desperately needs to rebuild, but is refusing to and keeps getting worse and worse. As of recently goaltending has been an absolute mess. Their goalies can’t seem to be consistently good or bad. Their defense doesn’t seem to be helping them. They are continuing to lose their ability to score and are quite simply just bad. With the need to rebuild, the Red Wings are coming in with a low rank early in the year.

29. Florida Panthers

I’m going to be honest, I have no clue what on earth the Panthers are doing. They have gotten rid of or just simply let go of 3 of their top 5 scorers last season. They just traded away Jason Demers for a bag of pucks. They paid Vegas to take a young 30 goal scorer from them in the expansion draft. They have a 38 year old Roberto Luongo in net, and then a seemingly intentionally awful defense and offense. I mean Alexander Barkov could have a good season but yikes. This team is becoming a dumpster fire real fast.

30. Colorado Avalanche

This team that has some talent, but can’t seem to do anything with it. They need to trade Matt Duchene soon so that they can get as much as possible for him. Whatever they get won’t help them this season. They need to try and load up on young guns and picks. Basically, they are going to be very bad this season.

31. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are in a very similar situation as the Avalanche, except pretty much all of their talent is old. They don’t have anyone like Matt Duchene that needs to be traded. They just need to tank and stick to the rebuild, which means they will also falter this season. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The Sedin twins are old and in their final year of their contract. They have average goaltending. They cant really score and can’t help their goalie out in their own zone.

Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Coach: Alain Vigneault

2016-17′ Record and Standing: (48-28-6, 102 PTS) 4th in Metropolitan.

Key Additions

– David Desharnais

– Kevin Shattenkirk

– Ondrej Pavelec

– Mika Zibanejad

– Jesper Fast (resigned)

Key Subtractions

– Tanner Glass

– Brandon Pirri

– Oscar Lindberg (expansion draft)

Preview

Outside of losing Lindberg Vegas, when Glass and Pirri are your biggest subtractions of the offseason, your team must be doing something right. The New York Rangers have done exactly that. This is the firs time in a few years that the Rangers look like they’ve loaded up to try and get franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist his first career Stanley Cup as he nears the end of his career. Bringing in guys like Desharnais and Zibanejad won’t make or break their season. Though, they are very nice additions to see for the Rangers’ fans considering they haven’t often been very active in signing free agents over the years. Their prized land, Shattenkirk, was very below average for the Capitals after they beat out the Penguins and a few other teams at the trade deadline to acquire him. It is reasonable to think he can be better in the Rangers system and with a new boatload of money in his pocket, it could be big for them.

Predictions

This is the first time in two seasons that I am worried about a team other than Washington. The Rangers have loaded up and have a few young pieces like Fast, Kevin HayesChris Krieder and Jimmy Vesey that are going to help pace this scary Rangers offense. They will finally get to see some of Anthony Deangelo, a young prospect they acquired. They’ve already got Ryan McDonaghBrady Skjei, and Shattenkirk. With Lundqvist in goal, this could be a scary good season for the Rangers.

Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Coach: Dave Hakstol

2016-2017 Record and Standing: 39-33-10, 88 PTS; Finished 6th in Metro

Key Additions

– Nolan Patrick (first round pick)

– Scott Laughton

– Brian Elliott

– Shayne Gostisbehere (signed six-year extension)

Key Subtractions

– Michael Del Zotto

– Steve Mason

Preview

The Flyers struggled to gain consistent traction last season and sunk into the near-cellar of the Metropolitan Division. They endured down seasons from top stars such as Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. They got inconsistent goalie play from their Mason-Michael Neuvirth platoon. They finally ended the Mason era by allowing him to sign in Winnipeg. They brought in Elliott, someone who has struggled with his own inconsistency over previous seasons, to be one of their goalies. Elliott will start to begin the season. After resigning Gostisbehere to a long-term deal, the Flyers will have him and young Ivan Provorov to hold down the back-end for them. Their offense will be much of the same with guys like Giroux, Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds trying to light up the scoreboard. With the second overall draft choice, Patrick, likely to join them this season, they will look for a scoring boost that very much plagued them in 2016-17′. In the way of actual signings, though, the Flyers didn’t do much. It will be intriguing to see if they have enough firepower to get back into the conversation for playoff contention.

Prediction

The Flyers get a bounce back year from the guys who failed them last season. Gostisbehere, a guy the Flyers made a consistent healthy scratch down the stretch, will be much better with the new job security. Their forwards, who had a down season, should be better. The addition of Patrick can’t hurt. The biggest factor in being a playoff team will be their goaltending. If Elliott can emerge as the true number one, the Flyers will be in really good shape. A fringe wild-card team can become a top three team in the division if their goalie situation can be sorted out.

Metropolitan Division Preview: New Jersey Devils

Coach- John Hynes

2016-2017 record: 28-40-14 (70 points), finished last in the division

Key Additions

  • Nico Hischier (1st overall pick)
  • Brian Boyle (Signed)
  • Marcus Johanson (Trade)
  • Will Butcher (Signed)

Key Subtractions

  • Beau Bennett (Free Agency)
  • Michael Cammalleri (Buyout)
  • Jon Merril (Expansion Draft)

Preview

After last season the rebuilding Devils are hoping to be this years Maple Leafs. The future is bright in New Jersey and hopefully that is sooner rather then later if your a Devils fan.

They have stars like Taylor Hall, Corey Schneider, Marcus Johanson, and now Nico Hischier. Hischier seems to be a lock for the lineup. He won’t be like the past number 1 overall picks in pay wise. But he should post good numbers. He should help this lineup at 1st or second line center.

On defense, they don’t have a huge name or star defender. They get the job done as a unit when they’re winning. But depth here is still a question mark. As is a true top tier defender on this club. But maybe if Butcher pans out he will be their answer to that question.

This is a very young and upcoming team. But with a good young coach in John Hynes behind the bench and GM Ray Shero leading this team, it should grow into a solid playoff contender. The metro is full of talent and competitive teams that might make the playoffs if they were in any other division. 

Predictions

The Devils are a young and upcoming team. They’re setting themselves up for a bright future. As Shero did for the Pens, he will make a great roster in the upcoming seasons for the Devils. They will compete again next year and should win some more games after the acquisitions of Hischier, Butcher, and Johansson. Pair the new guys with Hall, Zajac, and Henrique. 

I expect them to get around 80 points this season and finish around the middle of the pack. They are on the rise but the defense is a huge concern. I expect Schnieder to rebound from his poor season last year. But that defense just isn’t good enough. When Ben Lovejoy is in your top 4 pairing you have some problems. 

As for player predictions and stats, those are tough to predict. But hey I’ll give it a go, I mean it’s a guestimation right? Well predictions for the stars at least.

Taylor Hall: 31 goals, 35 assists, 66 points

Expect a big year from Hall with a legit center coming in. He will get alot of good looks this season. And I believe he will be the best goal scorer on their team.

Marcus Johansson: 16 goals, 28 assists, 44 points

His numbers should drop since he’s coming from a offensive powerhouse to a less talented team. He will be a great addition and help the young guys.

Nico Hischier: 26 goals, 37 assists, 60 points

He will put up good numbers while playing with Hall. But I don’t expect McDavid like numbers from him. He will have a solid rookie season and grow into his game as the season goes on.

Will Butcher: 11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points

Butcher will make an immediate impact for the Devils. I expect him to eventually be a top pair Defenseman for them this season. But he will put up solid numbers with his good skating abilities.

Corey Schnieder: 2.80 GAA, .915 SV%, 4 SO

Well those are my predictions and your preview for New Jersey. The bottom line for them is if their goaltending goes back to normal and defense steps up then they’ll push for the playoffs. But either way they’re still an upcoming team that can only go up from here. The Metro is stacked and full of talent. So it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be where at the end of the year.

Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Islanders

Coach- Doug Weight
2016-17 Record and Standing : 41-29-12 (5th in Metro, 9th in Eastern Conference)

Key Additions

– Jordan Eberle

Key Subtractions

– Ryan Strome

 – Travis Hamonic

Preview

A team in a transitional state with an unstable arena situation and a GM who is more commonly seen in the lists of those most likely to be removed, a relatively quiet offseason from the Islanders will help to provide some stability to a team in desperate need of some.

The Islanders arena issues have been widely noted, with their current lease in Brooklyn expiring in 2019 and having been seen as an experiment gone wrong around the league. With neither side happy with how the experiment went and the lack of a suitable arena for the Islanders to move to, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the Islanders organization.

This uncertainty is compounded by captain and franchise center John Tavares’ contract expiring after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season and all reports of an extension have been to note how little discussion has been had.

What the Islanders do have going for them, however, will be the play of young forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang. Both are very young at age 20 and 21 respectively. They showed the potential to be contributors for the Islanders going forward. Beauvillier spent the season on the NHL roster, playing in 66 games and scoring 24 points while being used in primarily a bottom 6 role. Ho-Sang got called up part way through the season, scoring 10 points in 21 games. Expect both of them to make strong arguments for top 6 time coming out of camp.

There is also hope from the Islanders’ front office that Mathew Barzal can make the leap from dominating the WHL straight to the NHL. One of Canada’s best players at the 2017 World Juniors, Barzal is primarily a playmaker with a good two-way game who has the skating and solid enough size to make a very good claim to make the Islanders’ NHL roster out of training camp.

While the forwards are of good quality, albeit with players like Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck overpaid for what they provide, the Islanders issue will rest with their defense and goaltending.

Acquiring Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome was a good move for the Islanders. But their other trade of the offseason is one that created a hole on their blue line. Moving Travis Hamonic for a 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks is a very good deal from a value perspective, but it created a hole in the top-4 of the Islanders defense that they haven’t addressed in the offseason.

With Thomas Hickey now being penciled in for a top-4 spot, the Islanders will be hoping that one of Sebastian Aho, Devon Toews or Ryan Pulock can earn a spot in training camp and hopefully provide some young puck moving ability to the blue line that got worse in the offseason.

The Islanders also enter the season with Thomas Greiss as the starter once again and Jaroslav Halak as his backup. Despite spending $7.83 million on their goaltending position, the Islanders have yet more uncertainty in the net. Greiss, who Penguins fans may remember from his disappointing 2014-2015 season as the back-up, had a very good 2015-2016 but suffered from the inconsistency that has plagued his career in 2016-2017. He put up below average numbers. In spite of this, the Islanders committed to him as at least a part time starter by signing him to a 3 year, $3.33 million AAV contract extension in January 2017. This commitment is at odds with the handling of Halak, who put up similar numbers to Greiss but found himself on the wrong side of a 3-goalie rotation in 2016-2017. This led to Halak demanding a trade and subsequently being waived and demoted to Bridgeport for the majority of 2017. With Halak’s contract expiring after the season, expect Greiss to remain the starter for better or worse.

Prediction

I see the Islanders having a very similar season to the one they just had. They may receive an offensive boost with the acquisition of Eberle, but the uncertainty of the blue line and the goaltending will negate any positives that come from that move. Expect another season of being in the running for a wildcard spot. But due to the competitiveness of the Metro division, the Islanders will always struggle to gain that spot. They also lack the overall team to be that competitive in the playoffs unless several young players make huge leaps. They may also commit to being sellers if they are dwindling at the deadline and Tavares looks unlikely to re-sign.

Doug Weight has a tough task ahead of him in his first full season as a head coach and it will be incredibly interesting to see if he brings a new energy to the young players of the Islanders.

Metropolitan Division Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

Coach: Bill Peters

Record and Standing: 36-31-15, Finished 7th in the Metropolitan Division

Key Additions:

-Scott Darling

-Justin Williams

-Marcus Kruger

-Trevor Van Riemsdyk

-Jaccob Slavin (extension)

Key Subtractions:

-Eddie Lack

-Ryan Murphy

 Preview

It appears that the Canes have addressed their two biggest issues this offseason, those being goaltending and leadership; all while locking up younger players for the future. Justin Williams, aka Mr. Game 7, is surely beneficial to have on any team but especially a younger team to be in a leadership role. The 35-year-old is a 3x Stanley Cup Winner, with one coming in 2006 with the Hurrianes. Adding leadership to their young forward core in hopes to be more competitive in the dominate Metro division, while still lacking a true first line center. The addition of goaltender Scott Darling could be the difference maker for the young Canes team. Similar to what Cam Talbot did in New York; now Edmonton’s starter, Darling, is getting his chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL after carrying the Blackhawks for a stint when Corey Crawford struggled briefly this past season and in previous playoff series. A healthy Jeff Skinner could make all the difference for this young Canes team. A proven top winger in the NHL when healthy, Skinner is someone who Carolina will look towards to lead them offensively. Sebastian Aho is another forward to keep on your radar in Carolina. Aho posted 49 points in his rookie season, and I fully expect him to be around the 50 point mark again this year. The young D core in Carolina could be something to watch out for as well. Loaded on the backend with talent led by Justin Faulk, it appears on paper they have one of the youngest and most offensively talented D cores in the league with the likes of Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, and rookie Haydn Fleury.

Predictions

I expect the Hurricanes to be in a similar spot this upcoming season as they were last year. In the 2016-17 season they finished with 87 points, and probably should have made the playoffs, but because the Metro division is so dominating they were left out. The possible addition of a true first line center (I.E. Matt Duchene) would change my opinion, but I see the Canes missing the playoffs for the ninth season in a row. They are close, very close, but the Metro is such a powerhouse with teams like Pittsburgh, The New York Rangers, Philadelphia, and even Columbus. Ideally, Canes fans would like to see both Skinner, and Aho with 50+ points each, but I predict that Aho will hover around the 40-point mark. As far as Skinner, it is hit or miss. If healthy, he could net 50+ easily as proven last year. I think a healthy Skinner will produce around the 65-point mark for the Canes as they push for a playoff spot.