With the NHL Regular Season set to begin in just over a week, here are three bold predictions for this season.
James Neal Hits 50 Points:
After a Stanley Cup Finals appearance with the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, James Neal was signed by the Calgary Flames to a five year, $28,750,000 deal.
Neal then proceeded to have his career worst season, recording just 19 points in 63 games played.
Since entering the league in the 2008-09 season, Neal has proven that he is a consistent goal scorer recording at least 20 goals in each of his seasons, except for last year; his best coming in 2011-12 where he recorded 81 points with his 40 goals, and 41 assists.
Despite Neal’s struggles last season in Calgary, the Flames would still go on to finish first in the Western Conference, however would fall to the Avalanche in the first round in just five games.
This off-season the Oilers, and Flames did a one for one trade with each other sending Milan Lucic to Calgary, and James Neal to Edmonton.
Set to play on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Sam Gagner, Neal has the opportunity to have a tremendous bounce back season as the Oilers will fight to find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2017 Playoffs.
Connor McDavid could use all the help he can get this year, there’s no reason why Neal should not be able to hit 20 goals this season, and record 30 assists to hit the 50 point mark for the first time since the 2015-16 season with Nashville.
“Battle of the Hudson” Revived in Playoffs:
Last season the New Jersey Devils finished last in the Metropolitan Division recording just 72 points; the New York Rangers didn’t do much better finishing seventh in the Metropolitan with 78 points.
This off-season both of these teams were extremely active.
To start the Devils drafted Jack Hughes first overall in the entry draft, then would acquire Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban from the Predators to add experience, and strengthen their blue line.
After that GM Ray Shero would add Wayne Simmonds, and Nikita Gusev to the Devils’ offense.
With the return of Taylor Hall on top of all of this New Jersey is set for a solid season that could end with a playoff appearance.
In New York, the Rangers drafted Kappo Kakko second overall in the entry draft, and then went on to sign free agent Artemi Panarin to a massive seven year contract.
On defense, New York acquired Jacob Trouba from the Jets to pair with Brady Skjei for a solid top defensive pairing.
Like the Devils, the Rangers are primed for a bounce back season with a playoff appearance in mind.
Since 1992, New Jersey, and New York have had six playoff series against each other; the Rangers taking four of them, including the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994 in route to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
The last series between these two franchises was the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 which saw the Devils win in six games, however New Jersey would fall to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals in six games.
Since 2012 New Jersey has had only one playoff appearance in which they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
The Rangers are currently sitting on back-to-back seasons not making the playoffs, after qualifying seven straight seasons.
With the Metropolitan Division being one of the tightest contested divisions in the NHL, we could be looking at a renewal of the “Battle of the Hudson” come April.
Maple Leafs Have Three 100 Point Scorers:
Well Toronto was able to accomplish their largest off-season goal; signing Mitch Marner to a contract extension.
A six year deal with an annual salary of $10,893,000 to be exact.
Toronto now has three forwards signed to a deal with a salary of at least $10.5 million all locked in until the 2023-24 season (2024-25 for Marner, and Tavares); Auston Matthews at $11,634,000, and Tavares at $11,000,000.
Last season saw Marner record a career high 94 points between his 26 goals, and 68 assists, Tavares record a career high 88 points with 47 goals, and 41 assists, and Matthews hit 73 points in just 68 games played.
With six players recording at least 100 points last season, expect to see even more players hit the 100 point mark this season; three of which playing in a Maple Leafs uniform.
Despite this however, Toronto will experience yet another first round exit for the fourth consecutive season to either Boston, or Tampa Bay.
Toronto will continue to improve this season, although could face significant contract issues come next off-season as Morgan Rielly currently will be the only Defenseman signed.
The NHL Regular Season begins Wednesday October 2nd with Toronto hosting Ottawa at 7:00 PM ET, St. Louis hosting the Washington Capitals as they raise their banner at 8:00 PM ET, followed by two Pacific Division match ups as the Oilers play the Canucks at 10:00 PM ET, and San Jose traveling to Vegas for a 10:30 PM ET game.
Photo Source: http://www.youtube.com
For advertising and sponsorship opportunities with the Game Changer Sports Network, please contact Jake at info@GameChangerSportsNetwork.com.