Negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA have been quiet over the last week, and fans such as myself are beginning to become restless with no professional hockey on television. So today, I'm going to make pretend that things are going well, and that the 60 game season is on pace to begin on January 1st. Here are some way too early predictions for the 2020-21 NHL season.
Please remember, these are my personal opinions of what I think will happen in the 2020-21 NHL season. Everyone remembers how wrong I was with my Stanley Cup predictions last year, so please don't take this too seriously if I didn't mention your team and or criticized them.
Buffalo Sabres' Jack Eichel will win the Hart Memorial Trophy
Jack Eichel is a top five player in this league. If you think that Eichel isn't a top five player just because he plays for a basement dwelling Sabres team, then you're wrong. This isn't the NBA where one superstar can carry a whole team to a championship, if that was the case, Connor McDavid and the Edmoton Oilers would have just won their fifth Stanley Cup in a row. The Sabres recent acquisition of Taylor Hall finally gives Eichel another star forward to work with, and as a result of having Hall to help him run the top line, Eichel's assists skyrocket, and his goals skyrocket, which will naturally help bring his points total to an astronomical number.
The Buffalo Sabres make the playoffs
Let's stay on topic one last time while we're in Buffalo. Much like why I believe that Jack Eichel will win the Hart, I think that Taylor Hall is what Buffalo needed to squeak into a playoff spot, keyword: squeak. Do I think the Sabres are going to come in and dominate whatever division they end up in? No. But I do believe they can find themselves in a wild card spot. And if the NHL does decide to expand the playoffs for a second year in a row, I would put money on the Sabres making the playoffs.
Alexis Lafrenière wins the Calder
The New York Rangers 2020 first overall pick is one of the most highly touted prospects of the last 10 years. I'm not 100% sure if this is a bold prediction, because I think most people have Lafrenière slated to take home the Calder. The kid is NHL ready, and I think he's ready to come into New York and take the league by storm.
The Washington Capitals will struggle
This is one of the more bold predictions I'm going to make in this article, and people will be mad at me for it. But after how they played against the New York Islanders in the playoffs last year, I can't really picture them being a force in the East in 2020-21. Yes, there were reports that surfaced that the Capitals treated the bubble more like a vacation, and less like the playoffs. "I wasn't even trying that hard," sounds like an excuse I would make after losing a game of NHL 21. If that really is true, that's a horrible look for Alex Ovechkin's legacy. I'm not saying Washington won't make the playoffs, because I think they will. But much like Buffalo, I think they just barely squeak in, because at the end of the day, their play in the Toronto bubble was sloppy, unmotivated, and lazy. Couple that with the fact that they didn't do much to bolster their roster during the offseason.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will win the Vezina
I mean, there's not much to say here, really. The guy is the best goalie in the league, and has been for the last few years. He was lights out in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, and because of that, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to capture their first Stanley Cup since 2004. I don't think many people would argue with me on this one.
Vegas Golden Knights will win the Presidents Trophy, make Stanley Cup Final
Is this the year that the Vegas Golden Knights finally get over the hump and win it all? In their inaugural 2018 season, the Knights shocked the sports world when they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in just their first year as a franchise. Though they ended up getting dominated by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, losing four games to one, making it that far in your first season as a professional franchise is impressive. People thought it was a fluke, but Vegas proved everyone wrong by being a top team in the league over the last two years. Vegas signed the premier free-agent this offseason in defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo. If Vegas and their fans think that Pietrangelo is what they need to get them over the hump, then I'm hopping on board that train. Underestimating Vegas these last few years has been a bad decision for many (looking at you, Drew Doughty)
The Carolina Hurricanes will emerge from the East, making the Stanley Cup Final
So here is my boldest prediction of this whole entire article. I like the Hurricanes, even though they swept the New York Rangers in the 2020 play-in round (thanks for Lafrenière) I think they have a very young and exciting team, and the sky is the limit for this group. Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Dougie Hamilton, and Vincent Trocheck are a solid core of players that are more than capable of leading this Carolina team to a Cup. The Hurricanes also signed a solid winger in Jesper Fast this offseason, only adding to their already deadly offense.
Any bold predictions you'd like to make for the upcoming NHL season? Let me know in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter for all your NHL news, updates and rumors. @NY_cth