2023-10-11 · 4 min read · NHL/Hockey
Anze Kopitar, John Tavares and Patrick Kane

Via The Athletic | Kim Klement and Danny Wild/USA Today Sports

With the season starting today I have no choice but to parlay my excitement into pondering how this season will go (and some bets) Without further ado here are my top ten predictions for the season (feel free to let me know where I'm wrong on our socials). 
  • The Buffalo Sabres haven't made the playoffs in forever, ok just 12 years but it feels like forever. They got close last year and made some good moves since like the summer signings of Connor Clifton and Erik Johnson. Those three players add balance to an offence-focused group. A major component of Buffalo's inconsistency the last couple of years has been goaltending, while now rookie goalie Devon Levi looks like the real deal. Last season was too early for Buffalo to throw a bunch of money around midseason, but it isn't early anymore, and the club happens to hold $8.8 million in cap space. Don't be surprised to see them end this streak.
  • A handful of teams got great deals this summer, but the best bargain is going to be the Edmonton Oilers Connor Brown (it felt like I should type McDavid). An injury limited Brown to four games in 2022-23, but the 29-year-old is fully healthy and may land a spot on former OHL teammate McDavid's line. Brown, whose career-high is 43 points set four years ago in Ottawa. Brown is a poor man's Zach Hyman, relentless on the puck, tough around the net and responsible defensively. Brown's biggest contender for "best bargain" is probably Blake Wheeler, who's making $800,000 for the Rangers after a Jets buyout.
  • Ok stay with me here Kane is looking for another cup, he's American and who does want a chance to play with Nathan MacKinnon? But the Avs have Rantanen and a bunch of other good forwards you say. Yes, but they are missing Gabreil Landeskog for the year, have the cap space and are reportedly one of Kane's top suitors (my runner-up is Buffalo)
  • The Penguins were busy this summer bringing in new GM Kyle Doobie Dubas, who quickly got to work. Dubas signed Tristan Jarry, Lars Eller, Reilly Smith and Ryan Graves, while also trading for Erik Karlsson. Despite all this my prediction is the Penguins won't win a playoff series this year. I think they have a good shot at returning to the dance but doubt they will be long on the floor.
  • Yes, Bedard is deadly, yes, I think he's going to be a superstar. This is more of a comment on the unpredictability of the NHL and the level of talent in this year's rookie class. Fantalli, Knies, Cooley, Levi and Hughes, there is no shortage of guys who are talented and have good opportunities for the Calder.
  • Ok, I know Tavares has lost a little speed and was never a burner to begin with, but otherwise, he has continued to age like a fine wine. Tavares is a two-way force with an incredible mind for the game. Now he gets not only Nylander but also Max Domi or Matthew Knies on his line, both talented young playmakers. I still think Tavares is becoming better suited to a wing position, but it seems his cracking 90 points for the first time is realistic assuming good health. 
  • The Senators haven't made the playoffs since 2017 and ended up embroiled in a longstanding rebuild, but wait no more the time has come. The Senators are led by a young core (Stutzle, Tkachuk, Chychrun) and a few talented vets (Giroux/Tarasenko), who made good moves in the summer to improve both short and long-term. On top of this, the East seems to have lost some of its high-end talent to retirement and the West. All in all, looks like a good recipe for a wildcard spot.
  • Technically Mike Babcock already did this, but I think St Louis Blues bench boss Craig Berube is the best bet to be first to be given the axe this Season. The Blues have been trending down for a few years and Berube is out of rope from his 2019 Stanley Cup run (which was impressive). The Blues are likely to be bottom out this year and if so the team will decide a new voice is the best for the future.
  • With respect to Anze Kopitar and Nico Hischier (who are good bets for the runners-up). In a post-Patrice Bergeron world, if he is healthy it is Barkov’s award to lose. With respect to the guys above (and Elias Pettersson, plus all other high-end defensive stalwarts) Barkov has a top gear that simply seems to be above the rest, plus he won the last non-Bergeron Selke in 2021. Barring injury (which is a real risk with him) Barkov is the best bet for this award.
  • In the last two seasons three players have hit 60 goals, Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak last year, plus Auston Matthews the year before; in the previous 10 seasons it had been done once (Stamkos 2012). This year I'm betting at least two players will hit 60 goals on the season, on top of this I bet the two will come from the likes of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl, Mikko Rantanen, David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson and Kirill Kaprizov.
Bonus - Oilers win cup
  • Bit of a dart throw here but why not? My pick for the 2024 Stanley Cup Champions at least in preseason is the Edmonton Oilers (who indeed burned me last year). Yet the Oilers have seemingly improved, are hungrier due to last year's letdown and still have McDavid and Draisaitl, which counts for a lot in my book. Real quick my pick for the Eastern conference winner is New Jersey Devils, runners-up Carolina and Toronto. In the West obviously, Edmonton to win, runners-up Colorado and Dallas.
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By: Chase Howard


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