Many view the Columbus Blue Jackets as a last place, bottom-tier team. However, I expect the Blue Jackets to surprise doubters this season, as they have a nice balance of young, talented players and established veterans. The team is led by star experienced forwards Johnny Guadreau and Patrik Laine, as well as talented and up-and-coming players like rookie forward Adam Fantilli and defenseman Zach Werenski who will have the opportunity to develop their games. Columbus won’t be a playoff team this season, but expect the squad to make many strides with their nice balance of skilled youth and veterans.
Blue Jackets prediction: No playoff berth (sixth place in Metropolitan Division, 80 points)
The New York Islanders are one of the most polarizing teams in the NHL. Predictions have placed the Islanders all over the standings. Ilya Sorokin, one of the best goalies in the world, will steal a lot of close games in the Islanders’ favor. The Islanders have a solid forward core, including Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat and Anders Lee. However, the Islanders struggle to score goals at times and have an abysmal power play, which gives momentum to opposing teams. New York’s defensive play is also lackluster at times and has notablybeen worse since the departure of former head coach Barry Trotz. But, when playing Trotz-style defense, the Isles can shut down any opposing team, which is what fueled their impressive run down the stretch last season. Despite the question marks, Sorokin’sstellar performance will overshadow many of the on-ice issues the Islanders will qualify for the playoffs thanks to his play and by scoring just enough goals.
Islanders prediction: Playoff berth (fourth place in Metropolitan Division, first wild card, 96 points)
Coming off their appearance in the Eastern Conference final last spring and consecutive years in contention, the Carolina Hurricanes are looking to finally take the final step this season: play for the Stanley Cup. Under the good leadership of head coach Rod Brind’Amour, The Hurricanes are headlined by its defensive core, one of the best groups of defensemen in the entire NHL. Defensemen Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, Brady Skjei and Dmitry Orlov are all first-pair caliber players. In addition to their dominant defense — who can take over games — the club can also score goals with star offense players Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov leading the way. While we have yet to see if they can reach the Stanley Cup Final, Carolina’s ability to play dominant defense as well as score goals at a high rate will lead them to another successful regular season.
Hurricanes prediction: Playoff berth (second place in Metropolitan Division, 108 points)
The New Jersey Devils have the most talented forward core in hockey. Superstar Jack Hughes as well as the outstanding Nico Hischier, Tyler Toffoli, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt and Ondrej Palat are all easily first-line caliber players, meaning that they essentially have two first lines on a nightly basis. Apart from star defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the defensive core is mediocre, and their goaltending is questionable with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. However, the club’s offensive starpower is so overwhelming that any questions regarding the back-end are unimportant when it comes to regular season hockey. Expect New Jersey to dominate this season.
Devils prediction: Playoff berth (first place in Metropolitan Division, 111 points)