It is still early in the season, but the only AHL team that is still at 1.000. The Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils affiliate) have won all five of their games to date. At this point they are the third highest scoring team in the AHL with 18 goals scored and fewer goals against than either of the teams that have more goals than them. Albany has had solid goaltending with Scott Wedgewood and Mackenzie Blackwood in goal. Thus far they lack any significant top scorers with John Quenneville and Reece Scarlett leading the way with 4 points each.
Albany was a strong team last year who posted the third best winning percentage in the league. As such, they must be considered a serious contender to stay at or near the top of the AHL standings.
It is still early in the season but we have a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy. It is no surprise that first overall pick in 2016, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the early Calder Trophy leader. Matthews has 5 goals and 8 points. This leaves him one goal and one point behind the NHL lead.
Matthews is off to an outstanding start to his career. If he can keep this up he will go down as one of the all-time greats in NHL history. It is too early to make such a prediction. We will have to wait and see how Matthews reacts to adversity when it comes in his NHL career, but so far he looks great. He is the Calder Trophy leader at this early point in the season.
The MVP at this early point in the season has been Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Through five games he has nine points, which ties him for the NHL lead and is also posting a +9 +/- rating. Marchand was a participant for Canada in the World Cup. He played very well in those games as well. Perhaps he would have been runner up to MVP Sidney Crosby in the World Cup if they named a runner up.
Marchand has been a good defensive forward ever since he got to the NHL. Along with Patrice Bergeron he gives the Bruins a top pair of defensive forwards. Last year he posted career bests with 37 goals and 61 points. This season it looks like he could beat those marks easily. It is rare that a player at age 28 is suddenly finding his mark offensively the way Marchand is, but the Bruins are happy about it. At this early point in the season he is MVP.
The Anaheim Ducks start this season with salary cap problems. Cap Friendly lists them at a slightly over $72.6 million salary cap with a leaguewide cap of $73 million. The problem is Hampus Lindholm remains at home without a contract as a restricted free agent. There is no room to sign Lindholm without moving a current roster player.
Lindholm is one of the better players on the Ducks. He led the team in ice time last year. He is a good young player who is important to the success of the team.
Anaheim is in a position where they are open to another team with salary cap space signing Lindholm to an offer that they would not be able to match. Watch this situation. It could play out in a very interesting way.
I am finishing my pre-season predictions by listing an order of finish in the East Conference. I have already done this for the West Conference and for the East Conference divisions the Metropolitan Division and the Atlantic Division. The blurbs for these teams are in the division write-ups.
1. Washington Capitals
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Florida Panthers
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. New York Rangers
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Boston Bruins
This is the final division in my pre-season predictions, so it is fitting that it comes out on NHL opening night. I have already written about the Pacific, Central and Metropolitan Divisions. I have also listed a predicted order of finish in the West Conference.
Here we go with the Atlantic Division:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning. Steve Stamkos is returning to a team that also has Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat providing offence. Victor Hedman has become one of the better defencemen in the game. Anton Stralman provides depth. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are the best goalie tandem in the NHL. There is a lot to like about this team. They might make a Stanley Cup run this year.
I am continuing my pre-season predictions with the Metropolitan Division. I have already looked into the West Conference and its Pacific and Central Divisions. I need to make my at least annual complaint that this is a stupid division name. Metropolitan does not describe any region of the world and I am at a loss to explain how Columbus is more metropolitan than Chicago or Los Angeles.
Here we go with the Metropolitan Division:
1. Washington Capitals. The defending Presidents Trophy winner will take another run at the top in the league. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom may be the bet threesome of forwards on any team in the NHL. Justin Williams and TJ Oshie offer some depth. On defence, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner are a solid group, though they lack a true superstar. Braden Holtby is the defending Vezina Trophy winner in goal. He will be hard-pressed to repeat Vezina success, but is one of the better goalies in the league.
I am continuing my pre-season predictions by listing my predicted order of finish in the West Conference. I already have written blurbs for the teams in question in the Pacific Division and the Central Division.
Here are the West Conference teams by predicted order of finish:
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. St Louis Blues
3. San Jose Sharks
4. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Dallas Stars
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Nashville Predators
8. Calgary Flames
Here is the second instalment of my pre-season NHL predictions for 2016/17. Yesterday I posted my Pacific Division predictions and today I move onto the Central Division.
Here we go with the Central Division:
1. St Louis Blues. Ken Hitchcock has announced he will retire as a coach at the conclusion of this season and should go out with a strong season. There is a deep defence built around Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeeter, Colton Parayko and Kevin Shattenkirk. This group will be tough for any team to score on. Jake Allen is the clear starting goalie. It will be interesting to see if he can give a top flight performance or not, but one may not be necessary. Offensively Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the better scorers in the game. Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri provide enough scoring depth that the Blues should be able to win most nights.
With the regular season coming up, it is time to begin my pres-season predictions. I am going to begin with the Pacific Division and fill in the other divisions over the next few days.
Here we go:
1. Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are relatively rested after a first round loss in the playoffs last year and a playoff miss the year before. This had been a team that had three deep playoff runs in the years before that. Anze Kopitar is a first class forward and Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik are solid depth. Drew Doughty is arguably the best defenceman in hockey. Jake Muzzin and Brayden McNabb are strong defencemen. Jonathan Quick is a top level goaltender. This is a team that is a solid contender and could make another Stanley Cup run.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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