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Regular Season Predictions: Atlantic Division

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.

2. Florida Panthers.  The Panthers took a big step forward last year.  Young talents like Aaron Ekblad and Aleksandr Barkov emerging were a big part of the reason for their climb.  Roberto Luongo and James Reimer are a strong two goalie tandem.  Keith Yandle and Jason Demers provide depth on defence.  Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad are among the better depth forwards.  Timeless Jaromir Jagr has also been a top forward in the past but he has to slow down sometime and at age 44 that time is coming soon.  Nevertheless the Panthers should be a pretty good team.

3. Montreal Canadiens.  The return of Carey Price in goal will go a long way toward bringing this team back to the playoffs.  Shea Weber will be their top defenceman and Andrei Markov provides depth.  At forward Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are joined by Andrew Shaw and Alex Radulov.  Adding an MVP goalie back from injury should be enough to put this team back into the playoffs.

4. Boston Bruins.  The Bruins have finished just outside the playoffs for the last couple years but they may still have playoff talent.  Tuukka Rask is a top level goalie.  At forward the twosome of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron played brilliantly in the World Cup and are a top defensive forward pairing.  David Krejci and David Backes will provide depth.  Zdeno Chara has been their top defenceman for years but at age 39 those days may be done.  Torey Krug might take over as their top defenceman.  This team has some strengths and might be able to make the playoffs.

5. Detroit Red Wings.  Petr Mrazek could step forward as a top level goaltender and that would be an important reason they stay competitive.  Pavel Datsyuk has returned to Russia leaving Henrik Zetterberg as their top forward.  Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyqvist are young players who may pick up some of the slack.  On defence, Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green have been the top defencemen in the past by may give way to Danny DeKeyser.  There is some younger talent here but the loss of Datsyuk will hurt.

6. Ottawa Senators.  Erik Karlsson is one of the best offensive defenceman in NHL history and dominates many Senator games.  The problem is there isn't much else here.  Craig Anderson is not a strength as a number one goalie.  Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci are the depth on defence. Mark Stone is joined by Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman as their top forwards.  It is a shame that Karlsson doesn't get to play his prime on a better team. 

7. Buffalo Sabres. The unproven Robin Lehner is expected to be their number one goalie.  On defence Rasmus Ristolainen is developing into the number one dman that he was forced to become before he was ready.  Zach Bogosian and Cody Franson provide depth.  There are some good forwards here in Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly although it falls off below that level with Sam Reinhart and the troubled Evander Kane are depth.  Buffalo has come a long way from the last place team of a couple years ago but they a long way from the top.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs have an AHL team full of prospects who will be playing at the NHL level. Auston Matthews is likely NHL ready.  Are William Nylander or Nikita Zaitsev or Mitch Marner?  Fredrik Andersen will be their number one goalie.  Can he handle the job behind this weak defence?  Jake Gardner and Morgan Reilly are the only potential above average NHL defenceman.  Nazem Kadri is the only returning forward who scored over 40 points last year.  Leo Komorov and Tyler Bozek are depth.  This team may make a move forward when their prospects gain some NHL experience but a team full of unproven players is likely to finish at the bottom of the standings.

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At 27, Nyquist is hardly “young”

Posted by EthrDemon on 10/12/16 at 11:53 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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