Just a few more days and the 2014/15 NHL season will be in full swing.
All the experts have pretty much finished their pre-season predictions for where teams will finish in the standings but, as the season goes along, it’s always interesting to see how some players surprise of how some teams take a great leap forward or tumble.
Without further ado some hunches about some of the things I think will happen this season.
1) The Year of the Little Guy
Johnny Gaudreau is giving every indication that he will not only make the Flames’ roster out of camp but will make an immediate impact. I expect, at season’s end, he is in the running for the Calder Trophy.
But Gaudreau is not the only small player who has shone in pre-season.
Brandon Kozun is 5’8″ and 167…drafted in the 6th round in 2009 by The Los Angeles Kings. (Michael Futa is a god) and has been turning heads at Leafs’ camp. Source
Kozun has outplayed several more experienced Leafs and is all but a lock to make the team.
2) The Russians are Coming
There are several Russian born players who I think will take huge leaps this season and establish themselves as stars.
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL), Nikita Kucherov (TBL), Vladimir Namestnikov (TBL), Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH), Dmitri Kulikov (FLA)and Valeri Nichushkin (DAL) are poised to join Ovechkin, Datsyuk and Malkin among the best players in the NHL.
3) The Tampa Bay Lightning Win the East
The Lightning finished the abbreviated lockout season with 40 points…behind such teams as Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado and Nashville.
Since then, GM Steve Yzerman has made one great move after another and his team has responded by rocketing up the standings. Joining the team this season are Ryan Callaghan (for a full season), Brian Boyle, Brendan Morrow and, most importantly, Jonathan Drouin at forward and Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison on D. Stamkos and Drouin should make sweet music together and their youngsters Palat, Killorn, Connolly, Panik and Hedman should all progress nicely.
4) Off Broadway
Earlier today, NYI GM Garth Snow pushed all his chips into the pot trading for Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy.
Those two veterans join a superior group of young defensemen that includes, Calvin De haan, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Griffin Reinhart.
The Islanders have 7 NHL quality centres, a nice assortment of wingers and are pretty close to being an impact team in the EC. I expect a 2nd place finish in the weak Metropolitan division.
5) Benn – Seguin – Nichushkin
This line could easily become the most productive in the entire NHL. Considering Seguin and Benn both finished top 10 in scoring LAST season, it’s not unreasonable that these 2 young players will take another step forward and their big, talented RW will build significantly on his 14G 34P rookie debut.
Since all 3 of these players will see time on the Stars Super Power Play with Spezza and Hemsky, I think it’s pretty reasonable for Seguin to flirt with 50 goals and 100 points.
6) The Calgary Flames are Better Than You Think
The Flames are in the early stages of a rebuild but, seriously, they already have more than a few of the necessary pieces in place to start moving up the standings.
They have TWO legitimate 1st pairing D in Giordano and TJ Brodie.
They appear to have solidified their goaltending which was wanting last season.
Their centre depth is admirable with hard minutes muncher Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Matt Stajan, Joe Colbourne as well as 2014 draft pick Sam Bennett likely to make the team. Additionally, 24 year old Josh Jooris has been a training camp revelation and appears to be NHL ready.
The Flames defensive depth is poor and they will need Johnny Gaudreau, Mason Raymond and Sven Baertschi to score but this is not a basement team as many have predicted. Playoffs, no but the hard working Flames are going to surprise.