Plausible picks, risky projections, crazy predictions for NHL season
Some plausible guesses, risky projections and crazy predictions for the 2022-23 NHL season.
1. Spencer Knight will end up as the Florida Panthers' No. 1 goaltender by the end of the season.
The Panthers didn't commit $4.5 million per season over three seasons for Knight to be their backup goalie. Knight is 21. But he is a premium talent. He could be ready this season for an expanded role. But that creates another problem. Sergei Bobrovsky is a $10 million cap hit for this season and three more. He played well last season, but that cap hit makes him incredibly difficult to deal. A buyout wouldn't help much. Their only hope is retain a big chunk of his salary and trade him. The other issue is Bobrovsky is now 34.
2. Edmonton Oilers goalie Jack Campbell will finish in the top five in wins this season.
Campbell won 31 games last season and the Oilers and Maple Leafs are comparable teams. If Campbell pushes that win total over 35, it should be enough to get him in the top five.
3. Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith will be one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams trophy.
The Senators totaled 73 points last season. The additions of Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot, combined with improving young talent, should push that number much higher this season. NHL broadcasters, who vote on this award, traditionally like coaches of teams with significantly improved point totals.
4. John Tortorella will ruffle feathers, make the Philadelphia Flyers harder to play against, but still finish in the bottom third of the NHL standings.
Tortorella's act hasn't changed much through the years. He will change the culture in Philadelphia for the better. Fans will appreciate how the Flyers will play. A couple of his press conferences, outbursts or declarations will go viral. But he doesn't have the ability to magically transform a jalopy into an Indy car. The Flyers' roster isn't strong enough to be a playoff team.
5. Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson will win the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year.
Anaheim's Mason McTavish will garner much attention. He is a force. Seattle's Matty Berniers and Columbus forward Kent Johnson will be in the mix. But if Thompson carries the load in net for the Vegas Golden Knights and they make the playoffs, he will be a finalist. He was impressive late last season when he got his chance. By the way, the last goalie to win the Calder was Blue Jackets' Steve Mason in 2009.
6. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes will register 75 or more points and become a Norris Trophy Finalist.
Hughes is 22 and put up 68 points last season. The Canucks team will be improved this season. I believe they will make the playoffs. If that is the case, Hughes will have a Norris-worthy season.
7. The New York Islanders will make the NHL playoffs.
This is based simply in my belief in goalie Ilya Sorokin's difference-making ability. GM Lou Lamoriello didn't make any improvements to his offense this off-season. The hope seems to be that new coach Lane Lambert will unlock the offense with his system. For example, Mathew Barzal is expected to put up more points than he could under Barry Trotz's system. All I know for sure is Sorokin has the ability to carry this team into the postseason.
8. Vegas center Jack Eichel will finish among the NHL's top 15 scorers with more than 90 points this season.
This is a player who averaged 27 goals per season in his first five seasons for a poor Buffalo team. When healthy, Eichel is one of the NHL's most elite players. At 25, he's entering the prime of his career. Expect him to score 35 or more goals this season. He will pile up assists.
9. Patrick Kane will end up on a team that reaches the Stanley Cup Final.
Kane has some control over where he goes. He's going to go to team that has an excellent shot of winning the Stanley Cup. New York Rangers? Colorado Avalanche? Tampa Bay Lightning? Carolina Hurricanes? Edmonton Oilers? Much will depend upon salary cap situations and how much salary the Blackhawks will retain. Let's take a leap of faith and expect Kane to guess right about which team can win it all.
10. The Arizona Coyotes will end up with the NHL's worst record and still won't win the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes.
That's the reality of the NHL's lottery system. Even if a team finishes last, it still only has a 25.5% chance of winning the first pick. The last place team has a 55.7% chance of picking third.