The NHL is almost here, and it seems like it’s been forever since the season ended a little over three months ago on the 28th day of September. The players have reported and are in training camp now as we speak. The season will kick-off with five games on Wednesday, the first game being the Philadelphia Flyers hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the game starting at 5:30 pm ET.
The league divisions are set up a little bit differently this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest difference is that all seven Canadian teams will be in one division. The reasoning behind this is because the border between Canada and the U.S. is closed for non-essential travel. The NHL is also doing another thing different this year and has sold naming rights for each division. Scotiabank sponsors the North Division. All seven teams in Canada will be in this division. MassMutual will sponsor the East Division, Discover sponsoring the Central division and the final division is the western division sponsored by Honda. The 2021 NHL season will be 56-games, and the regular season will end on May 8th. The top four teams in each division will go to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The full season is expected to wrap-up around early to mid-July.
The Philadelphia Flyers stayed intact for the most part for this upcoming season, and I can see that being a good thing as they will win the East MassMutual Division. I believe the Flyers will win their division; my runner-up will be the Washington Capitals, followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.
The Dallas Stars made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year but could not outlast the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seven-game series to bring the Stanley Cup back to Dallas for the first time since the 1998-99 season. This year Dallas and Tampa are in the same division, but I have Dallas winning the Central Discover Division. The runner-up for this division will be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, and the Nashville Predators will follow them.
The Edmonton Oilers will win the North ScotiaBank Division and will be followed by Toronto coming in second place, and Calgary and Winnipeg will finish third and fourth.
I believe the Vegas Golden Knights will win the West Division, and Colorado will be right on their tail, coming in at second place. I have the third and fourth teams being the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild.
Who will win the Hart Trophy? It would not shock me one bit if Leon Draisaitl repeated his 2020 season, and so that is why I am choosing Draisaitl to have another great year, and I see him winning the Hart Trophy. I have the second-place spot going to Nathan MacKinnon and the third Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres.
Who will win the Art Ross Trophy? I have the Art Ross Trophy staying in Edmonton for the fourth time in five years. I believe Leon Draisaitl will be winning it for the second time. I believe. I believe Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers will come in second place, and in third place, I have David Pastrnak of the Bruins.
Who will win the James Norris Trophy? Alex Pietrangelo of the Vegas Golden Knights will win his first James Norris Trophy. I have him followed by Roman Josi of Nashville and Victor Hedman of Tampa.
Who will win the Calder Trophy? If we go with the odds, they will show the odds favoring the Calder Trophy going to a New York Rangers. Well, in the words of the great h̶o̶c̶k̶e̶y̶ NCAA Football Analyst and Former Coach Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.” It would not surprise me one bit if the first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière or Igor Shestyorkin won the Calder Trophy. That being said, my money is on Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild. I have been watching Kaprizov and the KHL for a while now, and the guy impresses me. The Calder Trophy winner will either be a player from the Minnesota Wild or the New York Rangers. If someone else comes in and wins it, I would be completely shocked.
What four teams will meet in the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals. I believe they will feature the Colorado Avalanche from the West, Washington Capitals from the East, the Toronto Maple Leafs from the North Division, and the Dallas Stars coming from the Central Division. Before I tell you who I predict to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals, this year, we could see two teams in the finals that are in the same conference; in theory, this year’s Stanley Cup Final could be Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars or Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. I believe that would be pretty cool to see, but I will go with the Colorado Avalanche vs. Washington Capitals, and I predict the Avalanche will win it in six.
Writer’s Note: If this were a traditional schedule with teams in their traditional division, I would have either the Vegas Golden Knights or Colorado Avalanche facing the Washington Capitals. That being said, I have the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup.