2019-20 NHL Bold Predictions

by Mat Vilcek
Sep 30, 2019

Will Aleksander Barkov help the Panthers reach new heights this season?

No more waiting, hockey fans. Our Christmas is here. The NHL is back in action this week and it’s finally time for the new season to get underway. By now, most, if not all, fantasy drafting has been completed. We have been together all offseason, from free agency to sleeper picks, and now the time has arrived for your championship journey to begin.

On Wednesday, October 2 we kick off the season with four great matchups. Two Canadian battles put the Ottawa Senators at the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the Vancouver Canucks playing at the Edmonton Oilers later in the night. The late contest of the evening pins West Coast teams against one another with San Jose making the short trip over to Las Vegas. The main event of the night boasts a heavyweight battle when the last two Stanley Cup Champions play against one another when the Washington Capitals travel to St. Louis to square off with the Blues. I will be the first to say, my eyes will be on each of these opening night tilts.

With the season starting, I wanted to introduce one of my favorite article topics across the sports universe — bold predictions. What is a bold prediction? Simply put, it’s a statement about a sport that most people shake their head at or wag a finger and say, “that will never happen.” But then it does, and people are left with their jaws on the floor. Now that drafting is over, let’s have some fun.

Duncan Keith Wins His Third Norris Trophy
I’ve taken some heat for shade thrown at the older players in the league this offseason, so I fire back with this scorching hot take. Keith would follow up Mark Giordano’s Norris Trophy campaign and the two would become the first back-to-back winners in over 1o years that were age 30 or older. In each of the two seasons that Keith won the award, he was able to eclipse 60 points in that season and maybe he has it in him to do it one more time. Chicago looks to have improved on defense and gained plenty of young talent. If the power play improves, and Keith reaches his expected team-leading on-ice time, is it far-fetched to say he reaches 60 or more points again, thus, giving him a third Norris Trophy?

Sidney Crosby Finishes Outside the Top 10 in Points; Penguins Miss Playoffs
For the last seven years Crosby has finished in the top 10 when it comes to overall points, but can he hang on to another 100-point season with a diminished supporting cast? Phil Kessel has moved on and, with no younger talent or top name free agents being funneled into the organization, we may see the slow decline of an elite player. The sixth spot, which Crosby finished at, was only nine points higher than that of Blake Wheeler, who finished 14th overall.

The Penguins are in a stacked division and the conference has only gotten stronger. I can see the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Washington Capitals all finishing with better records than the Penguins, and that’s just in their division. In the Atlantic Division, we could make a point for the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs to all have a postseason presence, which leaves no room for the Pens.

No Love for California
The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs saw the state of California thrust all three of its teams into the playoffs only to fall short on each end. Last year, only one team made the playoffs. This year, I say none. The Anaheim Ducks are a team looking for a rebuild and after a quiet offseason, there does not seem to be much that has changed from last season heading into a new year.

The LA Kings are another aging team that has not only lost a few players, but they also have not done anything noteworthy in the offseason to replace specific pieces in the lineup, let alone making any moves suggesting an improvement on a Western Conference last-place finish from a year ago.

The wild card team holding this idea as a hot take would be the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have a great defense, but where is scoring going to come from this year? A leader for many years in Joe Pavelski has departed, and the Sharks will now turn to a pair of elite defenders to continue playoff hopes. It’s hard to see past teams like Vancouver, Las Vegas, and maybe even Arizona stealing the spotlight from San Jose which, in turn, could leave California with no playoff hockey.

And Your Stanley Cup Champion Is…
The Florida Panthers. Can you see it? Let’s toss out some names. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau were both within the top 13 for points scored last year and both are young players with a bright future.

Another offensive addition is Noel Acciari. Keith Yandle finished fifth in points scored among defensemen this past year and Aaron Ekblad added 37 points of his own in a full 82-game season. The Panthers have also added talent on the blue line with Anton Stralman. Their prized signing this offseason was none other than elite goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

But wait, there’s more. The new head coach if you haven’t heard is none other than Joel Quenneville. One of the all-time leaders in wins for coaching is now behind the Panthers’ bench and will be coaching a group that is primed and ready for a deep playoff run.

What a great offseason it has been! As we look forward to the new NHL season, I wish everyone luck in fantasy hockey and hope to see many memorable player and team performances. Also, remember that a hot take is only hot until it becomes reality. Jordan Binnington and a last-place St. Louis Blues team flipped the concept of a “hot take” on its head last year. In sports, anything is possible.

Mat Vilcek is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Mat, check out his archive and follow him @Mat1Thockey.

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