With the NHL season looming and inching closer and closer, you start to wonder which teams will catch your eye and make an impact this year. Whether it’s a step in the right direction or a couple steps back for a team, let’s look at the teams who we should keep a close eye on going into the 2018-2019 NHL season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
- The Leafs had a very good year in a very strong Atlantic Division where they finished 3rd place and were ultimately eliminated in the 1st round by the Boston Bruins. With the Leafs already having an abundance on young talent up front, they went and signed the biggest name in free agency this year, John Tavares, to a 7 year deal worth $11 million per year. With the addition of Tavares, the Maple Leafs’ now have a a forward group that includes forwards Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Kadri, and Marleau. It may take some time for the Leafs to figure out how to get this group to gel and it may take a little bit, but once they do find that rhythm, watch out for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- The Philadelphia Flyers took a step in the right direction this season, finishing 3rd in the Metropolitan Division and clinching a playoff birth before losing in 6 games to our rival and (former) defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers were one of the hottest teams last season in the second half, posting a 10-1-2 record in the month of February ALONE. Players Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov gave us glimpses of what we can expect for years to come. Provorov was an absolute stud on the blue line for ya playing in all situations and even being in a 3 way tie for NHL goal leaders for defenseman with Victor Hedman and Dougie Hamilton. We all knew Gostisbehere could move the puck and score, but we never really knew how he would be on his end of the ice. Shayne quickly rid those thoughts out of our minds when he was paired with Provorov for most of the season and finished top 5 in points for defenseman while playing solid, physical hockey in his own end also getting called on for almost every situation this Flyers team faced. Although the team has its consistency issues, they have the potential to take a huge leap this season. With Claude Giroux coming off a career-high 102 point season in which he was 2nd in points and tied for 1st in assists, the late season emergence from Travis Konecny who was bumped to the 1st line and proved himself enough to stay there, and the addition of James Van Riemsdyk, this Flyers core could be a tough one to play this year.
- Do I️ believe this team will make the playoffs? No. Do I believe they’re still one of the worst teams in hockey though? No. Although the Sabres have had a gruesome past couple of seasons, there’s a possibility that all at least starts to change in the 2018-2019 season. With players already like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres team could start to fill out this upcoming season. With #1 overall pick, they selected Rasmus Dahlin, who’s going to play right away this year and prove he is a once in a lifetime player. Former 2017 8th overall pick Casey Mittelstadt will most likely be a regular for Buffalo this season and the acquisition of Jeff Skinner gives them some more speed and goal scoring, as long as he stays healthy. This team may not be right there ready to make a playoff run, but they surely are taking steps in the right direction.