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31 outlandish predictions & reality checks: Summertime musings on the 2018-19 NHL season

It’s been two months since the NHL’s last game and it’s two months until the next one. In other words, we’re stuck in the dog days of August, the quietest time in the NHL schedule.

With that mind, we’re keeping things light with 31 outlandish predictions and reality checks, one for each and every NHL team:

Anaheim Ducks
Outlandish prediction: Rickard Rakell scores 50 goals.
Reality check: Coming off back-to-back 30-plus goal campaigns, the 25-year-old Rakell has clicked at a 0.45 goals-per-game rate over the past two seasons, which ranks ninth in the NHL. Fifty goals? OK, that’s a stretch. But 40 is well within his reach.

Arizona Coyotes
Outlandish prediction: Antti Raanta wins the Vezina Trophy.
Reality check: Raanta went 13-4-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .945 save percentage – for the Coyotes, remember – after the all-star break last season. He’s got the talent, he just needs a little more help from the rest of the team.

Boston Bruins
Outlandish prediction: David Pastrnak hits 100 points.
Reality check: After 27 and 26 points in his first two NHL campaigns, Pastrnak has posted 70 and 80 points in the past two seasons. He’s still only 22 and he’ll play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on one of the league’s very best lines – 100 points feels more inevitable than outlandish.

Buffalo Sabres
Outlandish prediction: The Sabres make the playoffs.
Reality check: I’m just going to keep predicting this until one year it turns out to be right.

Calgary Flames
Outlandish prediction: The Flames win the West.
Reality check: Star power and reasonable depth up front, a solid defense corps and Mike Smith in net. It’s not as outlandish as you may think.

Carolina Hurricanes
Outlandish prediction: The Canes return to the playoffs after 10-year drought.
Reality check: The last time the Hurricanes made the playoffs was 2009, where they lost to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference final. Prior to that, they went all the way to the Stanley Cup final in their previous two playoff appearances, winning in 2006 and losing in 2002. If they sneak into the post-season this year, they might have a sneaky-good enough team to take another run at glory. They need to figure out their goaltending situation first, however. (Editor’s note: This was corrected to reflect that the Hurricanes made the playoffs in 2009.)

Chicago Blackhawks
Outlandish prediction: The Hawks finish last overall.
Reality check: Three years removed from their three-Cups-in-six-years mini-dynasty, the Blackhawks are a shell of their former selves. Corey Crawford’s status is up in the air, Jonathan Toews has slowed down, Brent Seabrook has really slowed down, and the supporting cast ain’t what it used to be. If anything happens to Patrick Kane, look out below.

Colorado Avalanche
Outlandish prediction: Nathan MacKinnon wins the NHL scoring race.
Reality check: MacKinnon finished fifth overall last season with 97 points and his 1.31 points-per-game rate was 0.01 behind Connor McDavid’s league-best 1.32, so this isn’t exactly a shocking prognostication. Then again, it means MacKinnon would have to outscore McDavid and nobody’s supposed to do that for the next decade or two.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Outlandish prediction: The Blue Jackets win a playoff round.
Reality check: Columbus has only made the playoffs four times in 17 seasons, and they’ve never won a round. They’re due for a post-season breakout and they’ve got the pieces to make it happen.

Dallas Stars
Outlandish prediction: The Stars win the Jennings Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive team.
Reality check: If you can’t play defense under Ken Hitchcock, you can’t play defense.

Detroit Red Wings
Outlandish prediction: It gets better in Detroit.
Reality check: It gets worse.

Edmonton Oilers
Outlandish prediction: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finishes in the top 10 in NHL scoring.
Reality check: When you play with McDavid, anything is possible.

Florida Panthers
Outlandish prediction: Roberto Luongo wins his age.
Reality check: The 39-year-old stopper has battled injuries the past two seasons, but he’s still got the goods. Luongo ranked third in save percentage (.929) among goalies who played at least 20 games last year. Thirty-nine wins? Why not?

Los Angeles Kings
Outlandish prediction: Ilya Kovalchuk wins Rocket Richard Trophy in return to NHL.
Reality check: The prodigal Russia sniper was one of the NHL’s best pure goal-scorers when he bolted for the KHL five years ago. Now he’s a 35-year-old coming back to a league that’s faster than ever. Thirty goals would represent a highly successful season.

Minnesota Wild
Outlandish prediction: Eric Staal reveals he’s actually Jordan, Mikko Koivu reveals he’s really Saku.
Reality check: Ryan Suter reveals he’s actually Gary.

Montreal Canadiens
Outlandish prediction: A calm, quiet season in Montreal with little drama on or off the ice.
Reality check: Mais non.

Nashville Predators
Outlandish prediction: The Preds miss the playoffs.
Reality check: You wanted an outlandish prediction, and that’s about as outlandish as it gets.

New Jersey Devils
Outlandish prediction: The Devils trade Taylor Hall to Edmonton for Adam Larsson.
Reality check: C’mon, who would make a lopsided trade like that?

New York Islanders
Outlandish prediction: The Islanders are a better team with John Tavar…
Reality check: Couldn’t even finish typing that one.

New York Rangers
Outlandish prediction: It gets ugly for Henrik Lundqvist.
Reality check: So much handsome, so little time.

Ottawa Senators
Outlandish prediction: The Sens keep Erik Karlsson, trade owner Eugene Melnyk instead.
Reality check: The locals would like it, but, yeah, it seems unlikely at best…

Philadelphia Flyers
Outlandish prediction: Carter Hart wins the Calder Trophy.
Reality check: The Flyers’ goalie-of-the-future is still a year or two away. But there’s hope that Philadelphia’s perennial search for a franchise netminder will finally be over once he arrives.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Outlandish prediction: Sidney Crosby takes a shift off.
Reality check: The Penguins put a treadmill behind the bench and Crosby runs on it between shifts to stay fresh.

St. Louis Blues
Outlandish prediction: Vladimir Tarasenko scores at a goal-a-game pace.
Reality check: That’s crazy talk, but the Blues gunner has a 50-goal season in him, at least if linemates Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn can stay healthy.

San Jose Sharks
Outlandish prediction: Brent Burns and Joe Thornton shave off their beards.
Reality check: Nobody wants that to happen.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Outlandish prediction: Every Lightning forward scores at least 20 goals.
Reality check: A few of the defensemen might do it, too.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Outlandish prediction: The Leafs win the Stanley Cup.
Reality check: It appears we’ve reached the outer limits of outlandishness.

Vancouver Canucks
Outlandish prediction: It’s discovered that Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are actually long-lost twins.
Reality check: Somewhere, the Sedins smile knowingly.

Vegas Golden Knights
Outlandish prediction: They do it again.
Reality check: No, they don’t.

Washington Capitals
Outlandish prediction: They do it again.
Reality check: No, they don’t.

Winnipeg Jets
Outlandish prediction: There’ll be hockey (and snow) in Winnipeg in June.
Reality check: I’m standing by this one.