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Matt Larkin Q&A: Habs, Flyers, Stars, Red Wings, Leafs, Jets, Rangers, Devils on display

Will the Anaheim Ducks excel with its youth movement? Will the Habs make the playoffs in 2019-20? Senior writer Matt Larkin answers your questions.

@Kzwirbs: Bruins chances of going far in the playoffs, or did I say, the SCF?

Matt Larkin: Still excellent. Eventually Bergeron will show signs of aging, but he likely has another good year in him. And maybe we see some major progression from McAvoy. A monster, healthy, breakout year will come at some point.

@Kotkaniemi92: Habs in the playoffs?

Matt Larkin: Don't think so. Metro so competitive that it'll yield four playoff teams minimum, and I think Quenneville/Bobrovsky will leapfrog Florida over Montreal for top-four in Atlantic.

@NSmith724: How many goals does Zibanejad get?

Matt Larkin: I'll say juuuust under. I love Kakko long-term but there's a big gap between Line 1 and Line 2 duty this year on NYR, and it's not a given that he beats out Buchnevich to play with Panarin and Zibanejad this season.

@WPGJoe: You were awesome in The Bourne Identity. 

Matt Larkin: Wooo! I wish

@A_Parks92: Thoughts on the islanders this season?

Matt Larkin: Still playoffs but there is some risk of regression. Isles led league in PDO last year. "Best defense in league" was really just best goaltending, so have to hope Varlamov can be Lehner 2.0. Then again, it's never smart to bet against Mitch Korn…

@daswhatsup7: What's your best guess at what Point and Provorov come in at for their new deals?

Matt Larkin: I'll say $9 million for Point (deserves more but don't forget about Florida tax benefit). Provorov depends on whether he goes the bridge route. After a down year, maybe below $7 million if it's long-term now. A year ago I would've guessed the Ekblad deal (8 x 7.5)

@dMcQn: Fill in the Blank: If the Oilers make the playoffs, it’ll be because...

Matt Larkin: Dave Tippett finds a way to make the team play lockdown defense.

@aacobb: Miro Heiskanen wins his first Norris when?

Matt Larkin: I'll say 2021-22. Only a matter of time.

@kristoff624: How likely is it someone knocks TBL/Bos/Tor out the Atlantic top 3?

Matt Larkin: Honestly, I think Florida has a real chance to do it this year. Has to avoid another slow start, however, and October schedule is very difficult (9 road, 4 home)

@edwardmjohnston: Do you think the Rangers make the post-season next year?

Matt Larkin: Similar to Devils -- I expect progress and excitement but not playoffs yet. Blueline especially is a work in progress. So many more kids coming though at forward (Kravtsov) and on defense (Lundkvist, Miller etc.). Fun time to be a Rangers fan.

@mixturebill: What happens with Torey Krug? I'd love to see the Bruins move out some cap (Backes) to keep him, but seemed reluctant to pay the price to make it happen this year. I think both sides would love for him to say in Boston, but do you think they find a way to make it happen?

Matt Larkin: Tough one, as they still have to figure out Carlo and McAvoy contracts. I wonder if they'll end up trading Krug for a forward at some point. They could use another legit top-six guy.

@koobs87: Expectations for Anaheim and the youth movement?

Matt Larkin: I think it's a down year for Ducks, but that's OK. They wisely recognized need to rely on kids, hence the Perry buyout. I think Steel and Terry particularly are ready to be impact rookies. Maybe Comtois too. It's a development year.

@CapsRegalBeagle: What's the biggest concern for the Caps this year?

Matt Larkin: Braden Holtby. Do you want to sign him to Bobrovsky money despite declining play? Do you play him less because you need to have a look at Samsonov at some point? Brian MacLellan has a tough call to make.

@ZBwildnation_HW: You think that Spurgeon and the Wild will agree on a contract extension at some point?

Matt Larkin: The irony is, I think Guerin presence makes it more likely Spurgeon wants to sign – but also more likely that Spurgeon gets traded. Guerin wasn't hired to continue life in murky middle. Wild need to bottom out. Spurgeon would net 1st + prospect.

@Chaser321: Do you think Tkachuk is signed before the season starts?

Matt Larkin: Yes. Still have almost a month and I think many teams will view last year's Nylander debacle as a cautionary tale.

@joshuaS_10: Gaudreau or Marner, who ends the year with more points?

Matt Larkin: Should be close, and they often remind me of reverse-handed versions of each other. I'll say Gaudreau (partially a cop out as he's a safer bet to play all year!)

@Awick253: I think the flyers are a top 3 team in the metro and a second-round team. Is this possible?

Matt Larkin: I totally agree. I have Flyers top three in Metro as well. New coach in Vigneault, veteran D to help the young guys along, Kevin Hayes, full season of Carter Hart... all good things.

@DanielDmanx123: Laine, goes or stays in Winn?

Matt Larkin: Always tough to bet on a trade happening for sure but, going off things I've heard for past few months, a trade out of town would not surprise me anymore.

@amazingjr87: How far do you think the Devils can go this year?

Matt Larkin: I see Devils as FAR more exciting this year and love their top-six forwards, but I still think defensive depth and goaltending are unpredictable. I have Devils improving but still missing playoffs (which is totally OK. Maybe playoffs next year).

@amazingjr87: Over/Under 80 points for Jack Hughes this year?

Matt Larkin: I'll say under, and nothing wrong with that. 70 points would be a huge accomplishment for an 18-year-old.

@Budsseasonstic1: Is Marner signing before October?

Matt Larkin: Yes. I think Leafs are determined not to repeat Nylander saga and won't rest until Marner is signed by opening night.

@thatguy11920: Which Flyers forward prospect do you think has the best chance to crack the opening night lineup? And why?

Matt Larkin: I'll say German Rubtsov. He lacks the ceiling of a Frost or Farabee of course, but Rubtsov can play a gritty game, meaning he can make the team on any line.

@bobbydrex: Over/under 60.5 points for Nico Hischier this year?

Matt Larkin: I'll take the over. I don't see Jack Hughes as a threat to Hischier – I actually think Hughes' presence will help Hischier, as teams can't key on one line or the other.

@JHawreschuk: Who's one RFA that you think will holdout into the season? (If any)

Matt Larkin: I've said for months that Laine was my pick if it had to be someone. And my stance hasn't changed.

@devgru1980mi: Red Wings make the playoffs in next season?

Matt Larkin: No. I still think Wings are a long way off. Also don't know if Zadina makes team for sure, plus still have to wait on Veleno, Seider etc. Rebuild not close to being done.

@lpbfb: Does Ristolainen get traded in September?

Matt Larkin: Maybe not September, but I'll say by November. Logjam on right side, Jokiharju will push for a job, Bogosian will get healthy, Sabres could get something useful for Ristolainen.

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