Welcome to a brand new NHL season. The heartbreak, excitement, and hope that comes with a new season is washing over us and the clouds in my crystal ball are starting to clear. What does this season hold? Well, for Red Wings fans, the answer is pain. But that’s probably a story for another day. For everyone else? That’s where this article comes in, as I will roll out my regular season, award, and playoff predictions, and folks, I can 100% guarantee they will be right. But this is why you’re reading anyway, ain’t it? Let’s dive right in:

Atlantic Division

Projected order of finish:

  • 1.) Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 2.) Boston Bruins
  • 3.) Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 4.) Florida Panthers
  • 5.) Montreal Canadiens
  • 6.) Buffalo Sabres
  • 7.) Detroit Red Wings
  • 8.) Ottawa Senators

This is pretty close to a repeat of last season, except for the Panthers and Habs swapping. The Lightning are still quite clearly a juggernaut (until the playoffs of course), though I find it highly unlikely that they will have enough gas in the tank to cross the 120 point threshold again. The 1996-97 Red Wings were unable to come close to the historic pace of the 1995-96 team, for comparison (although that team ended the season winning some irrelevant trophy called the Stanley Cup).

Behind them, the Bruins and Leafs may very well be the 2nd and 3rd best teams in hockey, but under my projection will have to play each other in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year, thanks to the brilliant NHL playoff structure, designed by 5 drunken armadillos, I assume. Don’t you just love the NHL? I like what the Leafs did in bringing in Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot to fortify their lineup at the expense of Nazem Kadri, who let’s face it, is never going to play a playoff series without being suspended for a significant chunk of it.

The Panthers pull ahead of the Canadiens because it felt like the Habs outperformed reasonable expectations last season, and Florida nabbed a few high-profile free agents (Anton Stralman and Sergei Bobrovsky). The final three teams on this list do not merit explanation and so we will move on.

Metropolitan Division 

Projected order of finish:

  • 1.) Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2.) Washington Capitals
  • 3.) Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 4.) Philadelphia Flyers (WC)
  • 5.) New Jersey Devils (WC)
  • 6.) New York Islanders
  • 7.) Columbus Blue Jackets
  • 8.) New York Rangers

The Canes are my projected Metro Division champion after such a strong finish to last year. They are deep down the middle, on the blue line, and on the wing. Only goaltending worries me about them this season, but I still like the overall roster more than the aging superpowers of Washington and Pittsburgh. Both teams should be good again, and I can’t wait to see them face each other in the first round (renew the rivalry!).

The next three teams in the division all seem fairly similar to me, between the Flyers, Devils and Islanders. The Flyers need a bounce back season from Ivan Provorov and hopefully, a pulse from Nolan Patrick, to make the postseason, and I think they get at least one of those two things and snag a wild card. Their top line is still so strong. The Devils are my other wild card team, assuming Taylor Hall is healthy. They were a wild card caliber team last season until Hall went down and then the wheels fell off the bus, parlaying the tank into the #1 overall draft pick and the second #1 pick in three seasons because the Hockey Gods hate us. Compared to the end of last season, they add an MVP (Hall), an ultra-talented young center (Jack Hughes), a legit Russian star who should be an impact player (Nikita Gusev), and a very good top pairing defenseman (PK Subban). No team improved more than the Devils and that means a return to the playoffs. I have the Islanders slated to just miss because their roster is still not good. Me saying that of course means that Barry Trotz has already summoned the black magic demon he seduced into getting that roster to the playoffs last year, and we might as well bow down to our overlords right now.

Columbus is the anti-New Jersey in the sense that few teams are worse now than they were at the end of last season, with the Jackets losing a ton of pieces from their strange all-in playoff run from the #8 seed. Finally, the Rangers made a big offseason splash but I still have major questions about them moving forward, like whether Lias Andersson can be not bad. They are not a playoff team yet.

Central Division

Projected order of finish:

  • 1.) Nashville Predators
  • 2.) St. Louis Blues
  • 3.) Dallas Stars
  • 4.) Colorado Avalanche (WC)
  • 5.) Winnipeg Jets (WC)
  • 6.) Minnesota Wild
  • 7.) Chicago Blackhawks

The Predators won the division a year ago and I have them projected to do so narrowly again. Despite losing Subban, I think they could be better this year, since Matt Duchene fills such a need in the forward corps and they are still so strong defensively. There are few holes on this roster and the well-rounded Preds should be a Cup contender again as the sound of their window closing thunders above Music City. The Blues got their Cup last season and while I don’t like their roster as much as the Preds, the murderous pace they closed last season with is hard to forget. They’ll be real good again.

The Stars and Avalanche are similar teams to me, but I like the overall depth a little more on Dallas. Roope Hintz isn’t just a man with a fabulous name, he’s also a really solid hockey player, and adding Joe Pavelski to his second line was a huge get for the Stars. Their defensive depth is also better than Colorado’s, as Miro Heiskanen is likely to continue his trajectory towards #1D status, and Klingberg is already there. Getting Kadri from the Leafs was huge an improving Colorodo’s forward depth, but I can’t help but think the defense is a little exposed without Barrie, at least until Cale Makar can prove he’s a star. The Jets feel significantly diminished over last year minus Kevin Hayes and Jacob Trouba, and they need Patrik Laine to be something more than a one-trick pony. Either that or he needs to be the greatest one-trick pony of all time, and 30 goals was emphatically not that last season. Still, they have enough talent to wiggle into the playoffs.

The Wild continue to scream into the face of Father Time that in fact, no, they shouldn’t rebuild even though they absolutely should. Their roster isn’t bad, and they got better by inexplicably signing 31 year-old Mats Zuccarello to a $6M AAV contract that there’s no way they will ever regret. Finally, the Blackhawks continue to have some of the league’s best pieces, but also a ton of dead weight. They’re not a playoff team yet for several reasons, least of which being because I refuse to believe the Hockey Gods will reward a team that trades Henri Jokiharju for Alex Nylander.

Pacific Division 

Projected order of finish:

  • 1.) Vegas Golden Knights
  • 2.) Calgary Flames
  • 3.) San Jose Sharks
  • 4.) Arizona Coyotes
  • 5.) Vancouver Canucks
  • 6.) Edmonton Oilers
  • 7.) Anaheim Ducks
  • 8.) Los Angeles Kings

The Golden Knights probably still lay in bed late at night, unable to sleep because of the memories brought to mind by the words “5 minute major”, but they’re also the best team in hockey’s worst division, with an incredibly balanced roster that got better at last Spring’s trade deadline after adding Mark Stone. Another Pacific Division title will add another 15 minutes onto the future sports movie about the Knights as the Expansion Team That Shocked the World, starring a still fit 63 year-old Brad Pitt in 2026.

The Calgary Flames still have a dangerous roster after their unfortunate flame out in the postseason (I had to do it) and feel like a safe bet for the second slot in the division. The Sharks continue to face the impending doom of being the 1990s Cleveland Indians/2010s Detroit Tigers as the “How Did They Not Win A Title?” Team of this era of hockey, and while I don’t see them shaking that this year, they’re a playoff team. Nobody else in this division is, though.

The Yotes are strong defensively but I refuse to believe that Phil Kessel and his love of hot dogs is fixing their offense single-handedly. The Canucks have nice young pieces but they still feel a year away. The Oilers have the world’s best hockey player, but a roster that doesn’t feel playoff worthy. The Ducks probably won’t be as bad as a year ago, but it’s also not 2014. They’re on the outside, looking in. And the Kings? Well, toast the fact you had a nice draft.

Playoff Predictions

Lightning over Devils

Hurricanes over Flyers

Maple Leafs over Bruins (congrats, Leafs fans)

Penguins over Caps

Preds over Avs

Knights over Jets

Blues over Stars

Sharks over Flames


Lightning over Maple Leafs (sorry, Leafs fans)

Hurricanes over Penguins

Preds over Blues

Knights over Sharks


Lightning over Hurricanes

Preds over Knights


Lightning over Preds


The date is June 8, 2020. Steve Yzerman sits in his Michigan mansion, staring at the TV. The Lightning have just won the Cup, and Stamkos hoists it in front of a roaring Amalie Arena. A single tear rolls down his cheek, watching what he created succeed without him. He begins to cry, but the mood breaks when he remembers a simple truth: in 18 days, he will stride to the podium in Montreal and announce that the Detroit Red Wings are selecting Alexis Lafreniere with the 1st pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Award Predictions

Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid. When in doubt, pick the world’s best player.

Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman. The league’s best team has to be represented somewhere on the award sheet.

Lady Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly.

Vezina Trophy: Ben Bishop. The gargantuan finally gets his Vezina.