I completed a National Hockey League preview back in July and I ranked each team on an individual basis but in this column, I will prognosticate the standings division by division and then based off of those standings will predict how I foresee the playoffs playing out. After which, I will hand out each major award while also choosing finalists for the awards. I hope you thoroughly enjoy! As a disclaimer, some of my new prognostications may not correlate with some remarks I made in the preview but the climate has changed for some, and my new predictions will reflect this.
1.Detroit Red Wings
4.Tampa Bay Lightning-Wildcard one
8.Toronto Maple Leafs
2.New York Islanders
3.Columbus Blue Jackets
4.New York Rangers-wildcard two
7.New Jersey Devils
4.Dallas Stars-Wildcard one
5.Minnesota Wild-Wildcard two
4.Los Angeles Kings
6.San Jose Sharks
(1) Detroit Red Wings (W2) New York Rangers=Detroit in six
(2) Montreal Canadiens (3) Buffalo Sabres=Montreal in six
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins v (W1) Tampa Bay Lightning=Pittsburgh in seven
(2) New York Islanders v (3) Columbus Blue Jackets=Islanders in six
(1) Chicago Blackhawks v (W2) Minnesota Wild=Chicago in six
(2) Winnipeg Jets v (3) St.Louis Blues=St.Louis in six
(1) Calgary Flames v (W2) Dallas Stars=Calgary in seven
(2) Anaheim Ducks v (3) Edmonton Oilers=Anaheim in six
(1) Detroit Red Wings v (2) Montreal Canadiens=Detroit in six
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins v (2) New York Islanders=Islanders in seven
(1)Chicago Blackhawks v (3) St.Louis Blues=Chicago in seven
(1) Calgary Flames v (2) Anaheim Ducks=Calgary in six
(1) Detroit Red Wings v (2) New York Islanders= Detroit in seven
(1) Chicago Blackhawks v (1) Calgary Flames=Chicago in five
Stanley Cup Finals:
The Chicago Blackhawks will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions by defeating the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
MAJOR AWARD WINNERS:
Hart Trophy(Most Valuable)-Evgeni Malkin(Pittsburgh Penguins)
When you analyze the Pittsburgh Penguins, a lot of casual hockey fans first think of the name Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid, although at twenty eight years of age I'm not sure how much longer we can continue to ride with that kid moniker is a world class player and as much as the productivity of Crosby may ride the Pens train the biggest benefactor has long been Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is your prototypical power forward which is an oxymoron when providing descriptors for European players. He plays physical and for a man of his stature, he shows an unprecedented level of creativity. The acquisition of Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh is expected to provide more depth which will naturally open up more doors for the man affectionately known as Geno. I'm predicting a 120+point season for Malkin which will lead into his first ever Hart Trophy triumph.
Finalists: Sidney Crosby(Pittsburgh), Gustav Nyquist(Detroit)
Norris Trophy(Top defenceman):P.K Subban(Montreal Canadiens)
It's of my belief that during the 2014-2015 season, Erik Karlsson undeservingly was handed the Norris trophy. If the Norris trophy, and all trophies in general necessitate that we award based on the contributions he provides to his own team. Erik Karlsson was the recipient of the "Hamburgler" Andrew Hammond who essentially single handedly guided the Senators to the playoffs. I realize I'm getting off tangent here but it irks me that Karlsson is viewed as a premier defenceman in the National Hockey League as to me, he's no more than a serviceable top four defenceman. Subban is much more valuable to his own franchise as for a second round pick he has taking the Montreal market by storm. Subban is a tremendous skater, and that's probably an adjective that doesn't fully explain Subban's skillset because he also has the knack to skate the puck behind his net and instantaneously lead the rush and create a quality scoring chance. As a disclaimer again, Karlssson will be included in my finalists not because I think he should be there but because I think the National Hockey League will capitalize on his name again.
Finalists: Erik Karlsson(Ottawa), Aaron Ekblad(Florida)
Jack Adams Trophy(Coach of the year): Dan Bylsma(Buffalo Sabres)
It should be noted that although a lot of pendants think Bylsma isn't a good coach and rode the coat tales of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, I think that's complete hogwash as Bylsma battled through a lack of depth during his entire Penguins tenure and Marc-Andre Fleury offered below satisfactory goaltending to put in mildly most of the way. This Sabres squad intrigues me greatly because some of these young pieces have superstar potential. Everyone jumps over to the Edmonton Oilers when discussing the greatest young talent in the league....I'm an Oilers fan, I get it, the praise is most definitely deserved but the Sabres young nucleus is overlooked. Bylsma landed in a great destination, who wouldn't want to mentor Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis? The "mentoring" could be short lived as this franchise has enough talent to contend for the playoffs as my breakdown have the Sabres post-season bound.
Finalists: Jeff Blashill(Detroit), Bob Hartley(Calgary)
Vezina Trophy(Top goaltender):Jake Allen(St.Louis Blues)
This is an incredibly risky pick from the perspective that I'm well aware there aren't any guarantees that Allen will finish the year as the starter. I recall back to the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships and coming to the epiphany that Jake Allen looked awful and I remained doubtful that he would ever be able to cut it in the National Hockey League. He's proved me wrong and then some as he supplanted Brian Elliot on a perennially contending team. If Allen continues to show the Blues regime that he can play well when the games really get going, this darkhorse pick could make me look like a genius come late June.
Finalists: Carey Price(Montreal), Kari Ramo(Calgary)
Calder Trophy(Top Rookie): Connor McDavid(Edmonton Oilers)
Connor "McJesus" McDavid is the most hyped player coming into to the league since Sidney Crosby. This is a storied rookie class as there are a handful of players that have merits to be in consideration. Unfortunately for the rest of the hopefuls, McDavid is in a league of his own. This has already been well documented but in the entire span of history there aren't many, if any that possess that combination of speed and creativity. As you'll see above, I pegged Evgeni Malkin for the Hart trophy and I do draw some parallels between Malkin's and McDavid's game minus McDavid's blazing speed. This is a scary proposition.
Finalists: Jack Eichel(Buffalo), Nikolai Ehlers(Winnipeg)