1. Nathan MacKinnon will lead the league in scoring.
Not Connor McDavid, not Nikita Kucherov, not Patrick Kane, not Sidney Crosby... but Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon has been just short of the 100-point mark for the past two seasons. However, two years ago he scored 97 points in just 72 games, which put him on pace for 111 points that season. Last season, he lost his line-mates for a total of 18 games. Do I think he would've caught up to Kucherov if his line had been entirely healthy? Maybe not... you are looking at the fact MacKinnon lost out on a total of 18 games of his highest point-production potential.
In these 18 games, MacKinnon only produced 12 points, (just 4 of those games was he alone with both wingers). However, in the other 64 games he played (with Rantanen and Landeskog in the lineup) he produced at a pace of 111-points, once again. This is not me saying that MacKinnon is dependent on his two wingers... but that he drives one of the best lines in Hockey and when going for a full season (hopefully Rantanen signs ASAP) he will lead the league in scoring. Add this to the Avs bringing in a couple of players to really help their number 1 power-play... MacKinnon, Makar, Rantanen, Landeskog and Kadri should be their top power-play unit.
Prediction: Nathan MacKinnon - 45 Goals, 80 Assists, 125 Points.
2. The Winnipeg Jets will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Don't get me wrong, the Winnipeg Jets are very good hockey team... BUT so are 6 out of the 7 teams in the Central Division this year. While most teams spent the off-season locking up star and depth players for their lineup, the Jets lost 3 of their top 4 d-men, along with depth down the middle.
The Predators lost Subban on the back end, but have Dante Fabbro penciled into be more than capable of filling in on the back end. Meanwhile they added all-star centreman, Matt Duchene, who should prove to be the #1 centreman they have been craving for years. Prediction: 1st in Central
The Avalanche, as mentioned above, have added depth to their forward core, while Cale Makar should be more than enough to fill the void that Barrie left going to Toronto. Even after signing Rantanen, they will have more than $8 million of cap space to use for a run heading into the Playoffs. Prediction: 2nd in Central
The Stars are expected to do big things this season. Last year, they learned how to play on both sides of the puck. This year, with the additions of Pavelski and Perry, they will look to compete for the top of the central division. Especially with the goalie tandem of Bishop and Khudobin. Prediction: 3rd in Central
The Blues are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and didn't really need to do much to add to their cup defence. However, they will now have Berube and Binnington for a full season and recently upgraded their back-end by trading for Justin Faulk. Prediction: 4th in Central (1st Wild Card)
The Blackhawks added allot of depth up front, signing euro Kubalik and bringing back Shaw, while strengthening their d-core with the additions of Maata and De Haan. Not to mention they also signed reigning Vezina Finalist, Robin Lehner to tag team the crease with an aging Crawford. Prediction: 5th in Central (2nd Wild-Card)
This means I have the Jets sitting just outside of the playoff picture in the 6th place position in the central division. The losses of Byfuglien, Trouba and Myers will prove that Hellebuyck isn't the goalie he was two years ago. They still have penalty trouble this pre-season and without those big time defenders, their PK will struggle even more. It will be interesting to see if Beaulieu, Pionk, Niku and Morrissey can make up a top-4 that is NHL and Central Division ready.
3. The Pittsburgh Penguins will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins, like the Jets, didn't do much to improve in the off-season, in fact, they have gotten weaker. Perennial 40 goal scorer, Phil Kessel, was replaced with Alex. Galchenyuk, a player with immense skill but has yet to breakout or live up to expectations. A top pairing of Letang and Dumoulin, with not much behind them, will prove to be their Achilles heel. This along with the fact that Murray really hasn't proven to be the same goalie in the regular season as he is in the post-season.
They do have a lot to love in their top-6 forward group, obviously. A 1st line with Crosby and Guentzel should produce plenty of primary offence. While, Malkin and Galchenyuk will be a solid source secondary scoring. However, after that, a line of Bjugstad, McCann and Hornqvist have a lot to prove in early going. AND, if Murray goes down to injury yet again, DeSmith is not a liable guy to be a starter for a playoff team.
There are also outside reasons that this team will not make the playoffs, those are the other teams in their division who have added to their rosters or have stayed put.
The Capitals have virtually the same team, plus and minus a couple of depth players. The perennial Rocket Richard Trophy in Ovechkin, along with other stars, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby and Kuznetsov will have the Capitals as the favourite in the Metropolitan Division yet again. Prediction: 1st in the Metro.
The Devils had a HUGE off-season. However, their biggest addition, or "re-addition" is the return of a healthy Taylor Hall. His last full, healthy season? Regular season MVP. Whether or not he will be paired with superstar in the making, Jack Hughes, right away or somewhere down the road, they will be an electric duo. They also added the liked of PK Subban, Wayne Simmonds and KHL superstar, Nikita Gusev. If Corey Schneider plays like he has been so far this pre-season... this team will be one of the most complete teams in the NHL. Prediction: 2nd in the Metro.
The Hurricanes are coming off a spectacular season where they rebounded as a team and also a Franchise. They should be able to carry this electricity into the new season and find their way back into the post-season, as their team has not diminished all that much. Prediction: 3rd in the Metro.
I believe the Penguins will finish 4th in the Metro Division, however, like the Central in the West... the Atlantic has 5-6 teams that will be top competitors in the East that I believe will beat out the Penguins for those two wild-card spots: The Lightning, The Maple Leafs, The Bruins, The Panthers and The Canadiens.