The NHL season has just started and the hockey fans are excited to see if their team will win the Stanley Cup. Here are the top Stanley Cup contenders heading into the season.
Tampa Bay Lighting
Tampa Bay has been close but not close enough to winning the Cup over the past four years. In 2015 they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago and then lost in the Eastern Conference Final to Pittsburgh (2016) and Washington (2018).
They’re loaded with offensive superstars like former goal-scoring champion Steven Stamkos and winger Nikita Kucherov, who finished third in the league in points. They also have last season’s top defensemen, Victor Hedman and star blue-liner Ryan McDonagh. Stopping the pucks is goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie last year.
They’re the most talented team in the league.
The Jets jumped 27 points in the standings last year and were the second-best team in the league, however, they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final. Like Tampa Bay, the Jets are loaded with talent. They have four players in TSN’s top 50 ranked players: Top-line centre Mark Scheifele (11), captain Blake Wheeler (20), sniper Patrick Laine (23), and Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck (44).
They scored the second most amount of goals and were ranked fifth defensively. They have an all-around great team and will be a force in the west.
San Jose Sharks
On defence, San Jose has Brent Burns who won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman two years ago, Marc-Edouard Vlasic who is widely considered the defensive-defenceman in the league, and they traded for Erik Karlsson who is the best offensive defenceman of his generation.
The Sharks’ defence is going to be fantastic but they also have strong offensive players like Evander Kane, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and captain Joe Pavelski. Martin Jones is a stable goaltender in net. The Sharks have been Cup contenders for 10 years and made it to the Final in 2016 before losing to Pittsburgh.
Maybe this is the year they finally win it all.
Nashville made it to the Cup Final in 2017 but suffered the same fate as San Jose the year before and lost to the Penguins. They bounced back last year and were the best team in the regular season. Unfortunately, they had to take on the mighty Winnipeg Jets in the second round of the playoffs and lost.
They’re led defensively by former Norris Trophy winner P.K Subban, captain Roman Josi and strong defenders in Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. In goal, they have last season’s Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne. Offensively, they are above average but not elite. If they rekindle the same fire as last year, they should still be one of the top teams in the league.
Vegas Golden Knights
Most people thought the expansion Vegas Golden Knights were going to be a bad team last year as they were made up of players that other teams didn’t want to protect. Boy was everyone wrong. The Knights won the Pacific division with 109 points and cruised through the playoffs until they had to face Washington in the Stanley Cup Final and lost.
They lost some key players like James Neal and David Perron but replaced them with Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny who are better players. Vegas may not be as dominant as they were last year but they have too much skill not to be seen as contenders.
Toronto Maple Leafs
These aren’t your childhood Toronto Maple Leafs; these Leafs are young, have loads of firepower and are a great hockey team. They were third in goals scored last year and added superstar centre John Tavares. Their centremen now include Auston Matthews who scored 63 points in 62 games, John Tavares who scored 84 points and Nazem Kadri who scored 55 points.
Only Pittsburgh has a better centre combination than the Leafs.
Goaltender Frederick Andersen has proven himself to be a quality puck-stopper. The biggest question for the Leafs is on defence. Their defence is about average, however, the 2017 Penguins proved that a team could win the Cup without great defencemen as long as they don’t make dumb mistakes and can move the puck to the forwards.
Honourable mentions: Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Pittsburg Penguins and St. Louis Blues.