Now, all 30 teams start with a blank slate and aim to make it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and hope to hoist the Stanley Cup come June. Some teams have better odds than others, but in October, everyone's even.
The NHL's 98th season will open up on Wednesday, but Whiz Wit will give you a preview of all 30 teams in the league this week, with playoff, Stanley Cup, and individual award predictions. In this addition, we preview the Metropolitan Division. If you missed the preview for the Atlantic Division, check it out here. Before we begin, here's how each team finished last year:
HEAD COACH: Bill Peters (2nd Year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Ron Francis (2nd year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Charlotte Checkers
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Eric Staal (23)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Justin Faulk (34)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Eric Staal (54)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Cam Ward (.910 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Kris Versteeg, F Joakim Nordstrom, D James Wisniewski, D Noah Hanifin, G Eddie Lack
DEPARTURES: F Alexander Semin, F Patrick Dwyer, G Anton Khudobin
On defense, James Wisniewski comes over from a trade with Anaheim and will be paired up with potential Norris candidate Justin Faulk on the blueline. Those two will be solid on the power play. Meanwhile, this year's 5th overall pick, Noah Hanifin, is on the roster and will assume a bottom three role for the time being, working with veterans such as Ron Hainsey and John-Michael Liles. Other young guys such as Ryan Murphy and Michal Jordan should also see some time as well. In goal, Eddie Lack comes over from Vancouver after spending years in the shadows of Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller. He replaces Anton Khudobin as the backup and also inked a two-year extension with the team. Cam Ward will be the starting goalie on opening night, although head coach Bill Peters hasn't committed to naming a full-time starting goalie. Ward is also in the final year of his contract.
AHLER TO WATCH: F Brock McGinn - McGinn has the competitive demeanor to play in the NHL level, but he isn't that skilled offensively. The brother of Jamie and Tye is better known as a hard worker that is best when he shuts down offensive players on the opposition. McGinn can also deliver some nice open ice hits.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: D Haydn Fleury (Red Deer - WHL) - Had Hanifin not been drafted, Fleury might have made the opening roster. But Fleury will spend one more season in juniors in Red Deer. He is a big and physical defenseman at 6'3" and 207 lbs. and also has some offensive skills, although he is not consistent in that department. Fleury is an ideal shutdown defenseman for Carolina that will help them come next season if he makes it to the NHL.
HEAD COACH: Todd Richards (5th year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Jarmo Kekalainen (3rd year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Lake Erie Monsters
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Nick Foligno (31)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Ryan Johansen (45)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Nick Foligno (73)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Sergei Bobrovsky (.918 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Brandon Saad, F Gregory Campbell, D Andrew Bodnarchuk
DEPARTURES: F Artem Anisimov, F Marko Dano, F Mark Letestu, F Jeremy Morin, F Corey Tropp, F Jack Skille, D Mike Reilly
Nothing changes defensively for Columbus. Jack Johnson and David Savard will remain as the top pairing on the team. Savard is emerging as a great two-way defenseman for the Blue Jackets. The team creates offensive chances from checking, and with a healthy blue line, that should continue this season. Sergei Bobrovsky hopes to rebound after a season filled with injuries, while Curtis McElhinney is ready if Bob goes down.
AHLER TO WATCH: F Kerby Rychel - Rychel has very solid and high quality hands that helps him become a net-front presence who can win battles down low. His skating has improved and that lets him show his tactical and technical abilities. He also plays with an edge when he's on the ice.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: F Sonny Milano (Plymouth - OHL) - In his first year with the Plymouth Whalers, Milano led the team with 46 assists and 68 points. He is a highlight-reel scorer with skating and technical skills making him a threat whenever he's on the ice. He's still building his defensive game on the other hand.
HEAD COACH: John Hynes (1st year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Ray Shero (1st year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Albany Devils
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Mike Cammalleri (27)
2014-15 ASSIST LEADERS: Adam Henrique/Scott Gomez (27)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Adam Henrique (43)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Cory Schneider (.925 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Kyle Palmieri, F Jiri Tlusty, F Lee Stempniak, D John Moore, D David Schlemko, HC John Hynes, GM Ray Shero
DEPARTURES: F Michael Ryder, F Scott Gomez, F Martin Havlat, F Dainius Zubrus, F Steve Bernier, D Bryce Salvador, D Peter Harrold, G Scott Clemmensen, HCs Scott Stevens and Adam Oates, HC and GM Lou Lamoriello
On defense, Shero also acquired John Moore as a bottom two defenseman. Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, and Eric Gelinas will need to contribute on both sides of the puck, while a healthy Damon Severson will be important to improve on last year's dismal penalty kill. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid return as the 1-2 in Newark. With Kinkaid as a reliable backup, Schneider can be one of the top goaltenders in the league.
AHLER TO WATCH: F Stefan Matteau - Matteau plays the game with a ton of energy, intensity, and passion, which does get him into penalty trouble from time-to-time. A prototypical physical winger, he uses his strong frame to play a physical style along the boards, and is a great defensive forward that is also a good penalty killer.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: F Pavel Zacha (Sarnia - OHL) - Zacha was the sixth overall pick in this year's Entry Draft, but John Hynes says that the team will not keep Zacha to slowly develop him into the NHL. Zacha is a competitive power forward with a lot of skill. The only concern is that injuries and two suspensions cut his first OHL season short.
HEAD COACH: Jack Capuano (6th year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Garth Snow (10th year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: John Tavares (38)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: John Tavares (48)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: John Tavares (86)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Jaroslav Halak (.914 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Steve Bernier, F Kirill Petrov, G Thomas Greiss
DEPARTURES: F Colin McDonald, F Michael Grabner, D Lubomir Visnovsky, D Matt Donovan, D Griffin Reinhart, G Michal Neuvirth
On defense, everything remains intact from last season. Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Travis Hamonic look to repeat their big performances from a year ago, while Thomas Hickey, Calvin de Haan,and Brian Strait will also play key roles on the blue line. In goal, Thomas Greiss is Jaroslav Halak's new backup.
AHLER TO WATCH: D Ryan Pulock - Pulock led all defenseman on Bridgeport last season with 17 goals, although he missed 22 games due to an upper body injury. He has a quick release and a deadly shot on offense. His emergence in Bridgeport last season saw the team move Griffin Reinhart at the NHL Draft.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: F Michael Dal Colle (Oshawa - OHL) - Dal Colle is a premier playmaker with a rocket of a shot. He has a great hockey sense mixed with a sniper's touch, and also provides good reach and puck protecting abilities. Expect him to possibly be on the Islanders next season.
HEAD COACH: Alain Vigneault (3rd year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Jeff Gorton (1st year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Hartford Wolf Pack
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Rick Nash (42)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Derick Brassard (41) (Keith Yandle had 46 total last season, but only 9 were with the Rangers)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Rick Nash (69)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Henrik Lundqvist (.922 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Viktor Stalberg, F Emerson Etem, F Jarret Stoll, F Luke Adam, D Raphael Diaz, G Antti Raanta, GM Jeff Gorton
DEPARTURES: F Carl Hagelin, F Martin St. Louis, F James Sheppard, F Chris Mueller, D Matt Hunwick, G Cam Talbot, GM Glen Sather
The top six remain the same, and entering his first full year on Broadway, Keith Yandle hopes to continue the dominant play that he was known for while with the Coyotes. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal are three excellent shutdown players, while Kevin Klein hopes to work off of his career year with an even better season. He'll be with Dan Boyle again. Raphael Diaz signed as the possible seventh defenseman, but prospect Dylan McIlrath beat him and will finally see some time in the NHL. With the surprise trade of Cam Talbot to Edmonton, Antti Raanta was picked up from Chicago to be Lundqvist's new backup. He was leaped over in favor of Scott Darling during the Stanley Cup run last season.
AHLER TO WATCH: G Mackenzie Skapski - The Rangers do not have a very good farm system to work with, with guys last year such as McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg making it to the opening night roster. Skapski backed up Cam Talbot when Lundqvist was hurt, and even started two games, winning both (one shutout). With Raanta as Lundqvist's backup, he may not be with the Rangers for too long.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: D Brady Skjei (Minnesota - Big Ten) - Skjei is a two-way defenseman who is stronger on the defensive side than he is on offense. He has great skating ability, but although he has some outstanding traits, he is not yet the complete package to earn him a spot with the Rangers. He might be a lower pairing defenseman when he reaches his potential.
HEAD COACH: Dave Hakstol (1st year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Ron Hextall (2nd year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Lehigh Valley Phantoms
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Wayne Simmonds (28)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Jakub Voracek (59)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Jakub Voracek (81)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Steve Mason (.928 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Sam Gagner, F Colin McDonald, D Evgeni Medvedev, G Michal Neuvirth, G Jason LaBarbera, HC Dave Hakstol
DEPARTURES: F Zac Rinaldo, F Jason Akeson, D Nicklas Grossmann, D Carlo Colaiacovo, G Ray Emery, HC Craig Berube
On defense, the heavily talked about prospects are either with their junior team or developing some more in the AHL, something that Hextall does not want to rush. Radko Gudas will officially make his Flyers debut after undergoing season ending surgery while with Tampa Bay last season, and brings a hard shot to the table. KHL veteran Evgeni Medvedev has also opened a ton of eyes with his offensive production, but he is still getting used to playing on the smaller ice surface. A big move comes in the form on Andrew MacDonald getting waived one year into a six year, $30 million deal. Brandon Manning will take his place. In goal, Michal Neuvirth hopes to ease some of the burden that Steve Mason faced last season, although Mason has looked solid yet again during the preseason. Neuvirth was shaky at times during the preseason, which might be a bad sign of things to come.
AHLER TO WATCH: D Shayne Gostisbehere - After ACL surgery ended his first pro season, Gostisbehere will look to pick up where he left off while with the Phantoms. He impressed many during the preseason with the Flyers by scoring three goals while with the big club. But he admitted that he has some things to work on before he can play full-time in Philadelphia.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: F Travis Konecny (Ottawa - OHL) - Ivan Provorov was the team's first choice in this year's NHL Draft, but Travis Konecny ended up getting more hype than Provorov during the preseason. Although Provorov might be more NHL-ready than the forward, Konecny plays with a ton of confidence.
We'll have more in a full Flyers preview before the team opens up the regular season Thursday.
HEAD COACH: Mike Johnston (2nd year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Jim Rutherford (2nd year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins
2014-15 GOAL LEADERS: Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin (28)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Sidney Crosby (56)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Sidney Crosby (84)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Marc-Andre Fleury (.920 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F Phil Kessel, F Nick Bonino, F Eric Fehr, F Sergei Plotnikov, F Matt Cullen, D Tim Erixon
DEPARTURES: F Brandon Sutter, F Steve Downie, F Blake Comeau, F Nick Spaling, F Daniel Winnik, F Craig Adams, F Kasperi Kapanen, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Paul Martin, G Thomas Greiss
Kris Letang is healthy again, after a concussion knocked the possible Norris Trophy candidate out for the season. With Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff gone, young guys Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot will have to assume immediate big time roles on the blue line. Ian Cole, Rob Scuderi, and Ben Lovejoy will also tag along. Marc-Andre Fleury had a league high 10 shutouts last season in probably his best season yet. He hopes to keep that production going, with Jeff Zatkoff as his backup.
AHLER TO WATCH: D Brian Dumoulin - Dumoulin is a big, smooth skating defenseman who can move the puck very well. He will use his large frame to protect the puck and help win battles in the corners as well as on the boards. Dumoulin possesses a ton of natural talent.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: F Oskar Sundqvist (Skelleftea - Sweden) - Sundqvist is a tall and rangy forward who plays a good two-way game. He is physical for his size and has good overall speed and is not knocked off the puck. He can contribute on the penalty kill, but he seems to have enough offensive upside to contribute on the scoresheet as well
HEAD COACH: Barry Trotz (2nd year)
GENERAL MANAGER: Brian MacLellan (2nd year)
AHL AFFILIATE: Hershey Bears
2014-15 GOALS LEADER: Alex Ovechkin (53)
2014-15 ASSISTS LEADER: Nicklas Backstrom (60)
2014-15 POINTS LEADER: Alex Ovechkin (81)
2014-15 GOALTENDING LEADER: Braden Holtby (.923 SV%)
ADDITIONS: F T.J. Oshie, F Justin Williams, F Chris Bourque, D Taylor Chorney, G Dan Ellis
DEPARTURES: F Joel Ward, F Troy Brouwer, F Eric Fehr, D Mike Green, D John Erskine
The top-four on defense is stable, with John Carlson and Brooks Orpik on one pairing, and Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner as another. With the departure of offensive-defenseman Mike Green to Detroit, Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt will see some more time, and add AHL veteran Taylor Chorney to the mix as well. Braden Holtby started 72 games for Washington last season, which was a truckload for a goalie in this era of the game. Philipp Grubauer will be the backup and might take some starts from Holtby. Dan Ellis was brought for depth purposes.
AHLER TO WATCH: D Connor Carrick - Carrick is a reliable AHL scorer and can also skate effectively. He does lack size at 5'11" and 185 lbs., but he shows great confidence when carrying the puck in the offensive zone and joining in on the rush. He can quarterback the power play in Hershey and could be a Mike Green-esque offensive-defenseman.
PROSPECT TO WATCH: D Madison Bowey (Kelowna - WHL) - At 6'2" and 210 lbs., Bowey could be a complete package for the Caps in the future. He has NHL-ready size and plays with a physical edge. His strength is on offense, where he was second in goals among defensemen in the WHL with 17, but he is an excellent skater despite his size. He captained the Rockets to a WHL Championship and could be a future captain in the Washington organization.
2. New York Rangers
3. New York Islanders
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (earn Wild Card)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (earn Wild Card)
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. New Jersey Devils
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