1. Lightning almost three-peat, lose to Avalanche in Cup Final
The Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, are a popular Stanley Cup pick. Frankly, the two-time defending champions are probably the most talented team in the Eastern Conference and another lengthy playoff run would not register as a surprise. Still, there's a reason why no franchise has won three titles in a row since the early 1980s: burnout. Too much hockey. Coach Jon Cooper also lost his entire third line this past summer, which is no minor development given the trio's contributions to Tampa's Cup wins. It says here either the Golden Knights or Avalanche will meet the Lightning in the Cup Final, and my money's on Nathan MacKinnon-led Colorado winning for the first time since 2001.
2. McDavid destroys regular season, collects 150 points
Mario Lemieux was the last NHLer to record 150 points, doing so in 1995-96 when he put up an absurd 161 in 70 games. Connor McDavid, who's in the prime of his career at 24 years old, is more than capable of hitting 150 if he can play all 82. This is the year. I don't think people realize the historical relevance of his 2020-21: McDavid's 105 points in 56 games sits ninth all time on Hockey Reference's era-adjusted ranking. A regular offseason with no rehab will help. The cross-checking crackdown will, too. Having puck retrieving wizard Zach Hyman on his wing won't hurt. Most of all, McDavid has been getting progressively more pissed off every time the Edmonton Oilers are bounced early from the playoffs. He's on a mission here. Speaking of the Oilers, they may not be better overall after a busy offseason but the forward group is unquestionably deeper. Which, again, will help McDavid in his quest for 150.
3. Flames' Gaudreau-Monahan era ends
Since forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan first donned Calgary Flames jerseys back in 2013-14, the team has won a grand total of two playoff series. It's looking unlikely Calgary will add to that tally in 2021-22. On an individual level over that time, both players have neither greatly exceeded expectations or completely disappointed the fan base. All of that context, combined with the fact their playing styles don't mesh perfectly with how coach Darryl Sutter prefers to play, points toward a major shakeup in Flames land. Maybe Gaudreau, a pending unrestricted free agent, is gone by this time next year. Maybe it's Monahan, the goal-scorer. Maybe both leave. There will be a market for two pillars of a Flames core that's already lost Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Sam Bennett, Mark Giordano, and others in recent years.
4. Theodore wins Norris Trophy
Shea Theodore has never finished higher than sixth in Norris voting, so this prediction is relying heavily on the Vegas Golden Knight's upward trajectory. Theodore, who's 26 years old and entering his sixth NHL season, has the prototypical modern defenseman's toolkit, plus size. His mobility and vision are elite. He's leveled up the past two seasons in terms of point production and his ice time is slowly creeping up to the 25-minute mark. Award voters are analyzing blue-liners with greater sophistication today than, say, 10 years ago, and Theodore boasts excellent underlying numbers. Yes, Cale Makar, Dougie Hamilton, Victor Hedman, and a few others might have better betting odds for the Norris. But Theodore's a guy who still has another gear or two.
5. Kraken finish bottom five in goals scored
If I had magical powers I'd make sure the Seattle Kraken are one of the 16 teams competing in the 2022 playoffs. Expansion teams are undeniably intriguing and easy to root for. Obviously, I don't have magical powers - which sucks because I just don't believe in the Kraken. It's hard to envision them snagging a Western Conference playoff spot when they're on track to trot out Yanni Gourde, Jared McCann, Alex Wennberg, Morgan Geekie, and Riley Sheahan at center. (Making matters worse, McCann is in COVID-19 protocols and Gourde is injured right now.) Seattle is set in net and the defense corps is strong. A serious lack of goal-scoring will be their undoing.