We made it through preseason and are on the cusp of a full 82-game NHL season for 2021-22. There is so much to look forward to in the next 1,312 games.
The Seattle Kraken are now a real team — although we will miss the mock expansion drafts. Minnesota will host the Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1. Las Vegas will feature the All-Star Game at T-Mobile Arena. And NHL players will return to the Olympics in Beijing.
As we always do at the start of the season, we asked The Athletic’s team of NHL writers to lock in their predictions for the Stanley Cup winner, the surprises (both good and bad) and more expectations for the season.
It’s good news for Colorado Avalanche fans … if you ignore the fact that our track record isn’t exactly perfect.
So let’s dive into who our staff picked as the best, the worst, the coach waiting to be fired, the next team Jack Eichel will play for and more.
Who will win the Stanley Cup?
Dom Luszczyszyn projects the Avalanche to finish with more than 113 points and gives them a 25 percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup. To put it simply, they are the team to beat.
The Maple Leafs were projected to finish second in Dom’s model, but our writers were less confident in their ability to reverse their past playoff failures and put the Golden Knights and Lightning ahead of Toronto, which is tied for fourth with the Islanders.
The panel’s confidence in the Avalanche drove the group to pick Nathan MacKinnon as the preseason Conn Smythe front-runner. There was also a couple of nods to young star defenseman Cale Makar.