We’re two months into the NHL 2019-2020 season and we’re starting to see who the real contenders this year are. Thanksgiving is usually a marker for fans and pundits to re-evaluate their playoff predictions. Looking at the NHL standings, it’s clear that there have been some surprises this season so far.
Looking back at the season so far, we can start to understand which NHL players are making the biggest difference for their teams. Some have stood out for their form and contribution, while others have left their teams noticeably weakened by absence through injuries.
When it comes to NHL predictions, 2020’s crystal ball should offer some twists and turns. There are still over 70 NHL games to go. With 2019 as a reference, here is what we can learn for 2020.
Lightning bolt needs Kucherov and Stamkos
The Lightning were many pundits and sportsbooks top pick for this season, with good reason. Last season the Lightning amassed a whopping 128 points in the regular season. They headed into the 2019 NHL playoffs full of confidence but were undone in the first round by the Blue Jackets. Don’t expect many Lightning fans rewatching those NHL playoffs highlights.
The Lightning were expected to start this season with a vengeance but unfortunately, failed to do so. Looking at their NHL scores and the performance of key men Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos might explain more about what went wrong so far in 2019, and what is needed to maintain their resurgence in form.
In the 2018-2019 season, the Lightning scored 319 goals. These were provided mainly by Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, with 41, 45, and 41 goals respectively. This season Kuckerov and Stamkos have been in and out of the side with injuries. Their form has struggled as a result.
The impact of Kucherov cannot be underestimated. He led the side in points thanks to his 87 assists. The Lightning has shown drastically improved performances when he is on the ice. If the Lightning want to continue to climb the table towards a playoff spot, Kucherov will need to keep a clean bill of health.
Point has carried the Lightning attack admirably so far, and at 23 is an elite prospect. The leadership of Stamkos should help develop Point and ensure that the team doesn’t rely as heavily on Kucherov.
Oilers not a one man band
Not many would have guessed that the Oilers would be leading NHL stats in the 2019-2020 season. In fact, many NHL news and rumors stories were written about this being Connor McDavid’s last season with an underperforming Oilers side. While older Oilers fans will never be certain about a star player being traded (see Wayne Gretzky), this season has shown that the Oilers could be a Stanley Cup contender once again.
Leon Draisatl and Connor McDavid have topped the points stats for most of the season. Draisaitl, in particular, has performed excellently, topping the NHL stats for assists so far this season.
McDavid has had one or two injury concerns this season. Draisaitl’s performances show that there is more to the Oilers than McDavid. If the two players can maintain fitness, the Oilers will be on course for the playoffs. They have only made the playoffs once in the last 13 seasons.
Looking towards 2020, the young pair of McDavid (22) and Draisaitl (24) could be the most dangerous attack in the league and playoffs. If the Oilers go far in the playoffs, McDavid should be leading the line once again in 2020-2021.
Barry Trotz’ winning mentality
Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL. Trotz spent 15 seasons with the Predators before moving to the Capitals, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2018. The following season he joined the Islanders and won the Jack Adams Award for best coach in his first season at the helm.
This season he has the Islanders topping most NHL power rankings after going 77 games, including 21 this season, without a regulation-time loss. One of his strengths has been shoring up the Islanders’ defense. The Islanders haven’t given away many goals in 2019, and this trend should continue into 2020.
One trend that Trotz will want to change, is their finishing. Despite the NHL rankings, 2019 has left Islanders fans frustrated by the finishing quality from Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. Both players have shown in the past that they can post 20-30+ goal seasons.
At the moment, young players like Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier have carried the biggest goal threat. Trotz might need to lean on them more in 2020 to ensure the Islanders remain on course for the playoffs.
One thing is for sure, Trotz has the mind and recent Stanley Cup experience to bring the best out of the Islanders team. 2020 should be an interesting watch for Islanders fans.
Ovechkin hitting the top 10
Alex Ovechkin won the Stanley Cup with Trotz and the Capitals in 2018. He is without a doubt one of the best NHL players, particularly when it comes to scoring. Ovechkin is currently the 12th top goal scorer in NHL history. He has 673 goals, only 17 goals away from the great Mario Lemieux in 10th. Ovechkin has already scored 15 goals in 25 games this season. If he stays fit, he should make 10th spot in 2020.
NHL news will no doubt monitor Ovechkin as he approaches the milestone, and you can be certain that he will be aware of it as well. It’s always great to see history being made, and Ovechkin fully deserves being added to the top 10 list. If he can continue 50+ goal seasons, he could make the top five this season.
Pastrnak and Marchand leading the Bruins
Despite not being able to win the Stanley Cup Finals and become NHL champions, 2019 has been a good year for the Bruins. The Bruins have not faltered in the Atlantic Division this season in the way that the Lightning have. They currently top the standings and should be a safe bet to finish top by April 2020.
Looking at the NHL scores and standings, you can see that David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are key to the Bruins’ success. Marchand currently leads the NHL stats in plus-minus with a +19 rating. He is also in the top five for assists and goals and points. Pastrnak currently tops the league in scoring and is also in the top five for points.
The Bruins are looking strong again this season. 2020 should see Marchand and Pastrnak leading the Bruins into the playoffs with the hope of going all the way.
Reading the crystal ball
You can bet any sports fan will know that predictions of the distant future are not always accurate. NHL predictions are no different. Injuries and referee decisions can derail the strongest teams.
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