Joey Alfieri

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2018-19 Preview: Part 5

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Part five of our 2018-19 season preview will feature the last three teams in the Metropolitan Division and the first two teams in the Pacific Division. You can check out Part OnePart TwoPart Three and Part Four of the series here if you haven’t already done so.


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Carolina Hurricanes


2017-18 Finish: 36-35-11, 10th in Eastern Conference


Noteworthy Gains: Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, Calvin de Haan, Petr Mrazek


Noteworthy Losses: Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Cam Ward


Biggest Strength: The Hurricanes have a gifted bunch of blueliners on their roster. The group includes: Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk. They also have solid depth defenders with de Haan, Brett Pesce and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Not many teams can say that they have that kind of depth at one position. What makes their depth even more impressive is that each of those players is 27 years old or younger.


Biggest Weakness: Mrazek was brought in during the summer to push Scott Darling, who had a horrible first year in Carolina. Even with that addition, the ‘Canes still don’t have a clear-cut number one netminder that that they can rely on night in and night out. Darling might be more comfortable heading into this year, but he still has a lot to prove. For the Hurricanes to make the playoffs, they’ll need one of their netminders to step up in a big way.


Player to Watch: Rookie Andrei Svechnikov will have every opportunity to make the team out of training camp. The second overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has great offensive instincts, which should benefit the Hurricanes starting this season. Carolina has been lacking an elite scoring threat, so they have to be thrilled that they were able to add Svechnikov through the draft.


New York Islanders


2017-18 Finish: 35-37-10, 11th in Eastern Conference


Noteworthy Gains: Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Robin Lehner


Noteworthy Losses: John Tavares, Jaroslav Halak, Calvin de Haan


Biggest Strength: Despite losing Tavares to the Maple Leafs in free agency, the Islanders still have a decent group of forwards. Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey will lead the charge for the Isles this season. They also have some complimentary pieces like Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, Komarov and Anthony Beauvillier. It’s tough to envision the them making the playoffs, but it won’t be because of this group of forwards.


Biggest Weakness: Goaltending has been the Islanders’ biggest weakness for the last few years. In the off-season, they allowed Halak to walk in free agency (he signed with Boston), but they brought in Lehner from the Sabres. Even with Lehner in the fold, the Islanders still don’t have a true number one goaltender. A duo of Thomas Greiss and Lehner is far from great. In order to become a good team, they’ll have to address their hole between the pipes.


Player to Watch: Bailey was one of the biggest surprises of the 2017-18 season, as he accumulated 71 points in 76 games last season. With Tavares no longer in the fold, will Bailey be able to reach those numbers again this season? Many will be inclined to say no, which is fair, but Bailey will have to deliver now that the organization lost one of their top offensive weapons in free agency.


New York Rangers


2017-18 Finish: 34-39-9, 12th in Eastern Conference


Noteworthy Gains: Fredrik Claesson, Cody McLeod


Noteworthy Losses: David Desharnais, Ondrej Pavelec


Biggest Strength: The Rangers are going through a bit of a transition, so they don’t really have an abundance of anything, but they have a respectable group of wingers on the team. Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Spooner, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich are all capable of chipping in offensively. Add top prospects like Lias Anderson and Filip Chytil and you have a pretty intriguing group. And some of those players can be moved to center.


Biggest Weakness: The blue line is still a question mark for the Rangers. Injuries limited Kevin Shattenkirk to just 46 games last season. He’s capable of providing offense from the back end, but he has his issues in the defensive zone. Brady Skjei is a reliable defender, but Marc Staal and Brendan Smith have seen better days. Rob O’Gara, Anthony DeAngelo and Claesson are all still relatively unproven.


Player to Watch: Kevin Hayes and the Rangers avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $5.175 million contract this summer. Agreeing to a short-term contract just means that they’ll have to revisit negotiations in the new year. The 26-year-old now has a full season to prove that he’s capable of being a top-line player at the NHL level. He had 25 goals and 44 points in 76 games last season. If he’s capable of improving those numbers, he’ll likely get himself a massive contract before or during free agency.


Vegas Golden Knights


2017-18 Finish: 51-24-7, Lost in Stanley Cup Final


Noteworthy Gains: Paul Stastny, Nick Holden


Noteworthy Losses: James Neal, David Perron


Biggest Strength: For a team entering their second year in the NHL, the Golden Knights have a pretty impressive group of centers. William Karlsson, Stastny and Cody Eakin make up one of the better groups in the Western Conference. They were good enough to help the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final, but they ultimately fell a little short of their goal of winning it all. If Karlsson and Stastny can provide solid production, again, in 2018-19, Vegas should go on another long playoff run.


Biggest Weakness: It’s hard to pinpoint a weakness on an expansion team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. If there’s the one thing the Golden Knights are missing, it’s a true number one defenseman. They managed to make a long run without one, but they were strong contenders for Erik Karlsson’s services right before the trade deadline, so they clearly feel like they could use a top end blueliner.


Player to Watch: Instead of acquiring Karlsson, the Golden Knights traded for forward Tomas Tatar, who ended up being a disappointment and a healthy scratch in the playoffs. The 27-year-old finished with 20 goals in 82 games last year, but he had just four goals and two assists in 20 games with his new team. Vegas paid a steep price to get him from Detroit, so they’ll need him to step up. With Neal and Perron now gone, Tatar will have to find a way to get the job done.


Anaheim Ducks


2017-18 Finish: 44-25-13, first round loss to San Jose (4-0)


Noteworthy Gains: Luke Schenn, Andrej Sustr, Brian Gibbons


Noteworthy Losses: Francois Beauchemin, Antoine Vermette


Biggest Strength: The Ducks have a number of quality defensemen like Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour, and they also have a solid number-one goaltender in John Gibson and a good backup in veteran Ryan Miller. The fact that they have that kind of depth at their disposal means that they’ll probably be able to make at least one more playoff run this season.


Biggest Weakness: The Ducks are a little light when it comes to high-end forwards. Ryan Getzlaf is still an elite center, but Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are getting up there in age. Rickard Rakell, Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg and Ondrej Kase are solid options, but their scoring depth could be better. They’re still one of the better teams in the Western Conference heading into the season.


Player to Watch: Nick Ritchie is currently a restricted free agent, which means he and the Ducks still need to agree on a new contract. The 22-year-old had just 10 goals and 27 points in 76 games last season. That’s disappointing considering Anaheim used the 10th overall pick to select in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. If he’s going to develop into an effective offensive forward, he’s going to have to do it soon.

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