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16 bold predictions for 2016-17

NHL.com writers forecast what will develop this season

NHL.com @NHL

To prepare for the 2016-17 NHL season, we asked five of our writers to look into their crystal balls and play prognosticators for the upcoming season.

All told, they come up with 16 different bold predictions that suggest this season could be one that won't soon be forgotten.

Nick Cotsonika, NHL.com columnist, looked at the League as a whole and came up with these four scenarios:

1. Multiple players will finish with more than 100 points: The NHL hasn't had more than one player finish with at least 100 points in a season since 2009-10, when Henrik Sedin (112 points), Sidney Crosby (109), Alex Ovechkin (109) and Nicklas Backstrom (101) did it. But it will happen this season. Several players have a shot, including Crosby, Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn and Connor McDavid.

2. P.K. Subban will be a Norris Trophy finalist: He's motivated after being traded by the Montreal Canadiens. He will have more freedom to be himself and push the pace offensively with the Nashville Predators. And the writers who vote for the award will be watching him particularly closely. He won the award in 2013, but finished No. 14 in voting last season.

3. Nail Yakupov will set an NHL career high in goals: The Edmonton Oilers traded Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues for a low-level prospect and a conditional pick, and now he will play for coach Ken Hitchcock, who preaches the 200-foot game. But it's a fresh start and Yakupov, 23, is a No. 1 pick (2012 NHL Draft) who scored 17 goals in 48 games as a rookie. He's capable of much more.

4. Auston Matthews will reach at least 25 goals and 75 points and win the Calder Trophy: The expectations hardly could be higher for the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. He's 19 and viewed as a savior for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he can handle it. Well. He possesses uncommon poise and experience for someone his age, not to mention talent.

Video: TOR@MTL: Matthews beats Price with PPG

 

Amalie Benjamin, our Boston-based regional writer, will focus heavily on the Atlantic Division this season. Here's the predictions she forecasted:

5. Brad Marchand will score 40 goals: Marchand will hit (or surpass) 40 goals for the first time after making it to 37 last season. The left wing starred for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, leading all scorers with five goals, including the title-winning goal with 44 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the final. Marchand has proven his worth, as well as his chemistry with center Patrice Bergeron. Now he'll add another notch to his belt.

6. The Detroit Red Wings will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs: It last happened in 1990, but it's going to happen again this season. The Red Wings will sit at home when 16 other teams play for the Stanley Cup. Pavel Datsyuk is playing in Russia, Henrik Zetterberg is 36 and coming off a knee injury, and there are questions in goal, meaning that the team that squeaked into the playoffs with a minus-10 goal differential last season won't be so lucky this season.

7. The Tampa Bay Lightning will win the Stanley Cup, without Ben Bishop: It seems inevitable that the marriage between Bishop and the Lightning will end this season, either through a trade or Bishop's departure in free agency. The Lightning simply don't have the salary-cap space to keep him and do have his heir apparent in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Though the trade to the Calgary Flames didn't quite end up happening in the offseason, a trade will happen after the New Year, Bishop will be elsewhere and the Lightning will still go on to lift the Cup.

 

Tom Gulitti, our regional writer based out of Washington D.C., looked at the Metropolitan Division and came up with three interesting takes:

8. Marc-Andre Fleury will remain the Pittsburgh Penguins' No. 1 goaltender after Matt Murray returns: Murray took over the No. 1 job in the playoffs Fleury was recovering from a concussion. Fleury was 35-17-6 with a 2.29 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and five shutouts last season before he was injured. Now, Murray will miss the start of the season with a broken hand and Fleury will take advantage of the opportunity.

9. Andrew Ladd will score 30 goals: After signing a seven-year contract as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Ladd is in position to thrive with the New York Islanders. Ladd, 30, scored an NHL career-high 29 goals in 2010-11 with the Atlanta Thrashers and has averaged 25.8 goals during his past five full seasons. Playing on left wing with center John Tavares will mean more scoring chances and goals.

10. Chris Kreider finally puts it all together: Kreider has had stretches of being a dominant power forward for the New York Rangers, but a lack of consistency has prevented the left wing from taking the next step. After signing a four-year contract reportedly worth $18.5 million on July 22, Kreider, 25, will live up to it with a 30-goal season, shattering his previous NHL career-high of 21.

Video: PHI@NYR: Kreider beats Neuvirth top-shelf

 

Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer, had these predictions about the Central Division:

11. Five teams will make the playoffs: It's not just that five teams from the Central Division will make the playoffs, it's that it will be the same five teams that made it last season. The Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild are all still better than the bottom four teams in the Pacific Division. Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis each had 100 or more points last season. Nashville had 96 and Minnesota snuck into the playoffs with 87. They'll all have more than 90 this season and the Predators should be good enough to get to 100. The Blues might regress slightly, but they've still got enough to get in.

12. Nathan MacKinnon will score at least 30 goals: It's time for MacKinnon to have his breakout season for the Colorado Avalanche. He won the Calder Trophy in 2013-14, when he scored 24 goals and 63 points. Those remain NHL career highs for him. MacKinnon had 14 goals and 38 points two seasons ago, and 21 goals and 52 points last season. He's been hamstrung by the inability of the Avalanche to sustain possession. That could change under new coach Jared Bednar, who replaced Patrick Roy.

13. Patrik Laine will be a favorite to win the Calder Trophy: Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, looks like a thinner, younger and rawer version of Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. Laine has a big shot and his one-timer from the left circle on the power play is a weapon. He can be physical and he's got moxie. That should all pay huge dividends for the Winnipeg Jets, who could use him with Mark Scheifele or Bryan Little in a top-six role. Laine has better players around him than Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the June draft. It could help him have a better season.

Video: Season Preview: Calder Trophy Predictions

 

Finally, Tim Campbell, NHL.com's regional writer based in Western Canada, tackles the Pacific Division:

14. Randy Carlyle leads the Anaheim Ducks to Pacific title: His harsh critics in Toronto thought it was the coach, not the team that was the problem when the Maple Leafs struggled. Carlyle has always had the ability to adapt, more than some might suspect, and the Ducks will ride to first place again in the Pacific Division.

15: Tyler Toffoli scores 40 goals: If ever an NHL forward was on an upward trend, it's Toffoli, the 24-year-old right wing for the Los Angeles Kings. He's got chemistry and a knack for finding the net supporting the case to go from a career-high 31 goals last season to 40 or more.

16: Flames surge again: Offseason moves by general manager Brad Treliving do the trick to shore up weaknesses and the Calgary Flames, which languished in the second tier of the division last season, bring youth and speed to their climb in the Pacific. After one year on the postseason sidelines, that will be good enough to reach the playoffs.

Video: VAN@CGY: Tkachuk jams home rebound for PPG

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