NHL.com asked 42 of the League's top players for their opinions on topics surrounding the game and its players during the 2019 NHL European and North American Player Media Tours during the offseason. An installment of their answers will run each Wednesday. The first edition of this season's NHL.com players poll focuses on which team the panel believes will win the 2020 Stanley Cup. Players were prohibited from picking their own team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning won't be sneaking up on their opponents this season.
The 2018-19 Presidents' Trophy winner, who tied an NHL record with 62 wins last season, was the overwhelming pick to be the 2020 Stanley Cup champion, selected by 19 of the 42 players.
The general belief was that being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round last season will not have a residual effect on the Lightning, and could provide motivation this season.
"I think they probably learned a little from what happened in the playoffs last year and they're going to come hungry," New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "They're a good team. In every position, they've got some power."
Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said the Lightning should be confident this season.
"As a coach, if I look at my lineup and I have the Tampa lineup, I feel comfortable," said Marchessault, who played for the Lightning from 2014 to 2016. "They have all the tools, and I know the players that are there. I know a lot of them are gamers. I think for me it would be that team."
The Lightning scored 319 goals last season, the only team in the NHL to score more than 300 goals. Their plus-98 goal-differential was 32 goals better than the Calgary Flames, which had the second-best goal differential. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), 12 more than his closest competitor, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid.
"I said Tampa last time, I think I have to stick with that," Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat said. "I feel they have pretty much the same team and they added some good players. So, I'll go with them."
The St. Louis Blues, who won the Stanley Cup with a seven-game victory against the Boston Bruins, were the second-most popular choice, receiving five nominations.
Video: NHL Tonight gives their most confident predictions
Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, who has won the Stanley Cup three times with Chicago, sees several teams that could win the title and said the experience St. Louis gained last season in going from worst to first will serve the Blues well.
"St. Louis, once you get that confidence, there's no reason why you can't win in the playoffs and find a way to do it again," Toews said. "Colorado, to me, is going to be the team to beat. Toronto, Tampa, Florida -- Florida will be good. Pick one? I'll say St. Louis."
Four players picked the Dallas Stars, citing the additions of veteran forwards Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski. The Stars made it to Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round before losing to the Blues last season.
"It's tough to say, but I think Dallas," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We just snuck by them, and then adding [Joe] Pavelski and stuff, I'd say Dallas."
Want a true long shot?
Listen to Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau. He was stumping for the Philadelphia Flyers, who missed the postseason by 16 points last season.
The Flyers added Alain Vigneault as coach, signed forward Kevin Hayes, traded for defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun and will have goalie Carter Hart for his first full NHL season.
"I think Philadelphia has a pretty good team, a good chance," Huberdeau said. "I think they added some good players and new coaches. I know Alain. He's pretty good. I think if they put everything together, they can surprise. I mean, you saw it with St. Louis last year. That would be a good pick."
2020 Stanley Cup voting (42 total votes)
Tampa Bay Lightning 19, St. Louis Blues 5, Dallas Stars 4, San Jose Sharks 3, Boston Bruins 2, Colorado Avalanche 2, Washington Capitals 2, Nashville Predators 1, New Jersey Devils 1, Philadelphia Flyers 1, Toronto Maple Leafs 1, Vegas Golden Knights 1.