It was a wild 2023 in the NHL.

With many interesting storylines developing, what will 2024 look like?

Can the Edmonton Oilers overcome a slow start and fight their way back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Are the Cup champion Golden Knights still the best team in hockey? Is this the year that Connor McDavid of the Oilers isn't involved in the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy conversations? If not McDavid, then who? Can Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals get hot in the second half of the season and continue his chase of Wayne Gretzky's goal record?

Each of these, and many more plot lines, will be answered as the season plays out through the next six months.

But in the interim, we asked nine NHL.com staffers to gaze into the crystal ball and make a bold prediction for 2024. Here are their answers.

End of an era

Since 2013-14, the first full season of the Jon Cooper era with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Lightning have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs nine times in 10 seasons, have played in the Eastern Conference Final six times, the Stanley Cup Final four times and have won the Stanley Cup twice. Not bad. But all good things come to an end, and I think this is the time. I predict that the Lightning will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2017. It's not necessarily the boldest of predictions -- and I'll be sad not to see Amalie Arena next spring -- but I think this, finally, is the year. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

TBL@EDM: Stamkos logs first career four-goal game

McDavid will rally to win the Art Ross

Usually, it's easy to predict Connor McDavid will win the Art Ross Trophy. The Edmonton Oilers center was the NHL's scoring champion five times in his first eight seasons. But McDavid got off to a rough start in his ninth season. In Edmonton's first 16 games, he missed two due to injury and had 13 points (four goals, nine assists). On Nov. 18, he was tied with several other players for 85th in NHL scoring. Then, he got red hot, and if anyone can make up ground and take the lead by the end of the season, it's McDavid. -- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

EDM@NJD: McDavid's patience pays off in the 3rd

Flyers make the playoffs

It's a rebuilding season, but I believe that the Philadelphia Flyers will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2020. The players are buying into coach John Tortorella's approach. The return of forwards Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, who each missed the entire 2022-23 season because of injury, has added depth and veteran leadership to a young lineup. Defenseman Travis Sanheim and forward Travis Konecny have stepped up their play, and Carter Hart and Samuel Ersson have been solid in goal. Philadelphia is in the thick of a tight Eastern Conference playoff picture. They're not as talented as other teams, but I think the Flyers have enough desire and confidence to secure a playoff spot. -- William Douglas, staff writer

PHI@ARI: Konecny nets SHG for second goal of game

The Hughes Corporation

My bold prediction is two-thirds of the Hughes family will win a major award. New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes, who ranks fourth in the NHL in points-per game and is in the top 10 in points despite missing five games with an upper-body injury, will be the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL's most valuable player. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, who leads all players at his position in assists and points, will win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. I'll cap the Hughes salute with this: Although Devils defenseman Luke Hughes won't win the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, he will be a finalist. So there. -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

BOS@NJD: Hughes fires home the OT winner on the rush

Coyotes will qualify for postseason

The Arizona Coyotes have qualified for the postseason once since 2012, when they advanced to the Western Conference Final. That was in 2020, when they lost in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche in the bubble in Edmonton. I say the Coyotes get back to the playoffs this season. Why? Well, I believe in the magic of Mullett Arena. Seriously, they're playing well at home this season. But I just like the moxie the Coyotes have shown no matter where they've been. I like that Clayton Keller is playing well and producing coming off last season when he had a career-high 86 points (37 goals, 49 assists) in 82 games. The Central Division is pretty tight right now and I don't expect that to change. The Coyotes are keeping pace and I believe they'll get one of the playoff spots in the Western Conference. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

ARI@SJS: Keller slides a breakaway opportunity under the goalie and in

Rangers, Kings meet in Stanley Cup Final

I was absolutely laughed at by my NHL.com colleagues when I made my preseason prediction of the New York Rangers defeating the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. But with the year coming to a close, look who is laughing now? The Rangers have been a juggernaut this season, leading the NHL with 51 points, and that's with all-world goalie Igor Shesterkin struggling a bit this season. The Kings are currently third in the Pacific Division, and though they may not be the favorite to get out of the West, it's certainly not out of the question. So I'm sticking with my preseason prediction that it will be the Rangers and Kings in the Stanley Cup Final this spring, and unlike 2014, the Rangers will hoist the Cup. -- Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief

BUF@NYR: Kreider leads Rangers to OT win with his 17th goal of season

No collapse for Vancouver

Everyone keeps waiting for the wheels to wobble, if not fall off, in Vancouver. How can the Canucks, who missed the playoffs by 12 points in the Western Conference last season, have the best record in the NHL at the Christmas break? It's a mirage, right? Nope! This is a good team with a good coach. They believe in the work ethic that Rick Tocchet is preaching and are being rewarded. It also doesn't hurt that they are elite at each position. Goalie Thatcher Demko is among the favorites for the Vezina Trophy and is healthy for the first time in a long time. Quinn Hughes is making a strong case for the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman. And Hughes and forwards J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson are each among the top-15 scorers in the League; high-end productivity no other team can claim. Whatever is missing, there is a good chance management will try to get it at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline. So expect the Canucks to be around for a long run this spring. -- Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

VAN@CHI: Boeser puts Canucks on top in 2nd

Two stars will move on

There will be a pair of star-studded unrestricted free agents on July 1 when William Nylander and Steven Stamkos hit the open market. Nylander will want out of the shadow of Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs won't be able to afford the contract that he will get. It's getting richer by the game. Stamkos will want to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but this is when the business gets cutthroat. The Lightning, who are no lock to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, will have to start putting an eye toward their future. They will decide that investing a significant portion of their salary cap for the next several seasons to a 34-year-old Stamkos is not the best way to do that. Each prediction might seem farfetched now, but they're not. Why isn't Nylander already signed to a long-term extension in Toronto? Why won't the Lightning negotiate with Stamkos during the season? It allows for speculation, which brought me to this bold prediction that they will be changing teams. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

TOR@CBJ: Nylander fires home a SHG on the rush

Hyman challenges for Richard Trophy

Zach Hyman has developed in an elite goal scorer since signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Edmonton Oilers on July 28, 2021, and I predict that will continue into 2024. Hyman will likely surpass the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career and could challenge 50 if things keep going his way. In his six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hyman never scored more than 41 points in a season, so few predicted he would break out as a high-end scorer with the Oilers. Playing on a line with Connor McDavid helps, but Hyman generates most of his offense by going to the hard areas of the ice and paying the price in front of the net. Hyman has 20 goals and should be selected to his first NHL All-Star Game this season and if the puck keeps bouncing his way, could challenge for the Rocket Richard Trophy. -- Derek Van Diest, staff writer

EDM@SJS: Hyman scores his 20th goal of season in 1st period

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