NHL.com asked a collection 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 third edition of the NHL.com players poll focuses on which team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season will be the most dangerous in 2019-20.
The early renaissance of the Edmonton Oilers was not in the crystal balls of many of the top players in the NHL before the season started.
Of the 46 players asked during the offseason which team that failed to qualify for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs would be the most dangerous in the 2019-20 regular season, two said the Oilers.
And, in full disclosure, one of those votes came from Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He was banking on the influence of new general manager Ken Holland and new coach Dave Tippett, as well as a return to health of center Connor McDavid, who spent the offseason rehabbing a knee injury sustained in the final game last season.
Video: EDM@CHI: Neal roofs Nugent-Hopkins' dish for PPG
"I think we just got to figure out how to play more consistently," Nugent-Hopkins said in September. "I think with Ken Holland and [Tippett] coming in, they're going to provide stability. They're going to provide consistency from the top down, so I think they're going to help us a lot."
So far, so good for the Oilers, who won their first five games, coming from behind in each. They lost 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, ending their season-opening winning streak.
Which team did players feel was the most likely to see the most dramatic turnaround, though?
The Florida Panthers received 10 votes, two more than the New Jersey Devils and three more than the Blackhawks.
Video: FLA@NJD: Bobrovsky fights off Gusev's attempts
"That's a tough choice between Florida and New Jersey," Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. "Jersey made a lot of good moves over the offseason, and their roster looks completely different. But I think Florida, especially with [Sergei] Bobrovsky in net. I think they're going to be a pretty dangerous team."
Florida was 12 points short of qualifying for the playoffs last season, but an aggressive offseason, highlighted by the signing of Bobrovsky and the hiring of coach Joel Quenneville, who won the Stanley Cup three times while coaching the Blackhawks, have many in the hockey world excited about what is happening in Sunrise, Florida.
"They did some nice moves this summer, and they will be a team to watch," Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier said.
Forward Jonathan Huberdeau has been with the Panthers for eight seasons and has experienced the Stanley Cup Playoffs once. He believes a second appearance could come this April.
Video: FLA@NJD: Huberdeau stakes Panthers to early lead
"Not a lot of people talk about us usually, but now we're in the talks that we're going to make it and stuff," Huberdeau said. "For me, we're sick of not making the playoffs, so I think it's the time and now we've got the pieces of the puzzle to make it. So it's going to be our year."
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews picked Florida as well, but for different reasons.
"Put the pressure on Q," he said, referring to Quenneville, who coached Toews with the Blackhawks.
The Devils missed the postseason by 26 points but were also a popular pick before training camps opened. They have yet to deliver on the optimism following a blockbuster offseason that saw them select forward Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, add defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade, and welcome the return of forward Taylor Hall from injury.
New Jersey received eight votes in the poll but has started the season 0-4-2, including two games when they blew leads of three or more goals.
The Blackhawks received seven votes, each of their supporters believing a strong finishing kick last season bodes well for the future.
Chicago missed the final playoff spot in the Western Conference by six points. They gained 48 of their 84 points during the final 41 games of the regular season.
"I could see with the leadership, the players they have, they'll respond," center Ryan O'Reilly of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues said. "Another team in the [Central] Division; tough division, but I can see them being a powerhouse, for sure."
Eleven of the 15 teams that missed the 2019 postseason received at least one vote from the 46-player panel, suggesting that optimism can be found in most corners of the NHL. And history suggests that more than one nonqualifier from 2019 could find its way to the 2020 postseason.
Last season, five teams that did not qualify for the 2018 playoffs made the cut in 2019, including the Blues.
Most dangerous team from 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoff nonqualifiers (46 total votes)
Florida Panthers 10, New Jersey Devils 8, Chicago Blackhawks 7, New York Rangers 6, Arizona Coyotes 4, Montreal Canadiens 3, Edmonton Oilers 2, Minnesota Wild 2, Vancouver Canucks 2, Buffalo Sabres 1, Philadelphia Flyers 1