Puck drop is almost upon us! What better time to make some bold predictions on this upcoming year! Here are my five BOLDEST predictions for the 2021 NHL season.
1. The Los Angeles Kings make the playoffs
This one is a long shot, but I think there is potential for a few things to all align. LA is in a weak conference that guarantees four teams make the playoffs. Assuming the Avalanche, Golden Knights and Blues make it, that leaves a toss up in the fourth spot among the Sharks, Wild, Ducks, Coyotes and Kings. The Kings have a talented young group between Quinton Byfield, Gabriel Vilardi, Lias Andersson and Mikey Anderson. I think Jonathan Quick is still solid in net and Calvin Petersen will be splitting time with him (2.64 GAA and .922 sv% last year).
2. Nils Hoglander finishes second in rookie of the year voting this year
At just 20 years of age, Hoglander will be making a big step up this game but the maturation in his game has made substantial strides over the last year. He wowed many at the World Juniors this year scoring five goals and 11 points across seven games for Team Sweden. He has fit in well with the Canucks during training camp. He’s done so well with his teammates that the team is pondering slotting him on the second line with Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat. If he sees some serious time on this line and on the power play he could turn a few heads.
Nils Hoglander is doing a lot of good tonight. Here he is stealing the puck from Elias Pettersson. pic.twitter.com/mh7J0RxLSd— Faber (@ChrisFaber39) January 7, 2021
3. John Gibson leads the league in shutouts
We are just three seasons removed from Gibson’s six shutout season (he had four shutouts the season before and after this one). Anaheims offense is sparse but I maintain a strong believer in their defense. Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Josh Manson are solid positional defensemen and the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk helps. Gibson dipped to a career worse 3.00 GAA and .904 SV% and I could easily see a strong rebound coming.
4. Jack Eichel leads the league in goals
Last season Eichel finished with 36 goals, a career high. The offseason was active for the Sabres who added Taylor Hall and traded for Eric Staal. The Sabres look good in training and Eichel is harnessing his inner Sampson with a new flow this season. Jack and Buffalo are ready to take 2021 by storm.
5. The Predators are a top five power play unit after being a bottom seven last season
According to Herodotus, in 701 BC the Assyrian King Sennacherib was attempting to capture Jerusalem when, among many other obstacles, a horde of field mice came in one night and gnawed the strings of the bows and chewed on their shields, the result was a disaster in the battle field the next day. The point: the smallest things can derail an entire campaign from the onset and that’s how I feel the Predators were last season as they lost nine out of 13 games in November. Outside of Roman Josi, there was a down year across the board — Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Victor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. Shots and shooting percentage trended down.