- Who controls the east?
The eastern conference has taken over control within the past few years but entering the 2017-2018 season who will control it? The Capitals have controlled the regular season for a couple years now. Following this offseason, the Caps appear to have lost some key pieces. The past couple of seasons there were many who would say the Capitals or the Penguins. Entering this season it is more of a toss-up then ever.
- Can California bounce back?
There is no issue with the Anaheim Ducks however, the other two Californian team’s had a season to forget last year. The Sharks were knocked out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the inexperienced Oilers. The Sharks struggles came from players who underperformed. If the production resurfaces, the Sharks will have success. As for the Kings, The Kings had a rough season last year as well. A lot could be to blame including and injury to top goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings will have trouble again this upcoming season due to lack of depth on both ends of the ice.
- How will the rookie class compare?
Entering the previous NHL entry draft, there was a reason to believe that this was a draft class without a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews. There are some other rookies not drafted from this recent draft year who will be making debuts also but how will they compare to the previous years? Can Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick evolve into an Auston Matthews? There will be a significant difference in the rookie class this year and it will be noticeable.
- What team is under the radar?
The Carolina Hurricanes are a team to watch out for this season. The Canes have been in a rebuild mode for the past couple of seasons. Following this offseason, they have included more depth to complement their bottom six forwards. The D-core is also fun to watch as they are a young group with a lot of talent. Many predict the Canes to be a playoff bubble team. The Hurricanes will make the playoffs squeezing into a wild card spot.
- How will the new rules affect the game?
The 2017-2018 NHL season will be different indeed with the addition to new rules. New rules including the faceoff rule, the challenging offsides can lead to a penalty, and there are other minor rules that go unnoticed like the visor rule where the visor must protect the eyes. It will be very interesting to see how these rules will affect the league and flow of the game.
- Tampa Bay’s season?
It is the year for the Tampa Bay Lightning to finally take home Lord Stanley. With a healthy group, they have one of the deepest teams in the east. Solid goaltending in young gun Andrei Vasilevskiy will provide the bolts with a steady net presence. The D-core is healthy and young adding Mikael Sergachev to the depth of the blue line. A healthy Steven Stamkos is the biggest plus to the lineup. Watch out for Tampa this year.
- New contract players
Keep in mind that this was a big offseason in terms of contract extensions. With all of the extensions what to look out for are all of these players who were recently inked up. Players including Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, etc. It will be interesting to see how these players perform following their contract extensions.
- Third time’s a charm?
The spotlight is on for the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row. The Penguins have lost some depth and big-time playoff performers in Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz. These two put a hole on the Penguins depth. The defense is lacking as well. The main question on defense is can Kris Letang stay healthy. Letang has battled many injuries over the years but when he is on the ice he is a force. Look out to see if Letang can stay healthy this season.
Another thing to watch for this season is how the league will handle suspensions. There have been multiple suspensions handed out during the pre-season for dirty play. How will the league handle player safety this year with a new face in charge of it?
Finally, after waiting all off-season and until the end of pre-season, Jaromir Jagr has been signed by an NHL team. The Calgary Flames have signed Jagr to a one year deal worth 1 million dollars. The Flames are coming off last season making the playoffs with their young roster. Jagr adds age and experience to the lineup and will be interesting to see what type of impact he makes right from the get-go.