Contenders, the teams that we knew were going to be here come April during the preseason, but there are some new contenders that may be shocking all of us. The contender’s lists are teams that look to be serious playoff contenders for the upcoming playoff series. A list of teams that, well, we might see more often later down the road.
Pretenders, the guys who look like they are going to be playing for a playoff spot if the season ended tomorrow but we all know come 60 more games and these guys will fall off. Pretenders don’t fool me, don’t let them fool you too!
Contenders (Eastern Conference)
- Tampa Bay Lightning, the Lightning are off to one of the league’s best starts. With 16 wins 34 points through 23 games the Lightning look to be legit contenders. With Steven Stamkos back in the lineup, this team will be gunning it for Lord Stanley we would assume. Throw in their bottom six and forward depth, this team is a definite contender!
- Toronto Maple Leafs, ranking second in the Atlantic division and six points in front of the next team, the Leafs look to be contenders. Even with Mitch Marner and William Nylander off to slow starts this team is finding ways to win games. The offense will pick up and if the defense can be of use or better, definite contenders.
- Columbus Blue Jackets, this team will be a top three team in the Metropolitan division all year, for sure a contender and without a doubt a team we will see in the playoff mix. With Sergei Bobrovsky’s looking to go for back-to-back Vezina trophies, this team will be riding high on the elite goaltender’s performances. With some offensive weapons and Cam Atkinson back the Blue Jackets top six rank up against any top six in the NHL, a deep team that is young also, not many holes in the lineup and for sure a contender!
- New York Islanders, look to be early contenders for the Metro division, I think we can guarantee this team a playoff spot but I am not sure where. The Islanders offense has been producing at an unbelievable rate that worries me because it will be hard to maintain. With this offense through on any given night, they could be slotting four-plus goals home, an exciting team to watch thus far and credit goes to Matthew Barzal and John Tavares. But without goaltending this team will be struggling later in the season if either goalie can find their way in between the pipes the Islanders are early contenders!
Contenders (Western Conference)
- St. Louis Blues, I think it is fair to say that the Blues are a guaranteed lock for a playoff spot unless Tarasenko and Schenn go down plus Jake Allen than yeah maybe they are out but that is not going to happen. The Blues trio of Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko has been unbelievable each night one or more of these guys are tallying three or more points. The Blues defense has been solid too, Alex Pietrangelo early Norris nomination, Colton Parayko and the rest of their defense are a serviceable defenseman that gets the job. Guaranteed lock and definitely contenders!
- Winnipeg Jets, out goes Steve Mason in comes Connor Hellebuyck, and yes Hellebuyck has been unreal! The Jets are finally seeing solid goaltending which is resulting in some confidence on the front end and their forwards are some of the best in the league. A deep forward group with five or six solid defensemen, there is not much wrong with this team. They get this goaltending all year, a for sure contender!
- Nashville Predators, DEPTH. First thing I think of when I hear this team is depth, they have three very good centers now and two to three good wingers who can score. With the addition of Kyle Turris, this team looks to have a now solidified forward group. Wait until Ryan Ellis gets back on defense, this team is a for sure contender.
- Calgary Flames, the Flames have definitely had their rough spots but this team is solid and led by Johnny Gaudreau I can trust this team to be a definite come April. They have Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, Travis Hamonic(out) on defense and among all four of these guys, they have not even played some of their best hockey. The Flames can get their defense going and see some consistency from Mike Smith, a definite contender!
Pretenders (Eastern Conference)
- New Jersey Devils, I don’t the Devils will hold onto the one spot all year that is why they are contenders. Possibly a playoff spot, wild card at best, but at some point this team has to hit a wall. Especially when their leading goal scorer is Brian Gibbons.
- Detroit Red Wings, too young and riding a hot offense right now, their lack of defense and goaltending will come back to bite them. A contender in two years though.
Pretenders (Western Conference)
- Vegas Golden Knights, basically unstoppable at home and riding way too high of a shooting percentage, and it really just comes down to pure grit with this team. The goaltending they have, it amazes me they are still where they are. Falling off for sure.
- Los Angeles Kings, they are slowly coming back down to earth, I thought they could keep it up and ride this into the playoffs but the Kings have dropped six of their last ten and have been struggling offensively. Like we imagined. No playoff spot for this team, pretenders.
- San Jose Sharks, they went on a small winning streak, signs of life were there but again they are coming back down to earth. The offensive depth is not there and Brent Burns looks like a complete bust right now. Not enough evidence to show me this team will be a contender and definitely enough evidence to show they are pretenders!