Winnipeg Jets 2022-23 Season Preview

We have made it to the final season preview! The Jets just endured a very boring offseason, one that didn’t get spicy until training camp started, when they stripped Blake Wheeler of his captaincy, something that he has held since Andrew Ladd left in 2016. Message sent. Winnipeg was disappointing last season. Are they reformed enough to make a run at the playoffs?

Offseason additions: F Sam Gagner, G David Rittich, F Saku Maenalanen, F Kevin Stenlund.

Offseason subtractions: F Paul Stastny, F Evgeny Svechnikov, G Eric Comrie, F Zach Sanford, D Nathan Beaulieu, F Kristian Vesalainen.

Forwards

A big problem with the Jets is that while they have stars, none of them play defense. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are a dynamic duo offensively, but they were the two worst forwards on the team in both goals against per sixty and expected goals against per sixty. Both of them missed a decent amount of games last year, which is uncharacteristic. Scheifele played in 67 games, but still scored 29 goals with 70 points. Wheeler, who has never been a big goal scorer, only had 17, but did have 43 assists to bring up his point total to 60 in 65 games. Last season was a big one for Nikolaj Ehlers, who scored 28 goals with 55 points in 62 games. Ehlers had his highest average ice time, and has developed into a star.

While most of the top-six missed a good amount of games last year, Kyle Connor did not. Playing in all but three contests, Connor scored a career-high 47 goals with 93 points, cementing himself as a superstar. Taking just two minor penalties all year, Connor secured the Lady Byng Trophy. Connor’s main center throughout the year was Pierre-Luc Dubois, who will continue to have trade rumors surround him as he can’t seem to figure out where he wants to play. Dubois scored 28 goals last year with 60 points, matching his breakout season of 2018-19. Drafted tenth overall in 2020, Cole Perfetti got a taste of the spotlight last season, scoring seven points in 18 NHL games. He added 15 more points in 17 AHL games.

Where the Jets are going to hurt this year is the third line, where they could not find anyone to replace Andrew Copp after he was dealt at the deadline. Adam Lowry is the strongest part of the line, but he suffered from a 4.16 on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five. Lowry did score 13 goals, but he had a 37.8 GF%. His 1.95 GA/60 was the best on the team. Lowry played a lot with Jansen Harkins last year, but Harkins did not get a ton of ice time. Playing in 77 games but averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time a game, Harkins scored seven goals with six assists. After losing him to Seattle in the expansion draft, the Jets traded a fourth-rounder at the deadline to re-acquire Mason Appleton. In the 19 games to start his second stint as a Jet, Appleton had four points.

Sam Gagner has made his way to his seventh NHL team after reviving his career for the second time. Gagner was a leader on the lowly Red Wings last year and his production wasn’t bad either. He scored 13 goals with 31 points while playing in all but one game. Saku Maenalanen, who played in 34 games for the 2018-19 Hurricanes, is back in the NHL with the Jets. He played in 47 games for Karpat in Finland last season, scoring 13 goals with 28 assists for 41 points. While he has just one point in 28 career games over three seasons, David Gustafsson has performed at the AHL level. Playing in 45 games last year, he scored 15 goals with 15 assists. Dominic Toninato broke into the lineup last year, scoring seven goals in 77 games. Toninato didn’t play a ton while in the bottom-six, but he did record 92 hits. Coming over in the trade for Copp was Morgan Barron. A former star at Cornell, Barron had four points in 14 games after the deal.

Defensemen

The Jets used six main defensemen last year, and the expectation is that they will use the same six guys this season. Following a tough 2020-21 season, Josh Morrissey rebounded with a career-high in goals, with twelve, and points, with 37. While he isn’t overly big, Morrissey plays like he is, with 104 blocks, 150 hits, and 66 penalty minutes in 2021-22. However, he isn’t as defensively sound as his partner, Dylan DeMelo. While he had just 13 points in 76 games, DeMelo had 108 blocks and a 1.96 GA/60, the best on the defense.

In his third season as a Jet, Neal Pionk’s scoring pace was the worst, but he still had 34 points in 77 games. Pionk has been a valuable addition to the Winnipeg power play since coming over from the Rangers for Jacob Trouba. Pionk’s 185 hits were third on the team, trailing only Lowry and Brenden Dillon. Playing in his first year with the team, Dillon had 20 points while helping do the much-needed work of shoring up the team’s defense. Dillon’s 53.15 GF% was the best on the defensive core.

The other big offseason acquisition last year, aside from Dillon, was Nate Schmidt. With 32 points, his most since he was a big part of Vegas’ inaugural season, Schmidt delivered. He was nominated for the Lady Byng for the fourth year in a row, taking just 10 penalty minutes all season. Schmidt may not be a big hitter, but Logan Stanley is. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, Stanley had 131 hits in 58 games last year. He will have a role as long as he beats out Ville Heinola. The 21-year-old had five points in 12 games last season. Heinola would only be in the NHL if he had a starting job. That opens up the door for Dylan Samberg to be the seventh-defender. Samberg had five points in 15 NHL games last year. He added twelve more in 32 AHL games.

Goaltending

Connor Hellebuyck is such a weird goalie to evaluate, because the Jets are wearing him out. Hellebuyck has faced the most shots in the league for each of the past four seasons. He didn’t do so in 2017-18, but that year he had the most starts. Hellebuyck had a 2.97 GAA and a .910 save percentage last season, which is nothing too impressive. But he had 13.6 goals saved above expected, good enough for eighth in the league. While he didn’t get any Vezina votes, Hellebuyck is still good. The Jets don’t really need a backup for him, so they went for the cheaper option in veteran David Rittich. Playing in 17 games for Nashville last season, Rittich was really bad. He had a 3.57 GAA with a save percentage of .886.

Projected Lines

Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler

Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cole Perfetti

Jansen Harkins – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton

Saku Maenalanen – Morgan Barron – Sam Gagner

Extras: Dominic Toninato, David Gustafsson

Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo

Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk

Logan Stanley – Nate Schmidt

Scratched: Dylan Samberg

Connor Hellebuyck

David Rittich

Washington Capitals 2022-23 Season Preview

The narrative that the Capitals are on the brink of a rebuild continued last season, but it just won’t happen. The truth is that Washington probably will contend as long as Alex Ovechkin is still scoring. And the day that Ovechkin stops scoring will probably feature him as the league’s all-time greatest scorer. A solid offseason has lengthened the team’s competition window, but a group of major injuries are already threatening.

Offseason additions: G Darcy Kuemper, F Connor Brown, F Dylan Strome, D Erik Gustafsson, G Charlie Lindgren, F Henrik Borgstrom.

Offseason subtractions: D Justin Schultz, G Ilya Samsonov, G Vitek Vanecek, F Johan Larsson.

Forwards

Ovechkin is now at 780 career goals after scoring 50 in 2021-22. At age 36, he reached the 50-goal mark for the ninth time in his career. While he didn’t win his tenth Rocket Richard Trophy, Ovechkin is obviously a favorite to do so this year. He still throws everything possible at the net with his amazing shot, with 334 shots last season. The top line is already weaker, as both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will miss multiple months. Backstrom only played in 47 games last year, and only had 31 points, so his age could be a concern going forward. Wilson had 52 points with his signature controversial play last year. At this stage in his career, Ovechkin has played less with Backstrom as his center and more with Evgeny Kuznetsov. There were a good amount of trade rumors surrounding Kuznetsov after a bad 2020-21 season, but he rebounded with 24 goals and 78 points in 79 games. Two-time 20-goal scorer Connor Brown came over this offseason in a trade with the Senators. Brown averaged over 20 minutes of ice time a game, but only had 10 goals in 64 games last season. He still had 39 points and is a lot more disciplined than Wilson.

Washington traded a fortune for Anthony Mantha at the 2021 deadline, but he has been banged up and disappointing since the deal. Mantha was limited to just 37 games last season, with nine goals and 23 points. He has no goals in 11 playoff games over two seasons with the team. He scored four less goals in 11 more games than Jakub Vrana, who was a part of the package to acquire him. Not only are Ovechkin and Backstrom getting up there in age, but so is TJ Oshie. Playing in only 44 games last season, Oshie had just 25 points. His 42.76 GF% was the worst among Capitals forwards with at least 500 minutes of ice time. On the positive side, he did suffer from some bad PDO luck, and had the best xGF% of the top-six forwards. Backstrom’s injury elevated the role of Lars Eller last year, and will continue to in 2022-23. Eller had 31 points in 72 games, which is in the range of his career norms.

One of the many players to be confusingly non-tendered by the Blackhawks over the past few seasons was Dylan Strome, who the Capitals scooped up. While he hasn’t lived to the hype of being drafted after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, Strome had a very good season on a lowly Chicago team. Playing in 69 games, he scored a career-high 22 goals with a total of 48 points. For just $3.5 million in free agency, that’s a great deal for Washington. The team’s first-round pick in 2019, Connor McMichael got regular run last season. While he showed flashes of talent, the overall production wasn’t exactly there, with only nine goals and nine assists in 68 games. McMichael didn’t have a big role on the team, which could increase with Carl Hagelin out indefinitely. Hagelin sustained a scary eye injury last season, and is still dealing with another, undefined injury. Conor Sheary had his best season since he broke into the league with the 2016-17 Penguins. He scored 19 goals with 43 total points.

Old friend Marcus Johansson returned to the Capitals after short-lived stints with five other teams. Playing in 18 games after the deadline, he had six points. Johansson is not as effective as he was when he was first a Capital, but can still impact the bottom-six in a positive way. While a lot of it was luck, Garnet Hathaway still had an incredibly impressive GF% of 64.4 percent last year, easily leading the team. Hathaway also scored more than ever, with 14 goals and 26 points, along with 250 hits. His center, Nic Dowd, also set a career-high in points, with 24. Dowd had 139 hits with a 58 GF%. Undrafted forward Joe Snively broke into the league last year, and produced seven points in 12 games. He also succeeded in the AHL, with 38 points in 35 games. A third-round pick in 2019, Aliaksei Protas put up nine points in 33 games last season. He had 24 more in the AHL.

Defensemen

The same story is still true for John Carlson: he will put up a ton of points, but the defense isn’t great. Carlson quietly scored a career-high 17 goals with 71 points in 78 games last year, finishing tenth in Norris voting. Carlson also had the second-worst xGA/60 on the Washington defensive core. The only guy worse than him was his regular partner, Martin Fehervary. In his rookie season, the 22-year-old put up 17 points with 117 blocked shots and 251 hits.

Dmitry Orlov’s game keeps improving, even as he has been moved off the top pair. His 12 goals and 35 points were both career-highs, and his goals for percentage was an even sixty. Orlov and his partner, Nick Jensen dominated at even strength. Jensen actually had Orlov in GF%, at nearly 64 percent. He added 21 points and 135 hits.

The defense’s leader in xGF% was Trevor van Riemsdyk by a slim margin. Playing in a regular NHL role for the first time since 2018-19, van Riemsdyk had 17 points with 129 blocked shots. While he doesn’t bring much offense, that could come from Erik Gustafsson, who once had 60 points in a season. Gustafsson had 18 in 59 games for Chicago last year. He was playing in a very sheltered role because of his lack of defensive ability. The Washington power play was surprisingly weak last season, and Gustafsson can improve the second pair. Veteran Matt Irwin was signed to provide depth last year, and he did exactly that, playing in only 17 games. The journeyman has played for six teams, averaging less than 16 minutes of ice time a game for exactly 400 games.

Goaltending

The Capitals had two fine goalies last year, but both are gone in favor for a more clear-cut split. While starting for the Avalanche has its benefits, like a Stanley Cup ring, Darcy Kuemper was legitimately strong in last year’s regular season. He had a .921 save percentage and was fifth in the league in goals saved above expected. He did struggle in the postseason, with a .902 save percentage. Five great games last year led to Charlie Lindgren securing $3.3 million over the next three seasons. Lindgren had a 1.22 GAA and a .958 save percentage in a short stint as the Blues’ third goalie. To be fair to Lindgren, he was also great in the AHL. Playing in 34 games, he had a 2.21 GAA and a .925 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Connor Brown

Anthony Mantha – Lars Eller – TJ Oshie

Connor McMichael – Dylan Strome – Conor Sheary

Marcus Johansson – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Scratched: Aliaksei Protas, Joe Snively

Martin Fehervary – John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk

Scratched: Matt Irwin

Darcy Kuemper

Charlie Lindgren

Vegas Golden Knights 2022-23 Season Preview

The Golden Knights came into the league as the people’s team, a group of misfits who were one of the league’s best squads. But in the four years since then, Vegas has become an easy team to despise. They have ditched loyalty to go for every star possible, and have been to salary cap hell and back. Even though they spoke a big game, they failed to make the playoffs in the weakest division in years. Injuries decimated the roster last season. Sadly for Vegas, the bug has already struck, before the year even starts.

Offseason additions: F Phil Kessel, G Adin Hill.

Offseason subtractions: F Max Pacioretty, F Evgenii Dadonov, D Dylan Coghlan, F Mattias Janmark.

Forwards

This team is not the same when Mark Stone isn’t on it. Their captain was limited to just 37 games last year, in which his 30 points were disappointing on its own. That isn’t to say that Stone didn’t produce when he played; his 3.43 goals for per 60 at even strength led the team. Even though Stone was out for the majority of the season, it didn’t stop Chandler Stephenson from having a career season. Stephenson’s 21 goals and 64 points were easily the most of his career. While he was a bottom-six player before coming to Vegas, he has always had a good shot, as Stephenson’s career shooting percentage is 15.9 percent. Stephenson was the team’s top center last year, but there is the enticing opportunity to move him to the wing, so he and Stone could play with Jack Eichel. After finally getting out of Buffalo and his desired neck surgery, Eichel returned to play 34 games for Vegas. While he did have 14 goals, Eichel had just 25 total points. Maybe he can return to his point-per-game pace in a fully healthy season.

The team leader for goals and points was Jonathan Marchessault, as he tied his career-high 30 goals, while adding 36 assists. Marchessault had a GA/60 that was better than any regular Golden Knight defender, as did center William Karlsson. The offensive production from Karlsson has predictably gone down since he scored 43 goals, as he scored just 12 goals with 35 points in 67 games last season. Karlsson still has a big role on the team, and has gotten Lady Byng votes in all five seasons as a Golden Knight. Amidst all of the salary cap problems the Golden Knights have dealt with, they were still able to extend Reilly Smith for three seasons. Smith struggled in 2020-21, but rebounded with 38 points in 56 games in 2021-22. His 3.08 xGF/60 was the best among top-six forwards on the team.

Another player who was extended by Vegas this offseason was Nicolas Roy, who will get $15 million over the next five seasons. Roy played all around the lineup and scored 15 goals with 39 points in 78 games. In 85 career games prior to last season, he had just 25 points. The Golden Knights didn’t have a ton of positive moves this offseason, but they were able to bring in Phil Kessel. He brings a ton of fun to the lineup, and can still contribute offensively. Kessel has historically been a sniper, but had just a 4.6 shooting percentage and eight goals for the Coyotes last season. He made up for it with 44 assists, for a total of 52 points on a terrible Arizona squad. Of course, defense will be an issue for Kessel. After failing to keep a spot with the Rangers, Brett Howden came over last offseason in a minor trade. Playing in 47 games, Howden had 20 points with a 57 GF%.

The Golden Knights made a very solid waiver claim midseason when they acquired Michael Amadio from the Maple Leafs. Amadio played in 53 games, scoring 11 goals with a team-leading 57.8 xGF%. He could have gotten a lot for recognition if not for an unlucky 97.4 PDO. After trading away Ryan Reaves, the team’s physicality came from Keegan Kolesar last year. His 246 hits led the team by nearly 90, and he chipped in 24 points. The team’s leader in xGF/60 last year was… William Carrier? He only had 20 points in 63 games, but a 3.24 xGF/60. It wasn’t just one-way, as Carrier has a GF% and an xGF% above fifty-seven. A third-round pick in 2017, Jonas Rondbjerg played in his first 30 NHL games last season, with six points. He broke out in the AHL, scoring 14 goals with 13 assists in 39 games. Another depth forward who got into a ton of games was Jake Leschyshyn, who had six points in 41 games. At the AHL level, he had 27 points in 34 games.

Defensemen

The underlying results from Alex Pietrangelo have not been good since he left St. Louis for Vegas. He did have 44 points in 80 games last year and somehow got a Norris vote, but Pietrangelo had the second-worst GF% and xGF% among returning Vegas defenders. The only guy worse than him was his most common defensive partner. Sure, he was playing without Alec Martinez for a majority of the season, but Pietrangelo shouldn’t have to rely on his partner to carry his numbers. He is twentieth all-time in blocked shots, which have been recorded since 2005-06, and another 100 this year would move him up at least five spots. Martinez only played in 26 games in 2021-22, and still managed to block 68 shots.

Shea Theodore’s offensive talent continues to improve, as he set new career-highs with 14 goals and 52 points last season. Theodore hits a surprisingly low amount for a guy averaging over 23 minutes a game, but he makes up for it with a 2.88 xGF/60. The physicality comes from his partner, Brayden McNabb, whose 18 points were his most in five seasons as a Golden Knight. McNabb played in 69 games, blocking 179 shots with 154 hits.

The Vegas defender who should have gotten more recognition last season was Zach Whitecloud, who excelled in a bottom-pairing role. Whitecloud had a 2.2 xGA/60 and a 55.9 xGF%, which were both the best on the team’s defensive core. The six-foot-six Nic Hague got to play with Pietrangelo last season when Martinez was out, but he should return back to the bottom-pair now. Hague had a 48.4 GF%, and the only other regular defender on the team below fifty was Dylan Coghlan, who was traded away. Vegas signed Ben Hutton to be extra insurance, but he ended up playing in 58 games, albeit in a small role. Hutton recorded 13 points, with 72 blocked shots.

Goaltending

The news that Robin Lehner would miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season came way too late in the offseason for Vegas to still have options. His backup from last year, Laurent Brossoit, is also dealing with an injury. The best option right now is Logan Thompson, who was solid in 19 starts last year, posting a .914 save percentage and a 2.68 GAA. The Golden Knights got another option in Adin Hill, who between the Coyotes and Sharks, has spent his entire career in the Pacific Division. Hill had a .906 save percentage and a 2.66 GAA in 25 games last season.

Projected Lines

Chandler Stephenson – Jack Eichel – Mark Stone

Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Jonathan Marchessault

Brett Howden – Nicolas Roy – Phil Kessel

William Carrier – Keegan Kolesar – Michael Amadio

Scratched: Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn

Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore

Nic Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Scratched: Ben Hutton

Logan Thompson

Adin Hill

Vancouver Canucks 2022-23 Season Preview

The Canucks may not have made the playoffs in a weak Pacific Division, but last year did bring some promising positives. For one, they have a very solid core, one that was not separated despite rumors this offseason. Also, they had a great second half. After Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach, Vancouver went 32-15-10. That is a pace for 106 points over a full season! The team may not be that good, but they showed that they could be a contender. Execution over a full season is the only thing missing.

Offseason additions: F Ilya Mikheyev, F Andrei Kuzmenko, F Curtis Lazar, G Collin Delia, D Danny DeKeyser (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Alex Chiasson, G Jaroslav Halak, D Brad Hunt, F Matthew Highmore, F Juho Lammikko.

Forwards

Even though his first two seasons with the team were great, it didn’t feel like we knew that JT Miller was a superstar for sure until 2021-22. Not only was he first on the team in points, but it wasn’t close. Miller had 99 points, while no other player had 70. After over a year of vague trade rumblings, Miller secured a seven-year, $56 million extension this offseason. The other big contract signed by the team this summer showed a lot loss confidence, as Brock Boeser only got a three-year deal in restricted free agency. Boeser has been unable to reach the magic of his rookie season, and his 46 points in 71 games last season was the worst of his career. Boeser is normally touted for his shot, but had just a 6.65 on-ice shooting percentage at even strength, so there is reason to chalk it up to bad luck. With Miller playing a lot more center last season, the left wing depth certainly is weaker for the Canucks. Tanner Pearson is coming off a rebound season, but he only scored 14 goals in it. Pearson’s goals for percentage of fifty-nine was the second-highest on the team.

The face of the franchise is supposed to be Elias Pettersson, but he was lost for the first part of last season. Through his first 37 games, Pettersson scored just six goals with 11 assists. It was a mind-boggling cold streak for an elite player. Luckily, he looked more like himself after that scoring 26 goals with 51 points in the final 43 games of the year. While his 32 goals and 68 points were both career-highs, the Canucks should expect more out of Pettersson. While the beginning of the season had a ton of lows, the addition of Conor Garland was not one of them. Acquired from Arizona in the offseason, Garland scored 19 goals with 33 assists for 52 points in 77 games. Garland had a 53.96 xGF% and a 60.87 GF%, both of which led the team. While he may not be well known yet outside of Vancouver circles, then hope is that Andrei Kuzmenko can be an impact player for the top-six. An undrafted 26-year-old, Kuzmenko was signed from St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. He scored 20 goals with 53 total points in 45 games for them last year, and added 14 in 16 postseason games.

Captain Bo Horvat’s potential role as the third line center is not a commentary on his play, rather on the strength of Vancouver’s center depth. Horvat scored 31 goals in 70 games last year while adding 21 assists. He plays on both special teams units, and received a Selke vote for the first time in his career last season. Horvat’s defensive work would go well with Ilya Mikheyev, who priced his way out of Toronto by scoring 21 goals in 53 games last season. While it was the first time that he had shown the ability to score that much, Mikheyev also rocked a 57.67 xGF%. Vancouver entered the season with Calder hype for Vasily Podkolzin. While he didn’t deliver on that, Podkolzin still had a fine rookie campaign. He scored 14 goals with 12 assists, and that is in a much smaller role than other rookies around the league. As long as he is playing in the top-nine, Podkolzin can expect to have a very good linemate, or two, which could increase his scoring.

The additions of Kuzmenko and Mikheyev will end up hurting Nils Hoglander the most. The talent is there with the 2019 second-round pick, but the production hasn’t been. Playing in 60 games, he scored ten goals with eight assists. His ice time was cut back from his solid rookie season, which is a bit of a concern. Still, Hoglander had the fourth-best xGF% among the team’s forwards. The Canucks tried to take advantage of the expansion draft last year and plucked Jason Dickinson from the Stars. However, Dickinson struggled in his first year with the team. He had just 11 points in 62 games, which is not the concern. The concern is his 2.65 xGA/60, the second-worst on the team, and his 43.6 xGF%, the worst. Dickinson’s poor play was enough for the team to have already signed a potential replacement in Curtis Lazar. An effective part of Boston’s bottom line last season, Lazar scored eight goals with 186 hits last season. Longtime AHL player Justin Dowling landed with the Canucks last year after being in the Stars system since 2012-13. Dowling had four points in 22 NHL games, and 14 in 15 AHL contests.

Defensemen

The defensive concerns with Quinn Hughes are real, as he had the worst xGA/60 on the Vancouver defensive core. But there is no denying his offensive skill. Hughes had 68 points in 76 games, finishing eighth among defenders in scoring. He was included on nine different Norris ballots. To try and curb Hughes’ defensive struggles, the Canucks put him with veteran Luke Schenn, who may have found a home in Vancouver. Schenn had 17 points in 66 games, along with 273 hits and a 57.8 goals for percentage.

The Canucks acquired a lost Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the Coyotes. In his first season with the team, the results were much, much better, although still not close to prime Ekman-Larsson. His production was still low, as Ekman-Larsson had just 29 points. He had a 50.55 xGF%, the second-best on the D-core. The always-polarizing Tyler Myers had 18 points last year, which was a career-low. But he is still using his body, and has stayed healthy since signing with Vancouver. Myers blocked 148 shots with 145 hits last season.

Vancouver made a savvy move at the deadline by sending a third-round pick to Toronto for Travis Dermott. While he isn’t physical and has always played in a sheltered role, Dermott has brought solid results. He had a 53.6 xGF% after the trade, which was much better than any other regular Vancouver defender. The Canucks still owe Tucker Poolman $7.5 million over the next three seasons after a giving him a confusing four-year deal in free agency last season. Poolman had been a depth defender for the Jets before, and continued to be one last year. Poolman played in 40 games last year, blocking 73 shots. While he only had five career NHL games entering last season, Kyle Burroughs ended up playing in 42 for the Canucks last year. He had five points with 39 penalty minutes and 122 hits. Veteran Danny DeKeyser is in Canucks camp on a PTO after ten seasons in Detroit. Once a strong second-pairing defender, DeKeyser has hit a tough aging curve. He had 11 points in 59 games for the Red Wings last year.

Goaltending

His standard numbers have never looked great, but Thatcher Demko is a star. He had a .915 save percentage with a 2.72 GAA last season, which is solid. Demko had a 7.3 goals saved above expected, and finished in the top-ten the season before. It is hard to think about where this team would have been last year without Demko. He is a workhorse who may have to work even harder without a veteran backup. Twenty-seven-year-old Spencer Martin made his first NHL start since 2016-17 last season, and had a .950 save percentage in six games. In 25 AHL contests, Martin had a 2.43 GAA with a .914 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Tanner Pearson – JT Miller – Brock Boeser

Andrei Kuzmenko – Elias Pettersson – Conor Garland

Ilya Mikheyev – Bo Horvat – Vasily Podkolzin

Nils Hoglander – Jason Dickinson – Curtis Lazar

Scratched: Justin Dowling

Quinn Hughes – Luke Schenn

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers

Travis Dermott – Tucker Poolman

Scratched: Danny DeKeyser, Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko

Spencer Martin

Toronto Maple Leafs 2022-23 Season Preview

How did it happen again. The Maple Leafs lost in the first round of the playoffs, but no one was really surprised. It felt like the confirmation of a curse existing. This past offseason was divisive in the Leafs’ community, but in the end it feels like GM Kyle Dubas built a team destined for playoff failure. He re-tooled the goaltending and had to adjust the bottom-six. Is it enough? Well, the last few Toronto teams should have delivered a lot more than they did.

Offseason additions: G Matt Murray, F Calle Jarnkrok, G Ilya Samsonov, F Nic Aube-Kubel, F Adam Gaudette, D Victor Mete, D Jordie Benn, F Zach Aston-Reese (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: G Jack Campbell, F Ilya Mikheyev, F Jason Spezza, F Ondrej Kase, D Ilya Lyubushkin, F Colin Blackwell, G Petr Mrazek.

Forwards

Sorry Alex Ovechkin, but there is a new goal scoring champion in town. For the second consecutive season, the Rocket Richard went to Auston Matthews. Scoring 60 goals with 106 points in 73 games, Matthews also took home his first Hart Trophy. Not only did he have a 4.57 goals for per 60 at even strength, but Matthews had a ridiculous 64.16 xGF%. The entire Toronto top line was above sixty, making up three of the eight forwards to do so (minimum 500 TOI). Mitch Marner crushed his career-high in goals by scoring 35. He also added 62 assists in 72 games for a total of 97 points. Marner finished fourth in Lady Byng voting, and sixteenth for the Selke. The only wingers ahead of him in the latter were Marcus Foligno and Brad Marchand. Twenty-six-year-old rookie Michael Bunting finished third in Calder voting, scoring 23 goals with 63 points after signing with the Leafs as an unrestricted free agent, and not because of a non-tender. Bunting was the perfect replacement for Zach Hyman, as an undersized winger who brings the tenacity next to Matthews and Marner.

Toronto has a few injuries that could cost a few weeks to start the season, with captain John Tavares being one of them. As of now, it doesn’t appear that he will miss significant time. While he is noticeably slower and hasn’t gotten any awards hype since his first season with the team, Tavares still produced last year. He scored 27 goals with 76 points in 79 games. The biggest thing to be concerned about is that Tavares’ goals per game in his last two seasons are the second-and-third-worst of his career, ahead of only his rookie season. In the games that Tavares does miss, Alex Kerfoot will likely move over to center. Kerfoot’s 51 points were a career-high, a refreshing sight to see after his Leafs tenure started with some disappointing scoring paces. The 2021-22 season felt like the one where Leafs fans finally shut up about William Nylander, at least in a negative way. It was easily Nylander’s best season, as he scored 34 goals with 80 points, both career-highs. He also performed in the playoffs again, with seven points in seven games.

Surviving the usual Leafs’ trade buzz is Pierre Engvall, who broke out offensively last season. He scored 15 goals with 35 points. Engvall’s 20 assists alone would have been a career-high. He also led the team with a goals against per 60 of just 1.69. A lot of that could be attributed to the impact brought by David Kampf, who received a Selke vote while scoring a career-high 11 goals. Kampf had a 2.09 xGA/60. Now famous for fumbling the Stanley Cup, Nic Aube-Kubel was a very solid waiver pickup for Colorado last season, scoring 11 goals with 11 assists in 67 games. While he didn’t have any points, Aube-Kubel played in 14 games during Colorado’s winning run.

With Jason Spezza retiring, the Leafs need a fourth line center. That could cause Calle Jarnkrok to drop down to the bottom line. He had 26 points in 49 games for the Kraken before struggling after a trade to Calgary. Jarnkrok has scored 97 goals over the last seven seasons, providing solid secondary scoring for Seattle and Nashville. Wayne Simmonds doesn’t provide offense anymore, but he has been a physical veteran for Toronto’s lineup over the past two seasons. While playing less than ten minutes a night, Simmonds had 148 hits and 16 points in 72 games in 2021-22. The Maple Leafs have a very solid option in training camp on a professional tryout in Zach Aston-Reese. He had 15 points with 231 hits for the Penguins and Ducks last year. Before that, he was a staple of a shutdown Pittsburgh fourth line. If they don’t Aston-Reese, then Kyle Clifford would be in line for a role. After being re-acquired from the Blues, Clifford had three points and 48 hits in 23 games. Adam Gaudette has bounced around from team to team over the past two seasons, with Toronto being his newest stop. Gaudette had 14 points in 58 games for the Blackhawks and Senators last season.

Defensemen

Some defensive concerns remain, but Morgan Rielly had another productive season in 2021-22. Rielly finished 11th in Norris voting while scoring ten goals with 58 assists. While injuries limited him to just 47 games, the numbers on Jake Muzzin were surprisingly rough last season. Muzzin had 14 points with 105 hits. However, his GF% was just 45.72 percent, with a 3.17 GA/60.

Rielly played a ton with TJ Brodie last year, but that could change with Brodie’s old Calgary captain, Mark Giordano, staying with the Leafs. Giordano signed a very team-friendly deal to stay with the Maple Leafs after they acquired him at the deadline. Giordano had 12 points in 20 regular season games after a trade from Seattle. Brodie himself is no scrub, with his 2.33 GA/60 being the best on Toronto’s defensive core last season.

The Leafs just signed restricted free agent Rasmus Sandin after he had encouraging numbers in 51 games last season. Sandin had a 59 percent expected goals for rate, while putting up 16 points in 51 games. The Leafs will be down Timothy Liljegren for about a month after he too had very impressive numbers last season. That opens the door for Justin Holl to play more. Holl had a career-high 23 points in 69 games last season, while adding 104 blocked shots and 129 hits. While he only has five goals in 236 career games, Victor Mete has given the Habs and Senators a power play option during his five-year career. Mete had seven assists in 37 games for Ottawa last season.

Goaltending

The Maple Leafs completely changed their goaltending tandem during the season. But will it work? Ilya Samsonov was supposed to be the guy of the future in Washington, but he was non-tendered after a rough season. Samsonov had a -11.15 goals saved above expected in 44 games, with a .896 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA. The other option is Matt Murray, who has been on the decline for a number of years now, but still had a positive GSAx last season. Starting only 20 games while dealing with injuries, Murray had a .906 save percentage and a 3.05 GAA for Ottawa.

Projected Lines

Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander

Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Nic Aube-Kubel

Zach Aston-Reese – Calle Jarnkrok – Wayne Simmonds

Scratched: Kyle Clifford, Adam Gaudette

Morgan Rielly – Jake Muzzin

Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

Rasmus Sandin – Justin Holl

Scratched: Victor Mete

Ilya Samsonov

Matt Murray