San Jose Sharks 2022-23 Season Preview

The Sharks’ descent from perennial playoff chokers into salary cap hell has been a tough one to watch. They didn’t hire a new GM until the first week of July, and chose failed Rangers bench boss David Quinn as their new head coach. The offseason was mostly unspectacular, aside from the fact that they were able to unload most of the Brent Burns contract. They are still at the cap right now… but baby steps are important.

Offseason additions: F Luke Kunin, F Oskar Lindblom, F Nico Sturm, F Steven Lorentz, D Markus Nutivaara, D Matt Benning, F Evgeny Svechnikov.

Offseason subtractions: D Brent Burns, D Nicolas Meloche, F John Leonard, G Adin Hill, F Rudolfs Balcers, F Jonathan Dahlen.

Forwards

Playing on some bad Sharks teams has caused Timo Meier’s excellence to go under the radar. He had 162 hits and was nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy, which goes on top of his 35 goals and 76 points. Meier was first on the team in both goals for percentage and expected goals for percentage by over a percentage point in each. Tomas Hertl’s eight-year extension will kick in this season. The goal for it is to not be the new horrible contract on the books for San Jose. Hertl scored 30 goals for the second time in 2021-22, while also eclipsing 60 points for the second time of his career. In his first full season at age 27, Alexander Barabanov mostly played on the first line. He racked up 39 points in 70 games, which isn’t bad considering he was acquired for an AHL forward currently playing in Sweden.

While he has definitely seen some things during his tenure with the Sharks, Logan Couture still produced last year. He scored 23 goals with 56 points, both his most since 2018-19. Aside from Meier, Couture was the only Sharks forward with an xGF% above fifty. While Luke Kunin scored 10 goals in 38 games in 2020-21, he followed that up with just 13 in a full 82 games last season. The 24-year-old added only nine assists, leading to Nashville trading him away this offseason. Part of the decline could be due to a complete change in play style. Kunin had 99 penalty minutes and 223 hits. Both of those were career-highs by a sizable margin. San Jose picked up Oskar Lindblom in free agency after the Flyers surprisingly non-tendered the young winger. Lindblom’s development was stunted by a rare cancer in 2019-20. When he came back the next year, he clearly wasn’t the same player as before. But Lindblom was solid on a horrible Philadelphia team in 2021-22, scoring 12 goals with 26 points. This is a guy who scored 11 goals in 30 games prior to his diagnosis. His role with the Sharks should be more than it was last season.

Before either player ended up with the Sharks, Luke Kunin and Nick Bonino were traded for each other in 2020. The veteran Bonino is still a very solid third line center who excels in his own end. He scored 16 goals in his first season with the team, and was second on the forward core in xGA/60. The only player ahead of him was winger Matt Nieto, at 2.19. In the second season of his second stint with the Sharks, Nieto had 17 points and 96 hits in 70 games. Neither Bonino nor Nieto produced much offensively, which could be mended by Kevin Labanc’s return. He was limited to just 21 games last year, scoring three goals with three assists. Labanc has shown offensive talent in the previous four seasons, averaging nearly 40 points.

After a Stanley Cup victory, Nico Sturm secured a three-year deal with the Sharks. He spent last year with the Wild and Avalanche, two very good teams. Sturm had no goals and six assists in 34 games for Colorado, split between the regular season and playoffs. He scored nine goals in 53 games for Minnesota. In his first NHL season with more than 30 games played, Noah Gregor had 23 points in 63 games. He also blocked 49 shots with 118 hits while only having 25 penalty minutes. As part of the return for Burns, the Sharks got Steven Lorentz back. A former seventh-round pick, Lorentz played in 67 games for the Hurricanes, scoring eight goals with five assists. Six years after becoming a first-round pick in the incredible 2015 draft, Evgeny Svechnikov finally secured a full-time NHL role. It came with the Jets, as he played in 72 games. Svechnikov scored seven goals with 19 points, both the most of his career. In a sheltered role, the six-foot-three winger had 104 hits. If the Sharks want physicality like that, the answer is Jeffrey Viel. While he had just five points in 34 games, Viel had 84 hits. The more eye-popping number is penalty minutes; Viel had 114 of them.

Defensemen

The departure of Burns leaves Erik Karlsson as the top dog in San Jose. He may not be worth his $11.5 million cap hit for the next five seasons, but Karlsson is still a very good player. Injuries bit him, which is something that he has been accustomed to. Karlsson scored 10 goals with 25 assists for 35 points in 50 games. His main partner, Jacob Middleton, was dealt to Minnesota at the deadline. That could open up Karlsson to play with Burns’ old partner, Mario Ferraro. Finishing second on the team in ice time, Ferraro had 14 points with 151 blocks and 140 hits in 63 games.

The decline of Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been in place for a number of years now, but the most telling number has been his ice time. On average, Vlasic’s share dropped to just over 15 minutes last season. Once a defensive stalwart, he was on the ice for 2.79 goals against per 60 minutes. The only regular defenseman who was worse than him was Nicolas Meloche, who the Sharks let go in free agency. Vlasic doesn’t even block as much shots anymore. Once a lock for triple-digits, he had just 90 in 75 games, with his ice time cut certainly playing a role in that. Nearly the entire Sharks defense is on a multi-year deal, including Radim Simek, who is yet to have played in 50 games in a single season. Simek had two points with 96 hits in 36 games last season.

Adding onto the motif of long contracts for depth defenders, the Sharks gave Matt Benning a four-year deal worth a total of $5 million this offseason. Benning has experience on the power play and had 11 points in 65 games for Nashville in 2021-22. The Sharks gave Markus Nutivaara $1.5 million to play this season, signifying that he will get a shot to be a regular. An incredibly vague injury cost Nutivaara all but one game last season. He had 10 assists in 30 games in 2020-21, and was a regular for Columbus prior to that. Jaycob Megna’s role could range from seventh-defender to the top pair, as he did get an extended look with Karlsson last season. Megna, who hadn’t played in the NHL since 2018-19, dressed for a career-high 44 games, recording eight points with 92 blocked shots.

Goaltending

The Sharks have struggled to find a goalie for a long time, but they did have two effective options by the end of the season. In exchange for Middleton, San Jose acquired Kaapo Kahkonen from Minnesota. Once considered to be the goalie of the future for the Wild, Kahkonen couldn’t take the job from Cam Talbot. In eleven games after the trade, he was solid, with a .916 save percentage and a 4.61 GSAx. Veteran James Reimer was also above league average in GSAx, and made a career-high 46 starts last season. Reimer had a .911 save percentage in his first year of stint number two in San Jose.

Projected Lines

Timo Meier – Tomas Hertl – Alexander Barabanov

Oskar Lindblom – Logan Couture – Luke Kunin

Matt Nieto – Nick Bonino – Kevin Labanc

Noah Gregor – Nico Sturm – Steven Lorentz

Scratched: Evgeny Svechnikov, Jeffrey Viel

Mario Ferraro – Erik Karlsson

Radim Simek – Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Markus Nutivaara – Matt Benning

Scratched: Jaycob Megna

Kaapo Kahkonen

James Reimer

Pittsburgh Penguins 2022-23 Season Preview

Entering this past offseason, it appeared that the Penguins’ front office run by Ron Hextall and Brian Burke had an impossible task of keeping all of their pending free agents. While they had to let a few go, Pittsburgh was able to retain almost everybody, including franchise icons Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on discounted cap hits. A few seasons in a row of playoff disappointment means that running it back with a similar roster has more than a few skeptics. But it has never been the fault of the veterans for the team’s recent demise.

Offseason additions: D Jeff Petry, D Jan Rutta, D Ty Smith, F Ryan Poehling, F Josh Archibald.

Offseason subtractions: F Evan Rodrigues, D Mike Matheson, D John Marino, F Brian Boyle, G Louis Domingue.

Forwards

As long as Sidney Crosby is in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will be going for the Stanley Cup. He was still dominant in his age-34 season, although Crosby was not nominated for the Hart Trophy for just the second time since concussions nearly ended his career prematurely. Playing in 69 games, he scored 31 goals with 84 points. Crosby’s defense has gradually improved as he has aged, and he had a ridiculous 62.3 GF% this season. After three consecutive disappointing playoff series, it was huge for Crosby to have ten points in six postseason games. The same could be said for Jake Guentzel, who scored eight times in seven games versus the Rangers. In the regular season, Guentzel scored 40 goals for the second time, while setting a new career-high in points, with 84. The big deadline grab for the Penguins was Rickard Rakell, who only got into two playoff games. He was a rental, but Pittsburgh gave him a six-year, $30 million extension in the offseason. In 19 regular season games after the trade from Anaheim, Rakell had 13 points while mostly playing with Crosby.

The injury concerns are very, very real for Evgeni Malkin. He hasn’t played in every game in a season since 2008-09, and only has 70 games played in two seasons since then. Malkin was once again limited to just 41 games last year, and he is not as much of a physical player anymore, despite his haunting stature. While he did produce, with 20 goals and 22 assists, Malkin had just a 44.8 goals for percentage at even strength. Part of the reason why the Penguins brought in Rakell was because it allowed Bryan Rust to drop down to Malkin’s line. While he played in only 60 games, Rust was amazing, scoring 24 goals with 58 points. It was a new career-high for him, although just like everybody on the team, Rust struggled with injuries. He came through big in the postseason, with eight points in seven games. Pittsburgh signed Danton Heinen for depth last year, but he earned his way into middle-six minutes. Heinen scored 18 goals with 15 assists while only missing six games. He also had a ridiculous 58.9 xGF% at even strength. The only regular forward who was higher than him was actually Dominik Simon, who was a part of the Rakell trade.

The lackluster play of Jason Zucker continued in 2021-22, as the veteran winger only played in 41 games. When he did play, Zucker didn’t produce, with eight goals and nine assists. Acquired from Minnesota in 2019-20, they hope was for Zucker to play with Crosby and score 30 goals, like he did in 2017-18. He hasn’t done either in Pittsburgh. In 94 games, he has 23 goals with 47 points. Instead of playing with Malkin or Crosby, he mostly played with Jeff Carter on the third line. Carter went on a scoring heater after being acquired in 2020-21. Even in his age-37 season with his shooting percentage declining, he was much more productive than expected. Carter scored 19 goals with 45 points, while being one of five forward to play in at least 75 games. It was also Carter’s most goals and assists since 2016-17. The Penguins have the right to be frustrated with Kasperi Kapanen, who despite good analytical and defensive numbers, didn’t produce a ton last year. Kapanen had 30 points in 40 games in 2020-21, but had just 32 in 79 games last season. He only matched his goal total of 11. The talent is there, but Kapanen hasn’t proved that he is better than the third line.

A first-round pick by the Canadiens in 2017, Ryan Poehling comes to the Pens after an underwhelming 2021-22 season. Playing in 57 games for Montreal, he scored nine goals with eight assists. Pittsburgh utilized a complete shutdown fourth line, although they traded away Zach Aston-Reese, one of the line’s premier members. The center is still Teddy Blueger, who had an xGA/60 of two, and a GA/60 of 1.72. He also had a career-high 28 points. Brock McGinn scored 12 goals in 64 games last year, his most since 2017-18. The former Hurricane had 94 hits with 50 blocked shots, the latter tied with Carter for most among team forwards. An option instead of Poehling is Drew O’Connor, a six-foot-three, undrafted winger who had five points in 22 games last season. O’Connor was effective in the AHL, with 32 points in 33 games. Veteran Josh Archibald came back from myocarditis and played in eight games for the Oilers last season. In 52 games the season before, he scored seven goals with 192 hits.

Defensemen

In his age-34 season, Kris Letang set a new career-high in points, with 68. While his defense isn’t fantastic, Letang is still a top-pairing defender. He finished seventh in Norris voting, and the Penguins have him at a cap hit of just $6.1 million. Unfortunately, that is for the next six seasons. Pittsburgh got a healthy season out of Brian Dumoulin… until he only could play in one playoff game. He’s been the rock of the Penguins’ defense when he’s played, supporting Letang defensively.

Jeff Petry had 42 points in 55 games in 2020-21. But as the Canadiens fell off a cliff, so did he. Petry had just 27 points in 68 games, leading to an offseason trade. Still, Petry led the Habs’ defense in xGF% and blocked 117 shots with 140 hits. He will be paired with the lanky Marcus Pettersson, who has seen his role be diminished in each of the past two seasons. He had 19 points in 72 games last season while averaging under 16 minutes of ice time a game. He will again be a second-pairing defender, so the team needs more out of him.

The team shipped out John Marino to New Jersey to accommodate Petry, and brought in promising undersized defender Ty Smith. He had 20 points in 66 games for the Devils last year, but really struggled in his own end. Smith was the only regular Devils’ defender with an xGF% under 50, and his was just under forty-seven. Pittsburgh signed Jan Rutta from Tampa Bay, who reaped the benefits of playing with Victor Hedman. Rutta had 18 points last year, his most since his rookie season of 2017-18. He is a big guy with a ton of playoff experience, which naturally got him a three-year contract in the offseason. Various injuries led to Chad Ruhwedel playing in a career-high 78 games in 2021-22. Ruhwedel is entering his seventh season as a depth defender for the team, signing five different contracts in the process. He had an extraordinary xGF% of 57.9 this past season.

Goaltending

Goaltending was once again the downfall of the Penguins in the playoffs, as they had to watch third goalie Louis Domingue play in most of their games. Tristan Jarry returned only for game seven, where he was still clearly hurt. While he struggled the season before, Jarry was great in the 2021-22 regular season. He had a .919 save percentage with a 2.42 GAA, plus a positive goals saved above expected. Backup Casey DeSmith was roughly average in that stat, as he played in 26 games. DeSmith had a .914 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA.

Projected Lines

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Rickard Rakell

Danton Heinen – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust

Jason Zucker – Jeff Carter – Kasperi Kapanen

Ryan Poehling – Teddy Blueger – Brock McGinn

Scratched: Drew O’Connor, Josh Archibald

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson – Jeff Petry

Ty Smith – Jan Rutta

Scratched: Chad Ruhwedel

Tristan Jarry

Casey DeSmith

Philadelphia Flyers 2022-23 Season Preview

The Flyers might be the saddest team in the NHL. Not only are they really bad, but Philadelphia still has a ton of crushing contracts that restricted them from going after hometown kid Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason. Even worse, these bad contracts aren’t from over two years ago or anything. They were signed within the last calendar year, and looked bad then, too. Now, the fanbase and media will have to deal with John Tortorella’s antics. Only one kid can save them now: Connor Bedard.

Offseason additions: D Tony DeAngelo, F Nicolas Deslauriers, D Justin Braun, F Artem Anisimov (PTO), F Antoine Roussel (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Oskar Lindblom, D Keith Yandle, G Martin Jones, F Nate Thompson.

Forwards

The recent news that Sean Couturier will miss most of, if not all of the season has put another wrench into the team’s plans. It also significantly weakens them down the middle, as the only reliable top-six center is Kevin Hayes. While he was limited to just 48 games last season, Hayes had his best scoring pace as a Flyer, with ten goals and 31 points. Injuries and personal loss clearly affected Hayes, who had the second-worst xGF% on the forward core. Joel Farabee scored 17 goals with 17 assists in 63 games in his third NHL season. The young winger had 50 penalty minutes, which is sloppy given his play style. Farabee and veteran Cam Atkinson were the leaders on the team in GF/60, as Atkinson scored 23 goals with 50 points in his first year with the Flyers.

Aside from Atkinson, only one other Flyer scored over 20 goals, and that was James van Riemsdyk. Both veterans hadn’t hit that mark since 2018-19, failing to do in the shortened seasons. At age 32, van Riemsdyk led the team with 24 goals. The team’s leader in points last year was Travis Konecny, with 52. However, he scored just 16 goals with 77 penalty minutes. Just like Farabee, Konecny isn’t physical enough to have spent that much time in the penalty box. Scott Laughton now has a good opportunity to move up into the top-six with Couturier out. He averaged almost 16 and a half minutes of ice time a night last season, a career-most. Laughton also had 30 points in 67 games while killing penalties.

Coming back from Florida for captain Claude Giroux at the deadline was Owen Tippett, a highly-touted sniper who has struggled to score at the NHL level. Tippett had seven points in 21 games after the trade, with a total of ten goals and 11 assists in 63 games for the Flyers and Panthers. In 12 AHL games, Tippett showed that he can still play, with 18 points. Bobby Brink, a second-rounder in 2019 who could have been a first-rounder, had four assists in 10 NHL games after coming from the University of Denver. In 41 games there, Brink scored 14 goals with 43 assists for 57 points. The 2021-22 season should have belonged to Morgan Frost. The 2017 first-round pick instead failed to take the next step forward, with just 16 points in 55 games. Frost was even sent to the AHL for 24 games, finishing with 19 points there. Another option for this line is Noah Cates, who went straight to the NHL after scoring 24 points in 37 games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The results were actually not bad, as Cates scored five goals with four assists in 16 games.

The easy move of the offseason to dogpile on was the curious decision by Philadelphia to sign grinder Nicolas Deslauriers to a four-year contract. While he did score eight goals last season, Deslauriers really doesn’t bring any offense, but he does bring brawn. Split between the Ducks and the Wild, he had 113 penalty minutes with 263 hits. The Flyers signed veteran Artem Anisimov to a professional tryout, and he looks to have an inside track for a roster spot. Anisimov, who played under Tortorella in New York, had 19 points in 27 KHL games last season. He last played in the NHL in 2020-21, with nine points in 19 games for Ottawa. Adding onto the physical nature of Deslauriers is Zack MacEwen, a waiver claim who played in 75 games last season. He had just nine points, but MacEwen also had 110 penalty minutes with 159 hits. If Anisimov does not secure a contract, then the favorite to be the fourth line center is Patrick Brown, who had nine points in 44 games last season.

Defensemen

With all the issues that the Flyers have dealt with, it goes largely unstated how underwhelming Ivan Provorov has been. The offensive production hasn’t developed as much as the team would’ve liked, as Provorov hasn’t come close to the 17 goals and 41 points that he had in 2017-18. While he does get a ton of ice time, Provorov was the second-worst regular defender in goals against per 60 and was fourth in goals for percentage. In hopes to spark more offense out of him, he could be paired with Tony DeAngelo. The controversial defender was outstanding for Carolina last year, although they mostly sheltered him from any tough defensive situations. DeAngelo had 51 points in 64 games, while quarterbacking the team’s power play.

The second pairing features two polar opposite players: the analytical darling versus the analytical nightmare. Travis Sanheim was the best player on the defense by expected and actual goals for percentage. He saw his largest share of ice time last season, mostly playing next to Rasmus Ristolainen. While the metrics never liked him, Ristolainen’s offensive output has also declined. He had just 16 points in 66 games last season. He does exactly what you would expect from a six-foot-four defender: he hits and blocks shots. Ristolainen had 125 blocks and 230 hits last year.

Former first-rounder Cam York got his best look at the NHL yet in 2021-22, finishing with ten points in 30 games. It was an encouraging sign for York, who also had 12 points in 34 AHL matches. As of now, he is the guy to look forward to on the back end. After getting a draft pick from the Rangers at the deadline, the Flyers brought back Justin Braun on a one-year deal. Braun is still very capable in his own end, although he did struggle when his role was reduced in New York. If Braun does play, then he would be taking time away from Ronnie Attard, who had four points in 15 games at the end of last year. At Western Michigan last season, Attard had 36 points in 39 games. He is trying to win a spot over Nick Seeler, a physical player who got into 43 games last year.

Goaltending

Following an atrocious 2020-21 season, Carter Hart was able to rebound a little bit. He still had a rough 3.16 GAA with a .905 save percentage, but it was miles better than the .877 save percentage he had the year before. Of the 50 goalies with at least 1000 shot attempts faced last year, Hart’s goals saved above expected ranked 34th. Last year’s AHL starter, Felix Sandstrom, is naturally the choice to be the NHL backup after Martin Jones left in free agency. He has only five NHL games under his belt. Sandstrom had a .902 save percentage in 44 AHL games last season.

Projected Lines

Joel Farabee – Kevin Hayes – Cam Atkinson

James van Riemsdyk – Scott Laughton – Travis Konecny

Noah Cates – Morgan Frost – Bobby Brink

Nicolas Deslauriers – Artem Anisimov – Owen Tippett

Scratched: Zack MacEwen, Patrick Brown

Ivan Provorov – Tony DeAngelo

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Cam York – Justin Braun

Scratched: Ronnie Attard

Carter Hart

Felix Sandstrom

Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Season Preview

The Senators may actually be a competent team this year! I know, it sounds scary. But an exciting offseason has brought hope to Ottawa for the first time since they lost to the Penguins in the 2017 Conference Finals. They still are far away from serious contention thanks to a questionable defensive core, and the investigation into the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team could dismantle their hope. But as training camp opens, the vibes are good for this franchise.

Offseason additions: F Alex DeBrincat, F Claude Giroux, G Cam Talbot, F Tyler Motte, F Jayce Hawryluk, D Jacob Larsson, F Derick Brassard (PTO), F Michael Dal Colle (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Connor Brown, G Matt Murray, F Colin White, F Chris Tierney, G Filip Gustavsson, F Tyler Ennis, D Michael Del Zotto, D Victor Mete, F Adam Gaudette.

Forwards

During the season, the Senators finally named Brady Tkachuk captain, making something official that felt inevitable since the team drafted him in 2018. 2021-22 was Tkachuk’s best yet, as he scored 30 goals with 67 points, living up to the offensive ceiling that we hadn’t yet seen at the NHL level. Of course, Tkachuk also has physicality that even the average fourth liner would be jealous of. He had 117 penalty minutes with 270 hits last year, while finishing tenth in the league in shots. Ottawa found out who their new number one center is last season, as Josh Norris scored 35 goals in 66 games. Norris has an 18.8 percent shooting rate in 125 career games and also scored 16 goals on the power play. While they only got 46 games out of him, six-foot-three winger Drake Batherson scored 17 goals with a career-high 44 points, solidifying his position on the top line. Batherson’s 2.79 xGF/60 led the team at even strength.

Perhaps the Senators overreacted when they gave Tim Stutzle an eight-year extension worth over $8 million a season this offseason. But as a 20-year-old, his total numbers were very good. He scored 22 goals with 58 points in 79 games. He will be moving to center full-time in all likeliness, but with two much better linemates. Alex DeBrincat has been one of the league’s best goal scorers since he debuted with Chicago in 2017-18. Last season, he set a career-high in points with 78, 41 of those points being goals. DeBrincat is an elite sniper that can help the team in all situations, and he is only 24. The other big forward addition this offseason was Claude Giroux, the somewhat hometown kid (Hearst, Ontario is far from every NHL franchise) who finally left the Flyers last year. He scored just three goals in 18 games for the Panthers, but had 20 assists. His total numbers were 21 goals and 44 assists, showing that he is still an effective weapon. He should fit in well with Ottawa, where he is not expected to be the guy.

Alex Formenton was heavily associated with Batherson as both came up in the Senators’ system, but Formenton’s first full season wasn’t as dominant. He did score 18 goals with extraordinary speed. He also led the league with five shorthanded goals. At even strength, his 2.97 xGA/60 was the second-worst on the team. With a low PDO, he had an ugly GF% of 39.3 percent. Last year was supposed to be Shane Pinto’s exciting rookie season after a successful career at the University of North Dakota led to his NHL debut. But he played in just five games, limited by a shoulder injury. The hope is still there for Pinto to take the third line center role. After coming over from Tampa Bay for Nick Paul, Mathieu Joseph completely exceeded expectations. Playing in 11 games, he scored four goals with eight assists. He enjoyed an elevated role after being buried in Tampa Bay. Joseph finished with 1.8 points per 60 minutes when you combine his two stints, which would have been sixth on the team last year.

To improve the fourth line, the Senators recently signed forward Tyler Motte. A part of a deep playoff run in 2019-20 and 2021-22, Motte scored twice in 15 games for the Rangers in the postseason last year. He had 15 points in the regular season and can be a valuable penalty killer. Veteran Austin Watson scored 10 goals last year, the second-most of his career. He also set a career-high in hits, with 213. Ottawa sent a seventh-round pick to the Sharks in October for Dylan Gambrell, who did his job as a fourth line center. While Gambrell only contributed seven points in 63 games, he was on the ice for under two goals against per 60 minutes. Parker Kelly is in the mix for a role after playing in 41 games last season. He scored seven goals while laying 131 hits. The Senators have brought in Derick Brassard on a professional tryout. Brassard has played for ten teams in his career, with the Senators being one of them. He had 77 points in 139 games for them and was on that 2017 team. He played in 46 games for the Flyers and Oilers last year, scoring eight goals with 19 points.

Defensemen

Thomas Chabot continued to be an absolute workhorse for the Senators last season, averaging at least 26 minutes of ice time a night for the third consecutive year. He only played in 59 games and had 38 points. He has found a consistent partner on the top pairing in Artem Zub, a Russian defender who had 22 points in 81 games last season, his second in the NHL. Zub led the team in blocked shots with 124, and his 155 hits was the most by an Ottawa defender.

There are still two more years left in the albatross of a contract that Lou Lamoriello signed Nikita Zaitsev to ages ago. Ottawa stopped pretending that he was an elite defender in 2021-22, as Zaitsev’s ice time was cut significantly. He brings very little offense, and even the defensive numbers aren’t great. He undoubtedly does bring physicality, with triple digit blocked shots and hits in each of his six NHL seasons. The crown jewel of the Mark Stone trade, Erik Brannstrom, played in a career-high 53 games last year, with no goals and 14 assists. Brannstrom’s small stature is always going to play into his defensive ability, and he had the second-worst xGA/60 on the team’s defensive core.

The debut to get excited for this year is Jake Sanderson’s. Selected fifth overall in the 2020 draft, Sanderson had 26 points in 23 games at North Dakota last year, setting himself up for at least a shot at the NHL level. The team brought in a potential veteran partner in Travis Hamonic at the trade deadline. Hamonic is not the same player that once yielded a first and two second-round picks in a trade, but he can at least be serviceable. He played in 43 games for the Canucks and Senators last year, with 10 points and 81 blocked shots. If both Brannstrom and Sanderson lock up spots, then veteran Nick Holden will be the odd man out of the lineup. He played in 76 games last year after a trade from Vegas, scoring 19 points. Holden, along with Zub and Zaitsev, was one of three Senators with at least one hundred hits and blocked shots last season.

Goaltending

The Ottawa goaltending could go right this year, but it has the risk attached to go horribly wrong. The lead goalie is expected to be Anton Forsberg, who was way better than he had any right to be. Forsberg had a .917 save percentage in 46 games last season while Matt Murray was out. He had 11.5 goals saved above expected, which was the twelfth best in the league. His new goaltending partner, Cam Talbot, was on the opposite side of the GSAx spectrum. Talbot was the fourth-worst in the league in that stat, at -17.3. He had a .911 save percentage for Minnesota, and has a pedigree that Forsberg simply doesn’t.

Projected Lines

Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson

Alex DeBrincat – Tim Stutzle – Claude Giroux

Alex Formenton – Shane Pinto – Mathieu Joseph

Tyler Motte – Dylan Gambrell – Austin Watson

Scratched: Parker Kelly, Derick Brassard

Thomas Chabot – Artem Zub

Erik Brannstrom – Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Sanderson – Travis Hamonic

Scratched: Nick Holden

Anton Forsberg

Cam Talbot

New York Rangers 2022-23 Season Preview

Last year’s Rangers team saw their mini-rebuild completely pay off, mostly thanks to one man. Their underlying numbers were overall average, but they received some of the best goaltending we have seen in a long time. Igor Shesterkin didn’t win the Hart Trophy, but there was certainly a case there. New York saw a ton of rentals leave this offseason. Are their skaters strong enough to get them back to the Conference Finals, where their 2021-22 season ended.

Offseason additions: F Vincent Trocheck, F Ryan Carpenter, G Jaroslav Halak, G Louis Domingue, F Jimmy Vesey (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Ryan Strome, F Andrew Copp, F Frank Vatrano, F Tyler Motte, G Alex Georgiev, F Kevin Rooney, D Patrik Nemeth, D Nils Lundkvist, F Greg McKegg, D Justin Braun.

Forwards

Last season was a magical one for Chris Kreider, who will have trouble replicating it due to how amazing his year was. Kreider scored 52 goals with 77 points in 81 games. His previous career-highs were 28 goals and 53 points. While he did have a 20.2 percent shooting rate, its inflation wasn’t the only reason why Kreider went off. He led the league with 26 power play goals and 11 game winning goals in the regular season, and scored 10 more goals in 20 postseason games. Maybe Kreider’s dominance stunted the ridiculous scoring rates that Mika Zibanejad had been on during the two shortened seasons. He still scored 29 times, and focused on being more of a playmaker. Zibanejad had 52 apples to set a career-high in points with 81. The Rangers rocked a kid line in the playoffs that was very successful, but they need to break it up as their depth took a hit. This would mean that Kaapo Kakko would go back to the top line. The second overall pick in 2019 is yet to live up to that status. He had just 18 points in 43 games last season, even after an increase in ice time. Kreider, Zibanejad, and Kakko were the only Ranger forwards (minimum 500 TOI with the time) with an expected goals for percentage over 50 during the regular season.

While he still had 16 points in 20 games, Artemi Panarin’s playoff performance was underwhelming, aside from a huge goal to win the first round versus Pittsburgh. He clearly wasn’t as dominant as he can be. Panarin almost averaged an assist per game in the regular season, with 74 in 75 games. He added 22 goals to break his career-high in points by one. Panarin’s regular center, Ryan Strome, could not be retained in free agency. The replacement will be Vincent Trocheck, who comes in on a seven-year contract. Trocheck was a fantastic second-liner in Carolina, scoring 21 goals with 51 points. He had 78 penalty minutes, which is too much for a player with his skillset. That is not to say that Trocheck is not physical. He had a career-high 185 hits last season, and has triple-digit checks in each of the past seven seasons. A trade request put Vitali Kravtsov in an awkward situation last year. He didn’t play at all in North America, but is in Rangers training camp for now. Kravtsov went back to the KHL, with 13 points in 19 games, and 10 in 15 playoff matches.

Kakko’s disappointment on the score sheet has often been compared to Alexis Lafreniere, the top pick in the 2020 draft. However, Lafreniere provided solid production in his sophomore season. He scored 19 goals with 31 points, then had nine points in the playoffs. He also had the fourth-best xGF% on the forward core. That was right ahead of Filip Chytil, who has had either 22 or 23 points in each of the past four seasons. He broke into the league at age 18, but has just settled into the third line center role, which isn’t a terrible thing. However, he has won just 40.5 percent of draws in his career. If New York does keep the kid line together, then Sammy Blais is a top contender to play on the top line. He was a part of the Pavel Buchnevich trade with St. Louis that has backfired on the team, although that is not on Blais. He had four assists in 14 games before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season.

The Rangers traded a draft pick before last season for Ryan Reaves, and got exactly what they wanted from him. Reaves had just 13 points in 69 games, but all of those points were an added bonus. Reaves had 279 hits, second among forwards to just Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot. He also had just 43 penalty minutes, continuing a promising trend from the end of his Vegas tenure, as he was still a physical force while limiting time spent in the box. The Flames signed former Rangers fourth line center Kevin Rooney, so naturally he was replaced by Ryan Carpenter, a deadline acquisition by Calgary. Carpenter had 12 points in 67 games for the Flames and Blackhawks last year, with 136 hits. New York traded for the rights of Barclay Goodrow last offseason, then signed him to a six-year deal. The offensive production in his first season was more than the Rangers were even looking for, as he scored 13 goals with 33 points, both career-highs. More importantly, he was a leader and a physical presence while contributing to the penalty kill. After having a limited role with the Panthers and Coyotes, Dryden Hunt earned a regular spot with the Rangers last season, dressing for 76 regular season games and three more in the postseason. He had 17 points with 153 hits. While Julien Gauthier dressed for 49 games last season, he had the lowest average time on ice among Rangers with at least 15 games played. The former first-rounder had seven points.

Defensemen

He wasn’t able to defend his Norris Trophy, but Adam Fox still finished fifth in voting for best defenseman. He set a career-high with 74 points. His 63 assists alone would have been the record, although the shortened season in 2020-21 plays a factor into that. Fox is also the best defensive-defender on the team, along with partner Ryan Lindgren. While he only had 15 points, Lindgren had 141 blocks and 129 hits, plus a 2.29 xGA/60.

The Rangers finally named their first captain since Ryan McDonagh was traded, and it was surprisingly Jacob Trouba. In his third year with the team, Trouba’s 39 points was the second-highest of his career. He is also a force to be reckoned with on the ice. He had 88 penalty minutes with 177 blocked shots and 207 hits. The most untapped potential on the defensive core comes from K’Andre Miller, a six-foot-five monster who has a lot more to offer offensively than his 20 points from last season suggests. Miller was never eased into the NHL, getting a large share of ice time in both of his seasons.

The only lock on the third pair for now is Braden Schneider, a 21-year-old who played in 43 games in his rookie season last year. Schneider added 11 points with 52 blocked shots. Miller, Lindgren, and Schneider were the only three Ranger defenseman with under two goals against per 60 at even strength. The other spot is a competition between Zac Jones and Libor Hajek, with other entries encouraged. Jones has much more upside, with the 2019 third-round pick scoring 35 points in 52 AHL games last year. He has six assists in 22 career NHL games. Hajek has played in 94 games over the past four seasons, but the results have not been good. He had a 41.67 xGF% in 17 NHL games last year, and a 40.33 percentage in 44 games the season prior.

Goaltending

Shesterkin’s 2021-22 season was so good that it feels impossible for him to replicate. He had a 2.07 GAA, a .935 save percentage, a 44.9 GSAA, and a GSAx of 37.2. He led the league in all four of those categories, and it wasn’t particularly close. Shesterkin easily won the Vezina Trophy, and was third in Hart voting as well. He continued to carry the team in the postseason, with a .929 save percentage. He now has a veteran to share the workload with in Ranger killer Jaroslav Halak. The 37-year-old Halak played in 17 games in a forgettable Canucks stint in which he had a .903 save percentage.

Projected Lines

Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko

Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Vitali Kravtsov

Alex Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Sammy Blais

Barclay Goodrow – Ryan Carpenter – Ryan Reaves

Scratched: Dryden Hunt, Julien Gauthier

Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba

Zac Jones – Braden Schneider

Scratched: Libor Hajek

Igor Shesterkin

Jaroslav Halak