Nashville Predators 2022-23 Season Preview

Is there any proof that the Predators actually made the playoffs last season? The record books say so, but we can’t be so sure. With Juuse Saros injured, Nashville acted like a tune-up for the Avalanche to get ready for their deep run. No team wants that on their record. The Predators finally had offensive contributions, something that they have lacked throughout their short history. The offseason was headlined by the huge accomplishment of signing Filip Forsberg long-term. But can they be a legitimate contender while he is still in his prime?

Offseason additions: F Nino Niederreiter, D Ryan McDonagh, G Kevin Lankinen, F John Leonard, F Markus Nurmi, F Zach Sanford.

Offseason subtractions: F Luke Kunin, F Nick Cousins, D Philippe Myers, F Mathieu Olivier, G David Rittich, D Matt Benning, F Matt Luff.

Forwards

The big problem with signing Forsberg is that he has missed games in each of the past five seasons. He played in 69 games in 2021-22 while setting career-highs in goals and assists with 42 of each. He led the team in goals for and expected goals for, while also having a solid xGA/60. The most important breakthrough for the team last year was Matt Duchene, who scored 43 goals with 43 assists after disappointing in his first two seasons with the club. While he only scored 11 goals, Mikael Granlund quietly had his best season since 2017-18 while acting as the playmaker for Forsberg and Duchene. Granlund set a new career-high with 53 assists, hitting the 60-point mark for the third time in his career.

Just as much as Duchene did, Ryan Johansen had to prove that he still had some game left after a terrible 2020-21. While he wasn’t a point-per-game player, Johansen scored 26 goals with 63 points. The former is tied for the second-highest in his career, while he missed his most points as a Predator by one. It felt like Eeli Tolvanen was on the verge of becoming a regular for years by the time he had 22 points in 40 games in 2020-21. However, the encouraging step for the now-23-year-old was canceled out by a lack of progress last year. In 75 games, he scored 11 goals with 12 assists, for just one extra point in 25 more games. Nashville got a pretty solid middle-six upgrade when they sent Luke Kunin to San Jose and signed Nino Niederreiter. The Swiss veteran was a key contributor to the Hurricanes last season, scoring 24 goals with 20 assists on the third line. Niederreiter was second on his team, who dominated opponents, in xGF%.

While he might not have been the oldest rookie to have a great season in 2021-22, Tanner Jeannot finished seventh in Calder voting after scoring 24 goals with 17 assists. He was always a physical presence, leading all forwards with 318 hits, and was third in the league with 130 penalty minutes. Jeannot played primarily with Yakov Trenin and Colton Sissons, the latter of which was nominated for the Selke. Sissons had 28 points, his most since 2018-19, while winning 55.7 percent of draws. Trenin scored 17 goals despite low expected goals numbers. The trio combined for almost 700 hits.

The only real lock for the fourth line right now is Philip Tomasino, the 24th-overall pick in the 2019 draft. While he didn’t blow anyone away, Tomasino had a solid rookie season, scoring 11 goals with 32 points in 76 games. He finished fifth among the regular forwards in goals for per 60, behind only the top line and Johansen, who also spent time on the first line. The time is now for Cody Glass, drafted sixth-overall in 2017. He had just one assist in eight games last season, but succeeded in the AHL. For the Milwaukee Admirals, Glass scored 14 goals with 62 points in 66 games. Former Canadien Michael McCarron took a ton of draws after mostly playing wing in the NHL. McCarron was an effective penalty killer in the 51 games that he played in, and scored seven goals (one short-handed). New Jersey native John Leonard came back from San Jose for Kunin after having two points in 14 games for the Sharks last year. The former UMass-Amherst star scored 17 goals with 32 points in 45 games for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda. A more experienced option is Zach Sanford, who scored nine goals with 21 points in 80 games between the Senators and Jets last season. Sanford, most known for his goal in game seven of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, had a career-high 169 hits last season. Finnish import Markus Nurmi, a former sixth-round pick by Ottawa, is also in the fight for a role. He played in 56 games for TPS Turku in Finland, scoring 20 goals with 19 assists. In 18 playoff games, he had 19 points.

Defensemen

While he didn’t win the Norris Trophy because of the two-way game that Cale Makar brings, Roman Josi had an incredible 2021-22 season. The Nashville captain scored 23 goals with 73 assists for 96 points in 80 games. He led all defenders in points by 10, while also leading with 37 power play points. Only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, JT Miller, and Jonathan Huberdeau had more points on the man advantage than Josi. He was a workhorse, averaging over six more minutes of ice time on average than his partner, Dante Fabbro. The 24-year-old had his best season yet, scoring 24 points in 66 games while also leading the d-core with a 53.05 xGF%.

At age 32, Mattias Ekholm isn’t the defensive stalwart that he used to be, but still is trusted by the Nashville coaching staff. He had 31 points with 96 blocked shots. It was his first full season without 100 or more blocks since 2013-14, his rookie year. A good case study for the effects of PDO would be Alex Carrier, who rode a 103.4 PDO to a 63.01 GF%. While the expected numbers don’t believe that it was legitimate, Carrier had 30 points with a 1.55 GA/60, which is a great rookie season.

While Nashville will likely be hurt down the line for taking on the last four years on Ryan McDonagh’s contract, they still will get a very solid defender. McDonagh was the backbone of a strong Tampa Bay defense, blocking 137 shots and was nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy. Many criticized the Predators for trading a second-rounder at the deadline for Jeremy Lauzon. Nashville apparently disagreed with them, extending the young defender for four seasons. Lauzon had 224 hits with seven points in 66 games split between the Predators and Kraken. If they want to crank up the physicality even more, they have Mark Borowiecki. The veteran had the most penalty minutes in the league with 151 in 57 games. Borowiecki added 196 hits and four assists.

Goaltending

The Predators definitely don’t make the playoffs last season if not for Juuse Saros. He finished third in Vezina voting with a .918 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA while playing in the most games. He finished ninth in GSAx and had a GSAA of 23.0. The depth chart behind him looks shaky, with Kevin Lankinen set to be the backup. Lankinen had a .891 save percentage and a 3.50 GAA in 32 games for Chicago last season. Only Philipp Grubauer had a worse GSAx.

Projected Lines

Matt Duchene – Mikael Granlund – Filip Forsberg

Nino Niederreiter – Ryan Johansen – Eeli Tolvanen

Tanner Jeannot – Colton Sissons – Yakov Trenin

John Leonard – Cody Glass – Philip Tomasino

Scratched: Zach Sanford, Michael McCarron

Roman Josi – Dante Fabbro

Mattias Ekholm – Alex Carrier

Ryan McDonagh – Jeremy Lauzon

Scratched: Mark Borowiecki

Juuse Saros

Kevin Lankinen

Montreal Canadiens 2022-23 Season Preview

Going into last season, the Canadiens felt like they had achieved the record for least enthusiasm from the public for a team that was coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearances. Still, no one expected it 2021-22 to be as bad as it was. The Habs managed to finish worse than the Coyotes. However, they won the draft lottery and the Shane Wright sweepstakes… only to pick Juraj Slafkovsky first instead. The Slovakian forward dominated at the Olympics, and could start the season with the big club. But with a crowded forward room, the AHL is also a possibility to better his development. With a full season under Head Coach Martin St. Louis about to start, there is optimism that the franchise can take a leap forward.

Offseason additions: F Evgenii Dadonov, F Kirby Dach, F Sean Monahan, D Mike Matheson.

Offseason subtractions: D Jeff Petry, D Shea Weber (Contract), D Alex Romanov, F Ryan Poehling, F Mathieu Perreault, F Tyler Pitlick, F Cedric Paquette.

Forwards

The Canadiens traded away Shea Weber, who will almost certainly never play again due to injuries, opening up the captaincy for Nick Suzuki. While most of the team struggled, Suzuki was their best player, setting career-highs with 21 goals and 40 assists for 61 points. He also has not missed a game in his three NHL seasons. Suzuki has developed into the franchise’s number one center, even if analytics don’t support him as much. The team collective improved after St. Louis took over, and there is no better example than Cole Caufield. He had just one goal and seven assists in 30 games until Dominique Ducharme was fired. After that? He played in 37 games, leading the team with 22 goals and 35 points. Power forward Josh Anderson scored 19 goals with 32 points in his second season with Montreal, along with 65 penalty minutes and 153 hits. Anderson and Suzuki were the only forwards on the team with over 1000 minutes of ice time at five-on-five, showing how hurt and inconsistent they were.

Brendan Gallagher has long been an analytical darling, and that didn’t change in 2021-22. But his production just wasn’t there. He played in 56 games, scoring just seven goals with 17 assists. Gallagher is still only 30, and had either been great or scored at a good pace in each of the prior four seasons, so don’t worry too much yet. One of the many reclamation projects on the team is Kirby Dach, the former third-overall pick who experienced the trauma of playing for the Blackhawks last year. Dach is only 21, but his numbers in the NHL have not been as good as expected. He played in 70 games last year, scoring nine goals with 26 points. Mike Hoffman’s first season with the Canadiens showed that he still has offensive value, but with weak defense. Hoffman contributed 15 goals with 20 assists, but had just a 2.12 xGF/60.

The Habs traded a first and a second-round pick to Arizona for Christian Dvorak before last season. With how bad they ended up being, Dvorak had to live up to that value and more. Unfortunately, he gave them third-line center production, which is really what he had always been with the Coyotes. Dvorak scored 11 goals with 33 points in 56 games. He was the team’s best offensive penalty-killer by goals against per 60. Montreal was the team to finally end up with Evgenii Dadonov, who the Golden Knights continuously tried to trade. He was actually one of Vegas’ best players last season, but the salary cap loomed large. Dadonov scored 20 goals with 43 points, finishing third and fifth on the team, respectively. Jonathan Drouin’s return to the NHL was disrupted by a wrist injury, as he played in just 34 games. Drouin was never a big goal scorer, but he had just six goals last year, with 14 assists. He played at a 48-point pace, which would have trailed just Suzuki for the team lead.

The Canadiens acquired a future first-round pick for taking on the contract of former Flames first line center Sean Monahan. While he is just three seasons removed from an 82-point year and two from a 48-point campaign, Monahan has fallen off a cliff. He scored just eight goals with 23 points in 65 games while dropping to the fourth line. He doesn’t have the physicality of a fourth-liner, but even his most recent production fits the role well. Montreal picked up Rem Pitlick off waivers early in the season, then gave him over 17 minutes of ice time on average. Pitlick rode a shooting percentage over 23 percent, leading to a total of 15 goals in 66 games for the Habs and the Wild. In 46 games for the Canadiens, he had nine goals with 26 points. Another one of the few Canadiens to take a step forward last season was Jake Evans, who scored 13 goals with 29 points in 72 games. His xGA/60 at even strength was the second-best on the forward core, behind only Artturi Lehkonen, who was dealt at the deadline. The odd-man-out seems like Joel Armia, who had a big 2019-20 but hasn’t produced much since. The six-foot-four winger had 104 hits with 14 points in 60 games last season. If Armia is out, then Paul Byron is left in a sticky situation. He could start the season on LTIR to make a roster space for Slafkovsky, or be an extra forward scratch. The two-time 30-goal scorer had just four in 27 games last year.

Defensemen

A complete overhaul of the defense has left in it a bit of a mess. After a year of Jeff Petry trade rumors, the Habs were able to get a legitimate player back for him in Mike Matheson. The concern with Matheson is that he didn’t really take off until he was traded to Pittsburgh, but he is a great skater with offensive talent. He set a career-high in points with 31 last season, and the Quebec native could be paired with another one in David Savard. A physical veteran defender, Savard racks up hits and blocked shots, but struggled in his first season with the club. With defense being his specialty, it was disappointing to see that he had a 3.15 xGA/60, the worst of the team’s six regular defenders.

The team missed Joel Edmundson last year, as he was limited to just 24 games. He had a 47.96 GF%, which was the best on the defensive core. However, he also had the worst xGF%. At the end of the season, Edmundson played with Justin Barron, a 2020 first-rounder who came over from Colorado for Lehkonen. Barron scored a goal with an assist in five games after the trade as a 20-year-old. He played in 43 AHL games, recording 20 points.

Another late-season prospect add who played in NHL games was Jordan Harris, a third-rounder in 2018 who signed with the team just before he could have become an unrestricted free agent. Harris scored a goal in 10 games after completing his fourth season at Northeastern University. Playing in 39 games, he scored five goals with 15 assists. The Habs took a flier on former Senator Chris Wideman after he lit up the KHL. The plan was for Wideman to be a third-pairing defender who could provide power play help, and he did exactly that. In 64 games, Wideman had 27 points, with 12 of his 23 assists coming on the man advantage. He was rewarded with a two-year extension. Until prospects like Mattias Norlinder and Kaiden Guhle are ready for a full-time role, the seventh-defender looks like it will be Corey Schueneman. The 27-year-old had six points in 24 games in his rookie season last year. He had 11 more points in 32 AHL contests.

Goaltending

With Carey Price set to go on long-term injured reserve after playing in just five games last season, the goalie situation in Montreal will stay with what it was for most of the year. Jake Allen actually had a positive goals saved above expected, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from how his final numbers ended up. In 35 games, he had a .905 save percentage and a 3.30 GAA. His backup, Sam Montembeault, had the seventh-worst GSAx in the league last season, at -14.52. He is young, but a 3.77 GAA is very concerning, especially in as large of a sample size as 38 games.

Projected Lines

Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Josh Anderson

Mike Hoffman – Kirby Dach – Brendan Gallagher

Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Evgenii Dadonov

Rem Pitlick – Sean Monahan – Jake Evans

Scratched: Joel Armia, Paul Byron

Mike Matheson – David Savard

Joel Edmundson – Justin Barron

Jordan Harris – Chris Wideman

Scratched: Corey Schueneman

Jake Allen

Sam Montembeault

Minnesota Wild 2022-23 Season Preview

Last year’s Wild team was easily the best in franchise history. They finished with 100 points for the fifth time, at 113. That was seven points more than 2016-17, the previous best regular season. Sadly, it ended like a lot of other Wild seasons, with a first-round exit. Salary cap issues made their team considerably worse in the offseason, as they had to part with one of their best players. But with over $5 million in space at the time being, it ponders the question, could they have kept Kevin Fiala?

Offseason additions: F Sam Steel, G Jonas Gustavsson, D Andrej Sustr.

Offseason subtractions: F Kevin Fiala, D Dmitry Kulikov, G Cam Talbot, F Nick Bjugstad, D Jordie Benn, F Nicolas Deslauriers.

Forwards

Following a political scare in Russia, Kirill Kaprizov is back after a fantastic season. Many questioned Minnesota’s decision to give him a monster extension after his rookie season in a shortened season, but the team was quickly rewarded. Kaprizov scored 47 goals with 61 assists for 108 points. Kaprizov was top-five in both goals and points in the league. He played on the top line with two of the league’s surprise players. In his age-34 season, veteran Mats Zuccarello set a new career-high with 79 points in 70 games. Kaprizov and Zuccarello combined for 116 assists alone, with 29 of them coming on the man advantage. The goals on the line went to Kaprizov and center Ryan Hartman, who transitioned from bottom-six forward to top line center. Hartman scored 34 goals at age 27, and was definitely the most unpredictable thirty-plus goal scorer last season.

With Fiala traded to Los Angeles, the third line is certainly the second-best on the team at both ends of the ice. Marcus Foligno led the team with a 57.03 xGF% and a 1.82 xGA/60. He scored a career-high 23 goals on an inflated shooting percentage with 238 hits. Brady Tkachuk, Tom Wilson, and Tanner Jeannot were the only other players with at least 20 goals and 200 hits. Both Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek have had some Selke hype over the past two seasons, with Eriksson Ek finishing fourth in 2020-21 and seventh last season. His offensive game kicked in for the first time, scoring 26 goals with 49 points in 77 games. Jordan Greenway only had 27 points playing on that line last year, but he had a team-high 68.6 GF%. Sure, a 104.8 PDO was extremely lucky, but the entire Wild team had some puck luck last year.

It will be very interesting to see how Matt Boldy plays in his sophomore season without Fiala. Boldy was dominant as a rookie in 47 games, doing enough to finish eighth in Calder voting. He scored 15 goals with 39 points, plus a 4.33 goals for per 60 minutes. Boldy’s primary center was Frederick Gaudreau, who can move to the wing. Gaudreau’s first year with Minnesota was his breakout season, scoring 14 goals with 44 points in 76 games. In his four years prior, he had 18 points in 108 games for Nashville and Pittsburgh. The threat to move Gaudreau to the wing is Marco Rossi, the 2020 ninth-overall pick who played in two NHL games last season. He played in 63 games at the AHL level after missing just about all of 2020-21 from a COVID-19 related issue. Rossi scored 18 goals with 53 points for the Iowa Wild.

Tyson Jost was involved in the rare player-for-player swap between two contending teams at the deadline when the Avalanche sent him to Minnesota for Nico Sturm. Neither player tore it up with their new team, with Jost having six points in 21 games. He had no points in the playoffs, while his team of six years went on to win the Cup. While he never lit it up in the AHL, Brandon Duhaime won a roster spot last season, and played in 80 games with 17 points. Duhaime had 122 penalty minutes with 201 hits, so his goal scoring wasn’t why he was in the lineup. Former Ducks’ first-round pick Sam Steel signed with the Wild this offseason after Anaheim non-tendered him. He had 20 points in 68 games in 2021-22. Steel is in a competition with Connor Dewar, who had 17 points in 19 AHL games. Dewar played in his first 32 NHL games, scoring twice with four assists. Kyle Rau, who played in five NHL games, dominated the AHL last season as well. In 55 games, he scored 25 goals with 53 points.

Defensemen

One of the three defensive captains in the NHL, Jared Spurgeon’s streak of eight consecutive seasons with triple-digit blocked shots was broken last season, in which he had 83 in 65 games. Spurgeon added 40 points, the second-highest of his career. The most indicative stat of his season was his average ice time. It was his lowest since his rookie season of 2010-11. The Wild got him a new partner at the deadline in Jacob Middleton, who had five points in 21 games. His 50.87 GF% after the trade was the second lowest on the defensive core, so he needs some time to adjust.

The best all-around line on the team consists of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Dumba was an offensive forced in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but hasn’t been able to produce since. He had 27 points in 57 games with 114 hits. Brodin is the best defensive defender on the team, with a 1.92 xGA/60 last season. He had a career-high 30 points and was nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy.

The Wild shockingly received offensive dominance from veteran Alex Goligoski. While he only had 30 points himself, he had a 4.31 GF/60. He was the only NHL defender over four with at least 1000 minutes of ice time. Calen Addison, who was a part of the Jason Zucker trade in 2020, was impressive in 15 games last year. Addison had four points with a 63.06 xGF%. That is higher than any other Minnesota defender, albeit in a small sample size. The emergence of Addison and last year’s acquisition of Middleton could move Jon Merrill to the seventh-defenseman role. Merrill has played for five teams in his career, with both his 69 games played and 20 points last year being career-highs. So were his 112 blocked shots.

Goaltending

The goalies were such an issue last season that the Wild traded for Marc-Andre Fleury midseason. While he was coming off a Vezina-winning season, Fleury’s overall numbers with Chicago and Minnesota were nothing special. He had a .910 save percentage in 11 regular season games after the deal before making it through just five playoff games until being replaced. Cam Talbot started that final game of the season, but was dealt this offseason to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson. Minnesota gets more potential, as Gustavsson had a .933 save percentage in nine 2020-21 games. But in 2021-22, he had a rough 3.55 GAA and .892 save percentage in 18 games. That won’t play for a contender.

Projected Lines

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello

Marcus Foligno – Joel Eriksson Ek – Jordan Greenway

Matt Boldy – Marco Rossi – Frederick Gaudreau

Sam Steel – Tyson Jost – Brandon Duhaime

Scratched: Connor Dewar, Kyle Rau

Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba

Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon

Alex Goligoski – Calen Addison

Scratched: Jon Merrill

Marc-Andre Fleury

Filip Gustavsson

Los Angeles Kings 2022-23 Season Preview

No team made a bigger leap forward than the Kings last year. They went from a rebuilding year that could have turned ugly to making the postseason with some help from a Vegas collapse and a weak Pacific Division. The Kings managed 99 points and took the Oilers to seven games in the first round. Now, with a new toy up front and everyone healthy, Los Angeles will look for the next step.

Offseason additions: F Kevin Fiala, F Nate Thompson (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Dustin Brown, F Andreas Athanasiou, D Olli Maatta.

Forwards

As Anze Kopitar enters his age-35 season, the Kings have to hope that he can avoid the sharp decline from superstardom that other California stars like Patrick Marleau, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry had. Kopitar still led the Kings in points last season with 67, forty-eight of them being assists. Kopitar has a pair of Selke Trophies, a Lady Byng, and has always averaged at least 20 minutes of ice time, aside from 2014-15. The aforementioned shiny new toy is Kevin Fiala, acquired from Minnesota. The Wild lacked the cap space for him, so Los Angeles was able to swoop in and then extend him for seven seasons. Fiala is coming off a career season in which he scored 33 goals with 85 points in 82 games. Another player who had a career year was Adrian Kempe. Not only did Kempe score 20 goals for the first time, but he finished with 35. There were only five players with at least 35 goals scored and over 110 hits last season. They were Chris Kreider, Alex Ovechkin, Timo Meier, Filip Forsberg, and Kempe.

The Kings’ last offseason brought in key players for 2021-22 and beyond, although no one matches up to what Fiala has done for Minnesota. After the Canadiens perhaps underutilized Phillip Danault, he signed with the Kings to be their second-line center. Many in Montreal doubted his offensive prowess, but Danault scored 27 goals with 51 points last season. He also was eighth in Selke voting, finishing top-8 for the fourth year in a row. Following two tough seasons in a row, Viktor Arvidsson got back to where he was previously in his first season with Los Angeles. The undersized winger played in 66 games, scoring 20 goals with 49 points. He had the best xGF% on the forward core. The most used line last year consisted of Danault, Arvidsson, and Trevor Moore, so the expectation is that it will continue. Moore is coming off the best season of his career, scoring 17 goals with 48 points. He had the fifth-worst goals saved above expected in the league last year. That either means that Moore has a bad shot, or just got unlucky.

The player hurt the most by the acquisition of Fiala is Alex Iafallo, who will have to move from the top line to the third. Playing with Kopitar made sense for him, as Iafallo is a defensive forward who can chip in offensively. But a reduced role means that his 17 goals and 37 points from 2021-22 could be taking a drop. The guy with a ton of expectations this year is Quinton Byfield, the 2020 2nd overall pick who hasn’t been as good in his first two professional seasons as many hoped. He had six points in 11 AHL games, with 10 points in 40 NHL games. On the positive side, he had good defensive numbers in a bottom-six role. The Kings have so much young talent that has gotten stuck between the NHL and the AHL. Both Byfield and Gabe Vilardi are a big part of that group. Vilardi dominated at the AHL level last year, with 38 points in 39 games. But in just 25 NHL games, he had seven points. He scored 10 goals in 54 games the year before, so Vilardi can lock down a roster spot.

One of the players to break through from the tweener group last year was Blake Lizotte, who found a role as a fourth line center. Lizotte had 24 points in 70 games, with the third-best xGA/60 among Los Angeles forwards. The two guys better than him could be his linemates. After a successful AHL season in 2020-21, Arthur Kaliyev scored 14 goals in an 80-game rookie season. For how much his scoring ability was touted, seeing Kaliyev with a 7.2 personal shooting percentage is surprising. If the scouts are right on him, then look for a big jump in scoring this upcoming season. Carl Grundstrom played in 54 games last season at the NHL level, scoring nine goals with 134 hits. Despite his physicality, Grundstrom has just 56 penalty minutes in 129 career games, which is a positive. If the Kings don’t want discipline, then they can go with Brendan Lemieux instead. He had 97 penalty minutes with 122 hits in 50 games. Jaret Anderson-Dolan has 12 points in 50 career NHL games. He was one of the best players on the Ontario Reign (AHL) last season, scoring 24 goals with 47 points in 54 games. Other young forwards in the mix for a spot include Rasmus Kupari, Lias Andersson, Alex Turcotte, and Samuel Fagemo.

Defensemen

Drew Doughty had been very vocal about the narrative that he was declining, and he did prove people wrong in an injury-shortened season. Doughty played in only 39 games, but had 31 points with great underlying numbers at both ends of the ice. Doughty had a 55.43 xGF%, the second-best among Los Angeles defenders. The former Norris winner played primarily with Mikey Anderson in the left-hander’s second full season. Anderson, a former fourth-round pick, had eight points with 69 blocked shots and 133 hits last season.

The only two Kings defenders making over $3 million a season are Doughty and Matt Roy. Good goaltending luck and great defensive play led to Roy having a ridiculous 1.79 GA/60 last season. That was the third-best among defenders in the NHL (minimum 1000 TOI). Roy added 103 blocks and 124 hits to the pile. He was playing with the since-departed Olli Maatta and veteran Alex Edler, who was in his first of 16 seasons not with the Canucks. Edler only got into 41 games, but was very effective. He had 19 points with a team-leading 57.72 GF% and 57.12 xGF%. No other defender on the team was anywhere near Edler’s offensive production in xGF/60.

Not only did Sean Durzi make his NHL debut last year, but he cemented himself as a regular by playing in 64 games with a legitimate share of ice time. Durzi had 27 points with 121 blocked shots and played on both special team units. Former first-rounder Tobias Bjornfot played in a career-high 70 games, but had no goals with eight assists. In fact, he had the most total ice time for a player without a goal. Only three other players (Danny DeKeyser, Erik Brannstrom, and Matt Benning) had no goals and over a thousand minutes of ice time. It also doesn’t help that Bjornfot had a 47 xGF%, the worst among regular defenders on the team. He will be competing with Sean Walker for a spot. Walker missed all but six games with a torn ACL last season, but was a regular in the two years prior.

Goaltending

In 2020-21, the power balance in net looked like it was shifted away from Jonathan Quick, to Cal Petersen. That changed last year, as Quick finished 11th in goals saved above expected. He started 46 games with a .910 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA. Both were his best since 2017-18. Petersen was in negative territory after a 13th-place finish in 2020-21. He had a weak .895 save percentage while replicating his 2.89 GAA from the season before.

Projected Lines

Adrian Kempe – Anze Kopitar – Kevin Fiala

Trevor Moore – Phillip Danault – Viktor Arvidsson

Alex Iafallo – Quinton Byfield – Gabe Vilardi

Carl Grundstrom – Blake Lizotte – Arthur Kaliyev

Scratched: Brendan Lemieux, Jaret Anderson-Dolan

Mikey Anderson – Drew Doughty

Alex Edler – Matt Roy

Tobias Bjornfot – Sean Durzi

Scratched: Sean Walker

Jonathan Quick

Cal Petersen

Florida Panthers 2022-23 Season Preview

The 2021-22 regular season was the year of the Panthers. A high-octane offense coupled with decent defense and goaltending led to a President’s Trophy and the inevitable playoff failure that comes with that award. Florida went all-in at the deadline, and saw the effects pay off this offseason. The Panthers are clearly not as good as they were last year. But are they still a Cup contender?

Offseason additions: F Matthew Tkachuk, F Colin White, F Nick Cousins, F Rudolfs Balcers, D Marc Staal, F Eric Staal (PTO), F Chris Tierney, D Michael Del Zotto, F Gerald Mayhew.

Offseason subtractions: F Jonathan Huberdeau, D MacKenzie Weegar, F Claude Giroux, D Ben Chiarot, F Mason Marchment, F Joe Thornton, F Noel Acciari, D Robert Hagg, F Maxim Mamin.

Forwards

The Panthers traded away their all-time point leader after a 115-point season. If that doesn’t put pressure on the front office, then nothing will. In return for both Jonathan Huberdeau, top-pairing defender MacKenzie Weegar, and a first-round pick, Florida acquired Matthew Tkachuk. The good news is that Tkachuk is a superstar capable of replacing Huberdeau. But no forward could match the impact of both players. Tkachuk scored 42 goals with 104 points in 82 games for the Flames last season. He’ll get the chance to play with Aleksander Barkov, who has been nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy in each of the past seven seasons. A Byng and Selke winner, Barkov scored 39 goals in 67 games last season, with 88 total points. Barkov had an xGF% above 58, just like linemate Carter Verhaeghe. Verhaeghe has been a star since coming to the Panthers. He scored 24 goals with 55 points in the regular season, then scored six times with six assists in 10 postseason games.

Florida will be missing a key producer until at least December in Anthony Duclair, who has an Achilles injury. Duclair scored 31 goals with 58 points last season. Sam Reinhart’s first season with the Panthers couldn’t have gone any better. He scored a career-high 33 goals with 82 points in 78 games. Reinhart was tied for the second best xGF% on the team at 59.51 percent. Meanwhile, Sam Bennett proved that his amazing numbers after being acquired from Calgary in 2020-21 were not a fluke. He scored 28 goals with 49 points, both career-highs. He did this while being a full-time center for the first time since 2016-17. With Duclair hurt and Mason Marchment gone, the second-line left-wing is open. Of the new acquisitions, Rudolfs Balcers has the most offensive upside. Along with solid underlying numbers, he scored 11 goals with 23 points in 61 games for the Sharks last season.

Lost in the Calder race last season was Anton Lundell, who finished sixth in voting. The 2020 first-round pick scored 18 goals with 44 points in 65 games. Lundell was on the ice for a ridiculous 4.37 GF/60 at five-on-five. The next player for the Panthers to fix is Colin White, who was bought out by the Senators. White has just 51 points in his last 130 games after having 41 in his first full season. He played in only 24 games for Ottawa in 2021-22, recording 10 points. Veteran Nick Cousins will join his sixth NHL team, and play on the third-line. He had 22 points for the Predators last season. He doesn’t offer a ton of offense or play special teams.

Aside from Lundell, the Florida fourth-line could actually be better than the third. Veteran Patric Hornqvist is a huge part of it, even with his ice time being significantly cut back last season. Hornqvist had 28 points in 68 games with an amazing 65.26 xGF%. Ryan Lomberg had 92 penalty minutes with 117 hits in 55 games, while also scoring nine goals. Lomberg doesn’t get a ton of ice time when he does play, but had nearly one goal scored individually per 60 minutes. The final member of the line is Eetu Luostarinen, who has settled into a regular role after coming over from Carolina in the Vincent Trocheck trade. Luostarinen had 26 points in a career-high 78 games played. Another Senator trying to redeem himself is Chris Tierney, who started his Ottawa tenure off well, but struggled the last two seasons. He had 18 points in 70 games in 2021-22. In 40 games for the Ducks and Flyers last year, Gerald Mayhew scored 11 goals, putting him into an NHL roster spot discussion. The Panthers also have Eric Staal in camp on a PTO. He didn’t play in the NHL last year, instead playing in the Olympics.

Defensemen

Without Weegar, the Panthers’ defense looks a lot shallower. All of a sudden, they are dependent on Aaron Ekblad, who has sustained a major injury in the last two seasons. While playing in only 61 games last year, Ekblad scored a career-high 57 points, with 15 of them being goals. He finished sixth in Norris voting. His xGF% led Panther defenders by nearly four percentage points. The next man up on the left side is Gustav Forsling, who regularly played with every right-handed defender but Ekblad last year. Forsling has been a great find since being claimed off waivers in 2021. He had 37 points in 71 games last year but had a 3.33 xGA/60. The only Panther defender at a worse number was rental Ben Chiarot.

Brandon Montour unsurprisingly set a new career-high in points in his first season with the Panthers, scoring 11 goals with 26 assists. Montour’s 55.5 xGF% was second behind Ekblad on the Florida defense. Former Chicago draft pick Lucas Carlsson played in a career-high 40 games, although he averaged less than 13 minutes of ice time. Carlsson had nine points with a 2.67 xGA/60, the best among semi-regular Panther defensemen.

The physical presence that is Radko Gudas completed his second season in Florida with 355 hits. That didn’t only lead the NHL, but was also the seventh-most hits in a single season since it started to be tracked in 2005-06. Gudas is 13th in hits all-time in that span. He could easily pass Zdeno Chara, Dion Phaneuf, and maybe even Chris Neil this season to sneak into the top-ten. Gudas could be paired with Marc Staal, who is top-50 in blocked shots all-time. Staal only had 16 points in 71 games, but his GF/60 led Detroit defenders. Veteran Michael Del Zotto had 13 points in 26 games for the Senators last season, which is a good pace. If he gets into a game, the Panthers will be Del Zotto’s ninth NHL team.

Goaltending

The wild inconsistency of Sergei Bobrovsky continued in his third season with the team. Thankfully for Florida, it benefitted them this time. Bobrovsky had a .913 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA, which isn’t special by any means. However, he was top-ten in goals saved above expected, and was the sixth-best goalie in the playoffs. That doesn’t live up to his salary, but still nice to see after a few bad seasons. The concern lies on Spencer Knight, who had a disappointing rookie season. Knight played in 32 games, with a .908 save percentage, a 2.79 GAA, and a negative GSAx. Before jumping to conclusions, remember that it was his age-20 season.

Projected Lines

Matthew Tkachuk – Aleksander Barkov – Carter Verhaeghe

Rudolfs Balcers – Sam Bennett – Sam Reinhart

Nick Cousins – Anton Lundell – Colin White

Ryan Lomberg – Eetu Luostarinen – Patric Hornqvist

Scratched: Chris Tierney, Gerald Mayhew

Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad

Lucas Carlsson – Brandon Montour

Marc Staal – Radko Gudas

Scratched: Michael Del Zotto

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight