Columbus Blue Jackets 2022-23 Season Preview

How did the Blue Jackets do it. Johnny Gaudreau was the best free agent available in years, and he chose Columbus?! No offense to the fans, but the franchise has built up a reputation for letting stars go. Now, they were able to lure in the player with the second-most points last season, behind only Connor McDavid. However, it doesn’t turn them into a great team. The Blue Jackets were average at best in 2021-22. They added a top winger, but holes remain.

Offseason additions: F Johnny Gaudreau, D Erik Gudbranson, F Mathieu Olivier, F James Neal (PTO).

Offseason subtractions: F Oliver Bjorkstrand, D Dean Kukan, D Gabriel Carlsson, D Scott Harrington.

Forwards

After years of superstardom, Gaudreau’s big year was 2021-22. He scored 40 goals with 75 assists for 115 points. Gaudreau led the league with a ridiculous plus-64 rating, and was nominated for both the Lady Byng and Selke Trophy, while finishing 4th in Hart voting. Following amazing production in an injured season, Patrik Laine was rewarded with an extension carrying an $8.7 million cap hit. In 56 games, he scored 26 goals with 30 assists, for a career-high points per game. While Laine produces, he is never one for great underlying numbers. He had a 39.4 xGF% last year, the worst on the team. Captain Boone Jenner scored 23 goals with 44 points, both the most since his 2015-16 season. In 2021-22, it was done in just 59 games. With Nick Foligno, David Savard, and Cam Atkinson leaving in recent seasons, Jenner is the longest-tenured player on the team.

He missed the entire 2020-21 season, but Gustav Nyquist returned with his third-best season in points. Nyquist scored 18 goals with 35 assists for 53 points. While bad goaltending luck played a role in it, Nyquist had a concerning 4.23 GA/60. The fire looked like it was running out on Jack Roslovic after a terrible start, as he had just 16 points in his first 39 games. He had 15 in his last 19 games, ending the season with 22 goals and 45 points. He is the only player returning to the Blue Jackets with a GF% over fifty. The cap repercussions of signing Gaudreau hurt the second line badly when Oliver Bjorkstrand had to be dumped off to Seattle. That allowed both Nyquist and Jakub Voracek to stay. Voracek led the team in points with 62 last season, with 56 of them being assists. He played in his 1,000th career game in 2021-22 and finished the year with exactly 800 points. The fact that over 72% of them have been assists is astonishing for a winger, but on brand for Voracek.

If Head Coach Brad Larsen allows it, Columbus could have a sick kid line headlined by Kent Johnson. Drafted fifth overall in 2021, Johnson played in both the Olympics and the World Juniors in this calendar year, and succeeded in both. He scored the golden goal in this year’s World Juniors, and had nine points in seven tournament games. After dominating at the University of Michigan, he had three assists in nine NHL games. While Johnson spent his season at Michigan and Beijing, the guy drafted seven picks after him, Cole Sillinger, had a full rookie season. While he didn’t receive any Calder votes, Sillinger scored 16 goals with 15 assists as an 18-year-old. The team thinks highly of 2018 second-rounder Krill Marchenko, who will come over from the KHL juggernaut that is SKA St. Petersburg. He scored 12 goals with eight assists in 39 games last year. The arrivals of Marchenko and Johnson would knock Yegor Chinakhov out of the lineup. A first-rounder in 2020, Chinakhov struggled during his rookie season, with 14 points in 62 games. He had a 40.1 xGF% and a feeble 32.07 GF%.

At least for 2021-22, the Blue Jackets found something in Justin Danforth. A former ECHL star, Danforth was nearly a point per game player in the KHL before making his NHL debut at age 28. In 45 games, Danforth netted 10 goals, with his 49.15 xGF% and 2.5 xGA/60 were both the best on the team. After setting a career-high in points, Eric Robinson received credit for getting Gaudreau to Columbus. Equipped with great speed, Robinson had 95 hits and 27 points in 67 games. The only forward with more short-handed ice time than Robinson was Sean Kuraly, the local kid who raised his single-season record of eight goals up to 14 last year, along with 16 assists. A fourth-round pick was sent to Nashville this offseason for Mathieu Olivier, who has 102 hits and seven points in 48 career games. Olivier played in just ten NHL games in 2021-22, but had 11 points in 46 AHL games with 76 penalty minutes. Emil Bemstrom played in exactly half of the games last year, with 11 points. He had a solid 49 xGF% and a 2.47 xGA/60.

Defensemen

After Seth Jones was traded, Zach Werenski became the number-one defender on Columbus, then set a new career-high with 48 points. In six career seasons, Werenski has not reached double-digit goals only once, when he had seven in 35 games in 2020-21. The strange choice to be his main partner is Andrew Peeke, who spent considerable time next to Werenski last year. Peeke is only 24, but he has the skillset of a bottom-four defender. In 82 games, he had 15 points with just 72 shots on net. Peeke blocked 169 shots with 191 hits in his first full NHL season with a 2.67 xGA/60, the best among regular Columbus defenders.

The most underrated player on a team that often has players labeled as underrated (the small market has a lot to do with that) is Vladislav Gavrikov, who was a legitimate top-four, two-way defender last year. He had 33 points in 80 games, with 138 blocked shots and 124 hits. Most of Columbus’ defenders had similar xGF/60 numbers, with Gavrikov being no different. The lead is held by both Werenski and Adam Boqvist at 2.41. Acquired from Chicago for Jones, Boqvist had 22 points in 52 games in a sheltered role, averaging roughly 17 minutes of ice time. While he scored 11 goals, Boqvist had a 17.2 shooting percentage. Not only would that be amazing for a forward, it is out of this world for a defender.

After never really getting a chance to play consistently in Carolina, Jake Bean had a solid first season with the Blue Jackets, and played a decent amount on the top pair with Werenski. In 67 games, Bean blocked 71 shots with 25 points. Part of the reason why the team had to trade Bjorkstrand was not just Gaudreau, but the interesting decision to give Erik Gudbranson $16 million over four seasons. He was a depth defender in 2020-21 for Ottawa and Nashville, but was a regular for Calgary last year. Gudbranson had 17 points in 78 games, with 92 blocks and 145 hits. Gavin Bayreuther played in more than half of the team’s games in 2021-22, but averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time, signifying that the trust was never really there.

Goaltending

The defense had its struggles last year, but the goaltending was far and away the number one reason why Columbus struggled last year. Despite that, they will be running it back with the same duo in net. They had to keep starter Elvis Merzlikins, who has five years left at a cap hit of $5.4 million. He was fine overall, with a .907 save percentage and a 3.22 GAA in 59 games. His goals saved above expected was negative 6.5. While that is obviously bad, it was better than some established goalies like Jack Campbell, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Binnington. Backup Joonas Korpisalo was the big issue, as he finished with a 4.15 GAA. Korpisalo had a -14.87 GSAx, the fifth worst in the league. The four goalies worse than him had at least 10 more games played.

Projected Lines

Johnny Gaudreau – Boone Jenner – Patrik Laine

Gustav Nyquist – Jack Roslovic – Jakub Voracek

Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Kirill Marchenko

Eric Robinson – Sean Kuraly – Justin Danforth

Scratched: Mathieu Olivier, Emil Bemstrom

Zach Werenski – Andrew Peeke

Vladislav Gavrikov – Adam Boqvist

Jake Bean – Erik Gudbranson

Scratched: Gavin Bayreuther

Elvis Merzlikins

Joonas Korpisalo

Colorado Avalanche 2022-23 Season Preview

At the end of the 2020-21 second round, Nathan MacKinnon was defeated as can be as he spoke to reporters, telling them that he hadn’t won anything in his career. Now, MacKinnon can say that he has a championship under his belt. The Avalanche were far from a one man team. With stars all over the lineup, they cruised through the postseason with goaltending being the only thing close to a weakness. Now, their starter has left. Can they run it back with two fringe starters?

Offseason additions: G Alex Georgiev, F Lukas Sedlak, D Brad Hunt, F Anton Blidh.

Offseason subtractions: F Nazem Kadri, F Andre Burakovsky, G Darcy Kuemper, F Nic Aube-Kubel, D Jack Johnson, D Ryan Murray, F Nico Sturm.

Forwards

Even before he scored 13 goals with 11 assists in 20 playoff games, 2021-22 was another amazing season for MacKinnon. Playing in just 65 games, he scored 32 goals with 56 assists for 88 points. MacKinnon has 648 points in 638 career regular season games and is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. His bargain of a contract at $6.3 million a season ends after 2022-23. It would be a shock if he didn’t break Connor McDavid’s current cap hit record. Mikko Rantanen led the team with 92 points while also scoring 36 goals. Remarkably, he still didn’t get a vote for any major awards. At five-on-five, Rantanen was on the ice for 4.36 goals for per 60 minutes. That led the team by roughly .4 goals, the difference between MacKinnon in second place and seventh place. Captain Gabriel Landeskog played in just 51 regular season games, but returned to have 22 points in 20 playoff games. He scored 30 goals for the second time with a total of 59 points.

The Avalanche received outstanding second line production from Nazem Kadri, which also priced him out of Colorado. They will need JT Compher to help patch up the loss. His 18 goals and 33 points were both career-highs last season. With four major pending free agents, Colorado could only afford to bring back one in Valeri Nichushkin. He upped his value in the playoffs, scoring nine goals with six assists in 20 games. This production wasn’t as much of a surprise to Avalanche fans, as he scored 25 goals with 52 points in 62 regular season games. Nichushkin also led the team with 3.14 xGF/60 and was eighth in xGA/60. There’s already a new Nichushkin-in-training on the team after Artturi Lehkonen came over at the deadline from Montreal. Lehkonen’s stint with the Canadiens had him record an expected goals plus-minus relative to his teammates of one, which was the best in the NHL (per Evolving-Hockey). He scored six times in 16 games following the deal.

Many expected Alex Newhook to be incredible in his rookie season, and he did deliver with a solid campaign, albeit not an Earth-shattering one. Newhook didn’t have a huge role on the team, but he did score 13 goals with 20 assists in 71 games. He dressed for 12 playoff games, with four assists. Logan O’Connor had a 2.13 xGA/60 last year, behind only Landeskog among team forwards. In his first full season, he added eight goals with 16 assists and had four more in the playoffs. There is still a competition for bottom-six roles, with 2018 first-rounder Martin Kaut in the thick of it. Kaut played in six NHL games last year, spending most of the year in the AHL. He scored 19 goals with 31 points in 46 games for the Colorado Eagles. Journeyman Jayson Megna is also a possibility. He had three assists in 20 NHL games, with 33 points in 38 AHL ones.

Former NHL iron man Andrew Cogliano came over from the Sharks at the deadline and had just one assist in 18 games. However, he played in 16 playoff matches, scoring three goals with three assists. He’d been to the finals before with Dallas, but Cogliano won his first Stanley Cup in the same year that he eclipsed 1100 regular season games played. Another veteran with a minor role on the team was Darren Helm, who had one already from his seven games played for Detroit in 2007-08. Helm had 15 points in 68 games, but a low PDO led to 38.57 GF%. However, blaming PDO with Helm doesn’t tell the full story. He hasn’t had a PDO of 100 in a season since 2014-15. Colorado signed the top college free agent in Ben Meyers, who played in five games at the end of the year. At the University of Minnesota, Meyers scored 17 goals with 24 assists for 41 points in 34 games. Another option is Lukas Sedlak, who had 27 points in 162 games for the Blue Jackets from 2016-17 to 2018-19. Playing for Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL last year, Sedlak had 43 points in 49 games.

Defensemen

It feels like it would be a shock if Cale Makar doesn’t win another Norris Trophy in his career. He scored 28 goals with 58 assists in 77 games. Not only that, but Makar had 29 points in 20 playoff games to take home the Conn Smythe as well. He was also great defensively, on the ice for only 1.95 goals against per 60 at five-on-five. The pair of Makar and Devon Toews was dominant all season long, as both had a GF% over 64 percent. Toews doesn’t have the offensive skill of Makar, but he still had 57 points in 66 games with 15 more points in the playoffs. Toews had a 2.1 xGA/60 while having a shot differential per 60 of nearly eleven.

The big player for the Avalanche to get right is Sam Girard, who had 32 points in 48 games in 2020-21, but had just 28 in 67 games last year. Girard also played in just seven games in the postseason. Girard has five years left on his contract, and the Avalanche reportedly looked at every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse for a trade including him. He is still a good skater with upside. With their limited cap space, Colorado chose to extend Josh Manson after getting him from Anaheim at the deadline. He had seven points in 22 games, then eight more in the playoffs. There is a ton of skill on the blue line, but Manson is part of the big, tough guy school of defense.

Girard’s injury gave a lane for Bowen Byram to succeed, and he capitalized. Byram had 17 points in 30 regular season games. He played in every playoff game, recording nine assists and a playoff-high plus-15 rating. Veteran Erik Johnson was finally healthy after missing almost all of 2020-21. He played in 77 games in the regular season, with 25 points. Kurtis MacDermid’s most famous moment from his first year with the team was him falling over with the Cup in his hands, but he did dress for 58 games, a career-high. He had 89 penalty minutes with 105 hits.

Goalies

Without the money to bring back Darcy Kuemper or get a starter on his level, the Avalanche decided to go with a goalie split between Pavel Francouz and newcomer Alex Georgiev. Injuries have been a problem for Francouz, who missed all of 2020-21. In 21 games in 2021-22, he had a .916 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA. He got four starts in the playoffs and came into seven games total. Georgiev was the backup to Igor Shesterkin in New York, so he wasn’t needed often. He has his ups-and-downs, but his .898 save percentage was a career-low. The Avalanche have a better team in front of him, so his numbers can improve.

Projected Lines

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin – JT Compher – Artturi Lehkonen

Logan O’Connor – Alex Newhook – Martin Kaut

Andrew Cogliano – Ben Meyers – Darren Helm

Scratched: Jayson Megna, Lukas Sedlak

Devon Toews – Cale Makar

Sam Girard – Josh Manson

Bowen Byram – Erik Johnson

Scratched: Kurtis MacDermid

Pavel Francouz

Alex Georgiev

Chicago Blackhawks 2022-23 Season Preview

Should we feel bad for Blackhawk fans? In the last 12 years, they have not only witnessed their team lift the Stanley Cup, something many fanbases could any dream about, but they’ve done it three times in that frame. But that 2010 team has already been tainted by disturbing sexual assault allegations, something that the team is trying hard to make us forget about. Unfortunately, the product on the ice won’t do that. New GM Kyle Davidson purged the roster, leaving franchise icons Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in a tough spot. Entering a contract year, could they be traded, and will it be sooner rather than later?

Offseason additions: F Max Domi, F Andreas Athanasiou, F Colin Blackwell, D Jack Johnson, G Petr Mrazek, G Alex Stalock.

Offseason subtractions: F Alex DeBrincat, F Dylan Strome, F Dominik Kubalik, F Kirby Dach, D Erik Gustafsson, D Calvin de Haan, F Henrik Borgstrom, F Brett Connolly, G Kevin Lankinen.

Forwards

Patrick Kane’s main linemates last year were Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Kirby Dach. Assuming he stays with the Blackhawks, he will be playing with some completely different guys. Kane isn’t a great expected goals player, as he was sixth on the team in xGF/60. But he never stopped producing. In 78 games, Kane scored 26 goals with 66 assists for 92 points, tied for 14th in the league. All of Chicago’s free agent signings are obvious candidates to be traded at the deadline. That happened to Max Domi last season, when Carolina added him for their playoff run. Domi had six points in 14 playoff games, with 39 in the regular season. Drafted 17th overall in 2020, Lukas Reichel got some time with Kane last year, when he had one assist in 11 NHL games. He was much better in the AHL, scoring 21 goals with 57 points in 56 games.

After missing all of the 2020-21 season, Jonathan Toews returned and played in 71 games. 2019-20 was the first time that he didn’t score 20 goals, but he set a new career-low with 12 in 2021-22. Toews also had 37 points, marking the second time in his career that he had under 50. The other time was when he had 48 in the 48-game 2012-13 season. The Blackhawks are not trying to win this year at all, but they definitely expect more out of Toews. The Kings only got 28 games out of Andreas Athanasiou last year, but he still gave them 11 goals, for an 82-game pace of 32. Scoring thirty goals is something that he has done before, albeit the results since 2018-19 have not been great. He is known for his speed and also weak defense. After coming over from Tampa Bay for Brandon Hagel, Taylor Raddysh received a boost in ice-time and scored six goals with four assists in 21 games. Add in his Lightning numbers, and he had an eleven-goal rookie season.

Along with Mark Giordano, the Maple Leafs brought in Colin Blackwell from Seattle, but the forward was not as successful with three points in 19 games. He still scored 10 goals on the season, a year after netting 12 in 47 games with the Rangers. Even at five-foot-nine, Blackwell had 91 hits in 58 games. Another short king is Tyler Johnson, a former 72-point scorer who feels a lot older than 32. Injuries limited him to just 26 games last year, as he had seven points. He had a GF% of just 36.4 percent. In his second season, Philipp Kurashev had 21 points in 67 games. He suffered from a low on-ice shooting percentage of 6.46. The fact that there were many other forwards on the team lower than that reflects the situation that Chicago had last season.

Along with Raddysh, Chicago also brought in Boris Katchouk from Tampa Bay, although he didn’t have as much success. He had just one point, a goal, in 21 games. In 2020-21, Katchouk had 34 points in 29 AHL games, so there is potential. Of the 379 NHL forwards with at least 500 minutes of ice time, Mackenzie Entwistle’s shots for per 60 was last, as he was the only one under 20. Taking just 34 shots in 55 games, Entwistle isn’t on the team for offensive production. He laid 129 hits while only getting about ten minutes of ice time per game. The Blackhawks shipped out former first-rounder Alex Nylander to Pittsburgh last year for Sam Lafferty, who had 11 points in 46 games. The only returning Blackhawk with a better xGF% at five-on-five is Toews. His GF% was a putrid 30.6 percent, thanks to a 95.9 PDO. Jujhar Khaira missed time last year with a back injury and got into just 27 games. With 285 games played under his belt, he is the veteran of the group competing to be on the fourth-line. Reese Johnson is also in the mix, but his first season was a struggle, as he had an xGF% just under 37.

Defensemen

Seth Jones got a ton of hate in Chicago because of the huge cost to both acquire and extended him. While former GM Stan Bowman did give up too much in both instances, Jones responded with a very good first season on a bad team. He had a rough PDO, but still managed 51 points, 19 of which were on the power play. Jones blocked 155 shots with 99 hits while playing over 26 minutes a game. Along with Erik Gustafsson, Jones was on the ice for the most shots for his team. Both Gustafsson and Calvin de Haan have left, leaving Jake McCabe as the most suitable option next to Jones. After missing almost all of the 2020-21 season, McCabe responded with a career-high 22 points with having over 160 blocked shots and hits each.

The brother of Seth, Caleb Jones, came over last year for franchise icon Duncan Keith. The younger Jones had 15 points in 51 games. His 2.54 GA/60 was the best among regular Blackhawk defenders. Jones and his partner, Connor Murphy, were the top-two in xGA/60. Murphy is a pure defensive defender, with just 1.84 xGF/60. He hasn’t played in 60 games in a season since 2017-18, his first as a Blackhawk, albeit a shortened season prevented it in 2020-21.

It was no secret that the Avalanche were a juggernaut last year, and Jack Johnson was a part of their Stanley Cup-winning defense. He appeared in 13 playoff games and 74 regular season games. Sure, Johnson is by no means a star defenseman. You can almost guarantee that the underlying numbers will be ugly this year. But he has the veteran presence that the Blackhawks are yearning for. After 32 games at Boston University, Alex Vlasic went directly to the NHL and played 15 games. His numbers were surprisingly very good, as he had a 55.5 xGF%, and his xGF/60 and xGA/60 were better than any regular Blackhawk defender. Of course, sample size matters, but it was an encouraging step for the rookie. Riley Stillman played in 52 games last season, but could be the one to fall into a seventh defender role in 2022-23. He recorded 12 points with 122 hits in 2021-22.

Goalies

Chicago moved back up into the first round in this year’s draft for taking on the contract of Petr Mrazek, who will be their starter now. All the team needs is two bodies to play goalie, which is what they are going to get. Mrazek had a .923 save percentage in 12 games in 2020-21 before signing with Toronto. Up north, he had a 3.34 GAA and .888 save percentage. The backup is veteran Alex Stalock, who came back from myocarditis to play one game for the Sharks last year. Before that, he had a .910 save percentage with the Wild in 2019-20.

Projected Lines

Lukas Reichel – Max Domi – Patrick Kane

Andreas Athanasiou – Jonathan Toews – Taylor Raddysh

Philipp Kurashev – Tyler Johnson – Colin Blackwell

Boris Katchouk – Sam Lafferty – Mackenzie Entwistle

Scratched: Jujhar Khaira, Reese Johnson

Jake McCabe – Seth Jones

Caleb Jones – Connor Murphy

Alex Vlasic – Jack Johnson

Scratched: Riley Stillman

Petr Mrazek

Alex Stalock

Carolina Hurricanes 2022-23 Season Preview

The “Bunch of Jerks” Hurricanes still have a ton of faces currently on the team, but the identity has changed. Carolina has actually spent above the salary cap this year, negating a common criticism of ownership. The Hurricanes made some huge moves, but they still managed to be forgotten in a big offseason. The fact that they have both Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty feels like it hasn’t been talked about enough. Sure, Burns is not his old self and Pacioretty is injured, but both are difference-makers. The main issue for the franchise lately has been postseason play. The Metropolitan Division is always tough, but this year’s team will be judged on how the year ends.

Offseason additions: D Brent Burns, F Max Pacioretty, F Paul Stastny, F Ondrej Kase, D Dylan Coghlan, F Ryan Dzingel, F Lane Pederson.

Offseason subtractions: F Vincent Trocheck, D Tony DeAngelo, F Nino Niederreiter, D Ian Cole, F Steven Lorentz, D Brendan Smith, F Max Domi.

Forwards

The Hurricanes lost a top-two forward on the team by xGF% and GF% last year in… Nino Niederreiter. He dominated on a third-line role that needs to be filled. The answer not being Sebastian Aho is a bit of a surprise, but Aho was still near the top. He also led the team in points by 12, with 81 in 79 games. He scored 37 goals, one off his career-high. Both Aho and Teuvo Teravainen were actually in the middle of the team in goals for percentage. Teravainen is often receiving Byng votes, although he took 12 minor penalties and was not nominated for the first time since 2016-17. His 43 assists were one behind Aho for second on the squad. Looking to spread the wealth, Carolina promoted rookie Seth Jarvis to the top line. He was only thirteenth in Calder voting, but Jarvis scored 17 goals with 23 assists for 40 points in 68 games. The line could get even better when Max Pacioretty returns in February from a torn Achilles.

The emergence of Jarvis allowed the team to move Andrei Svechnikov, whose 69 points were second on the team, down to the second-line. At age 21, he scored 30 goals for the first time, and was 25th in the NHL in shots. In all four of his NHL seasons, Svechnikov has over 100 hits. He was one of ten players with 30 goals and 100 hits last season. With Vincent Trocheck off to New York, the Hurricanes opted for the cheaper option in veteran Paul Stastny. Spending his last two seasons in Winnipeg, Stastny was not a bad second-line center. He scored 21 goals with 45 points in 71 games last year. The player who obviously needs to step up his game is Martin Necas, who was the only Hurricane with an xGF% under 50 last year. Necas had 41 points in 53 games in 2020-21, but scored 14 goals with just 40 points in 78 games last year, going backwards.

While Niederreiter is gone, his linemates still remain. Jesper Fast edged him out by 0.06 percent for the team lead in xGF%, at 59.37. Fast scored a career-high 14 goals and 34 points while playing in 82 games for the first time. In his tenth year as a Hurricane, Jordan Staal scored 17 goals, his most since 2017-18. He received Selke votes for the seventh consecutive season, and 14th time overall. Staal was on the ice for just over two goals per 60 minutes. Carolina infamously offer-sheeted Jesperi Kotkaniemi last offseason, but played him on a fourth-line role. They have a good opportunity to move him up the lineup. He scored 12 goals with 29 points in 66 games last season. Kotkaniemi is yet to match the 34 points that he had as a 18-year-old rookie.

The Hurricanes will bank on the high upside of Ondrej Kase, who once again struggled with injuries, appearing in just 50 games for the Maple Leafs. In his first semi-full season since 2019-20, Kase did score 14 goals with 13 assists, for a pace of 23 goals and 44 points over 82 games. The problem is that Kase has never played in over 66 games in a season. Jordan Martinook hasn’t come close yet to the 15 goals that he had in his first year as a Hurricane, with a diminished role and injuries affecting his production. Martinook scored six times with nine assists in 59 games last year. Former top-six center Derek Stepan is back on a professional tryout. With Pacioretty out, it would be a surprise to see Stepan not get a contract with the team. He had 19 points in 58 games in 2021-22, while his 2.17 xGA/60 was the best on the club. The Canes brought in Lane Pederson as a part of the Burns trade. He really struggled with San Jose last year, with a team-worst 36.3 xGF% and just two assists in 29 games. Ryan Dzingel is back with the team after he recorded 33 points in 75 games with the team in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He spent last season with the Coyotes and Sharks, scoring five goals with three assists in 32 games.

Defensemen

Burns feels like a weird fit with the Canes, but that could be said about any team that isn’t the Sharks. While his 29-goal 2016-17 season is far behind him, Burns can still produce. He scored 10 goals with 44 assists in 82 games last year, and was one of two San Jose defenders with a GF% over 50. Even at age 37, durability isn’t a huge concern with Burns. He has not missed a game since the 2013-14 season. He is the real successor to Dougie Hamilton, and any defensive shortcomings that he has can be covered up by Jaccob Slavin. The 28-year-old led the Canes’ defense with a 57.7 xGF% and also had a 62 GF% while adding 42 points to the mix, a career-high. Slavin finished second in Lady Byng voting a year after winning it, while also being top-ten in Norris votes.

The entirety of the Hurricanes’ defense core had good underlying numbers, although of the six regular defenders, their second-pair were the bottom-two in xGF%. Already entering his eighth NHL season, Brett Peace scored seven goals with 21 assists. Brady Skjei’s nine goals where second on the team’s defensive core behind only the departed Tony DeAngelo.

There were chatters this offseason that Carolina could move Ethan Bear, just one year after acquiring him from Edmonton. Instead, they signed Bear to a one-year deal, keeping him as a restricted free agent next year. The Hurricanes have four right-handed defenders and two left-handed ones, so Bear could be the one who is forced to play on his off-side. That would be opposite Dylan Coghlan, who came from Vegas as a sweetener for taking on Pacioretty’s contract. In his first full-season, Coghlan had 13 points in a very sheltered 59 games. The seventh defenseman is slated to be Jalen Chatfield, who had three assists in 16 games last season. In 44 regular season AHL games, he had 18 points, then recorded eight in 18 playoff matches.

Goaltending

The questionable decision to move on from surprise rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and instead sign two-injury riddled goalies worked out well in the regular season, before they both got hurt by game seven of the second-round. Frederik Andersen was a revelation in net, finishing behind only Igor Shesterkin in goals saved above expected, with 28.5. In 52 games, he had a 2.17 GAA and a .922 save percentage, while finishing fourth in Vezina voting. The duo of Andersen and Antti Raanta split the Jennings Trophy, as Raanta added a .912 save percentage and 2.45 GAA. Raanta was spectacular in the playoffs, with a .922 save percentage in 13 starts.

Projected Lines

Teuvo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Seth Jarvis

Andrei Svechnikov – Paul Stastny – Martin Necas

Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Jordan Staal – Jesper Fast

Jordan Martinook – Derek Stepan – Ondrej Kase

Scratched: Ryan Dzingel, Lane Pederson

Jaccob Slavin – Brent Burns

Brady Skjei – Brett Pesce

Ethan Bear – Dylan Coghlan

Scratched: Jalen Chatfield

Frederik Andersen

Antti Raanta

Calgary Flames 2022-23 Season Preview

The Flames have to be the unanimous winner of the “Team of the Offseason” award. Faced with the impending doom of Johnny Gaudreau leaving in free agency and Matthew Tkachuk wanting out, Calgary was able to replace both of them. Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau may not be as good as Gaudreau and Tkachuk, especially at their age, but they still make the Flames a contender. They also upgraded their defense, making their starting six one of the best in the game.

Offseason additions: F Jonathan Huberdeau, F Nazem Kadri, D MacKenzie Weegar, F Kevin Rooney.

Offseason subtractions: F Johnny Gaudreau, F Matthew Tkachuk, F Sean Monahan, D Erik Gudbranson, F Brett Ritchie, F Calle Jarnkrok, F Glenn Gawdin, F Ryan Carpenter.

Forwards

With both of his linemates gone, Elias Lindholm will need to be the star of the Flames. He has 261 points in 289 games since coming to Calgary, with his best season being 2021-22. Lindholm scored 42 goals with 82 points in 82 games, reaching the point per game mark for the first time. The Panthers surprisingly traded their all-time point leader in Huberdeau, who led the league with 85 assists last season. He added 30 goals, for 115 points in 80 games. Huberdeau has averaged over a point per game in four consecutive seasons. The big difference between him and his predecessors, besides age, is defense, as well as physicality compared to Tkachuk. Tyler Toffoli had a big shortened season for Montreal in 2020-21 and was one of their best players last year before the Flames traded for him. With Calgary, Toffoli scored 11 goals with 12 assists in 37 games, adding five points in 12 playoff games.

The Flames are not a bad team, but it will be hard to see Kadri match his 2021-22 numbers. The second-line center for the dynamic Avalanche, Kadri scored 28 goals with 87 points in 71 games. On the way to a Stanley Cup win, he scored seven goals with eight assists in 16 games. The team’s breakout star of last season was Andrew Mangiapane, who scored 35 goals with 20 assists. He was also the third-best forward on the team in xGA/60. Another young player who took a big step forward last season was Dillon Dube, scoring 18 goals in his age-23 season. That was all lost when he put up just one assist and no goals during the postseason.

The signing of Kadri will bump Mikael Backlund, the steady number two center in Calgary for years, down to line three. It will also separate him from one of his primary linemates in Mangiapane, and potentially Blake Coleman as well. While receiving Selke votes for the fifth time in his career, Backlund finished with 39 points in 82 games and was fourth among team forwards with a 59.7 xGF%. Only the entire top line had him beat in that category. After achieving third line fame in Tampa Bay, Coleman got nearly $5 million per season with the Flames. Despite playing on the second line, Coleman’s average time on ice was the lowest it had been since 2017-18. He scored 16 goals and 33 points, which were each two more than in 2020-21, but he played in 26 more games. After lighting up the QMJHL, Jakob Pelletier went to the AHL and had similar results. In 66 games, he scored 27 goals with 35 assists for 62 points. The 2019 first-round pick is now headed to the NHL to fill the hole left by rental Calle Jarnkrok.

The infamous contract of Milan Lucic is entering its final year. As this monumental season starts, Lucic has a role that fits him well as a physical fourth-liner. The foot speed is bad, like it always was, and Lucic doesn’t score anymore, with just 34 over the past four seasons. Of the ten forwards with at least 500 minutes of ice time for the Flames last year, only Lucic and Trevor Lewis had an xGF% under fifty. Lewis, a two-time champion who has spent his entire 14-year career in the Western Conference, had 16 points in 80 games last year. His 176 hits was his most since 2014-15. After a deep playoff run with the Rangers, Calgary signed center Kevin Rooney to a two-year deal. While the Rangers had success, their bottom-six was not a reason why. Rooney had a 39.75 xGF% with 12 points in 61 games. Luckily, Igor Shesterkin exists, and Rooney had an on-ice save percentage of .947 at five-on-five. On the plus side, he was one of New York’s most effective penalty killers. Slovakian center Adam Ruzicka scored five goals with five assists in 28 games last year. Thanks to a 103.8 PDO, Ruzicka had a 78.2 goals for percentage.

Defensemen

There are multiple defensive injuries on this Flames team, but none should cause anyone to miss significant time. Despite a major acquisition, the Flames will likely keep their top pair of Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin together. Both players had an xGF% approaching fifty-seven percent and combined for 84 assists and 98 points. Hanifin’s 48 points were a career-high by 15, from his first season as a Flame. Andersson was one of the few defenders with 50 points last season.

Chris Tanev has been one of the few top-four, pure shutdown defenders for almost a decade. At age 32, he set a new career-high in points with 28. His 22 assists alone would’ve set his record. He also had the best xGA/60 on the team, at 2.09. That of course rubbed off on his main partner, Oliver Kylington, who was second at 2.19. Kylington is much more offensively-minded, scoring nine goals with 31 points while playing in a full season for the first time.

It is definitely weird to see MacKenzie Weegar in a third-pairing role, but he could be if Darryl Sutter sticks with his previous top-four. Weegar was arguably the best defender on the juggernaut that was the Florida Panthers last year before coming over with Huberdeau in the Tkachuk trade. While receiving Norris votes for the second consecutive season, Weegar scored 44 points with 156 blocked shots and 179 hits. He was also fifth in the league in xGF% (minimum 1000 TOI). Weegar could be partnered with Nikita Zadorov, who is arguably the ideal third-pairing defender. While he does not contribute offensively, Zadorov is big, physical, and effective in his own zone. Despite that, he was used the fifth most among Flame defenders on the penalty kill.

Former first-rounder Juuso Valimaki was consistently on the AHL shuttle last year, and only got into nine NHL games. He added 18 points in 35 games for the Stockton Heat. It looks like 2022-23 could be the year that Valimaki stays with the big club, albeit in a seventh-defender role. Nicolas Meloche is another option. He signed a two-way deal after playing in 50 games for the Sharks last season.

Goaltending

It was a tale of two seasons for Jacob Markstrom in 2021-22. He was one of the league’s best goalies in the regular season, with a 2.22 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He was also sixth in the league in goals saved above expected. But in the playoffs, Markstrom was not good, with a negative goals saved above expected, and a .901 save percentage. His backup, Dan Vladar, was a rookie and put up fine numbers. He had a .906 save percentage and a 2.75 GAA, with a GSAA near zero.

Projected Lines

Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli

Dillon Dube – Nazem Kadri – Andrew Mangiapane

Jakob Pelletier – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman

Milan Lucic – Kevin Rooney – Trevor Lewis

Scratched: Adam Ruzicka

Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson

Oliver Kylington – Chris Tanev

Nikita Zadorov – MacKenzie Weegar

Scratched: Juuso Valimaki, Nicolas Meloche

Jacob Markstrom

Dan Vladar