Polka's 2018-19 NHL Predictions!
As we prepared throughout the summer and pre-season to make our predictions known, every hockey fan, player or not, has guesses on who they feel will win certain awards and divisions in the upcoming season. Last year I predicted that Nikita Kucherov would win the Hart...he came close, but did nail the Victor Hedman Norris Trophy call. I nailed some calls and whiffed on a few last season, but that’s now the past. So without further ado, let’s look forward towards this season's predictions!
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Atlantic - Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston
Metropolitan - Pittsburgh, Columbus and Washington
Wild Cards - Philadelphia and Florida
Western Conference Playoffs
Central - Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis
Pacific - San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles
Wild Cards - Dallas and Edmonton
Eastern Conference Champion (Prince of Wales): Tampa Bay Lightning
Western Conference Champion (Campbell): Nashville Predators
Stanley Cup Champion: Tampa Bay Lightning
Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP): Nikita Kucherov
Regular Season Award Predictions
Hart Trophy - John Tavares, C – Toronto Maples Leafs
After doing the heavy lifting for years all by himself on Long Island, John Tavares is going to benefit more than any other Maple Leaf this season. They have weapons all over that lineup, especially with the man advantage. Look for a 100-point plus season from Tavares as he gets comfy in the hockey capital of the world.
Norris Trophy - Brett Burns, D/RW – San Jose Sharks
Many writers are penciling in newly acquired defenseman Erik Karlsson as their Norris winner. Not me. Burns leads the NHL in shots almost every year and he will be the one who takes full advantage of the Karlsson acquisition. I see Burns topping 80 points again this season if the forwards can stay healthy, as he leads the Sharks into a deep playoff run.
Calder Trophy - Filip Zadina, RW – Detroit Red Wings
Kind of a dark horse/homer pick for me here with Filip Zadina, but I was overjoyed when a player of this caliber dropped to my Red Wings at the sixth overall spot. Zadina swore revenge on the five teams that bypassed him, and he will get every chance to fulfill that promise. I have him skating on the Wings second line with Frans Nielson and Double A, Andreas Athanasiou.
Vezina Trophy - Mike Smith, G – Calgary Flames
Calgary isn't a team that will stand pat and they weren't happy with where the Dougie Hamilton experiment was headed. With that in mind, they went out and moved him to Carolina for another young defensive upstart in Noah Hanafin and I’m really happy with that move. Calgary has a very solid, top four defensive pairs, and as they mature more, defensive forward unit, even with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan lighting it up, and newly acquired James Neal. Look for a much tighter defensive unit up in the Saddledome this winter and Mike Smith will ride off with the Vezina.
Art Ross Trophy - Mark Scheifele, C – Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele missed 22 games last season, and the season before last he topped out at 82 points. With quick goal scorer’s hands or soft touch passes, (editor's note...does this sound sexual to you as well?) Scheifele is in a unique position to really pile up the points on the Jets top line with Kyle Conner and Captain, Blake Wheeler scoring at will. Not to mention the Jet’s high powered play unit that added goal scoring aficionado, Patrik Laine and bruiser, Dustin Byfuglien.
Rocket Richard Trophy – Auston Matthews, C – Toronto Maple Leafs
I am really looking forward to watching Matthews and the Leafs top-two lines and power play unit give third degree burns to goalies necks this season from the goal lamp being lit so often. Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have led the NHL in even-strength goals the past two seasons, but I expect even more now that JT is steering the Leafs ship, while Auston Matthews eclipses the 50 goal-plateau this season.
Be sure to follow me @PolkaPat for all kinds of jaded fantasy comments and any time you want, a hockey discussion.