Puck drops for the 2021-22 season are finally here!
Like always, hope springs eternal for all 32 teams — welcome to team No. 32: the Seattle Kraken — but not every team has the same objective. Some teams like the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Maple Leafs are Stanley Cup or bust. Others are hoping for one more chance as their windows close like Sidney Crosby and the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Teams like the Devils, Blackhawks and, yes, even the Kraken, are looking to take that next step and some teams are already signing up for the Shane Wright sweepstakes.
BEST OF THE BEST: Top 10 defensemen | Top 10 goalies | Top 10 forwards | Top 25 under 25
Back for 2022 is the usual playoff format with the top team in the conference facing the second wild card, the other division winner playing the first wild card and N. 2 going up against No. 3 in an inter-divisional battle.
The road to the Stanley Cup is a long, twisting, curving one with never-ending potholes ending in a glorious result for one team — the Stanley Cup champion. Who will be there is the greatest mystery. Will the Lightning pull a Bulls-like three-peat? Can the Maple Leafs finally put the ghosts of playoffs — 54 years worth — pasts behind them?
Predicting what will be is always a tricky concept — and in all likelihood, none of this will come to fruition — but now with the 2021-22 season here it’s time to look into the future and see who will make it one to remember.
Watch the 2021-22 NHL season live on ESPN+
SN’s NHL award predictions for 2021-22
AWARDS ODDS AND BEST BETS: Calder | Vezina | Norris | Hart
SN’s standings predictions for 2021-22
The Eastern Conference is expected to be business as usual in 2021-22 with just one team moving on up — the Rangers. It’s fair to say the rebuild is over in New York powered by new bench boss Gerard Gallant (who has a knack for taking a team far in his first year), new $8.5 million-per-year man Mika Zibanejad and the young stars led by Norris Trophy guy Adam Fox.
Atlantic Division: 5. Montreal Canadiens; 6. Ottawa Senators; 7. Detroit Red Wings; 8. Buffalo Sabres
Metropolitan Division: 5. New Jersey Devils; 6. Pittsburgh Penguins; 7. Philadelphia Flyers; 8. Columbus Blue Jackets
DEVILS SIGN GAUTHIER: Ex-Leaf commits to change: ‘I have a lot more to offer’
Welcome to the NHL Seattle! This pick — and most of the picks out West — were based on goaltending (ok, Oilers have McDavid and Draisaitl and Hyman so that was why). Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger are a solid 1-2 punch and as every night the team has a guy who wants to prove a point (and will have money on the board).
Central Division: 6. St. Louis Blues; 7. Nashville Predators; 8. Arizona Coyotes
Pacific Division: 4. Vancouver Canucks; 5. Los Angeles Kings; 6. Calgary Flames; 7. Anaheim Ducks; 8. San Jose Sharks
*Presidents’ Trophy winner
NHL 2021-22 BREAKDOWN: Key dates, new divisions and more
SN’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs predictions
What’s more fun than simply picking a Stanley Cup winner? Picking every single series!
Here is how we see the Stanley Cup playoffs playing out including our pick to win it all.
OLYMPICS 2022: Rosters for every country as they are announced
Stanley Cup Final
Who will play in the actual Stanley Cup Final is anyone’s guess but the Islanders and Golden Knights have been two of the most consistent teams in the last few years. If this is the matchup it’ll be the Islanders against ex-teammate — and the guy who loved his time on the Island — Robin Lehner. The Islanders have played solid hockey under mastermind Barry Trotz and there’s no reason to think they won’t punch through 39 years after the last Cup.
Conn Smythe: Mathew Barzal, Islanders
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