Article written by: Jonathan Camponovo

Welcome to Leading-Sport’s NHL Corner and this new article!

During this long period without ice hockey it’s inevitable to start thinking about next season and teams that are reinforcing themselves the most.

There are teams who are very busy while others are more cautious. There are those whose roster is basically ready and there are also finally those who run out of money when it comes to the salary cup and are focusing mostly on trades.

In this article, we talk about five teams that, in our opinion, are the ones to watch out in view of next season.

We’re not going to mention the teams that are necessarily the favourites to win the title next year, but we mention those that improved the most compared to last season.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils are doing great things during this off-season after a disappointing year.

New Jersey finished last season 29th placed and won the lottery draft (we talked about it in the following article )

The “luck” then allowed them to choose Jack Hughes as the number one pick at the 2019 NHL draft. We mean, it’s not really a transfer as we are used to in Europe. But the Devils’ hope is to count on two dominant centers for the next 15 years.

Together with Hughes in fact, let us not forget about our Nico Hischier (1st pick at the 2017 draft) who already made a name for himself in the NHL even though he’s only 20.

Moreover, Wayne Simmonds joined the Devils from Nashville. The latter is a very solid winger capable of playing physical and who can potentially score about 30 goals per season. He just won the “Mark Messier Award” because of his leadership and he’ll be a reference point for the “young Devils”. Moreover, he’s going to help New Jersey also during power-play opportunities.

When it comes to the defence instead, the Devils got P.K. Subban thanks to a trade. The latter is also coming from Nashville. Subban is a 30 years old defenseman who excels during power-play opportunities and is a good penalty killer too. He was the best defenseman of the league back in 2012-13. Surely, he’s gonna play in one of the first two defensive pairs, together with Butcher, Vatanen and Severson. Yep, Severson… we’re pretty sure you all remember him as he scored the goal for Canada against Switzerland in the last second of play during the last Worlds’ quarterfinal.

Finally, the latest addition to the roster is Nikita Gusev, 27 years old winger from Russia who was the leading scorer (82 points in 62 games) during the last KHL season.

This last transfer means that the Devils now can count on an excellent top six.

New York Rangers

What we just said about the New Jersey Devils, can apply also to the Big Apple’s based side. The New York Rangers are coming off a disappointing season but nevertheless had the luck to “win” the second pick at the 2019 NHL draft and added Kaapo Kakko to their roster. The latter is only 18 and already did great things with TPS and the Finnish national team.

The biggest transfer, however, is the former Columbus Artemi Panarin… he tallied 87 points in 79 games last season. The 27 years old Russian signed a 7-year contract worth 11.5 million per year! Last season the Rangers had only the 23rd attacking record of the league and only Zibanejad was able to tally more than 50 points. In this regard, Panarin’s arrival is pure gold.

When it comes to defence instead, Jacob Trouba joined the Rangers. He tallied 50 points last season and he brings in a lot. In New York, the last defenseman able to score over 50 points a season was Brian Leetch back in 2001… Finally, the young guns Chytil, Andersson and Fox will improve New York roster depth.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Canadian side is very active during this off-season and already added several good players to their rosters. We mean, perhaps they didn’t improve like the Rangers and the Devils… but thanks to some good trades, they are now an interesting team. More precisely, the Maple Leafs reinforced their defence. They got Ceci and Harpur from Ottawa (two big men, 95kg and 101kg) and Tyson Barrie from Colorado who scored 60 points during the last Regular Season.

On the other hand, they lost Nazem Kadri… a very strong center who nevertheless struggled to find place in the top six because the Leafs can already count on Matthews (former ZSC Lions) and Tavares. By letting Kadri go, however, Toronto increased their salary cap availability… and that led them to have the sources to extend Mitch Marner’s contract and to sign Jason Spezza. The latter is a very experienced 36 years old.

Finally, they even traded the experienced Patrick Marleau for future picks at the next draft. All these movements allow Toronto to have more money to spend on the short term. We mean, when it came to New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils… it came to two teams who can now hope to make the playoffs. When it comes to the Maple Leafs instead, it comes to a team who can fight for the Stanley Cup!

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche made it to the Conference semifinals last season. They were already a strong side but way too much dependent on their first offensive line (MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen). That is why Joe Sakic – former legend of the Avalanche – tried to reinforce in a clever way the offensive department. Starting from next season there will be a brand-new second line. All thanks to the transfers of Nazem Kadri, Burakovsky and Donskoi who joined the team.

When it comes to defence instead, the talented Cale Makar joined from the minors and Bowen Byram joined thanks to the NHL 2019 draft. They will reinforce a defence that was already solid. The experts expect Colorado to be one of the best sides in the next years.

Florida Panthers

Florida improved quite a lot thanks to the arrivals of Sergei Bobrovsky. The Russian goalie, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 and 2017, is what the Panthers really needed to level up and try to make the playoffs. Bobrovsky is not only a good goalie but is also very consistent. He’s been playing 190 games over the last three seasons – only Dubnyk and Andersen did better.

The 40 years old Longo (who lately retired after a great career) and James Reimer were not up to the task for the Panthers last season and were a problem. Florida in fact, goalies excluded, have a great potential. They didn’t make the playoffs last season, yet they had the 9th best scoring record and the second power-play of the league. Moreover, 5 players scored more than 62 points: Barkov, Huberdeau, Hoffman, Dadonov and Yandle.

There is then another great player who joined Florida, we’re talking about the legendary coach Joel Quenneville. “Coach Q” won 3 Stanley Cups with Chicago and is very offensive minded. That should suit the Panthers very well. During the last 10 seasons while coaching Chicago, his team was the third one for goals scored and for shots on goal. Considering the potential of Florida, it’s likely that these figures will remain the same.

Finally, the defenseman Stralman and the forward Connolly, are improving the roster’s depth of this team who made it only two times to the playoffs in the last 18 seasons.

There are many teams to keep an eye on in view of next season. There are no weak teams…

We talked about the five teams who, in our opinion, did the best work during this off-season and improved a lot. But that doesn’t mean that teams that changed less are not potential Stanley Cup winners… some teams in fact, didn’t need to change that much.