We’re one day from the start of the season with the Predators and Sharks facing off in Europe.  It’s time for my annual post with 10 bold predictions for this year.  Among the correct predictions I made last season were Sam Reinhart scoring 30+ goals and being over a point per game and Cale Makar having 85+ points, being the first to do so in 28 years.  Well, technically Josi got to 85 before Makar, but I’m still counting it!  We won’t talk about me predicting the Devils to make the playoffs… let’s get to this year’s 10!

1) Nikolaj Ehlers puts a Reinhart from last season, scoring 30+ goals and is over a point per game, both for the first time in his career.  I’ll go as far to say Ehlers has 35+ goals.  Yes, Ehlers scored 28 goals last season to play at a 35 goal pace, but sustaining it is another thing.  Also, he’s only played at a 40 assist pace once, and he barely did that.  Long time Razzballers know that I’m a huge Ehlers fan.  I was on record saying he was Winnipeg’s best forward on their roster before last season, and while I do think it’s close between him and Connor, I would still give the edge to Ehlers based on his play driving ability and defensive prowess.  The only thing stopping him from a massive breakout was poor coaching by Maurice and then Lowry.  While I don’t think Bowness is a wizard, all indications in preseason are that Ehlers is finally going to get the role he’s deserved, especially on the power play.  Fingers crossed we finally see what Ehlers can do.

2) Elias Pettersson scores 45+ goals.  I was very tempted to say 50+, but given that Pettersson’s best pace in his career per 82 games was 33 goals, 45 seems bold enough.  I’m a huge Boudreau believer, and he brought the best out of Pettersson last season.  I really liked the signings of Kuzmenko and Mikheyev to give them more support in the middle six, and even though Boeser will miss the beginning of the season, the Vancouver power play should be elite again.  I think this is the year Pettersson jumps into superstardom.

3) Shea Theodore is a Norris Trophy finalist.  Theodore was trending in this direction going into last season, but he had a very rough first half to the season.  He finished the season strongly, especially in April, when he was Vegas’ best player by a wide margin as they pushed for the playoffs.  With Cassidy coming in, I expect Vegas to take a different approach on the power play.  He should load up the top unit and give them more minutes, which will improve Theodore’s value greatly.  It’s hard to imagine Vegas’ forward group being more injured than last season as well making an improvement from 25th in the league in power play percentage a foregone conclusion.  His upside is around 20 goals and 50 assists and I think we see something in that range.

4) All 8 Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season make the playoffs again.  Yes, Detroit and Ottawa are improved.  Yes, the Islanders had the year from hell last season.  Because of this, there’s been plenty of talk about the demise of the Bruins and Capitals this season.  I just can’t see it happening yet.  The Bruins have plenty of injuries to open the season, but their schedule is very soft in October.  I expect them to tread water the first two months until Marchand and McAvoy return, then be one of the best teams in the league (I like their depth moves in the offseason, mostly adding Zacha and keeping DeBrusk).

5) Cole Sillinger centers the first line in Columbus by mid-season, finishing with 55+ points.  This isn’t a knock on Jenner, but more the hope that Sillinger plays so well that they make an all-offense line with Sillinger centering Laine and Gaudreau.  It could be far-fetched because Larsen decides he needs that defensive presence on the line and keeps Jenner there, and he wants to keep a kid line together.  However, I’m expecting compared to their own expectations, Columbus will be disappointing and this is a logical switch to make.  Sillinger has plenty of upside, and while I don’t necessarily want to own him right now as he’ll presumably start the season on the third line, he’s one of the first guys I’ll be monitoring.

6) The New Jersey Devils go from a bottom five power play in the league to a top five power play this season.  I’m not sure I even believe this one, but I started to write top ten and it didn’t feel bold enough.  Top ten would be a big jump, but top five would be drastic.  It’s hard to imagine Toronto, Edmonton, or the Rangers being outside of the top five on the power play.  The Blues were incredible last season and have the same group back, while the Canucks should bounce back too.  But crazier things have happened, like Nashville tying for 5th in PP% last season with the Panthers seemingly out of nowhere.  Brunette joining the coaching staff in New Jersey and revamping their power play setup has me extremely bullish.  I love Dougie Hamilton to bounce back, and Hughes should be an elite playmaker with the man advantage.

7) Connor Hellebuyck wins the Vezina.  It may not seem bold to pick Hellebuyck given he’s won the trophy before, but he’s currently +2000, the 8th shortest odds.  This is solely a bet on the Jets buying into the Bowness system and playing a trap that keeps shots to the outside.  Hellebuyck will be among the league leaders in games assuming he’s healthy, so the upside is undeniable.

8) Calen Addison runs the Minnesota first power play unit all season, recording 20+ PPP and stays a hold in 12’ers the entire year.  I’m buying the hype.  Addison was a very good playmaker in juniors, and that has translated to 13+43 in 74 minor league games.  The Wild power play was middle of the pack last season despite using a bunch of defenseman who shouldn’t be on a power play, or at least only the second unit.  I know Fiala is gone, but Kaprizov and Zuccarello’s playmaking alone should make a solid first unit.  As a bonus, Addison had 103 PIM in those 74 games.  It didn’t translate to the NHL last season, but he could provide that as a bonus as well.  He’s my favorite late round pick.

9) The Flyers and Blackhawks have nobody worth owning in 12’ers at the end of the season.  The Blackhawks have two guys worth considering going into the season.  Kane is an easy hold, while Jones is probably worth owning if you can stomach the plus-minus, but it’s close.  It would be a surprise if Kane isn’t moved during the season so that leaves Jones.  Personally, I have zero interest drafting a player who was -37 last season and the team got much worse around him.  The tankapalozza for Bedard/Michkov will be extreme as well.  In Philly, DeAngelo, Atkinson, and Hart are worth drafting at different points.  Hart is a decent third goalie to draft because there could be an early boost with Torts.  It could also be a disaster as this roster is a mess, especially if Couturier misses extended time.  Atkinson is fringe as is, and TDA could suffer from plus-minus issues like Jones.

10) Rasmus Dahlin is a top five fantasy defenseman.  I might as well homer it up with my last pick.  The arrival of Power full time should allow Dahlin to get softer minutes and thrive offensively.  It should also fix his plus-minus quite a bit.  Dahlin is already prolific on the power play, and he actually contributed 68 PIM last season.  It’s unclear if that’s repeatable, but he should be a positive there at the very least.  I’m banking on the shot rate jumping up to around 2.5 per game and the assists improving as the team around him improves.  It’s not his median outcome, but I don’t think 15+50 from Dahlin isn’t a top 90% outcome either.  This is the year Dahlin deserves on the hype he received as a prospect.

That’s all for now guys.  The season is finally upon us!  As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below.  Thanks for reading, take care!