The 2023-24 NHL season is finally here, and fans everywhere are buzzing with excitement. As the puck drops, questions arise. Will the Vegas Golden Knights repeat as Stanley Cup champions? Which team will rise to the top in each division? Who will be crowned the winners of individual awards? The cross-platform ESPN hockey family has gathered together to make their predictions, and the anticipation is palpable. Let’s delve into the forecasts for division winners, the Stanley Cup champion, and the recipients of major individual awards.
Predictions for Division Winners
In the Atlantic Division, the consensus favors the Toronto Maple Leafs. With a total of 20 votes from the ESPN experts, the Maple Leafs are confident contenders. However, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning also received some recognition with three and one votes, respectively.
Moving on to the Metropolitan Division, the experts see a tight race between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils. The Devils lead with 11 votes, closely followed by the Hurricanes with 10 votes. The Pittsburgh Penguins also received three votes, showing they could be a team to watch out for.
The Central Division showcases a close competition between the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche narrowly edge ahead with 12 votes, while the Stars trail with 11 votes. The Minnesota Wild also garnered one vote, demonstrating their potential to surprise.
In the Pacific Division, the Edmonton Oilers emerge as the frontrunners with 15 votes. The Vegas Golden Knights, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, follow with five votes. The Los Angeles Kings and the Seattle Kraken received three and one vote, respectively. It remains to be seen if the Oilers can maintain their momentum from the previous season.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)
Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ superstar, dominates the predictions for the Hart Trophy. A staggering 16 experts believe McDavid will claim the prestigious award. Auston Matthews from the Toronto Maple Leafs receives three votes, while Jack Hughes, Matthew Tkachuk, Nathan MacKinnon, and Elias Pettersson each earn one vote.
Art Ross Trophy (Leading Scorer)
Similar to the Hart Trophy, Connor McDavid is the leading candidate to secure the Art Ross Trophy. The experts are unified in their belief, with all 22 votes going to McDavid. David Pastrnak and Nikita Kucherov also receive one vote each, acknowledging their scoring abilities.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (Goal-Scoring Leader)
For the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Auston Matthews emerges as a prominent figure, receiving 13 votes. Connor McDavid also maintains his relevance, gathering four votes. Tage Thompson, David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson, Leon Draisaitl, and Mikko Rantanen earn one vote each, illustrating the potential impact of their offensive skills.
James Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
The race for the James Norris Trophy presents a varied group of contenders, but Cale Makar stands out with 11 votes. Rasmus Dahlin and Miro Heiskanen follow closely with four votes each. Erik Karlsson, Adam Fox, and Quinn Hughes also receive recognition with two votes each.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
When it comes to the Vezina Trophy, the experts lean toward Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars and Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders. Oettinger secures nine votes, while Sorokin garners four votes. Other notable contenders include Igor Shesterkin, Connor Hellebuyck, Juuse Saros, and Filip Gustavsson.
Why is it so anticipated?
One of the most highly anticipated events of this season is the NHL debut of Connor Bedard with the Chicago Blackhawks. The excitement surrounding Bedard stems from his exceptional talent and potential. As a highly regarded prospect, fans are eager to witness how his skill set translates to the NHL stage. His arrival in the league has sparked discussions on how he will impact the Blackhawks’ performance and potentially influence the league as a whole.
Other Promising Debuts
While Bedard’s debut stands out, there are other notable players making their first appearances in the NHL this season. Adam Fantilli of the Nashville Predators is another name generating buzz, with experts eagerly awaiting his contributions to the team. The anticipation around these young talents reflects the continuous influx of skill and exciting prospects in the NHL.
As the 2023-24 NHL season kicks off, fans are filled with anticipation for what lies ahead. The predictions for division winners, individual award winners, and the debut of exciting prospects create an atmosphere of excitement and intrigue. While the experts have made their forecasts, only time will reveal if these expectations align with reality. Until then, hockey enthusiasts around the world eagerly await the drama, skill, and passion that the NHL season will undoubtedly deliver.
Source : ESPN.com