2018-19 Atlantic Division Preview

Tim Schaller
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 28: Tim Schaller #59 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot on Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 28, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2018-19, where Last Word On Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2018-19 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the Atlantic Division.

2018-19 Atlantic Division Preview

Tampa Bay Lightning

Armand Klisivitch writes:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are poised to make a deep playoff run this season. They have all the pieces to go far and many of these moves were made at last year’s deadline. Andrei Vasilevskiy will look to have another great year after being named a Vezina Trophy finalist. Tampa has a ton of weapons on offensive including Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who will once again look to lead the Lightning in scoring. The defence for Tampa is looking better than it was at the start of last season. The Bolts have Norris winner Victor Hedman and have added Ryan McDonagh to complement the young Mikhail Sergachev. The Sophomore standout for the Bolts was acquired after being sent to Tampa in the trade the sent Jonathan Drouin to Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Michael Mohorovich writes:

Aside from the changes on the roster, the Toronto Maple Leafs face one big change heading into the 2018-19 season and that’s expectations. The last two seasons, the Maple Leafs really didn’t have these but now they are sky-high. With the big-time addition of John Tavares, adding to a core that already includes Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Frederik Andersen, the soon-to-be-signed William Nylander, Patrick Marleau, and Nazem Kadri. Goals will be the name of Toronto’s game.

The blue line will have to make improvements internally. Newcomer Igor Ozhiganov and second-year players Travis Dermott, Andreas Borgman, and Calle Rosen are all going to compete for sports on the back end in hopes of improving Toronto’s defensive woes. In goal, the Leafs have an elite starter in Andersen. The backup goalie will either be veteran Curtis McElhinney or AHL goalie of the year Garret Sparks. Either way, the Leafs are in good hands in goal.

Boston Bruins

Robert MacDonald writes:

Just when it appeared the Boston Bruins might be heading towards a rebuild as their stars aged, an excellent flux of young-guns arrived. Between David PastrnakTorey KrugCharlie McAvoy, Jake Debrusk and others, this team looks set for a long time. Right now, though, they look exceptionally strong with all the other all-star calibre Bruins still with the team. They’ve still got Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, plus a Vezina-calibre goalie in Tuukka Rask. Oh, and there’s Brad Marchand tearing the league apart. They’ve got depth on offence and defence, and with the Jaroslav Halak signing, they’ve got depth in net now too. Veteran additions Daniel Winnik and Lee Stempniak will only increase the competition through camp and pre-season. There’s no reason they shouldn’t top 100 points again.

Florida Panthers

Robert MacDonald writes:

These Florida Panthers are being overlooked a lot right now. They finished last year on a tear, going 25-8-2 after the all-star break and missing playoffs by only one point. They registered 96 points, went 44-30-8, and somehow didn’t make the post-season. Take that team, with the second-best finish in the entire league, and add top six winger Mike Hoffman to it. The Panthers will turn a ton of people’s heads this year.

Aleksander Barkov is elite, Jonathan Huberdeau is a fringe top 20 winger in the league, Vincent Trocheck produces at a point-per-game pace as their second line centerman. Their defensive core is young and only getting better with Aaron EkbladKeith Yandle, and Mike Matheson leading the way. KHL All-Star Bogdan Kiselevich will only help the back half. They won’t miss playoffs again this time around.

Buffalo Sabres

Dan Mount, LWOH Editor writes:

The Buffalo Sabres likely won’t make the playoffs, but there’s still plenty to be excited about this season. Buffalo’s young players will finally take the next step and start realizing their potential. Rasmus Dahlin is going to be a welcome addition and take a lot of pressure off of Rasmus Ristolainen. Jack Eichel looks to take the next step and put this team on his shoulders.

General manager Jason Botterill was able to get some key pieces after trading Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues. Patrik Berglund is a good depth addition in the centre spot and got capable players like Tage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka.

Goaltending may be the only question because Carter Hutton hasn’t played a full season as a No. 1. This team will be playing meaningful hockey in March.

Montreal Canadiens

Armand Klisivitch writes:

The Montreal Canadiens will look to bounce back from a rough season as they look to build towards the future. They have a ton of young prospects who will look to show their potential this year. Two of the biggest names to look out for are Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Matthew Peca. Kotkaniemi will most likely spend the season in the AHL or in Finland developing. Peca, on the other hand, has already been named one of the four centers for the Canadiens according to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Carey Price is looking to bounce back after a subpar year. The departures of Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk will hurt the Habs early on but they look to rely on Max Domi, Tomas Tatar, and Jonathan Drouin to pick up the slack on offence. The defence will be a huge question going into next season and with Shea Weber being out until Christmas that doesn’t help much.

Detroit Red Wings

Dan Mount, LWOH Editor writes:

The Detroit Red Wings are still in the middle of a painful rebuild and losing veterans like Henrik Zetterberg isn’t going to help. He was a steadying force in the locker room, but won’t get to ride off into the sunset. The Wings also will be without Mike Green for indefinitely. His absence will hurt a defence struggling to find its way.

General manager Ken Holland will likely try to accelerate the rebuild as players like Jimmy Howard and Gustav Nyquist may become valuable trade chips at the deadline. However, it’s not been all doom and gloom as they’ve drafted players like Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Filip Hronek. The Wings of the future will become the Wings of the present if they fall out of contention. The foundation is there, but now Detroit needs to start putting it all together.

Ottawa Senators

Michael Mohorovich writes:

Since missing out on the Stanley Cup Final by one goal in 2017, the Ottawa Senators have completely fallen apart. Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson were both traded and both returns were underwhelming. The team is in a tailspin that really doesn’t show any sign of ending anytime soon. And to make matters worse Ottawa kept their first-round pick in June’s draft, choosing Brady Tkachuk, thus sending their 2019 first rounder to Colorado to complete the Matt Duchene trade.

Tkachuk is a really good player, but the Senators are destined for the basement in the NHL this season and that pick could very likely be a lottery pick and possibly turn into dynamic center Jack Hughes. For Sens fans sake, here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen. With a lack of elite talent, it’s going to be a long season for Eugene Melnyk and co.

TAMPA, FL – APRIL 28: Tim Schaller #59 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot on Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 28, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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