Advertisement

Rick Zamperin: Which NHL team will raise the Stanley Cup in 2020?

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) during a shootout in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) during a shootout in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The winds of Autumn have blown in and hope springs eternal for each and every hockey fan as the puck drops on a new NHL season Wednesday night.

This is the time of year where all fans can look ahead in anticipation of what’s to come, including those who cheer for teams like the rebuilding Ottawa Senators, because even though rough waters lie ahead they are at least working towards building something special.

The most serious Stanley Cup contenders, meantime, are getting ready for the marathon that is the regular season and all the ups and downs that come with it before they embark on the grueling trek that is the post-season.

READ MORE: Green Day partners with NHL, unveils new hockey anthem

So, which team has what it takes to go the distance? Let’s recap how I think the division races will end up.

Story continues below advertisement

Central Division

  1. Nashville Predators
  2. St. Louis Blues
  3. Winnipeg Jets
  4. Colorado Avalanche (wild card)
  5. Dallas Stars
  6. Chicago Blackhawks
  7. Minnesota Wild

Calgary Flames sign Matthew Tkachuk to 3-year deal

Calgary Flames sign Matthew Tkachuk to 3-year deal
Calgary Flames sign Matthew Tkachuk to 3-year deal

Pacific Division

  1. San Jose Sharks
  2. Vegas Golden Knights
  3. Calgary Flames
  4. Edmonton Oilers (wild card)
  5. Arizona Coyotes
  6. Vancouver Canucks
  7. Anaheim Ducks
  8. Los Angeles Kings

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Sharks and Predators will top NHL’s West, Oilers will make playoffs

Metropolitan Division

  1. Washington Capitals
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Carolina Hurricanes
  4. Philadelphia Flyers
  5. New York Islanders
  6. New Jersey Devils
  7. New York Rangers
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Lightning still beasts of the East, Maple Leafs not far behind

Atlantic Division

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs
  3. Boston Bruins
  4. Florida Panthers (wild card)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (wild card)
  6. Buffalo Sabres
  7. Detroit Red Wings
  8. Ottawa Senators

Story continues below advertisement

These predictions are based on player movement, new head coaches or general managers, as well as my gut feeling, which sometimes is bang on and sometimes is way off. Making predictions isn’t based on a black and white formula or calculation and doesn’t take into account any major injuries that a team has to endure.

I hope to be proven wrong, but I don’t see a Canadian team winning the Cup for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens last won it in 1993. I don’t even think a Canadian team will make it to the final, something that hasn’t been done since the Vancouver Canucks lost in the 2011 championship. In fact, the only Canadian teams I think will make it to round 2 are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets before both get bounced.

This year I am envisioning a Tampa Bay-Vegas final. But I can also see a Washington-San Jose final and even a final featuring Toronto (can you imagine?) and Nashville. There are so many good teams to choose from and once the playoffs begin we know that anything can happen.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: 5 Toronto Maple Leafs who are under the microscope

Come playoff time I simply can’t see the Lightning – who became the first President’s Trophy winners to be swept in the first round of the playoffs last season – taking another nosedive.

Sometimes, many times, a team has to falter before reaching the pinnacle and, for me, Tampa Bay still has a rock solid roster with a great head coach in Jon Cooper and they will be super motivated not to repeat last year’s epic playoff implosion. So with that I am picking the Bolts to go all the way.

Story continues below advertisement

Now, I know that is not really going out on a limb given the talent on Tampa’s roster, and yes, I picked the Bolts to win the Stanley Cup last year as well. But who’d have thought they’d get swept by Columbus last season?

The Stanley Cup, in my opinion, is the hardest championship to win in professional sports. You need a tight dressing room, a lot of talent, great role players, amazing goaltending, and a bit of luck along the way.

Whichever team you root for I hope you enjoy the 2019-20 NHL season. Now, let’s drop the puck!

WATCH: Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson signs 3-year deal with Maple Leafs

Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson signs 3-year deal with Maple Leafs
Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson signs 3-year deal with Maple Leafs

2019-20 playoff teams

Atlantic Division   Metropolitan Division  Wild Cards

1. Tampa Bay*         1. Washington               1. Florida

Story continues below advertisement

2. Toronto              2. Pittsburgh                 2. Montreal

3. Boston               3. Carolina

Central Division    Pacific Division             Wild Cards

1. Nashville             1. San Jose                    1. Colorado

2. St. Louis             2. Vegas                        2. Edmonton

3. Winnipeg           3. Calgary

*President’s Trophy winner

Eastern Conference champion: Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champion: Vegas Golden Knights

Stanley Cup champion: Tampa Bay Lightning

Awards

Hart Trophy – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Norris Trophy – Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks

Vezina Trophy – Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

Calder Trophy – Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers

Story continues below advertisement

Art Ross Trophy – Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Rocket Richard Trophy – Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Jack Adams Award – Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers