5 Teams Poised to take over the NHL

Written By Connor Williams:

With the inception of the 2021 NHL season, hockey is back and as beautiful as ever. The
pandemic has taken the world by storm and challenged Gary Bettman and teams alike to adjust,
adapt, and compromise to provide the fans what they so desperately want…professional hockey.
Although I am as excited for the start of the season as any hardcore hockey fan, I can’t help but
look forward to the future of the NHL. Here are five teams poised to take over the NHL and why
you should be paying attention to them now.

Ottawa Senators

With an owner that seems to irritate fans more than an agonizing cold sore, Ottawa GM Pierre
Dorion has taken the Senators rebuild by storm and turned their once depleted prospect pool into a source of strength. Lead by future stars in Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, and Tim Stuetzle (my personal pick for the 2021 Calder), the Senators boast a plethora of young talent that has to be recognized. Dorion, who has traditionally drafted well in late rounds (Mark Stone 178 th overall), Drake Batherson (121 st overall), has had an abundance of early draft choices that are seemingly budding young stars. Stuetzle (drafted 3 rd in 2020) has already exceeded most
expectations after setting the World Junior Championship on fire. He made the team out of
training camp and has already notched his first goal in the first week of the season. Surprising to
some, Dorion drafted Jake Sanderson 5 th in 2020, but he is off to an impressive 2021 campaign
with the University of North Dakota. Sanderson should fill a much-needed hole as a physical
presence on left defense for the Senators. Additionally, acquired in the Mark Stone trade, Erik
Brannstrom provides an offensive presence on the Ottawa blueline. Former first round picks
Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker aren’t considered “for sure stars,” but if one of them
can be a solid top 4 defenseman, Ottawa should boast the Eastern Conference’s best defensive
core for years to come. Throw in young forward talent like Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton,
and Josh Norris (acquired for Erik Karlsson), and a two-time Stanley cup winning netminder in
Matt Murray (I miss you so much), the Senators have a surplus of young talent that should be
exciting to watch for years to come.

New York Rangers

Staying within the East Coast, the New York Rangers are an interesting team that has mixed
great trading, drafting, and a little bit of luck to become a powerhouse in within the Eastern
Conference. After adding Artemi Panarin last summer, he boasted a Hart Trophy worthy
campaign and made his surrounding teammates better. Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome are two young centers that reaped the rewards of playing with Panarin, both having career seasons in 2020. The second overall pick in 2019, Kaapo Kaako is a budding young star. He had a rough first season in the NHL, but I am hesitant to count him out. Leon Draisaitl only had 9 points in
his rookie season and we know how long his struggles lasted…One of the biggest surprises in
hockey last year was the Rangers winning the NHL draft lottery and gaining the right to select
Alexis Lafreniere, a budding superstar power forward from Rimouski. With surrounding young
talent like Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, and Pavel Buchnevich, the Rangers boast a young offense
that should terrorize goalies for years to come. On the back end, the Rangers are as deep as any
team. Adam Fox looks to be an elite powerplay quarterback and K’Andre Miller has surprised
many after making the team out of training camp this year. Pair that with Jacob Trouba, a 26-
year-old defenseman with a proven two-way game, the Rangers have an impressive amount of
talent anchoring the blue line. In net, the Rangers have two young goalies competing for the
future starting position. Alex Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin should be able to quickly ease the
pain for blueshirts’ fans after Henrik Lundqvist’s departure. The Rangers are going to be
competitive this season and its only a matter of time before they’re adding another banner to
Madison Square Garden’s rafters.

Los Angeles Kings

It doesn’t feel that long ago that the Kings were the powerhouse of the Pacific division, but a few
bad seasons has led to quality trading and drafting, prompting a quick return to royalty. Unlike
the Senators and Rangers, I am less optimistic about the future success of the Kings. They have a
few cumbersome contracts (see Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Drew
Doughty) that could negatively impact how much young talent they can retain for future years. I
predict they will have to package one of their young prospects with Brown or Quick to Seattle in
the expansion draft later this year. Even with some salary cap concerns, the Kings boast the
deepest prospect pool in the NHL. Taken 2 nd overall last year, Quinton Byfield is a clone of Ryan
Getzlaf. Seriously, this guy is a stud. Additionally, the Kings have an absolute log jam of
prospects down the middle including Alex Turcotte (5 th overall in 2019), Akil Thomas (51 st in
2018), Gabe Vilardi (11 th in 2017), and Rasmus Kupari (20 th in 2018). Its unlikely all of them will
play for the Kings but having a gluttony of centers in the NHL is always a positive. Arthur
Kaliyev fell to the Kings at 33 rd overall in 2019 and already looks NHL ready. He should be an
exciting compliment on the wing for years to come. On the back end, the Kings could use some
help, but Thomas Bjornfot looks like a solid two-way defenseman. The 2021 season should be a
trial run for Cal Petersen as he is going to be given every opportunity to start in net over
Jonathan Quick. The Kings are a few years away from success, but they are clearly trending in
the right direction.

Colorado Avalanche

What can I say about this team that hasn’t already been said? They are the odds-on favorite to
win the Stanley Cup in 2021 and its hard to imagine this team trending in any direction other
than up. They are filled with young superstars on team friendly contracts. MacKinnon,
Landeskog, Rantanen, Makar, and Grubauer are cornerstones for an impending dynasty. They
boast the league’s best blueline with the addition of Devon Toews, the Islanders best defenseman last season. Now, Bowen Byram (acquired in the Matt Duchene trade), is the best defenseman not in the NHL, is poised to make the jump from Junior to the NHL this week. The team has an

embarrassment of riches. This is the most fun team to watch in the NHL and should be a
championship contender for the next decade. Joe Sakic is the best GM in the league and he
should be bringing lord Stanley back to Denver for many years to come.

Seattle Kraken

Release that Kraken already! The most exciting storyline of 2020 was Seattle announcing its
name as the Kraken (if you’re mad at the name, you’re dumb). Sporting a beautiful combination
of blues accented by red, the Kraken have the leagues best uniforms. They sure look good
aesthetically, but how long before this team actually competes? I’m not sure if we can expect
similar success as the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, but they’ll be an
interesting team to watch. I believe the pandemic actually help Seattle, as the salary cap will
remain flat for the foreseeable future. After Vegas’ draft, teams should be smarter about trading
away young talent just to shed a few contracts, but the flat cap will force teams like Los Angeles,
St. Louis, and San Jose (Brent Burns please) to shed some bad contracts in order to invest for the
future of their teams. I can’t wait to see this team on the ice, no matter who gets chosen in the
expansion draft this summer. GM Ron Francis is a trusted hockey mind and I have faith he will
make Seattle a contender sooner rather than later.

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