With the National Hockey League (NHL) preseason beginning on Sunday and the regular season kicking off on Oct. 2, hockey fans are gearing up for the NHL’s 103rd year of operation. While I could easily give my in-depth personal thoughts on how every NHL team’s season is going to go, I’ll stick to the four major teams followed in the state: the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres. In my opinion, all four of them should view upon the upcoming season positively. Many of them had productive off-seasons, gaining talent from the draft, scoring free agent signings and conducting key trades.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild, but have gained traction rapidly. Signing free agent star forward Artemi Panarin from the Columbus Blue Jackets gives the Rangers a much-needed boost to their offensive line. He could change the tide of the game by himself by scoring highlight reel goals and amazing assists, as evident in his stints with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets. The Rangers were also lucky in the draft, scoring Finnish phenom Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick. Former Winnipeg Jet defenseman Jacob Trouba adds more depth to a young defense. Even with former defensemen Kevin Shattenkirks departure, this team can only look up from here.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Islanders next steps in terms of signing contract extensions and moving their lineup around, the team should remain highly competitive for the next season. Anders Lee, Matt Barzal, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson should maintain like their offensive production will decrease at all, and defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock still look promising. All in all, I don’t expect anything other than grittiness and nifty scoring prowess from the Isles.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Devils, on paper, are absolutely stacked and should have an amazing season for 2019-20. Just look at the talent on their roster: Taylor Hall, P.K. Subban, Nico Hischier, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, 2019 first overall draft pick Jack Hughes, and I could keep going. If their goaltending could improve and their injuries were kept to a minimum, this team could be a major powerhouse in the Metropolitan Division. I’m hoping they could finish at least third in their division, they deserve it.
Lastly, we come to my personal favorite team, the lowly Sabres from Western New York. For the Sabres’ milestone 50th year in the league, Buffalo fans should be optimistic despite the team’s losing ways. With a new white alternate jersey for the current season and a return to their classic royal blue and gold colors for the 2020-21 season, fans have sung their praise for the aesthetic change. General manager Jason Botterill managed to sign Marcus Johansson from the Boston Bruins and Jimmy Vesey from the Rangers to increase the much-needed depth. Botterill also managed to trade for young defenseman Henri Jokiharu from the Blackhawks, bolstering a desperate and struggling defense. With lots of young players developing in the Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, their fans have a lot to look forward to.