By: Luke Feliciano ~Staff Writer~
The 2016-2017 NHL season is fast approaching, with the first regular season games slated for Oct. 12.
Here is a preview of the teams to keep an eye on.
In the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to defend their Stanley Cup Championship, finding themselves well armed with the personnel to have a re- By Luke Feliciano Staff Writer peat performance.
They have one of the best playmakers in the game, Sidney Crosby, and a brute force at center in Evgeni Malkin.
Pair this with the fairly recent additions of veteran Phil Kessel and the speedy Karl Hagelin, and the Penguins have themselves a well-rounded squad and should be a force to be reckoned with.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a popular pick to win this year’s Stanley Cup, and reasonably so, having a very skilled roster to back up that claim. Their offense is headlined by Steven Stamkos, who is a constant threat around the net.
The Lightning also have a strong defensive core led by Victor Hedman, who many believe can win defensive player of the year this season.
Ben Bishop has established himself as a formidable goalie with the league’s lowest goals against average from last year, and barring injury woes, he should be on top of his game again this season.
The Washington Capitals finished with the best record in the NHL last year, capturing the heralded Presidents’ Trophy.
They return the dominant Alexander Ovechkin, who had a spectacular season last year while recording an astounding 50 goals.
He is complimented by forwards Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, who make up a devastating attack.
Washington also brings back the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in goalie Braden Holtby, who has well established himself as the NHL’s top goal stopper.
The Florida Panthers had a historic year last season with the most wins in franchise history while also claiming the Atlantic Division title.
Their future may not be as clear though, as their leading goal scorer from last season was 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who’s age obviously raises some concerns regarding longevity.
They will, however, have a much-improved goaltender this season, as they added veteran Roberto Luongo from Vancouver.
Out in the West, the Dallas Stars fell just short a season ago at winning the Stanley Cup but still have high hopes for this year.
Though viewed as a surprise team by many fans, they have tremendous forward depth and one of the best first lines in hockey with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin along with Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp.
The Chicago Blackhawks have dominated the NHL for the last half decade and have one of the deepest rosters in the league.
Patrick Kane returns as last year’s leading points scorer in the NHL.
He also has a strong supporting cast playing alongside him in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
The Blackhawks have two great defensemen in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith as well as one of the top goalies in the game in Corey Crawford.
The Anaheim Ducks have added some key parts to an already outstanding roster, returning star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry while bringing in Antoine Vermette.
The Ducks made a move to get goalie Jonathan Bernier from Toronto, which will hopefully end the goalkeeper woes they have experienced ever since the departure of Jonas Hiller a few season ago.
The San Jose Sharks failed to make the playoffs last year, but many have them penciled in as the Pacific Divison winner.
They have a strong offensive core led by Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and longtime Shark Joe Thornton.
The defense is perhaps just as strong with Brent Burns, Paul Martin and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The young Martin Jones proved himself between the pipes last year, and if he continues to do the same, the Sharks will have a promising season ahead of them.
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