NHL Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders for the 2020-21 season


Because the 2020-21 Stanley Cup playoffs get nearer we’re beginning to get a way for which groups are able to severely competing for a championship (the contenders), and which groups will not be (the pretenders). Right this moment we’re going to try every staff that also has a practical likelihood of constructing the Stanley Cup Playoffs and inspecting which class they slot in to. The factors is straightforward: To be a contender you need to be a staff that appears to have a legit likelihood to win a championship. Star energy, depth, getting outcomes with a robust course of to again it up, having a manageable path via the playoffs with the appropriate matchups. All of that’s taken into consideration. See the place your staff sits.

 

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That is a straightforward name. The defending Stanley Cup champions have the identical core of gamers that received all of it a yr in the past and have been the very best staff within the league for over six seasons now. 

They’ve top-of-the-line information within the league three-quarters of the best way via the season, have nice ahead depth, an impressive protection, and the very best goalie within the league enjoying a number of the greatest hockey of his profession. 

If that’s not sufficient they added David Savard to their protection on the commerce deadline and have but to get a single sport from their greatest offensive participant, Nikita Kucherov, this season. He can be again for the playoffs. Straightforward contender. Undoubtedly one of many high two or three contenders. 

 

Colorado Avalanche: Contender

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This is among the greatest rosters within the league from high to backside. They’ve three superstars on the high (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog), actually good secondary scoring, and a younger protection that has already grow to be the NHL’s greatest. It’s only going to get higher. 

The massive query for the Avalanche can be whether or not or not the goaltending maybe as much as par. Beginning goalie Philipp Grubauer is at the moment on the COVID listing, which means Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson must take over the beginning job within the brief time period. How Grubauer performs when he returns can be an enormous issue for the Avalanche. That is nonetheless an especially spectacular roster that’s set to compete for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future. 

 

Washington Capitals: Contender

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Merely some of the constant organizations within the NHL. At all times on the high of their division, all the time close to the highest of the league standings. Including Anthony Mantha on the commerce deadline is a major transfer so as to add one other massive, sturdy, expert ahead to a lineup that’s already filled with them. The massive query would be the goaltending the place Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have been stable however at occasions a bit of inconsistent. The very fact they’re nearly as good as they’re with that degree of goaltending ought to fear each staff they encounter. In the event that they get goaltending, look out. 

 

Carolina Hurricanes: Contender

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The Hurricanes have been constructing one thing particular for a few years now and are one of many league’s greatest groups. They’ve top-line star energy at ahead with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen, an impressive protection led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin, they usually even have the goaltending this season. 

That has all the time been a wrestle in Carolina, however Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek have carried out an amazing job enjoying the crease this season. Collectively, they’ve one of many top-five staff save percentages in hockey. 

 

Vegas Golden Knights: Contender

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It stays exceptional that the Vegas Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender from Day One of many group’s existence. They’re now in yr 4 and might need their greatest staff but. Mark Stone is an MVP candidate at ahead, they’ve two improbable defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to steer their blue line, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner give them the very best goaltending duo within the league. 

They’re each bit as dominant this season as Colorado on the high of the league. The issue: One in all them is assured to be eradicated by no less than the second spherical given the divisional playoff format. The winner of that sequence may find yourself being THE Stanley Cup favourite. 

 

Boston Bruins: Contender

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I might need had them within the Pretender class earlier than the commerce deadline given a few of their struggles, particularly offensively, however issues are beginning to flip round. 

The arrival of Taylor Corridor, in addition to the turnaround of free-agent addition Craig Smith, has given them a second dynamic scoring line to enrich their high line of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s vital as a result of till these two developments the Bruins have been some of the top-heavy, one-line groups within the league. These groups don’t are inclined to win. However they’re beginning to get on a roll and play like a contender.

Add in a Norris Trophy contender in Charlie McAvoy on protection and deep goaltending they usually have a number of the important thing substances to win all of it. 

 

Pittsburgh Penguins: Contender

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In all probability wouldn’t have thought this at first of the season, however the best way this staff is enjoying proper now may be very spectacular they usually nonetheless have the returns for Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Tanev, and Kasperi Kapanen forward. 

Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are nonetheless high-level gamers, the ahead depth is nearly as good because it has been because the 2017 Stanley Cup season, and they’re largely enjoying the appropriate approach defensively. So long as the goaltending retains going the best way it has because the starting of February this can be a troublesome staff to beat. 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Contender

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If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to make a run on the Stanley Cup, this positive appears to be the yr for it to occur. They’ve the roster, and within the North Division wouldn’t should play one of many league’s high groups within the playoffs till no less than the semifinals. Actually, there isn’t a excuse this season. 

Their star forwards are enjoying like they’re anticipated to play, they improved the depth, and the protection is healthier than it will get credit score for being (although I’m nonetheless unsure it’s nice). The massive query can be if the goaltending can maintain out for them. Recently, it has not. 

 

New York Islanders: Contender

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I’m form of in-between on the Islanders on this dialogue. On one hand, I don’t assume they’ve the star energy and impression gamers that Stanley Cup-winning groups are inclined to have. 

They aren’t going to attain a number of targets and outdoors of Mathew Barzal, there will not be many difference-makers right here. Can they match up with the highest groups within the league in a best-of-seven sequence and win all of it? Undecided. They’ve additionally struggled with the higher groups within the East Division this season. 

Having mentioned that, they’ll defend. They’ve goaltending. They’ve additionally received three playoff sequence over the previous two seasons and have been within the Japanese Convention Ultimate a yr in the past. They’re completely able to irritating any staff they play and happening one other deep postseason run. 

 

Florida Panthers: Pretender

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There’s a lot to love about this staff, and if we’re being sincere it may be the very best staff the Panthers have ever had. The priority although is whether or not or not they’ll get sufficient from Sergei Bobrovsky, and if they’re keen to show to Chris Driedger (and even Spencer Knight?) if he struggles within the playoffs. 

Additionally, for nearly as good as this staff is, can it beat Carolina and Tampa Bay in a best-of-seven sequence? It might should beat each simply to get to the semifinals. That may be a daunting job for any staff. 

 

St. Louis Blues: Pretender

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After being top-of-the-line groups within the league over the previous two seasons the Blues have taken an enormous step backward this season, to the purpose the place simply even making the playoffs goes to be a combat. Shedding Alex Pietrangelo has harm, however not as a lot as a continuing run of accidents all through the season and sub-par goaltending. 

The latter level is an enchanting improvement as a result of the Blues gave Jordan Binnington an enormous contract extension (prematurely?) and did nothing to deal with the questionable depth behind him. 

 

Minnesota Wild: Pretender

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Kirill Kaprizov has helped utterly remodel the staff into one thing thrilling, they usually have exceeded each expectation which will have existed for them at the beginning of the season. 

The issue goes to be the identical one they’ve skilled for a lot of the previous decade: Even when they’re actually good, they’re caught enjoying within the fallacious division. Actually, the 2 greatest groups within the league play of their division, and Minnesota’s reward for such a robust yr can be a first-round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights. It is rather like all these years they might end with a top-10 file they usually get caught enjoying Chicago within the first or second spherical. Unhealthy timing. 

 

Edmonton Oilers: Pretender

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Anytime you might have two gamers nearly as good as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, of their prime, on the similar time, and you’re NOT a contender it’s a fairly good signal that your group general has failed. 

The Oilers are good, largely due to the aforementioned duo. They’re thrilling, once more due to the aforementioned duo. However the remainder of the staff simply appears sub-par when in comparison with the opposite high contenders within the league. I might see them successful a spherical given the doubtless first-round matchups. However I have no idea if they’ve sufficient to beat Toronto or some other high contender in a best-of-seven sequence. 

 

Winnipeg Jets: Pretender

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The Jets have an impressive assortment of forwards and nice goaltending. That might simply get them via a spherical of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, particularly in opposition to no matter flawed staff they play within the 2-3 matchup. They could even be capable of pull off an upset of Toronto if Connor Hellebucyk will get scorching or Toronto’s goalies crumble. Or no less than scare the Maple Leafs a bit of. 

The protection, although, leaves rather a lot to be desired and that’s going to carry them again in the case of being a real championship-caliber staff. 

 

Dallas Stars: Pretender

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No staff has received extra playoff video games than the Dallas Stars over the previous two seasons, however I’m not positive if we’re going to see a repeat of that efficiency this yr. The Stars do have the within observe on the fourth playoff spot within the Central Division, which is fairly spectacular given the harm state of affairs they’ve handled this season and the actual fact they have been terrible for greater than two months. 

Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger are thrilling rookies, and Joe Pavelski is having an unbelievable season, however this doesn’t look like a staff that has one other prolonged postseason run forward of it. Although I do assume they finally get within the playoffs. 

 

Montreal Canadiens: Pretender

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That they had an incredible begin to the season however have fizzled since then. That begin goes to be sufficient to get them within the playoffs, however except Carey Worth or Jake Allen stand on their heads it’s onerous to think about them happening any type of a run. 

There’s some intriguing expertise right here and a few actually good gamers, however not sufficient distinction makers and never sufficient depth. Shedding Brendan Gallagher for now additionally hurts. They’re a unique staff with him. 

 

Nashville Predators: Pretender

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Not fairly positive what to make of this staff. They’ve been an impressive 5-on-5 staff the previous two years, however have been undone at occasions by terrible particular groups and poor goaltending. Across the midway level of this season, the goaltending bounced again and allowed Nashville to get again into playoff rivalry, however a playoff spot is way from a assure with Dallas (and even Chicago) proper on their tails. 

Even when they do get in they don’t have the roster to compete with the highest groups within the league. It simply looks as if a company that has reached its ceiling with this present core.

 

New York Rangers: Pretender

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They’re some of the thrilling groups within the league proper now, in addition to one of many groups enjoying the very best hockey. They’ve an impressive younger core and seem like they’re constructing one thing actually particular for the foreseeable future. In the event that they did get within the playoffs they might trigger a number of complications for his or her first-round opponent. The largest downside: Their playoff likelihood is skinny given the hole between them and the Boston Bruins, in addition to the actual fact the Bruins nonetheless have two video games in hand. In the event that they performed in some other division they might be an attention-grabbing staff to observe. Subsequent season they are going to be even higher. 

 

Chicago Blackhawks: Pretender

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At the beginning of the yr, the one expectation for the Chicago Blackhawks was for them to be terrible, particularly when Kirby Dach was injured on the World Junior championships and Jonathan Toews was sidelined as a result of an unspecified medical situation. That they had a skinny roster, goalie questions, and have been coming off three fairly unhealthy seasons.

They ended up no less than making the season attention-grabbing and have hung round within the playoff race. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat have carried the offense, whereas Kevin Lankinen was an enormous shock in purpose to maintain their playoff probabilities alive.

Don’t see them making the playoffs, and even when they do they aren’t getting via the highest groups. 

 

Arizona Coyotes: Pretender

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One other staff that has exceeded all expectations this season to place itself proper within the thick of the playoff race. Be mindful, the Coyotes misplaced Taylor Corridor in free company, performed a bit of the season with out their high defenseman (Oliver Ekman-Larsson), and have been right down to their third-string goalie for a stretch right here within the second half. 

But they’re nonetheless in a back-and-forth race with the Blues for the fourth playoff spot within the West. Superb story, a staff that has most likely overachieved, however even when they do get in it’s actually troublesome to see them successful a best-of-seven within the first spherical in opposition to Colorado or Vegas. 



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