SI.com's 2014-15 NHL season crystal ball: awards and Stanley Cup picks, bold predictions and more.

By The SI Staff
October 03, 2014

With the new season upon us, SI.com's hockey mavens have gazed into the future and this is what they see for the NHL's teams, players, coaches, GMs and fans: 

•  What to watch: Kings chase dynasty status as new season opens

• 30 pressing questions for all 30 teams

• Our 2014-15 season preview hub: team-by-team breakdowns, video and more

THE PLAYOFF FIELD

ALLAN MUIR:
East: Bruins, Penguins, Lightning, Canadiens, Blue Jackets, Devils, Capitals, Islanders
West: Blackhawks, Ducks, Blues, Stars, Sharks, Kings, Avalanche, Wild
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Penguins (East); Blackhawks vs. Kings (West)

SARAH KWAK
East: Bruins, Penguins, Lightning, Canadiens, Red Wings, Rangers, Flyers, Capitals
West: Blackhawks, Kings, Ducks, Blues, Avalanche, Stars, Wild, Sharks
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Penguins (East); Blackhawks vs. Ducks (West)

SAM PAGE
East: Lightning, Bruins, Penguins, Red Wings, Islanders, Canadiens, Devils, Blue Jackets
West: Blackhawks, Kings, Stars, Blues, Ducks, Sharks, Predators, Canucks
Conference finalists: Lightning vs. Bruins (East); Blackhawks vs. Stars (West)

MIKE BLINN
​East: Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens, Penguins, Blue Jackets, Islanders, Rangers, Maple Leafs
West: Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Blackhawks, Avalanche, Stars, Wild, Blues
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Lightning (East); Blackhawks vs. Sharks (West)

BRIAN CAZENEUVE
East: Bruins, Penguins, Lightning, Canadiens, Red Wings, Rangers, Capitals, Blue Jackets
West: Blackhawks, Sharks, Blues, Ducks, Kings, Avalanche, Stars, Canucks
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Lightning (East); Blackhawks vs. Sharks (West)

GABRIEL BAUMGAERTNER
East: Bruins, Penguins, Rangers, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Lightning, Red Wings, Maple Leafs
West: Blackhawks, Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Blues, Stars, Wild, Canucks
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Canadiens (East); Kings vs. Blackhawks (West)

ELI BERNSTEIN
East: Bruins, Penguins, Canadiens, Blue Jackets, Rangers, Flyers, Red Wings, Maple Leafs
West: Kings, Blackhawks, Ducks, Blues, Stars, Sharks, Avalanche, Predators
Conference finalists: Bruins vs. Penguins (East); Kings vs. Blues (West)

 

We may be crazy but ...

ALLAN MUIR says: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will score 80 points for the Oilers. The 21-year-old pivot has had his moments during the first three seasons of his NHL career, but this will be the one in which he puts it all together and lives up to the first-overall pick hype. Experience and a stronger supporting cast will help, but the key will be the good health that RNH enjoyed during the off-season. It was the first time he was able to train all-out and that has him better prepared than ever to handle the physical rigors of being a front-line center.

SARAH KWAK says: I think Toronto will make the playoffs. The Leafs may fire Randy Carlyle, but perhaps a new voice in the room early enough in the season could turn this borderline team into a postseason contender.

SAM PAGE says: I think several teams that looked like they were on-the-rise last season will drop out of the race, particularly the that lost key players to free agency or injury—i.e. the Avalanche (Paul Stastny), Rangers (Anton Stralman), Flyers (Kimmo Timonen), and Wild (Josh Harding). They will suffer in a season with more parity. 

MICHAEL BLINN says: We’re going to see an all-time high in goalie points this season. The new rules that increase the size of the trapezoid behind each net means that goalies will get the chance to play the puck a little more often, meaning there’ll be opportunities for netminders to create a little more offense. Who knows, maybe a few of the more capable goalies will be more inclined to take a shot or two at an empty net …

BRIAN CAZENEUVE says: Joe Thornton will save his best hockey for the playoffs. So often during the regular season we see Happy Joe without a care in the world and enough assists to overload a shark tank. The expectations and tough questions don't usually start until April. This year it’s different. This time without a C on his chest, the longtime Shark will get ornery in October and he’ll have nothing to lose in April when he may well have a new coach and a new outlook.

GABRIEL BAUMGAERTNER says: The Columbus Blue Jackets will barely miss the Eastern Conference Finals. They surprised people last season by scaring the Penguins in their first-round series, but some underwhelming play by usually trusty goalie Sergei Bobrovsky derailed their otherwise successful season. Success isn’t the norm in Columbus, but the Jackets maintain an exciting blend of youthful talent and physical defense that thrives in April and May. Dynamic center Ryan Johansen remains in a contract standoff and top-liners Nathan Horton and Boone Jenner are sidelined by injuries, but the Jackets have an exciting bunch that could shake up the East. They’ll probably need to find one more scoring option, and while those attempts have gone south in the past (Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik), this team looks and buzzes like a playoff contender.

ELI BERNSTEIN says: You can take your Crosbys, your Kanes, your Getzlafs. I’m tabbing Jamie Benn to step into the spotlight and grab the Hart Trophy next spring. Another year with the quicksilver Tyler Seguin will mean more chemistry and more points than the 79 that Benn posted in 2013-14, and his leadership and intensity will power the Stars to a top-five finish in the West. Benn isn’t a superstar now, but he might well become one as the season goes along.

WRITER: ALLAN MUIR SARAH KWAK SAM PAGE MICHAEL BLINN
HART Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby Steven Stamkos
ROSS Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby
NORRIS Shea Weber Shea Weber Victor Hedman Duncan Keith
VEZINA Tuukka Rask Tuukka Rask Cory Schneider Tuukka Rask
CALDER Jonathan Drouin Sam Bennett Jonathan Drouin Calle Jarnkok
SELKE Anze Kopitar Patrice Bergeron Patrice Bergeron Patrice Bergeron
ADAMS Lindy Ruff Lindy Ruff Lindy Ruff Lindy Ruff
WRITER: Brian Cazeneuve Gabriel Baumgaertner Eli Bernstein
HART Patrick Kane Steven Stamkos Jamie Benn
ROSS Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby Sidney Crosby
NORRIS Shea Weber P.K. Subban Ryan McDonagh
VEZINA Tuukka Rask Henrik Lundqvist Ben Bishop
CALDER Jonathan Gibson Jonathan Drouin Jonathan Drouin
SELKE Jonathan Toews Anze Kopitar Jonathan Toews
ADAMS Barry Trotz Todd Richards Todd Richards

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