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Here are seven players, coaches and trends that will define the NHL in 2019.

By Jeremy Fuchs
December 21, 2018

Can another team pull together another Vegas-like Cinderella story? Will an MVP candidate lead his team deep into the playoffs? How will trades and firings impact the league? Below are seven players, coaches and trends that will define the NHL in 2019.

Nathan MacKinnon

He's the best player on an offensive juggernaut, an MVP candidate, and finally becoming the star we all thought he would be when he was the first pick in the 2013 Draft. Now, at just 23, it's time to see if Nathan MacKinnon has what it takes to lead the Avalanche—a team with incredibly offensive skill and questionable defensive tendencies—into the playoffs and into a deep run.

John Tavares

Though he was the splashy offseason move of the summer, John Tavares hasn't exactly been the loudest player during the season. That's despite carrying the Leafs while Auston Matthews was out. With the top of the East up for grabs, will Tavares continue his strong play and bring the Leafs back to a deep playoff run?

Jack Eichel       

If anyone had Buffalo as one of the best teams in the league, well that person is probably lying. The Sabres are the hottest team in hockey, and they've done without Jack Eichel scoring a ton of goals. (He has been a prolific set-up man.) If the Sabres can find a way to get him scoring, then watch out. We could be looking at another Vegas-like Cinderella story.

Ken Hitchcock

Can the veteran coach be the one to crack the Oilers and take them on the deep playoff journey that Connor McDavid deserves? It's too soon to tell. But Hitchcock's defensive discipline is at odds with McDavid's breakaway speed and offensive instincts. Can the two coincide? And if they can, will Edmonton find its way back to the postseason?

Erik Karlsson          

So, Erik Karlsson gets traded to the Sharks and everyone assumes they will be unstoppable. And both the Sharks and Karlsson have been good—they just haven't been a juggernaut. Was the Karlsson move a mistake? Probably not, considering how little the Sharks gave up. But will we see the overpowering offense we were promised in the summer? That remains to be seen.

Star Players Traded

Karlsson was traded in the offseason; so was Max Pacioretty. But with so many consistent playoff teams of the last few years struggling this season, we may see a sell off. Will Ryan Getzlaf find a new home? Is Patrick Kane tradeable? What about Claude Giroux? We're not sure anyone is safe.

Coaches Fired

So long, Joel Quenneville. Bye, Mike Yeo. See you later, John Stevens. Farewell, Todd McLellan. Dave Hakstol, it's finally over. The firings have come fast, and they aren't done. Florida, New Jersey, Detroit and Pittsburgh could all see changes before the year's over.

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