2022-2023 NHL Preview


Sofia Nevala , Reporter

With the 2022-2023 NHL season upon us, there have been changes made by every team throughout the offseason that is sure to bring us another entertaining and unpredictable season of hockey. With games set in Finland and Czechia, the Winter Classic at Fenway Park and a Stadium Series game at North Carolina State University’s football stadium in Raleigh, NC, the season is sure to be an exciting one. Here are The Tower’s predictions for the 2022-23 NHL season.


Division Winners

Pacific: Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are coming off a 2021-22 season that ended by getting swept in the Western Conference finals by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. This year they return with their star Connor McDavid alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The past few years, the Oilers have been one of the best regular season teams in the entirety of the NHL but have struggled to execute in the playoffs with a first round sweep courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020 and then the Winnipeg Jets in 2021. Though their success in the playoffs has not come yet, it is hard to pick against them winning the Pacific division this year with all the stars they return and the addition of goaltender Jack Campbell during free agency. 


Central: Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche enter this season as the reigning Stanley Cup champions and their star player, Nathan MacKinnon, have agreed to an eight-year $100 million contract that, as of next year, will make him the highest paid player in the NHL. The Avs also have Cale Makar, their standout young defenseman out of UMass on the blueline. Expectations are high for the Avalanche again this year as they attempt to defend their title and go for back-to-back titles which would make them the third team since 2016 to do that, following the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. One of their biggest offseason moves came when acquiring Alexander Georgiev and signing him to a three year contract. He has the potential to make them even more successful than they were last year, as goaltending was the area the Avalanche struggled the most. 


Metropolitan: Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes made a couple big moves in the offseason that included grabbing veteran defenseman Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks. The Hurricanes have been on the rise in the NHL the past few years as their fan base has grown and rallied around them to become known as the “Caniacs” and the team dubbed “A Bunch of Jerks”, nicknames they carried throughout the playoffs a few years ago. The Hurricanes are coming off their fourth consecutive playoff appearance where they were eliminated in the second round after a seven game series with the New York Rangers. They return many important players including Seth Jarvis, Sebastian Aho, and Andrei Svechnikov along with their Jennings Trophy winning duo of goalies, Antti Raanta and Frederick Andersen. 


Atlantic: Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are coming into this season having made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, trading Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar for Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk signed an eight-year $76 million contract that keeps him with the team until the 2029-30 season. As for last season, they ended the year getting swept by their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the second round of the playoffs. This season there are high expectations for the Panthers who are the reigning Presidents Cup Trophy winners, having had the best overall regular season record last year. Along with the addition of Tkachuk, Paul Maurice joins the team as head coach hoping to lead the Panthers to what is expected to be a big season with the potential of raising the Stanley Cup at the end. 


Playoff Teams 

Pacific: Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Las Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings

The Vancouver Canucks, though not very successful in recent years, having missed the last six of seven playoffs, have a strong core that can lead them to success this year. With a young defense including Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes along with goalie Thatcher Demko, the Canucks have the personnel to be successful. This year will be different then the past as they will make the playoffs as one of the four teams from the Pacific Division.   

For the Las Vegas Golden Knights, last year was different than any in their history. For the first time in their existence, they did not make the playoffs. This year though they are back and healthy. Their big move last year was signing Jack Eichel, but he didn’t make a big impact on the ice because of a neck injury that had him sidelined for most of the season. This year he is healthy and the Golden Knights retain many of the players that got them to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year.

The Los Angeles Kings could be a surprise in the Pacific Division this year. They have fallen off from being one of the best teams in the league but they are severely underrated. One of the things that give the Kings the most opportunity for success is their goalie tandem. Veteran Jonathan Quick and Cal Peterson have traded the starting position back and forth for the past couple of seasons. Along with the L.A.’s signing of Kevin Fiala from Minnesota, the Kings have Quinton Byfield and other young players that are going to help the Kings be successful this year. 


Central: Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, St.Louis Blues

The Minnesota Wild were one of the surprise teams last season despite ending with a loss in the first round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues. With the addition of Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, they will be even better this year. The Wild also have their young star forward, Kirill Kaprizov, who scored 47 goals in his second NHL season in 2021-22. With a veteran goalie and young talent, the Wild are set up to have one of their most successful seasons in franchise history.

The Dallas Stars are looking to get back to the team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. The Stars are led by key veterans like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Young in goal, Jake Oettinger has the potential to lead the team too much success. Despite losing in the first round last year, Dallas is still a very skilled team that should make the playoffs this season.  

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, the St. Louis Blues have not been able to get back to that same level, but have consistently made the playoffs each year since. Despite the decrease in success, the Blues still have many of the important players that helped them win the Stanley Cup, including Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. With additions such as Noel Acciari and Nick Leddy plus Jordan Kyrou, who was given an eight-year contract extension, the Blues have the pieces to be a successful playoff team. 


Metropolitan: Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets

The New York Rangers will be at the top of the Metro this year competing for first place with the Hurricanes. This season the Blue Shirts expect to make it back to the Conference Finals as they did last year, having advanced past the first round for the first time in four seasons. With Igor Shesterkin in goal and a young team featuring Artemi Panarin and Alexis LaFreniere leading the way, the Rangers are sure to be a top contender in not only the Metro, but the entire Eastern conference.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to bounce back this season after four straight seasons where they have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs. With a veteran lineup including Sidney Crosby, Brian Rust, Evgeni Malkin among others, where the Penguins are lacking is certainly not skill. Although an older team, they still have the talent to produce at the level they did when they won back to back Cups in 2016 and 2017. 

While the Columbus Blue Jackets may not have had as much success in recent years compared to the other teams in this division, they have a chance to change that this season. With offseason moves like signing Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames and re-signing Patrick Laine, the Blue Jackets are starting to build the kind of team that can be a playoff contender. 


Atlantic: Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators

Although the Tampa Bay Lighting did not win the Stanley Cup last year, their skill players keep them at the top of the NHL standings. Many believe with players like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Bolts will once again have a very successful season. Tampa Bay is expected to be one of the best teams yet again this year, and it is hard to argue against this considering their core has stayed the same since the organization’s success began. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs, while overflowing with skilled players, have been cursed in the playoffs for what is now 17 straight seasons. The Leafs have not won a single playoff series in that time. Despite having stars such as Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Toronto has not been able to find a way to win in the postseason. This year will probably be yet another successful one, but it all comes down to what they can do in the playoffs. We will all be waiting to see if the curse will continue or not. 

The Ottawa Senators are a team with a lot of potentials. Despite having not made the playoffs in five straight seasons, the Senators are more prepared to advance than in recent years. With the addition of veteran Claude Giroux, and rookies Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto, the Senators should have one of their most successful seasons in years. Tim Stüzele will also support the team as he looks to continue his success coming off a season where he scored 22 goals and had 36 assists. 


Conference Winners


East: Florida Panthers

With the additions made by the Panthers in the offseason as mentioned above, the Cats will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference this season. Their skill, new coach, and the addition of Tkachuk among others will all have a large influence on their success this season. As the projected Atlantic division winners, Carolina and the rest of the conference will have the formidable task of taking down this strong Panthers team. 


West: Colorado Avalanche

As reigning Stanley Cup Champions, eyes are set on the Avs to see if they can produce at the same level as last year. With important players such as Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar back, Colorado is sure to be a Cup contender again this year. The defending champions have also improved their goaltending, which was considered to be their weakness last year. With the addition of Georgiev between the pipes, an incredibly talented and deep roster and Jared Bednar still behind the bench, the Avs are predicted to be one of the best teams, if not the very best team, in the league again this year. 


Individual Award Winners


Hart Trophy (MVP): Nathan MacKinnon

The Hart Memorial Trophy is presented to the Most Valuable Player of the season. It is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Nathan MacKinnon comes into this season being one of the most prolific players from last year. After leading the Avs to a Stanley Cup in 2022, he is back as the soon-to-be highest paid player in the NHL. This year the battle for the Hart trophy will most likely be between MacKinnon and Connor McDavid, but with the team that he has around him, despite this being an individual award, it is hard to pick against Colorado’s #29. 


Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Cale Makar

The Norris Trophy is given to the best defensemen in the league. Cale Makar is the best candidate this year and is looking to repeat his award-winning performance in 2021-22. Makar remains one of the best overall players in the league.  That will continue into this season due to his individual skills combined with the talented team he has around him. 


Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender): Andrei Vasilevskiy

The Vezina Trophy is given to the Best Goaltender across the league. Andrei Vasilevskiy is coming off his third straight year of leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, but last year was the first where they didn’t come out victorious. Vasilevskiy had a save percentage that was just a hundredth lower than his first run to the final of the trio, posting a .916 save percentage. In comparison, the leader in save percentage was Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers, who posted a .935 save percentage. The biggest factor between the two netminders’ statistics was that Shesterkin played 10 fewer games during the season than Vasilevskiy did. 


Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Jake Sanderson

The Calder Trophy is given to the rookie of the year in the NHL, and Sanderson, while not the favorite to win right now, is projected to have a great rookie season coming off his success in college at North Dakota. His success with the Fighting Hawks will transfer into the NHL, and with the improvements made to the Senators roster in the offseason, the team around him will contribute to Sanderson’s success. The 5th overall draft pick in the 2020 Draft, Sanderson, spent two years with the Fighting Hawks where he skated in 45 games, and scored 10 goals. With the improvements to the Senators team as a whole, this rookie has a chance to make a name for himself in the pro ranks this year. 


Ted Lindsay Award (Most Outstanding): Cale Makar

The Ted Lindsay Award is given to the NHL’s Most Outstanding Player of the year. This award differs from the Hart Trophy because it is voted on by members of the National Hockey League Players Association. Cale Makar is coming off a season that saw him become the stand-out player of not only the playoffs but the entire season. For 2021-22, Makar won both the Norris Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the postseason. After his time at UMass, where he led the Minutemen to their first-ever NCAA Championship, he made an immediate impact on the Avalanche when he joined them for Game 3 of the 2019 playoffs, scoring his first goal on his first shot in the NHL. Cale Makar has become such an important part of the Avs, critical to their success and creating a name for himself. It is hard to argue that he will not win his second straight Lindsay award this year if his expected domination on the blue line continues in 2022-23. 


Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year): Paul Maurice

The Jack Adams award is given to the Coach of Year in the NHL. It is often given to coaches whose teams are not expected to do well and then surprise the league with their success. This year may be different, as Paul Maurice is not new to the NHL nor trying to have success with a team who is not expected to be strong. In his first year coaching the Florida Panthers, after seven years with the Winnipeg Jets, Maurice is starting over with a new team this season. With high expectations for the Panthers, the pressure falls on Maurice to see if his team can execute at the level that has been projected. If the Panthers are able to be successful as expected, Maurice will likely get his fair share of recognition starting with the Jack Adams award.


Lady Byng (Sportsmanship): Anders Lee

The Lady Byng Memorial Award is given annually to the player that shows the best sportsmanship combined with a high level of skill in the game. Despite the Islanders disappointing season, Anders Lee still produced 28 goals and 18 assists occupying his office right in front of net screening goalies just as he has for the decade he has spent in the NHL. Along with that, he was whistled for only 17 penalties in 76 games for an average of 0.4 minutes a game. His equal mix of skill and disciplined play makes him a viable candidate for this year’s Lady Byng Trophy. The team captain, Lee will try to bring Islanders back up to the level which got them to two Conference Finals before last season’s woes.