2021-22 NHL season roundtable – Can Tampa Bay Lightning three-peat? How will Seattle Kraken fare?

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A new NHL year is on us, with all the enjoyment, storylines and intrigue that come with it. It all gets began Tuesday with a doubleheader on ESPN. At 7:30 p.m. ET, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning acquire on the Pittsburgh Penguins, then at 10:15 p.m., the Vegas Golden Knights will host the expansion Seattle Kraken in their very first NHL game.

To get you ready for the 2021-22 campaign, we questioned some of our NHL specialists — Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier, ESPN.com reporters Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski, ESPN fantasy hockey writer Victoria Matiash and NHL on ESPN host Arda Ocal — what they are expecting to see, including no matter whether the Lightning can pull off a 3-peat as Stanley Cup champs, what to hope from the Kraken, what teams will be the largest surprises, what gamers will have a breakout year and who will get it all when the Cup is eventually elevated.

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What requires to happen for the Lightning to three-peat?

Mark Messier: I consider they have a excellent possibility to get a few in a row. I you should not consider the standard-time standings and ending to start with will be as massive of an objective for them as in earlier many years. They’ve played a whole lot of hockey over the previous couple decades, so keeping wholesome in advance of the playoffs could be the greatest aim. Yet another concern will be irrespective of whether they can make up for some of the players they dropped — Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard and Luke Schenn, to title a several. All are pretty underrated players who will be challenging to change in people depth positions.

Emily Kaplan: The new-glimpse third line requirements to be practically as powerful as the former 3rd line of Gourde, Goodrow and Coleman. That was a superior-vitality trio that could hunt down pucks with the very best of them, win battles together the partitions and get rapid performs to the web. Appear for new additions Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Corey Perry to fill those people roles. Although they will never have precisely the similar id, they arrive with their own skill set — Bellemare is wonderful defensively, although Perry is pesky and has a knack for the web. And their biggest impression will be felt in the postseason.

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Lightning captain Steven Stamkos talks with John Buccigross about Tampa Bay’s probabilities at a 3-peat, his adore of fantasy football and his cheat meal.

Greg Wyshynski: The Lightning’s main continues to be intact for this time, which signifies the prospective for a three-peat is nearer to likelihood than likelihood. There isn’t really a further group in the league that offers six gamers with the qualities and achievements of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Issue, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Andrei Vasilevskiy. But to earn No. 3, the Lightning require 3 items to take place. The initial is to continue to enjoy to their identification in the postseason. Tampa figured out how to win in the playoffs by fundamentally knowledge that protection paves the path to the Cup. The second, linked to that, is a balanced Vasilevskiy, who has a streak of 5 straight elimination games with a shutout. They can soak up other losses in the lineup, but not that a single. Finally, additional so than finding a further variation of their examining line — which is one thing that frankly cannot be recreated — they want to have those moments when a person exterior the main scores a significant aim. The lone aim in Game 7 from the Islanders arrived from Gourde, now with the Kraken. Coleman scored a important target in Recreation 2 in opposition to Montreal. They have gamers who have in the same way stepped up: Pat Maroon had the very first purpose in their elimination video game towards Florida and Ross Colton scored large aims in the elimination game towards Carolina and the Stanley Cup clinching game versus Montreal. But what separates Tampa from the field is that it isn’t reliant on the main to earn major online games. Effectively, outdoors of Vasilevskiy.

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Victoria Matiash: Successful a person Stanley Cup is tough ample, under no circumstances mind two straight. With so a lot of other high quality NHL squads, 3 in a row feels nearly not possible. But if the Lightning are to have a shot, the additions of agitator Perry and Bellemare will have to make up for the decline of one particular the very best depth lines in latest memory, alongside with improved enjoy from Colton and Mathieu Joseph. (I also like the blue-line addition of Zach Bogosian.) And the most effective netminder in the league will have to be his elite (healthful) self when it issues most future spring. The leading six will proceed to do their bit it really is the new-glance bottom sextet that issues me.

Arda Ocal: I adore the addition of Perry to this staff — he was a pressure on both of those the Dallas and Montreal Stanley Cup finalist groups. 1 other point he will incorporate is the hunger to get the Cup. I’m not indicating the gamers on the Lightning aren’t keen to a few-peat, but the other groups about the league are definitely hungry, so adding a participant who has been to the dance twice in a row but arrive up brief is a surefire way to remind the area of what’s at stake appear playoff time. There is definitely a great possibility that the Lightning go considerably all over again this period.

How considerably will the Kraken get in their first period?

Messier: I feel the GMs about the league realized a ton from the last enlargement draft. Vegas did a fantastic task leveraging the picks and the gamers that have been accessible to flip on their own into an immediate contender. I believe the GMs this time about ended up smarter, which built it a ton a lot more tough for the Kraken. The bar for an enlargement group was set superior by the Knights, but it’s a small unfair to expect the Kraken to be equipped to match that in their 1st time.

Kaplan: You can find a excellent probability the Kraken make the playoffs provided how weak the Pacific Division is. Seattle’s strengths are its goaltending and blue line. The Kraken will gain a bunch of 2-1 games and should really get clutch scoring. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of their best point producers occur from the blue line, such as Mark Giordano or Vince Dunn on the electricity engage in. Though nearly anything can transpire when you get in the playoffs, I just can not visualize a Golden Knights-esque run to the Stanley Cup Final. Then all over again, in October 2017, nobody was predicting that for Vegas, possibly.

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Anticipations are large as the Seattle Kraken commence their inaugural time.

Wyshynski: The Kraken are going to be a playoff team with more than 90 points. The Golden Knights experienced some items going for them that will verify unrepeatable for the Kraken, from that “Golden Misfits” chemistry to the palpable bond with a athletics-starved town. Although the Kraken didn’t come away with the similar bounty that Vegas did since teams smartened up to the expansion draft system over the past four a long time, they did establish an spectacular veteran group that is exponentially greater than the dreck we applied to affiliate with initial-calendar year groups. They also share another point: goaltending. Vegas came out of the gate with Marc-Andre Fleury backstopping them to a division title. The Kraken have the third-best goalie tandem in the NHL in Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger. Factor in the decrepitude of the Pacific Division, and you’ve received a to start with-12 months postseason berth … but probably not a great deal over and above that.

Matiash: I have them ending fourth, if not fifth, in the Pacific. There just isn’t really sufficient firepower in perform to make a more robust charge. As currently produced, the Kraken will be tougher to rating towards than most. But they however have to put the puck in the web by themselves. There just isn’t enough depth or talent in that department. Not yet. This just isn’t Vegas 2..

Ocal: I’m expressing they’re in the playoffs, but a person and done. I love Driedger — he is just one of the most effective backup goalies in the league, however he was fundamentally a starter for pieces of very last time with the Florida Panthers. They have a potent defensive corps, and when Yanni Gourde returns, they can use him to support respond to the issue marks about offensive output. On paper, I say the Kraken make the postseason. We could see some movement at the trade deadline as properly, primarily if there are additional issues up front.

Most pleasurable shock crew? Major disappointment?

Kaplan: Shock crew: Philadelphia Flyers. I could see them functioning the desk in the Metro Division. I preferred their offseason the throughline of their moves was adding competitive spirit. I particularly like how they resolved the blue line by incorporating Ryan Ellis (an general stud defenseman), Rasmus Ristolainen (who desperately needed a transform of landscapes) and Keith Yandle (who might just make Philly’s energy play enjoyable to observe). That all need to help guard Carter Hart, who is poised to bounce back again in a large way.

Disappointment: St. Louis Blues. I am just getting a challenging time acquiring enthusiastic about the Blues this yr. I would not be stunned if they missed the postseason.

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Wyshynski: The Anaheim Ducks have been penciled in as the worst group in the Pacific Division, but I think there is certainly a likelihood they are very best of the California groups if John Gibson cooperates in intention. The Los Angeles Kings have been chasing that sweet location in which the younger prospective buyers and the veterans all click at the exact time. Anaheim could actually be the a single on that timeline with Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and probably Mason McTavish generating an influence on a roster that however sporting activities names like Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell. Failing all of this: They trade for Jack Eichel and nonetheless end greater than anticipated.

Most disappointing staff: It feels like the hockey globe has been internally debating regardless of whether the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Washington Capitals are likely to miss out on the playoffs this year. My appreciate for all points Alex Ovechkin would make this difficult to confess, but it really is likely to be the Capitals on the outdoors of the Eastern Meeting playoff bubble.

Matiash: The Chicago Blackhawks are likely to shock all of us by leapfrogging absolutely everyone but the Avalanche in the Central. Jonathan Toews is wholesome and appears to be like fantastic. Exact same goes for younger Kirby Dach. Previous Lightning forward Tyler Johnson delivers some further depth down the middle. New defenseman Seth Jones is all set to erupt, 325 miles away from Columbus. Jake McCabe is an additional great insert on D. Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury brings some star power to the crease. Jeremy Colliton’s club is going to be a large amount of enjoyment.

On the flip aspect, I believe the Pittsburgh Penguins will have hassle treading h2o in a challenging Metropolitan Division this year.

Ocal: Greatest shock staff: New Jersey Devils. They haven’t sniffed the playoff race in a whilst, but there is a lot to be optimistic about, especially if Jack Hughes has himself a 12 months. If New Jersey can get good goaltending from Mackenzie Blackwood, with Dougie Hamilton anchoring the blue line, this could be a crew that turns some heads and turns into aggressive in the Metro, particularly in the hunt for a wild-card location.

Disappointment: Pittsburgh. This team has not skipped the playoffs considering that Sidney Crosby’s rookie year in 2005-06. What a run! But whether or not it is a combination of age or self esteem in net (Tristan Jarry was fourth in wins previous season but with a .909 save proportion), I ponder in which this staff will land this time.

Title a person player who will get traded by the deadline.

Kaplan: Jack Eichel. I see him becoming traded someday in the future 3 months. Although the stalemate around his neck treatment has lingered on significantly too extended, there has been some movement powering the scenes. The NHL and NHLPA have intervened to assist press things together, and Eichel is now ready to share his healthcare data files with likely groups. I see another person like the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights or Minnesota Wild stepping in. A workforce trades for Eichel while agreeing to permit him get the technique he prefers, he recovers for six weeks, will get back on the ice this time and you will find catharsis all all around.

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Wyshynski: It really is a Catch-22 in San Jose. Tomas Hertl most likely isn’t really signing an extension there if the Sharks aren’t on the upswing towards currently being a contender, but that upswing cannot happen unless they reload with assets that buying and selling a player like Hertl could offer. The 27-yr-aged middle could be a activity-changer for a contender, as a big human body who can generate offensively. He has only a $5.625 million cap strike in the remaining year of his deal right before hitting unrestricted no cost company. A change would do each the player and crew great.

Matiash: Deadline? Phil Kessel could be dealt prior to I complete typing this sentence. He has questioned for a trade to a contender, the rebuilding Coyotes have zero motive not to perform ball, and the veteran’s genuine-life choose-house paycheck of $1 million (cap hit: $8 million) is really affordable for teams not up against the ceiling. There is certainly no purpose this are not able to occur soon.

Ocal: John Gibson. Regardless of what Anaheim’s struggles are, and they feel to be continuing this time, Gibson is not going to be the explanation. There are a lot of playoff contenders who could use an up grade in goaltending to drive them above the edge, so to me it truly is not a subject of if, but of how a lot of calls the Ducks get from GMs close to the league for Gibson’s providers.

Who is your breakout participant for 2021-22?

Kaplan: Spencer Knight. He is just 20 and technically saddled on the depth chart powering the 2nd-optimum-paid out goalie in the league, Sergei Bobrovsky. But from every thing I have found from Knight, and more importantly, everything I listen to driving the scenes, he’s poised to prosper underneath the spotlight. He’ll be taking part in for a person of the best teams in the league this year and will earn a massive share of the workload. This time, we are going to be speaking about him as a person of the fastest-increasing stars in the NHL.

Hosts Linda Cohn and Emily Kaplan carry their hockey skills and passion for the activity, speaking about the newest information close to the league as effectively as interviewing the largest names both of those on and off the ice. Hear below »

Wyshynski: Yegor Sharangovich had a solid rookie season with the Devils that was overlooked due to the fact, effectively, it was effortless to ignore the Devils last season. He’s primed for a huge yr. The 23-12 months-aged ahead is envisioned to as soon as again skate with Jack Hughes and could have offseason signee Tomas Tatar on the opposite wing to type a potent offensive trio. His objectives for each game average from final season assignments to all around 25 plans in a total year, and I feel he’ll hit that overall in 2021-22 — and it’s possible surpass it.

Matiash: Vince Dunn is in for a great time just after breaking absent from St. Louis’ glut of gifted defensemen. As talked about earlier mentioned, the Kraken aren’t heading to rating a ton, but the 24-year-outdated and Mark Giordano will even now contribute more than their reasonable share from the blue line. I also like Dunn to take about the anchor situation on the prime energy engage in complete-time right before the period is via. Even though the 4-yr veteran has still to submit 40 details in a whole NHL season, he breaks out for 50 this 12 months. With ease.

Ocal: Kaapo Kakko. He was excellent in the preseason for the Rangers, he had a marked enhancement defensively for the Blueshirts previous time, and now it feels like he is ready to break out and create factors. I have been expressing that if the Rangers get fantastic years from Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere and Igor Shesterkin in net, this is a playoff staff with a very good operate in them. Kakko is a major part of that and appears primed to honor his stop of the bargain.

What is your Stanley Cup Final matchup and who wins?

Messier: Lightning vs. Avalanche. Lightning gain in 7.

Kaplan: Lightning vs. Golden Knights. Knights in 6.

Wyshynski: Islanders vs. Golden Knights. Knights in 6.

Matiash: Panthers vs. Avalanche. Avs in 6.

Ocal: Isles vs. Avalanche. Isles in 7.