Without waiting any further, let’s crack the Top 10!
10. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
It’s difficult to imagine an NHL in the coming years in which Taylor Hall is not one of the league’s premier superstars. Honestly, the toughest part about writing this piece on Hall is the fact that he’s younger than me – talk about feeling insignificant. At age 21, Hall has been leaving experienced NHL defenders in the dust for three years now, and he shows no signs of ever slowing down.
Drafted by the Oilers in 2010, the first overall pick jumped onto the NHL scene immediately, scoring 22 goals and totaling 42 points in just 65 games of NHL action as a rookie. He followed that year with a splendid sophomore campaign, posting 27 goals and 26 assists in 62 games. This season, Hall saw his stat sheet fall to just 16 goals on the year, but he did post a career-high 34 assists en route to 50 points in 45 games. The Oilers are an extremely young team (top-9 point-getters for 2012-13 are under age 30), and Hall will be a crucial part of Edmonton’s success for years to come.
In less than an hour, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs will kick off with a double-header, as the Minnesota Wild will take on the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings will battle the St. Louis Blues for the early series leads in the West.
Before those games start, though, it’s time I get in my full playoff predictions. Take a peek and leave your comments below!
Note: In the preseason, I picked the Sharks over the Penguins in the final. While it’s a tough road for San Jose, I’m sticking with my original pick and hoping they go the distance.
Well, folks, here we are. After a crazy off-season that saw a pair of $100+ million contracts given out to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (along with a similar offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber, which was ultimately matched by the Nashville Predators), an epic owners-versus-players battle during the NHL lockout, a shortened season that almost wasn’t, and the longest point-streak in NHL history, we’ve finally reached the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The set-up isn’t necessary, so I’ll just get right to the meat and potatoes: here are my picks for the first round in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And not a moment too soon, as we’re only a few hours til puck drop. Leave your comments below!
#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Minnesota Wild
I just mentioned the Minnesota Wild and their two big signings in the off-season, and Zach Parise’s presence in Minnesota makes me really want to pick the Wild in the upset. Former New Jersey Devils’ captain Zach Parise joined the Wild in order to play hockey closer to home (the money helped, too), and he’s bringing plenty of experience with him. Last year in particular, the Devils grabbed the 6th seed in Parise’s first and only year as captain in New Jersey, and stormed through the playoffs past Florida, Philadelphia, and the New York Rangers before falling in the Finals to Los Angeles. Can Parise bring some magic to Minnesota as well and become the new Minnesota Miracle Man?
My brain says no. Chicago is too talented, too deep, and too hot to lose now, and they’ve got extraordinary talent. The goalie tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery is a force to be reckoned with, and the Hawks are just lethal in the offensive zone with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and youngster Brandon Saad. I like the Wild as a young team. With some time to develop, the Wild can be contenders for many years to come. But this year is not that year.
The regular season ends this weekend, and there’s never a more exciting time before the playoffs than now. The final teams are clawing their way into the pack as a few slide down the conference standings.
Where does your favorite team rank? Check out the second edition of my NHL Power Rankings! Note: new for this week, you’ll notice a number in parentheses next to this week’s rank; the number is parentheses is where that team ranked last week.