For better or for worse, three-on-three overtime has officially made its way to the National Hockey League after years of board room debate. It’s an improvement in the sense that it will reduce the number of shootouts, a gimmicky skills competition that could essentially be decided by a coin flip. Teams that luck out in the shootout greatly improve their playoff chances, so the hope is that the new three-on-three format will leave less of a team’s fate to chance. With that in mind though, let’s look at some teams that will inflict fear into the hearts of their opponents in the extra frame:
5. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers still might not be all that good next year, but the new overtime format may give them the biggest boost of any team in the league. With speedsters like Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, the Oilers will be a nightmare to defend in the extra frame. Now, defending their own side of the ice might be an issue, but good luck getting the puck away from them in the first place.
4. San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton is the only player in NHL history not named Wayne or Mario to notch consecutive 90 (!!!) assist seasons. With that tidbit in mind, imagine how much damage Thornton alone will be able to inflict with all the time and space that will be afforded to him. Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, and Logan Couture can all skate and finish with the very best in the league, which should make the Sharks another team to be afraid of in the new format.
3. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks already have the guns to go to war at three-on-three with superstars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. With an offensive-minded coach like Bruce Boudreau though, the Ducks will wreak havoc at three-on-three, possessing players all throughout their lineup that combine skill and speed. Ryan Kesler is one of the very best at controlling the puck down low, and with shooters like Jakob Silfverberg roaming the ice, Anaheim will be one of the league’s best at three-on-three.
2. Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin in a three-on-three situation? That sounds like a major headache for coaches and goaltenders around the NHL, but it will be edge-of-you-seat exciting for hockey fans everywhere. Sprinkle in one of the decade’s three best play-makers in Nicklas Backstrom with a side of T.J Oshie or even Evgeny Kuznetsov, and you have the makings of one of the most lethal three man wrecking crews in the league.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins might have still been number one on this list before the Phil Kessel trade. With the American sniper in tow alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin though, Pittsburgh will be downright unstoppable at three-on-three. Hell, they might be close to that at five on five as well. Crosby’s uncanny vision and puck control combined with the speed and shooting of Phil Kessel will be magical to watch, and then you still have to contend with either the brute strength of Evgeni Malkin or the sublime skating of Kris Letang. Three-on-three hockey might be just as gimmicky as the shootout, but it’ll be one hell of an entertaining gimmick come 2015-16.