With the 2022-23 NHL regular season just over a month away, it’s time for regular season predictions. You can tell it’s the slowest portion of the NHL’s offseason when prediction articles start popping up and this is no exception. The biggest transaction in the league in the last week was Phil Kessel signing a one-year deal with the Vegas Golden Knights, so us hockey fans clearly need some way to fill our time other than looking for big reveals or announcements. The biggest surprise of the offseason is also already in the rearview, as Johnny Gaudreau signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency roughly a month and a half ago.
If you are anything like me, then you love trying to predict what’s going to happen in the NHL. Sure, it’s usually futile since hockey is a sport played on ice with skates on and a tiny rubber puck, but nobody’s going to tell me how to enjoy hockey if it means giving up on predictions.
Another thing besides hockey’s unpredictability that makes predictions like these fun is that most of them will likely be dead wrong, so if you happen to luck into a couple of guesses that come true, you get to screenshot them and show them to all your friends for a day or so. Will any of my predictions age well? Let’s get started so we can find out. Here are my 32 bold predictions for the 2022-23 NHL season, one for each team.
Jamie Drysdale will lead all Anaheim Ducks defenders in scoring with 51 points in his second full NHL season and will end up in the top three for scoring amongst all skaters on the team. The 2020 sixth overall pick will have some tough competition, especially with the addition of John Klingberg, who signed in Anaheim for one year in free agency.
Drysdale will need to outwork Klingberg to earn significant ice time on the first power-play unit, where he can add quite a few points. Klingberg will likely be trusted with minutes against tougher competition than his 20-year-old teammate, which should free Drysdale up to score more points against weaker opponents.
Jacob Chychrun has a hot start to the season and is traded before the new year begins on January 1. It’s tank season for the Arizona Coyotes, so anyone who helps them win games is also actively hurting their chances at landing Connor Bedard in the 2023 Draft.
Chychrun was considered one of the most valuable trade targets in the league for the majority of last season, but his value has certainly decreased following a disappointing season. He followed up a stellar 2020-21 season where he scored 41 points in only 56 games with an injury-shortened 2021-22 season in which he only managed to put up 21 points in 47 games. If he can bounce back early, the team will surely find a trade suitor and finally pull the trigger on this long-anticipated deal.
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman win the William M. Jennings Trophy as goalies who have played at least 25 games for the team that allowed the least goals against in the NHL. Everyone’s favourite goalie duo is back, and I predict that they will prove once again that goaltender tandems can actually work out. The duo had nearly identical statistics last season and started for the Boston Bruins in 39 games apiece, but I expect the 23-year-old Swayman to show some significant improvement in his second full season in the NHL.
The Bruins have seen their goaltenders win this award twice in the last 14 years, with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak winning it most recently in the 2019-20 season. I’m really just hoping this happens so we can see Ullmark and Swayman do their famous goalie hug on stage when they accept the award.
The Buffalo Sabres will finally end their 11-year playoff drought, the longest playoff drought in NHL history. Typically, a team will only miss the playoffs for a handful of seasons before they rebuild enough that they can begin competing with the league’s better half. Let’s just say that Buffalo’s rebuild has… not quite gone to plan.
Despite their struggles over the last decade-plus, the Sabres are in a great spot at the moment with tons of great young prospects throughout their team and their development system. They also acquired Alex Tuch from the Vegas Golden Knights as a part of the Jack Eichel trade, who is the presumed favourite to be the team’s next captain. The future is bright for the Sabres, but I expect it to arrive a bit sooner than most.
If I had told you at the beginning of the summer that the Calgary Flames would lose their two best players this offseason in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and would still come out of the summer looking better than ever, would you have believed me? I predict that the Flames will not only be as good as last year but better as they will win the Presidents’ Trophy next season, earning 123 points.
The team’s new additions of MacKenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau, received in the Tkachuk trade, and the signing of Nazem Kadri in free agency are the kind of moves you make to keep your championship contention window open, and that’s exactly what Calgary did. If Jacob Markstrom can maintain his Vezina Trophy-caliber form from last year, the Flames will be dangerous come next year’s playoffs.
I predict that the Carolina Hurricanes will win the Stanley Cup in the 2022-23 season. Few teams have added the type of top-end talent that the Canes have in Max Pacioretty and Brent Burns, so it is shocking to see how low the cost was to add such players on the trade market. Pacioretty was acquired from Vegas for “future considerations” (read: free of charge) and was unfortunately injured in offseason training. However, he will return in February or March and provide an excellent boost to the team’s offense just as they make a push toward the playoffs.
Brent Burns will likely not be forced to play quite as many minutes as he was for years with the San Jose Sharks, so he should look great, as well, with a bit more rest. Frederik Andersen will need to stay healthy when the games get important, and if he can, he has shown himself to be one of the better goalies in the NHL over the last few seasons. I’m also going to predict that they will win the Cup while only winning two of their playoff games on the road because we all know how hard it can be to win road games.
The Chicago Blackhawks are another team that is doing their best to lose as many games as possible this year. I predict that Patrick Kane starts the year too good for the team, scoring 30+ points in their first 25 games, which leads to him being traded long before the trade deadline to help the team tank.
Kane will earn the Hawks a hefty trade return, especially if they retain a significant portion of his $10.5 million salary. I would also expect a third team to be involved in the trade, who is willing to take on a chunk of Kane’s contract to help facilitate the trade, for a price, of course. Look for Kane to be sent to a contender, who is willing to pay some valuable assets to add an elite playmaking winger that can help them win some important playoff games.
Bonus Super Specific Prediction: Kane will be traded to the Florida Panthers.
Nathan MacKinnon hits 100 points for the first time in his career. I predict that he will demolish his previous career high of 99 points (2018-19) and will score 120 points in a full 82-game season.
It’s hard to believe that MacKinnon hasn’t broken triple digits yet in his career considering he’s been one of the league’s most electric offensive talents for at least five seasons. He has scored at well over a 100-point pace in each of the last three seasons, but each of those campaigns were shortened by either COVID-19 or injuries. This is the year he finally reaches one of the NHL’s most prestigious single-season milestones.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine will score 40+ goals for the first time since his sophomore season when he scored 44 goals in 82 games for the Winnipeg Jets. The Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world this summer when they signed star winger Gaudreau in free agency, a move that few saw coming.
The addition of Gaudreau and the contract extension that Laine signed has set the team up with a dynamic duo for the next several years. I expect to see the pair combining to score a ton of points at five-on-five and on the top power-play unit. My prediction for his exact goal total is 45, which would be a new career-high.
The version of Jake Oettinger that we saw in the first round of last year’s playoffs against Calgary was no fluke, as “Otter” will establish himself as an excellent starting goalie this year like Thatcher Demko did after “Bubble Demko” debuted in the 2020 Bubble playoffs.
However, Oettinger is currently a restricted free agent (RFA) without a contract, and I predict that the Dallas Stars will make the situation a lot tougher on themselves. They will do so by signing him to a short-term deal (one or two years) which he will quickly out-perform and out-grow, leading to him demanding a massive extension as soon as it expires.
Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina will have a breakout season under new head coach Derek Lalonde, scoring 20 goals and 45 points. Ever since the Detroit Red Wings drafted Zadina sixth overall in the 2018 Draft, expectations have been sky-high, and his play has not yet managed to live up to them. The team recently extended him for three more years at a surprisingly affordable $1.8 million per season.
If Zadina has a breakout in any of the seasons on this deal, it will be an absolute steal, but it will still be valuable if he stagnates as a good middle-six winger. This contract makes him Detroit’s 16th highest paid player next year, 17th if you include the buyout penalty for Justin Abdelkader, which will cost the team $2.3 million against the cap next season. I think he’ll break out and have one of the most valuable contracts in the league.
Pulljujarvi will score at the same pace as last year, roughly 0.55 points per game (PPG), and will be traded at the deadline for a veteran forward who is expected to put up points more reliably. I also think that he will pop off on his new team, scoring above 1 PPG for the rest of the season on his new team.
After being drafted fourth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2016 Draft, Pulljujarvi has yet to truly break out in the NHL, despite playing tons of minutes alongside one or both of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He has shown great improvements over the last two years, but that has yet to translate into a ton of points which is why the Oilers signed him to an easily tradeable one-year contract this summer.
Spencer Knight officially takes over as the team’s starter, making Sergei Bobrovsky the highest-paid backup goalie of all time for the next four seasons. Following two dominant years in the NCAA, Knight made his way to the NHL last season as the Panthers’ full-time backup. He played 32 games and sported a lacklustre .908 save percentage (SV%).
Let me remind you that he is still only 21 years old and that goaltending prospects typically take a lot longer to develop. In his short professional career, Knight has been rather inconsistent, but those games where he has looked great are what I’m choosing to focus on here when I predict that he will take over the starter’s net this season.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings will finish the year second in the Pacific Division, behind only the Flames. Their success last year was no fluke, and they only got better with the addition of Kevin Fiala and the continued development of their top prospects.
This Kings team may very well have beaten the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs last year if franchise cornerstone Drew Doughty hadn’t been out with an injury. The biggest x-factor next year is if Jonathan Quick has one more good season in him because his surprise return to form last year was a big reason why they were competitive.
Matt Boldy will step up to fill the hole left by the departure of Fiala in a trade this summer, scoring 85 points, the exact number that Fiala scored last year. Boldy went underrated during his excellent rookie season last year on account of him only playing 47 NHL games. Many people will be learning his name next year because if he can score 39 points as a 20-year-old rookie, I expect him to surprise some folks with what he can do in a full season.
The Wild are essentially playing with a salary cap that is $13 million lower than other teams due to the massive buyout penalties for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Despite $12.7 million in dead cap next year, the Wild will make the playoffs on the backs of some great performances by Boldy, superstar winger Kirill Kaprizov and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Montreal Canadiens will win the second overall pick in the draft lottery, narrowly missing out on Connor Bedard who goes first overall, but they won’t take Russian phenom Matvei Michkov second overall. It has been a foregone conclusion for over a year now that Bedard and Michkov would be battling it out for first overall when the 2023 Draft finally arrived, but the same was said for Shane Wright and the 2022 Draft, and we all know how that went.
The Canadiens showed a very high level of trust in their amateur scouting department this summer when they took Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky first overall, and I expect that they will deviate from the public consensus once again in next year’s draft.
Roman Josi led all NHL defensemen in assists and points last season by a significant margin, becoming the first defender to eclipse 90 points in a single season since Phil Housley did it in 2002-03.
My prediction is that Josi will not only lead NHL defenders in assists once again, but he will lead all skaters in assists with 81. The Nashville Predators added Ryan McDonough this offseason in a trade who I expect will take on some of the more difficult defensive match-ups on the left side, freeing Josi up to focus even more on leading the team’s offense.
New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes was excellent last year, breaking out with 56 points in an injury-shortened season where he only played 49 games. I predict he will look every bit like the first overall pick he was back in 2019 and will set the single-season franchise record for points, currently held by Patrik Elias, who had 96 points in the 2000-01 season. Hughes will score 99 exactly and will throw his stick over the glass in celebration of a great overtime goal at least twice.
The addition of Ondrej Palat in free agency and the return of a healthy Dougie Hamilton should lead to a lot more goals for the New Jersey Devils, and I expect Hughes to be at the center of a ton of them.
Bonus Super Specific Prediction: Jack Hughes will get the primary assist on Luke Hughes’ first NHL goal when he joins the team following the conclusion of his NCAA season.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders’ fall from grace continues as the team underperforms again next year before losing Matthew Barzal next offseason. When Tkachuk orchestrated his exit from Calgary this summer, he laid out a blueprint for the league’s young stars on how to leverage their years as an RFA to help them escape a team they don’t want to play for.
The Islanders shocked everyone this offseason by *checks notes* doing nothing all summer. This team is aging and doing nothing to mitigate that is exactly how you lose a young star player like Barzal. Eight of the team’s 11 highest-paid forwards will be 30 years or older by this coming November, and they fired Barry Trotz, considered by many to be the best coach in the NHL. Prepare yourselves now Islanders fans, you might just have another “Pyjama Boy” situation on your hands.
New York Rangers
With a world-class goalie in Igor Shesterkin and improved play from young contributors like Alexis Lafreniere, Kappo Kakko, and K’andre Miller, the Rangers will set a franchise record for points in a season with 115, winning the Metropolitan Division. The young team managed 110 points last year, and I only expect them to improve.
Unfortunately, I also think that they will be bounced in the first round by the upstart Sabres. It’s okay, having an incredible season and then promptly losing in the first round of the playoffs is an NHL rite of passage for some great teams, just ask the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning.
I believe that the Ottawa Senators will make the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2017. The team will be led in points by new acquisition Alex DeBrincat who will score 50 goals for the first time in his career. DeBrincat managed to score 41 goals in 82 games last year on a terrible Blackhawks team, so pairing him with one of Claude Giroux or Tim Stützle could be just the boost he needs to make it to 50.
The top-six forward group in Ottawa is looking much improved with their offseason additions, and they should get some help on defense from rookie Jake Sanderson. If the team’s existing young players can continue to develop well, I believe the club has a great chance to return to the postseason this year.
Carter Hart will have the bounce-back season that every Philadelphia Flyers fan has been dreaming of, but it won’t be enough as the club will still miss the playoffs in their first season under new head coach John Tortorella.
The Flyers are stuck in what I like to call “Rebuild Limbo,” not good enough to win games, but too stubborn to tear it down and rebuild properly. I don’t expect them to give up any top-end future assets in the next season or two, but they will likely trade some prospects and draft picks in a short-sighted attempt to improve their roster now.
Sidney Crosby will score 101 points this year, earning him his seventh 100-point season, tying Petr Stastny and Mike Bossy for the fourth most 100-point seasons in a career. He hasn’t reached that mark since the 2018-19 season, but he still scored points at a remarkably high rate last year despite it being his 17th season in the NHL, managing 84 points in 69 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins made it clear this offseason that they are betting on their older core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang to win them games next year, and I think they will do just that.
Crosby will surely be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but if he could manage such an offensively proficient season at this stage of his career, it would go a long way in establishing his legacy as one of the greatest hockey players of all time.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks won’t be able to replace Brent Burns following his trade to Carolina and will end up in the bottom six of the NHL at the end of the regular season. However, they will win the draft lottery and draft Bedard first overall.
The Burns trade offers the Sharks some massive cap relief, but it also leaves a massive void. Burns played the most minutes in the entire NHL last year (averaged 26:09 per game), and that’s not the easiest thing to replace, especially with so few NHL-caliber defensemen coming up through their prospect pool. Although the team still has several contracts that they will look to dump to help their rebuild, managing to move Burns was a great decision for the long-term outlook of the team.
Matty Beniers looked excellent in the NHL at the end of last season, scoring nine points in 10 games. The 2021 second-overall pick is not only going to lead the team in scoring with 65 points, setting multiple franchise records along the way, but he is also going to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie.
Beniers has done nothing but impress since being drafted just over a year ago, and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. In his draft year, he was billed as a great two-way centerman, who has a motor that doesn’t quit. With the addition of Shane Wright in the 2022 Draft, the Seattle Kraken appear to have found their top two centermen for the next decade.
St. Louis Blues
Expectations are high for Jordan Binnington after a great showing in the playoffs last year, where he had a .949 SV% in six games, but that will quickly fade as his downward trajectory continues. I predict he will end the season with a save percentage just below .900, partially due to the offseason losses of Ville Husso and David Perron.
Husso was a pleasant surprise last year for the St. Louis Blues, earning 38 starts and 25 wins. He stole the starter’s net from Binnington partway through the year and eventually priced himself out of St. Louis due to his excellent play. Having a great tandem partner or backup is essential to a starting goalie, and Binnington will now have Thomas Greiss as his backup, a considerable downgrade from Husso.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov is going to score 120 points next season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, his first full season since the 2018-19 season. He has established himself as one of the NHL’s most dominant offensive forces, but injuries have kept him from reaching the century mark in any of the last three seasons. I expect him to not only reach that mark again next year but to easily surpass it.
Kucherov scored 128 points in his last full season, the most points in a single season by any active NHL player. He has become an unstoppable force on offense when healthy, scoring an unbelievable 30 power-play points in only 47 games last year. If he can finally manage to stay healthy again, I fully expect Kucherov to hit 120 points, and maybe even flirt with 130 again.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Atlantic Division in the regular season and will finally make it through the first round of the playoffs, against the Bruins no less. I know that the Leafs are too good to stay stuck in the first round forever, and I think this is the year that they make a real breakthrough, with Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews dominating the opposition despite Boston’s best efforts to shut them down.
If this prediction comes true, you’re welcome, Leafs fans, I broke the curse. If this prediction is proven false, sorry Leafs fans, I am the curse.
J.T. Miller will be traded before the puck drops on the regular season and youngster Vasiliy Podkolzin will have a breakout season on the Vancouver Canucks top line in his place. Miller scored 99 points last year, leading the team in scoring by over 30 points. However, he is entering the final year of his contract, and it has become clear that he and the Canucks’ management team do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to an extension.
If the team tries to maximize his trade value by moving him before the season begins, there will be a large hole to fill on offense. My best guess for the player that will fill said void is Podkolzin, a young Russian winger who will be in his sophomore NHL season. He only scored 26 points in 79 games last year as a 20-year-old, but he looked excellent in the last 15-20 games of the season. If he manages to stick it out on the team’s top line, I expect to see him score around 50 points in a role heavily focused on physical play and supporting his linemates.
Vegas Golden Knights
Logan Thompson will impress everyone, posting at least a .915 sv% and helping the Vegas Golden Knights land a playoff spot after missing the postseason for the first time in the team’s short history last year.
Thompson has only played 20 NHL games but finished last season with a 10-5-3 record, while Robin Lehner was in and out with injury. Lehner is expected to miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season recovering from offseason knee surgery, so Thompson has now been tasked with being the starting goalie for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
Despite Niklas Backstrom’s hip surgery keeping him out for most, if not all, of the regular season, Alexander Ovechkin will yet again manage to score 50 goals next year, setting the new record for the most 50-goal seasons in an NHL career at 10.
He currently shares the record of nine with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy. Ten 50-goal seasons sounds impressive at face value, but it sounds even wilder when you realize that only seven other active players have scored 50 or more in a single season, and Steven Stamkos and Crosby are the only active players who have done it more than once. Ovechkin is clearly a once-in-a-generation goalscoring talent, and I look forward to seeing him break Gretzky’s all-time scoring record in a few years.
One of Mark Scheifele or Pierre-Luc Dubois will be traded at the deadline after a lacklustre start for the Winnipeg Jets. Both players are believed to want out of Winnipeg, and each are treading on thin ice (pun intended) with the club’s management group.
After making it all the way to the Western Conference Final in 2018, the Jets have won a grand total of one playoff series, even missing the postseason entirely last year. They have some excellent young prospects in Cole Perfetti, Brad Lambert, and Rutger McGroarty, but I think they are ready to begin a rebuild of sorts with one of Scheifele and Dubois being the first major piece out the door.
Bonus Super Specific Prediction: Whichever one of these two players is still on the team after the trade deadline will leave the team next offseason.
The 2022-23 Season Is Almost Here
With the Predators facing the Sharks on October 7, the NHL regular season is just over a month away, meaning there is still plenty of time for predictions and guesses as to what next season will look like. If my prediction for your favourite team wasn’t spicy enough for you, let me know in the comment section and I’ll do my best to upgrade the boldness by a few notches.
What do you think about my predictions? Do you think any of them will come true? Do you have any predictions of your own? Sound off in the comment section below!
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Logan is the director of prospect coverage (including the World Junior Championship and NHL Draft) for The Hockey Writers, and he’s also a part of the Detroit Red Wings writing team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing.