THW’s 2021-22 Predictions: Standings, Stanley Cup & NHL Awards

Where can you find a talented team of sports enthusiasts, capable of setting any hometown bias aside for the sake of celebrating the NHL’s best? Right here, at The Hockey Writers, where over 100 active contributors cover every angle of the game. As a collective, we put our expertise to the test and predicted the organizations, athletes, and personnel that will rise above the rest throughout 2021-22.

THW's 2021-22 Predictions
TWH’s 2021-22 Predictions (The Hockey Writers)

Participating writers were tasked with ranking each division’s year-end standings, scripting the Stanley Cup Final, and anticipating every major award winner.

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1,591 pieces of data – collected, sorted, and analyzed – assisted us in achieving our goal of producing the most collaborative and comprehensive predictions possible. What story did it ultimately tell? Let’s find out.

2021-22 NHL Divisional Standings

Compiling a plethora of opinions doesn’t always result in a cut-and-dry consensus. Especially when it comes to sports. Not every voice is going to agree about the clubs they expect to dominate, the lineups that will be battling for that last wild card (WC) spot, or the franchises expected to own the best odds at drafting first overall next July.

In order to present an accurate account of what our responses conveyed, a points system was used to align a pre-determined value with the ranking that a team was given within each set of predictions. A higher rank earned teams more points, whereas lower positioning resulted in fewer. That exercise was repeated across all entries, concluding in the overall divisional standings that emerged.

Atlantic Division

For those in the Atlantic Division, it will be a mixed bag of what to expect on any given night. While there are certainly a few rosters that are clearly in rebuild mode, the type of top-end talent on display by their counterparts is unmatched.

NHL Atlantic Division Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Detroit Red Wings Florida Panthers Montreal Canadiens Ottawa Senators Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs
NHL Atlantic Division (The Hockey Writers)

Reuniting with back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, every team now forced to face the Tampa Bay Lightning that much more this season has a higher hill to climb. Yet, that doesn’t mean their Atlantic rivals won’t put up a good fight.


1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Florida Panthers
3 Toronto Maple Leafs
4 Boston Bruins (WC)
5 Montreal Canadiens
6 Ottawa Senators
7 Detroit Red Wings
8 Buffalo Sabres

Atlantic Division Title: Tampa Bay Lightning

Canadiens Regress From Finalist to Fifth Place

Although their 2021 Stanley Cup Final appearance may have been improbable from the outset, the fact remains that Montreal achieved the feat and made it their reality last year. Yet, any sense of progress may soon be doused when they don’t even find their way into the 2022 Postseason.

Checking in with our Canadiens crew, Blain Potvin didn’t mince words when acknowledging Montreal’s regression.

“The Canadiens began a rebuild four seasons ago. The goal was to restock with youth, and while a few high picks and quality prospects had been added, helping Montreal progress quicker than expected, taking a step back may be better for the team in the long run. The success for this franchise can’t be measured from one season’s outcome, but based on whenever it finally becomes a Cup contender again.”

As impressive as their recent playoff push was, and with all the respect this team is due as a result, the reality is that they just weren’t yet in a position to expect sustained success. Fortunately, for this storied franchise, their abundance of youthful talent is helping them get that much closer to achieving beyond just short-term gains.

Metropolitan Division

If there is any collection of clubs that best represent parity throughout the NHL, it’s those that make up the Metropolitan Division. Every lineup includes a balance of proven veteran voices combined with youth poised to take over the league.

NHL Metropolitan Division Carolina Hurricanes Columbus Blue Jackets New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Washington Capitals
NHL Metropolitan Division (The Hockey Writers)

This division is often presumed to maintain the highest degree of comparable competition, which was exactly what our results conveyed. In fact, the closest battles for a playoff berth occurred between those in the Metropolitan.


1 New York Islanders
2 Carolina Hurricanes
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers (WC)
5 New York Rangers
6 Pittsburgh Penguins
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Columbus Blue Jackets

Metropolitan Division Title: New York Islanders

Penguins’ League-Best Postseason Streak Ends

For the first time since 2005-06, and breaking the longest active postseason appearances streak at 15, Pittsburgh will not be competing for the 2022 Stanley Cup. Once a perennial force to be feared, an ageing and injury-prone roster no longer seems as able to scare their counterparts.

Matt Grazel, who covers Pittsburgh at The Hockey Writers, was far from surprised to see where the Penguins placed.

“The Penguins have not had success in the playoffs since last winning the Stanley Cup five seasons ago. An aging core, injuries to Crosby and Malkin and uncertainty at the goaltending position are key reasons as to why Pittsburgh will not make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Relieving the pent-up pressure throughout the Penguins locker room, placed upon those who helped them find such a consistent level of accomplishment, might be the best thing for this franchise. It will encourage a changing of the guard in Pittsburgh, as a necessary step for the organization to start any new streak in the near future.

Central Division

Although it may appear as though the Central Division’s spotlight will shine on one particular roster, the prowess spread throughout will quickly prove otherwise. Opponents that choose such a narrow focus will be at a disadvantage.

NHL Central Division Arizona Coyotes Chicago Blackhawks Colorado Avalanche Dallas Stars Minnesota Wild Nashville Predators St. Louis Blues Winnipeg Jets
NHL Central Division (The Hockey Writers)

There’s no denying that the Colorado Avalanche is on a trajectory towards league dominance. However, it would be negligent to presume that those who share space within their division rankings aren’t also fixated on progress.


1 Colorado Avalanche
2 Minnesota Wild
3 Winnipeg Jets
4 Dallas Stars (WC)
5 St. Louis Blues (WC)
6 Chicago Blackhawks
7 Nashville Predators
8 Arizona Coyotes

Central Division Title: Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Makes the Right Type of Noise

A narrative that seems to attract less attention than that which is seemingly reserved for the more obvious favourites throughout the league, the Wild have quietly turned into contenders. So much so that they’ll carve out a relatively easy path into the playoffs, without seeing a top-three finish at risk throughout 2021-22.

One of our Wild writers, Justin Walters, shares the same confidence onlookers should expect out of Minnesota.

“Last year, the wild showed that they can play a style of hockey that leans more towards speed and skill, instead of trying to always play a defense-first game. Most people expect players like Kaprizov, Fiala, and Eriksson Ek to be even better this season, and after their performance in the playoffs against Vegas, they could be a top 10 team in the NHL.”

Not the type of team to play a highlight-reel style of play, if it weren’t for contributions from Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota’s ability to build and blossom as a unit will ensure others take notice. It will be that type of collaborative approach that makes them a force to be reckoned with throughout 2021-22.

Pacific Division

Adding another new franchise into the Pacific Division’s fold doesn’t help make their collection of clubs seem any more competitive. Yet, ironically, it will be thanks to a former expansion team that the Pacific demands respect in 2021-22.

NHL Pacific Division Anaheim Ducks Calgary Flames Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings Seattle Kraken San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks Vegas Golden Knights
NHL Pacific Division (The Hockey Writers)

For the first time in a decade, the Presidents’ Trophy will be won by a team within the Pacific after the Vegas Golden Knights reign supreme this season. Despite no wild card spots coming out of the Pacific, its top talent will put on a show.


1 Vegas Golden Knights
2 Edmonton Oilers
3 Vancouver Canucks
4 Calgary Flames
5 Los Angeles Kings
6 Seattle Kraken
7 San Jose Sharks
8 Anaheim Ducks

Pacific Division Title: Vegas Golden Knights

Seattle Struggles With First Impressions

The heights that the Golden Knights were able to reach through their inaugural season, in which they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, are far from the norm of what to expect out of an expansion team. The reality is, the Seattle Kraken won’t create the same type of splash in their debut, as evidenced by their struggle to stay afloat in 2021-22.

Adam Kierszenblat, who is helping build Kraken content from the ground up, recognizes the importance of realism.

“We will probably never see an inaugural season like the one that Vegas had ever again. However, Seattle can still have a successful year without making the Stanley Cup. As long as the team is competitive and the hockey is exciting, even missing the playoffs could be seen as a success in year one.”

Even the clubs who have been part of the NHL since its inception face the same yearly struggles and challenges that make it difficult to dominate in the league. To expect another anomaly of a debut is irrational. Seattle doesn’t need to worry about achieving just yet. Rather, if they can focus on simply keeping up at this level, results will follow.

2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference

The parity throughout the Eastern Conference will be on full display through 2021-22, as the Atlantic and Metropolitan will send four teams apiece to represent both divisions equally at the start of the postseason.

A strong conference justifies the fact that seven of its clubs were included in the debate to decide who would represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final. Youthful speed and skill will lead the way throughout this side of the bracket, with aged experience fading early on. While there won’t be many upsets along the way, an underdog story will be written in the Conference Final.


1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Florida Panthers
3 Toronto Maple Leafs


1 New York Islanders
2 Carolina Hurricanes
3 Washington Capitals

Wild Card

1 Boston Bruins
2 Philadelphia Flyers

Eastern Conference Final

1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 New York Islanders

Ultimately, it will be the Islanders that are left to decide whether or not they are going to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy, with key coaching strategies and an unfulfilled hunger to win work to overcome the Lightning.

Eastern Conference Champion: New York Islanders

2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Western Conference

Despite the league-leading franchise representing the Pacific, the bottom feeders in that division will weigh their collective level of competition way down. Whereas a strong Central will accomplish in the same manner they’ve made their norm.

As a whole, the Western Conference maintained its imbalance with fewer franchises represented by the end of these postseason predictions. Scoring will narrate the West’s storylines, as some of the game’s best goalies fail to keep up. Clubs who have dominated for years, only to falter when it mattered most, will finally change their fate with the top-seed in the Final on the line.


1 Colorado Avalanche
2 Minnesota Wild
3 Winnipeg Jets


1 Vegas Golden Knights
2 Edmonton Oilers
3 Vancouver Canucks

Wild Card

1 Dallas Stars
2 St. Louis Blues

Western Conference Final

1 Colorado Avalanche
2 Vegas Golden Knights

Once again, winning the Presidents’ Trophy will not determine playoff success. A composed Colorado roster will take their team picture with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, after dismantling a disorganized Vegas lineup.

Western Conference Champion: Colorado Avalanche

2022 Stanley Cup Final

Regardless of how strong the crop of clubs that enter the postseason happens to be, there is only room for two to rise above the rest as the last remaining franchise on each side of the league.

For the first time in three years, the Lightning will not find their way into the Stanley Cup Final. Instead, fans will witness a rematch in the making for the past 40 years.

It was back in 1982 that these remaining organizations last met in the playoffs, competing in the Prince of Wales Conference Final, at a time when one of the two was still referred to as the Quebec Nordiques.

Stanley Cup Final

1 Colorado Avalanche
2 New York Islanders

Marko Zlomislic, of the Avalanche writing team, knows that now’s the time for Colorado to raise the bar.

“It’s about what you’d expect. Anything less than an appearance in the Cup Final should be considered a failure. It’s time for this team to deliver on its potential.”

Colorado hasn’t made a Final since 2000-01, which was also the last time they hoisted the Cup. Whereas New York will be extending their season that far for the first time since 1983-84, hoping for some long-overdue redemption from what ended up being a losing effort.

Ultimately, as a foreshadow of things to come, those same narratives will maintain. With an overwhelming majority expecting this outcome, expect the heavily favourited Avalanche to make good on their preseason odds.

Stanley Cup Champion: Colorado Avalanche

2022 NHL Awards

Success in hockey represents the epitome of what it means to achieve as a collective. As evidenced by the fact that it takes more than just any given campaign’s best players to secure that year’s ultimate prize. Simply stated, capturing the Stanley Cup requires a level of cohesion that stretches beyond the influence of individual star power.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that the game’s most elite performers deserve to be overlooked along the way. These are the names that won’t settle for mediocrity, regardless of their teammates’ capabilities throughout the year.

Calder Trophy

Although making it to this level of play is a rare feat, entering the Calder Trophy discussion elevates the experience.

The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League (NHL).”

Finalists: Cole Caufield (MTL), Trevor Zegras (ANA), Moritz Seider (DET)

Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

With a full season to showcase his skill set, following a small sample size with Montreal late in 2020-21, Caufield will pick up where he left off and run away with Calder voting as the obvious choice for rookie of the year.

Calder Trophy Winner: Cole Caufield

Rocket Richard Trophy

One of the more objective awards handed out at year’s end, simple math decides who earns the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, also known as the Rocket Richard Trophy, is awarded annually to the leading goal scorer in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Finalists: Auston Matthews (TOR), David Pastrnak (BOS), Connor McDavid (EDM)

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Not only will Matthews set an all-time goal-scoring record in Toronto through 2021-22, but he’ll also join Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Bure as the only athletes to win the award in back-to-back years since its inception in 1999.

Rocket Richard Trophy Winner: Auston Matthews

Art Ross Trophy

It’s one thing to accumulate the most goals, but it takes an elevated level of production to earn the Art Ross Trophy.

The Art Ross Trophy is awarded to the National Hockey League (NHL) player who leads the league in points at the end of the regular season.

Finalists: Connor McDavid (EDM), Leon Draisaitl (EDM), Nathan MacKinnon (COL)

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Solidifying his title as hockey’s best talent, McDavid will achieve his fourth Art Ross in a six-year span. He’ll be 25 by the time he adds this trophy to his list of accolades, with plenty of peak years left to continually repeat the feat.

Art Ross Trophy Winner: Connor McDavid

Selke Trophy

Two-way play is as crucial a component as any and those up for the Selke Trophy showcase that impact.

The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.

Finalists: Mark Stone (VGK), Aleksander Barkov (FLA), Patrice Bergeron (BOS)

Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights (AP Photo/John Locher)

Already one of the most important and impactful members of the Golden Knights, captain Stone will find a new gear that furthers his ability to lead and results in achieving the Selke as his first-ever individual award in the NHL.

Selke Trophy Winner: Mark Stone

Norris Trophy

Teams are only as good as the defending they can rely on, so those named for any Norris Trophy deserve that spotlight.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy, or simply the Norris Trophy, is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”.

Finalists: Cale Makar (COL), Adam Fox (NYR), Charlie McAvoy (BOS)

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Despite it only being Makar’s third year in the league, he’ll continue to propel like a proven pro. Beyond his offensive contributions, Colorado will benefit most from Makar’s elevated presence on their blue line as he picks up his first Norris.

Norris Trophy Winner: Cale Makar

Vezina Trophy

It’s no coincidence that any year’s best teams enjoy goaltending performances worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration.

The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s (NHL) goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position”.

Finalists: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Darcy Kuemper (COL)

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

As a follow-up to his Conn Smyth Trophy-winning performance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Vasilevskiy will carry that momentum forward into another dominant campaign through 2021-22. This will be his second Vezina.

Vezina Trophy Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Hart Trophy

When it comes to individual honours, regardless of an athlete’s position, the Hart Trophy is reserved for only the elite.

The Hart Memorial Trophy, originally known as the Hart Trophy, is awarded annually to the “player judged most valuable to his team” in the National Hockey League (NHL). 

Finalists: Connor McDavid (EDM), Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Auston Matthews (TOR)

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Picking up another trophy at the 2022 NHL Awards, this will be McDavid’s second Hart in a row and third of his career. Truly the best of the best in the game, he’s only getting better and his accolades will continue to support that fact.

Hart Trophy Winner: Connor McDavid

Jack Adams Award

Those navigating their ship, en route to a Jack Adams Award nomination, are equally as important as their crew.

The Jack Adams Award is awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”

Finalists: Barry Trotz (NYI), Joel Quenneville (FLA), Dean Evason (MIN)

Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
Barry Trotz, New York Islanders (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A bitter-sweet ending to New York’s season, following their defeat in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, Trotz will once again be recognized for his unparalleled ability to get the most out of his lineup when he wins his third Jack Adams Award.

Jack Adams Award Winner: Barry Trotz

NHL History in the Making

As comprehensive as we attempted to be with our preseason predictions, there’s no way to truly foresee what will unfold before that first puck drops and the results begin to roll in. Even then, surprises have to be expected along the way.

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2021-22’s headlines will include a mix of persistence paying off for those that are due and an earlier than anticipated arrival from others poised to take over. This game continues to elevate and its stars will follow suit.

Through it all, history will be made by the most deserving. We’re sure of it.

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