By: Brennen Krikorian
Well, we made it. Hockey will officially return after just two and a half months and I could not be happier.
With 26 fewer games, brand new divisions and COVID-19 constantly affecting the league, this season will be one of the most entertaining and unpredictable stretches of NHL hockey in recent memory.
Here are my hot takes heading into the 2021 NHL season:
Patrik Laine will be a Nashville Predator by the end of the season
Patrik Laine has been one of the hottest names in trade rumors for months now due to his agent Mike List claiming that both parties should explore a trade. It is now not a matter of if, but when, Laine gets dealt.
The 22-year-old Finnish sniper is on the final year of his 2-year/$13.5 million contract and will most likely be looking for a raise this summer. In just 305 games played, the 2016 second overall pick has produced 138 goals and 247 points, proving that he is an elite goal scorer in this league.
While his talent on the offensive end is undeniable, he has shown that his awareness on the defensive end is lackluster at best and has been known to go on cold stretches throughout the season.
While teams like Philadelphia, Boston and Montreal have been the top targets for Laine, I think he will end up going to Nashville. Due to division realignment, the Predators have gained a higher chance of making the playoffs and would be willing to give up a high draft pick in order to rent a goal scorer like Laine.
Nashville has the cap flexibility and assets to make this trade go through, and with defensive studs on the blue line such as Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis, they can afford to have a defensive liability on the wing.
There still is a chance that Laine stays in Winnipeg for the remainder of the season, but do not be surprised if he is in a gold sweater listening to country music by the end of the year.
Seth Jones will win the Norris Trophy as league’s best defenseman
The Norris Trophy is arguably the most competitive award this season. There are about 12 defensemen with legit opportunities to take home the accolade, headlined by last season’s winner Roman Josi and playoff MVP Victor Hedman. Despite their resumes amongst many others, I’m taking Seth Jones to top all of them.
Jones is now entering his eighth season in the league and after battling an ankle injury last season, the 26-year-old is heading into the prime of his career fully healthy.
Looking to make his fifth consecutive All-Star game this season, Jones has consistently been one of the game’s best defensemen. Last season, he finished with over 25 minutes played per game and had the fifth highest even-strength time on ice per game.
“I would probably have to go to the video coach and ask him to find some time when he got beat. He can always recover to get back in the play with his skating. He’s so hard to play against with his reach and mobility,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said about Jones back in 2018.
Mix that defensive awareness with incredible vision and passing ability and you have yourself an elite blue liner.
Jones currently has the eighth best odds for the award at +1400, but expect that to become much lower once the season is fully underway.
Jack Hughes will have a major bounceback season
When the New Jersey Devils selected Jack Hughes with the first overall pick last year, it was assumed by most that he would be a huge building block for the future. Unfortunately, Hughes underperformed in his freshman campaign, posting only 21 points in 61 games and finished outside of the top 15 in Rookie of the Year voting.
This year will be a different story for Hughes.
With a full season now under his belt, the 19-year-old has had time to grow and get used to NHL speed. After putting on 10 pounds of muscle, his biggest weakness, physicality, will be diminished and he now has the ability to come away with the puck much easier.
With that added strength comes a harder shot and playing on the top powerplay means P.K. Subban will be sending passes his way for one-timers all season long.
His goal total from last season has a good chance to be doubled and he will be given every opportunity to develop on this rebuilding New Jersey team.
Cover photo via: ESPN
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