Ted Kulfan's team-by-team NHL preview

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

The News' Ted Kulfan previews the 2018-19 NHL season with team-by-team scouting reports. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish.

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins remain among the favorites in the NHL.


Metropolitan Division


Coach: Mike Sullivan

2017-18 record: 47-29-6, 100 points (2nd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Evgeni Malkin, 42; A-Sidney Crosby, 60; W-Matt Murray, 27

Pressure is on: C Derik Brassard — Brassard has been an effective point-producer before. The Penguins desperately need his secondary scoring on this loaded roster.

Rising star: LW Jake Guentzel — It’s not easy playing with Crosby, but Guentzel continues to evolve into a major offensive threat while finding open spots on the ice.

Skinny: Don’t underestimate the opportunity Pittsburgh had to rest and rejuvenate after two long Stanley Cup-winning seasons. The Penguins should be rested and eager to reclaim the Stanley Cup.


Coach: John Tortorella

2017-18 record: 45-30-7, 97 points (4th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Artemi Panarin, 27; A-Artemi Panarin, 55; W-Sergei Bobrovsky, 37

Pressure is on: G Bobrovsky — Heading into the final year in his contract, Bobrovsky could make himself an awful lot of money on the market if he finally carries the Blue Jackets to a playoff series victory.

Rising star: C Pierre-Luc Dubois — There was some surprise and doubt when the Blue Jackets drafted Dubois third overall in 2016. He’s erasing that doubt each and every game.

Skinny: The contract status of Panarin and Bobrovsky — both can be UFAs on July 1 — will be major topics all season, but this roster is deep and just comes at you in waves. Tortorella isn’t going to let them relax.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin hands the Stanley Cup to center Nicklas Backstrom after the Capitals defeated the Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5.


Coach: Todd Reirden

2017-18 record: 49-26-7 (105 points, 1st)

2017-18 leaders: G-Alex Ovechkin, 49; A–Evgeny Kuznetsov, 56; W-Braden Holtby, 34

Pressure is on: Reirden — Reirden is well respected by this roster and was Barry Trotz’s assistant for four years. But he’s never been an NHL head coach — and all he has to do is take over the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Rising star: LW Jakub Vrana — He’s not as flashy as Ovechkin or several other star Capitals, but Vrana is developing into a sturdy, two-way player.

Skinny: The Capitals finally squashed so many years of frustration winning the Cup last spring. With the pressure off, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them go far this spring.


Coach: Dave Hakstol

2017-18 record: 42-26-14, 98 points (3rd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Claude Giroux, 34; A-Claude Giroux, 68. W-Brian Elliott, 23

Pressure is on: G Elliott — It’s always the goaltending in Philadelphia, and Elliott is the latest to feel the pressure. If he hadn’t got hurt last spring, the Flyers could have surprised in the spring.

Rising star: D Ivan Provorov — The former first-round pick is quickly evolving into a bona-fide star. On a young defense, Provorov is the best of a versatile group.

Skinny: Signing LW James van Riemsdyk and his ability to score 30-plus goals makes for two outstanding scoring lines. The defense is good enough. If Elliott is good enough, this team can be dangerous.


Coach: Rod Brind’Amour

2017-18 record: 36-35-11, (83 points, 6th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Sebastian Aho, 29; A-Teuvo Teravainen, 41; W-Cam Ward, 23

Pressure is on: D Dougie Hamilton — Carolina gave up young D Noah Hanifan to acquire Hamilton, who hasn’t quite reached his potential in several stops. If Hamilton stars, this defense is absolutely loaded.

Rising star: RW Andrei Svechnikov — Evgeny’s younger brother was the No. 2 overall draft pick and is expected to become a prolific goal-scorer.

Skinny: They’ve missed the playoffs 9 consecutive years, but the Hurricanes should be real, real close this spring. Still, the goaltending (Scott Darling, Petr Mrazek) just doesn’t inspire much confidence.


Coach: John Hynes

2017-18 record: 44-29-9, 97 points (5th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Taylor Hall, 39; A-Taylor Hall, 54; W-Keith Kinkaid, 26

Pressure is on: LW Hall — The reigning NHL MVP had the type of year many envisioned he was capable of. Hall needs to stay at this level for the Devils to remain competitive.

Rising star: C Nico Hischier — The 2017 No. 1 overall pick successfully broke into the NHL and should continue to get better.

Skinny: Hynes continues to get the most out of this relentless, blossoming young roster. The Devils may need to hold off a few improved teams to return to the postseason.


Coach: Barry Trotz

2017-18 record: 35-37-10, 80 points (7th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Anders Lee, 40; A-Mathew Barzal, 63; W-Jaroslav Halak, 20

Pressure is on: GM Lou Lamoriello — The veteran GM wasn’t able to re-sign cornerstone John Tavares, weakening this roster significantly. This rebuild will be a test of Lamoriello’s skill and savvy.

Rising star: C Barzal — The NHL rookie of the year exceeded all expectations but will need to maintain his production (or improve upon) with Tavares gone.

Skinny: Hiring Trotz was a great first move. He won the Stanley Cup in Washington, and will get this team to buy into defense, which has been severely lacking. The Islanders will not be terrible, but there’s plenty of work to be done.


Coach: David Quinn

2017-18 record: 34-39-9, 77 points (8th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Mika Zibanejad, 27; A-Mats Zuccarello, 37; W-Henrik Lundqvist, 26

Pressure is on: G Lundqvist — There haven’t been many years where Lundqvist has had so much inexperience and average talent in front of him. He’s going to be facing a lot of shots.

Rising star: C Filip Chytil — The Rangers have several young forwards who could be keepers, but Chytil might have the highest ceiling.

Skinny: The Rangers appear committed to a rebuild. This roster is far from a Stanley Cup contender, but there are some intriguing young pieces.

Atlantic Division

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has stepped down from that role.


Coach: Jon Cooper

2017-18 record: 54-23-5, 113 points (1st)

2017-18 leaders: G-Nikita Kucherov, 39; A-Nikita Kucherov, 61; W-Andrei Vasilevskiy, 41

Pressure is on: C Steven Stamkos — At this point, Stamkos is probably the NHL’s best player without a Stanley Cup. The Lightning have been so close the past few years. Can he push Tampa into the winner’s circle this time?

Rising star: C Brayden Point — On a team with a lot of young stars, Point emerged as a 32-goal scorer and solidified the second line.

Skinny: Former GM Steve Yzerman shifted into a consultant’s role but left a championship-quality roster for many years ahead. As Yzerman likely leaves the organization this spring, maybe he’ll finally leave lifting a Stanley Cup.


Coach: Mike Babcock

2017-18 record: 49-26-7, 105 points (3rd)

2017-18 leaders: G-James van Riemsdyk, 36; A-Mitch Marner, Jake Gardiner, 47; W-Frederik Andersen, 38

Pressure is on: C John Tavares — Coming home, Tavares will meet the expectations of a fan base that is desperate for a Stanley Cup. This roster has the depth and quality to do it.

Rising star: RW Marner — Marner, C Auston Matthews and RW William Nylander form a trio of dynamic stars. Marner took a major step last season into becoming a force in the NHL.

Skinny: The forwards are incredible, so much so, the Leafs could set some offensive records. The goaltending is good enough, too. It’s on defense where the Leafs are a question mark. But this roster easily could win the Cup — finally.


Coach: Bruce Cassidy

2017-18 record: 50-20-12, 112 points (2nd)

2017-18 leaders: G-David Pastrknak, 35 A-Brad Marchand, 51; W-Tuukka Rask, 34

Pressure is on: D Zdeno Chara — It’s a testament to Chara’s greatness that a contending team will be hurt greatly if a 41-year-old is out for a period of time.

Rising star: LW Jake DeBrusk — On a team with several outstanding youngsters, this 16-goal scorer plays with passion and is a dynamic shooter.

Skinny: The core is getting older, but so many young players stepped into big roles last season and were outstanding. If they continue to progress, this can be a Stanley Cup-winning team.


Coach: Bob Boughner

2017-18 record: 44-30-8, 96 points (4th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Vincent Trocheck, 31; A-Aleksander Barkov, 51; W-James Reimer, 22.

Pressure is on: G Roberto Luongo — The talent is spread out everywhere on this roster, and it’s young.  If Luongo, 39, stays healthy and close to his career level, this is a playoff team.

Rising star: C Barkov — He was one of the best players in the league the second half of last season. Barkov could be an MVP candidate this time around.

Skinny: On paper there’s not a lot of weaknesses. This team could easily sneak past Boston into a top-three position in the Atlantic.


Coach: Phil Housley

2017-18 record: 25-45-12, 62 points (8th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart 25; A-Jack Eichel, 39; W-Robin Lehner, 14

Pressure is on: C Eichel — The Sabres signed him to a huge contract and acquired pieces around him like he’s never had before. Eichel should thrive.

Rising star: D Rasmus Dahlin — The No. 1 overall pick in the draft, at least in the exhibition season, was as good as advertised. He makes the Sabres instantly credible.

Skinny: On paper this is an improved hockey team. Maybe not playoffs quite yet, but this should be a winning team before too long.


Coach: Claude Julien

2017-18 record: 29-40-13, 71 points (6th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Brendan Gallagher, 31; A-Jonathan Drouin, 33; W-Carey Price, 16

Pressure is on: G Price — If the Canadiens have any hope of surprising, it’s up to Price to provide one of his MVP-caliber years. Injuries limited Price, but he begins the first year of his eight-year, $84=million contract this year.

Rising star: C Jesperi Kotkaniemi — June’s 3rd overall pick was a mild surprise selection, but he showed during the pre-season he could be an impact player.

Skinny: If Price remains healthy and returns to All-World level, if D Shea Weber (knee) returns soon, and Kotkaniemi is the real deal, this could be a sneaky good roster.

Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand, left, is upended by Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek, right, during the third period of a preseason game.


Coach: Jeff Blashill.

2017-18 record: 30-39-13 (73 points, 5th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Anthony Mantha, 24; A-Dylan Larkin, 47; W-Jimmy Howard, 22

Pressure is on: C Larkin — If the Wings are going to surprise in the standings, Larkin must continue to build upon a breakthrough year last season.

Rising star: C Michael Rasmussen — Center, wing, it doesn’t matter. Rasmussen appears to have the mental makeup and physical gifts to be a fine NHL player for a long, long time.

Skinny: The loss of C Henrik Zetterberg (back) will be felt on and off the ice. The key this season is making sure the bushel full of prospects continue growing into bona fide NHL players.


Coach: Guy Boucher

2017-18 record: 28-43-11, 67 points (7th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Matt Duchene, 27; A-Erik Karlsson, 53; W-Craig Anderson, 23

Pressure is on: Owner Eugene Melnyk — This organization has completely unraveled since losing in overtime of Game 7 against Pittsburgh in the 2017 Eastern finals. Trading away D Erik Karlsson recently was the latest and most painful blow to an angry fanbase.

Rising star: D Thomas Chabot — The Senators are committed to a massive rebuild, and Chabot is proving to be a fine building block. He’s capable at both ends of the rink.

Skinny: This roster has been decimated and will continue to be in the months ahead. It’s a shame what has happened. This roster was so close to playing for a Stanley Cup not too long ago.


Central Division


Coach: Paul Maurice

2017-18 record: 52-20-10, 114 points (2nd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Patrik Laine, 44; A-Blake Wheeler, 68; W-Ondrej Pavelec, Connor Hellebuyck, 44

Pressure is on: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff — He’s constructed a fabulous roster, but because of the salary cap, Cheveldayoff isn’t going to be able to keep everyone. The Jets’ best chance for a Stanley Cup could be this spring.

Rising star: LW Kyle Connor — The Shelby Township native has become a vital piece on a roster of so many talented players.

Skinny: The Jets took a major step last spring, have grown over the last few seasons actually, and appear set to make that final step.


Coach: Peter Laviolette

2017-18 record: 53-18-11, 117 points (1st)

2017-18 leaders: G-Viktor Arvidsson, 29; A-P.K. Subban, 43; W-Pekka Rinne, 42

Pressure is on: GM David Poile — He’s done an amazing job stacking this roster under the salary cap, but the Predators are still searching for a Stanley Cup. This roster can’t be kept together forever.

Rising star: LW Eeli Tolvanen — On any other roster, Tolvanen would likely be starting the season in the NHL. He couldn’t make Nashville’s and will wait his turn. He’s the highest-scoring teenager in KHL (Russia) history.

Skinny: This roster is loaded, and the Game 7 loss to Winnipeg last season should provide ample motivation.


Coach: Mike Yeo

2017-18 record: 44-32-6, 94 points (5th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Vladimir Tarasenko 33; A-Brayden Schenn, 42; W-Jake Allen, 27

Pressure is on: Yeo — GM Doug Armstrong had one of the best off-seasons in the NHL when you look at the roster on paper. There’s few apparent weaknesses, and it’s a roster largely in its prime.

Rising star: D Colton Parayko — The tough, hard-shooting Parayko has emerged into a quality top-4 defenseman, bolstering an already impressive position group.

Skinny: The shame of it is, the Blues are a quality team, but may not make it out of the first round having to play either Nashville or Winnipeg.


Coach: Jim Montgomery

2017-18 record: 42-32-8, 92 points (6th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Tyler Seguin, 40; A-John Klingberg, 59; W-Ben Bishop, 26

Pressure is on: Seguin — Dallas signed Seguin to a monster extension recently, and now it’s his job to get the Stars into the playoffs in a deep, competitive division.

Rising star: D Miro Heiskanen — The 2017 third overall pick is a sure-fire star in the eyes of many talent evaluaters and should strengthen an improving defense corps.

Skinny: GM Jim Nill continues to fine-tune a roster that fell out of a playoff berth in the final weeks last spring. On his third coach in three years, Nill needs to get his team into the playoffs.


Coach: Jared Bednar

2017-18 record: 43-30-9, 95 points (4th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Nathan MacKinnon, 39; A-Nathan MacKinnon, 58; W-Semyon Varlamov, 24

Pressure is on: C MacKinnon — If MacKinnon follows up last year’s MVP-caliber season, the Avalanche are likely to be in the hunt for another playoff berth. This is a young team that should continue to get better.

Rising star: RW Mikko Rantanen — The young power forward excelled playing on MacKinnon’s line last year and could become a 30-goal scorer.

Skinny: The Avalanche improved by a staggering 47 points last season. They might stall a bit this year, but the future is bright (they own Ottawa’s 1st-round pick in June!).


Coach: Bruce Boudreau

2017-18 record: 45-26-11, 101 points (3rd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Eric Staal, 42; A-Mikael Granlund, 46; W-Devan Dubynk, 35

Pressure is on: Boudreau — New GM Paul Fenton inherits Boudreau, who has yet to take the Wild past the first round. If the Wild miss the playoffs, or exit early, Boudreau could be axed, too.

Rising star: D Matt Dumba — The offensive defenseman has become well-rounded and will be a vital piece if Ryan Suter (leg) is unable to begin the season.

Skinny: The Wild appear to be stuck in the middle — good enough to make the playoffs, or just miss them. Not good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup, but not near bad enough to tank.


Coach: Joel Quenneville

2017-18 record: 33-39-10 (76 points, 7th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Alex DeBrincat, 28; A-Patrick Kane 49; W-Corey Crawford, 16

Pressure is on: Quenneville — He’s had a marvelous run in Chicago, with 3 Stanley Cup victories, but this roster is getting older and there’s not enough talent to help them.

Rising star: RW DeBrincat — The Farmington Hills native was sensational last season and is one of the few young Blackhawks capable of building around.

Skinny: The defense is particularly weak after aging Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The goaltending is unsettled. Up front, there’s not enough talent. It may not be pretty in Chicago this winter.

Pacific Division


Coach: Peter DeBoer

2017-18 record: 45-27-10, 100 points (3rd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Logan Couture, 34; A-Brent Burns, 55; W-Martin Jones, 30

Pressure is on: D Erik Karlsson — The two-time Norris Trophy winner is being looked upon as the final piece on a roster that has just missed a Stanley Cup for so many years. The window to win is right now.

Rising star: LW Timo Meier — The Sharks need some youth to blend into this older roster and Meier is developing into a quality offensive threat.

Skinny: GM Doug Wilson has done an incredible job molding this roster. Getting Karlsson was the crowning piece. The fear is, in today’s NHL, is there enough speed on this roster?

Vegas Golden Knights cheerleaders.


Coach: Gerard Gallant

2017-18 record: 51-24-7, 109 points (1st)

2017-18 leaders: G-William Karlsson, 43; A-David Perron, 50; W-Marc-Andre Fleury, 29

Pressure is on: Gallant — The Golden Knights were a staggering surprise, somehow reaching The Finals as an expansion team. So how does Gallant make sure this roster stays hungry and hasn’t gotten complacent?

Rising star: C Karlsson — On a team with so many young stars, Karlsson emerged as arguably the best, becoming a prolific goal-scorer when nobody in the NHL believed he would be.

Skinny: Acquiring LW Max Pacioretty shows Vegas remains all in, and feels it has the ability to win a Cup. It’s a deep, tough roster but they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around.


Coach: Bill Peters

2017-18 record: 37-35-10, 84 points (5th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Sean Monahan, 31; A-Johnny Gaudreau 60; W-Mike Smith, 25

Pressure is on: Peters — Everyone is restless in Calgary about getting into the playoffs. The roster last year underachieved in many folks’ estimation. This roster may have even more depth.

Rising star: C Sean Monahan — Playing in western Canada Monahan doesn’t get a ton of attention but this is one of the best two-way centers in the game.

Skinny: Peters should bring semblance and order to a roster that is deep and tough to play against. They should get into the playoffs somehow, someway.


Coach: John Stevens

2017-18 record: 45-29-8, 98 points (4th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Anze Kopitar, 35; A-Anze Kopitar, 57; W-Jonathan Quick, 33

Pressure is on: LW Ilya Kovalchuk — The Kings needed more offense, more speed, and they signed Kovalchuk, 35, who should provide goals but isn’t necessarily a speedster anymore.

Rising star: C Gabe Vilardi — A big, strong two-way center who fits the Kings’ style. The Kings could use the new blood in the lineup.

Skinny: This roster is built to win now. The problem is, they didn’t address the speed and quickness issues well enough to inch into the upper echelon in the West.


Coach: Rick Tocchet

2017-18 record: 29-41-12, 70 points (8th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Clayton Keller, 23; A-Keller, Derek Stepan 42; W-Antti Raanta 21

Pressure is on: C Alex Galchenyuk — It never really worked out for Galchenyuk in Montreal, but playing on a blossoming young team like this one might bring out the best of his ability.

Rising star: RW Keller — He doesn’t get a lot of notoriety playing in Arizona, but Keller could easily become a 40-goal scorer.

Skinny: This is a sneaky good, young roster that if everything comes through, could rise into playoff contention. There’s definitely something building here.


Coach: Randy Carlyle

2017-18 record: 44-25-13, 101 points (2nd)

2017-18 leaders: G-Rikard Rakell 34; A-Ryan Getzlaf, 50; W-John Gibson, 31

Pressure is on: Gibson — In this tight division the Ducks could sneak into a playoff berth, but Gibson has to stay healthy and provide elite goaltending. Many key Ducks are aging, and injured.

Rising star: LW Rakell — There are several outstanding Ducks who could be on the verge of breaking out. Rakell is becoming a dangerous goal-scorer.

Skinny: Already without Corey Perry (knee) and not sure about Ryan Kesler (hip), the Ducks have health concerns. But this roster can still win a lot of games.


Coach: Todd McLellan

2017-18 record: 36-40-6, 78 points (5th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Connor McDavid, 41; A-Connor McDavid, 67; W-Cam Talbot, 31

Pressure is on: McLellan — The Oilers took a major step backward last season and there wasn’t much roster change. It’s up to McLellan to coax playoff season out this average roster.

Rising star: D Darnell Nurse — Donovan McNabb’s nephew doesn’t get many headlines but he’s turning into a quality NHL defenseman. On this team, that’s mighty important.

Skinny: Early indications are the Oilers are motivated to reverse last season’s debacle. The talent is there to sneak into the playoffs if the underachieving is reversed.


Coach: Travis Green

2017-18 record: 31-40-11, 73 points (7th)

2017-18 leaders: G-Brock Boeser, 29; A-Henrik Sedin, 47; W-Jacob Markstrom, 23

Pressure is on: GM Jim Benning — For all the talk about rebuilding and giving young players a chance, Benning made curious free agent signings and sent a mixed message to fans.

Rising star: RW Boeser — With the Sedins retiring, Boeser becomes the face of the franchise and he appears ready for that role after a brilliant rookie season.

Skinny: There’s a lot of interesting young talent in this organization, but it’s years away from helping the Canucks contend.


Twitter: @tkulfan