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After last season it is impossible to rule any team out to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
By NHL Nosebleed Writers
Chris Yackel- Calgary Flames
The Flames had a very busy offseason after missing the playoffs last season. They fired head coach Glen Gulutzan and hired former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters. Following the draft, they made a blockbuster trade with the Hurricanes as the Flames shipped out top defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a good player in Michael Ferland and prospect Adam Fox. In return they acquired former fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin and center Elias Lindholm. I think this trade strengthens the Flames mightily as Hamilton never fit in the Calgary locker room. I also think both Hanifan and Lindholm could use a fresh start in Calgary with a familiar face in Bill Peters continuing to be their head coach.
The Flames also added a pure goal scorer in James Neal, who adds some offensive punch to an already impressive lineup. Both Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan continue to improve offensively each year as they in my opinion are elite players. Matthew Tkachuk is also improving each year and is turning into a star in Calgary as his offensive skill and tough play drives opposing teams nuts. The Flames also have a great defensive core led by Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin. The one question I do have is net. Mike Smith can either be very good, or very bad. He’s very inconsistent. If he can put together a great year, I think Flames can be a top 3 team in the Pacific Division and a Stanley Cup dark horse for sure.
Joseph St-Amour - St.Louis Blues
After acquiring Ryan O'Reilly in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres and signing free agent forwards David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon, look for the Blues to have a big bounce back season. Adding speed, grit, scoring, and leadership, they got a little bit of everything they needed. The Blues have a good goalie in Jake Allen, but he’s gonna need to look more like the Jake Allen from the 2016-2017 season if they stand a chance. Look for Fabri to have a come back season if he could stay healthy.
After being subject to a lot of trade rumours, Fabri is gonna need a season to prove himself. Robert Thomas has a great chance of making the roster this season although one more year in the OHL is still a possibility. Thomas had 75 points in 49 OHL games last season and 32 points in 21 playoff games earning him the Wayne Gretzky award. Between new talent and old talent, I think this Blues team will definitely be making the playoffs even in the toughest division in the NHL. If they do and can knock off whoever they face in the first round, I think their sheer determination would make them dark horse.
Jack Fenty- Florida Panthers
The late push in the second half of the 2017-18 season was not enough for the Panthers to make the playoffs, they were one point short. The good news is that this team is very good and not many fans across the league realize that. They have legit stars on offense with Barkov, Dadonov, Bjugstad, and Huberdeau. The team also brought in Mike Hoffman for cheap after the whole girlfriend situation in Ottawa.
On the back end they are really solid with Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad leading the way on their top pairing. Regarding goaltending in my opinion, they have three average tenders, Michael Hutchinson, Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer. Between the three of these guys the Panthers will have a nice backstop in the net, the only problem is they do not have a star to man the net. If you look at the teams that make the playoffs every year a common theme is they all have a great goalie. By no means are playoffs guaranteed for this club since they reside in such a top-heavy division but I think they will...And if they do I think they can shock the Eastern Conference and make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s a hot take, but that’s why this blog is titled “Dark-Horse Stanley Cup Picks”.
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