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NHL 2021: Here's a look at every team as a very unusual season begins

Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Hockey

— Toronto: The Maple Leafs benefit from realignment taking Boston and Tampa Bay out of their path. They didn’t get younger or faster by adding Joe Thornton (41) and Wayne Simmonds (32) but they added brawn, potentially useful while playing rivals nine or 10 times. Their offense is impressive and their top four on defense are solid but they’ll need consistency from goalie Frederik Andersen.

— Edmonton: Scoring champion and most valuable player Leon Draisaitl, scoring runner-up Connor McDavid and the No. 1 power play didn’t save the Oilers from being upset by Chicago in the qualifying round last season. They’ve become a bit deeper up front but expect more of the same: They’ll have a spectacular power play and score a lot but will struggle defensively.

— Vancouver: The Canucks are on the rise, led by center Elias Pettersson (27 goals in 68 games last season), gifted defenseman Quinn Hughes and San Diego-born goalie Thatcher Demko. General manager Jim Benning signed veteran Braden Holtby to back up Demko and improved the defense by acquiring defenseman Nate Schmidt, setting up the Canucks to take another step or two forward.

— Calgary: Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are coming off so-so seasons, but Matthew Tkachuk (23 goals in 69 games) should be his usual productive and pesky self. Adding Chris Tanev on defense should take pressure off workhorse Mark Giordano. Signing free agent Jacob Markstrom was a necessary goaltending upgrade.

— Winnipeg: Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie after facing a league-leading 1,796 shots last season and compiling a .922 save percentage. He’s likely to again be at the mercy of the Jets’ thin defense. They’re strong up front, but high-scoring winger Patrik Laine reportedly wants out; getting equal return will be tough.

— Montreal: The Canadiens made good complementary moves to bring in winger Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Joel Edmundson, as well as goalie Jake Allen to partner with No. 1 goalie Carey Price. To contend for a playoff spot, centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will have to come through, and power forward Josh Anderson will have to bounce back from a shoulder injury.

 

— Ottawa: The rebuild continues for the Senators, who ranked 30th in points and at or near the bottom in most categories. Forward Brady Tkachuk and defenseman Thomas Chabot stand out on a weak team; forward Tim Stuetzle (the No. 3 pick in the draft) and defenseman Jake Sanderson (No. 5) offer hope for the still-distant future.

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Central division

— Tampa Bay: Winger Nikita Kucherov, who led the Cup champion Lightning in playoff scoring with 34 points in 25 games, had hip surgery and is expected to miss the regular season. That’s a tough loss, but the talented Lightning can absorb that and win again. Don’t overlook goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who led the NHL with 35 wins last season.

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