Eastern Conference Outlook – Part 2

Brad Hayward


This is my second article predicting the final 2022-23 NHL standings. Who's in, who's not. Obviously, I have no fear of sticking my neck out, as my Daily Fantasy plays have taught me that the safe options rarely pay. The first article, teams #16 – #9, is here. These are my playoff teams, each with a fantasy "sleeper" to consider.

8.   New York Islanders. Mostly expected to contend in 2021-22, but fell off the rails. Ilya Sorokin may have to carry these guys unless the offense wakes up. Sleeper pick: Mathew Barzal. The 2018 Calder Trophy winner has never been the same since, only has 0.8 points/game. But this is a contract year.  

7.   Detroit Red Wings. Remember that part about sticking my neck out? Steve Yzerman makes brilliant moves, and Dylan Larkin flirts with 100 points and a Hart nomination (but not quite). Sleeper:  Andrew Copp. Second line center is the perfect position for him, he's back home to Michigan, and he will flourish.

6.   Tampa Bay Lightning. Eventually the grind of three Cup Final runs has to catch up. They're not as deep this year. But they only care about May and June. Sleeper: Nick Paul. Given an injury in the top-6, he gets the opportunity and excels. 

5.   Florida Panthers. Losing both Mackenzie Weegar and Ben Chiarot (and two-way Claude Giroux) makes this run-and-gun team vulnerable. Sleeper:  Rudolfs Balcers. The Panthers' style fits him well, and he may exceed 50 points. 

4.   Pittsburgh Penguins. Why did I pick this "old" team, but not Washington or Boston??   Depth. NINE NHL-ready defensemen, and they can withstand a star's injury (even Sidney Crosby's) and fill in. Sleeper:  Jason Zucker. Disappointing in 2 ½ season with the Pens, but the 30-year-old winger is healthy coming into – yes, a contract year.   

3.   Carolina Hurricanes.   I badly wanted to rank them lower, but their MVP is still Rod Brind'Amour, who will have his