Happy holidays to all the Dobber readers out there, their family and friends. It’s been quite a year here at Dobber Hockey, with everything from site re-designs, brand new Dobber Tools, the craziness of last year’s playoffs, and a whole lot more. I’d like to think it’s been a successful year for everyone here at Dobber, from writers to editors, posters to readers. The ones reading this are the big reason for this success, and I thank you for it.
Given that today is not really a day for hockey news, I thought it’d be fun to take a guess at what the NHL will look like a year from now, discussing specific players, lines, or teams. So here’s a guess at a few things I'm guessing we’ll see at Christmas 2019.
(please, don’t let there be another f*$#@%& lockout)
Ivan Provorov Leading The Flyers
Naturally, Carter Hart being in net for a team that squeaked into the playoffs the season before is going to get most of the attention in the media. However, despite a rough start to the prior campaign, Ivan Provorov will be carrying very productive, heavy minutes for the new-look Flyers. The bottom-6 has been completely overhauled but the departure of a couple of UFAs like Jori Lehtera and Wayne Simmonds has allowed the Flyers to use some of their younger forwards like Mikhail Vorobyov and Morgan Frost. But it’s the steady influence of Provorov on the blue line holding it all together.
Provorov had that rough start to the 2018-19 season, but a new coach, along with Hart in goal, saw a change in the second half for the Russian blue liner. He turned his fortunes around, leading to a large RFA contract in the offseason to live up to.
The troubled recent history of the Flyers is a thing of distant memory with the surge of young talent flourishing at the top level, with the rearguard being the focal point of it all.
Top Line Troy Terry
Following a season where he absolutely dominated the AHL, putting up over a point per game in his first full campaign as a professional, Terry cracks the NHL roster out of camp. Naturally, with veterans like Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silfverberg, and Corey Perry still on the roster, Terry has to work his way up the lineup. He’s not skating with Ryan Getzlaf right away, rather it takes time.
However, a couple months into the season, with Anaheim struggling with depth scoring, they move Silfverberg to the left wing, Perry to the third line, Kase is skating with Ryan Kesler, and Terry shifts up to the top line with Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. He’s a natural complement to the other two, as his skill and ability to make plays in tight spaces comes to the forefront with the space created by his line mates. The move starts a strong second half of the 2019-20 season, who is available on most waiver wires at this time.
By Christmas 2019, the younger players in Anaheim are really starting to make a huge impact. This team isn’t necessarily just about guys like Getzlaf, Perry, and Fowler anymore. The youth movement of players like Max Comtois, Ondrej Kase, and Terry are really starting to carry the burden of getting this team to the playoffs. Oh, and John Gibson is following up his Vezina campaign with another Vezina campaign.
Juuse Saros Full Time
You can only ask so much from a 37-year old goalie with a history of hip issues, over 700 total games played, coming off a lengthy playoff run. This convergence of problems all at the beginning of the 2019-20 season has forced Rinne to take a step back from his usual workload in net and pushed Juuse Saros to a regular starting job. This isn’t just any regular starting job, though, as the Nashville Predators are once again one of the top teams in the league, with not only a healthy roster, but a dynamic Eeli Tolvanen bringing some depth scoring they’ve been lacking at times in the previous few years.
This isn’t to say that Saros is excelling in the role. Going from backup to starter has been a difficult transition and there have been some inconsistencies in his game. That doesn’t mean he’s coming out of his role anytime soon, though. The roster in front of him is good enough that he doesn’t have to be great every night to help this team win.
When Rinne is healthy there will be some debate as to which goalie is the one to lead the team moving forward. By Christmas 2019, though, there won’t be much debate as to which the best goalie in the moment.
Sergei Bobrovsky anchoring the Central-leading Blues
It was a turbulent offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets but they managed to sign one of their big UFAs as Artemi Panarin signed with the franchise long-term. However, the team was not willing to give Sergei Bobrovsky the contract he was seeking after a stellar second half of the 2018-19 campaign. Of course, that was just in addition to his years of dominance in goal. He had earned the contract, the team just wasn’t willing to give him the years he was looking for, though.
One team that was willing, however, was St. Louis. After a disastrous 2018-19 campaign, there was overhaul all over the roster. Arguably the biggest move they made was to give Bobrovsky the contract he had earned and had been looking for. The Blues were at the point where nearly a decade of poor goaltending had sunk a franchise that iced several iterations of very good teams in that span. None were able to overcome the underwhelming presence in net.
With Robert Thomas carrying some of the scoring load from the depth, Vince Dunn stepping up after the trade of Alex Pietrangelo, and a host of other changes that all seemed to work, the Blues find themselves at the top of the Central by Christmas 2019.
Andrei Svechnikov Top-10 In Goals
While it took nearly the entire first half of the 2018-19 season for Rod Brind’Amour to realize playing his three best offensive players together might be a good idea sometimes, he hasn’t rocked the boat since his eureka moment just before Christmas 2018. That has led to the trio of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen to become one of the most lethal combinations in the NHL. While he’s most certainly not the only one on the line who can score, he’s the one who can regularly find the soft areas while the other two can find him.
None of this is a surprise, of course. From the time he stepped on an NHL ice surface at the start of the 2018-19 season, it was obvious he’d have no problem fitting into the highest league in the world. That it took a while to get him with other talented players was mostly a product of trying to spread the scoring throughout the lineup, as Svechnikov proved himself one of the most dangerous scorers on the roster very early on in his career. Now that the reigns are off and he’s with other top talents, the sky is the limit.
It hasn’t taken him long, but after starting the 2019-20 season on the top line, Svechnikov is top-10 in goals by Christmas 2019, and everyone who passed on him in dynasty/keeper/rookie drafts in 2018 is kicking themselves.
Once again, Merry Christmas to all our readers, their families, and their friends.
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