NHL PREVIEW; The Biggest Stories On and Off The Ice

David Minster

You tryna puck? Hockey season is upon us and teams are hoping to start off hot. First overall pick Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs had the hottest start of the season and the best start to a career in NHL history. In his first career game, Matthews scored four goals, against the Ottawa Senators, setting the record for most goals scored in a player’s first game. To put that feat in perspective, Sidney Crosby has never scored four goals in a game and he’s widely regarded as the best scorer in the league. More impressively, he scored on his first three shot attempts. On his second goal, he looked like he went through the whole team, weaving his way through the defense and putting the puck through a defender’s legs. In setting this record, Matthews brought his parents, who were at the game, to tears and gave hope to Maple Leafs fans who have been disappointed in their team for decades. However, in classic Maple Leafs fashion, they lost to the Senators 5-4. 

While Matthews tries to help the lowly Maple Leafs in his rookie season, there are a handful of sophomore players looking to keep momentum after their own great rookie seasons. Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin is looking to build off a great rookie year in which he totaled 77 points, leading all rookies. His increased chemistry with Patrick Kane, the 2016 Hart Memorial Trophy winner, has benefitted the Blackhawks tremendously and Panarin could put up similar numbers this year. 

Sophomore Connor McDavid, who was the first overall pick by the Oilers last year, was out for 37 games with a broken clavicle. In the 45 games that he did play, McDavid shined and put up 48 points. McDavid was recently named captain of the Oilers, making him the youngest captain in NHL history, and he could put up insane numbers if he stays healthy. 

Unfortunately, number two overall pick Jack Eichel has already been injured and is out six-to-eight weeks with a severe ankle sprain. Eichel was the Buffalo Sabres’ leading goal scorer and, now that he’s missing an extended period of time, the Sabres need someone to step up and fill Eichel’s role.

As these sophomores look to build off of great years, the Penguins hope to continue their recent success after winning last year’s Stanley Cup. Coming back with almost the same team as least year, the Penguins were poised to continue their dominance in the East. Unfortunately, Sidney Crosby’s recent concussion could prove detrimental to the Penguins early on. Crosby, who won the MVP award in 2007 and 2014, has been plagued by injuries in the past, missing ten and a half months due to a severe concussion. This year’s concussion was not the start the Penguins organization was looking for. 

With Crosby out, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel will have to pick up where Crosby left off. In addition to their injury woes, the Penguins have goalie issues. Matt Murray practically won them the Stanley Cup when Marc-Andre Fleury was hurt, but Fleury has been their goalie for over a decade and has been a large component of Pittsburgh’s winning formula. As of now the two are splitting time, but it is possible that Murray could take over the starting role if Fleury continues his decline. With so many storylines in the first week, it looks like this will be an action-packed season.