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5 Kool-Aid Season Predictions

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
baggedmilk
3 months ago
Is there anything better than the pre-season hope we all feel in the days and weeks leading up to a new NHL season? At this time of year, the Kool-Aid goes down real smooth and that’s why I’m feeling confident enough to present my way-too-early predictions for the 2022-23 season.

1. MORE DOMINANCE FROM McDAVID AND DRAISAITL

Even though predicting that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will best themselves again is hardly a bold take, I’m going to go ahead and offer both guys setting new career highs in points as my first Kool-Aid season prediction. Over the last three seasons, both guys have either cracked or been on pace to crack the 100+ point plateau (damned COVID), and I’m expecting that trend to continue again in 2022-23 as both guys look to build upon their more successful season (team-wise) yet. I mean, last year, Connor McDavid finished the season with a career-high 123 points and didn’t win any of the major awards, and regardless of the fact that he’d probably tell you that the individual trophies don’t matter, I would never bet against him looking at the award snub and taking it personally. As for Leon, I’m predicting another 50-goal, 110+ point season and doing it without getting anywhere near the credit he deserves from anyone outside of this market.

2. RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS HITS 70 POINTS

With 50 points in 63 games, RNH was on pace for 65 points over a full season in 2021-22 and I don’t think it’s a massive stretch to suggest that he could hit 70 points for the first time provided that he’s able to stay healthy. And I know what you’re saying, expecting RNH to stay in the lineup has been a tall order at times, but when you really look at it, he hasn’t missed all that many games over the past four seasons outside of the 19 this past year. Outside of that, he’s missed 4-6 games a couple of times and that’s pretty much it. That’s why I think this coming year will be a big one for my boy. Combine a deeper overall team, Woodcroft’s wizardry, and a prediction that Nugent-Hopkins’ shooting percentage will bounce back to his career average, and you’ve got the makings of a 70-point season that I’m calling for on this last day of August. Even though last season wasn’t his best — I thought Nuge was much better in the playoffs tbh — I’m calling for a bounceback year that has him back on the usual 20+ goal pace and setting a new career-high in points. I believe, my friends. I believe.

3. PULJUJARVI POPS 20

If Jesse Puljujarvi can get a little more luck with his health this year than he did in 2021-22 then I’ll be betting Gregor’s money on seeing him pump 20 goals home this coming year. Now 24 years old, our sweet Jesse has 259 games under his belt, and while I fully acknowledge that many of those games haven’t always been the smoothest, I do believe that we’re on the cusp of seeing this player come into his own. I really do. On the defensive side of the puck, I’m absolutely quite comfortable with the way he plays and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the big man getting a little bit of PK time as a result. In his year-end presser, Jay Woodcroft mentioned that the time for experimentation with penalty kill personnel happens in training camp and early in the season, not when you’re in a playoff push and need wins. With that in mind, I can absolutely see JP getting some time out there when down a man based on the way he defends at even strength. I can also see him getting more time on the power play, either on the first or second unit as Jay Woodcroft has already shown that he’ll throw more than just the big line out there for more than just a few seconds. What I’m trying to say here is that Puljujarvi is likely to have more opportunities to get on the ice in key situations under Jay Woodcroft in his first full season behind the bench, and I think that having a carrot to chase is going to translate into a 20-goal season. To this point in his young career, Puljujarvi’s high is 15 scored back in the all-Canadian division, but I believe that he’s got the juice and the jam and a clean slate needed to beat that this year.
Give the kid 20 goals. Book it.

4. DYLAN HOLLOWAY STICKS OUT OF TRAINING CAMP

Even though he’s only played 3:27 of NHL action so far in his young career, I’m going to call Dylan Holloway cracking the Oilers’ lineup out of training camp and I’ve got a couple of reasons too. The first, and most important reason, is that there is a spot open for him on the left side depending on how Jay Woodcroft puts his third and fourth lines together.

ZACH HYMAN

CONNOR MCDAVID

EVANDER KANE

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

LEON DRAISAITL

KAILER YAMAMOTO

WARREN FOEGELE

RYAN MCLEOD

JESSE PULJUJARVI

MATTIAS JANMARK

DEREK RYAN

DEVIN SHORE
Based on the swing Brock at Daily Faceoff took at the line combos, I believe that Holloway can beat out at least one of those three guys on the fourth line, and I also think he could put himself in a spot where he’s fighting for Foegele’s gig on the third line. With his size and speed combined with a healthy offseason worth of training, Holloway has the tools to steal a job and it will be fascinating to follow along in training camp to see how he measures up against the other players fighting for those spots on the left wing. Could he force his way into the lineup by outshining a Foegele or Shore or Ryan throughout the pre-season? I think he can.
As for my second reason, call me silly all you want but Holloway just claimed #55 as his number with the big club and that usually happens only when a kid is pretty close to making it to primetime. Who’s betting against me?

5. JACK CAMPBELL IS OUR GUY

Even though I know Jack Campbell will face a bunch of outside pressure and noise as he navigates the first year of his new 5×5 contract, I truly believe that he’s going to be the best goaltender we’ve had around here since Cam Talbot in 2017 when he broke Grant Fuhr’s win record. Call me crazy or a homer or whatever you want, but I think having Campbell cut his teeth as a starter in Toronto before making his way out west is going to have a similar benefit to what we got with Zach Hyman when he came over. He’s not going to come into this market with no idea what to expect and I think that’s going to help him navigate the ebbs and flows of the season a whole lot better than, say, Mikko Koskinen did when he arrived. Even though I know there are inevitably going to be stretches where we need Campbell to be better over the next five years, I’m feeling incredibly bullish on what he brings to the table and I’m expecting him to shine for us.

BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER — NEW EPISODE OUT TONIGHT!

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