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Five extreme predictions for the 2023-24 NHL season

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
6 months ago
We finally made it. Exactly 150 days since the Oiler were eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights on home ice, the team returns to kick off the 2023-24 campaign.
The offseason was relatively quiet for the Oilers as GM Ken Holland didn’t do much outside of adding Connor Brown to the team’s top six. 
It’s more or less the same roster as last season, and that’s a good thing. That’s a sign that this team is firmly in their Stanley Cup contender window, and this year, it’s a massive one. There may not be a better chance than this in the Connor McDavid era.
Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but hey, it’s opening night, and we’re supposed to be dramatic. Speaking of dramatic, here are five extreme predictions for the 2023-24 season.

1 – McDavid averages two points per game

The last time a player played in at least 70 games and averaged two points per game was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux played in 70 games and scored a ridiculous 161 points.
I don’t think McDavid will average 2.30 points per game as #66 did, but I think he will get up to 164 throughout an 82 game season.
Last year, he wanted to be a goal scorer, and he did exactly that. This year, I think he’ll want to take his production up another notch, and I think he can do basically anything he sets his mind to from an individual production standpoint.
The powerplay will still be elite, he has strong linemates in Kane and Brown, and he should once again set the league on fire.

2 – Three others join McDavid in the 60-goal club

Last season, we got two 60-goal scorers in Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak. This season, I think we get four.
I’m putting money of 97 doing it again but the three players who join him is where it’s going to get interesting. I think Auston Matthews will join the club if he stays healthy and I also have Mikko Rantanen scoring a few more than he did last season (55) and I think we’re going to see a mega breakout from Devils star Jack Hughes.
I think David Pastrnak will fall a little short this season, and I don’t think Draisaitl will hit the mark either, but it wouldn’t stun me if one of them did. Nathan MacKinnon is another interesting player to watch in this debate.
Four seems like a lot, but goal scoring is up, and it is the way the league is going.

3 – The LA Kings are a wildcard team

Apr 29, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) meets with Los Angeles Kings right wing Gabriel Vilardi (13) and left wing Alex Iafallo (19) following game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Their forward group is elite. Their blue line is very solid. Their goaltending, however, is the worst amongst all the playoff contenders in the Pacific Division.
GM Rob Blake has taken a massive gamble by deciding to roll with 36-year-old Cam Talbot, who struggled to stay healthy last season, and journeyman Pheonix Copley, who hasn’t played in 100 career games yet despite being 31 years old.
The Pacific Division should be more competitive this year than last year and teams like Calgary and Vancouver can jump the Kings. One of them will this season, and the Kings will be the wild card team that no one wants to face in round one.

4 – The Winnipeg Jets make the playoffs

After an utterly stunning turn of events, Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck will likely be Winnipeg Jets for the remainder of their careers. I didn’t see this coming, most people in the hockey world didn’t see it coming, and I don’t even think the most die-hard Jets fans expected this.
Even if you don’t like the term on these deals, you can’t deny that the Jets have slightly extended their window by locking these two up. They’ve also eliminated any drama that was surrounding the club heading into the year.
With a goalie as good as Hellebuyck and a forward group that still has some elite talents, this team is more than capable of making the playoffs.
I think they get in this year, and if that isn’t spicy enough, I’ll add this: they won’t be a wild card team. They’ll be a top-three team in the Central. 

5 – Ryan Huska wins coach of the year

Alright, you may not like this as much as my colleague Frank Seravalli’s prediction that Jay Woodcroft will win the award but if you know me, you know I’m a bit of a gambler, and when I saw Huska’s odds sitting at 29-1 to win this award on Betway, my eyes got real big.
Last season, Jim Montgomery won in his first year with the Bruins, and Huska is in a very similar situation. His first year with a club looking to rebound from a disappointing season.
This award doesn’t really go to the best coach, it goes to the coach who’s team exceeds expectations the most or has a tremendous bounce back. Huska fits that mold.
It’s also a pretty narrative-driven award and the idea that Huska is going to come in and change the Flames culture in one season and lead them back to the playoffs is something that I think is going to get pushed pretty hard.
There ya go, five extreme predictions as the season gets rolling. Will they all happen? Will a few happen? I certainly hope so.
Am I way off base on anything of these? Let me know!

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