As we are now days away from the start of the 56-game 2021 NHL season on Jan. 13, we may see some things that won’t normally occur during a full 82 game season. Here are five bold predictions for the 2021 season.
5. Patrick Kane requests a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks
With the news of Chicago officially entering a rebuild phase for their organization, veteran cornerstones Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who are still as productive as ever, are not happy with the news. It makes the situation even more dire when multiple injuries to key players such as Kirby Dach, Alexander Nylander and Toews — who is dealing with a mysterious illness — will rule them out for most of the season. Chicago is going to be terrible this year, and with Kane still wanting a chance to win, he may request a trade from the team that drafted him first overall in 2007. It may be tough to trade Kane as he still has three years at $10.5 million AAV left on his current deal.
4. Taylor Hall signs a long-term extension to stay in Buffalo
The biggest surprise of the 2020 offseason was Taylor Hall betting on himself and signing a one-year $8 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres. It is surprising because Hall said he would take less to win, but instead he bet on himself on getting a long term deal this upcoming season. Hall will be riding shotgun with Sabres star Jack Eichel and could form one of the deadliest duos in the NHL. If the Sabres show promise, it might convince Hall to commit long term with the Sabres as they have a bevy of top prospects that will be looking to make the team within the next year or two. However, with Buffalo now in a tough East division, getting into the playoffs is a monumental task.
3. The winner of the North Division will win the Stanley Cup
It’s about time isn’t it? The last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993. It has been 27 years and it’s time for that to change. Six of the seven Canadian teams in the North division are solid teams, but only four can qualify for the playoffs. In our recent episode of the End to End Puck Talk podcast, I predicted that a team from the North division would make the Stanley Cup Finals, this is much more bold. I am pretty confident in this one too.
2. Nathan MacKinnon sweeps NHL Awards
In my opinion, MacKinnon was robbed of the NHL MVP award last year and I think this year he will finally get that award in addition to some other hardware. If the Avalanche are healthier this year than last, I could see Mackinnon capturing Art Ross, Ted Lindsay and maybe even Rocket Richard as his goal scoring has been extremely underrated in recent seasons. Mackinnon will lead the Avalanche to the Western Conference Finals and potentially the Stanley Cup Finals, showing everyone that he is 1B to McDavid’s 1A option as the best player in the world.
1. Fans will attend all playoff games
This prediction is more based on the current landscape of the world right now. With COVID-19 cases still rising in the United States and Canada, this seems like a real long shot — that is why it’s number one on this list. NHL playoff games with fans, even a limited capacity is one of the best things to watch on television, period. With the vaccine currently being administered and NHL playoff hockey not starting until mid-May, there could be a real possibility that the NHL will allow fans for all playoff games whether it be 25 percent capacity or 50 percent, I really think this could happen and would instantly make the 2021 season feel slightly more normal again.