What player is most excited for 2018 to come to an end?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Because I’m in Edmonton, I have to say Milan Lucic. He actually started off pretty strong last season but as soon as the calendar flipped, his game fell off a cliff. He has two goals in an entire calendar year. Are you kidding me? He’s gotten looks with McDavid and on the Oilers top powerplay unit and he can’t score.
He’s looked a little better to start the season but he’s still wildly inconsistent and still doesn’t really help the team win. Lucic needs this year to come to an end and the Oilers need him to find his old self in 2019.
IAN SHEPPARD: Cory Schneider. Who? Right? The former standout goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks hasn’t seen a tonne of success since becoming a New Jersey Devil. But his 2018 has been as bad as it could possibly be. Maybe worse.
Schneider has a 0-14-2 record with a .857 SV% and a GAA of 4.30 through the year of 2018. His last win came in December of 2017 and the only game the Devils have won where Schneider saw any ice time came earlier in December when the team scored five goals after Schneider let in three and was pulled. He’s only played in 9 games this year and was recently placed on IR so sage to say Schneider cannot wait until 2019!
WYATT ZIEGER: I’m going to go off the board and say Chris Kunitz. Kunitz made the decision to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks in hopes of chasing one last Stanley Cup, instead, Chicago is closer to Jack Hughes than they are the playoffs. Kunitz’s game has also slipped while in Chicago, it may be the old age now but Kunitz has just 2 assists in 23 games while being healthy scratched multiple times on the season.
Kunitz was very blunt about his choice to play for Chicago instead of a team in western Canada (most likely Edmonton) because “their defence was never going to win a championship.” Now I know the Oilers aren’t exactly world beaters but you have to think Kunitz is regretting his signing decision and is hoping to play out that contract on leave that poor decision in 2018.
Which struggling team will surge in the second half of the season?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The St. Louis Blues. It sounds crazy to imagine a team that started so bad, got their coach fired, and began fighting in practice could turn it around, but they might. They have a wildly talented roster, they’re only getting healthier, and if they win their games in hand on Dallas, who currently holds the final playoff spot, they would sit one point back of them.
They need a solid eight or ten game heater, but the year isn’t lost yet for St. Louis.
IAN SHEPPARD: Minnesota Wild. They currently sit in 5th place in the Central Division with 37 points but I could see this team turn a corner down the stretch. They’re relatively healthy outside of losing Dumba long term. They have solid depth and goaltending and were a playoff team a year ago.
They have three teams in the division that will be difficult to catch but the Wild Card spots are wide open and if they’re able to sneak out some wins within the division could turn their season around.
WYATT ZIEGER: In the name of Disneyland it better be Anaheim.
Even though they are 1st in the wild card there is still plenty of room to grow. Injuries to significant players have plagued the Ducks throughout the year; Perry and Eaves who have been out all season, Cam Fowler who has missed crucial time with a facial fracture and now Ducks fans have to keep an ear to the ground for John Gibson who left last nights game against the Sharks after the 1st.
If they can get all their pieces back … AND healthy this is a team that has won the division 5 of 6 years and can make another strong push towards doing that again. Expect Anaheim to be buyers on the trade market, looking for offensive help down the stretch.
Who’s your pick to win the Hart Trophy?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I want to start by saying that if this award truly went to the player who is most valuable to his team’s success, it would go to a goaltender every single year. Without a good goalie, teams don’t make the playoffs. That’s cut and dry. So part of me wants to say John Gibson has a really strong case to be the leagues MVP. But usually, goalies have to have a historic year to be considered for the Hart. So with that being said…
The Edmonton Oilers are in the playoff hunt because of Connor McDavid. He is the single skater who is most valuable to his team’s success. if he isn’t going, they don’t score goals and therefore, they do not win hockey games. Simple as that.
IAN SHEPPARD: Well the obvious answer is Connor McDavid because without him the Oilers would have less than 39 points and that’s just sad. But my actual pick is Nathan MacKinnon. Over the last two seasons, MacKinnon has proved his name belongs to be thrown into the hat for the top-five in the league.
He Is currently third in the league in scoring with his linemate Mikko Rantanen in second and MacKinnon’s playmaking ability is a huge contribution to the Avalanche holding a top three spot in the Central with 44 points.
WYATT ZIEGER: Spoiler alert: I’ve already picked this player in a piece coming to you later this week but Nathan MacKinnon.
He sits third in NHL scoring only behind his teammate Mikko Rantanen and the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov. Let’s get one thing straight, MacKinnon is the driving force behind Colorado’s offence. After a close loss to Taylor Hall in the MVP race last season, Mackinnon had something to strive for. He is one of the NHL’s most explosive skaters and has the hands to keep up with his feet. I fully expect MacKinnon to take over the leagues scoring race and along with that the MVP.
Shoutout to Gibson, McDavid, Kucherov and Wheeler who I also expect to garner votes.