Now that most of the teams are roughly a quarter of the way into the 2019-20 NHL season, the early season standings are starting to shape up. Although there’s still a long way to go in the 82-game regular season, now that most of the teams are hitting the 20-game mark of the campaign, we’re getting an initial glance at which teams could genuinely be movers and shakers this season. These are the 5 biggest early season surprises.
1 – Edmonton Oilers are really slick this season
Where do you start with the Edmonton Oilers? They’ve only reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs once in the last thirteen years, although beyond that, they’ve consistently been one of the most underperforming sides in the NHL. What’s made that worse is the sensation that despite the quality young players on the roster in the last few seasons, talents such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been criminally wasted.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Draisaitl’s point streak extended to 10 games on his 15th of the season. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetsGoOilers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LetsGoOilers</a> <a href=”https://t.co/m0HIMtuMQi”>pic.twitter.com/m0HIMtuMQi</a></p>— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) <a href=”https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers/status/1194490736030277632?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 13, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
However, after 20 games and on November 14, the Oilers are top of the Pacific Division, second in the Western Conference and fifth in the overall League standings. Despite the latest NHL betting odds pricing the Oilers as +2000 outsiders to win the Stanley Cup, they genuinely look a team that could go all the way this season.
The Oilers may be considered the surprise package of the season so far, yet the secret of their success is arguably a greater sense of stability. Indeed, the official NHL season previews in September already hinted at improvements, given that retaining coach Dallas Eakins might prove the key factor for a team aiming to reach the Playoffs.
2 – Decline continues for Vegas Golden Knights
During their inaugural 2017-18 campaign, the Vegas Golden Knights produced the strongest ever season for an expansion team, not only in NHL, but in the entire history of North American professional sports. Breaking records for points by an expansion team in their first season, the Golden Knights went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, only to run out of steam against the Washington Capitals in the end.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Golden Knights lose 2-3 to the Red Wings. I know it’s early in the season but what is going on? Did the Vegas flu travel with the team? I can’t tell what’s bad because it all looks lackluster. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/VegasBorn?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#VegasBorn</a> <a href=”https://t.co/nzYk73fjHI”>pic.twitter.com/nzYk73fjHI</a></p>— Patrick Harrington (@legalpaddywagon) <a href=”https://twitter.com/legalpaddywagon/status/1193688635104624640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 11, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Nevertheless, having invested so heavily in their team and infrastructure, the Golden Knights have since been regarded as having one of the strongest rosters in NHL. That said, last season they struggled to recapture the same form, finishing third in the Pacific Division and were eliminated from the First Round of the Playoffs by the San Jose Sharks.
Despite being considered one of the five or six contenders for the Stanley Cup in preseason, the Golden Knights have so far failed to live up to expectations. Their disappointing 9-8-3 record after 20 games would suggest they won’t even make the Playoffs, unless there’s a drastic improvement in form.
3 – Vancouver Canucks looking seriously cool
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Vancouver Canucks were one of the strongest teams in the NHL, consistently dominating the Northwest Division and reaching the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals, only to suffer an agonizing 3-4 defeat to the Boston Bruins. However, since the Northwest Division was replaced by the Pacific Division, the Canucks have struggled, failing to reach the Playoffs in five of the last six seasons.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Bill Murray, that legend, did not win <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canucks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Canucks</a> 50/50 tonight. Somehow. 🤷♂️ <a href=”https://t.co/54G8ZKCRYh”>pic.twitter.com/54G8ZKCRYh</a></p>— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1194497893865885697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 13, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
At long last, this season it really does seem that Canucks fans finally have something to cheer about. After 19 games of the 2019-20 season, they’re genuinely in the race for leadership of the Pacific Division, jostling for position in the top five of the Western Conference, while also aiming to push amongst the leading ten teams in the whole League.
Such a stark change in fortunes for the Canucks is largely thanks to exceptional performances from the likes of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, with Quinn Hughes also looking like a genuine contender for the Calder Trophy this season. These young stars are making a great impact, plus the Canucks are playing some eye-catching offensive hockey. Whether this form lasts, remains to be seen. However, they’re looking a great outside bet for the Playoffs right now.
Favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season include the Washington Capitals, St Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the latter making a sluggish start to the 2019-20 campaign, they’ve played fewer games than anyone else, so they should turn things around and be amongst the Playoff contenders come the end of the Regular Season.
Can the Vegas Golden Knights improve? Will the Edmonton Oilers maintain their great form? Have the Vancouver Canucks really got what it takes to succeed this season? Only time will tell, and it’s sure going to be fun following their fortunes as the season plays out.