NHL

The Two Most Exciting Teams to Watch in the NHL This Year

Two Tampa Bay Lightning talk strategy on the ice.

The 2019-2020 NHL season is underway. As the season moves through its first month, fans still have a lot of questions about every team. Based on last year’s results, there are a few teams that seem more exciting to watch than others. 

Who are the two most exciting teams to watch in the NHL this year? Let’s take a closer look at who they are and what makes them so exciting. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

In 2018, the Tampa Bay Lightning finished first in the Atlantic Division with 128 points and a record of 62-16-4. When you have a team that effective, it makes sense to bring the whole crew back, and that’s precisely what Tampa did.

Other than adding former New York Ranger Kevin Shattenkirk to their blue line and backup goalie Curtis McElhinney to occasionally spell Andrei Vasilevskiy, the cast of characters remains largely the same. Last year Vasilevskiy received the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender. That netted him an eight-year extension with the team this offseason. 

Back are last season’s points leaders including: 

  • Nikita Kucherov (128 points) 
  • Steven Stamkos (98 points)
  • Brayden Point (92 points)
  • Victor Hedman (54 points) 

According to the Vegas oddsmakers, the most likely Stanley Cup matchup is the Lightning facing off against the Winnipeg Jets. It’s clear that expectations for the team are sky-high. 

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs finished third in the Atlantic last year, scoring 100 points while amassing a record of 46-28-8.

This season, the Leafs have made headlines for having $33 million dedicated to three forwards: John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner. While that’s a pretty penny to spend on three players, it’s worth it. All three had solid years last season and give the Leafs two solid lines’ worth of scorers.

Marner may be the biggest question mark, having only one truly great season under his belt with last year’s 94 point total. But at the tender age of 22, he’s got plenty of time to improve. 

They also have left-wing Andreas Johnsson coming off a tremendous rookie season where he scored 20 goals and added 23 assists. At only 24 years old, he’s another young scorer with nearly limitless potential. 

The Leafs may have spent a lot, but they’ve gotten a lot of production out of their team (especially their top six). Expect more of the same in 2019. 

Why the Maple Leafs and Lightning will be more exciting than any other NHL team 

Both teams have a lot of talent and are looked at as contenders for the Stanley Cup. They also have big storylines surrounding them. It will be fun to watch those questions get answered. 

For Tampa: after such a dominant regular season, was last season’s playoff collapse a fluke or indicative of the team they really are? A first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets was the last thing Tampa fans expected. Regular-season success is so hard to replicate over the course of a long NHL season. Will Tampa be able to be as impressive as they were last year over the course of the entire season? And if so, will they be able to follow it up with a better showing in the postseason? 

For Toronto, the question has never been about offense, but about defense. With so much top-level talent able to score for them seemingly at will, the issue is the team’s defensive prowess. Can they improve on that side? The Leafs also lost in the first round (to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins), so they’ll also look to avenge last season’s early-round exit. 

The Lightning and Leafs are two teams with a ton of offensive talent and a lot to prove after last year’s playoff exits. That’s what makes these two teams the most exciting to watch in the NHL this season.