2014-15 NHL predictions: Standings, awards and Stanley Cup picks

The Hockey News
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Weeks ago, the THN team gathered to debate and argue over the 2014-15 NHL standings as we went through the league team by team. We shared our final predictions in the annual Yearbook and ran individual breakdowns of each team over the past month. In our Season Preview magazine, we took it a step further and picked our winners for the major individual awards.

Here, on one easy page, are THN’s official predictions for the 2014-15 NHL season. Read more

THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Johnny Gaudreau's impressive pre-season has him shooting up the fantasy draft rankings, including THN's. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Last chance to cram. The 2014-15 NHL season starts Wednesday, and a bunch of fantasy leagues still have drafting to do. I’m here to provide some 11th-hour help.

Most of what you need to know is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.

One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?

I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on!

OCT. 6 UPDATE: The pre-season winds down, and we’ve learned a few things, from injuries to projected line combinations to buzzy rookies. With those factors in mind, here are my final rankings for 2014-15 drafts.

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Power ranking: The top 25 teams in college hockey

Ryan Kennedy
Can Minnesota win it all? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

On Friday, I revealed my top 50 players to watch for in the NCAA this season. To complete the puzzle, I have now ranked the top 25 teams. More than any other circuit, college hockey has a strange duality. You have schools with rosters filled with NHL prospects, usually in their late teens or early 20s, and then there are other squads made up of 23 players who are 23 years old and have come together for one amazing season.

Some of the following teams had multiple entries on my top 50 players list, while others had none at all (and frankly didn’t come close). But they all have a shot at the national championship, so let’s give them their due.

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The 50 NCAA players you need to know this season

Ryan Kennedy
Vancouver pick Thatcher Demko (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

It’s gonna be a great year for college hockey. Not only will the usual array of prospects be on display as they build up their games at school, but there is a special bonus: The Fab Five Frosh.

A mixture of late birthdays, incredible skill and tantalizing opportunities have coalesced to produce a class of first-time draft eligible players rarely ever seen before. Who are these incredible teens? Check out the list below.

Along with the Fab Five, you will also find the most intriguing players for this year. My choices are largely based on NHL upside, so you won’t find a ton of upperclassmen, nor free agents. It was tough getting the roster down to 50, but here we go:

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Hockey News
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 51-24-7

Acquisitions: Steve Downie, Taylor Chorney, Christian Ehrhoff, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling

Departures: Lee Stempniak, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk, Matt Niskanen, Chris Conner, Brooks Orpik, Joe Vitale, Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, James Neal

Top five fantasy options: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Once again the Penguins are blessed with two of the best players in the world up front in centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In any given year, both are a threat for the Hart and Art Ross Trophies and provide matchup nightmares for opponents. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

The Hockey News
The Boston Bruins celebrate. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 54-19-9

Acquisitions: None

Departures: Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Andrej Meszaros, Jarome Iginla

Top five fantasy players: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: When you were the NHL’s best team last season and are bringing back every cornerstone of that team, you have every confidence you’re going to enjoy similar success when the next season begins. Read more

Top 10 Hart Trophy candidates for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are again leading candidates to win the Hart. (Getty Images)

The Hart Trophy debate is my favorite of the Great Hockey Debates, largely because nobody knows what the award truly means.

By definition, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for “the player judged to be most valuable to his team.” It’s debatable whether that happens. Last year, it’s safe to say the Penguins would’ve gone nowhere without Sidney Crosby. But was any player more valuable to his team the year before than John Tavares, who almost singlehandedly took the Islanders to the playoffs? He finished third in the vote, with the Hart going to the defensively deficient but offensively potent Alex Ovechkin.

More often that not, the Hart skews toward prolific point totals, so keep in mind that my top 10 Hart candidates for 2014-15 factor in that common bias. Sorry, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: St. Louis Blues

The Hockey News
Jay Bouwmeester, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes and Alex Steen. (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 52-23-7

Acquisitions: Colin Fraser, Peter Mueller, Jeremy Welsh, Nate Prosser, Chris Butler, Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Paul Stastny, Carl Gunnarsson

Departures: Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Taylor Chorney, Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller, Roman Polak, Keith Aucoin, Vladimir Sobotka

Top five fantasy players: Alex Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Blues are as talented and well rounded as any team in the NHL on paper. They roll an excellent top-nine forward group, with two lines good enough to be first lines, whatever combinations emerge between Alexander Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and freshly signed Paul Stastny. Read more