Rather than the regimented one-year gap between crowning Stanley Cup champions, NHL fans had to wait for 15 months between the St. Louis Blues’ emphatic Game 7 victory and the long-tipped triumph of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With a shift in schedules, the NHL is yet to commence its 2020/21 campaign. As it stands, it’s being tipped as a shortened 2021 season, which it has been for a while now. Primarily, however, the commissioner of the NHL has stated that a full 2021/22 season is the target.
Regardless of the 2020/21 season, the 2021/22 campaign would always be one of tremendous interest to hockey fans for several reasons. Adding a glorious 82-game schedule to the mix would only enhance its appeal. Here’s what the NHL fan base can look forward to for the 2021/22 season.
Release the Kraken
For the 2017/18 season, the NHL became the first professional major league of North America to commit to the Las Vegas market with the Vegas Golden Knights. With the team pulled together from an expansion draft, Vegas flew to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural campaign, remaining a top contender to this day.
So, expectations are sky-high for the exciting new franchise joining the fray: the Seattle Kraken. They’ll be throwing a stick into the spokes of several teams when they get to select their first roster via an expansion draft in 2021, with the Kraken said to be continually devising new strategies for the big draft.
It’s still early days, but the Kraken could be looking at getting the likes of Calvin de Haan, Rasmus Andersson, Stanley Cup finalist Anton Khudobin, James Neal, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Alex Killorn, and maybe even Shayne Gostisbehere. Equally, players signed in this free agency may be put up as blockers by teams, with the likes of Braden Holtby, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kyle Turris, and Radko Gudas looking like prime Kraken bait.
Regardless of who they select, Seattle will be making the NHL a thrilling and balanced 32-team league in 2021/22.
It’s anyone’s call – as always
It’s very rare that the pre-playoffs favourite ends up hoisting the Stanley Cup. Even last season, although seen as easily one of the best teams in the league, the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche were rated ahead of, or on par with, the Bolts coming into the postseason.
In just the last year, the landscape of NHL interactions has changed drastically in several places across North America, including in several hockey states. In Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the state of US online gambling legislation has changed to allow for sports betting, including on the NHL.
The landscape of sports betting is constantly growing, with more and more states joining the legalized scene. As it stands, home fans of the Avalanche, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Devils, Flyers, and Penguins can back their teams for glory, or get behind the inaugural Seattle Kraken in 2021/22, backing them to do as Vegas did.
The next generation of stars
With each new season comes a new batch of talents ready to break into the NHL ranks, with the 2021 NHL Draft set to be stuffed with defensive talent. Just as Cody Glass became the first-ever draft pick of the Golden Knights, going sixth overall, one lucky player will go down in history as Seattle’s first-ever draft pick.
Standing nearly 6’5’’, however, the prized prospect looks to be defenseman Owen Power. The hefty blueliner is the consensus number-one pick right now, but others like Finnish forward Aatu Räty and Canadian Brandt Clarke are also in the mix.
While all of the legal sports betting states will be able to back teams in every game of the would-be 2021 NHL season, all eyes are already fixed on the 2021/22 campaign.