The National Hockey League's ultimate prize is up for grabs once a year. Every NHL team fights for the chance to raise Lord Stanley's Cup, the holy grail in the hockey world. Recent winners include the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings. Teams have won the Stanley Cup more than once in recent years as well, with the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup in 2015, 2013, and 2010, and the Kings winning it all in 2014 and 2012. However, once the regular season starts, anyone could realistically win it all. The question is who will be the team to jump atop the rest of the group each year.
Predicting this year's Stanley Cup winner is the easiest prediction of them all, as we know the teams that will fight for the Stanley Cup. Still, at any given time a team can make a surprise run, as evidenced by the Philadelphia Flyers making the Stanley Cup Final as a seventh seed in 2010, or the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup as the eighth seed in 2012. Predicting each year is a tough task, but it's one worth giving a run at. With the amount of young talent in the league and how the young talent is spread across the NHL, many teams will have chances at winning Stanley Cups in the coming years. Looking at the teams and the competition moving ahead, let's determine who will win the next eight Stanley Cups and who will be the runner ups.
16 2017 Stanley Cup Champions: Washington Capitals
This will be the year that Alexander Ovechkin finally lifts the Stanley Cup, Ovechkin has gone his entire career without winning the Stanley Cup, and in fact has never even made it all of the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet this year, Ovechkin has the most help possible, as the Capitals are going all in on trying to finally win the Stanley Cup. Goaltender Braden Holtby is on top of his game, Justin Williams has the Stanley Cup experience to aid Ovechkin and company during their run, and Kevin Shattenkirk joined the fray as the team's top pair defenseman with plenty of postseason experience. The Capitals have no excuses left not to win it all, and they will use the knowledge of that as inspiration for a run.
15 2017 Runners-Up: Minnesota Wild
The year has been filled with an abundance of ups and downs for the Minnesota Wild. The Wild stormed out of the gates, and even went on a double-digit game winning streak before seeing the streak fall at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished with a 16-game winning streak themselves. However the Wild have been an incredibly streaky team, and during their recent stretch they have been trending downwards. That means heading into the post-season they will be due for a hot streak, and given Bruce Boudreau's struggles in his past post-season career, he is due for a trip to the Stanley Cup as well. He will meet up with his former disciple in Alexander Ovechkin.
14 2018 Stanley Cup Champions: New York Rangers
The New York Rangers will be bounced out in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, losing a hard fought battle with the Montreal Canadiens. This early exit will convince the Rangers that changes must be made for them to make a legitimate Stanley Cup run like they did in 2013. Gone will be the roster anchors such as Tanner Glass and Dan Girardi, in will be reigning Stanley Cup winner Kevin Shattenkirk and some depth acquisitions to boot. Henrik Lundqvist will thrive with an improved roster around him, and will have his best postseason performance of his career, motivated by seeing division rival Alexander Ovechkin lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career just one year prior to him.
13 2018 Stanley Cup Runners-Up: Anaheim Ducks
Led by a strong PDO (a luck-based statistic many use to determine which teams advanced further than expected) and an elite defense, the Anaheim Ducks will be the team to meet the New York Rangers in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Rangers fans will worry about having to face another California team with an American goaltender between the pipes, especially after John Gibson wins the 2017-18 Vezina Award. Yet when push comes to shove, the overall roster depth and urgency from the Rangers will prove to outweigh the positives of the Anaheim Ducks, who will fall just short of the ultimate prize. It will still mark tremendous progression under head coach Randy Carlyle, however, and a changing of the guard in the Pacific.
12 2019 Stanley Cup Champions: Chicago Blackhawks
Ah, the Chicago Blackhawks. One cannot leave the Blackhawks out for too long, as Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and company have shown that they cannot be stopped come post-season time. The Blackhawks are a safe bet to deal with the struggles of an aging core, but Toews will still be supremely effective come 2019, and Keith will likely be relied upon as a veteran presence, not a leader of the pack. Although we believe the Blackhawks will be aged at this point, we also believe Joel Quenneville can get the most out of any team, and the Blackhawks will identify the right roster pieces to build around to milk one more Stanley Cup out of this group. After that is a different story.
11 2019 Runners-Up: Tampa Bay Lightning
Yep, we will have ourselves a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, and we will see the exact same result in the end. Steven Stamkos will lead the Tampa Bay Lightning back to the Stanley Cup Final, dominating his way through the post-season with the assistance of Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. The Lightning will breeze through the postseason, but then run into a major roadblock in the Chicago Blackhawks. See, while the Lightning's window won't be closing in 2019, the Chicago Blackhawks' window certainly will be. Considering the difference in experience and the difference in urgency, we give the nod to the Chicago Blackhawks in this rematch. The Lightning will be back, however, as you will soon find out in these picks.
10 2020 Stanley Cup Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning
A year after losing yet another late-round series, this time the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning will say "enough is enough." Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman will place the team on their backs, along with the complementary pieces Steve Yzerman acquires in the off-season and throughout the regular season to clearly signal that anything less than winning the entire thing is acceptable at this point for the Lightning. The Lightning will work with the confidence given to them by Yzerman and advance through the entire post-season, wrecking all teams in their way. The Stanley Cup Final will be a hard-fought battle, but the Lightning will find a way to pull this one out, finally bringing the Cup back to Tampa.
9 2020 Runners-Up: Nashville Predators
P.K. Subban was brought to Nashville to do two things: grow the sport of hockey, and bring the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup Final. He already has succeeded in wowing the fans in Nashville, helping grow the game in his first season as a member of the Predators. However, it remains to be seen if he will manage to bring a Stanley Cup victory to the fans of the Predators. The guess here is that he will bring the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, but the Predators will be knocked out by a desperate Tampa Bay Lightning team. Still, the Predators getting that far when the Montreal Canadiens haven't means the Predators essentially won the biggest trade of last off-season.
8 2021 Stanley Cup Champions: Toronto Maple Leafs
When Mike Babcock was brought on board to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was a clear signal from the Maple Leafs' brass that they wanted to not only rebuild, but rebuild into a powerhouse. Their rebuilding campaign is working much faster than anyone could have imagined, as Auston Matthews may end up as a 40-goal scorer, and the Maple Leafs will almost certainly be playing in the National Hockey League postseason this season. However, making it to the playoffs and going for a deep run are two completely separate entities. The Maple Leafs will fall in different rounds until 2021, watching teams that have been there before take their turns lifting the cup, until finally the Maple Leafs will go all the way.
7 2021 Stanley Cup Runners-Up: Edmonton Oilers
Oh, did we mention that the team the Toronto Maple Leafs will take down to win the Stanley Cup will be none other than Connor McDavid's Edmonton Oilers? That's right, folks, mark it down on your calendar. June of 2021, the Toronto Maple Leafs, led by dynamic superstars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, will face off for the ultimate prize against the Edmonton Oilers' own superstars in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and more. The series will be one of the most exciting for the NHL to market in recent history, with the All-Canada match-up grabbing the attention of the biggest markets throughout the world. When the series ends, Auston Matthews, then captain of the Maple Leafs, will hoist the grand prize.
6 2022 Stanley Cup Champions: Edmonton Oilers
Remember how the Edmonton Oilers will watch the Toronto Maple Leafs complete their re-build and hoist the Stanley Cup in 2021, led by their phenom center Auston Matthews? The Edmonton Oilers will have their turn the next year, as Connor McDavid will follow in the footsteps of former phenom Sidney Crosby and lift the Stanley Cup one year after watching another team lift it after losing in the final round of the playoffs. McDavid will be a man possessed like Crosby was that post-season, absolutely refusing to accept anything less than winning it all. McDavid and the Oilers will bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton, and both of the phenoms will have had their runs to mark themselves as future Hall of Famers.
5 2022 Runners-Ups: Toronto Maple Leafs
Surprise, surprise! Once again following in the footsteps of the 2008-2009 Pittsburgh Penguins ('led by Sidney Crosby) and Detroit Red Wings' consecutive Stanley Cup Final match-ups, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers will meet in the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive years. Auston Matthews will be looking to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, while Connor McDavid will be looking to avoid losing back-to-back Stanley Cups. McDavid will finish ahead of Matthews this time, as the Maple Leafs will be less motivated and will have lost some of their talent at this point to free agency. Remember, given how the cap world works, great teams likely cannot keep all of their pieces intact. Still, what a couple of series these two would be.
4 2023 Stanley Cup Champions: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are in a similar predicament as the New York Rangers. The Canadiens feature one of the best goalies in the world in Carey Price, but do not possess the pieces around him to win it all. However, much like Henrik Lundqvist will win the 2018 Stanley Cup Final because he is simply too good to never win a Stanley Cup, Carey Price will be the guy in 2023. Price will hoist the Stanley Cup after facing an enormous amount of questions of whether or not he is overrated for never having won one. Captain Max Pacioretty will help lead the Canadiens' offense, and the Habs' top free agent and trade acquisitions will do their part in ending Montreal's Stanley Cup championship drought.
3 2023 Runners-Up: Las Vegas Golden Knights
When the National Hockey League added the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the fold, they looked for the Golden Knights to immediately compete in the NHL. However, that is not how things work in the league. There are far too many good teams in the NHL for the Golden Knights to succeed right out of the gate in the league. The Golden Knights will have to go through the trials and tribulations that every other team faces on an average year. The Golden Knights will have better options available for them out of the gate, however, and they will also have a high payroll and the league's support. All of this will culminate in their being Stanley Cup runner ups in the 2023 campaign, falling just short.
2 2024 Stanley Cup Champions: Hartford Whalers
You may be wondering what a team that does not even exist is doing on this list. Well, let us explain. The Carolina Hurricanes will fail to win the Stanley Cup in the coming years, paving the way for their disappointing hometown fans enough for them to have to be moved. They will move back to Hartford, where they will get the most support they have gotten in a long time. With that support will come an increased payroll and the ability to compete with the best of the best in the National Hockey League. The Whalers will win the Stanley Cup in their inaugural year back in Hartford, showing the league they did not make a mistake moving the franchise back to their old stomping grounds.
1 2024 Runners-Up: Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes are in the midst of a major rebuild, one that will take many years to complete. However, given their new-found dedication to this rebuild, they will one day see it pay off with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Led by newcomers who actually want to play in Arizona thanks to the success of other warm weather climates in the National Hockey League, the Coyotes will work their way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2024, before falling to the Team of Destiny, the Hartford Whalers. Still, the Coyotes will make a bigger run then they ever did before, showing that hockey in Arizona is here, and is here to stay for the short and for the long term.
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