Last year, the EA Sports NHL 2019 season simulation predicted that the Toronto Maple Leafs would hoist the Stanley Cup. Before the season started, Toronto added on to an already scary good offense by going out and landing the big fish, prized free agent forward John Tavares. Immediately, Tavares gave Toronto a frightening 1A-1B punch down the middle by joining incumbent star and franchise center Auston Matthews. Also there was Nazem Kadri, a 30-plus goal scorer in each of the previous two seasons, who was now their third option manning the middle. It was clear to many inside the NHL world, and even the casual hockey fan, that the new addition solidified their already strong Stanley Cup odds so it wasn’t outlandish to see the EA Sports 2019 simulation.
However, despite a strong regular season that saw the Maple Leafs finish with 46 wins and 100 points, for the second straight season the Maple Leafs were eliminated by their arch rivals, the Boston Bruins, in seven games.
Now, this brings us to the early preseason simulation for the 2020 season. All NHL teams have now begun training camp and have played their first few preseason games, so it’s never too early to talk Stanley Cup winner. This simulation was conducted on 9/18/19 and a few things of note:
- Some big restricted free agents are still currently unsigned by their NHL club:
- Mikko Rantanen – Colorado
- Brayden Point – Tampa Bay
- Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor – Winnipeg
- Matthew Tkachuk – Calgary
However, It is most likely all these players eventually get signed at some point during the season, if not before, so for simulation purposes the above players were kept on their respective teams. Also, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg) is speculated to be considering retirement, but since his decision hasn’t been announced yet he was also left on his current team.
- All games were simulated and the difficulty settings were all set on the hardest level.
Your Stanley Cup Champion Is…
In a somewhat dark-horse prediction, the Chicago Blackhawks are predicted to hoist their fourth Stanley Cup in the past 10 years. The Blackhawks last won Lord Stanley four years ago. The core foursome of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook previously won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
To add to the wildness of the predictions, the Ottawa Senators were the Chicago Blackhawks’ opponent in the Stanley Cup Final. The Senators who are in the midst of rebuilding — and to many thought to finish at or near the bottom of the standings — put up a valiant effort taking the Hawks to six games.
Some Notable Playoff Performances
- Chicago forward Patrick Kane finished first in assists (18) and points (25) in 20 games.
- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews finished first in goals (10) in 20 games.
- Chicago goalie Corey Crawford won the Conn Smythe Trophy, making it the first time since 2012 a goalie won that award.
- Ottawa Senators second-year pro Brady Tkachuk led all non-Blackhawk skaters in points with 14 in 20 games.
Some Notable Regular Season Performances
- Bidding for a chance to repeat, the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues had a stellar season finishing first overall — winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 115 points — and were the only team to top 50 wins by finishing with 53.
- Adding to their success, goalie Jordan Binnington (47 wins) took home the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the goalkeeper judged best at his position voted by NHL general managers.
- Forward Ryan O’Reilly won the Selke Trophy for the second-straight season, awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
- Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo won his first Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in his position. Pietrangelo also had a phenomenal statistical season leading the league in assists with 68.
- Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy leading the league in goals with 49.
- Cover athlete Auston Matthews had a stat line of 25 goals and 37 assists, finishing third in points on his team behind Marner and Tavares.
- The 2019 top pick Jack Hughes finished second in rookie scoring, recording 19 goals and 36 assists for the New Jersey Devils.
- Kaapo Kakko, the second pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, struggled through an injury-plagued season for his New York Rangers. Kakko only appeared in 59 games, producing just 10 goals and 22 assists.
- Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, older brother of Jack Hughes, led all rookie defensemen in scoring with 12 goals and 30 assists.
- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty led all defensemen in scoring with 15 goals and 62 assists.
- Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid had a down year, only managing to produce 63 points.
- No player recorded 100 points but Sidney Crosby led all players in scoring with 94 points, winning the Art Ross Trophy in the process.
- Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy notched double-digit shutouts with 10 to lead all goalies.
Other Award Winners
- Detroit forward Filip Zedina won the Calder Trophy, going to the league’s top rookie, producing 20 goals and 39 assists.
- The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy went to a pair of Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand respectively.
- Dubious honors went to two Canadian teams, the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadians, who tied for last place with 75 points.
What are some of your predictions for the 2020 season? What teams and storylines are you going to be following?