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NHL Hockey Returns, Early Prediction Has Beginning Of Lightning Dynasty

Ryan McDonagh #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates after the puck in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 16, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The National Hockey League begins their 103rd season Wednesday evening. As the KSL Sports hockey insider I am establishing my predictions now – the Tampa Bay Lightning will win the Stanley Cup (I think).

I’ve been wrong before – if you listen to the Utah Puck Report, you know that last season I picked the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Blues ended up the champions over the Washington Capitals.

NHL Champions

What has changed with the Lightning that will get them out of the first round this season? Not too much, and that is why I think they will win this one and maybe the next few.

They have depth in every position. Tampa Bay has the best goalie in the league – Andre Vasilevskiy (which kills me to admit as a huge Johnathan Quick fan).

Nikita Kucherov is coming off a league-best 128 points and Ryan McDonagh and Brayden Point were among the top in plus-minus and power-play goals respectively.

When you look back on the dynasties of the NHL, they almost all started with a bad loss in a year when they should have won it all. The Islanders, Redwings and even last year’s winners the Capitals had to lose in order to figure out how to win.

By not panicking and making a bunch of crazy trades over the offseason, they’ve kept guys that have something to prove and the experience to learn from mistakes that got them swept last season.

ECHL Champions

Last season I predicted that the Utah Grizzlies would go to the Kelly Cup Championship. The team ended up losing to the Idaho Steelheads in the first round.

I am sticking with my prediction – this year the Grizzlies will go deep into the playoffs.

Making predictions in the ECHL is tricky. Minor league teams have so much movement during the offseason, and being an affiliate to the Avalanche, the Grizzlies don’t have much control over their starting goalie or as many as 10 of their top players.

With that being said, I believe with the Avalanche being as involved as they are, they will make sure the Grizzlies are stacked with talent because it will help the organization at all levels.

It seems that would be the case for all organizations, but I can tell you from experience that it is not.

If the Avalanche and the AHL’s Colorado Eagles remain relatively healthy this season, the Grizzlies will have the run fans have been waiting so many years for.

I’ll go one further and predict a Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup final.

Now, let’s do that hockey.

Listen to Utah Puck Report to stay up to date on the NHL, hockey in Utah and catch interviews with Hall of Famers and current players.

Utah Puck Report is hosted by hockey insider and former pro goalie, Jay Stevens. From interviews with NHL hall of famers to updates on Utahns in the NFL – you’ll find it all on this podcast. Subscribe wherever you find podcasts for on kslsports.com.