NHL season preview: Vegas, Tampa Bay among Cup contenders entering 2019-20

Count the Islanders among the dark horses to move into championship contention, but the Rangers should only be considered long shots.

The 2019-20 NHL season opens on Wednesday night, with the St. Louis Blues set to defend their first Stanley Cup crown. While all 31 teams will start on a fresh sheet of ice, only a few appear to have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. Here are the favorites, dark horses and long shots to kiss the Cup in June.

Favorites

Vegas Golden Knights: Bet on William Karlsson and Vegas. The former expansion darlings have all the pieces in Year 3.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa Bay remains the class of the Atlantic Division. They still have to prove it in the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks: Another kick at the can for Joe Thornton, but can San Jose replace captain Joe Pavelski?

Boston Bruins: Last season’s runners up, Boston has what it takes for another deep playoff run.

Nashville Predators: Music City’s team again is talented and tough.

Calgary Flames: Calgary has a great young core but questionable goaltending.

St. Louis Blues: Can goalie Jordan Binnington carry the defending champions again?

Dark horses

Toronto Maple Leafs: Plenty of firepower in Toronto, but also lots of questions on the blue line.

Minnesota Wild: Does Bruce Boudreau have what it takes to (finally) coach a talented team to a Cup?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pittsburgh’s window is shutting, but never count Sidney Crosby and company out.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg has lost a lot of weapons thanks to a salary cap crunch.

New York Islanders: New York’s small-market team probably failed to add enough this summer for a legit Cup run.

Dallas Stars: Dallas has scoring, but defense wins championships.

Washington Capitals: Washington may have celebrated its 2018 Cup win a bit too much. This team is still hung over.

Columbus Blue Jackets: With “Bread Man” Artemi Panarin gone, will Columbus rise to the challenge?

Colorado Avalanche: Colorado has the best first line in the game, but their teammates need to step up.

Carolina Hurricanes: Carolina had a surprising run last season, and the core returns.

Edmonton Oilers: Can all those stars in Edmonton finally get their acts together?

Long shots

New York Rangers: Lots of changes on Broadway, but still not enough to contend.

Chicago Blackhawks: Fans in Chicago will likely be singing the blues again.

Detroit Red Wings: Detroit is gathering some solid young pieces for a rebuild. It will take time.

Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver’s youngsters almost made the playoffs last spring. They may qualify this time.

Ottawa Senators: The NHL’s hot mess gets messier.

Arizona Coyotes: Arizona added Phil Kessel to a solid, young team.

Montreal Canadiens: Montreal has Carey Price, but the days of the “Flying Frenchmen” are long gone.

Buffalo Sabres: This could finally be the year in Buffalo. Or not.

Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim is no longer mighty. Now, its old and slow.

Philadelphia Flyers: Pacifist Alain Vigneault coaching the Broad Street Bullies? How long can it last?

Los Angeles Kings: Once upon a time in Hollywood, this team was great. This will be another long year.

New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes adds to the young talent, but Jersey is at least a year away.

Florida Panthers: Some skill in Florida, but not enough direction.

Brian P. Dunleavy