NHL playoff predictions 2019-20: Preseason Stanley Cup picks from SN’s experts

Sporting News

The 2019-20 NHL season begins Oct. 2. But let's be realistic, all anyone wants to know is who will hoist the Stanley Cup in eight months time.

It's a tough 82-game stretch on just advancing to the postseason and then a grueling, heavy campaign to reach the pinnacle. Who will advance is anyone's guess — hello, St. Blues.

NHL 2019-20 PREDICTIONS:
SN staff projects final standings, awards, Stanley Cup winner

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Stanley Cup predictions for 2019-20

Despite the pitfalls and hurdles, Sporting News' hockey experts decided to take a leap and give you their picks for who will take home hockey's most coveted prize.

Jackie Spiegel

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference champ

Dallas Stars

Stanley Cup champ

Toronto Maple Leafs

Conn Smythe winner

John Tavares

Why Toronto will win: In last season's predictions, the Maple Leafs were my pick for 2020 and I am not making any changes. This team is stacked with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen up front, possibly the strongest defensive core in years led by Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie and Frederik Andersen in net. As long as they don't face the Bruins in the first round . . . Toronto should make a run all the way to the franchise's first Cup in 53 years.

Brandon Schlager

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

San Jose Sharks

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Steven Stamkos

Why Tampa will win: Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Co. will face an intense amount of scrutiny all season after a first-round dud against the Blue Jackets ended their historic 2018-19 season. This team could go 82-0-0 and it wouldn't matter if not accompanied by a deep playoff run and that elusive Stanley Cup. Following an offseason of tweaks, we don't need to rehash why the Lightning are still the most potent and well-rounded roster in the NHL — but that won't last much longer. It's high time Tampa gets over the hump.

Sammi Silber

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Washington Capitals

Western Conference champ

San Jose Sharks

Stanley Cup champ

Washington Capitals

Conn Smythe winner

Braden Holtby

Why Washington will win: I promise D.C. bias has nothing to do with this pick; the Capitals' lineup is stacked. The top-6 has Alexander Ovechkin still going strong, Evgeny Kuznetsov ready to bounce back and T.J. Oshie returning from a collarbone injury. On the bottom-6, there's Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic providing reliable secondary scoring. Defenseman Michal Kempny will help bolster the blue line as he makes his return from injury with Jonas Siegenthaler playing excellent hockey and Radko Gudas providing much-needed physicality. And of course, Braden Holtby is Braden Holtby in the playoffs. The series will go to seven games for sure, but San Jose will witness a Boston Bruins-like ending in June.

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washington-capitals-banner-raising-100318-getty-ftr.jpeg

Sean Farrell

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Nikita Kucherov

Why Tampa Bay will win: The younger members of the Lightning were schooled about competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs after one of the best regular-season performances in NHL history. Lesson learned; there are enough key elements remaining from Tampa Bay’s run to the 2015 Final that this supremely talented team will be ready to answer the bell come April.

Steve Kournianos

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference champ

Winnipeg Jets

Stanley Cup champ

Winnipeg Jets

Conn Smythe winner

Mark Scheifele

Why Winnipeg will win: The Jets will get a bounceback season from Connor Hellebuyck in net, fix whatever minor internal issues they seem to have and use their heavy game and firepower to overwhelm the field.

Dave McCarthy

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Steven Stamkos

Why Tampa Bay will win: They’ve learned. Their team is basically the same. They’re not going to let what happened in the first round last season happen again.

Mike Murphy

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Dallas Stars

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Why Tampa Bay will win: Despite losing Anton Stralman to the Panthers in free agency, the Bolts' blue line has more depth than it did last year with Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn now in the fold. Furthermore, Tampa Bay's top-nine forwards are arguably the best group in the NHL. The Lightning have it all: offense, defense, goaltending and an enviable amount of center depth. The Blues may have won the Cup last year, but Tampa will be the team that all other teams are measured against.

Murray Pam

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Vegas Golden Knights

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Brayden Point

Why Tampa Bay will win: Lightning players will take nothing for granted after being humbly swept in the first round of last season’s playoffs. The 2019 Presidents’ Trophy winner, by a long shot, returns with a roster largely intact. Late off-season free-agent signings of 2019 Stanley Cup champ Patrick Maroon and d-man Kevin Shattenkirk only add to Tampa's deep core from top to bottom.

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brayden-point-092319-getty-ftr

Ryan Pike

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champ

Colorado Avalanche

Conn Smythe winner

Nathan MacKinnon

Why Colorado will win: After a rough start to the 2018-19 season, the Avalanche turned a corner midway through the calendar year and found another level to their game. They wildly outplayed a strong Calgary Flames club in the first round of the playoffs, then spent the off-season improving their team. What was already a talented, deep team added Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. As long as Philipp Grubauer doesn't take a step backward, the Avalanche are going to be a tough out for the other 30 NHL clubs.

Lyle Richardson

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Nashville Predators

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Victor Hedman

Why Tampa Bay will win: After dominating last season, the Lightning will be keen to atone for getting swept out of the opening round of the 2019 playoffs. Few teams can match their depth. They won't be caught flat-footed again.

Jace Mallory

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Dallas Stars

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Nikita Kucherov

Why Tampa Bay will win: The Lightning learned a tough lesson last year — dominating the regular season doesn't automatically grant you wins in the postseason, not even in the first round. They will bounce back from an embarrassing playoff with another solid regular season en route to capturing their second Stanley Cup title.

Tommy McArdle

Series

Winner

Eastern Conference champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference champ

Calgary Flames

Stanley Cup champ

Tampa Bay Lightning

Conn Smythe winner

Why Tampa Bay will win: It’s hard to imagine the Lightning will have another disastrous playoff collapse like they did last year. Assuming they will easily capture the No. 1 seed in the East again, Tampa will benefit from playing the No. 8 seed rather than being sent into the Atlantic Division meat-grinder in the first round. It’s hard to bet on anyone else.

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