The NHL has turned the corner on the quarter pole and now our eyes are focusing on the blurry division races as the trade deadline looms. Trades this year could – and most likely will – have an impact on the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft projections as well.
Key players being targeted may find themselves moved and that will change their protection status. Whether teams buy or sell will be determined over this next stretch of the season. Will contenders add? Will hot starts fade and those teams decide to sell?
While we watch that pan out, here are games to catch this week:
Boston Bruins versus Washington Capitals
When: Wednesday, 4 PM on NBCSN and Friday, 4 PM on NHL Network
Washington and Boston continue to plow along and play good hockey. It’s surprising that these games are going to be indoors since NBC seems to plug one or both of these teams into its stadium games on the regular – Wednesday’s game will be on NBCSN albeit inside. The national programming is not without merit.
Coming into this week, the two clubs are separated by two points at the top of the MassMutual East Division with the Capitals on top, but with the Bruins holding a pair of games in hand. Boston has a chance this week to take over the lead and take a big step in the race. The games should be good as it features two veteran-laden teams who have raised the Cup and know how to win. These teams aren’t young, but they are good. Look for terms like ‘crafty’ and ‘wily’ to be uttered a lot by the television crews.
Players to watch
Zdeno Chara will be playing against his former club in his former home arena – the one he is most remembered for – which adds a fun element. The Bruins will throw out Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron a ton in these games. Making up one of the best lines in the NHL, the trio are also the top three Boston scorers this season. Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo played his Junior hockey for the Tri-City Americans if you’re looking for a local angle. Jake DeBrusk was almost traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds once but that’s a story for another day.
For the Capitals, pay attention to their power play. Alex Ovechkin will probably find himself in the left faceoff circle looking for a one-timer. The Bruins know that but he’ll still get a couple of good looks from there. Nicklas Backstrom is looking true to form and leading the Capitals in scoring and if you like puck-moving, scoring defensemen then John Carlson is your guy. He’s been doing it a long time and is off to another strong start.
The Seattle Kraken watchlist
Boston has come interesting players to keep an eye on. Up front, Nick Ritchie is close to equaling his season totals from last season. On the back end, scout up on Jeremy Lauzon.
The Capitals feature Seattle Kraken message board favorite T.J. Oshie as well as former Thunderbird Brenden Dillon. Both are likely to be exposed and would obviously be interesting Kraken picks. But the Capitals have other players who could end up in Seattle, including goalie Vitek Vanecek, who has been a pleasant surprise in Washington.
Carolina Hurricanes versus Florida Panthers
When: Sunday, 2 P.M. NHLTV
The Discover Central continues to entertain. This is a division that is the definition of topsy-turvy. Seemingly every day brings a new top team and entering this week it’s the Florida Panthers who continue to surprise. Carolina is not far behind, just one point out heading into the week, tied for second with a little outfit known as the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But this isn’t about the defending champs, its about the Hurricanes and Panthers who will serve up a fun Sunday afternoon matinee. While this is a big game, it feels like this race is going to come down to the wire in the spring.
Players to watch
Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Carter Verhaeghe aren’t household names outside of hockey fans – because the Panthers don’t get the national airtime other teams do – but are having impact seasons. They’ve been good for a while but now are on a team that is winning and leading a division. Goalie Chris Driedger, who played 22 games for the Tri-City Americans once, continues to outplay the expensive Sergei Bobrovsky and is a big reason for the Panthers’ success this season.
Carolina is fun. The Hurricanes have depth and youth which is a great combination. Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Martin Necas are all high-end entertaining players that will stand out to you. It’s not just youth for the Hurricanes, however. Their young roster is littered with veterans like Vincent Trochek, Jordan Staal, and defenseman Dougie Hamilton who are all producing. This is a team that is almost always must-watch.
The Seattle Kraken watchlist
Florida has potential for some interesting Expansion Draft options. Driedger is in that mix and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Will Seattle try to sign him? Not only are the Hurricanes fun to watch, but their depth will present Seattle with some intriguing options. Defenseman Jake Bean continues to step up for Carolina and would be a huge get for the Kraken.
Other notable NHL games on the radar
Vegas Golden Knights versus San Jose Sharks: Friday, 7:30 P.M. NHLTV. This was an intense rivalry just a season ago. It hasn’t had the same juice this season but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a spark. Fans of the Seattle Thunderbirds may enjoy it as former players Shea Theodore, Keegan Kolesar, Patrick Marleau, and Alexander True are all in the mix.