PHT’s 2020-21 NHL North Division predictions

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season begins with Wednesday triple header featuring Flyers-Penguins, Blackhawks-Lightning, and Blues-Avalanche.

NBCSN LIVESTREAM: Penguins vs. Flyers – coverage begins at 5:15 p.m. ET

NBCSN LIVESTREAM: Blackhawks vs. Lightning – coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET

NBCSN LIVESTREAM: Blues vs. Avalanche – coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET

This should be fun. The U.S.-Canada border closure means that all seven Canadian teams will be in a division of their own for the 2020-21 NHL season. That also will mean one team from the North will make it to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. But who will make it out? Toronto returns strong, but do they have enough? Will the Jets rebound? Are the Canucks about to take a step back? What can we expect from the Habs? Could the Senators be a dark horse? Will Connor and Leon get some help? Is this the last stand for this group of Flames?

There are so many questions that will be answered over the 56-game schedule. As we get ready for the season to begin, here’s how the PHT staff think the North Division will shake out.

[PHT PREDICTIONS: EAST/WEST/CENTRAL]

Be sure to give us your picks in the comments!

NORTH DIVISION

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: There will be a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup Semifinals! There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be Toronto, but we’ve all seen how their defensive issues have stopped progress. How the rest shakes out will be fascinating. Are the Canadiens, Flames and Jets better? Will the Canucks regress? Will Connor and Leon have to carry the Oilers?

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Speaking of gifts, if the Maple Leafs can’t take advantage of this opportunity, then maybe they actually deserve the soap opera drama that comes their way following even the most mundane of disappointments. It’s not that outrageous to picture the Canucks outscoring their problems, but I’d wager that they’ll miss Jacob Markstrom, who saved their bacon a lot last season. As you can see, the Habs might be overhyped, yet I still pencil them in for a playoff spot.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Toronto and Edmonton are, to me, the two best teams, but I also do not think any of these teams have really distanced themselves from the pack. Frankly, this is the most difficult division for me to pick because so many of these teams seem so evenly matched.

[NHL Power Rankings: Contenders and pretenders for 2020-21 NHL season]

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Maybe Calgary will be better than I think, maybe Vancouver makes a move towards a playoff spot. Either way, the mix between Toronto and Ottawa is going to be weird.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: I like the veteran additions the Maple Leafs made, so I’m giving them the edge on paper entering the season. I’ve put Ottawa last here, but I’m not sold on them as a definite cellar dweller. They got much better.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Canadian Division will have the toughest go of all the divisions as the seven teams will have to travel across all four time zones. Even the West doesn’t have to do that this season. Toronto will bolt to the top as they have the most talent. I like the Jets up front and they have the best goalie in the division. Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal will fight it out for the last two spots and Vancouver could drop right out if their goaltending doesn’t keep the puck out of the net. It will be oh so close from three-six. Ottawa will bring up the rear but there is so much young talent on the team and in the system that they will contend for the playoffs in the next year or two.