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NHL bold predictions — pass or fail: What we got wrong (and right!) in our preseason picks


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The headline on Oct. 15 read “NHL 2022-23 bold predictions: A 70-goal scorer, trades, breakouts, awards, more,” and at the time, 70 goals indeed looked pretty bold — a threshold no NHLer has reached since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny both did in 1992-93.

Now? With the end of the NHL regular season three weeks out, the mark is very much in play.

Only not for the player we predicted.

Oilers superstar Connor McDavid — who, to be fair, The Athletic did predict in our preseason bold predictions would make his first appearance in the 50-goal club in 2022-23 — reached 60 goals on Wednesday, with 10 games to play.

On the other hand, Auston Matthews, our preseason pick for 70, hasn’t made it halfway there with 11 games remaining.

It got us wondering: How are the rest of our picks holding up?

So before we get lost in the postseason/offseason hustle — and in the spirit of our recent “What we got wrong” series — The Athletic asked its NHL staff to take one last look back at what they thought might happen in the preseason and to give themselves a pass/fail grade for the prediction, along with providing an explanation of how it all went so right or wrong.

Too early? For a few, and in those cases, we did allow “Incomplete” grades. But most of these, like the McDavid and Matthews ones, are settled — for good (we’re fairly lenient graders, so an $11 million prediction for a contract that came in at $11.25 million is a pass), bad (“Boy, did I overshoot”) or ugly (“Do I win a prize of some sort for having the Wrongest Prediction?” one writer asked).

Here are all 32 teams’ bold predictions, revisited.

Anaheim Ducks

Preseason bold prediction: Mason McTavish will win the Calder Trophy

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: When you really look at it, I don’t feel like I was all that off, but I’m resigned to the fact that Matty Beniers is very likely going to win the Calder going away for a Seattle club that’s bound for the playoffs unless there’s a complete collapse at the end here. But the 20-year-old McTavish has given it his best shot at the top rookie honor. He’s fifth in rookie goal-scoring (16), tied for third in assists (25) and second in points (41) behind Beniers. And he’s doing it for a team that doesn’t have a lot of firepower around him. He won’t win the Calder, but he deserves a fair number of top-five votes. — Eric Stephens

Arizona Coyotes

Preseason bold prediction: Connor Ingram will be the starter in goal by Christmas

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: At midseason, this was a hard fail because Karel Vejmelka had an outstanding start to the season. But Ingram has become more of a factor in the second half and is up to 25 starts and now has a save percentage (.907) that’s actually better than Vejmelka’s (.903). Maybe by Christmas of next year, Ingram is either the starter or part of a Coyotes’ 1A-1B goalie platoon. — Eric Duhatschek

Boston Bruins

Preseason bold prediction: David Pastrnak will re-sign for $11 million annually

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: I suppose being off by $250,000 annually is close enough to qualify as a pass. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bold of a prediction, considering how explosive Pastrnak has been. A bolder prediction would have been an AAV higher than Nathan MacKinnon’s $12.6 million high-water mark. Pastrnak would have deserved it. — Fluto Shinzawa

Buffalo Sabres

Preseason bold prediction: Jack Quinn will score 20 goals

Pass or fail? Incomplete

Analysis: Quinn needs six goals in the Sabres’ final 11 games to hit the 20-goal mark, so it’s not likely. Quinn has had a strong year as a play-driver, though, and shown off his goal-scoring ability in flashes. He’s top six on the team in shot attempts per 60 minutes, expected goals per 60 and high-danger chances per 60 in his first full season. He missed a few games with an injury, but based on what we’ve seen this season, I’d expect him to get at least 20 goals next year. — Matthew Fairburn

Calgary Flames

Preseason bold prediction: Dillon Dube will score 30 goals for the first time

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Barring a miraculous goal-scoring streak to end the season, Dube will end the season short of the 30 mark. But that doesn’t make his season as a whole a failure. The 24-year-old is in the midst of his best season as a pro and can still reach the 20-goal plateau with nine games to play. He is progressing as an everyday player in the Flames’ lineup. — Julian McKenzie

Carolina Hurricanes

Preseason bold prediction: Jesperi Kotkaniemi will outscore Vincent Trocheck

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Kotkaniemi’s ice-cold start (three points in his first 20 games) doomed any chance of him truly having a breakout season. Still, he has already set career highs in both goals and points, and he has 17 points in 20 games in February and March. That’s close to the 23 points in 23 games Trocheck has posted with the Rangers in those same two months. — Cory Lavalette

Chicago Blackhawks

Preseason bold prediction: Jonathan Toews will get traded, and Patrick Kane won’t

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: We had a few swings and misses on this list, but I’m pretty sure I missed by the most, given the exact opposite happened. Would Jonathan Toews have been traded had he been healthy? No, I don’t believe so. I entered the season feeling that Kane was desperately seeking a reason to stay and that Toews already had one foot out the door. A couple of months into this truly putrid season, it was clear that Kane could see the writing on the wall, and that Toews was leaning toward staying. — Mark Lazerus

Colorado Avalanche

Preseason bold prediction: Four Avs defensemen will score double-digit goals

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: This looks close to impossible at this point, but it’s easy to see what my logic was when I made the prediction. Cale Makar was a lock to pass 10 goals if healthy, and he’s at 16. Bowen Byram has seven, so he could still get to 10 and likely would have if a lower-body injury hadn’t cost him more than 30 games. Devon Toews (six) and Samuel Girard (five) are where this falls short. Both have been healthy most of the year but won’t reach double digits. — Peter Baugh

Columbus Blue Jackets

Preseason bold prediction: The Blue Jackets will have a top-10 power play

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: This prediction looked downright laughable for most of the season. The Blue Jackets don’t have a top-10 power play. They didn’t have a top-30 power play for much of the season. On Jan. 18, the Jackets were dead last in the league (32nd) at 14.3 percent. I will now defend myself a bit: Nobody could have foreseen Columbus losing top point man Zach Werenski and top 2021-22 point producer Jake Voracek for the season to injuries. The power play has been top five in the league over the past two months. So I was right, eventually — but it’s too little too late. — Aaron Portzline

Dallas Stars

Preseason bold prediction: Miro Heiskanen will double his career high in points

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: Cue up the Andy Bernard “nailed it” GIF from “The Office.” Heiskanen is having a nice season, with 62 points in 69 games. He missed three games early in the season, but if scores at this pace for the final 10 games, he’ll finish the season with 72, which is indeed exactly double his previous career high of 36 points. Pete DeBoer’s system, quarterbacking the top power-play unit and having a right-shot partner in Colin Miller has predictably served the young superstar well. — Saad Yousuf

Detroit Red Wings

Preseason bold prediction: The Red Wings will have five 20-goal scorers

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: There’s still an outside chance they get to four, with three players between 16 and 18. But as of now, only Dylan Larkin has eclipsed 20 for Detroit. The biggest reasons they didn’t challenge for five such players have been losing Tyler Bertuzzi to injuries and the Jakub Vrana saga. Those two were seen as virtual locks to hit the 20-goal mark before the season, so getting a combined five from them (in 34 games) was a killer. Dominik KubalikDavid Perron and Lucas Raymond could all still reach 20, which would at least make it close. — Max Bultman

Edmonton Oilers

Preseason bold prediction: McDavid will score 50 goals

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: Give me some credit here. Connor McDavid did accomplish my “bold” prediction by scoring 50 goals for the first time in his career. Only he did that on Feb. 27. The Oilers have played 11 games since then and McDavid has scored 10 more times, upping his goal total to 60. I thought I was setting a relatively high bar for McDavid. It turns out I vastly underestimated him. — Daniel Nugent-Bowman

Florida Panthers

Preseason bold prediction: Sergei Bobrovsky will lose his job

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Spencer Knight, who began the season as one of the game’s top goaltending prospects, remains in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program and out indefinitely. Before that, he’d done little to unseat Bobrovsky, 34, though neither had been good. Bobrovsky has come around, particularly during his .925 save percentage February, and the Panthers have, too. Specifically, the prediction was that Knight would start the playoff opener for Florida. If the Panthers play such a game, it’ll almost certainly be Bobrovsky in net. He carries a $10 million AAV for three more seasons. — Sean Gentille

Los Angeles Kings

Preseason bold prediction: Kevin Fiala will have a career-high point total

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: It was trending that way for Fiala as the dynamic winger had 68 points in 66 games and was a hot streak away from matching or topping the 85 points he scored for Minnesota last season. But an apparent knee injury on March 9 at Colorado has kept him out for five games, and even if he had an immediate return (which he won’t), he’d need 18 points over the Kings’ final 11 contests. That will be too tough to do, but playoff-bound Los Angeles will be happy with another power-play weapon and offensive force coming back into the lineup before the postseason begins. — Eric Stephens

Minnesota Wild

Preseason bold prediction: The Wild will get past the first round

Pass or fail? Incomplete

Analysis: I was right then and I’m right now. This was always going to be a good team, led by Kirill Kaprizov, that would be able to add at the deadline if it played its cards right. Kaprizov’s been one of the best players in the league, the Wild indeed added at the deadline and they’re flirting for the top spot in the division and conference. If Kaprizov’s back and fully healthy, they’ll exorcise their first-round demons for the first time since 2015. — Michael Russo

Montreal Canadiens

Preseason bold prediction: Kaiden Guhle will finish in the top five in Calder voting

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Injuries cost Guhle what would have been a legitimate shot at sneaking in the back door on many Calder ballots. The minutes he was playing, the opposition he was facing and the points he was producing would have been difficult to ignore had he not missed basically the entire second half of the season. — Arpon Basu

Nashville Predators

Preseason bold prediction: Juuse Saros will win the Vezina

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Mostly because the Predators have been disappointing. It’s hard to say Saros has been a disappointment — his numbers are right where they were last season when he was a Vezina finalist, and some of the underlying numbers are better — but he would have had to be outrageous to overcome the shortcomings around him. — Joe Rexrode

New Jersey Devils

Preseason bold prediction: Jack Hughes will be the top scorer in the Metro

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: By the letter of the law, I was wrong: Hughes is not going to be the top scorer in the Metro. He is, however, second to some really elite company, trailing only Alex Ovechkin in goals and Sidney Crosby in points. Regardless of his ranking, he’s been able to exceed his breakout season with ever-improving puck-moving abilities, plus an emphasis on his shot-making. He’s the Devils’ most valuable player this season and has become a legitimate star. — Shayna Goldman

New York Islanders

Preseason bold prediction: Ilya Sorokin will be a Vezina finalist

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: Not much to say here other than Ilya Sorokin is easily the Islanders’ MVP this season and were it not for Boston’s Linus Ullmark, he’d probably be the Vezina Trophy winner. There’s really no doubt at this point that he’s going to be a finalist, and he will probably come in second. The traditional and advanced stats all reflect how spectacular he’s been. — Kevin Kurz

New York Rangers

Preseason bold prediction: The Rangers will win the Metro

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: It looked dumb the first two months of the season, then slightly less dumb, then maybe a little smart and now we’re back to out of reach. The Rangers started too slow at 11-10-5 to have a real shot at the division title, but if they reach the Eastern Conference final again, will it matter? — Arthur Staple

Ottawa Senators

Preseason bold prediction: The Senators will make the playoffs

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: I suppose the Senators are still technically alive in the playoff race, but it seems like a real stretch for them to make this prediction a reality at this point. They would basically need to run the table and get significant help from Florida and Pittsburgh. Ottawa’s playoff chances took a big hit when it suffered through yet another abysmal month of November, winning just four out of 14 games. The Senators have the seventh-best record in the Eastern conference since Dec. 1, though, so if the season started on that date, they would likely find themselves in a playoff spot. However, as fans in this market know all too well, the season starts in October — not on some arbitrary date in the middle. — Ian Mendes

Philadelphia Flyers

Preseason bold prediction: The Flyers will trade one of their recognizable veterans on long-term contracts

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Well, I was right that coach John Tortorella wouldn’t exactly be the biggest fan of at least one of the players on his roster with a big contract. He’s scratched Kevin HayesTravis SanheimRasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo all at least once this season, though some have earned their ways back in his good graces. It’s clear that Tortorella sees at least a few vets — namely Hayes — as not part of the team he wants to build moving forward. Former general manager Chuck Fletcher was unable to move Hayes (or pretty much anyone else) at the deadline, however, so the “subtraction” that Tortorella wants will have to wait until the summer when interim GM Daniel Briere (likely) gets to put his first mark on the roster. — Charlie O’Connor

Pittsburgh Penguins

Preseason bold prediction: The Penguins will win the East

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Many issues have doomed the Penguins this season: goaltending, bottom-six production, limitations (and injuries recently) on the backend — and, of course, cap mismanagement. The reason for optimism was a stacked top six up front, which has delivered. Also, the returns of motivated Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to team with captain Sidney Crosby. Those guys more than made a mark. But management constructed a poor roster around its talented group of scoring forwards, and the Penguins have struggled to overcome those lineup deficiencies. — Rob Rossi

San Jose Sharks

Preseason bold prediction: The Sharks will have a top-five pick in the 2023 NHL Draft

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: Technically, this may be an incomplete … but it’s looking pretty good. The Sharks are in 31st place and have the fewest points in the NHL since Jan. 1. There’s still time for them to go on a mini-heater and pass Chicago and Anaheim in the standings. That would leave them vulnerable to dropping outside the top five after the draft lottery. But the odds of San Jose picking worse than fifth are pretty low. — Corey Masisak

Seattle Kraken

Preseason bold prediction: The Kraken will be Western Conference disruptors

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: OK, so technically I was wrong when I wrote in our original bold predictions that the Kraken would linger “just outside the playoff race” — because they’re right in the middle of it. But the rest checks out. Seattle is definitely playing disruptor in the West. This team wasn’t expected to make the playoffs and now is taking away a slot from a team that was, like Calgary. The Kraken have stolen key points away from their opponents thanks to their scoring depth, and it has shaken things up in the West. — Shayna Goldman

St. Louis Blues

Preseason bold prediction: The Blues will re-sign Vladimir Tarasenko

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Yikes! When I got this assignment, I couldn’t remember what my bold prediction was. When I saw that I predicted Tarasenko would re-sign, I winced. Well, it was a bold prediction — but maybe a little too bold. Tarasenko, of course, went to the Rangers in a package trade, which appears to be a great deal for the Blues thus far. They got a first-round pick and Sammy Blais, who has seven goals and 11 points in 20 games and re-signed for $1 million next year. — Jeremy Rutherford

Tampa Bay Lightning

Preseason bold prediction: Steven Stamkos will score 50 goals

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Stamkos has had a memorable and record-setting season, reaching 500 career goals and 1,000 points. But the Lightning captain will fall short of the 50-goal prediction (he’s at 30 with 10 games left). Stamkos has still had a strong season, and what matters the most to him is what he does in playoffs. — Joe Smith

Toronto Maple Leafs

Preseason bold prediction: Auston Matthews will sniff 70 goals

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: GULP! Boy, did I overshoot. There’s a chance Matthews won’t even get to 40 this season. I don’t regret the prediction, though. Not one bit. Matthews scored at a 67-goal pace last year and a 65-goal pace the year before that. He was trending toward 70. It didn’t seem the least bit unrealistic. What I couldn’t have foreseen is the injuries. Matthews has been banged up and playing through injuries all season. He recently got over an issue with his hand that was affecting his shot. He won’t come close to 70 this year. I still wouldn’t rule it out one day in his future, though. — Jonas Siegel

Vancouver Canucks

Preseason bold prediction: Elias Pettersson will hit 40 goals

Pass or fail? Incomplete

Analysis: Pettersson has 11 games remaining and 33 goals, so I’ve got a chance, but I’ll need him to get hot down the stretch. A hat trick game would do wonders. In any event, I’m not admitting defeat on my prediction yet, and not until the final buzzer sounds in game 82. And why would I? Pettersson’s been outrageous all season and is going to hit 100 points overall even if he falls short of 40 goals. Realistically, the only reason this prediction is more likely than not to fall short is that Pettersson’s power-play-goals haul has inexplicably been meager, with just four goals with the man advantage — two of them coming just last weekend. It’s a testament to the level that Pettersson has hit this season that this prediction is still alive this late into the season despite that. If he can retrieve his customary lethality as a power-play finisher next season, look out. — Thomas Drance

Vegas Golden Knights

Preseason bold prediction: Jack Eichel will reach 100 points

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Eichel is barely halfway to the century mark, with 55 points and on pace to finish with only 63. It didn’t help that he missed 13 games, but even without the injury, he wouldn’t have approached triple-digit points. Eichel has been really good for stretches, though. Early on, it actually looked like this prediction might come true, but he’s also had too many stretches where his offensive talent didn’t show. At least, too many of those stretches to reach 100 points. — Jesse Granger

Washington Capitals

Preseason bold prediction: Nicklas Backstrom will return to the lineup

Pass or fail? Pass

Analysis: It was no slam dunk that Backstrom would return to the Caps’ lineup following offseason hip surgery. The team was optimistic. Backstrom was, too. But no one knew for sure; it was an uncommon procedure that had produced mixed results among pros. On Jan. 8, though, hope became reality when the 35-year-old returned. In 30 games, Backstrom has six goals and 11 assists, including two goals and three assists in the past five. He’s not a first-line center anymore, but there’s hope that with a full summer of training, he can be an effective middle-six center and power-play specialist going forward. — Tarik El-Bashir

Winnipeg Jets

Preseason bold prediction: Cole Perfetti will be a Calder Trophy finalist

Pass or fail? Fail

Analysis: Perfetti hasn’t played since a Feb. 19 loss to the Devils due to an upper-body injury that presumably occurred during in or around that game. Rick Bowness announced a timeline of “at least” eight weeks at the time, making Perfetti’s earliest return date April 21 — after the start of the NHL playoffs. At the time of his injury, Perfetti was third in rookie scoring, though, giving him an outside shot of landing in the top three for Calder Trophy voting. It was just going to take an even more productive second half. He’d put together scorching finishes in junior and in the AHL, so it was possible, but it’s not going to happen now. — Murat Ates

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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