#10 Welcome Seattle!  

It’s official… Seattle is getting their own NHL franchise (again).  The Seattle Metropolitans were a team from 1915-1924 and actually won the Stanley Cup in 1917.  The name of the team is still unknown although I am personally pulling for The Seattle Kraken for the simple fact that “Unleash the Kraken” is a marketing campaign that writes itself.  In early December it was announced that Seattle is getting a team for the 2021-22 season.

#9 Smashville:  I Like It I Love It 

I was lucky enough to see the Preds play in their home arena at the beginning of 2018.  I loved everything about hockey in Nashville.  The fanbase is passionate and extremely committed to their team.  Since Nashville is a top contending team this is the perfect time to catch a flight down to Smashville.

#8 Emergence of the Colorado Avalanche’s Top Line

There are certain teams that I have a soft spot for and Colorado is one of them.  For the past couple of seasons I saw them as the Devils of the west. This season the Av’s first line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen is on fire.   Rantanen is leading the NHL with 59 points and MacKinnon is third with 56 points.  Landeskog has 43 goals and is third in the NHL behind Skinner and Ovechkin.

#7 Red Hot Buffalo Sabres Start 

I love a good underdog story and in the past 3 months that spotlight has been on the Buffalo Sabres.  At the NHL Draft, Buffalo selected defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall.  In November he was selected as rookie of the month and is averaging 20 minutes of ice time.  The Sabres added Jeff Skinner to their roster via a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes in August.  Skinner currently has 26 goals (2nd in the NHL behind Ovechkin).  Jack Eichel along with Skinner have been a phenomenal one-two punch and led the Sabres to a 10 game win streak in November earning 11 wins in 15 games.

#6 Gritty What..Gritty Who?

The Philadelphia Flyers introduced their new mascot in September and the hockey world was terrified and confused.  The seven-foot orange mascot made his rounds appearing on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Saturday Night Live.  Over a few short weeks people began to embrace Gritty, and a month after he made his appearance the Philadelphia City Council passed a formal resolution honoring Gritty.  I can’t say I am a fan of his but I can say I love how much publicity the NHL got because of Gritty.

#5 Devils Make the Stanley Cup Playoffs 

No one, not even Devils fans, expected them to be post season bound last spring.  Coach Hynes and company proved media wrong when the Devils faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.  It was New Jersey’s first appearance in the post season since 2012 when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final against the L.A Kings.

#4 The Erik Karlsson Saga Ends.. For Now

I’m not sure who I felt worse for in 2018 – Erik Karlsson or the Ottawa Senators.  As an organization, the Senators were in turmoil and every time you thought things couldn’t get worse..they did.  Fans and media alike knew it was only a matter of time before Karlsson was moved and everything came to fruition on September 13, 2018.  In a multiplayer deal Ottawa sent Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks.  The defenseman’s contract is up this year and we have yet to hear about an extension with the Sharks so for now this story is still unwritten.

#3 Hall for Hart 

The Hart Trophy is given out at the NHL Awards in June to the Player Judged Most Valuable to His Team.  At the end of the 2017-2018 season this award really came down to two players – Nathan MacKinnon and Taylor Hall.  Both had amazing seasons but no player was more important than Taylor Hall.  He had a 26 game point streak and if it wasn’t for his point production last year the Devils simply wouldn’t have made the post season.  As a Devils fan, it was great to see New Jersey represented at the awards and Hall rewarded for his efforts.

#2 Viva Las Vegas 

The Las Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final last Spring.  There is a sentence I wouldn’t think I would be writing.  The Golden Misfits (as they called themselves) had a record breaking season and proved all the doubters wrong when they met the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.  Many players had comeback seasons including William Karlsson and Marc-Andre Fleury.  I’m not sure if we will ever see an inaugural season like Vegas but it sure was fun to watch.

#1 Two Words: Alex Ovechkin 

2018 belonged to the Washington Capitals.. more specifically Alex Ovechkin.  To recap his 2018:  He reached 600 goals, played his 1,000 NHL game, and won the Rocket Richard Trophy all before hoisting his first Stanley Cup.  Ovechkin was also awarded the Conn Smythe for being the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs.  In the years I have watched hockey I never saw so much emotion from a player in the post season.  Watching Ovechkin win and celebrate with the Stanley Cup was the highlight of 2018 and nothing else compares.