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2023/24 NHL Season Preview: Training camp talking points

There is a buzz around the hockey world at the start of NHL training camp because of fans' pure excitement to watch NHL hockey again and the intriguing storylines ahead of a new season.

Opening night will be here before we know it and there is plenty to watch out for as training camps and the preseason progresses. There is a lot to keep up with, but here is a digestible overview of some of the hot talking points from around NHL training camps right now:

What2023/24 NHL Season
WhereUS & Canada
WhenOctober 10, 2023 - June 2024
How to watchSportsnet, TVA, RSN & NHL Centre Ice
OddsTOR Maple Leafs +800, COL Avalanche +850, EDM Oilers +900, NJ Devils +1000

Can the Columbus Blue Jackets move past their drama?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the headlines and reactions came back with a bang during the fallout of the Mike Babcock situation in Columbus. 

The Blue Jackets organization took a major black eye for hiring a guy with a bad track record and now that he has left, it is up to new head coach Pascal Vincent and the players to move past it and not let it be a distraction.

Moving on from off-ice drama and distractions is much easier said than done.

If there is a glass half full, the Blue Jackets do not have much preseason expectation anyway. But they want to give their young stars including Kent Johnson, Adam Fantilli, and Kirill Marchenko every opportunity to be successful.

This Blue Jackets team will face enough adversity this season. They do not need this problem to linger.

Just how good will Connor Bedard be in his rookie campaign?

The hype around Connor Bedard has been massive for years now and we are finally about to see him in the show. 

In a game against St. Louis Blues prospects, Bedard had a hat trick including a couple highlight reel goals. The chatter coming out of Blackhawks camp has been nothing but glowing reviews of how well Bedard is fitting in and how good he looks. 

Bedard will have his work cut out for him to kick off his first season in the NHL with a bang given the quality of his team. 

There is a reason that Chicago got the first overall pick. They still have a ways to go until they compete again, but adding Bedard certainly expedites the timeline. 

Will Bedard’s lack of support prove difficult for him to produce to expectations? Or will he live up to the hype immediately? We’ll find out starting in a few weeks. 

Can McDavid lead the Oilers to the top?

Last season, Connor McDavid collected a career high 153 points which was his third consecutive season of 100+ points and his fifth out of his eight career seasons. 

The Oilers had three of last season's 11 100-point scorers as Leon Draisaitl (128 points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (104 points) joined Hart Trophy winner McDavid in the exclusive club, forming an attack that can outscore any team.

The crazy part is that McDavid is still just 26 years old. McDavid’s last 4 seasons have gone 97 points, 105 points, 123 points, and 153 points. This guy is still on the ascent which should scare opponents.

Sidney Crosby briefly played with Mario Lemieux, who is the last player to hit 170 points when he had 199 back in 1988/89. When asked if McDavid could hit 170 points, Crosby said he would not bet against McDavid.

But another question is whether McDavid does or does not reach another impressive milestone, will it result in a Stanley Cup? 

The Oilers have been close over the past few years, but the time is now in Edmonton. McDavid and the Oilers will be appointment television this season, and they are +900 to win the Stanley Cup.

Will Stamkos’ contract comments lead to negotiations or a distraction?

In what were surprising comments last week, Steven Stamkos informed the local media that the Lightning have not reached out to him regarding a contract extension. 

The 33-year-old Stamkos has spent his entire career with Tampa beginning in 2008/09. He coming off of an 84-point season just a year after having 106 points.

He still has plenty left in the tank and has been the heartbeat of four Lightning Stanley Cup appearances and two wins. After all of that, it is sounding like the quiet, mild mannered Stamkos is not thrilled with the lack of communication from the front office.

The organiztion could very well be waiting to see what will happen with the salary cap or how they can get creative before making him an offer to potentially end his career with Tampa. 

On the other hand, maybe they are not waiting for the salary cap and are in no urgency to extend Stamkos, whose contract expires after this season. 

Contract situations can always lead to a potential distraction as the season progresses and the Lightning will very much hope that is not the case. 

Ovechkin’s chase for history will be can’t miss, but what about the Capitals?

Alex Ovechkin’s chase for Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record of 894 will be prominent in NHL headlines for the next few seasons, so long as Ovechkin can stay healthy and continue to produce.

The down side for Capitals fans is that the goal chase could be the extent of what they have to cheer for. That by no means discounts how exciting chasing an all-time record would be. 

But ideally, team success runs in tandem and that does not look to be the case, at least this season, for Washington.

In 2022/23, the Capitals had their first sub-.500 season in 15 seasons since 2006/07 and unfortunately the 2017/18 Stanley Cup winners appear on track for a further regression this season. 

Except for Ovechkin, father time has caught up to a few players who have been key to Capitals’ President’s Trophies and Stanley Cup. 

They have struggled to stay healthy and there are too many question marks. Can Ovechkin and his tenured supporting cast boost Washington back to the playoffs? It looks bleak, but you never know with the Great Eight. 

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