5 bold predictions for the NHL season

Josh Gold-Smith
John Russell / National Hockey League / Getty

There are plenty of intriguing storylines heading into the 2017-18 campaign, and some of the NHL's most significant subplots could yield unexpected results.

From long, drawn out trade negotiations that will mercifully come to an end, to a brand-new franchise avoiding the basement, here's a handful of things we're expecting to see this season:

The Predators will get Matt Duchene

David Poile knows a thing or two about reeling in a superstar who's on the trade block, and the Nashville Predators' general manager is going to swing another blockbuster trade.

The Predators' only real weakness entering the season is up the middle, and Poile undoubtedly understands the club's need, the importance of getting back to the Stanley Cup Final, and the opportunity that presents itself in Duchene's availability.

Ryan Ellis' injury made it temporarily impossible for the Predators to trade one of their top-four defensemen to the Colorado Avalanche, but Nashville made a play for the talented forward over the summer, and Poile still has pieces he can offer.

The Predators aren't the only team in the mix, but they'll put a package together that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic will ultimately accept.

Alain Vigneault will be fired

The New York Rangers are on the decline, and that will accelerate this season, despite the fact the club boasts a few talented forwards and power-play point producer Kevin Shattenkirk. They've been carried by Henrik Lundqvist over the last couple of years, but the veteran goaltender is 35, and Ondej Pavelec is New York's Plan B, so this won't end well.

Trading Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes over the summer will come back to haunt the Rangers, who'll sputter to a sub-.500 record into December, costing head coach Vigneault his job.

Lindy Ruff was brought in as an assistant coach to add some experience behind the bench, and that move is going to prove prescient when the former Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars bench boss takes over the Rangers in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by GM Jeff Gorton to right the ship.

2 teams will be worse than the Golden Knights

Expansion teams are usually terrible in their inaugural seasons, but there are a few reasons why the Vegas Golden Knights won't be the worst team in the NHL this season.

First of all, their roster isn't atrocious. They have some experience with the likes of James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jason Garrison, plus some promising, relatively young talent in Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore, and Alex Tuch.

Secondly, the Avalanche are going to be awful again, and if they finally trade Duchene, they could be even worse than they were last season, when they set the salary-cap era record for futility.

Lastly, the Vancouver Canucks are also going to be very bad. Beyond the development of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Thatcher Demko, there isn't much to look forward to for the Canucks this season, particularly given the uncertain future of the Sedin twins.

The Golden Knights won't be good either, but the Avalanche and Canucks will be here to remind them it could be worse.

Someone will score 5 goals in a game

Three players scored four goals in a game last season, and given the amount of offensive firepower in the NHL, it's not too far-fetched to expect someone to pot a handful during a game in 2017-18.

Johan Franzen was the last to score five, in 2011, and it's only happened a dozen times in the last three decades, but Auston Matthews, Max Pacioretty, and Patrick Marleau all posted four-goal games last season.

Any one of Matthews, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Patrick Kane are capable of scoring in bunches at any time, and it could also come from someone a little less likely.

It's even more of a possibility when you consider there will be more power plays this season, with minor infractions now being handed out for failed offside challenges, plus more calls for slashing and faceoff violations.

Jonathan Drouin will finish with 30 goals

Defense is going to be a recurring issue for the Montreal Canadiens all season, but offense from the top six won't be a problem.

Whether ​​​​​​Drouin sticks on the Canadiens' primary unit centering Pacioretty or slots in on the wing, he'll build on the 21-goal, 53-point season he put together with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17.

Montreal has enough talent on its top two lines to ensure Drouin enjoys a breakout campaign regardless of where he ultimately lands in the lineup.

Three of his 30 goals this season will come Dec. 28 in his return to Amalie Arena, and the 60-point plateau is a realistic target for the dynamic 22-year-old.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)