James Neal and the Edmonton Oilers are off to a red hot start. Find out what has led to the success of three teams not many predicted would be near the top of the standings after almost two weeks of hockey.
1. Edmonton Oilers:
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both tied for first in the league in points. The questions all of last year were why those two could not lead a successful team, and they might be showing us that they can. They are playing together on the first line, and James Neal's addition to the second line gives this team some much needed scoring depth. I don't think that there is any doubt that after Neal's eight goals in his first six games, the Oilers won the Lucic for Neal trade (Side not: imagine if they had kept Taylor Hall!) The question is whether Mike Smith is the goalie that can make this team a serious Stanley Cup threat, and whether this defense can hold up, especially without Adam Larsson.
2. Carolina Hurricanes:
The Hurricanes made the Eastern Conference Finals last season, so this really should not be a surprise, but they have been overlooked all offseason. Last year though, despite the deep playoff run, they barely squeaked into the playoffs, because of a lack of goal scorers. He might not be your typical sniper, but the addition of Erik Haula in the offseason was a very underrated one. He already has five goals, and is playing on one of the best third lines in the league. Dougie Hamilton has gotten off to a great start as well, and we have yet to see the first line really find their stride. Once again though, is the goalie duo of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer good enough to keep it up?
3. Buffalo Sabres:
I really thought the Sabres would be better last year, but it seems this year they are finally living up to their potential. We all know that Jack Eichel is a star, but the Sabres needed more of pretty much everything last year. If they are going to have more success this year, they are going to need Casey Mittelstadt to step up, and their defense to help protect the weaknesses of goaltenders Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark in net. So far it has worked, as the Sabres have given up just thirteen goals. Rasmus Dahlin is showing why he was the first overall pick two years ago with eight points to start the season, and Marcus Johansen is showing why he was a valuable offseason addition. If Buffalo can stick around, then the Atlantic Division just got even tougher. Remember though, the Sabres got off to a great start in 2018 as well, before plummeting out of contention and the playoffs.