We’re just days away from the start of the 2018–19 NHL season. After a 118 day break, the NHL will drop the puck on Wednesday October 3rd, 2018 and kick off their latest season. The defending champion Washington Capitals will raise their first Stanley Cup banner and start their title defense against the Boston Bruins. But do the Caps have enough to successfully defend their title? Personally, I don’t think so. So without dragging this on much longer, here’s my official 2019 Stanley Cup Champion pick.
Stanley Cup Final:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Winnipeg Jets
Winner: Winnipeg Jets
Conn Smythe Winner: Mark Scheifele
A Canadian team hasn’t hoisted the cup since 1993 when the Montreal Canadiens were victorious for the 24th time in franchise history. That drought will end in 2019 when the Winnipeg Jets raise their first Stanley Cup.
The Jets made the Western Conference Final last season but were quickly bounced by the Vegas Golden Knights, who were the league’s cinderella story. That won’t happen again this season. With much of the same roster returning and with experience under their belt, the Jets are poised to make the long run in 2019.
On offense they’re led by a top-six that includes Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, and Kyle Connor. The defense is led by Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Josh Morrisey. And Connor Hellebuyck anchors the team in goal. If all that isn’t good enough then the $7 million in cap space the team has will allow them to make a move during the season and acquire another piece (or pieces) that’ll help them bolster the lineup for a Stanley Cup run.
The Jets depth will help them be a threat all season long and will ultimately be the reason they win the cup. Getting out of the Western Conference will be no walk in the park, but they’ve got all the tools to make sure it happens. And when they make it happen, 2019 will be the Jets time to fly.
As for the Penguins, a three-peat is insanely challenging, which is why being defeated by the Washington Capitals last season wasn’t surprising. The Pens still have a stacked roster that includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang. They should also be getting a fully healthy Matt Murray back in net. The Penguins have the tools and experience to get through the tough Eastern Conference. However, it won’t be enough to stop the Winnipeg Jets in June.
Kevin Maggiore (@kevin_maggiore)