(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By Ray Guarino | Follow me on Twitter @rayguarino

On December 21, 2020, the NHL announced the new divisional format for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, there will be four divisions, three of which will have eight teams, with the remaining division consisting of the seven Canadian teams.

Also, this year will be a condensed 56-game schedule that includes only playing teams in your division. Regular season games get underway on January 13, 2021, with the Stanley Cup being presented mid-July before the 2021 Summer Olympics, which NBC is covering.

Below, I’ll make predictions for each division as well as individual awards.


  1. Philadelphia Flyers
  2. Washington Capitals
  3. Boston Bruins
  4. New York Islanders
  5. New York Rangers
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins
  7. Buffalo Sabres
  8. New Jersey Devils

The Flyers, coming off of a very successful season, return a deep team both at forward and at defense. Add in 22-year-old goalie Carter Hart and look for the Flyers to win this very competitive division.

The Bruins come into this season with some question marks. They lost long-time captain Zdeno Chara and offensive spark-plug Torey Krug from their left-side defense. Those spots will largely be filled by unproven 2015 draftees Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, with veteran John Moore also in the mix.

The Bruins will also be dealing with the injury to David Pastrnak. The 22-year-old right-winger scored 48 goals, including 20 on the power-play in 70 games last year. After having off-season hip surgery, he is projected to be out until late February, which could have him missing upwards of 20 games to start the season. With no Krug, and at least for part of the season, no Pastrnak, the Bruins offense could really struggle out of the gate.

Playoff Match-ups:

Flyers vs Islanders

Capitals vs Bruins


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning
  2. Dallas Stars
  3. Carolina Hurricanes
  4. Columbus Blue Jackets
  5. Nashville Predators
  6. Florida Panthers
  7. Detroit Red Wings
  8. Chicago Blackhawks

The returning Stanley Cup champions get the advantage of playing in what looks to be the weakest division. They should have little trouble running away with it here.

Playoff Match-ups:

Lightning vs Blue Jackets

Stars vs Hurricanes


  1. Colorado Avalanche
  2. St. Louis Blues
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Minnesota Wild
  5. Los Angeles Kings
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. San Jose Sharks
  8. Arizona Coyotes

All the Avalanche need to make it far in the playoffs is decent goaltending. Their defense is frighteningly good.

Playoff Match-ups:

Avalanche vs Wild

Blues vs Knights


  1. Calgary Flames
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs
  3. Winnipeg Jets
  4. Edmonton Oilers
  5. Montreal Canadiens
  6. Vancouver Canucks
  7. Ottawa Senators

This division will easily be the most fun. Any of the top six teams here could win this division.

Playoff Match-ups:

Flames vs Oilers

Maple Leafs vs Jets

Another change this season is playoff seeding and match-ups. The first two rounds are interdivisional. The first-place team will play the fourth-place team, and the second and third-place teams will play each other. After that, the surviving teams will be seeded by regular-season points.


Tampa Bay Lightning over the Colorado Avalanche


Hart: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

Lady Byng: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Vezina: Anrdei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Calder: Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

Norris: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

Selke: Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Ross: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Rocket Richard: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Adams: Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche

Bruins Predictions

Most points: Patrice Bergeron

Most goals: Brad Marchand

Most assists: Patrice Bergeron

Most improved: Nick Ritchie

Biggest disappointment: Ondrej Kase

Buckle up, folks; this season should be a wild ride. And a bit of advice, watch as many North Division games as you can.