The Atlantic Division is home to the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, but the Tampa Bay Lightning may not even be the best team in the state of Florida this season. The division had some of the more noteworthy activity of all divisions this past offseason. With the dust having settled FantraxHQ is ready to give our predictions of where each team will finish this season. We will also give you each team’s potential breakout player for the 2021-22 season.
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Atlantic Division – Florida Southern Comfort on Ice
1. Florida Panthers – The race to the top of the Atlantic should be tight all season but, like last season, we have the high-flying Panthers once again finishing ahead of the Lightning.
Florida added to an already excellent group of forwards by acquiring Sam Reinhart from Buffalo this past summer as well as signing the ageless Joe Thornton as a UFA. The defense is anchored by one of the best top pairings in the division, Aaron Ekblad, and Mackenzie Weegar. In goal, even though Sergei Bobrovsky has shown some inconsistency the past couple of seasons he is still capable of regaining his Vezina Trophy winning form. Panther fans can also expect Bob’s heir to the #1 goalie position, 20-year-old Spencer Knight to see a lot of action this season.
Breakout Player – Owen Tippett, RW (4% drafted – 52% rostered)
Tippett seems poised to be elevated to the second RW position for the Panthers this season; possibly on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau. Known as a goal scorer with an excellent shot, a 20+ goal-scoring year is a realistic expectation for the upcoming year.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning – Tampa had some significant turnover this offseason as the best third line in hockey have all moved on. Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman left in free agency and Yanni Gourde was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. Despite these losses. the top six for the Lightning are so good that they will still battle for the division but in our opinion falling just short and finishing second.
The key acquisitions this off-season for Tampa were players best suited for the bottom of the lineup. Corey Perry was the biggest name acquired. Brian Elliot was brought over to fill in at goal whenever Andrei Vasilevskiy needs a break. Younger players such as Alex Barré-Boulet and Mathieu Joseph will get opportunities in the bottom six.
Breakout Player – Ross Colton, RW (2% drafted – 25% rostered)
Colton had a reasonable rookie season with Tampa last year. He followed that up by producing six points in the playoffs, solidifying his role as a regular in the Lightning’s lineup and giving him the inside shot to the 3RW for the team in 2021-22.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs – Toronto had another excellent regular season in 2020-21 finishing as the top seed in the revamped North Division. However, once again, the team under-achieved and suffered a first-round defeat to the eventual Stanley Cup finalists, Montreal Canadiens.
The Leafs added some forward depth this past offseason by acquiring the likes of Ondrej Kase, David Kampf, and Nick Ritchie. The most significant change is in goal where Petr Mrázek replaced Fredric Andersen. Mrázek will share the goal with last season’s #1 goalie Jack Campbell.
Breakout Player – Michael Bunting, LW (17% drafted – 46% rostered)
Bunting had a mini-breakthrough year last season, scoring 10 goals in 21 games for the Arizona Coyotes. He potted a hat-trick in a recent pre-season game and in doing so he likely cemented his chance to get a shot to play the wing on a line with either Auston Matthews or John Tavares to start this season.
4. Boston Bruins – Boston is undergoing some changes on the fly. They will be without long-time stalwarts, #1 goalie Tuukka Rask and #2C David Krejci. We think this sets them back a bit and slides them to 4th in the division. That said, as long as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are their go-to players, I would not count them out.
The Bruins re-signed Taylor Hall and brought in some depth forwards; Erik Haula, Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek. They also added Linus Ullmark in nets to soften the loss of Rask. All these were useful moves on the Bruins part. The question will be how much they move the needle in a positive direction.
Breakout Player – Jeremy Swayman, G (63% drafted – 80% rostered)
Despite the addition of Ullmark, Swayman should get an excellent chance at the #1 goalie position with the Bruins. He put up outstanding numbers in his 10 game audition at the end of last season. His 7 wins, 1.50 GAA, and .945 SV% give Bruins fans hope that Swayman can ensure that goaltending will not be an Achilles heel this season and beyond.
5. Ottawa Senators – This may be the most controversial prediction of the Atlantic, but we have the upstart Senators riding their youth to a 5th place finish in the Atlantic.
Ottawa had a horrible start to last season, but as their goaltending straightened itself out, they finished the season with a 10-3-1 record, serving notice that they are a team to watch in 2021-22. Most of the changes in the forward group this season will come from within. Look for rookies Shane Pinto and Alex Formenton to become regulars in their top 9. The Sens added some depth on D with the addition of veterans Nick Holden and Michael Del Zotto. Any success the Sens will have this year will rely on the defense exceeding expectations on paper and Matt Murray finding his Stanley Cup winning form.
Breakout Player – Tim Stützle, C,LW (92% drafted – 96% rostered)
The fact that Stützle is almost 100% drafted and rostered in Fantrax fantasy hockey shows you that there are high expectations that the 19-year-old German is expected to take the leap toward stardom as early as this year.
6. Montreal Canadiens – As great as Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup final last year was, it was also difficult to not view it as a perfect storm of getting hot at the right time. With the personnel changes they have had this offseason, we see the Habs falling hard and finishing 6th in the Atlantic.
Key Additions include forwards Christian Dvorak, Mike Hoffman, and defenseman David Savard. The Habs have said goodbye to Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, and Corey Perry. Captain Shea Weber is not expected to play this season and there are question marks around the health of Carey Price as well. Considering Les Canadiens were likely on the outside looking in last season if they were playing in the Atlantic, the subtractions and additions add up to the Habs sliding backward in 2021-22.
Breakout Player – Cole Caufield, RW (97% drafted – 98% rostered)
Caufield joined the Habs late last season and had instant success in both the regular season and playoffs. He is an elite goal scorer and he will add a dynamic to Montreal’s offense that they have been lacking. An early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
7. Detroit Red Wings – The Wings are in the middle of a full rebuild. While they have a few solid veteran players like Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi to lead the way, their future team success is still a couple of seasons away. The fact that the Sabres are in their division is what is keeping Detroit from bringing up the rear in the Atlantic.
Newcomers include Pius Suter, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and defenseman Jordan Oesterle, but the major changes will see younger players like Filip Zadina, Lucas Raymond, and Joe Veleno stake claims for regular roles in the Wings lineup.
Breakout Player – Moritz Seider, D (33% drafted – 75% rostered)
Detroit has a stud in Seider. While any comparisons to the Wings Hall of Famer, Nick Lidstrom, may be setting the bar too high, there is no doubt the big German is viewed as his heir apparent. Seider offers a complete package at both ends of the ice. He’ll be given every opportunity to take on a top pairing role with Detroit this season.
5. Buffalo Sabres – What can you say about the Sabres? It continues to be a struggle for the team to turn things around and with a messy divorce with superstar center Jack Eichel still unresolved, the Sabres will again find themselves at or near the bottom of the NHL standings and in the mix to land phenom Shane Wright at the 2022 Entry Draft.
The Sabres additions this offseason look more like roster stopgaps. Look for a few of their younger players like Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt to take on bigger roles as they grind their way through 2021-22.
Breakout Player – Dylan Cozens, C,RW (2% drafted – 62% rostered)
Cozens played 41 games for the Sabres last year as a 19-year-old. While he did not have a lot of offensive production, the experience should provide this highly skilled forward with the groundwork to take a center position on one of Buffalo’s top two lines. Cozens will be a significant part of the Sabres team when they do turn things around.
Coming up we will be taking a look at the other three divisions; Metropolitan, Pacific, and Central.
For more help in preparing for the fast-approaching NHL season, check out our 2021-22 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit!
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