With the puck drop on the 2012-13 NHL season just days away, the NHL on TSN panel put their predictions on the line, as well as listed who their surprise teams were heading into the season.
The panel, which included TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, as well as analysts Ray Ferraro and Aaron Ward, forecast that the Pittsburgh Penguins would overcome the Los Angeles Kings to win the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins were also predicted to finish first in the NHL's Eastern Conference during the regular season while the St. Louis Blues were picked to finish first overall in the Western Conference.
The Ottawa Senators were picked as the only Canadian team to make the playoffs in the East, while the Vancouver Canucks were the lone Canadian representative in the West. The panel projected Ottawa finishing in seventh and Vancouver placing second in their respective conferences.
The Montreal Canadiens were predicted to finish the season in 12th place, with the Toronto Maple Leafs projected to place 13th and the Winnipeg Jets finishing in 14th place.
In the West, the Oilers were projected to finish 13th, while the Flames were expected to finish in 14th place.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were tabbed as the team that could surprise hockey fans in the East while the Philadelphia Flyers, on the other side of the spectrum, may not meet expectations this year.
"When I look at the Flyers' blue line, that's where I begin to have questions about them," said Ferraro.
While Ward felt the Carolina Hurricanes could find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time, McKenzie said he felt everybody in the Eastern Conference playoff picture could surprise people and not make the post-season. He did, however, exclude what he believes are the elite four teams in the east: the Rangers, Penguins, Bruins and Flyers.
The Minnesota Wild were forecast to make it back into the Western Conference playoffs; a return to the postseason since the 2007-08 season. And while the Wild were pegged as the surprise team of the year by Ward, Ferraro and McKenzie leaned on the Oilers to be the team to raise eyebrows in the west.
"Most people will know and expect the Oilers to be a high-flying team," said Ferraro. "But discipline-wise, they will be better than last year and this team will score enough that they can be a surprise."
McKenzie added that he felt Devan Dubnyk is ready to step up and be the number one goaltender in Edmonton.
The San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings were named as the two clubs that were in jeopardy of not reaching expectations in the west this season. The panel felt that Detroit won't be the same team without Nicklas Lidstrom in the lineup and added that the Sharks need to re-tool.
"You know what you're getting from your top-six forwards," Ferraro said of the Sharks. "Nothing's changed; it's the same group and same guys over and over. There's been nothing added. I think the time for the San Jose Sharks to be an elite team in the Western Conference has passed."