With the start of the 2016-17 NHL season just over 3 weeks away, we've combed through the schedule and found the 11 games you can't miss this upcoming season.
First overall draft picks always come with plenty of fanfare for their NHL debut but that gets magnified when the team that drafted you is the so-called 'Centre of the Hockey Universe.' October 12th marks the NHL debut for Auston Matthews and it comes against a division rival; all eyes in Canada will no doubt be glued to televisions for this one
October 15th will be an unofficial holiday in the city of Toronto as Matthews makes his long-awaited home debut when the big but, not-so-bad-anymore Bruins, pay a visit to the ACC. An upper deck ticket will cost you a cool $200 US and that will probably come with an obstructed view.
I know, you're probably thinking this list is the 11 LEAFS games you should watch but, we assure you, these games are on here for a reason. A very laid back, Finnish fellow by the name of Patrik Laine was picked #2 behind Matthews and October 19th marks the first time the top 2 picks of the 2016 Entry Draft will face each other. With the season being only a week old at this point, it won't really determine too much but these 2 guys will dig deep for big performances.
A rematch of last season's Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks pay a visit to the Pens October 20th and will no doubt be looking for a pound of flesh. The Sharks were ousted in 6 games thanks in large part to the play of Sidney Crosby and the stellar goaltending of unknown rookie, Matt Murray.
Yes, the Maple Leafs...again! We can't help it; they have the first overall pick who will probably be a stud NHLer, so they're going to be talked about ALOT in the coming weeks/months. November 1st, McDavid and company visit Toronto and we get to see the two most talked about first overall picks since Crosby and Ovechkin, go head-to-head. If the World Cup has been any indication so far, it'll be a treat to watch McDavid and Matthews battle on the ice. It will also be fun to see who's better at protecting a superstar, Matt Martin or Milan Lucic.
At first glance, this might look like just another game on a Friday night but when you look a little closer, you'll see it's a lot more than that. Both these teams are loaded with young, dynamic talent that are ready to break out and no longer be seen as the NHL's bottom feeders. Both these teams have superstar forwards (Max Domi/Connor McDavid), defensive stalwarts (Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Darnell Nurse) and grizzled veteran leadership (Shane Doan/Matt Hendricks). Oh, let's not forget Anthony Duclair and Jesse Puljujärvi. Both these teams also share the same weakness; unsettled goaltending, so the goals will come fast and furious.
Toronto's goaltending situation last year was tenuous, to say the least, and no one took the brunt of the fanbase's wrath more than Jonathan Bernier. Once seen as Toronto's answer to their goaltending woes, quickly became the team whipping boy. Bernier was traded to the Anaheim Ducks on July 8th, a move that came after the Leafs had acquired the Ducks much-maligned goaltender, Frederik Andersen. December 19th marks the first time the 2 teams square off against one another and the first opportunity for both netminders to stick it to their former teams.
The city of Montreal nearly burned to the ground on June 29th, 2016. This was the day that Marc Bergevin traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for perennial Norris Trophy contender, Shea Weber. This was by far the most divisive trade for the club since Patrick Roy was given away for a bag of pucks in 1995. January 3rd will be the first opportunity Subban has to light up his former team and the first time Shea Weber will be able to remind Predators fans what a defensively-responsible d-man looks like.
It's been a while since a New Jersey Devils game was must-see TV but when you make a trade for a team's hometown son, people are going to take notice. With a glut of young, talented wingers, Taylor Hall was deemed expendable by Oiler brass and traded to the Devils on June 29th in exchange for defenceman, Adam Larsson. No one was more shocked by the trade than Hall himself and he made it known that he felt wronged by the Oilers. It was a messy split with rumours of Hall having too big a personality in the dressing room and Oscar Klefbom doing his 'my-comments-were-misinterpreted' routine stating that Hall 'didn't play well against tough teams.' January 7th is the first meeting between the 2 teams and it's a safe bet that Taylor Hall will be amped up.
Everything that was stated above, plus this: January 12th will be the first and only time Taylor Hall will visit Rogers Place in the regular season. He'll no doubt get a warm welcome from fans and just might throw a few expletives in the direction of Oilers management.
Take Auston Matthews' ACC debut plus Taylor Hall's return to Alberta, multiply it by 750 and you'll have the return of P.K. Subban to the Bell Centre. Fans will have to wait for almost the entire NHL regular season but on March 2nd, the Prodigal Son returns to the place that made him (in)famous. Subban was and still is a beloved figure in Montreal and fans will still, without a doubt, be seething about Subban's departure; even more so if the Habs aren't in playoff contention come March. Look for Subban to put on a show and stick it to Bergevin and Co.