Tuesday, September 19, 2023

My 2023-24 all-intrigue roster, featuring one name from each team

Summer’s over and the NHL is almost back, which means it’s time for my annual All-Intrigue roster. As always, the criteria here is whatever I want it to be – these are the guys who I find interesting heading into the season, for whatever reason. Some of them will be obvious. (Spoiler alert: This Connor Bedard kid will be one to watch.) Others might be surprises.

The key rule is that each team can only be represented once, which is necessary to keep every slot from going to the endlessly fascinating Maple Leafs team that I know you all love reading about so much. We’re doing 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, plus a coach and GM, and I’ll include honorable mentions for each section to make sure every team gets a mention. And just to make things ever more complicated for myself, I’m adding one more rule: No repeats from last year. Sorry to all the Mackenzie Blackwood fans out there.


Connor Hellebuyck, Jets

Remember when the Jets were facing down a busy offseason, one that would see them have no choice but to make blockbuster trades around longtime pieces like Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele? We’re well into September and neither guy has been moved, and it seems like it will stay that way.

So now what? Hellebuyck’s been one of the best goalies of his generation, but he’s entering the final year of his contract and seems unlikely to get the big extension he’s been hoping for. With unrestricted free agency looming, he’s got a ton riding on this season. He’s always been a workhorse, and you wonder how hard the Jets will ride him if this is his last year in Winnipeg. Is he a midseason trade candidate? Maybe a deadline gamechanger? Or just a guy facing down one of the biggest contract years in recent NHL history?

Devon Levi, Sabres

We all just kind of assumed that Kevyn Adams would go out and get some goaltending help this offseason. Maybe it would be an established star to hold down the job while Levi was the understudy, or maybe it would just be a competent veteran to be the insurance policy. Neither happened, and with Craig Anderson retiring, an up-and-coming team’s position of weakness is in theory even worse.

That could be disastrous, if Levi isn’t ready. But maybe he is ready, and can have the sort of impact rookie season that young goalies used to have back in the day. If so, then the Sabres could go from up-and-coming to legitimately scary. Or maybe all that progress goes down the drain because they can’t get a save, and the Wings and Senators blow past them instead. No pressure, kid.

Honorable mentions: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a reigning Vezina winner go into a season with less leaguewide buy-in than Linus Ullmark, who won roughly 85 games last year and doesn’t even seem to be anyone’s pick for the best goalie on his own team. The Devils are another team that was supposed to be goalie hunting but seem ready to roll with what they have, which might mean we get to see if Akira Schmid is a genuine 1a on a contender or just the Swiss Steve Penney.

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