Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST
10:35 PM EST. OT included. The Sharks had a quiet off-season, avoiding any major signings and choosing instead to attack a new year with largely the same roster. The aging squad is going to have to fight for every point including any they may get here. The Sharks are hoping for a few things. They’re hoping that a long offseason will do its aging core some good and that other forwards in their mid-20s can improve over last season and that their young players, second or third year professionals, can make a bigger impact. That’s a lot of hope, and not many guarantees. Don’t get us wrong, as San Jose has some great talent but it’s extremely rare an NHL team goes an entire off-season without making a roster addition, either through a trade or signing a UFA.
General Manager Doug Wilson lost players to free agency (Patrick Marleau), expansion (David Schlemko) and trade (Mirco Mueller), with draft picks coming back. But the only fresh faces coming in are prospects, which were already in the system – unless you count UFA signee Brandon Bollig, but he spent all of 2016-17 in the AHL. The window of opportunity is still open for the Sharks, but for how much longer? The roster is due for a major transformation in the next few years. Joe Thornton is 38, Joe Pavelski is 33, and the average age of San Jose’s top four blueliners is north of 32. We have to wonder if all those vets are excited about the season when their GM stood pat. San Jose will win its fair share of games this season but they look like a bubble playoff team to us, which in turn means they are going to lose over 35 games.
The Flyers were the biggest winners in the draft lottery, jumping 11 teams to snag the second overall pick, which they used on center Nolan Patrick. There’s no reason to doubt Patrick can make an impact right away, especially since he can be sheltered by Giroux and Couturier. With that kind of talent down the middle and wingers such as Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia has the firepower to so some damage. Heck, with Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom still on the rise, Philly could have quite the forward group. The defense looks even more promising. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov have already arrived and there’s plenty more youth. Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg made the team out of training camp but Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers are waiting in the wings, which means the competition is fantastic. In net, Brian Elliott enters into a perfect situation, as the veteran has always been better when he’s got something to prove. He’ll share the crease with Michal Neuvirth. All told, this is a playoff-caliber team on the rise and we’ll put that to the test in San Jose to start the year.
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Philadelphia +136 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.72)