NHL.com – 6/26/16 8:04:45 The next big thing in the sport of hockey is in full swing, with the NHL announcing today that the 2018-19 season will feature at least 10 new teams, including the addition of the Buffalo Sabres.
With just two more seasons left on their current contracts, the Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks are set to join the ranks of the elite of the NHL, while the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators join the league’s top five teams in the standings, per the NHL.
The Sabres, who finished eighth in the East last season, are set for their first postseason appearance since 2008.
While it’s a long way from the playoffs, the next step in the evolution of the league is here, as the league looks to bring in more younger players, a trend that will continue into the foreseeable future.
“I think what we’ve seen over the past two seasons is that the next wave of talent is coming in, that there’s been an uptick in that,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, whose team is comprised of a mix of teams from the Western Conference and Eastern Conference.
“What I would say is that we’re in a period of change where you can see this in the younger players.
There are a lot of new faces and a lot more youth.”
The 2018-2019 season is set to be the first full NHL season since 2008-09, when the NHL’s teams were set to compete in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The new CBA included an expansion draft, with teams getting the option to pick up to six players in the draft.
The expansion draft was an early test for the NHL as well, with it being the first time that a league had ever experimented with having its first round pick acquired by another team.
With the expansion draft set to start in October, the NHL expects the 2018 NHL draft to be even more competitive than in the past, with more teams taking advantage of their ability to get younger players to fill the holes in their rosters.
“It’s the next evolution of how the league plays,” Daly said.
“This is a new era.
This is the next phase of growth in the game of hockey.
We’re in the infancy of this game.”
While the NHL is looking to expand the pool of young talent, the current crop of prospects will likely be used in the expansion process, as there are only six NHL teams with fewer than 60 players on their roster.
This season, the Los Angels Angels, Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets all have more than 60 prospects, and only the Anaheim Ducks have fewer than 65.
The expansion draft is also an opportunity for the league to get a feel for which players are the most promising players at any position.
“It’s going to be important to watch that, because if you’re looking at the top of the draft and trying to figure out which players you might get in the first round, that could be the difference between making the playoffs and making the Stanley Cup Final,” Daly explained.
“So you want to watch those players and see if they can grow into the NHL next season.”
So if you have an opportunity to take a young guy in, especially if you’ve got some young talent in the pipeline, you want those players in that first round,” Daly added.
The next wave in the league, however, is not set to hit the ice until next season, with two more years remaining on the current contracts of the teams on the Eastern Conference’s top 10 in the Eastern and Western conferences.
While there’s still plenty of time for the players to prove themselves, there’s no guarantee that the Sabres will make the playoffs in the 2019-2020 season.