It’s officially September, which means this month the 2017-18 NHL season kicks off. (Well, training camp and preseason start at least.) The official Opening Night puck drop isn’t until October but we’ll get to that. On September 15, teams open training camp, followed by the first preseason games starting on the 17th. After a few weeks of on-ice practice and exhibition games, we’ll finally be ready for the regular season after four long months.

When Does the NHL 2017-18 Season Start?

The regular season will open on Wednesday, October 4, and will feature a four-game slate that includes a matchup between the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the St. Louis Blues. The other games include two all-Canada games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets as well as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The fourth and final game will see the San Jose Sharks host the Philadelphia Flyers.

What to Watch For

The biggest storyline that will be a feature throughout the entire year is the inaugural campaign of the Vegas Golden Knights. After an expansion draft that affected each of the 30 other NHL teams as well as an action-packed 2017 Entry Draft, the Golden Knights have an assembled roster and will look to make a splash in the league. However, with a brand-new team in a city that has never had an NHL team, as well as a roster without a superstar or true first-line defenseman, it’s not going to be an easy road for the Golden Knights.

Notable Games

NHL Global Series: Ottawa Senators vs. Colorado Avalanche (November 10-11)

NHL 100 Classic: Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens (December 16)

2018 Bridgestone Winter Classic: Buffalo Sabres vs. New York Rangers (January 1, 2018)

NHL All-Star Weekend: January 27-28, 2018

Who’s in This Season’s Winter Classic?

As is NHL tradition, New Year’s Day 2018 will see another iteration of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. And no, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t in it this time. This season’s Winter Classic will feature the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers at Citi Field, home of the MLB’s New York Mets. This will mark the 10th anniversary of the yearly game, established back during the 2008 season.

Rivalries to Watch

After a surprising and demoralizing 4-0 first round series loss to the Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks have a great deal to atone for this season. After a myriad of staff and player changes, including forward Artemi Panarin being traded for former-and-now-current Blackhawk Brandon Saad, Chicago has changed its image. The Central Division rivalry between the Hawks and Predators will certainly hit a new level after that first-round sweep, so that season series is one you’ll want to watch.

The Canadian teams are good again thanks to young stars that have graced the five squads over the past few seasons. Winnipeg has Patrik Laine, Toronto has Auston Matthews, Edmonton has Connor McDavid, Calgary has Johnny Gaudreau, and Montreal has Alex Galchenyuk. These under-25 guys have made huge impacts for their teams and they’ll make this season’s all-Canada games fun to watch. Matthew vs. McDavid will certainly be a highlight.

Who are the Favorites to Win the Stanley Cup?

To no one’s surprise, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the early favorites to win the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship. To do so would be an epic feat, as no NHL has hoisted three straight Stanley Cups since the 1980-83 New York Islanders that won four in a row. However, the Pens aren’t going to have an easy road to that third straight Cup, as teams like the Connor McDavid-led Oilers and the Washington Capitals will certainly be as good, if not better than they were a year ago.

Who Will Win This Year’s Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP Award)?

It’s tough to assume that anyone else will win it if Edmonton’s Connor McDavid has another season like the one he had last year. After a 30-goal, 70-assist season, McDavid became the fourth-youngest player to ever win the prestigious Hart Memorial Trophy. He beat out the likes of Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, who both had stellar seasons as well. If McDavid has another season with similar performance and helps his Oilers have another solid playoff run, McDavid has a fantastic chance at winning the award once again.

However, I wouldn’t count out another wonderful year from Sidney Crosby as well as Toronto’s Auston Matthews building upon his solid rookie campaign and taking the next step for the Maple Leafs.

Want to see some hockey in person this 2017-18 season? Click here to check out NHL tickets and schedule on SeatGeek. Let’s go!