NHL season off to a good start after making COVID-19 adjustments and adding a talented rookie class

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New York Islanders fans have been waiting since 2014, when the team drafted him, for talented goaltender Ilya Sorokin to man the net.

With all the attention on the NBA and NFL, the NHL went under the radar even though they have had the most successful COVID season so far. Their bubble went perfectly according to plan, and now they are in their new season with a new layout.

The new layout has four divisions: Central, East, West, and North, with teams from both conferences in each division. They are divided solely based on location in order to limit travel between the teams, with the North division being made up only of teams in Canada due to the US/Canada border being closed for the near future.

Each team plays in their division only, facing the other teams in their division eight times. The top four teams from each division advance the playoffs, with the first two rounds of the playoffs being in each division. The division playoff winners will be reseeded in the championship semifinals based on points, so it would be possible for two teams normally in the same conference to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Teams are playing in their home arenas for the regular season, but the NHL hasn’t released if they are going into a bubble for the playoffs. Most teams aren’t allowing fans, but there are a select few, such as the Florida Panthers, who are currently allowing for 25 percent capacity. Everything in regard to fan attendance is subject to local and state mandates and is subject to change as the season progresses. If there were to be a situation where a team can’t play in its home arena, the NHL will choose a neutral site for the game to be played at.

In terms of COVID protocols, the NHL is enforcing a number of rules and regulations for the players, coaches, and team staff. One such rule is that any player that tests positive or is in close contact with someone who tested positive will have to isolate themselves until they retest negative, but a close contact player is allowed to continue playing as long as they have a negative test. Coaches will have to wear masks on and around the bench and the players will have to wear masks in the locker room. 

After a very successful bubble, the 2021 NHL season should have a lot in store. We saw stars get new starts in different cities, including Patrik Laine, a 22 year-old stud now of the Columbus Blue Jackets. There are also many young players entering the league that will look to make major impacts for their teams now and in the future. 

Left wing Alexis Lafrenière and goaltender Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers promise to  be impact players on a team that is both young and looking to win. Lafrenière was the first pick of the 2020 draft and it was well-deserved. As a rookie in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 42 goals, the most by a rookie since Sidney Crosby had 54 in 2004. 

Another rookie looking to help his team is goaltender Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders. Islander fans have been waiting for Sorokin to come over to North America from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) since they drafted him in 2014 as a 19 year old. He is now 25 and hoping to recreate his success from the KHL where he was utterly dominant. Sorokin posted a Goals Against Average (GAA) of over 2.00 only twice in his career, adding great goaltending to a team that made it to the Eastern Finals a year ago. 

While there are certain to be COVID-19 road bumps along the way, this NHL season will be a most interesting one, but it is important to be aware and make sure everyone is doing what they need to do to make the season work. 

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