With the 2017-18 NHL Season approaching, there are 6 teams in the NHL that are without a captain. There’s significant diversity in the teams presented here, but they all have youth in common.
East: Toronto, Carolina, Buffalo.
In Toronto the choice falls between two players. Auston Matthews is the most obvious selection. But entering his second NHL Season after scoring 40 goals at the NHL level may not be enough to warrant his selection as captain yet. I don’t think the Leafs should rush the position to Matthews and can honestly justify waiting another season to hand over the reigns to the young American. There is also a second player with the potential to lead the Bud’s. Morgan Reilly has been in the league since the 2013 season and has over 300 games played in the league. He clearly was being groomed at one point to be the Leafs captain, prior to the arrival of the 1st overall pick. He’s a sleeper second pick for the position. We go back to the age old argument, that the C makes you a leader, or a leader deserves the C. Either way the Leafs don’t need to rush this.
Carolina has a bevy of talent in their rotation, and now has added some veteran presence in Justin Williams, and TVR. Many have forecasted All Star, Justin Faulk for the position. Which is a reasonable but not long term choice for the club. Ideally they would want a young captain to lead their rookies and sophomores. Jaccob Slavin, a D man I believe is an amazing player already can lead the Hurricanes. I have an article here detailing his abilities, that I think justifies his position as captain.
Next in the East is Buffalo. It should be Eichel to lead the Sabres. I truly think the only reason this hasn’t happened is because Eichel hasn’t played a full season in the NHL. He played nearly at a point per game speed last season after coming off a high ankle sprain. It is popular knowledge that a high ankle sprain is an injury that requires significant time to heal fully. Months and months of rest and rehab. Players obviously opt to skip this recovery period and lose a good chunk of their season to playing through the pain. Look out for Eichel to step into the captaincy next season.
West: Nashville, Vegas, Arizona
Mike Fisher obviously retired during the summer, leaving the Cup Finalists with a vacancy. My guess, Roman Josi. He’s a talented player, has been around the Pred’s dressing room and seems like a solid locker room guy from his interviews. Not a hot take here, but look for Josi to be tapped. We could see a vacancy for a period, but wouldn’t be surprised if he gets named during training camp.
The Golden Knights are a team with a lot of speculated potential. Many analysts are predicting them to fall flat this NHL season, while at the same time calling the team the best ‘expansion’ team to date. Pierre Edouard Bellemare is one of many players on the Golden Knights who could take the mantle. Fleury, Neal, and Garrison all have the veteran experience to theoretically be named captain. I think Bellemare is a logical choice, as he is both a veteran and a former captain. He captained the French Team in the IIHF World Championship.
Arizona is a team desperately in need of a direction. After letting Shane Doan go, and watching him retire the Coyotes need to step up. After trading Mike Smith, bringing in Derek Stepan and Raanta, there has been a paradigm shift in the Desert. Similar to Buffalo we should expect a young player to be named the captain. Domi is the obvious candidate, but it should not be this season. We need a full season out of Domi, similar to Eichel. OEL is another candidate for the position, as he has been an All Star previously. Just depends on the direction of the team. Do they want youth with potential, or veteran presence leading their team? Whatever puts people in seats I suppose.