6 things to know as NHL’s regular season ends

The NHL’s regular season drew to a close on Sunday. Here are six things to look out for heading into the playoffs and off-season.

Canada shut out of the playoffs

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    For the first time since 1970 no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs. Back then there were only two teams: Montreal and Toronto. This season, seven teams are disappointed with many fans left scratching their heads as to where it all went wrong.

    Hockey fans should take heart though: five of the six worst teams in the league are Canadian, meaning it will be an exciting NHL draft on June 24 and 25 in Buffalo, N.Y.

    READ MORE: All 7 Canadian NHL teams will miss playoffs for 1st time since 1970

    Playoff alternatives

    Looking for a team to cheer for with your hometown club on the golf course? There are lots of exciting options to follow this post-season. The Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals have a high-powered offence centred around perennial all-star Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Braden Holtby is arguably the best in the NHL right now.

    The Caps have stumbled of late though, only winning four of their past 10 games. The Western Conference champion Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues have all won eight of their past 10 to roll in to the playoffs.

    Failing that, you can always just cheer for Team Canada as they compete at the men’s hockey world championship starting May 6 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Watch below: US takes shot at Trudeau, 7 Canadian teams eliminated from NHL playoffs

    NHL Draft odds

    The Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks had the three worst records in the league, meaning they’ll have the best chance at the first overall pick when the NHL holds its draft lottery on April 30.

    Toronto has a 20 per cent shot at the top pick, presumably highly touted centre Auston Matthews, Edmonton has a 13.5 per cent chance and Vancouver is at 11.5.

    The Maple Leafs have only drafted first overall once in the team’s history, selecting Wendel Clark in 1985. The Canucks have never had the first overall pick, unlike the Oilers, who’ve had four in the past six years.

    READ MORE: ‘I haven’t cheered that loud since 2006’: Oilers fans react to NHL draft lottery win

    Stamkos Sweepstakes

    Drafting isn’t the only way to rebuild your team. Free agency on July 1 is also an option, with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos the most valued player on the market. The 26-year-old Stamkos has 312 goals and 250 assists over eight seasons with Tampa.

    Negotiations with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman seem stalled but Stamkos will be out for one to three months after having surgery last week to address blood clots in his right shoulder. Where Stamkos ends up and if he can return to form after the surgery will be two of the biggest stories in the NHL this summer.

    Patrick Kane dominates

    For weeks there had been no doubt who would win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer: Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. He finished the regular season with 44 goals and 59 assists, 14 points more than Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn and 18 more than Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Benn won the scoring title with 87 points last year, a testament to Kane’s superb season. It’s the most points since Crosby had 104 in 2013-14.

    Glimpse of the future

    Connor McDavid was the man to watch at the start of this season. The Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation had his rookie campaign shortened by a broken collarbone but finished the year with 15 goals and 32 assists in 45 games.

    READ MORE: ‘It’s too early to look back’: Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid not reflecting on rookie season yet

    Fans across the country caught a glimpse of their team’s futures as Canada’s NHL teams called up prized prospects. Forward William Nylander in Toronto, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg and defenceman Jared McCann in Vancouver, all impressed during their time with their NHL clubs.