The NHL enters the 2017-18 season with countless reasons to tune in, from the debut of the Vegas Golden Knights to the ongoing parity that gives the majority of the league hope in early October.
The schedule starts on Oct. 4 with the Penguins’ banner-raising ceremony for their second straight Stanley Cup before they host the St. Louis Blues in the first game of the season. NBC will be broadcasting that game as part of its U.S. national TV schedule, which was released Monday.
The Blackhawks were once again popular with the schedulers, who gave Chicago a league-high 17 appearances between NBC and NBCSN next season. The network claims this is its “most diverse NHL schedule ever,” but it’s still leaning heavily on popular American teams like the Blackhawks, Flyers, Penguins, and Rangers to bring in audiences.
However, it’s fair to say that many of the most interesting games on the national TV slate don’t include those teams. Instead, it’s the diverse aspect NBC referred to that fans should be excited about. The chance to see the likes of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, or Jack Eichel a few times should be a nice change of pace.
The 2017-18 NHL national TV schedule is full of exciting matchups. Here’s a look at 10 of the best, with all times ET.
Blues vs. Penguins, 8 p.m., Oct. 4, NBCSN
The game itself may not be particularly important, but it’s always special for fans to be able to take in the pregame banner-raising ceremony for a Stanley Cup winner. The Penguins will be adding their fifth championship banner to the rafters in PPG Paints Arena, and they’ll be doing it in front of a team that’s won exactly zero titles since being founded in 1967.
The first game at Little Caesars Arena, Detroit’s new hockey home, should be a fun experience. The Red Wings played at Joe Louis Arena, which recently held its final ticketed event, from 1979 through the end of last season. Now they’re moving into their new digs, and the opener will come against the Wild. Hopefully this isn’t the highlight of what could be a rough season for the Red Wings.
Coyotes vs. Golden Knights, 10 p.m., Oct. 10, NBCSN
The first-ever NHL regular-season game in Vegas. No, the actual matchup isn’t amazing, but it’ll be fun to watch the Golden Knights for the first time. The Coyotes could also be improved after adding Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in the offseason. But mainly, it’ll just be interesting to see what the NHL looks like in the Sin City.
This is the Devils’ sixth game of the season, but for a lot of fans around the country, this will be the first chance to see No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier in action. Will he be able to make an impact as a rookie like Matthews and Patrik Laine did a year ago? It’s hard to say, but watching Hischier team up with Taylor Hall could be a lot of fun.
Known as the “NHL 100 Classic,” this outdoor game is part of the league’s centennial celebration. The Senators will be hosting the Canadiens at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, which is currently home to CFL and NASL teams. The Sens and Habs played one of the NHL’s first games ever nearly 100 years ago, which makes this an appropriate matchup. It’s also the first time that Ottawa will play in an outdoor game.
Rangers vs. Sabres, 1 p.m., Jan. 1, NBC
This year’s Winter Classic will be held at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, in Queens. It’s a matchup between two New York teams and a chance to see Eichel on the largest stage possible for a regular-season game. The Sabres are technically the home team, so the Rangers don’t lose tax-exempt status on Madison Square Garden. But expect a whole lot of blue in the stands that day.
How often do you get to see the best scorer in the NHL take on the best defense in the NHL? That’s what NBC will be serving up on this date as McDavid’s Oilers take on the defending Western Conference champion Predators. These should be two of the best teams in the league next season, and seeing McDavid try to score on the likes of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, and Pekka Rinne should be a blast.
Maple Leafs vs. Blackhawks, 8 p.m., Jan. 24, NBCSN
You didn’t think we’d put together a whole list without any Blackhawks games, did you? This should be a particularly fun matchup as the up-and-coming Maple Leafs come to Chicago to take on Patrick Kane and Co. Anytime you can get two of the league’s most popular teams and this much star power on the ice, it’s worth tuning in.
Maple Leafs vs. Capitals, 8 p.m., March 3, NBC
The NHL Stadium Series heads to Annapolis for a game between Toronto and Washington at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in early March. It’s the start of a partnership between the league and the military that could see additional outdoor games played at other locations in the future. But more importantly, we’ll get the chance to see Matthews vs. Alex Ovechkin under the bright stadium lights.
Rangers vs. Flyers, 3 p.m., April 7, NBC
We’re probably getting a bit too ahead of ourselves here, but this matchup on the final day of the regular season could have major playoff implications. The Flyers are looking to get back into the postseason after a down year, while the Rangers are aiming not to lose any ground in what should be a stacked Metropolitan Division. These two rivals could have a lot to play for in the season finale.