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1. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks took a step closer to becoming a powerhouse when they acquired the best defenseman in the league without giving up one (1) above average player. I still don't put them in a class with Tampa Bay, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Nashville but I think they've distanced themselves in a fairly weak Pacific Division.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
The additions of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny should more than offset what the team lost when David Perron and James Neal walked away in free agency. Though some key players are due for regression – William Karlsson and Marc-Andre Fleury come to mind – I think they have enough speed and scoring talent to win a decent chunk of games.
3. Calgary Flames
I'm a little hesitant to do this because their goaltending situation really concerns me. I just *really* like their new-look forward group. They've shed basically all the dead weight up front and added a lot of skill in James Neal, Elias Lindholm, Austin Czarnik and, to a lesser extent, Derek Ryan while also promoting one of their top prospects in Dillon Dube. They can roll four lines now, which gives them an advantage over plenty of teams.
Led by Mark Giordano, I think there is enough talent on defense to be a respectable group – especially with Juuso Valimaki now in the mix and Rasmus Andersson (hopefully) soon to join.
If the goaltending holds up, which is a decent sized if, I think they'll get back into the playoffs.
4. Anaheim Ducks
Ripping on the Ducks is in style right now. Corey Perry is out long-term, Ryan Kesler is banged up, Ryan Getzlaf is another year older, and a lot of things seem to be working against them. I just can't shake the feeling they're going to surprise some people this year.
Getzlaf is still a high-end playmaker, Rickard Rakell has developed into one of the better scorers in the league, Hampus Lindholm is very much elite and, for my money, John Gibson is the best at his position.
They still have some great players and they're surrounded by an underrated supporting cast featuring the likes of Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase, and Josh Manson.
I don't know that they'll make the playoffs but I think they'll be in the mix.
5. Edmonton Oilers
I have a hard time believing the Oilers will be as bad as they were last season. Connor McDavid somehow looks like an improved player, which is absolutely horrifying. I think Oscar Klefbom is better than he showed last season, as is Cam Talbot. There's also no way they'll be as unlucky (at 5v5 they scored 20 fewer goals than expected based on the shots/chances they generated). If some bounces go their way and youngsters like Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto can help create goals while McDavid is catching his breath, this team will be decent.
6. Los Angeles Kings
It feels wrong to rank a team with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick so low but I just can't bring myself to slot them higher. The Kings are extremely top heavy, old, and there just isn't much team speed. In a league focused on getting younger and faster, the Kings are heading in the opposite direction.
7. Arizona Coyotes
I think everyone's favorite sleeper team is likely to disappoint. Vinnie Hinostroza was a sneaky good addition up front but the Coyotes don't have much in the way of impact forwards. The defense is also probably not as good as people make it out to be. If Antti Raanta plays at a level that gets him into the Vezina conversation, which is not as crazy as it sounds, this team *could* be in the mix for a wild card spot but I don't think they have enough talent to get there. They're still a year or two away.
8. Vancouver Canucks
This roster is just plain bad. They're shallow up front, the defense is brutal, and they *might* have the worst goaltending tandem in the NHL. Canucks fans should simply enjoy Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and hope for better next year.
1. San Jose Sharks
Top team in the Pacific and arguably the top team in the West. I hope the Sharks third pairing bring cushions with them to games because they aren't going to play much. The Sharks can play Karlsson and Burns for 25+ minutes each or put another way they can play over 85% of the game. On top of that they have a solid goaltender, depth up front. The only playoff lock in the Pacific.
2. LA Kings
The Kings managed to squeak into the playoffs last year playing most of the season without one of their best producers in Jeff Carter. This year they will have a healthy Carter along with the return (again) of Kovalchuk to the NHL. Also it's tough to ever bet against Jonathan Quick.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Yup. The cards are stacked against Edmonton. On paper the team does not look overly different than the team that had only 78 points the year before. Special teams were one of the big stories last year with a historically bad PK and almost as horrendous PP. New staff additions and a new system have been brought in to help this.
It's tough to make absolute statements from preseason but so far the supposed lack of right wing depth has not been an issue as the likes of Rattie, Puljujarvi, and Yamamoto have been some of the biggest contributors. Cam Talbot looks like the same player who was almost a Vezina finalist, and right there is one name I haven't written yet; Connor McDavid.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
The team that shocked the league last season won't be taken lightly by anyone this season and while I don't expect them to be the powerhouse they were last season I expect them in the mix. The team added some strong pieces up front in Pacioretty and Statsny making their top 6 a threat. The season may fall upon the shoulders of whether William Karlsson can prove last year wasn't a fluke and if Fleury can make another pact with a crossroads demon.
5. Calgary Flames
I'm guessing some of you thought I forgot about our neighbors to the south. I think the Flames made some solid moves to address their secondary scoring. James Neal, Elias Lindholm, and the emergence of Dillon Dube will give the Flames offense they lacked last season. My placement of the Flames is entirely on the belief that they have downgraded their defense and that Mike Smith is going to implode. The 36 year old goaltender was injured late last season and has not looked the same since he came back.
6. Anaheim Ducks
I would have had the Ducks in the 4-5 spot a week ago but the Corey Perry injury might be the straw that breaks the camels back. The Ducks have a young and talented D core but their forward group is aging and dealing with injuries. Gibson is a brilliant tender but he is going to have his work cut out for him.
7. Arizona Coyotes
Another team I wanted to put higher but the recent string of injuries is going to hurt them out of the gates. Raanta will be the goalie to watch this year if his numbers from the second half of last season are any indication. The Coyotes are so close to becoming a threat even with my placement of them here.
8. Vancouver Canucks
This is everyone's pick right? The Canucks are going to be good in a few years and at least get to enjoy the rise of Boesser, Horvat, and now Elias Petterson. Look to the future Canucks fans and remember there is light at the end of the tunnel.
With Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard, the Oilers have two wildcards that can really send their projections through the roof. If both make the team, and if they become regulars, you're talking two basically free players who will help the cap-strapped team.
Add them to Nurse and Klefbom (insanely underrated) and Larson, and suddenly you've got the makings of a good blueline.
With Puljujarvvi and Yamamoto there is real potential on the wings too. I just wish they'd put RNH at centre and ditch Strome. Lucic will bounce back and so will Talbot.
They've got the best 1-2 centre punch in the NHL, with apologies to Toronto, and they are deeper, faster and just generally better than given credit for. I like them to win the West.
I hate the Tobias Rider signing, however.
They will get Vezina level goaltending and surprise everyone.
I love their team and they've got a ton of guys who, if they take a step forward, should make them one of the best teams around.
Goaltending will hurt them, but it's not impossible they upgrade or get one last year out of Smith.
Have this in by 10:30 et on Tuesday if you wish to participate.
They are overrated but the Burns, Karlsson, Vlasic combo is insane and they'll still make the playoffs.
Love their goalie, love Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson, but they'll need a breakout from Kase and great seasons from Rackell and Getzlaf to compete.
Doughty/Quick/Kopitar/Carter remains great, but its a tough division and they're just OK. It will be tight, so they could easily be fine, but I'll pick them to miss the playoffs right now.
They will be better than advertised.
They are so overrated its hilarious. This division will end up being so tight that any team could finish in any order, but Vegas will have to bank on every player that had a career year last year having a career year this year, and that just ain't gonna happen.
1. San Jose
Last season the Sharks added the most frequent 30 goal scorer who never scores 30 goals- Evander Kane. Combine his full season with the addition of Erik Karlsson and the Sharks are daring teams to keep up with them. They are also daring teams to 'come at them' too- good luck.
2. Las Vegas
Things went so well for the Golden Knights last season that it boggles the mind. Will Fleury have his best season ever again? Will they score goals at ease and will they get so much out of a relatively young defence. They might but they won't be the best but they will be good.
They got rid of the museum lover and brought in two guys who the new head coach obviously liked, and knew well. The Flames also added former Knight James Neal for some goals (hopefully) and experience. Not a bad move and it might pay off as they underachieved huge last year.
The Ducks got some bad news with Perry and with injury uncertainty with Kesler they are going to need Gibson to be stellar and hope no one else begins to regress in that aging group let alone significant injuries. Goaltending alone could save them though but hoping for that is never good.
5. Los Angeles
So this is the biggest Wild Card in the division- they could be good or they could be awful. Ilya Kovalchuk could provide the offensive spark that they need and lead them onward but they need something from Brown(again) Phanuef (hopefully) and Quick (again) to get those results.
They may be unreal and make the post season. A healthy motivated McDavid can almost do it all alone but he needs help. Lucic needs to step up and to make an impact and what about some goaltending and defence? I think the Oilers can turn it around but I'm never making that bet because they fail more than succeed.
This team has the potential to be good. Will they be good is another matter. They have shaken the roster up added some interesting pieces and now have to play and see if they are really turning the corner, one that everyone has been waiting for them to make since 2011.
If the name Vancouver had another meaning it would be 'fugly' in some other language. Waiving Gagner? What is Benning thinking? It's time they embrace 'lose for Hughes' and given their UFA moves they finally might have but not told anyone.
Predicting the Metro Division standings
Predicting the Atlantic Division standings
Predicting Atlantic Division breakout players
Predicting Metro Division breakout players
Predicting Pacific Division breakout players
Predicting Central Division breakout players