NHL Divisions Predictions: North Division & West Division

Offering my predicitons on how the Honda West Division and Scotia North Division will shake out. A lot of competition and rivalries in each division.

It will be a sprint, not a marathon this NHL season as all 31 teams will take part in a 56 game schedule that will be completed by May 8.

That means, from the start of the season, the NHL will have games on 116 consecutive days.

With that said, let’s see what the North and West divisions have to offer to the rest of the league as I give my standing predictions.

Scotia North Division

7.) Montreal Canadiens

Although the Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round last year, they will struggle in this all-Canadian division.

There are too many young and hungry teams, and Montreal is just a step behind the rest. With Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli’s additions, they did add a scoring touch, but it really depends if Montreal can have someone really step up and take over in offensive production.

It will be another wasted year for Carey Price as the team will not support him offensively. This team will go on to lose a lot of close games, but just too many to count.

6.) Ottawa Senators

The Senators are in the midst of a significant rebuild, and they are still years away from truly competing. I do have them ahead of Montreal though, because of the youth movement and the potential a lot of scoring.

They are young, but Ottawa’s front office did an excellent job surrounding the upcoming group with some veterans. Derek Stephan, Erik Gudbranson, and Evgenii Dadonov were good pickups for this team and will impact these youngsters.

Also sticking with that youth department, Tim Stuetzle is a viable candidate for the Calder Trophy. He put on a fabulous display in the World Juniors this year, totaling ten points in just five games.

Ottawa will be well out of the playoff picture, but Matt Murray will be the most intriguing part of this team and whether or not he can return to his Stanley Cup form that was seen just a few years ago.

5.) Winnipeg Jets

In his sophomore season, Patrik Laine scored 44 times, but the past two years have declined in that category. In 68 game season last year, he totaled 28 goals and 63 points. They have great pieces around him, but he is a talent that needs to return to that 40 goal pace.

The Jets have an amazing top-six forward group that can score boatloads of goals on any given night, but they will need the support from the back end. However, I do not believe the blue-line has what it takes to complement this team’s offensive prowess.

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck will be again running for the goaltender of the year. It will all depend though if his defense in front of him can bail him out when need be.

This defensive group is the whole reason I have them as a fringe playoff team this season.

4.) Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton had a chance to make some noise in last year’s postseason with the familiarity of their home building as the bubble of choice. However, they were upset by the 12th seeded Chicago Blackhawks.

Poor Connor McDavid, this Oilers franchise has spoiled yet another chance to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Not only is McDavid arguably the top player in the league right now, but Leon Draisaitl also gives the Oilers the best one-two punch in the entire game. Draistaitl is coming off a 110 point season that saw him clinch the Art Ross Trophy and be awarded the Hart Trophy for the regular season MVP.

The Oilers sure can score, and they have the depth players to prove it. On the back end, with Oscar Klefbom out for the entire season, this defensive group will be hurting and needs someone to step up.

Edmonton is lucky they have such an electric offense as the goaltending situation they present is the worst in this division. Mike Smith has been such a mediocre goalie for too long, and Mikko Koskinen does not offer any hope either.

3.) Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver made a surprise run to the second round last postseason, riding the wave of Thatcher Demko. Demko will look to solidify himself this season as a mainstay in the league, but he will have to battle former Vezina winner Braden Holtby for the starting job. Learning from someone like Holtby, this may shape Demko into a potentially elite netminder for years to come.

Demko and Holtby also have a great team surrounding them with a dynamic blueline and a rising offense.

The top two lines have phenomenal young talent that can fill the back of the net. Vancouver’s depth on offense will be another aspect that will go mostly unnoticed, but they will be impactful all season.

With the fourth line consisting of Tyler Motte, Jay Beagle, and Brandon Sutter, this can be one of the strongest fourth lines in the league. Each player can score and be physical, along with Sutter and Beagle being successful at the faceoff dot.

Vancouver could be a dark horse candidate to reach the latter rounds in the playoffs this season.

2.) Calgary Flames

It has been a never-ending cycle for Calgary fille with preseason hype and anticipation, a strong regular season, followed by a postseason letdown. When will it stop?

This team is sound once again, however, they have a different thing going for them this year, which is goaltending. With Jacob Markstrom’s signing, Calgary can stop worrying about goaltending play and focus on this team’s production. Markstrom was a significant pickup and can lift this team deep into the playoffs.

They are another North Division squad with great forward depth can see all four lines contribute on any given night.

The key to this team this year will be the play of Johnny Gaudreau. He saw a considerable drop off in point production last season with just 58 in 70 games. He needs to return to this expected offensive rate for this team to stay ahead of the pack.

1.) Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews and company will look to avenge their postseason disappointment from the bubble in August.

This team has an explosive forward group with the perfect mix of speed and veteran playmakers. The addition of Joe Thornton may be the piece this offense was missing. Patrick Marleau served his time in Toronto but did not perform at a high-level. They hope Thornton will bring the veteran leadership and playmaking ability they have been looking for.

The blue-line has brought in another piece that they believe can bolster that group. T.J. Brodie will see a lot of time skating with Morgan Rielly and will aim to fulfill Tornoto’s expectations.

There is a lot to like about this team, and the skaters have what it takes to push them to the next level, but is Frederik Anderson ready to tag along?

Honda West Division

8.) Los Angeles Kings

With the teams that make up this division, three failed to make the playoffs last season, which is the most out of any current division. That trend will be quite similar to last year, with potentially the worst bottom half of a division.

The Kings will partake in another rebuilding year with most of the core players beyond their primes. Jonathan Quick has seen a sudden decrease in his play over the past few seasons, and he will continue to decline.

LA also has one of the more miserable blue lines in the NHL. Olli Maatta, on the top line, with Drew Doughty. Yikes. Doughty was one of the premier defensive players in the league with his hard-bose physical play, but that is a thing of the past.

It is just a development year with plenty of prospects waiting in the flanks for their NHL time. Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, and Arthur Kaliyev should all see some time in the league following strong showings in the World Juniors.

7.) Anaheim Ducks

Another team that will just look to develop their young stars, the Ducks will just be happy to compete in this division.

With Troy Terry and Maxime Comtois already slated to be in the lineup, World Juniors MVP Trevor Zegras will look to crack the lineup this season to get his feet wet.

If this team can spark a hot-streak, they could have an outside shot in sneaking into the playoffs. They do have some gems hidden in their lineup, along with a sneaky solid top-four defensive pairings.

John Gibson also will always provide hope for this team. The two-time NHL All-Star has wasted a lot of his career trying to help an underwhelming team achieve more than they can handle, and that will be the same this year.

6.) San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are a perfect example of an organization that sold its soul to the devil to make the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016. They have never found the same success since, even with an outstanding team.

With Thornton gone and Marleau making his comeback tour, the Sharks have washed away the best chances at a Stanley Cup. The firepower this offense once had has dwindled and now will just heavily rely on Logan Couture. With the unknown status of Evander Kane as he deals with his bankruptcy incident, this team continues to fall apart.

Even on defense, this team lost its touch. Erik Karlsson was supposed to be the guy that would help push them over the hump, but he has regressed tremendously since arriving in San Jose.

Nothing has gone right for this franchise in a long time, and Martin Jones’s play in net has not helped either. It will be another long and painful season for this club.

5.) Minnesota Wild

In last year’s bubble, the Wild were given an opportunity to spark something special, but their chances were spoiled by Vancouver.

The Wild are still far from competing for a Stanley Cup, but they can make some noise in this division.

Zack Parise will once again carry the offensive torch for this team as Nick Bjugstad will play top-six minutes this season after an injury-riddled 2019-20.

Minnesota is another team that has a great top-four defensive group, but it will not be enough to propel them into a playoff spot. Overall, this team is just unappealing as they sound. No superstar or any interest surrounding this organization.

4.) Arizona Coyotes

Arizona did its part last season in the playoffs by upsetting Nashville in the qualifying round before Colorado dismantled them in the second round.

The Coyotes have a handful of playmakers on the front end, including Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller, who can help solidify this team’s playoff aspirations. The addition of Derrick Brassard may also improve the play of the bottom-half of the forwards.

The one extremely promising facet of this team, though, is their defense. They possess one of the best groups in the entire league. From top to bottom, each of these guys can be a top-three defenseman on any given team. They all can jump up in the play and add a scoring touch as well.

Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper will be the goaltending tandem once again as they hope to lead this team to glory. They had a surprisingly solid season last year and can put together a similar performance in 2021.

3.) St. Louis Blues

The top three teams in this division are beyond the rest in terms of legitimate cup contenders. St. Louis has a short postseason in the bubble after being upset by Vancouver in six games.

They will seek to avenge that loss from last year as their team continues to be one of the most complete teams in the entire NHL.

Although the Blue lost Alex Pietrangelo, they replaced him with Torey Krug, who is an excellent fit for this team. Krug can man the power play and is a great skating defenseman. The most significant loss in Pietrangelo was his leadership qualities.

St. Louis will compete for another Stanley Cup this season on the back of Jordan Binnington.

2.) Vegas Golden Knight

Another team with a series shot at the Cup, Vegas has all the right pieces to make a run at the Cup. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty will be the go-to wing tandem this season for the Golden Knights.

Depth scoring will not be an issue either for the Knights as some of their young talents will fill those roles and provide for this team.

Vegas is also home to arguably the best goaltending tandem in the entire league. Robin Lehner was brought in last year to help them in the postseason, and he performed exceptionally well. Marc-Andre Fleury has been the guy there since the berth of the franchise, and he will vie for the number one spot each night.

The Golden Knights have a good problem in net with their two spectacular goalies, which will be just one of many reasons this team is a Cup favorite.

1.) Colorado Avalanche

Colorado fell just one game short of reaching the conference finals last season. This team has developed into a potential powerhouse for years to come.

The young talent is spewing through the seems for the Avalanche as every player on this roster brings something to the table. This core is maturing just at the right time to be a threat come playoff time.

Nathan MacKinnon has transformed into a top-two player in the league. With Mikko Rantanen complementing him on the top line, they also have one of the best one-two punches in the league.

Defensively, they will only get better. Cale Makar captured the Calder Memorial Trophy last year, and he will be paired with the newcomer Devon Toews on the top line.

It will all come down to the success of Philipp Grubauer in net for Colorado. If he can maintain the strong play he has shown before, this team will be extremely scary.


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