New York Islanders: Competitive
The New York Islanders are a good team and performed well in the pre-season. They are competitive already and also have plenty of cap space to improve the team with. They’ve done certain things that make their status questionable. Trading Panarin and Debrincat would indicate a rebuild, but their team is quite good, and they seemingly are trying to compete. As of now, they’re competing with Washington and Carolina for the 3rd spot in the division, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.
New York Rangers: Rebuild
The Rangers are in a bit of an interesting spot. They are very clearly trying to be competitive in signing Kucherov and trading for MacKinnon. However, I just don’t think they have the depth to compete, nor the cap space to improve upon it. I respect the GM’s attempts to compete and I totally understand not wanting to suck, but I just don’t think this year is their year.
Ottawa Senators: Competitive
In any other division, I’m not sure the Sens are a competitive team. However, seeing as they are in the Atlantic and will get to square off against some of the lesser teams in the league more often than the rest. I think Ottawa has potential to overtake Boston for the 3rd place in the Atlantic, but if not they’ll be fighting the other middle Metro teams (Islanders, Washington, Carolina) for one of the wildcard spots. Regardless, they are a middle of the pack team that should rise to the top of the division in a couple years, but for now they’ll be fighting for a 3rd place/wildcard finish.
Philadelphia Flyers: Cup Favourites
The Flyers are a tremendous team and even though I don’t believe they’re the top team in the metro, they’re top 5 in the league. It just so happens that I believe New Jersey to be slightly better. They are a lock for the playoffs, and absolutely have what it takes to win it all this year. Not only do they look good now, but they have a great prospect pool too. Philly should be top contenders for years to come.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Rebuild
From one of the stronger eastern teams to the weaker end, Pittsburgh has traded a ton of their best players and are not looking particularly strong. They’ll be in the running for Bedard this year and likely won’t make much of a splash. I expect the Penguins to be sellers at the deadline and towards the bottom of the league.
San Jose Sharks: Cup Favourites
Despite making some trades that some may deem questionable, the Sharks are still a total powerhouse in the league, even if they aren’t the number 1 team anymore. They still have elite talent in every position and some great prospects on top of that. The Sharks are a lock for the playoffs and have a very good chance of making it far. With new management, I’m excited to see what direction the team takes.
Seattle Kraken: Rebuild
The frontrunner in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Kraken fans have very little to look forward to when it comes to this season, however their future assets are unmatched in the league and should even half of their prospects develop to their full potential, they’ll be a top team in the league for a long time. Though they are certainly the weakest in the league right now, I’m a fan of what GM Bryce Shuck has built in Seattle and since they aren’t in the Metro, I look forward to seeing them improve over time.
St. Louis Blues: Competitive
The Blues are another team in a very interesting position. They certainly are not bad. A bit of a weakness at D but quite strong offensively and in nets. The issue for the Blues is that the Central division is stacked. I would say 7/8 of the teams in this division are at the very least solid and have a chance to win, and as I’ve said in past articles, there are only 5 possible playoff spots for Central division teams. So, I won’t say it’s impossible for them to make the playoffs, I have them as the 5th team in the Central ahead of Dallas, but Dallas is not far behind at all and it really could go either way. Even Nashville, who I’ve got a bit lower can be competitive. So, it’ll be a fight til the very end for St. Louis, but they certainly are good enough to make the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Rebuild
The Lightning is another team that has traded all of their assets and are committing to a full rebuild. They won’t be competitive this year and will likely be in the hunt for Bedard as well. The Lightning have brought in new management who has done a terrific job at shifting the direction of the team. Unless I’ve miscounted, they have 18 picks in the next draft, including 7 picks in the 2nd round, and in a very deep draft at that. So, no, they aren’t going to compete this year. However, assuming they don’t fumble their picks next year, there’s a lot to look forward to with this franchise.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Rebuild
Another rebuilding team with a lot to look forward to, the Leafs won’t make much of an impact this season. However, they’ve done a great job drafting and likewise shouldn’t be rebuilding for too much longer. They’ve assembled the core pieces they need for their future and after this year I believe will be a perfect time to start building around that core. This year, though, they’ll likely be looking for the top pick in the draft to speed up that rebuild even more.
Vancouver Canucks: Competitive
Now, I struggle to call the Canucks a rebuilding team, but I also don’t believe they’ll be making the playoffs this year. That’s not to say it’ll be impossible, they certainly could make the playoffs. However, the problem here is that there is a very clear top 3 in the Pacific, so automatically they’ll be fighting for a wildcard spot. Then, another problem arises in that they’ll not only be fighting division rivals Anaheim and Vegas, but they’ll also be fighting with 4 other central teams that I believe to be superior to the Canucks. If there was a term in between rebuilding and competitive, that’s where I’d place Vancouver. I don’t believe this will be their year, but I also don’t believe they’re far removed from being a playoff team. Time will tell.
Vegas Golden Knights: Competitive
I won’t stay on Vegas for too long because roughly everything I said about Vancouver applies to Vegas as well except Vegas is definitely better. I think if a 4th team from this division does manage to take a wildcard spot, it’ll be Vegas. Still, they’ll be competing with some very good Central teams, so it’ll be a tough road to the playoffs for Vegas should they manage to get there.
Washington Capitals: Competitive
Best team in the league no doubt. In all seriousness though, I’m looking to compete and I think the only teams standing in my way of making the playoffs are the Islanders, Hurricanes, and Senators. All of which are teams I feel I could reasonably beat. I don’t know that I’ll be able to make it too far into the playoffs, buy my main goal is just to make it to the playoffs and anything more is just a bonus. What my team lacks in starpower it makes up with in depth, and I believe that will be my greatest strength this season.
Winnipeg Jets: Cup Favourites
The Jets are the current DCHL champions, and have not really regressed at all. They are a lock for the playoffs in my mind and have to be in the conversation as cup favourites based solely on the fact that they have made minimal changes coming off of a cup-winning season. They have all the tools to run it back. However, the journey to championship gold is not an easy one when you’re in the western conference.