NHL Season Preview: West Division

Kwals

Welcome back to our third installment of our NHL season preview division by division, in this one we are heading out to the wild Wild West. Thanks Will for the intro, by the way most of you probably forgot about this song cause I know I for sure did. Alright enough talk about Will Smith’s song let’s start talking about the new West division for the NHL. This to me is probably the one division where I feel like the top three are already set. Vegas, Colorado, and St. Louis should be the top three teams in no particular order as they are clearly by far the best three teams. That being said though, that fourth and final playoff spot is up for grabs. We should see the Ducks, Yotes, Sharks, Wild make a run at that final spot. Yes, before you say anything I know I didn’t mention the LA Kings and thats because I really think they are gonna stink. You know the drill by now, let’s take a look team by team for the West division…

Anaheim Ducks(29-33-9, 67PTS) 6th in Pacific, Did Not Make Playoffs

Image-LATimes

Quack, quack, quack, quack….gooooooooooooooooooooo Ducks! Sorry I couldn’t help myself I love the Mighty Ducks movies. Anyway….when it comes to the 2021 Anaheim Ducks they might need some of that Mighty Duck magic to be a successful team. They are by no means awful, but they are young and lack a real superstar right now. Up front Ryan Getzlaf is still there and he can still produce but he isn’t what he used to be. Adam Henrique, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg will lead the way but the Ducks have some solid young players that can come in and make an impact right away. They added Sonny Milano who is still young and has plenty of potential, Troy Terry is another young guy that we have seen flashes of what he can do. Max Comtois is a name most people should know as well as he played a key role for team Canada in the World Juniors just a few years back. The big upcoming possible superstar they have up front though is the American hero from this year World Juniors…Trevor Zegras. I mean this dude lit up the tournament and he could very well carry that momentum into the season. I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do at the NHL level. Not only do they have some decent forward prospects, their defense is looking not half bad either. Cam Fowler leads the way as the teams best defenseman but they also have Hampus Lindholm who as long as he is healthy can be a solid number two. The Ducks also brought in Kevin Shattenkirk to go along with John Manson which gives them a solid top four. Jamie Drysdale has a realistic shot at being another solid young player for the Ducks if he ends up making the team. The goaltending for the Ducks falls on the shoulders of John Gibson who has been good but I wouldn’t say great just yet. Ryan Miller is back for another year as a backup for him but this year is a big year for Gibson and it will be his chance to show he can be a reliable number one goalie in the NHL. 

Key Additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, Sonny Milano, Trevor Zegras

Key Departures: N/A

 

Arizona Coyotes(33-29-9, 74PTS) 5th in Pacific, Lost to Colorado in First Round

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The Yotes were an absolute WAGON last season and I actually really like this team to take another step in the right direction this season. They have a nice mix of young talent and reliable veterans to go along with one of the best goaltending duos in the league. Now, yes they lost Taylor Hall but he wasn’t with them long enough and honestly wasn’t that much of an impact player for the Coyotes during his time. Up front they still have plenty of scoring options, Phil Kessel had a hell of a year last season and could easily duplicate that. Clayton Keller doesn’t get talked about enough, Lawson Crouse is a solid top six guy, and Connor Garland couldn’t stop scoring last year. Add in Derrick Brassard and Drake Caggiula, this Coyotes offense could be pretty deadly. On the backend Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a top defenseman in the league and is a true impact player. Jakob Chychurn, Jason Demers, Nick Hjalmarsson, and Alex Goligoski round out the defense for the Yotes and it gives them a really solid group back there. All of those guys in front of Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper this Yotes team could be a real dark horse to make a little run at the Cup. I’m not saying they will but I’m also not counting them out. 

Key Additions: Derrick Brassard

Key Departures: Taylor Hall, Vinnie Hinostroza

 

Colorado Avalanche(42-20-8, 92PTS) 2nd in Central, Lost to Dallas in Second Round

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I LOVE this Avalanche team, I mean if I wasn’t a Flyers fan this would be my team. They are so exciting to watch and honestly they have a borderline superteam with some of the guys they have. Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the second best player in the NHL right now and I will argue that with just about anyone. Add in Gabriel Landeskog , Mikkon Rantanen, Tyson Jost, Andre Burakovsky, and Valerie Nichushkin my god they are stacked. These team is so deep and all four lines have the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. They also play a really exciting style and just fly up and down the ice. Their defense may be one if not the best in the league this upcoming year…Cale Makar is a superstar and if you don’t believe me just watch what he will do this season. They added Devon Toews to go along with Ian Cole and Erik Johnson. Oh and if that wasn’t enough to scare you they also have Bowen Byram who is going to come in and make an impact right away. The goaltending shouldn’t be an issue for the Avs either as both guys proved they can be reliable options. Philip Grubauer will most likely get the bulk of the starts and Pavel Francouz will be counted on to come in to play some keys games though when Grubauer needs a rest. This team is a legit Stanley Cup contender and I am really excited to see what they do this year. 

Key Additions: Devon Toews, Brandon Saad

Key Departures: Matt Nieto, Vladislav Namestnikov

 

Los Angeles Kings(29-35-6, 64PTS) 7th in Pacific, Did Not Make Playoffs

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I like to call them like I see them and when I look at this LA Kings team….Well they just flat out stink. I might eat those words but I like my chances here of being right. Yes, they have plenty of young prospects and some solid veterans but, its not gonna be enough to really do anything. Sure they will win some games but unless they just somehow shock the world and just tear it up they will be at the bottom of this division. I’m more excited to see the Kings in like two-three years with all the great young prospects they have coming up. I’m honestly not even going to go through the full team preview like I have with the rest of the teams because I’m not even sure they know what their final roster is gonna look like yet. 

Key Additions: Olli Maatta, Lias Andersson

Key Departures: N/A

 

Minnesota Wild(35-27-7, 77PTS), 6th in Central, Lost to in Qualifying Round

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The Wild are another kind of confusing team to me. Every year I feel like they aren’t that good yet somehow they always end up in the playoffs only to lose in the first round. They have some decent weapons on offense with guys like Kevin Fiala, Zach Parise, Nick Bjugstad, and Mats Zuccarello. I can see them being able to score on all four line because they have some decent depth guys as well but I just don’t know that I trust them to score when it really matters most. On defense they are pretty solid. Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter, and Jared Spurgeon lead the way back there and honestly I’m not familiar enough to know too much about the rest of their defenseman. But, those three guys are good enough to make anyone they play with that much better. In net is where things get a little interesting for the Wild. Cam Talbot joins Alex Stalock to give them a decent one, two punch but its not really one that I’d be super confident in as a Wild fan. This division is going to be tough and I really don’t know if they are good enough to make the top four. 

Key Additions: N/A

Key Departures: Alex Galchenyuk, Mikko Koivu, Devin Dubynk

 

San Jose Sharks(29-36-5, 63PTS) 8th in Pacific, Did Not Make Playoffs

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This division just has quite a few teams where I’ll be honest I really don’t know what to expect from them. The Sharks fall into this category where they either are going to be really good or just flat out bad. They have the talent to be great it’s just a matter of them executing it. Up front with guys like Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, and Timo Meier they should have four solid lines. The Sharks have some decent depth but I don’t know that it’s enough for them to compete with some of the top teams in the division. Like I really don’t see their offense lighting up the scoreboard night in and night out. Their defense on the other hand in my opinion is pretty solid. Brett Burns is Brett Burns and he’s a top ten guy in the league and if Erik Karlsson can actually stay healthy and get back to his All Star form they should have no problems. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a solid veteran and Ryan Merkley is a young and upcoming guy with some potential so they should have a decent top four. Their goaltending could be what carries them this upcoming season. Now with Devin Dubynk to pair with Martin Jones the Sharks have a great duo between the pipes where these guys can steal a game on any given night. Do I think this team is playoff bound? I’m not really sure, like I said this division is going to be tough but if they get the great goaltending they should then they could sneak in. 

Key Additions: Devin Dubynk, 

Key Departures: Joe Thornton 

 

St. Louis Blues(42-19-10, 94PTS) 1st in Central, Lost to Vancouver in First Round

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We are just two short years removed from the St.Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup in what was an incredible run. Now after a tough loss to the Canucks in the bubble playoffs, the Blues are looking to get back to the Cup Final. This team is still a powerhouse and they proved that last season before the pause. Vladimir Tarasanko should be fully healthy and ready to go. Him being back in the fold with guys like Brayden Schenn, Robert Thomas, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Tyler Bozak this is a deep Blues team. This team has had a gritty style of play the last few seasons and they added even more grit during the offseason by adding Kyle Clifford. The Blues are not going to be a fun team to play against and they will be able to compete with any team in the division and should easily be in the top four come playoff time. On the defensive side of things they took a big hit losing Alex Pietrangelo but they got a pretty good replacement in him with Torey Krug. Adding Krug to go along with Justin Faulk, Vince Dunn, and Colton Parayko and my god is that a solid top four. They also have a lot of key depth players on defense so if they get hit with injuries or any COVID related issues they should have no problem plugging guys in. Not that there was too much of a debate when Jake Allen was still here but it is now officially Jordan Binnington’s crease in St. Louis. He is more than capable of holding things down for the Blues and this is a big year for him to really solidify himself as one of the top goaltenders in the league. I fully expect him to do just that and if he is really on his game, the Blues become a very dangerous team.

Key Additions: Torey Krug, Kyle Clifford

Key Departures: Alex Pietrangelo, 

 

Vegas Golden Knights(39-24-8, 86PTS) 1st in Pacific, Lost in Western Conference Final to Dallas

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The expansion team that has looked nothing like an expansion team since they have joined the league. One Stanley Cup Final appearance and now two Conference Final appearances is pretty good for a new team. Every year they just seem to keep getting better to and the new expansion draft really has them setup pretty well for the future too. Up front their big star is Mark Stone along with William Karlsson. They also have Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Cody Glass and Alex Tuch. They are deep up front and also play a pretty physical style which they can do with guys like William Carrier and Ryan Reaves on their team. They are pretty exciting to watch and they matchup well against just about anybody. On defense they got a huge upgrade by signing Alex Pietrangelo to pair with Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Shea Theodore. With those four guys alone they have one of the best defenses in the entire league and could shutdown any high powered offense. Goaltending is another major strength for this team with both Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. It will be a tough task for opposing teams to get pucks past either of those guys. While Fleury may not want to be the backup it seems to be Lehner’s net for the time being but having Fleury as a second guy isn’t the worst thing for the Knights especially in a condensed season. You may not get to see many Knights games if you’re on the east coast but I highly suggest staying up to watch some of their games because they are a fun team to watch for sure. 

Key Additions: Alex Pierangelo

Key Departures: N/A

 

Final Standings Prediction:

  1. Colorado Avalanche
  2. Vegas Golden Knights
  3. St. Louis Blues
  4. Arizona Coyotes
  5. San Jose Sharks
  6. Minnesota Wild
  7. Anaheim Ducks
  8. Los Angeles Kings

 

 

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-Walsh

 

 

Featured Image-LA Times

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