The Minnesota Wild, just as they have been for the past few seasons, are a good team. They are not overwhelmingly talented but have the pieces needed to rack up wins. Star forward Kirill Kaprizov is the face of the franchise and is a player who can both score and pass at an elite level. He is surrounded by many upper-tier forwards, such as Marco Rossi, Mats Zuccarello and Matt Boldy. The defensive core is also solid, especially with the first-pair defenseman Jacob Middleton and Jared Spurgeon. However, besides Kaprizov, the Wild lacks difference-makers and players who can bring the team to the next level. That is why Minnesota will have a successful regular season, but when it comes playoff time, it is unlikely that the Wild will make a deep run.
Wild prediction: Playoff berth (No. 3 in Central Division, 99 points)
The Nashville Predators, under new general manager Barry Trotz, are in an interesting situation. Many seem to believe that the club intends to re-tool, but at the same time, the Predators have a very solid roster. They have scoring threats in forwards such as Filip Forsberg and Ryan O’Reilly and elite goaltending in Juuse Saros. There is also an above-average defensive core in Nashville, headlined by Roman Josi, Ryan McDonagh and Luke Schenn. The Predators, although being an above-average team, will not make the playoffs, but they are certainly not as far off as some make it seem.
Predators prediction: No playoff berth (No. 5 in Central Division, 89 points)
Coming off a disappointing 2022–23 season, the St. Louis Blues are looking to bounce back. Predictions for the Blues’ season have been all over the place, and I see the Blues as having a slight improvement, but not enough of an improvement to find their way back into the playoffs. The forward core is mediocre at best and is led by Pavel Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou. The defensive core, headlined by Nick Leddy, Colton Parayko and Torey Krug is a bit old but can still get the job done. However, their goaltending is very questionable, as starting goaltender Jordan Binnington is very inconsistent. Despite some bright spots, there are too many question marks surrounding the club, and that is why despite a slight regular season improvement, the Blues will not be in contention for the Stanley Cup.
Blues prediction: No playoff berth (No. 6 in Central Division, 87 points)
The talk of the offseason was whether the Winnipeg Jets were going to initiate a rebuild or make moves to remain competitive. Clearly, the Jets have decided to remain competitive, as they re-signed both elite goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and star forward Mark Scheifele to seven-year contracts. In addition to Scheifele, the Jets have multiple good forwards including Kyle Connor, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikolaj Ehlers. The defensive group, outside of Josh Morrissey, doesn’t look too good on paper, but the elite goaltending of Hellebuyck should help cover up any defensive issues that may arise. At the end of the day, the Jets are not an insanely talented team, but they do have enough talent to clinch a playoff berth. The decision to remain competitive will pay off.
Jets prediction: Playoff berth (No. 4 in Central Division, 95 points)