Now, we shift our focus to the Western Conference.
The Arizona Coyotes are continuing with their rebuild, but for the first time in many years, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Arizona has a plethora of young talent in forwards such as Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Logan Cooley, Barrett Hayton and others. For the time being, the Coyotes are not ready to compete for a playoff spot due to below-average defense and goaltending. However, with the young talent the Coyotes have brought in, the future is bright in the desert, but the club will have to wait another year or two before they are ready to compete for a playoff berth.
Coyotes prediction: No playoff berth (No. 7 in Central Division, 75 points)
Despite being one of the least talented teams in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks have received constant media attention thanks to rookie forward Connor Bedard, who Chicago selected with the first overall pick in this past summer’s NHL entry draft. Bedard, one of the best prospects of our generation, has instantly become the face of the Blackhawks, and is the centerpiece of their rebuild and for the team’s future. Chicago acquired veteran forwards Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno this past summer to mentor Bedard and help him get accustomed to NHL-level hockey. Apart from these three, however, the club lacks other noticeable pieces, as the front office has committed to a multi-year rebuild. With poor forward depth, a bad defensive core and inconsistent goaltending, the Blackhawks will perform as expected this season: as a team in a complete rebuild. Bedard and the Blackhawks will not come close to a playoff berth this season, and it will most likely take them a few years to be in a position to do so.
Blackhawks prediction: No playoff berth (No. 8 in Central Division, 61 points)
The Colorado Avalanche are absolutely stacked, up and down the lineup. It all starts with superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon and superstar defenseman Cale Makar, both of whom are among the best at what they do. In addition, Colorado also has many other notable star players, including forwards Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Devon Toews. The club also has very good forward depth in their bottom six with players such as Tomas Tatar and Ross Colton. In the grand scheme of things, Colorado is one of the most well-balanced teams, if not the most, in all of hockey. Combining that, their discipline and their overwhelming supply of star power, the Avalanche will be one of the best teams in the NHL this season and are one of the premiere contenders for the Stanley Cup.
Avalanche prediction: Playoff berth (No. 1 in Central Division, 107 points)
The Dallas Stars are another very talented team. It starts in goal with top goaltender Jake Oettinger and continues right into their defense with effective defensemen such as Ryan Suter and Miro Heiskanen. Among their forward group, there are a lot of scoring threats, especially among superstar Jason Robertson and stars Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn. The Stars are one of those teams that see consistent contribution from all facets of their team, and that will bode well for them this season.
Stars prediction: Playoff berth (No. 2 in Central Division, 106 points)