The Central Division might be the most competitive one in the NHL. Colorado is tops of the bunch, but there are a number of teams who could fill out the final playoff spots.
Minnesota will look to build off a strong 2020-21 season with Kirill Kaprizov back in the fold. The Stars are healthy after a forgettable year, but will have to fight through teams like the Jets, who upgraded their blue line, to scratch out a berth in the postseason. How will the new-look Blackhawks perform with pressure to win? Will Vladimir Tarasenko‘s summer trade request affect the Blues’ at all? What direction are the Predators heading? Can the rebuilding Coyotes show signs there’s light at the end of the tunnel?
Here’s how the PHT staff see the very competitive Central Division finishing up.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: No one will touch the Avalanche in the Central, but the final playoff spots will be a fun race. The Blues seem steady as usual, and the Jets have improved their blue line. Are the Wild and Kirill Kaprizov a one-season fluke? If the Stars can stay healthy, they have a real shot at stealing a playoff spot out of the division.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Is Colorado’s window slowly closing? Tons of players are one year away from unrestricted free agency. Nathan MacKinnon is two years away from UFA and a major pay raise. At the very least, this could be the Avs’ final season with a roster that is this stacked.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Both Western Conference divisions sure feel like “Top Team, and everyone else,” and that starts with the mighty Avalanche. From there, one could picture any number of situations, including a huge glow-up from the Blackhawks. For these rankings, I’m simply going with teams I trust the most — congrats to Winnipeg for regaining that with an offseason of massive improvements on defense.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Colorado should win this division easily. Winnipeg and Minnesota should battle it out for second and third while Dallas, if Seguin and Radulov are healthy, should get fourth. I think the Blues will get the final playoff spot as the Pacific is awfully weak after Vegas and Edmonton. Chicago needs great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and if they get it, they could be as high as third. Nashville made the playoffs last season but it will be tough this year while Arizona is rebuilding.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Colorado rules the division, but Dallas makes a big jump with a healthy Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov making huge impacts. If they are healthy a year ago this is a playoff team. The defense and goaltending is legit. There are five playoff teams here, and Chicago is not one of them despite all of that spending this offseason.