The Pacific Division is incredibly top heavy. You have the Golden Knights up top followed by the Oilers and possibly a bounce-back year from the Flames. Beyond that? We’ll have to wait and see.
Now that Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are signed, can the Canucks put last season behind them and take a step forward? How will the expansion Kraken do in their inaugural year? Which of the California teams will make a jump? The Kings seem primed to make a move, but the Ducks are on track to leave the rebuild behind and start making progress. The Sharks have a mix of old and youth but don’t seem fully committed to one direction. Will this season help solidify their options?
Here’s how the PHT staff see the very competitive Pacific Division finishing up.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Forgive the pun, but the Flames always burn me; they are to my predictions what the Maple Leafs are to their fans’ spirits. The Golden Knights appear more wobbly, yet steady in a weak Pacific where one shrugs and says “when in doubt, McDavid’s team goes possibly too high.” To me, everything about the Kraken’s team-building screams falling short of the playoffs, yet failing to land a precious high first-rounder.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Vegas seems like the only slam dunk playoff lock here in this division, while the other seven teams all seem like they could easily finish in any order without it being much of a surprise. Edmonton should be a playoff lock with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the roster, but have you seen its defense and goaltending situation? Vancouver has some intriguing young talent and improved forward depth, but the defense is a major question mark. Calgary is mediocre, San Jose is bad, Anaheim refuses to rebuild, and Seattle is an expansion team. The Kings have a chance to make a big jump here, and I think they do this season.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: It would be a huge upset in my mind if Vegas does not win the Pacific. After that, I see things being a little more wide open, with Edmonton leading the pack of what is a weaker division overall.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Vegas is the class of the division but you never know how far Connor McDavid could take the Oilers. Calgary should be improved this season but if not, then Vancouver is poised to finish in the playoffs. The three California teams are rebuilding with Los Angeles being the best of the bunch. I think the Kraken will be competitive and could beat out Anaheim for seventh, but teams will be wary of the expansion team right off the bat, rather than be surprised like they were with Vegas four years ago.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Will the Kraken replicate the Golden Knights’ inaugural season success? Probably not, but it’s still a competitive bunch, one that might be strengthened during the season if the playoffs are a realistic possibility.