The final division in our prediction series is the Central Division.
Like the Metropolitan Division, this division is extremely contested; last season the top three teams in the Central finished all within one point of each other, (Nashville 100, Winnipeg 99, and St. Louis 99).
With teams like Dallas, and Colorado looking to continue to get back to the top of the standings, expect to see yet another tight finish this year.
1. Colorado Avalanche:
After a second straight playoff appearance, the Avalanche continued their rebuild this off-season.
All that is left for Colorado to do is lock up Rantanen with an extension, and this team now has one of the deepest four lines in the NHL.
Up front the Avalanche have Landeskog, MacKinnon, Burakovsky, Jost, Kadri, Donskoi, Wilson, Compher, Calvert, Nieto, Bellemare, and Nichushkin.
On Defense Colorado has a little work to do but still has a solid group of Defensemen in Zadorov, Johnson, Girard, Ian Cole, and Cale Makar.
The only thing that puts a limit on how far the Avalanche can go this season is Grubauer in net.
With the roster Joe Sakic has built, bright days are ahead for the Colorado Avalanche.
2. Nashville Predators:
Nashville struggled all season last year with consistent scoring; the Predators had the league’s worst power play, despite recording the tenth most shots on goal in the NHL.
With the exception of P.K. Subban, the Predators are returning with the same team, along with the addition of Duchene to solidify the Predators’ Center position, which now consists of Ryan Johansen, Duchene, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, and Nick Bonino.
On Wing Nashville has Forsberg, and Arvidsson, Granlund, and Grimaldi, Jarnkrok, and Watson, along with Colton Sissons; another deep Forward cast.
Yes, the Predators will feel the loss of Subban, however he is coming off his worst statistical season in Nashville.
Josi, Ellis, and Ekholm will have to pick up the slack as there is a clear drop in talent from their top three to Fabbro, Hamhuis, and Weber.
At 36, Pekka Rinne must get back to his Vezina Trophy winning form if this team wants any chance of going far into the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
3. Dallas Stars:
The Dallas Stars made a solid playoff appearance last year taking down Nashville in six games, before falling to the Blues in seven games; the Blues would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
Back boned by Ben Bishop in net, the Stars allowed the second fewest goals against, and posted the fifth best penalty kill in the NHL.
The additions of Pavelski, Perry, and Cogliano are a boost on offense, which heavily relied on Seguin, and Jamie Benn last year.
Dallas will be making a playoff appearance again this year, on top of that if Bishop can stand on his head again, they may even be finishing higher than third in the Central.
4. St. Louis Blues:
The defending Stanley Cup champions start their title defense October 2nd against the Washington Capitals.
With the exception of Patrick Maroon, this roster is the same from last year.
Yet I still do not see the Blues taking the Central Division this season.
Yes this is a Stanley Cup contender team, which speaks to how deep this division is, however after the top three lines the Blues are thin compared to Colorado, Nashville, and Dallas.
The deciding factor for the Blues is Jordan Binnington in net.
5. Winnipeg Jets:
Winnipeg is taking a step back this season.
With still no extension in place for Laine, the Jets lack depth up front with Ehlers, Scheifele, Wheler, Little, and Perreault leading the way.
Same story on defense, Morrissey, and Dustn Byfuglien will carry a heavy work load, while Conor Hellebuyck attempts to have a bounce back season in net after a lack luster First Round exit to the Blues.
Winnipeg fans better pray that Laine and the Jets agree to an extension.
6. Chicago Blackhawks:
The Blackhawks resemble the Los Angeles Kings, aging core that can not get it done anymore.
Chicago’s only hope is for Patrick Kane, Toews, Duncan Keith, Seabrook, and Crawford to carry this team to the playoffs; by no means am I saying that will happen.
Add to the mix Saad, DeBrincat, Strome, and Shaw, along with Maata on Defense, and that is about all Chicago has.
The addition of Robin Lehner in net will certainly help if Crawford hits a rough patch, which he has shown to do.
It will be an improvement this season for Chicago this season however I do not expect to see a playoff appearance for the Blackhawks.
7. Minnesota Wild:
First things first, this roster may be deeper than Chicago’s however the goaltending situation gives the Blackhawks the edge over the Wild.
Up front the Wild have Fiala, Staal, Zucker, Parise, Donato, Zuccarello, Greenway, Koivu, and Hartman; not a terrible core, yet weaker than other Central Division teams.
Besides Suter, and Spurgeon Minnesota lacks serious depth on Defense.
Devan Dubnyk in net is not promising either when compared to Rinne, and Bishop.
At best the Wild finish fifth in this division, ahead of Chicago, and Winnipeg.
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