2021-22 NHL Season Preview (Western Conference)

Carter Bentivenga, Managing Editor

The 2021-22 NHL season is upon us, and it’s time to predict where each team will finish! This article will focus on the Western Conference, taking an in-depth look at both the Central and Pacific divisions. Enjoy!

Pacific division

1: Vegas Golden Knights: I never like to label something in sports as “obvious” but this was an exception. If Vegas doesn’t win this division, either another team overperformed or the Knights had some injury issues.

2: Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers don’t have an amazing blue line or in net, but they do have the two best forwards in hockey in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Those two alone can carry Edmonton to the postseason (they did it last year).

3: Seattle Kraken: Might come as a shock, but yes I have the new kids on the block going to the big dance. Seattle might have some scoring trouble, but they have an elite defense and two great goalies. I like the look of this team on paper, don’t sleep on these guys.

4: Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver definitely looks better on paper, especially adding Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the offseason. But I still have concerns about their blue line. I think they’ll rebound from a disappointing 2020-21 season, but it won’t be enough for playoffs. 

5: Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are looking to take that next step in their rebuild. They seem to be legit about it, adding Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault in the offseason. I think they’ll be competitive, but playoffs might be a bit of a reach. Wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong and they wind up making it though in a weak division.

6: Calgary Flames: Calgary didn’t do anything big in the offseason outside of signing forward Blake Coleman (formerly with Tampa) from free agency. Other than that, this is basically the same team that struggled mightily last year. Things could change in a weak division, but I don’t see CGY making it.

7: Anaheim Ducks: Ditto my comments on the Sharks. I am excited to see what Trevor Zegras can do in his first full season though, could see him being rookie of the year.

8: San Jose Sharks: Not much to say here. Looks to be another tough year for San Jose, just looking to develop young talent. No playoffs in SJ. 

 

Central division

1: Colorado Avalanche: Similar to Vegas, in that if they don’t win this division, there’s something wrong. This team is stacked, and practically zero weakness throughout their roster. 

2: Winnipeg Jets: I’m very high on this Jets team. They went out and addressed their blue line and made it a lot stronger, adding Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon. They still have a great forward corps and Connor Hellebuyck in net, this should be a good year for the Jets.

3: Dallas Stars: The Stars are looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2020-21 season, and I think they do. They didn’t add a ton other than defenseman Ryan Suter and goalie Braden Holtby, but a lot of players are set to bounce back after down years last year. They’ll also get center Tyler Seguin back after having been injured for a good amount of last season. Watch out for Dallas this year. 

4: Minnesota Wild: For the first time in a long time these guys were really fun to watch (led by rookie phenom Kirill Kaprizov) and re-signing him to a five-year, $45-million deal was massive. I still see the Wild being a playoff team, but not quite good enough to crack the top three.

5: St. Louis Blues: The Blues had a solid offseason, adding Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Sad to bolster their top-six. This team is solid outside of them, but the Central is looking to be solid this year. It’s 50/50 for me, but I have them on the outside.

6: Nashville Predators: The Preds are in a weird spot. They’re still competitive, but I’m not sure if they’ll have enough in the tank to make the playoffs. I have them missing for now, but only time will tell.

7: Chicago Blackhawks: A lot of people see the additions of reigning Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury, all-star defenseman Seth Jones and Stanley Cup champion Tyler Johnson and think this team is playoff bound. I’m not buying it yet. Outside of the top-six, this team doesn’t have a ton of forward depth, and they were one of the worst of the league in terms of team defense. Only time will tell though, but I have Chicago on the outside looking in.

8: Arizona Coyotes: Not much to report on here. A lot of big trades this offseason as the Coyotes prepare to enter a rebuild. I don’t see this being a pretty year in Arizona.