Last week we covered the two divisions in the Eastern conference. Moving onto a very competitive and interesting central division in the Western conference will make for an intriguing prediction article. Five out of the seven teams in the central division made the playoffs, this just shows how good this division is. If not arguably the best division in hockey.
The same teams seem to be among the top four in this division year after year, and it will most definitely stay that way. I really don’t know where to start with this one, between Dallas relying on young defensemen to play big minutes for them, St. Louis losing Troy Brouwer, David Backes, and Brian Elliott, whilst Chicago has lost a substantial amount of key players and have not added much, plus an early first round exit last year.
I’m going with the Nashville Predators in the top spot for the central division. Bare with me here. Nashville added P.K. Subban who is a proven dominant defenseman in the NHL. Between his offensive, and defensive ability what he is going to bring to Nashville is obvious, they also added Yannick Weber to their bluelines too.
Nashville proved they had the team to make a serious playoff run last year, taking down the number one seeded Anaheim Ducks just shows how dangerous this team can be. A very strong offensive team who just got even better on the back end, who’s to say Nashville don’t have what it takes to be the number one seed in the central division.
Number two in this division, the Dallas Stars. Although the Stars lost a lot of pieces on the back end, they still added Dan Hamhuis, and the general manager seems to be very confident in his young defensemen coming into the season. As well as having two of the best forwards in the NHL in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the offensive side of the puck is no problem here.
The real problem for Dallas is addressing the goalie situation before the 2016-17 season. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi were both signed back which raises concerns, but there is still plenty of time to address the goalie situation before the start of the season.
The Chicago Blackhawks coming in at number three again is most definitely a realistic ranking for this team. The Blackhawks may very well shock me and finish higher, but with the loss of big players, it doesn’t seem possible. Yet again it’s the Blackhawks, time and time again they continue to have great seasons and make the playoffs. While the veteran addition of Brian Campbell is good it just doesn’t outweigh the roster subtractions they made this offseason.
Number four comes in as the St. Louis Blues. I’m being nice here and giving St. Louis the four purely because of their great playoff run last year. Although I could see the Blues dropping to five, I’ll stick to them coming in at four. The losses of Troy Brouwer, David Backes, and Brian Elliott will definitely make an impact on this team next season.
Vladimir Tarasenko will have to continue to put up 40 goals a year; as well as Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo playing big minutes each game will be crucial. New starting goalie Jake Allen has to be the most consistent player for St. Louis to enable this team to stay competitive, or things could get ugly.
Number five, and very possibly number four, the Minnesota Wild. The biggest move for the Wild this offseason was hiring head coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau’s experience will help elevate this Wild team. The addition of veteran center Eric Staal, who will most likely be playing alongside Zach Parise, will be big for Minnesota next year. The Wild made the playoffs last year as well but had a short run. This team has all the pieces and Bruce Boudreau will be able to coach this team into the playoffs again.
Number six and seven are locked in, with it being a very competitive division there’s not much room for error between these two teams. Colorado Avalanche at six again seems to be the only place to put them. They’re a very young team and have not made much offseason success, so six has to be given to Colorado.
The Winnipeg Jets come in at seven again, it’s the only place they can go. Winnipeg struggled to be consistent last year which hurt them in the end, and with the central division being one of the best divisions in hockey there is no time for teams to go into a rut during the campaign. However, the draft pick of Patrik Laine shines some light on this Winnipeg team, being that Laine was among the top three in points for the World Juniors this year.