The 2021-22 National Hockey League season begins on Tuesday, October 12th. In the Western Conference, there are a lot of question marks as there was no representative from the Western Conference in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
With the NHL going back to the pre-COVID-19 divisions the Western Conference will be wide open for the conference crown and division champions. Today, we take a deep dive into each Western Conference division and the top three teams in each of them.
CENTRAL DIVISION: COLORADO AVALANCHE
The Colorado Avalanche come into the 2021-22 season with a major change on the back end. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer now is set to play this season with the Seattle Kraken. The Avs have decided on the 31-year-old Darcy Kuemper to hold down the fort in the net.
With a loaded top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen combined with a more experienced defensive core headlined by Cale Makar, expect the Avalanche to run away with the Central Division this season.
Dallas will look to forget about their 2020 season when they finished 5th in their division. Overall, they just barely averaged more goals for than goals against per game last season. With the up-and-coming winger Jason Robertson in the mix, that will take a lot of the weight off of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to carry the load for the Stars.
With the help of Miro Heiskanen and newly signed Ryan Suter on defense along with Stanley Cup-winning Braden Holtby to secure the net, the Dallas Stars will be much improved and return to competitive hockey in 2021.
They say one player can’t complete and change a hockey team. What about four? The Blackhawks have arguably two of the best in the game with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Combine that with the additions of defensemen Seth Jones and Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Blackhawks have their sights set on a possible division crown and a deep playoff run. They have a great mix of young prospects who are coming into their own and ready to help assist the next Stanely Cup runs that the Hawks have in them while they still have their two future Hall of Famers under contract.
PACIFIC DIVISION: EDMONTON OILERS
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, is there much more that is needed to be said? Anytime a franchise has two of the top five players in the NHL, anything less than a deep playoff run is considered a failure. As always, they have veteran netminder Mike Smith controlling the blue paint, he will provide much-needed help and poise for the young Oilers.
With the addition of 38-year-old defenseman, Duncan Keith the Oilers have seemed to have a temporary solution for their lack of consistency on the defensive end of things. As long as everyone stays healthy, this team could make a division-winning run and go deeper in the playoffs than ever before.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The Golden Knights have now set their sights with a solid number one goalie. They no longer have a goaltender controversy as they look for Robin Lehner to lead the way between the pipes.
This team is deep throughout their forward lines, combine that with the recent playoff experience this team has seen will only help them down the road. As long as they can find consistency in their defensive core, this team will once again compete for a Stanley Cup.
The most recent addition to the NHL, the Kraken have arrived! They come in with a new roster full of expansion picks that will have something to prove in year one. They won’t turn out a season as Vegas did in their inaugural season, but they will be competitive in their first season.
They have veteran leadership from their captain Mark Giordano on defense and they have a Vezina caliber goaltender in Philipp Grubaruer at the helm. If they can ride a hot goaltender and get to a fast start this season, the Kraken could break into a playoff spot this season and possibly create some first-season chaos.