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NHL 2022-23 Pacific Division Predictions

With rebuilds and a plethora of new faces, the Pacific Division could be full of surprises during the 2022-23 season.

Over the past few seasons, the Pacific Division has been regarded as the weakest in the NHL. I believe that perception will begin to fade away as some of the rebuilding teams are returning to the playoff hunt.

Like last season, I see this division having a neck-and-neck battle for that wildcard spot, as well as a heated battle for first in the division. A lot of the teams either improved or are running it back with a similar core that has brought success.

I’ll be listing the teams in order of where I think they’ll finish in the standings.

1. Edmonton Oilers

Last Season: 49-27-6 104 points 2nd in Pacific

Last season, the Oilers reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in over ten years, and will no doubt be hungry for more. With the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers have one of, if not the most prolific offenses in the division.

If the team can find some consistency on the blue line, it’s going to make it even harder for their opponents to out-score them. Even if the defense struggles it’s no secret this team can score goals at will with that much talent up front.

The signing of Jack Campbell should also help keep the puck out of their net throughout the season.

If Campbell brings consistent play throughout the season, Edmonton could emerge as another powerhouse in the Western Conference.

With their top-6 remaining intact and the addition of Campbell in net, the Oilers have the means to win the division and go on another deep run in the playoffs.

2. Calgary Flames

Last Season: 50-21-11 111 points 1st in Pacific

The Flames had quite possibly the biggest emotional rollercoasters this offseason. Out went franchise superstars, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but in came Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Nazem Kadri.

With the addition of those 3 players, a case can be made that this team could be better than they were last season. Huberdeau and Gaudreau scored the same number of points (115), Kadri and Tkachuk both have very similar styles of play, albeit Tkachuk has more offensive upside, and the team gets another stud defenseman to add to their already solid defense.

Jacob Markstrom is coming off a season where he led the league in shutouts (9), and was a Vezina finalist. If Markstrom can bring that elite play again, this team is going to be very difficult to score against.

It’s only fitting for the Battle of Alberta to feature two highly talented teams that bring such different systems and styles of play.

If the new players can mesh well on their new team, the Flames will be playoff locks and fighting for first in the Pacific for the majority of the season.

3. Los Angeles Kings

Last Season: 44-27-11 99 points 3rd in the Pacific

The Kings surprised a lot of people when they made the playoffs last season and were just one win away from advancing to the second round.

Not only did the rebuild show success ahead of schedule, but the Kings clinched a playoff berth despite losing Drew Doughty and Sean Walker for most of the season.

If the Kings can remain healthy this season they should find themselves back in a playoff spot by the season’s end.

The addition of Kevin Fiala should help the team in the scoring department, and LA is already known for their shutdown abilities.

LA also has one of the most underrated 1C/2C pairs in Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault. Both players scored over 50 points last season and are some of the best defensive forwards in the league. The Kings are still hoping for their young players to take those next steps in production, and could finally see those steps taken this year.

It’s already proven that the Kings shouldn’t be written off, and I think they’ll continue to surprise fans as this season moves along.

4. Vancouver Canucks

Last Season: 40-30-12 92 points 5th in Pacific

The fourth and fifth places are the hardest for me to pin at the moment. I have the spots between Vegas and Vancouver, and I have to give the spot to the Canucks. At least for now.

I’m interested to see what the Canucks can do with a full season under Bruce Boudreau after he coached them to a 32-15-10 record after replacing Travis Green.

Elias Pettersson is due for a bounce-back season as well, and J.T. Miller is coming off a 99-point season. Ilya Mikheyev brings more speed and talent to a forward group with a good mix of speed and skill with leadership and physicality.

Another factor that’ll likely be in Vancouver’s favor is goaltending. Thatcher Demko is one of the better goalies in the league and has proven his ability to keep the team in games, and even steal some if need be.

Demko played in 64 games last season, a number that Boudreau should try to lower so he can remain well-rested for the playoff push as the season winds down.

The Canucks are a good team that wasn’t far off from making the playoffs last season. I think if they can get off to a much better start this year and remain consistent, they should pick up a wildcard spot out of the Pacific.

5. Las Vegas Golden Knights

Last Season: 43-31-8 94 points 4th in Pacific 

Last Season the Golden Knights missed the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Missing out by just 3 points behind the Nashville Predators.

Without a doubt, injuries were the main factor in Vegas’ struggles as the season winded down. Key players like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alec Martinez, and Max Pacioretty all played less than 40 games each. And when they did play, they weren’t 100 percent healthy.

There’s definitely a case to be made for Vegas to return to the playoffs this year. Their roster will be much healthier to start the season, Jack Eichel will play a full season and be fully recovered from the surgery, and they still have the same core as in past seasons.

However, some issues remain both in net, and within the roster in general. Robin Lehner will miss the entire 2022-23 season due to injury which means the starting job will likely go to rookie goalie, Logan Thompson.

Thompson played well for the Knights last season and gave them plenty of chances to secure enough points to make the playoffs. Despite his impressive play last season, I’m not fully sold on him yet.

I do think he’s a good goalie, but it’s hard to predict how young goalies will perform, especially when they’re being thrust into the starting job.

Can Thompson play well for a full season of play? Can the backups perform well too?

Along with the uncertainty between the pipes, Vegas will need to heavily rely on their stars to perform with the lack of depth on offense. If any injuries resurface, it won’t be long until Vegas finds itself in the same position as last season.

Overall, if all goes right for Vegas they could find themselves back in the playoffs, but I just don’t see the stars aligning for them this year.

6. Anaheim Ducks

Last Season: 31-37-14 76 points 7th in Pacific 

This may come as a shock, but the Ducks are one of the teams I’m most excited to watch this season. They aren’t a playoff team quite yet, but they’ve continued to make steps in the right direction.

The additions of Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and John Klingberg add good depth and skill to an up-and-coming roster. Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry are coming off breakout seasons full of highlight-reel goals. Then there’s Mason McTavish who’s already getting some votes as a potential Calder Trophy candidate.

John Gibson struggled in net for them last season but I could see him bouncing back.

The Ducks are still missing some key pieces to return to playoff contention but that doesn’t mean they’ll be bottom-feeders all season.

If I had to pick a dark horse playoff candidate out of the Pacific, it’d be the Ducks. That said, everything would have to go right for them, and everything would have to go wrong for teams like Vegas and Vancouver. It’s a long shot, but I’m not going to be quick to write them off.

7. Seattle Kraken

Last Season: 27-49-6 60 points 8th in Pacific

The good news for Seattle is they can only go up from their 27-win inaugural season. During the offseason, they made the moves to do so.

The additions of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky should give their offense a bigger punch than last season. Plus Seattle already carries an impressive prospect pool with Matthew Beniers and Shane Wright. Both players have a shot at being NHL regulars for this upcoming season.

The biggest question mark for Seattle will be goaltending, which was abysmal for them last year. Philip Grubauer wasn’t himself and should play much better this year.

Their defense is still a bit questionable, but some teams are worse off in that department.

As long as Seattle sticks to their plan and doesn’t make any panic moves, it won’t be too long until they put out a competitive team.

The main focus for this team is still acquiring futures and draft picks, but that won’t prevent them from showing signs of improvement throughout the 2022-23 season.

8. San Jose Sharks

Last Season: 32-37-13 77 points 6th in Pacific

Finally, we have the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks could be in one of the worst positions for a team, in the NHL. They’re not good enough to make the playoffs, but might not be bad enough to land a top 5 draft pick.

This may sound contradictory as I’m placing them to finish last in the Pacific, but I have my reasons.

Like last season, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl will put up a good number of points, but the scoring will likely vastly drop off among the rest of the team. Without Brent Burns, the defense doesn’t have a lot other than Erik Karlsson and Mario Ferraro. Remember when I said there are teams worse off than Seattle in that department?

James Reimer was great last season, but can he do it again? Especially considering how often he’ll likely get shelled on most nights.

William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau will give this team a shot of youth it desperately needs. But it won’t be enough to carry the team back to a playoff spot.

Even though the team doesn’t have the cap space for a full rebuild, I believe it would be best to try their luck at landing the first overall pick for this year’s draft.

It’ll be interesting to see what new GM Mike Greier can do for this team over the coming seasons, but for now, things don’t look bright for the Sharks.

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