We’re about a month away from the start of the NHL’s 2023-24 regular season, so it’s a good time to look at and breakdown the predictions for the 2023-24 NHL Season
The talk right now is that the Atlantic Division is where the fiercest competition will lie. If true, it will be a dogfight from top to bottom.
NHL Western Conference vs. NHL Eastern Conference pic.twitter.com/2IwsdRzqeO
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 27, 2023
The Western Conference last year did provide the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, the Vegas Golden Knights, however, it can be argued that the teams in the East beat each other up physically, tenderizing the eventual finalist, Florida Panthers.
The Atlantic may be the talk of the NHL in terms of competition, but no one should overlook the Metropolitan Division. Both divisions have five, maybe even six teams each that could vie for a playoff berth. Using the odds provided by some sports betting sites, we build the picture of the Eastern Conference.
- Toronto Maple Leafs (106.5)
- Boston Bruins (100.5)
- Florida Panthers (98.5)
- Carolina Hurricanes (107.5)
- New Jersey Devils (105.5)
- New York Rangers (101.5)
WC 1 Tampa Bay Lightning (97.5)
WC 2 Pittsburgh Penguins (96.5)
Buffalo Sabres (92.5)
New York Islanders (91.5)
Ottawa Senators (91.5)
Washington Capitals (85.5)
Detroit Red Wings (85.5)
Philadelphia Flyers (75.5)
Columbus Blue Jackets (73.5)
Montreal Canadiens (71.5)
The odds also have seven of eight teams from last year’s playoffs to qualify again, with the only new addition being the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New York Islanders. Because this season, Pittsburgh has made some moves to their depth to insulate themselves from the injury bug that plagued them for long stretches last season and the Islanders have essentially remained status quo.
The Battle for the Top
The Carolina Hurricanes continue their winning ways, leading the way with 107.5 points, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils nipping at their heels for the top seed in the Conference.
Timo Meier is a BEAST.
He is going to score tons of goals for the New Jersey Devils, especially if he keeps receiving passes like this one from Jack Hughes:
— Vinnie Parise (@VinnieParise) September 5, 2023
But the regular season is not how these teams will judge their season’s success. The Devils feel like they are an emerging superpower and want to prove that with a deep run. The Hurricanes have been unable to get past the Conference Final and desperately want to take that step into a legitimate threat. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs have been a self-professed “contender” but have only won one playoff series in the last two decades, and with their salary cap structure, will need to win now.
Non-Playoff Teams That Could Shock Us
The Senators have a young core that is on the cusp of reaching its prime years. That means it’s time for them to take that next step and become a playoff team. Yet they play in the Atlantic making things much more difficult. Led by their captain Brady Tkachuk, they have grit, size and skill. Their blueline is anchored by all-star Thomas Chabot, and now, 2020 fifth-overall pick, Jake Sanderson.
🚨Ottawa Senators defenceman Jake Sanderson inked to an 8 year extension with an AAV of $8.05 million 💸
— Bodog (@BodogCA) September 7, 2023
If the team comes together and remains healthy, they can be the dark horse team to make the playoffs. Florida snuck in last season with 92 points, and Ottawa is projected to get to that total, and it may be enough if another team stumbles. If they do get in, they can prove to be as difficult an out as the Panthers. However, the Sens need two more things if they truly want to make that push. First, is reliable goaltending, which has not been there so far. The second is center depth, which can be solved internally, maybe.
— Blain (@BlainPotvin_THW) September 7, 2023
The Senators are projected to have just under $1M in cap space, and Shane Pinto is still without a deal.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus fell on hard times last season due to the injury bug. Despite signing star forward Johnny Gaudreau, to play alongside Patrik Laine, they lacked scoring punch, finishing 30th in the NHL with only 213 goals for and the 26th-ranked power play.
Pure filth from Patrik Laine pic.twitter.com/083y3w4N1X
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 2, 2022
But GM Jarmo Kekalainen put all his chips into the middle, trading for Ivan Provorov, signing Dameon Severson and drafting Adam Fantilli at third overall. There is also the possibility of seeing young defensive prospects in David Jiricek (6th overall in 2022) and Denton Mateychuck (12th overall in 2022).
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 4, 2023
All of this to say, Kekalainen has done some important work to ensure there is a steady flow of young talent to add to the lineup. So if the team remains healthy, and the young players, specifically Fantilli can step in as solid day-to-day contributors, then Columbus will far exceed the projected finish as a cellar dweller and make a legitimate push for a wild card spot.