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2022-23 NHL Season Predictions

Looking into the cloudy crystal ball to predict the upcoming hockey season!

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

After all the summer heat, the waiting, some previews, all the pre-season events, more waiting, the 2022-23 NHL season kicks off in earnest tonight with two prime time games. The Penguins will get going on Thursday, so while we endure even a little bit more waiting before the games start, let’s knock out some season predictions.

Pacific Division

1. Calgary Flames
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Edmonton Oilers
4. Vegas Golden Knights
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Seattle Kraken
7. Anaheim Ducks
8. San Jose Sharks

—Big marks to the Flames, who avoided potential disaster when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each elected to not want to stay in Calgary. The Flames pivoted quickly and added Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar and, yeah, that’ll do for this year.

Another team I’m bullish on: The continued rise of the Kings, now with Kevin Fiala as another great pickup.

Prediction that brings pause (team in doubt): Easily Vegas for this division. They’re healthy goalies entering the season are Adin Hill and Logan Thompson. It could go south big time for them based on not knowing what to expect from such unproven goaltending. I put them fourth mainly because I don’t have much faith in the bottom half of the division, but it wouldn’t be shocking to me if this is the team that ends up far off from my prediction.

Central Division

1. Minnesota Wild
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Nashville Predators
4. Dallas Stars
5. St. Louis Blues
6. Winnipeg Jets
7. Arizona Coyotes
8. Chicago Blackhawks

—Call me crazy, but I’ll keep it fun and not predict the Avs to win their division this season. Maybe the champs start a little slow after a short summer. Maybe they just hold a little in reserve to gear up for the playoffs. Or, hell, maybe they really will run away with it and pick up where they left off. But where is the fun in that?

Another team I’m bullish on: In general, the Wild. Marc-Andre Fleury has seemed to rotate between “average” and “great” years, and he’s lined up for a possible very good one. The roster isn’t perfect with the cap penalties but they have some young, fresh talent up front and should be one of the more solid teams in the league.

Prediction that brings pause (team in doubt): In this division, it was the Jets for me as the team I’m least confident in their placement. If you tell me they ended up in fourth or even third place in this division at the end of the year and make the playoffs, it wouldn’t be that surprising. They have some talent in place, but just seem to be missing that “it” factor.

Western playoffs

I have the Central division grabbing both of the wild cards, which would make the first round:

Calgary vs. St. Louis
Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Minnesota vs. Dallas
Colorado vs. Nashville

Atlantic division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Florida Panthers
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Boston Bruins
6. Buffalo Sabres
7. Detroit Red Wings
8. Montreal Canadiens

—For about the 10th time in the last 20 years, this just has to be the year for Toronto to achieve some success, doesn’t it? On paper all the pieces are in place (until you get to the goaltending position, anyways) but even at goalie there is upside and a scenario where it all works out. Of course, being the Leafs, it never works out.

Another team I’m bullish on: In this division, it’s more like who I am NOT bullish on. Florida’s defense looks very shaky in its depth, Tampa has lost key pieces from their Cup runs, Boston has so many key players injured and set to miss time (and be who knows how effective upon their return). I’m just kinda down on this whole division’s strength relative to the past.

Prediction that brings pause (team in doubt): Putting the upstart Senators to finish above the veteran and very consistent Bruins is a move that has “high blowup potential” written on it just as soon as it was written.

Metropolitan Division

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. New York Rangers
4. Washington Capitals
5. New Jersey Devils
6. New York Islanders
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
8. Philadelphia Flyers

—I believe the Penguins are poised for a successful regular season with the pieces they have in place. The top three teams could be very close by the end, but we’ll call it like this. I’ve suspected the Capitals could finish as high as second at times, but have cooled on them a bit.

Another team I’m bullish on: The Devils, I guess. Wouldn’t be totally shocked if CBJ and NJD flip spots, there’s definitely the opportunity for a surprise team to step up in this division, the challenge is calling who it could be.

Prediction that brings pause (team in doubt): Scratch below the surface, and the wheels could be wobbling for the Rangers and the Capitals with various concerns like age, lineup issues, 5v5 process, reliance on goaltending. As ties into the above, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if a playoff team from last year drops down and a new face pops up, but I’m also not going to be brave enough to call it here.

Eastern playoffs

My outlook has the Atlantic and Metro fourth place finishers both getting in, to set the stage as:

Toronto vs. Ottawa (too good for comedic potential!)
Tampa vs. Florida

Pittsburgh vs. Washington
Carolina vs. NYR

I suspect the league office would be very pleased with these potential Eastern Conference matchups if the season actually unfolded in this way.

Critique these or place your own predictions and we’ll see how it turns out.