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In recent years, the Pacific Division has been the weaker of the two in the Western Conference. This year, the teams are restructuring and hope to change that trend.
The Edmonton Oilers had a weak finish last year, finishing with only 24 wins and 6th in the Pacific Division. Their recent weakness, however, has led to their early draft picks. Their most important and anticipated addition this year is superstar prospect Connor McDavid, who will play alongside Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins. Their new goalie Talbot needs to be able to play at the NHL level for the Oilers to experience better results this season. We see the Oilers finishing 5th in the Pacific Division this season.
The Anaheim Ducks finished with a record of 51-24-7 last season, ending 1st in the Pacific Division. They lost to the Blackhawks in the conference finals in a heartbreaking game 7 loss at home. The Ducks should still be a challenge to play this year, with game-changing duo Getzlaf and Perry complementing goalies Anderson and Gibson. The depth of their lineup should be enough for them to replicate their playoff run this year too, but the Ducks need to finally win a game 7 to win it all this year. We see them at 1st in the Pacific Division again this season.
The Calgary Flames had an incredible comeback season last year and if they can continue their momentum this season, they should be a major threat. They still have the young dynamic duo of Gaudreau and Mohahen in addition to three NHL-level goalies before considering prospect Gilles. The Flames need to keep their success going this season to make it to the playoffs again. We see them at 2nd in the Pacific Division.
The Los Angeles Kings had a disappointing season last year, and did not even make the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup the year before. The Kings still have most of the elements in their 2013 winning formula, including superb goaltender Quick and players Kopitar and Doughty. The Kings need to redeem themselves this season and have most of the players capable of winning. We see them 3rd in the Pacific Division.
The Arizona Coyotes don’t have much going for them. However, after a disappointing 7th place finish in the Pacific Division, they had the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft. Veterans Doan and Vermette should still be able to lead the team and addition of rookies Strome and Domi need to have a big impact to turn around the Coyotes this season. We see them 7th in the Pacific Division again.
The Vancouver Canucks finished 2nd in Pacific Division last year before losing to Calgary in 6 games in the first round. The Canucks can look forward to prospects Shinkaruk, Horvat, and Kenins while continuing to rely on Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The questions remain as to how aging goalie Ryan Miller will perform, and if their aging core can make the playoffs again. We see them finishing 6th in the Pacific Division.
The San Jose Sharks had a mediocre season last season, finishing 5th in the Pacific Division. Their positives revolve around offensive stars in Couture, Burns, and Pavelski. Aging stars Thornton and Marleau need to continue performing to ensure that the team retains its edge this season. We see them finishing 4th in the Pacific Division this season.
Between the new 3-on-3 overtime policy, highly anticipated prospects, restructuring and aging of many teams, this season could prove to be one of the most exciting to watch.
Austin Petronack, CSN Staff
Josh Mehr, Contributor