Western Conference and Trophy Predictions

While it may be shallow, the West will still provide some sparks this season, potentially even providing an eventual champion. Here’s how the conference will shake down and who will lift some hardware this season.


Nathan MacKinnon hopes to lead the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup this season. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Now that the Eastern Conference is settled, it’s time to see who will join them on the other side of the playoff bracket. The Western Conference has only produced one Stanley Cup Champion since 2016 — the 2019 St. Louis Blues — and only a handful of teams will be able to reverse that coming into this season. As deep as the East is, the West is shallow. Let’s take a look. 

I started off my East predictions by eliminating four teams. This time, I am going to eliminate seven: the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators from the Central and the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific. 

I am convinced Arizona is trying to lose this season. Every single move this summer made the team worse in one of the wilder business models the league has ever seen. Nashville sold off pieces this offseason and has one of the worst cap sheets there is. Both Anaheim and San Jose are trying to lose as well. This might be the King’s corner-turning season, but it will not lead them to the playoffs. Calgary and Vancouver are simply bad. 

Seven are out, which leaves nine teams competing for eight spots. When looking at the Pacific division, I have only left myself three teams to put into three spots: the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers and Seattle Mariners. 

Vegas is the NHL’s number one playoff lock. They are not going to miss a step this year so they are guaranteed to win the crown in a brutal division. Edmonton had a nice regular season last year but barely showed up in the playoffs. Connor McDavid is poised for another huge season and will power the team into the playoffs basically out of default. 

The second consecutive expansion team to make the playoffs will come this year with the Seattle Kraken. This team is bad — very bad as a matter of fact — but their goaltending is good and Philip Grubauer will win them games. 

Now there are five spots for the six remaining teams in the Central division. Colorado is coming back with a vengeance after their underwhelming playoff exit last year. They are my pick for the President’s Trophy and Darcy Kuemper will flourish behind Cale Makar and Devon Toews. 

Behind them is where it starts to get interesting. Minnesota should make the playoffs after Kirill Kaprizov signed his five-year, $45 million deal. They are still very weak down the middle though, which a Jack Eichel trade could certainly help. A lot also rides on Cam Talbot’s ability to capitalize on a great season last year. 

I like Winnipeg a lot and American hockey fans should too. Connor Hellebuyck is two years removed from his Vezina trophy win and is a favorite to add another in front of an improved defensive core. Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers are primed for a step up as captain Blake Wheeler enters the latter half of his career. Hellebuyck, Connor and Wheeler will most likely all be on the United States Olympic Team in February, however.

One of the final two spots will go to St. Louis, which had a nice offseason with the addition of Brandon Saad and Colton Parayko’s new contract. I think they’ll sneak into the Wild Card in the West. 

That leaves the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks for the final spot. I hate the moves Chicago made this offseason. Seth Jones was wildly overpaid and Tyler Johnson is over the hill. We are going to find out very quickly whether Marc-Andre Fleury’s Vezina was a systemic trophy or earned on his greatness. Their cap sheet is vomit-inducing, meaning that Dallas, who is also not a good team, will grab the eighth spot over them.

With all of that in mind, here is how the West will shake up: 


Vegas Golden Knights

Edmonton Oilers

Seattle Kraken


Colorado Avalanche

Winnipeg Jets

Minnesota Wild

St. Louis Blues

Dallas Stars

And here are my picks for the playoffs:

Vegas will defeat Dallas and Edmonton to reach the Conference Finals, while the Avalanche will take down St. Louis again and Winnipeg before slaying their demons against the Knights to reach the Stanley Cup. 

The Islanders will beat the Rangers and Hurricanes on their way to a third straight Conference Final. Tampa is going to be exhausted by the end of this season, but they will beat Boston before losing to Florida in the second round. I will take New York over Florida in the East. They are battle-tested and out for revenge. 

Then it will be Colorado over New York in a brisk five-game series with Nathan MacKinnon winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. That is how things will play out come June.

Last but not least, here are my regular season trophy predictions:

Hart: Connor McDavid (EDM)

Vezina: Connor Hellebuyck (WPG)

Calder: Cole Caulfield (MTL)

Norris: Charlie McAvoy (BOS)

Adams: Jared Bednar (COL)