The Vegas Golden Knights won the Pacific Division by a two-point margin over the Edmonton Oilers and had the best record in the Western Conference. Who are the top three threats to challenge the Golden Knights in the Pacific for the 2023-24 season?
The Golden Knights will be able to dress nearly an identical lineup to open the 2023-24 season as that won game five of the Stanley Cup Final.
“Our objective has been to try to keep as much as our roster together as we can. I think we will be able to almost return our team almost intact, which is pretty uncommon for a Stanley Cup winner,” Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said from Nashville.
May of the teams in the Pacific Division have been re-tooling their rosters to knock the Golden Knights off the top. Who are the three biggest threats to take the top spot away from the Golden Knights?
Seattle Kraken: This may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but the Kraken is the top threat to the Golden Knights next season in the Pacific Division. The Kraken have experienced much less roster turnover this offseason when compared to the other Pacific Division powerhouses. Going from 60 points in their inaugural season to 100 points in their sophomore season, it isn’t unreasonable to pencil the Kraken for at least another 100 points in their third season.
Kailer Yamamoto gets a fresh start in the northwest and a change of scenery may be all he needs to grow into a 50-point-per-season type of player. Brian Dumoulin was brought in to offer consistency on the blue line.
Similar to the Golden Knights, the Kraken roster will look very similar year over year.
Los Angeles Kings: Perhaps another surprise to some, but the Kings will be a bigger threat than the Edmonton Oilers. The Kings acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois in possibly the biggest trade of the offseason. Many complimentary players were sent to Winnipeg in the deal and the Kings are looking for internal options to round out their roster.
Todd McLellan is the best coach in the Pacific Division not named Bruce Cassidy. The Kings have a defensive system that makes the neutral zone seem like quicksand.
Edmonton Oilers: How can the Oilers be the third threat to challenge the Golden Knights for the top spot? Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best players on the planet. Unfortunately for the Oilers, coach Jay Woodcroft has been unable to get enough out of the other 18 players that are on the ice on a nightly basis.
The Oilers are not known for having decent defense or goaltending. Beyond a world-class powerplay, the Oilers are an average team, at best. Watchout if the Oilers ever figure out their defense and goaltending issues.
Best of the rest: Everyone wants out of Calgary. San Jose is in step two of a 47 step rebuild. Vancouver is in that weird place between being competitive and rebuilding. Anaheim could be the dark horse to emerge from the bottom four teams in the Pacific. There is no shortage of young talent in Anaheim and Radko Gudas was brought in to offer some veteran leadership.