The NHL Playoff race will be stacked this season, and even the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights, will be hard-pressed to keep up.
The latest NHL odds are showing as many as 26 teams with a legitimate shot of making the NHL playoffs, leaving the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, and Columbus Blue Jackets on the outside looking in.
But what’s even more interesting has to be the conference breakdowns and how the competition will vary in the East and West this season.
Let’s take a look at the Western Conference and where the Vegas Golden Knights stand:
The Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, and Dallas Stars are expected to fill out the first four spots in the Western Conference.
Three of the four teams had impressive seasons, with the Golden Knights ultimately winning the Stanley Cup, but a healthy Avalanche squad could also do some damage this season.
Champing at the bit are the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets.
The Wild have kept their core intact and should have some top prospects pushing for more prominent roles this season, but all eyes will be on Filip Gustavsson to repeat his performance from his breakout season.
With some significant additions to their roster, the L.A. Kings could be the team to take the next step and join the elite of the Western Conference.
So, where does that leave clubs like the Golden Knights?
Well, there will be a target on the backs of every Golden Knights player from the opening faceoff of the 2023-24 regular season. Factor in the potential of the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, and head coach Bruce Cassidy must have his team ready from the start. If the defense and the goaltending tandem of Logan Thompson and playoff hero Adin Hill can hold the fort down early, then the Knights should challenge for the Stanley Cup again. Look for Jack Eichel to continue his ascent to one of the top three centers in the NHL as well.
It is always possible to beat the odds, as we saw last season, with the Devils, Kraken, and Wild jumping up well beyond where they were expected to land.
It will be an absolute fight from Game 1, but Cassidy’s coaching and experience throughout the lineup should have the Vegas Golden Knights challenging to repeat.