The NHL Season is here. Training camps and preseason are over. There are a lot of familiar faces in new places to begin the season.
The start of a new season brings hope as teams look to build toward the playoffs as defending Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights look to repeat.
Welcome to the divisional rankings. We’ll look at both the Eastern and Western Conferences, ranking teams in each of the four divisions. We first looked at the Metro and Atlantic Divisions. Then we headed out West, looking at the Central Division. Now we look at the Pacific Division.
NHL Pacific Division Rankings
1. Vegas Golden Knights (Last year finished First)
If the first game is any indication of what the Vegas Golden Knights can do this season, there is no reason as to why they can’t finish first in the NHL Pacific Division. And the disrespect from the betting community is evident. This Golden Knights team should be a favorite to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. It is evident.
All the Golden Knights do is make history. Not to mention they are missing only one player from their Stanley Cup winning roster. Reilly Smith is now in Pittsburgh. But they still have that big and bad defense which includes Alec Martinez, who missed the first game of the season, Alex Pietrangelo, Nicolas Hague, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb. Adin Hill and Logan Thompson between the pipes. Hill showing he can still make the saves when called upon.
Offensively this team is talented. They are built so well down the middle with Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, and William Karlsson. Eichel has become the player the Golden Knights expected him to be when they acquired him. Add in Mark Stone, Ivan Barbashev, Jonathan Marchessault, and the list goes on the Vegas Golden Knights are the team to be in the NHL Pacific Division.
2. Edmonton Oilers (Last year finished Second)
The Edmonton Oilers lost to the Golden Knights in round 2 of the playoffs last year. Again, for the Oilers it comes down to defense and goaltending. It has and always will. Until they get better defensively, this team is not going to win anything despite them always being a Stanley Cup favorite.
Look, the Oilers need more from Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner. While Skinner was an All-Star last year, that tag does not have the same meaning it used to. There is a reason Campbell was brought in. It appears Campbell is the guy who he was in Toronto. Again it takes time to adjust to new surroundings. Defensively, Evan Bouchard is great, Darnell Nurse needs to be better, and the rest of that core needs to step up. Nurse continued to get exposed in the playoffs. Too many bad turnovers on his part.
Offensively, the Oilers are great. The duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is the best in the NHL. But they can do only so much. They need more depth scoring, especially playoff time. When you have three 100-point scorers and only two show up in the playoffs, that is not good. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has to be better. And while the Oilers have the best power play in the NHL they can’t rely on it all the time. Need More.
3. Los Angeles Kings (Last year finished Third)
Man, it feels like the Los Angeles Kings are the Minnesota Wild of the NHL Pacific Division. Not saying the Kings can’t finish in second, but that could mean another date with the Oilers in the playoffs. Not sure they can finish first with Vegas in the division. Now they must find a way to beat Edmonton.
In the offseason, the Kings had areas to address to compete with Vegas, so the Kings acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois from Winnipeg. Now the Kings go Anze Kopitar, Dubois, and Phillip Danault down the middle. Those three centers are really solid. But what about the rest of the offense? Well, Quinton Byfield has moved to the wing. Kevin Fiala is still there and so is Adrian Kempe. They have the tools to score. The Kings have to control the puck.
Defensively, they are rock solid with Mikey Anderson, Drew Doughty, Vladislav Gavrikov and Matt Roy. It comes down to Cam Talbot and Pheonix Copley stopping the puck. If the Kings were able to get a save in the playoffs, they get passed the Oilers. Let’s see if this combo can do it.
Here is where things get interesting in the NHL Pacific Division because four and five could end up in any order.
4. Calgary Flames (Last year finished Fifth)
There were a lot of changes in Calgary this offseason. Out was Darryl Sutter. In Ryan Huska. Out Brad Treliving. In was Craig Conroy. The culture change that was necessary with the Flames happened. That has led to Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin possibly changing their tunes about staying. Remember, the Flames only missed the playoffs by a couple of points. Hopefully, the changes in the front office and behind the bench will lead to success on the ice.
Look, it took time for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar to adjust to their new surroundings. Not everyone will be like Matthew Tkachuk in Florida. It did not help with Sutter’s system. Expect Huberdeau to have a bigger season this year. Also, did anyone think Andrew Mangiapane was scoring 35 goals again? Remember to start the 2021-22 season, Mangiapane recorded 20 of his first 21 goals on the road. Unreal start, but they need him to contribute. Nazem Kadri had a solid season, maybe they can get more.
Defensively, the Flames are good. Not having Oliver Kylington really hurts them. But it comes down to Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom has not been the same goalie since he got lit up against the Oilers a couple of years ago in the playoffs. Need more from him. Eventually, Dustin Wolf will be up, but until then Dan Vladar is the backup. But the Flames have a chance to make noise in the NHL Pacific Division this year.
5. Seattle Kraken (Last year finished Fourth)
Unlike their counterparts in Vegas, Seattle is taking the slow and steady approach. The Kraken made the playoffs last year and were a win away from the Western Conference Final. That might have been an overachievement for them, especially with really no superstar on the team. A lot of things fell right for them last year. Not sure that can happen again, but they will be in the mix.
Philipp Grubauer has to be the guy he was last year. Now, the Kraken have struggled against Vegas since coming into the league. So the first game should not be an indication for this team. For Vegas, that team is motivated. Goaltending for the Kraken is huge. But if Grubauer struggles then Joey Daccord will be thrown into the crease. But there is a reason why Seattle signed Grubauer. They need him to make saves similar to Campbell in Edmonton.
You go through the roster nobody stands out. Maybe Matty Beniers, but he is still coming into his own. Jared McCain recorded 40 goals last year, but can we expect that again? Seattle had 13 guys score over 10 goals and five of them go over 20 goals. A well-balanced offense to say the least. Expect Eeli Tolvanen to have a good season in Seattle. Defensively they are sound with Adam Larsson, Vince Dunn, Jamie Oleksiak, and Justin Schultz.
6. Vancouver Canucks (Last year finished Sixth)
Staying in the Pacific Northwest heading north to Vancouver. The Canucks are such an interesting team. They had another coaching change last year with Rick Tocchet taking over for Bruce Boudreau. There were positive signs at the end of last season, but there is a lot of turmoil surrounding this team. Especially with players like Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Conor Garland.
The Canucks are a team to keep an eye on this trade deadline. Vancouver is exploring options to trade Garland and get rid of his cap hit. Pettersson is looking for an extension, but don’t it expect anytime soon. He is playing the waiting game and now so is the team. As for Boeser, well his name remains out there on the market.
As far as the team on the ice goes, the Canucks have nice pieces up front with Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev (when healthy), J.T. Miller, Anthony Beauvillier, Nils Hoglander, Pettersson, Boeser, and Pius Suter. Defensively, outside of Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers, there is nobody that stands out. It is made up of third-pairing guys. They still need to find someone to play with Hughes. Again, can Thatcher Demko be “Bubble Demko?” He will need to be.
7. Anaheim Ducks (Last year finished Seventh)
Now we get to the bad of the NHL Pacific Division. The Ducks finally got their house in order with Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale extensions. Both players are vital to the future success of this club. Zegras is a star in this league as his stock is only going up. Drysdale has the potential to be a top defenseman in the league as well.
But like the Canucks, the Ducks have assets that could move at the deadline. They include Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg. We will see what GM Pat Verbeek does. He added some size with Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn, but these players would have been better additions if the Ducks were ready to take the next step. Right now they are not.
All eyes will be on John Gibson again. When will he be traded? Will it be at the deadline or next offseason? That body has seen a lot of miles, especially now. But the Ducks are in a rebuild now. If Pat Verbeek does it right, they could be a good team in a couple of years.
8. San Jose Sharks (Last year finished Eighth)
Man, the San Jose Sharks have a lot of work to do. Hate to say it Sharks fans, but this team is not good. Could be one of the worst teams in the NHL this year. No fault of their own, but Mike Grier inherited a mess. He is doing his best to move players out. Got decent hauls for Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Timo Meier. There is talk that Logan Couture is next. Maybe even Anthony Duclair.
Crazy to think that the California trip through the NHL Pacific Division is not the same as what it used to be. Sharks were a perennial Stanley Cup favorite for years. Got to the final once, but could never lift the trophy. Now they are in rebuild mode.
There is a lot of work to be done. You got to wonder about Tomas Hertl‘s future there as well. Again there are some nice pieces up front with Mike Hoffman, William Eklund, Filip Zadina (who gets a new lease on his NHL Career), Mikael Granlund (still overpaid), Duclair, Luke Kunin, and Alexander Barabanov. The remaining big-name defenseman is Marc-Edouard Vlasic and his time is coming to an end. Again lots of work is still to be done for the Sharks moving forward.
That does it for NHLRumors.com NHL Divisional Rankings for the 2023-24 season.