Arguably the deepest division in the National Hockey League, the Central Division looks to have the majority of its teams ready for the playoffs. Apart from a few sure playoff teams, as well as one rebuilder, the rest of the division all has chances to make it to the postseason. The NHL 2017-2018 Central Division Preview will examine where each team will fall by the season’s end. Here’s an overview of what we see happening in this division.
Sure Playoff Teams
The Nashville Predators are coming off of their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. While it ended in disappointment, the Preds look just as poised to make another trip to the postseason. The team boasts one of the best, if not the best, groups of defensemen in the NHL. Led by PK Subban and Roman Josi, their depth on the blue line is unparalleled. They have a great tandem in net with Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros, while their forward group is dangerous. Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson all will look to improve up their performances from last year.
The Chicago Blackhawks also look poised to continue their playoff streak after getting swept by the Predators in the first round last season. The Blackhawks may look a little different from their team that finished first in the Central last season, but they still seem to be one of the best teams in the NHL. They traded away Niklas Hjalmarsson as well as star winger Artemi Panarin. For Panarin they ended up receiving Brandon Saad, who was a member of their last two championship teams. The team has solid goaltending with Corey Crawford in net as well as an elite group of forwards led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes.
The worst team in the league last season, the Colorado Avalanche do not look to be in a much better position for the 2017-2018 season. Colorado is led by Nathan MacKinnon, who posted 53 points in 2016-2017. The Avs lineup also features Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, both of whom may not finish the year in the team’s roster. Duchene and Landeskog have both been heavily rumored to be on the trade block to help accelerate the rebuild. The team also doesn’t have a very deep blue line, with Tyson Barrie being by far their best defenseman. In net Varlamov has been inconsistent, and the team in front of him does not look to be able to cut down on scoring chances.
Playoff Position Contenders
After the Predators and the Blackhawks, there are many teams that will vie for the remaining Central Division playoff position as well as a wild card spot. The Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars both made offseason moves to solidify their problem areas in net. The teams acquired Steve Mason and Ben Bishop respectively; moves that make both look like possible playoff contenders.
The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues also look to be in the playoff mix during the 2017-2018 season. Minnesota features a very balanced offense that can expect contributions from many players, as well as a deep D-corps headlined by Ryan Suter. Out of all the teams likely to contend for the last Central Division playoff spot, Minnesota looks to have the strongest chance to claim it. Meanwhile St. Louis appears to have the talent and build of a roster ready for a seventh trip to the playoffs. The question is can they beat out all the other teams competing for the open spot?
NHL 2017-2018 Central Division Preview: Overall Outlook
Overall after the Predators and Blackhawks, the last Central Division playoff spot as well as the wild card spot are wide open. Look for the Wild to claim the third Central Division spot. They have many players that can be relied upon to score, as well as a deep team on defense and an elite goaltender in Devan Dubynk. Even though the rest of the field (minus Colorado) look to have similar chances to claim a wild card spot, look for the Winnipeg Jets to snag it. They might have the best offense in the NHL, and look to have made an attempt to solidify their goaltending over the summer.
- Chicago and Nashville appear to be the strongest teams in the Central Division. Look for Both to claim a playoff spot
- Colorado looks to be in line for another last place finish in the Central. Look for them to move some pieces during the year to accelerate their rebuild.
- The rest of the Central Division looks to be in contention for the third Central Division playoff spot, as well as the Western Conference wild card positions. It is anyone’s game for these last spots.
NHL 2017-2018 Central Division Preview: Predictions
- Nashville Predators– 50-25-7-107 pts*
- Chicago Blackhawks– 48-30-4- 100 pts*
- Minnesota Wild– 44-29-9 97 pts*
- Winnipeg Jets– 43-31-8 94 pts* (Wild Card)
- St. Louis Blues– 40-30-12 92 pts
- Dallas Stars– 38-36-8 84 pts
- Colorado Avalanche– 30-50-2 62 pts
*Denotes playoff team