The NHL Playoff race is going to be stacked this season, and the Colorado Avalanche are already heavily favored to not only qualify for the spring dance, but win the Stanley Cup.
The latest NHL Playoff odds online are showing as many as 26 teams with a legitimate shot of making the NHL playoffs, leaving the Montreal Canadiens, 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:
Western Conference Outlook
As of right now, the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Vegas Golden Knights 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.
They’re closely followed by 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 bigger roles this season; but all eyes will be on Filip Gustavsson to repeat his performances from his breakout season.
With some major additions to their roster, the L.A. Kings look like they could be the team to take the next step and join the elite of the Western Conference.
But are the Avalanche for real this season?
Contend or not to Contend?
After doing a little bit of housekeeping this offseason, the Avalanche were able to shore up certain positions and some great value in the process.
Having acquired Ryan Johansen and Ross Colton from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the club gave itself some breathing room to have two established centers to play behind Nathan MacKinnon throughout the season, but they’ll also have some help on the wings to keep each of the club’s top-three lines competitive.
These changes have vaulted the Colorado Avalanche to the top of the projected NHL standings to start the season.
Not only is the team healthy, outside of captain Gabriel Landeskog, but they’ve improved at key positions that could bode well for the rigors of a full NHL season.
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 the Avalanche look like their new, balanced roster could help them go the distance yet again this season.