NHL Logo With Divisions And All Teams

While the hockey world awaits tonight’s World Junior gold medal tilt between Canada and the United States, let’s shift to the NHL for a moment, shall we?

I mean, can we believe the season is just eight days way? While the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup on September 28 — just over three months ago — the fanbases of the seven teams that didn’t qualify for the expanded 24-team playoff format haven’t seen their team play since March, a cool 10 months ago.

The wait is almost over, folks.

Training camps are open, players are gearing up for the 56-game regular-season sprint and we’ll have NHL hockey on our televisions in no time.

With all that, however, comes the release of regular-season futures. Today, our focus is on team point total over/unders for the upcoming season.

With 56 regular-season games on the schedule, keep in mind there are 112 possible points out there. In an 82-game season, it’s 164 possible points, and the last full season saw the Tampa Bay Lightning lead the league with 128 points, but the Bruins and Flames both recorded 107 in that 2018-19 season.

To be honest, I wish the over/under was based on winning percentage, as that would make it easier on everyone to compare to past performance rather than constantly having to rate the over/under on a unique 56-game schedule.

Nonetheless, it’s time to go through all 31 NHL teams and see whether we should be going over or under their projected point total in 2021, by division.

*Odds courtesy of BetOnline

North Division

Calgary Flames

  • Over 64.5 (-115)
  • Under 64.5 (-115)

The Flames pilfered the likes of Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev — along with depth scorer Josh Leivo — from the rival Vancouver Canucks in free agency and along with adding another winger in Dominik Simon, it allows Elias Lindholm to slip back into the middle and create an improved top-six from a season ago.

They’ll welcome top prospect Juuso Valimaki back this season after a knee injury cost him the entirety of the 2019-20 campaign and despite losing T.J. Brodie in free agency, the Tanev addition still gives the Flames a fine-looking top-four on the blueline.

I’m digging the Markstrom/David Rittich goaltending tandem, and I believe it’s up to the Flames’ core forwards to bounce back from a subpar season last year and get back to scoring similar to what they did in the 2018-19 season when they tied for second on offense.

A productive offseason from general manager Brad Treliving has been hitting the over here.

Prediction: OVER 64.5

Edmonton Oilers

  • Over 65.5 (-115)
  • Under 65.5 (-115)

The Oilers did well to add some scoring depth with the additions of Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun and defenseman Tyson Barrie, however the major blow that is the loss of Oscar Klefbom for the entire season is devastating to this team.

Klefbom ranked fifth in the NHL while averaging 25:25 of ice time per game, led the league with 180 blocked shots and was on pace for a career-high in points. There isn’t a defenseman on the roster than can replace that type all-round workhorse production.

Of course, the Connor McDavid/Leon Draisaitl one-two punch is the best in the league and the Oilers should be competitive as a result.

Last season, the Oilers collected 66 points through the first 56 game to their season, hence the total here. That said, I don’t think they’re getting the same type of production from Draisaitl, Klefbom isn’t here and the Mike Smith/Mikko Koskinen goaltending tandem is close to, or at the bottom-tier of the league.

Give me the under.

Prediction: UNDER 65.5

Montreal Canadiens

  • Over 65.5 (-115)
  • Under 65.5 (-115)

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was busy this offseason, adding the likes of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli to deepen the forward group while Joel Edmundson and top prospect Alexander Romanov will be newcomers to their blueline.

Perhaps most important was the trade for backup Jake Allen. Allen, coming off a stellar 2.15 GAA and .927 Sv% while backing up Jordan Binnington in St. Louis last season, will give Carey Price a breather, but also forms a fine-looking tandem in a year where both goaltenders will be leaned on heavily given the condensed schedule and plethora of back-to-back games.

I like what the Habs accomplished this offseason coming off a nice playoff performance last year, so I’ll hit the over.

Prediction: OVER 65.5

Ottawa Senators

  • Over 46.5 (-115)
  • Under 46.5 (-115)

There’s little doubt the Senators’ offseason addition of Evgenii Dadonov along with the likes of veteran Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk — and third overall pick Tim Stuetzle — should strengthen their offense.

The problem is the blueline remains ugly coming off a season in which they ranked 30th in overall defense. Aside from Thomas Chabot, the Sens are paper-thin with a host of uninspiring names throughout their defense corps, and the pressure will be on new goaltender Matt Murray to be at his best to keep them in games.

The problem is Murray is coming off his second subpar season over his last three, and that was behind a superior defense in Pittsburgh.

This total is right in line with last year’s results after 56 games as the Sens were 29th with 47 points at that time a season ago. I think D.J. Smith has this group of players trending in the right direction, but that defense is by far the worst in this all-Canadian division.

I’ll have the under.

Prediction: UNDER 46.5

Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Over 68.5 (-115)
  • Under 68.5 (-115)

The Leafs were another busy North Division club this offseason, solving their most glaring needs, at least on paper. The addition of T.J. Brodie to the right side of their top pairing with Morgan Rielly will help a much-maligned blueline, and Zach Bogosian also adds to the right side while bringing physicality and experience to the team, both of which the Leafs lacked last season.

Wayne Simmonds also adds some grit up front, while 41-year-old Joe Thornton is starting training camp on the Leafs’ top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, a sensible spot considering his still above-average play-making skills.

A bounce back season from the previously consistent Frederik Andersen is likely in a contract year, and backup Jack Campbell posted a healthy .915 Sv% in his six games with Toronto after a trade deadline deal with the Los Angeles Kings.

I like the fact they addressed multiple needs, this is a far deeper Leafs team than we’ve seen in the past and keep in mind they posted the league’s eight-best winning percentage under Sheldon Keefe last season. I’ll hit the over here as well.

Prediction: OVER 68.5

Vancouver Canucks

  • Over 64.5 (-115)
  • Under 64.5 (-115)

The Canucks flew past the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round last season before upsetting the reigning Cup champion Blues in round one. They would go on to give the Vegas Golden Knights all they could handle in round two, but were knocked out in a hard-fought seven-game series.

Despite the positive results and the apparent conclusion of their rebuild, the Canucks’ offseason was a flop. They lost their No. 1 goaltender — and last season’s team MVP — and a top-four defenseman to the rival Flames and let Toffoli walk in free agency before the Habs scooped him up on a bargain four-year deal.

They added Nate Schmidt in a salary dump from Vegas and recently signed Travis Hamonic to a professional tryout, but there’s little doubt this team lost far more than it gained this offseason.

This total is also right in line with last year’s results as the Canucks had 65 points after 56 games a season ago, but this team got worse, not better, and I’ll take the under as a result.

Prediction: UNDER 64.5

Winnipeg Jets

  • Over 62.5 (-115)
  • Under 62.5 (-115)

A Herculean effort from Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck got the Jets into the league’s expanded postseason last year, but the Jets regressed in a big way, thanks in large part to the decimation of their once-stout blueline.

The thin defense corps was unable to get zone exits and push the puck to their excellent top-six forward group as Winnipeg posted some of the worst advanced metrics in the league.

Dylan Demelo re-signed after a trade deadline deal with the Senators, and he’ll help, but it’s still a weak-looking Jets blueline.

The top six of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers is about as good as it gets. Their power play somehow scuffled despite the talent on board, but I expect a bounce back in that department.

I’m not sure they’ll get the same level of goaltending from Hellebuyck, but I don’t expect a major drop, either.

After 56 games last season, the Jets tallied 61 points. Are they better? It’s difficult to say. However, their injury luck can’t get worse, and I expect an offensive bounce back. I’ll take the over here based on that fine-looking top-six forward group and Hellebuyck’s ascent to the top of the goaltending platform.

Prediction: OVER 62.5

East Division

Boston Bruins

  • Over 70.5 (-115)
  • Under 70.5 (-115)

It’s the highest total in the East Division, but there’s plenty of moving parts when it comes to these Bruins.

They let Torey Krug walk in free agency, and also did so with long-time captain Zdeno Chara after 14 years of his service. They also didn’t replace either player, and the blueline is looking as thin as it has in some time.

The Bruins will also be without sniper David Pastrnak for the first month of a four-month season, but fortunately it looks as if Brad Marchand will be back in time after undergoing surgery himself this offseason.

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak will once again be the goaltending duo in Beantown, only this time the veterans will work behind a weaker blueline.

After 56 games last season, the Bruins would have sailed by this total with 80 points. However, they also went to overtime a ton, meaning they played in plenty of close games.

I’m not as high on the Bruins this year as just about everyone else, so I’m going to go under this total.

Prediction: UNDER 70.5

Buffalo Sabres

  • Over 54.5 (-115)
  • Under 54.5 (-115)

Man did realignment not work out well for the Buffalo Sabres. They were originally in an Atlantic Division, but not only did they get moved to what is largely the uber-competitive Metropolitan Division, but they brought the Bruins with them.

It’s by far the best top-to-bottom realigned division, and despite adding Taylor Hall along with strengthening the center ice position with Eric Staal and Cody Eakin, the Sabres are in over their heads once again.

The blueline has a stud in Rasmus Dahlin and Linus Ullmark showed flashes of No. 1 potential in a growing year a season ago.

After 56 games last season, the Sabres collected 56 points. I believe the team is better, but they don’t get to pound on the Senators and Detroit Red Wings this season. This division is just far too difficult, and I have the Sabres heading under this total.

Prediction: UNDER 54.5

New Jersey Devils

  • Over 53.5 (-115)
  • Under 53.5 (-115)

It’s a shortened 56-game season, but it could turn into a long one for these Devils.

New Jersey is the only club in this division that isn’t boasting serious postseason aspirations. They added some scoring in Andreas Johnsson and bought low in acquiring Ryan Murray from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and I am firmly a believer in goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood who, at 23, looks like a future superstar.

Three-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford will share the crease with Blackwood coming off a fine season with the defensively-inept Chicago Blackhawks, but this is a suspect defense with an underwhelming forward group.

After 56 games last season, the Devils had 52 points. Adding the Bruins and an improved Sabres team to the division is not going to help them whatsoever, and I’m hitting the under here with the utmost confidence.

Prediction: UNDER 53.5

New York Islanders

  • Over 64.5 (-115)
  • Under 64.5 (-115)

This team better get Mathew Barzal signed before the season starts. After all, he’s their best offensive player, and a team that ranked 22nd in offense (and tied for 27th on the road) can ill afford to lose his services for any length of time.

Barry Trotz’s club will once again be a defensively-structured team and they’ll also welcome KHL superstar Ilya Sorokin to the team this season after the 25-year-old posted a goals against average between 1.06 and 1.61 and a save percentage between .929 and .953 in each of the last five seasons with CSKA Moscow. His KHL numbers are simply stunning.

They’ll be a difficult team to play against, and their sound defensive play gives them a chance in a division alongside some beasts. The Isles collected 72 points in 56 games before skidding down the regular-season stretch, and while I don’t foresee a number that high this time around, I do foresee the over.

Prediction: OVER 64.5

New York Rangers

  • Over 60.5 (-115)
  • Under 60.5 (-115)

Perhaps the most exciting young teams in the league, the Rangers are certainly on the rise. They added to their excellent core by taking Alexis Lafreniere No. 1 overall in October’s draft, and he’ll join the likes of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome as one of the best young cores in hockey.

Additionally, the Islanders aren’t the only New York team boasting an young goaltender that recently dominated in the KHL. Indeed, Igor Shesterkin lines up as the No. 1 option for the Rangers coming off a .932 Sv% in 12 games with the Rangers last season and a .934 mark with the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

He also posted a goals-against average between 1.11 and 1.69 along with a save percentage between .933 and .953 in his last three season’s with St. Petersburg of the KHL.

The question mark is on the blueline where some nice young pieces exist, but it’s a group that struggled to prevent scoring chances last season and ranked 30th while allowing 35.1 shots per game last season.

That said, this a fourth-ranked offense from a season ago, and Lafreniere makes them better. I believe in Shesterkin, and despite the difficult division, I see the Rangers getting over this total in what should be an exciting year on Broadway.

Prediction: OVER 605

Philadelphia Flyers

  • Over 66.5 (-115)
  • Under 66.5 (-115)

This is largely the same Flyers team that rattled off a nine-game win streak down the stretch of the regular season while challenging the Washington Capitals for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Matt Niskanen retired, however, and it will be up to the likes of Philippe Myers and newcomer Erik Gustafsson to help replace Niskanen’s two-way production, although they can’t replace his experience.

Nonetheless, the Flyers sport one of the deepest forward groups in the sport, and it looks as if they’ll get 2017 second-overall pick Nolan Patrick back this season after he missed all of last season with a migraine disorder.

Carter Hart looks to take another step in the right direction and narrow his gaudy home/road splits last season, and veteran Brian Elliott is once again there to back him up.

I don’t see why this Flyers team can’t compete for this division crown, and I believe they’ll get the over here with authority.

Prediction: OVER 66.5

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Over 64.5 (-115)
  • Under 64.5 (-115)

After a disappointing qualifying-round exit at the hands of the underdog Canadiens, Pens GM Jim Rutherford promised changes, and he delivered.

Notable departures from last year’s roster include Murray, Patric Hornqvist, Jack Johnson and Nick Bjugstad. Notable additions would be Kasperi Kapanen, Michael Matheson and Mark Jankowski. The hope is that Kapanen can offer north-south speed alongside Sidney Crosby on the Pens’ top line while goal-scorer Jake Guentzel completes the trio.

The second line of Jason Zucker, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust looks awfully appealing while the back end looks solid as ever.

More than anything, this team needs to stay healthy. Despite a plethora of long-term injuries to Guentzel, Crosby, Rust and top defensive defenseman Brian Dumoulin, the Penguins posted 76 points — fourth most in the NHL — through 56 games last season.

Again, I don’t see them getting that total again this season, but I am taking the over with ease as I believe this team can compete for a division title.

Prediction: OVER 64.5

Washington Capitals

  • Over 65.5 (-115)
  • Under 65.5 (-115)

It’s been a uniquely eventful offseason in the nation’s capital. The Capitals signed long-time Ranger Henrik Lundqvist to support young starter Ilya Samsonov, but Lundqvist announced he has a heart condition that will require open-heart surgery and prevent him from playing this season.

Next, the Capitals shocked the hockey world when they added Chara in free agency after the Bruins informed the big man they were moving forward with younger players and he would see a reduced role if he returned.

Other than that, it’s the same ole Capitals. The top six is unchanged and remains lethal, and Chara’s addition is a valued one to a Capitals blueline that thinned out after Michal Kempny tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason.

The x-factor will be whether Samsonov is ready for a heavy workload after starting only 22 games last season, but worked to a 2.55 GAA and .913 Sv% – numbers that were far better before a tough home stretch.

If he’s up to to the task, the Capitals remain a big threat. If he and rookie Vitek Vanecek, who posted a nice 2.26 GAA and .917 Sv% in the AHL last season, can’t get the job done, it puts the Capitals in a real tough spot in a real tough division.

All that said, they also racked up 79 points in 56 games last season, so even notable regression has them over this total.

Prediction: OVER 65.5

Central Division

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Over 68.5 (-115)
  • Under 68.5 (-115)

At first glance it’s a high total, but the Central is the weakest of the four realigned divisions. Aside from the Tampa Bay Lightning, playoff spots are up for grabs in a division that also consists of the Red Wings, Panthers, Predators, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Stars.

The ‘Canes can tee off on the rebuilding Wings and Blackhawks while the Predators had an unproductive offseason. Even the defending Western Conference champion Stars are without Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop for about half the season. Major regression candidate there for a team that cannot afford to score less.

The pesky ‘Canes didn’t need to make a big offseason splash and will return a near-identical roster this season with the addition of Jesper Fast up front. The defense corps rivals the best in the game and if Petr Mrazek and James Reimer can produce even solid results in goal, the Hurricanes are off and running in this division.

I see both them and Tampa Bay putting up big point totals this season, so I’ll hit the over on this one.

Prediction: OVER 68.5

Chicago Blackhawks

  • Over 51.5 (-115)
  • Under 51.5 (-115)

It’s already been a tough year for the Blackhawks and we’re still eight days away from opening night.

Sophomore center Kirby Dach — scheduled to center a line with Patrick Kane — broke his wrist in a World Junior exhibition game and will miss four to five months. Fellow youngster Alex Nylander required knee surgery and he will likely miss the entire season.

If that weren’t bad enough, captain Jonathan Toews isn’t at camp while he deals with an unknown illness that has him feeling lethargic and drained. In other words, the team is already without its top two centers for the foreseeable future until we hear an update on Toews’ condition.

With their team’s biggest strength (forward group) taking a notable hit and sporting much of the same defense that allowed a league-worst 35.9 shots per game last year, things could get ugly for the Malcolm Subban/Colin Delia goaltending tandem that could be the worst in the NHL.

I am going well under his total for a Blackhawks team that could be in lottery pick territory come June.

Prediction: UNDER 51.5

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • Over 64.5 (-115)
  • Under 64.5 (-115)

Even before the postseason expanded last season, the Jackets were in a battle for a Wild Card spot despite playing in the best division in the league.

They did so while dealing with the most man games lost due to injury in the entire league. Columbus boosted their center ice depth when they traded for Max Domi from the Canadiens and landed veteran two-way pivot Mikko Koivu in free agency.

Despite trade rumors, Pierre-Luc Dubois put on a show in the postseason and all the sudden the Jackets are deep down the middle with scoring on the flanks with the likes of Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno and youngsters Liam Foudy and Emil Bemstrom to soak up much of the Jackets’ offense.

They’ll get offense from Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on defense, but this was also a Columbus blueline that helped the team tie for third in overall defense with the help of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins in goal.

If Korpisalo and Merzlikins even come close to their combined save percentage of .913 last season — tied for fourth in the league — the Jackets are in business. Add in the coaching of no-nonsense bench boss John Tortorella and I think the Jackets claim a postseason spot in this division and get over this point total in the process.

Prediction: OVER 64.5

Dallas Stars

  • Over 66.5 (-115)
  • Under 66.5 (-115)

Boy did the Dallas Stars catch a break when they were placed in the Central Division rather than the west alongside the Avalanche, Blues and Golden Knights.

I touched on the Stars’ injuries woes earlier as both Seguin and Bishop will miss time until March or early April after both underwent surgeries that both came with five-month recovery timelines. For a team that ranked 26th in offense last season, losing their leading scorer does not bode well.

The team was also the second-ranked defense, but without Bishop, Anton Khudobin will be leaned on heavily, but rookie Jake Oettinger is also going be thrust into significant duty given the condensed and unique schedule. Oettinger backed up Khudobin in the playoffs last season, but the 22-year-old does not have an NHL start under his belt and could be exposed in his first taste of NHL action, as many goalies before him have.

The blueline will help the youngster out as one of the better groups in the game, but it seems as if the Stars will need to win plenty of 2-1 games to have success.

Through 56 games last season, the Stars collected 69 points. I think they’re certainly worse without Seguin and given the fact Oettinger will make plenty of starts, I’m going under with the Stars despite the general weakness of the Central Division.

Prediction: UNDER 66.5

Detroit Red Wings

  • Over 41.5 (-115)
  • Under 41.5 (-115)

In a change of pace, the Red Wings plan to play this season with actual NHL players. They’re not game-breakers at this stage, but Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Mark Staal, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher and goaltender Thomas Greiss are NHL-quality bodies.

The Wings’ top line is impressive with the likes of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi leading the offense while a second line featuring Ryan, Robby Fabbri and top prospect Filip Zadina could succeed. Fabbri was productive after a trade to Detroit from St. Louis, tallying 31 points in 52 games for the worst offense in the NHL.

There’s also a chance that Greiss and Jonathan Bernier could hold the fort admirably. The Red Wings got a disastrous 4.20 GAA and .882 Sv% in 27 games from Jimmy Howard last season, helping them plummet to the basement of the league’s defensive rankings despite advanced metrics that suggested they were not nearly as bad as it seemed.

You know what? I’m bullish on these Wings. No, I don’t see them as a top-four team and thus a playoff team in this division, but I can see them pulling off some upsets in a division laced with mediocrity while it’s the Blackhawks I believe finish last in the central.

Add it up and I’ll take the over on this one.

Prediction: OVER 41.5

Florida Panthers

  • Over 63.5 (-115)
  • Under 63.5 (-115)

It was a less than ideal offseason for the Florida Panthers.

Gone are Dadonov and sniper Mike Hoffman, otherwise known as their top two goal-scorers from last season. They also combined for 32 power play goals and I can see the Panthers’ man advantage suffering in their absence.

Keep in mind this is an offense that also traded away Vincent Trocheck as this offense looks like a shell of what it was this time last year. Don’t be surprised to see Florida slip from their sixth-place offensive finish last season.

On the other hand, Sergei Bobrovsky cannot be worse than he was in year one in Sunrise. Bobrovsky worked to a cringe-worthy 3.23 GAA and .900 Sv% last season in 50 appearances. He’ll need to be far better to offset the losses on offense.

Their pickups of Alexander Wennberg, Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair, Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas just doesn’t neutralize what they lost in Dadonov, Hoffman and defenseman Michael Matheson.

Even in this division, I’m going under the total.

Prediction: UNDER 63.5

Nashville Predators

  • Over 65.5 (-115)
  • Under 65.5 (-115)

The Predators took another step back last season and didn’t seem in a rush to improve this time around.

The Preds lost the likes of Nick Bonino, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith and Austin Watson from their forward group last season, but recently re-signed Mikael Granlund after he sat unsigned on the free agent market for much of the offseason while snatching up Erik Haula as well.

While bounceback seasons from the likes of Granlund, Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson are needed up front, the back end of this team will take them as far as they go.

There’s nothing wrong with the top four of reigning Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro while Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning are newcomers and their projected bottom pair.

They’ll also need far better goaltending. Pekka Rinne showed his age with a 3.17 GAA and .895 Sv%, and at 38 he’ll be the 1B option to Juuse Saros who struggled early but finished strong for a reasonable 2.70 GAA and .914 Sv% in 34 starts and 40 appearances. At 25, the crease is his moving forward.

For much of the offseason, I was bearish on these Preds. However, I expect better goaltending, the top-four defense corps ranks among the best in the league and the signings of Granlund and Haula salvage their forward group, a group with plenty of bounce back candidates.

Add it up and they’ll get over this total.

Prediction: OVER 65.5

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Over 73.5 (-115)
  • Under 73.5 (-115)

Nikita Kucherov is out for the season, but it’s clear the Lightning are going to run roughshod in this division. Their top competitors from the Atlantic Division in the Bruins and Maple Leafs reside elsewhere, giving the Kucherov-less Lightning a clear path to a No. 1 seed in the central.

Let’s not forget that Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman remains the anchor of an excellent defense corps while Steven Stamkos returns to a forward group chock-full of depth.

And then there’s goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy (+600). Veteran backup Curtis McElhinney will see plenty of action at the age of 37 coming off a down season, but the Lighting defense should protect him enough to allow for a bounce back.

Last season, the Lightning had 77 points after 56 games. It’s a number close to this total and they’re without Kucherov, but the competition in this division will have them sailing over this total.

Prediction: OVER 73.5

West Division

Anaheim Ducks

  • Over 55.5 (-115)
  • Under 55.5 (-115)

The west brings plenty of familiarity to the table as five Pacific Division clubs, including the Ducks, help form the new-look West Division.

It’s also a top-heavy division with teams that will give the Ducks problems but also some teams that they could handle.

Where the Ducks fell off most last season was on defense where they finished 25th, just two years after ranking third in that department. The back end remains their strength, however, with the likes of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson patrolling the blueline, and the team added Kevin Shattenkirk on the heels of a bounceback season with the Cup champion Lightning.

We’ll also not forget that John Gibson was an elite goaltender up until last season. Still just 27, Gibson’s 3.00 GAA and .904 Sv% from last season were career-worst numbers, well under his career 2.53 GAA and .918 Sv%. Gibson should positively regress this season while veteran Ryan Miller re-signed as his backup.

The question is whether the offense can improve. The likes of Sam Steele, Max Jones and Troy Terry should see a bump in production after another year of development while 2019 first-round pick Trevor Zegras is looking awfully NHL-ready at the World Juniors.

I see improvement, if only a little bit, at both ends of the ice. After recording 53 points in their first 56 games last season, I see the Ducks getting over this total.

Prediction: OVER 55.5

Arizona Coyotes

  • Over 59.5 (-115)
  • Under 59.5 (-115)

The ‘Yotes lost Taylor Hall on the open market, and rather than replacing him with a top-six winger, new GM Bill Armstrong decided to bulk up his bottom-six and become harder to play against in the trenches.

They also dealt veteran pivot Derek Stepan to the Ottawa Senators, and even if we factor in positive regression from the likes of Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel, it’s going to be difficult for this team to exceed their 23rd-ranking on offense from a season ago.

Of course, this team is all about the defense. It’s a quality group of defenders and a nice mix of offensive minds in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jacob Chychrun and defensive-minded blueliners in Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers.

That said, despite tying for third in overall defense, the ‘Yotes ranked in the middle of the pack in several advanced metrics and ranked 19th in terms of expected goals against/60 at 5v5.

Therefore, it would seem that it’s imperative they get excellent goaltending as they did a year ago. Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta and Adin Hill combined to post the league’s third-best save percentage at .919, and if the advanced metrics ring true, they’ll need something similar this season to make up for a lack of offense.

B

There are some weak offenses in this division, so Arizona’s defense-first style could play. They posted 61 points in their first 56 games last season, but I’m not sure they’re better, and I’m not banking on a .928 Sv% from Kuemper again. I think they go slightly under this total.

Prediction: UNDER 59.5

Colorado Avalanche

  • Over 73.5 (-115)
  • Under 73.5 (-115)

The Stanley Cup favorites tie the Lightning for the highest projected total on the board, but they reside in a division with far more high-end competition.

That said, this team is primed to produce. The Avs finished just two points behind the Blues for the top seed in the west last season — with a game in hand — despite long-term injuries to major contributors in Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri. They shook off those injuries up front and produced the league’s fourth-ranked offense.

They provided excellent balance across the board, finishing sixth in team defense with the likes of Cale Makar, Erik Johnson, Ryan Graves, Ian Cole and Samuel Girard combining their respective offensive and defensive skill sets to yield excellent results. You can add former Islander Devon Toews to that mix this season.

The goaltending tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz returns after tying for the NHL’s fourth-best save percentage at .913. It could be a true 50/50 timeshare in goal, but the Avs are set on the back end once again.

I’ll ride with perennial MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon — and increased health up front — to an over on this total.

Prediction: OVER 73.5

Los Angeles Kings

  • Over 53.5 (-115)
  • Under 53.5 (-115)

The Kings boast perhaps the top prospect pool in the NHL, but it’s unlikely the Kings see their rebuild bear fruit this season.

Stanley Cup heyday leftovers Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick remain, but unfortunately it’s those veterans that will need monster years to get the Kings even close to contention.

Quick is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons at 34, but 26-year-old Cal Petersen has impressed with a 2.62 GAA and .923 Sv% across 19 career NHL appearances.

Youngsters such as Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo and Blake Lizotte can contribute up front and Sean Walker is coning off a fine season on the blueline while Mikey Anderson will get a (shortened) year of development this season.

All that said, the Kings are in over their heads behind the big boys in this division, and while they can battle the likes of the Ducks and Sharks within the new-look west, they only posted 43 points through their first 56 games last season.

I’m not sure they’re 11 points better this time around, especially with the Avalanche and Blues moving over from the central, so I’ll grab the under.

Prediction: UNDER 53.5

Minnesota Wild

  • Over 61.5 (-115)
  • Under 61.5 (-115)

The Wild were previously set up to go into the weak central, but instead were shifted to the west, a move that hurts their chances.

While they finished tied for 23rd in team defense last year, a look under the hood reveals something far different. The Wild ranked first in scoring chances against/60, high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60 at 5v5 last season.

The problem was the 29th-ranked .897 Sv% they got from their goaltending last season. Now, Devan Dubnyk was traded to the Sharks this offseason, and Cam Talbot was signed on the heels of a big season with the Flames. Whether he can repeat such work remains to be seen, but Alex Stalock was good last season and 24-year-old Kaapo Kahkonen worked to a 2.07 GAA and .927 Sv% in 34 AHL games in addition to his .913 Sv% in five NHL games a season ago.

The Wild have depth issues down the middle, but despite losing Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu this offseason, we have to keep in mind they surprisingly ranked 12th on offense last season and 11th on the power play.

The top four defensive corps of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin is one of the best in the business, and I’ll rely on that defense to get the Wild over this total.

Prediction: OVER 61.5

San Jose Sharks

  • Over 55.5 (-115)
  • Under 55.5 (-115)

After a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2019, the Sharks fell all the way to the bottom of the Western Conference last season as they struggled mightily at both ends of the ice.

Injuries didn’t help, and there is reason to believe an offense led by Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns could improve.

That said, the back end is as close to a dumpster fire as it gets. Karlsson and Burns are both known for their offensive ability, and both remain defensive liabilities. Youngsters Mario Ferraro and Jacob Middleton could get exposed and with Dubnyk and Martin Jones in goal, the Sharks’ goaltending tandem consists of two of the three worst goaltenders in the league last season in terms of both goals-against average and save percentage (min. 30 games).

I just don’t see this team enjoying any more success this season than they did last, and after collecting 52 points through 56 games in a weak Pacific Division last season, I’ll head for the under here.

Prediction: UNDER 55.5

St. Louis Blues

  • Over 69.5 (-115)
  • Under 69.5 (-115)

The 2019 Cup champs were disposed of in the first round of the 2020 playoffs, and losing captain Alex Pietrangelo seemingly doesn’t help.

That said, GM Doug Armstrong didn’t merely sit on his hands. Rather, he added Torey Krug and Mike Hoffman, two players that can help maintain one of the best power plays in the league from last season. Over the last four seasons, Krug is tied for the league lead among defenseman with 107 power play points while Hoffman’s 49 power play goals in that span ranks fourth.

Their blueline doesn’t appear to have improved from a defensive standpoint, but it’s the structure implemented by head coach Craig Berube that will lead the way while we can reasonably expect Jordan Binnington to improve upon his .912 Sv% from last season.

The Blues should, by all means, tee off on the likes of Ducks, Sharks and Kings and along with their depth across the board, should get them over this total.

Prediction: OVER 69.5

Vegas Golden Knights

  • Over 71.5 (-115)
  • Under 71.5 (-115)

Pietrangelo departed the Blues for the Golden Knights in the offseason, and Vegas dealt away Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt to help the financial side of such an addition.

The problem is they too are paper-thin down the middle, sporting the likes of Chandler Stephenson, Cody Glass and Tomas Nosek behind William Karlsson on the depth chart. From an offensive standpoint, the bottom-six is rather uninspiring outside of winger Alex Tuch.

While the top six is excellent, Vegas will get things done on the back end. Pietrangelo is a monster addition to the blueline, and the team retained goaltender Robin Lehner on a five-year deal after acquiring him from the Blackhawks at the 2020 trade deadline.

Over the last three seasons, Lehner ranks fifth among the 22 goaltenders that played at least 130 games in that time with a .919 Sv%. He was excellent after joining Vegas, posting a 1.67 GAA and .940 Sv% in three regular season starts with the Golden Knights before turning in a 1.99 GAA and .917 Sv% across 16 postseason outings.

I’d like to see more depth down the middle, but Vegas could be elite on the blueline and in goal while their top-six will generate enough offense to get over this total.

Prediction: OVER 71.5