Predicting Divisional Races for 2023-24 NHL Season

As we inch closer to opening night for the 2023-24 NHL season, here are some bold predictions concerning divisional rankings. After considering all the factors like team makeup and recent success, these rankings reflect how I think teams will be fair in the upcoming campaign.

Even though I didn’t calculate potential wins or point totals, I did italicize the likely playoff clubs from each division. Additionally, a column highlights point totals from 2022-23 and each franchise’s last time as division champions.

NHL Season: Atlantic Division

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs
May 12, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (16) speaks to forward Auston Matthews (34) before a faceoff against the Florida Panthers in the third period in game five of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
2023-24 RankAtlantic Division2022-23 PointsLast Divison Win
1Toronto Maple Leafs111 2021
2Boston Bruins1352023
3Tampa Bay Lightning982019
4Florida Panthers922022
5Ottawa Senators862006
6Buffalo Sabres912010
7Detroit Red Wings802011
8Montreal Canadiens682017

In 2022-23, the Boston Bruins locked up the Atlantic Division before Christmas, rewriting the NHL record book with 65 wins and 135 points. Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning had a solid race for second place, but with the Bruins posed to take a step back and the Lightning looking to play without future Hall of Famer Andrei Vasilevskiy, the division is Toronto’s to lose.

After the top three teams slug it out for playoff positioning, the Florida Panthers will look to recapture the magic that brought them to the Stanley Cup Final, with the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres making a push to earn playoff spots. Considering how tight the division is, there’s a chance 12 Eastern Conference teams will battle for a postseason position. However, two teams that will continue to struggle to get wins and avoid the draft lottery will be two Original Six franchises, the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.

Metropolitan Division

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
May 20, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreni re (13) center s the puck toward the net past Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) during the second period in game two of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
2023-24 RankMetropolitan Divison2022-23 PointsLast Divison Win
1Carolina Hurricanes1132023
2New Jersey Devils1122010
3New York Rangers1072015
4Pittsburgh Penguins912021
5New York Islanders931988
6Washington Capitals802020
7Columbus Blue Jackets59Never
8Philadelphia Flyers752011

Heading into the 2023-24 season, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the front runners to win the Stanley Cup. Despite edging the New Jersey Devils for the division crown last year, expect the same thing to occur in the upcoming season, with the final standings to be determined on the final days of the regular season. Although it is a toss-up between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division, New York should come out on top, forcing the Penguins into a wildcard position.

However, these teams will not be joined in the postseason by the New York Islanders, who didn’t do enough in the offseason to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, the same could be said about the Washington Capitals, whose focus all year will be feeding Alex Ovechkin pucks so he can inch closer to the NHL goal-scoring record of 894. Even though they will miss the playoffs (again), they will be a few steps ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Philadelphia Flyers, who should be in a prime position for the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery.

Central Division

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars
May 25, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; The Dallas Stars team celebrates on the ice after center Joe Pavelski (not pictured) scores the game winning goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during the overtime period in game four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
2023-24 RankCentral Division2022-23 PointsLast Divison Win
1Dallas Stars1082016
2Colorado Avalanche1092023
3Minnesota Wild1032008
4Nashville Predators922019
5Winnipeg Jets952007*
6St. Louis Blues812020
7Arizona Coyotes702012
8Chicago Blackhawks592017
* as the Atlanta Thrashers

The Colorado Avalanche had a lot to prove in 2023-24, not only that their championship in 2022 was no fluke, but they can remain a powerhouse without Gabriel Landeskog. However, they narrowly won the division last year, with the Dallas Stars coming within a point of securing the second seed in the Western Conference. Ultimately, it will be the Stars’ year to get that top spot, and they won’t feel much pressure from the Minnesota Wild, who will easily lock up the third seed.

Furthermore, that leaves the Nashville Predators fighting for a wildcard spot alongside the Winnipeg Jets, who could be big-time sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline. After them, St. Louis will need to be more constant to be considered playoff hopefuls, while the final two spots will belong to two upcoming teams, the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks. However, the last two clubs will provide fans with an intense Calder Trophy race, which will probably be the year’s highlight for both franchises.

Pacific Division

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Jun 13, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; The Vegas Golden Knights pose with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Florida Panthers in game five of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
2023-24 RankPacific Division2022-23 PointsLast Divison Win
1Vegas Golden Knights1112023
2Edmonton Oilers1091987
3Calgary Flames932022
4Seattle Kraken100Never
5Los Angeles Kings1041991
6Vancouver Canucks832013
7Anaheim Ducks602017
8San Jose Sharks582011

As the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights won the Pacific Division and should be able to repeat in 2023-24. Although the Edmonton Oilers still have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they are far from a complete team and should see stretches that cost them valuable points as the season drags on. However, one of the surprise teams should be the Calgary Flames, who expect big things under new management. If everything goes according to plan, the Flames could be a dark horse to capture the Stanley Cup this year.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Kraken should return to the postseason, potentially bumping out the Los Angeles Kings, another team that appears stagnant during the offseason. Additionally, the Vancouver Canucks could be another surprise team to make the playoffs but have several questions surrounding their roster. Ultimately, this leaves the Anaheim Ducks, who should be in the running for a top-ten draft pick, and the San Jose Sharks, the odds-on favorite to win the next NHL Draft Lottery.