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
|2023-24 Rank||Atlantic Division||2022-23 Points||Last Divison Win|
|1||Toronto Maple Leafs||111||2021|
|3||Tampa Bay Lightning||98||2019|
|7||Detroit Red Wings||80||2011|
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.
|2023-24 Rank||Metropolitan Divison||2022-23 Points||Last Divison Win|
|2||New Jersey Devils||112||2010|
|3||New York Rangers||107||2015|
|5||New York Islanders||93||1988|
|7||Columbus Blue Jackets||59||Never|
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.
|2023-24 Rank||Central Division||2022-23 Points||Last Divison Win|
|6||St. Louis Blues||81||2020|
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.
|2023-24 Rank||Pacific Division||2022-23 Points||Last Divison Win|
|1||Vegas Golden Knights||111||2023|
|5||Los Angeles Kings||104||1991|
|8||San Jose Sharks||58||2011|
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.