Just as the Eastern Conference saw many teams add key players over the off-season, the Western half of the NHL isn't looking like the same 16 teams that started out last season. 2021 saw the Colorado Avalanche win Lord Stanley's Cup, Connor McDavid's team (finally) win two playoff rounds, and the Vegas Golden Knights miss the playoffs altogether for the first time in their brief history.
Eastern Conference Outlook – Part 1 and Part 2
So how will 2022-23 shake out? The only guarantee in sports is that the unexpected does happen (sometimes). Here are my predictions for those clubs that will miss the NHL playoffs, again starting from team #16. For each team, I've added a Sleeper fantasy pick to consider.
16. Chicago Blackhawks. With the Hawks going into full tear-down rebuild mode, does anyone think Patrick Kane finishes the season in Chicago? They'll have under 55 points. Sleeper pick: Jonathan Toews! The Hall-of-Famer is only 34, but will need to produce many more points to get a decent new contract.
15. Arizona Coyotes. I call this team the experts in rebuilding, since they've done the "rebuild" thing for nearly 10 years. A first line of Clayton Keller, Barrett Hayton, and Nick Schmaltz will score points, but the talent pool beyond this is too young and too thin. Sleeper: Jakob Chychrun. He's a talented 24-year-old who's been everyone's favorite trade rumor, but his breakout season will still be in the desert.
14. San Jose Sharks. Timo Meier had a huge year in 2021-22. Even if he does repeat it, where are the Sharks? Here. Sleeper: Alexander Barabanov. Former KHL star has only 13 goals in 93 NHL games, but projects to have first-line opportunity.
13. Seattle Kraken. The Kraken will certainly be better, but which Philipp Grubauer plays this year? Last season's version was a major disappointment. Sleeper: Brandon Tanev. The fourth-liner may lead the NHL in hits, and his energy was badly missed after his injury last year.
12. Anaheim Ducks. All