Western Conference Outlook – Part 2

Brad Hayward

2022-09-16

This is the fourth and final installment of my bold and too-early predictions for the NHL season. Just before Labor Day, I saw that there were no real playoff predictions yet, and thought I would get in my prognostications before the floodgates opened. Let others pick me apart afterwards. My first three entries are here, and I would stress that these opinions may or may not be shared by other DobberHockey writers.

So here goes. The Western Conference playoff teams, ranked from #8 to #1, with my estimated odds for each team to qualify for the post-season fun, and also to win the Stanley Cup. For each team, I've also added a sleeper pick to consider in fantasy drafts.

#8. Winnipeg Jets. I believe this team simply has too much talent to have sputtered away last season, and comeback years by Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck will have the Jets take the second wild card. Sleeper pick: Nikolaj Ehlers is hardly a true "sleeper," but in his 8th season, this elite player goes over a point per game.

#7. Vegas Golden Knights. I think we all saw Vegas as a stronger team before Robin Lehner's hip surgery, but they remain a win-now team. Jack Eichel stays healthy and hits 95 points, and their solid D-corps protect Logan Thompson. Sleeper: Chandler Stephenson. He's 28, coming off his best year, and lines up with Eichel and Mark Stone. Yahoo draft rank? 228. Crazy.

#6. Edmonton Oilers. I absolutely love the Jack Campbell addition, but the Connor McDavid/Leon Draisaitl Oilers are still too top-heavy, and the defense is suspect. Sleeper: Zach Hyman. Another top-line guy being forgotten in drafts, he may hit 60 points and 180 hits.

#5. Vancouver Canucks. Thatcher Demko is the real thing, and should be the Western Conference's token Vezina nominee. Bruce Boudreau's team starts strong, and coasts into the playoffs with home ice advantage. Sleeper: Conor Garland. More was expected last season, but he rebounds w