Here is the NHL Central Division. Besides looking at the teams, we will also cover each clubs Over/Under wager for season points in the standings and their odds to win their division and conference. The latter two odds are present by Intertops.
Nashville has brought back all 19 players from last season that won the President's Cup but suffered a disappointing loss in the West semis to Winnipeg. On offense, this as an outstanding group with size and speed that was 7th in scoring a year ago. Their first line features C. Ryan Johansen and Flip Forsberg in particular and a bevy of defensemen that are offensive-minded to create additional pressure. In the playoffs, the Jets exposed the defensemen's puck handling with forechecking and the Predators turned it over repeatedly. Expect every team to deploy this tactic and it will be interesting to see how the Preds combat it. Goalie Pekka Rinne is 36 and looked worn down in the playoffs, so expect him to share more time with his eventual replacement Juuse Saros. Still a top-flight club, that can win the Cup.
Projected Points Total: O/U 104.5
Winnipeg Jets | +165 to win Central and +550 to win the Western Conference
After years of building after returning as Winnipeg 2.0, the Jets meshed last season and had the second-most points in the NHL. Winnipeg's offensive style is about continual pressure to wear down opponents and they finished 2nd in scoring and 5th in goals allowed. Their offensive production saw them have seven players with at least 15 goals, led by winger Patrik Laine with 44. The Jets are aptly named. The defense is steady and does not make many miscues and Dustin Byfuglien is a tremendous two-way defender. Conner Hellebuyck was stellar between the iron but the Winnipeg front office hopes a reliable backup emerges to take his workload from 65 to 60 games to have Hellebuyck fresher for the playoffs. This might be the best team in the West.
Projected Points Total: O/U 103.5
St. Louis Blues | +700 to win Central and +1400 to win the Western Conference
The Blues had the best record in the Western Conference after two months. Injuries, an anemic offense, and shaky goaltending allowed St. Louis to fall to the ninth spot and out of the playoffs. Having LW Jaden Schwartz will help and the front office made a number of moves to boost the 24th ranked offense. The defense was 6th is stopping goal-scoring but not because of supposed top goalie Jake Allen who struggled. With his backup Carter Hutton departing to Buffalo after leading the NHL in goals allowed and save percentage, the pressure is on Allen to rebound and get his team back in the postseason.
Dallas Stars | +800 to win Central and +1200 to win the Western Conference
Once one of the best scoring teams in the league, Dallas was inconsistent, finishing 18th and a late-season eight-game losing streak left them out of the playoffs for the eighth time in the last decade. Other then the top line which features Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, consistent production is hard to find. The Stars went with youth on defense last season and it paid off, rising to a tie for 6th after being average at best for years. Goalie Ben Bishop was good, not great, but is expected to be better working with more experienced defensemen this season. The front-liners for the Stars will be fine, it's the rest of the players that will decide their fate.
Projected Points Total: O/U 94.5
Minnesota Wild | +900 to win Central and +1400 to win the Western Conference
With one postseason disappointment after another, Minnesota changed general managers in the hope of shaking things up. But Paul Fenton could not put together any meaningful trades to make the Wild any more than an above average squad and start the season similar to how they finished it. Minnesota has brand names like Zach Parise and Eric Staal, yet, these are not true difference-makers, both at least three years removed from the age of 30. The defense would like to see continued growth from Mathew Dumba and Jared Spurgeon to go along with what they. Coach Bruce Boudreau needs a hypnotist to convince netminder Devan Dubnyk he's always playing at home. Dubnyk was 22-4-6 on home ice and 13-12-1 everywhere else.
After nine straight playoff appearances that yielded three Stanley Cups, the ride ended last year with only 76 points. Center Jonathan Toews was a step slower and not in harmony with forwards Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. It's possible this trio could have a comeback year, but the young guys like Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat have to supply points when they hit the ice. Chicago has wisely been stockpiling youthful blueliners that can skate and that is necessary as 30-something defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are slowing down. If Corey Crawford can come back in net and having Cam Ward to spell him, this could be a nice tandem in goal for the Chicago. Maybe, the Blackhawks could surprise this season.
Colorado's extreme turnaround from 48 to 95 points was fueled by several factors. Nathan MacKinnon turned in the star everyone thought he would be at 22. Several other forwards, all below 25, stepped forward and contributed. The Avalanche went from the worst special teams to among the best. The Avs were eighth in scoring with a man advantage and fourth in killing penalties, which turned the tide and made them 43-30-9. With several defensive acquisitions, Colorado now has two-way defenders and stay at home players, which should strengthen the defense. Still, questions remain in goal that has to be sorted out and will all the same young players duplicate or surpass their early success this season for the 'Lanche? That is why Colorado is iffy.