NHL Preview: All 32 teams for the 2022-23 season
The NHL Preview for the 2022-23 season is here!
Last year, the Colorado Avalanche went on an epic run capturing the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1996. By beating the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in 6 games, they are clearly the favorite to win again this season.
There’s plenty of other top contenders as well, including the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers. Both teams made it to their respective Conference Finals and are good enough to repeat or best those performances.
Let’s quickly preview all 32 teams by division in alphabetical order.
NHL Preview: Atlantic Division
The Bruins will feature a new look right out of the chute, with Jim Montgomery replacing Bruce Cassidy as the team’s head coach. Team captain Patrice Bergeron, 37, opted against retirement and returns to the fold for Boston, which will be without pesky forward Brad Marchand (hips) and defensemen Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) at the start of the season.
David Krejci, 36, is returning from a one-year absence after playing in his native Czech Republic. He likely will pick up where he left off on a line with countryman David Pastrnak (team-high 40 goals) and former Hart Trophy recipient Taylor Hall.
Offseason acquisition Pavel Zacha is looking to build off a career-high point total set last season with the Devils (36). He will have a puncher’s chance while slotted on a line with Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk.
Tage Thompson enjoyed a career season for the Sabres in 2021-22, and the team rewarded him in late August with a seven-year contract extension worth $50 million. Thompson recorded team-leading totals in goals (38) and points (68) last season.
Jeff Skinner rebounded from a disastrous season in 2020-21 to score 33 goals and set up 30 others, and former top overall pick Rasmus Dahlin had a team-leading 40 assists. Promising center Dylan Cozens is on the ascent in Buffalo, which likely is placing more emphasis on teachable moments and the development of its young stars than on wins and losses.
Pity Craig Anderson, however. The 41-year-old goaltender is going to be peppered with shots for a Sabres team that will continue to take its lumps.
Buffalo will enter the season with a new leader, as Kyle Okposo was named the 20th captain in franchise history.
Detroit Red Wings
The future is looking bright in Detroit as the team builds around Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider and promising youngster Lucas Raymond. With that said, there is plenty of work to be done during Derek Lalonde’s first season as head coach of the Red Wings.
Captain Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi can light up the scoreboard for Detroit, and the team added six-time 20-goal scorer David Perron and fellow top-six forward Andrew Copp to the roster in the offseason. The Red Wings, however, have been rather generous at the other end of the ice — and that doesn’t look as if it will change this season despite the additions of defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic could be in for a long season if he doesn’t get sufficient assistance from the blue-liners.
The Panthers didn’t stand pat after recording franchise records for wins (58) and points (122) last season. They named Paul Maurice as their coach and acquired Matthew Tkachuk in a blockbuster deal that sent Jonathan Huberdeau (NHL-best 85 assists) to the Calgary Flames.
Tkachuk, who signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension, provides an element of physicality and abrasiveness that the free-wheeling Panthers didn’t possess last season. He will be paired on the top line with captain Aleksander Barkov, who scored a career-high 39 goals last season.
Two-time Vezina Trophy recipient Sergei Bobrovsky is looking to follow up his best regular season with Florida. He has yet to get untracked in the postseason with the Panthers, however.
The Canadiens followed up a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020-21 with the worst record in the league the following season. How did things get so bad, so fast?
Well, star goaltender Carey Price’s health took a turn for the worse with his knee injury, and now the former Hart and Vezina Trophy recipient likely won’t play this season after being placed on long-term injured reserve last month. Jake Allen, who signed a two-year contract extension last Saturday, and Sam Montembeault will share netminding duties.
Three-time 30-goal scorer Sean Monahan was added in the offseason to a Montreal offense that features new captain Nick Suzuki and promising Cole Caufield. While that’s a plus for coach Martin St. Louis, there are a plethora of minuses on the Canadiens’ back end.
The new-look Senators added a bit of firepower in the offseason with the acquisitions of Ontario native Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat. The duo should aid in the continued development of Tim Stutzle, who received an eight-year, $66.8 million contract extension last month.
While Ottawa boasts a much-improved offense, its back end leaves plenty to be desired outside of workhorse defenseman Thomas Chabot. Veteran Travis Hamonic is a likely candidate as the next man up.
Offseason acquisition Cam Talbot was due to be the team’s top goaltender, but that will be put on the back burner for five to seven weeks while he recovers from a broken rib. Anton Forsberg will be tasked with shouldering the load in his absence.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay kept its core intact — well, for the most part. Captain Steven Stamkos, who had career-high totals in assists (64) and points (106) last season, former Hart Trophy recipient Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point will comprise a top line that could challenge any other unit in the league.
A lot more is expected of Nicholas Paul after he signed a seven-year, $22.05 million contract in July, and he’ll likely be part of the second line, which won’t have Ondrej Palat (New Jersey Devils). Brandon Hagel probably will step into that spot for the Lightning.
Former Vezina Trophy recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy can still rely on ex-Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman in front of him, but Tampa Bay likely will need more from Mikhail Sergachev after fellow defenseman Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Nashville Predators.
Toronto Maple Leafs
OK, so you’re going to ask why this season will play out any differently for the Maple Leafs. The short answer is the team is talented at its core, and Toronto elected to keep the pieces of the puzzle together.
And let’s face facts: Hart Trophy recipient Auston Matthews (NHL-best 60 goals, team-leading 106 points), Mitchell Marner (35 goals, club-high 62 assists) and William Nylander (34 goals, 46 assists) all enjoyed career seasons in 2021-22. All three have yet to hit their prime, and they are joined by defenseman Morgan Rielly (career-best 58 assists).
The major change resides at the other end of the ice following the departure of goaltender Jack Campbell to the Edmonton Oilers. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray and former Washington Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov will battle for playing time in the crease. Ah, and so begins the drama in Toronto.
NHL Preview: Central Division
The Coyotes won’t have a traditional home arena this season, instead playing in a 5,000-seat complex on the campus of Arizona State in Tempe. They have reasons to be optimistic about escaping the Central Division basement, however.
Clayton Keller took a big step up last season by scoring a career-high 28 goals in 67 games. Nick Schmaltz, Travis Boyd and Lawson Crouse also had their most productive offensive seasons in the NHL. The club rewarded Crouse by signing him to a five-year contract extension.
Arizona also liked what it saw from rookie goaltender Karel Vejmelka last season, and he will get long look as the No. 1 netminder.
Patrick Kane didn’t show any signs of slowing down last season, posting 92 points, the third-highest total of his 15-year career in Chicago. Longtime teammate Jonathan Toews was another story, however, as he finished with 12 goals and 37 points, the lowest totals in his 14 years with the Blackhawks.
Chicago didn’t do the aging veterans any favors by trading Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for three draft picks. The right winger hit the 41-goal mark last season for the second time in four years, while none of his Blackhawks teammates had more than 26.
The biggest questions that will dog the Blackhawks all year is when Kane and Toews will be traded and to who?
The Avalanche begin defense of their Stanley Cup title with a few new faces, most notably goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who was brought in to replace Darcy Kuemper. Georgiev doesn’t need to be spectacular, as the Avalanche should possess one of the league’s highest-scoring teams again.
The front office also took care of a major piece of business by signing Nathan MacKinnon to an eight-year deal that will assure he stays in Denver through the 2030-31 season. Colorado lost a big chunk of its offense when Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky signed elsewhere in the offseason, but there is still plenty of offense remaining with MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and high-scoring defenseman Cale Makar.
The big news in Dallas a week before the season opener was restricted free agent Jason Robertson agreeing to a four-year, $31 million contract. Robertson scored 41 goals and added 38 assists in 2021-22 to help the Stars post their second-best regular-season record in the past 15 seasons. With the deal done, Robertson’s contract will take a huge bite out of the salary cap and force the Stars to make some tough decisions on other players.
The Stars also will have to compensate for the loss of defenseman John Klingberg, who signed a free agent deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Colin Miller, a free agent signee from the Buffalo Sabres, and Nils Lundkvist, picked up in a September trade with the New York Rangers, could be asked to help fill the void.
Kirill Kaprizov has been billed as the player who can lift the Wild over the first-round hump that’s stopped them in their tracks six of the past seven seasons. The 25-year-old Russian has fallen short his first two years with Minnesota, and the division obstacles appear to be even higher this season.
Kevin Fiala, who was second in scoring behind Kaprizov the past two seasons, was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason. The Wild also lost their No. 1 goalie from last season, Cam Talbot, who was traded to the Ottawa Senators. That leaves 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury as the prime netminder, though he has averaged just 49.1 games over the past seven seasons.
The Predators haven’t made much noise in the playoffs since 2018, and the organization is getting antsy.
Nashville went after free agents with recent playoff success and acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Lightning and forward Nino Niederreiter from Carolina Hurricanes. They will be nice additions to a lineup led by an elite top line of Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund. Forsberg and Duchene were both 40-goal scorers for the first time in their NHL careers last season, and Granlund put up a career-high 53 assists.
With defenseman Roman Josi also coming off a career year on the offensive end, the Predators are a team to be reckoned with.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are building toward the future while trying to remain in Stanley Cup contention. They signed young centers Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas to eight-year extensions while showing the exit door to veteran David Perron, who had three stints in St. Louis totaling 11 seasons.
Vladimir Tarasenko, who requested a trade last summer, will likely be the next veteran to depart, as he is in the final year of an eight-year, $60 million deal he signed in July 2015. Despite his unhappiness, Tarasenko was an important piece for the Blues last season, leading the team in goals (34) and points (82), the latter being a career high for the 30-year-old right winger.
The Jets had a respectable four-year playoff run come to an end last season, and the organization seems to have lunged at the reset button rather hurriedly.
Winnipeg traded Andrew Copp midway through last season and then watched Paul Stastny sign a free agent deal with the Hurricanes over the summer. At the start of training camp, Winnipeg sent another message by stripping Blake Wheeler of the captaincy he had held since 2016.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Jets will open the season with a formidable top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers, who combined for 104 goals last season.
NHL Preview: Metropolitan Division
The Hurricanes acquired offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns in July with the notion that the former Norris Trophy recipient could add a punch to their 13th-ranked power play. Burns, 37, should ascend to the top of a stacked defensive group and join former Lady Byng Trophy recipient Jaccob Slavin on the top pairing.
Frederik Andersen recorded a career-best 2.17 goals-against average in 2021-22 before a torn medial collateral ligament effectively ended his season. Any semblance of a return to form would have the Hurricanes eying a deeper run in the playoffs.
Sebastian Aho (team-leading 37 goals, 44 assists in 2021-22), Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen should keep Carolina’s offense headed in the right direction and help overcome the departure of Vincent Trocheck, who signed a seven-year, $39,375,000 contract with the Rangers.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets made the splash of the offseason by acquiring Johnny Gaudreau, both in securing the diminutive dynamo as well as keeping him away from rumored landing spots within the division. Gaudreau subsequently signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract after recording a career-high 115 points with the Flames in 2021-22.
Gaudreau will look to build chemistry with proven scorer Patrik Laine, who signed a four-year, $34.8 million contract to remain in Ohio’s capital city. Laine eclipsed 25 goals last season for the fifth time in his six NHL campaigns.
Captain Boone Jenner likely will serve as the center between Gaudreau and Laine, but the Blue Jackets aren’t deep at forward and have questions on the back end outside of Zach Werenski. Starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins will be tasked with keeping Columbus in games this season.
The boo-birds are going to come out on Broad Street during John Tortorella’s first season as coach of the Flyers. To be fair to Tortorella, the cupboard isn’t exactly overflowing with high-end talent after the Flyers limped to a last-place finish in 2021-22.
Philadelphia attempted to take a step toward remedying a punchless power play by acquiring offensive-minded defenseman Tony DeAngelo in the offseason. DeAngelo and workhorse Ivan Provorov serve as a solid pair of blue-liners who can contribute on offense, but the Flyers were downright generous in allowing both shots and goals per game last season.
Top center Sean Couturier is considered week-to-week because of a back injury. Travis Konecny (team-leading 36 assists, 52 points), James van Riemsdyk (club-best 24 goals) and Cam Atkinson will be tasked with keeping Philadelphia competitive.
The Penguins have all the firepower in the world to remain a perennial Stanley Cup contender … provided the team stays healthy. Former Hart Trophy recipients Sidney Crosby, 35, and Evgeni Malkin, 36, know that all too well, and Father Time has the clock ticking on the veteran superstars.
Another one of the team’s elder statesmen, defenseman Kris Letang, showed there is more in the tank after collecting a career-best 58 assists last season. Jake Guentzel, who is only 28, reached the 40-goal plateau for the second time and added career-high totals in assists (44) and points (84) last season.
Goaltender Tristan Jarry is fully recovered after essentially playing on a broken foot in Game 7 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Rangers. He recorded career-best totals in wins (34), goals-against average (2.42) and shutouts (four) last season.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils feature plenty of scoring punch, with former top overall picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier joining Jesper Bratt, but the team got knocked out on the back end last season. New Jersey attempted to address the latter issue by signing free agent Brendan Smith and acquiring fellow defenseman John Marino from the Penguins, but former Norris Trophy recipient P.K. Subban elected to retire last month.
A healthy Hughes would go a long way toward the Devils returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18. He totaled 26 goals and 30 assists while playing in just 49 games last season.
Ondrej Palat, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with New Jersey, brings championship experience from the Tampa Bay Lightning. That could go a long way on a decidedly young roster.
New York Islanders
Assistant Lane Lambert was promoted to head coach shortly after Barry Trotz was fired following the team’s disappointing playoff-less season in 2021-22. Lambert’s immediate chore will be to squeeze more offense out of a defensive-minded team.
Brock Nelson erupted for a career-high 37 goals last season and captain Anders Lee added 28 for the Islanders, but their combined total served as 28.4 percent of the team’s offense. Mathew Barzal mustered just 15 goals, down from the career-high 22 he had during his Calder Trophy-winning season of 2017-18.
Ilya Sorokin registered seven shutouts last season to trail only Jacob Markstrom’s nine for the Calgary Flames. Sorokin, 27, likely will have little margin for error if the Islanders aim to punch their ticket to the playoffs.
New York Rangers
It all starts with Igor Shesterkin, who recorded NHL bests in goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.935) during the 2021-22 regular season. He then overcame a sluggish start in the playoffs to propel New York to the Eastern Conference finals.
Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad will be tasked with following career seasons. Kreider’s 52 goals were the third most in the NHL in 2021-22, while Panarin’s 74 assists and 96 points ranked fourth and 11th in the league, respectively. Zibanejad’s 52 assists and 81 points weren’t too shabby in their own right.
Vincent Trocheck should fit in seamlessly as a top-six forward, while promising youngsters Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko are expected to take the next step in their development.
Alex Ovechkin (team-high 50 goals) and Russian countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov (club high-tying 54 assists) will need to navigate their way around the early-season absences of fellow forwards Nicklas Backstrom (hip) and Tom Wilson (knee). Dylan Strome, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million free agent contract in the offseason, will look to follow up a career-high 22 goals scored with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2021-22.
Defenseman John Carlson had a career-high 17 goals to go along with 54 assists last season. The 32-year-old leads a veteran-heavy group of blue-liners, save for promising 23-year-old Martin Fehervary.
The Capitals overhauled their goaltending situation and handed the keys to Darcy Kuemper, who signed a five-year, $26.25 million contract in the offseason. Kuemper, 32, recorded career-high totals in wins (37) and starts (57) during the 2021-22 regular season and overcame a pedestrian performance in the playoffs to help the Colorado Avalanche capture the Stanley Cup title.
NHL Preview: Pacific Division
The Ducks enjoyed some national exposure last season thanks to the trickery of rookie center Trevor Zegras, but the Orange County locals are getting restless after watching their team miss the playoffs the past four seasons — the longest such drought in club history.
The Ducks showed they are interested in climbing the standings by luring forwards Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano from a winning Rangers organization. They also brought in veteran defensemen John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov on low-commitment deals.
Anaheim could really use a bounce-back year from three-time All-Star goalie John Gibson, who finished with the highest goals-against average of his nine-year career last season (3.19).
Jonathan Huberdeau scored 115 points for the Florida Panthers last season, tied with Flames speedster Johnny Gaudreau for second most in the NHL. Huberdeau is now wearing a Calgary sweater after he was traded to the Flames over the summer for Matthew Tkachuk, and Gaudreau is now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, having signed a lucrative free agent deal in the offseason.
Huberdeau won’t replace all the offense lost by the departures of Tkachuk and Gaudreau, but he’ll have plenty of help. The Flames also signed free agent Nazem Kadri away from the Colorado Avalanche, and he scores in bunches, too. His hat trick in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals last season helped the Avalanche get past the St. Louis Blues.
The Oilers are coming off their first Western Conference finals appearance since 2006, and they have an appetite for more. Connor McDavid is just 25 years old and Leon Draisaitl will turn 27 at the end of this month. Together, they’ve already combined for nearly 500 goals in their NHL careers.
Edmonton also boasts one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL in Darnell Nurse as well as one of the most promising blue-liners in Evan Bouchard, a former 10th overall pick who is in the final year of his entry-level contract.
The Oilers firmed up an area where they were lacking by signing All-Star goalie Jack Campbell as a free agent from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have got their money’s worth out of 30-somethings Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, but they can’t rely on the trio forever.
The youth movement has been slow to catch on at times in Los Angeles and some prospects just haven’t panned out. However, a couple of players in the middle of their primes took major steps forward last season, and Kevin Fiala also has arrived to give the offense some punch.
Adrian Kempe erupted for a career-high 35 goals last season after not scoring more than 16 in his first five campaigns with the Kings. Phillip Danault proved to be one of the league’s better offseason acquisitions last season by scoring 27 goals, more than doubling his previous career high.
San Jose Sharks
After winning just three of their final 17 games, the Sharks shipped hugely popular defenseman Brent Burns to the Carolina Hurricanes in July, a hole that can’t be filled (either from blue line to blue line or in the locker room).
The Sharks were the most inexperienced team in the NHL last season, playing 18 rookies, including 11 who made their NHL debuts, with both totals topping the league. San Jose still has several proven veterans led by Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture up front and Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the defensive end, but teamwide depth looks like an issue again this season.
Former New York Rangers head coach David Quinn was brought in this season to steer the ship as the Sharks attempt to infuse more youth into the lineup.
The Kraken didn’t take the NHL by storm the way the Golden Knights did in their first year of existence five years ago, but they are showing they learned a few things the first time around.
First of all, having solid competition at goalie often brings out the best, so Seattle went out and signed Martin Jones to back up Philipp Grubauer, whose numbers tumbled last season after solid stints with the Avalanche and the Washington Capitals.
The Kraken also snagged left winger Andre Burakovsky from Colorado and acquired up-and-coming right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Blue Jackets, both of whom should bolster the fourth-lowest scoring team in the league last season.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas organization is feeling the salary-cap pinch, but the cupboard is far from bare in Sin City.
The Golden Knights added savvy head coach Bruce Cassidy in the offseason. Jack Eichel — the former No. 2 overall pick behind McDavid — is ready for his first full season in Las Vegas and has plenty to work with as the No. 2 center.
Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith are established double-digit goal scorers, and the Golden Knights also added skilled forward Phil Kessel, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who is looking to prove he has plenty left.
The big issue is in goal as Vegas will have a hard time replacing the injured Robin Lehner.
The Canucks went 32-15-10 after Travis Green was fired on Dec. 5 and Bruce Boudreau took the reins, but that surge wasn’t enough to put them in the postseason. Unfortunately, Vancouver didn’t ride its momentum into the offseason.
The main roadblock to pursuing bigger-name free agents was the limited cap space. For example, Vancouver is still paying Braden Holtby and Jake Virtanen, both of whom were bought out in the summer of 2021.
The lack of talent will put even more pressure on returning stars such as J.T. Miller to produce similar numbers as last season, when he posted career highs of 32 goals and 99 points.
–Atlantic and Metropolitan Division by Bill Bernardi, Field Level Media
–Central and Pacific Division by Dan Arritt, Field Level Media