There were some new kids on the Pacific Division block in 2017-18. The Vegas Golden Knights came into the league last season, and shocked the world as they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights made plenty of history a season ago, and will look to do the same in 2018-19. Four teams from the Pacific Division made the playoffs in 2018 – Vegas, Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles. Will this Division be just as tight and competitive as it was in 2017-18?
Let’s dive in to the Pacific Division for a quick preview of all the teams:
2017-18 Finish: 44-25-13; 101 points; 2nd in the Pacific
Key Players: Ryan Getzlaf, John Gibson, Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm
Analysis: After finishing first in the Pacific Division in five previous years, the Ducks finished 2nd in the Division in 2017-18. The Ducks have been very consistent over the last few years, despite going through a bit of a dry spell in November. The Ducks saw big production from forward Rickard Rakell, as he led the team with 34 goals and 69 points. The Ducks re-signed goaltender John Gibson to a large 8-year extension this summer, so he will be the cornerstone for the Ducks in net for years to come. The Ducks have a strong middle with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler as the pivots. The Ducks defense is also strong with players like Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson. This club is built well in all areas of the ice, and should likely remain a playoff team in 2018-19.
2017-18 Finish: 29-41-12; 70 points; last in the Pacific
Key Players: Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Antti Raanta
Analysis: The Coyotes finished last in the Western Conference in 2017-18. Certainly there is room for improvement for this club in rebuild. The Coyotes have built a quality group of prospects. Clayton Keller is the Coyotes most dynamic player, as he recorded 23 goals and 65 points a season ago. The Coyotes have high hopes for young forward Christian Dvorak, as they recently signed him to a 6-year extension. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson re-upped with the Coyotes on July 1, as he signed a massive 8-year extension worth $66 million. The Coyotes have some young talent coming, but will likely miss the playoffs in 2018-19.
2017-18 Finish: 37-35-10; 84 points; 5th in the Pacific
Key Players: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, T.J. Brodie, Matthew Tkachuk
Analysis: The Flames burned out at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, as the club finished 2-8 in the last 10 games. Johnny Gaudreau was hot all season, as he finished with 84 points in 80 games. The Flames did not catch a break as they missed Matthew Tkachuk for a handful of games a season ago. The Flames re-shuffled their lineup a little over the offseason, as they made a big deal with Carolina which brought forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin into the mix. The Flames bolstered their forward group at the beginning of free agency, as they brought James Neal into the mix. The Flames could be an improved club in 2018-19, barring that veteran goaltender Mike Smith can remain healthy. This is a club that will get close to the playoffs, and will likely be on the playoff bubble.
2017-18 Finish: 36-40-6; 78 points; 6th in the Pacific
Key Players: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Cam Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Analysis: The Oilers had hopes for the postseason in 2018, but fell way short. Even with superstar Connor McDavid’s 41 goals and 108 points, the Oilers simply did not get enough production from their defensive core and goaltenders. Unfortunately for the Oilers, their upcoming season is already starting off on a low note, as defenseman Andrej Sekera recently had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. The Oilers will likely be on the outside looking in for the 2018-19 season.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
2017-18 Finish: 45-29-8; 98 points; 4th in the Pacific
Key Players: Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick
Analysis: The Kings were the stingiest team in the league in 2017-18, as they only surrendered 203 goals against. However, their main issue is consistent goal scoring from the forward group. The Kings made a splashy move over the summer, as they signed former NHL player Ilya Kovalchuk to a 3-year deal. Kovalchuk has not played in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, as he last played for the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk should give the Kings some boost up front. Anze Kopitar was fantastic in 2017-18, as he finished with 35 goals and 92 points. The Kings are strong in the middle with Kopitar and Jeff Carter. With Jonathan Quick in net and Drew Doughty anchoring the blueline, the Kings should be back in the playoff mix in 2018-19.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
2017-18 Finish: 45-27-10; 100 points; 3rd in the Pacific
Key Players: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Martin Jones
Analysis: Over the summer, the Sharks went after free agent John Tavares. Tavares signed with the Maple Leafs, but the Sharks made a good play for his services. The Sharks leader in scoring a season ago was defenseman Brent Burns, as he finished with 67 points. Centres Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are some of the best in the NHL, and they routinely lead the Sharks in the scoring category. Martin Jones is a very steady goaltender, as he had a 30-win campaign under his belt last season. The Sharks have made the postseason in 12 out of the last 13 seasons, and they will likely continue this playoff trend in 2018-19.
2017-18 Finish: 31-40-11; 73 points; 7th in the Pacific
Key Players: Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Chris Tanev
Analysis: For the first time since 2000, the Vancouver Canucks will be without Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The Sedins decided to retire at the end of last season, and they leave a big void behind them. The Canucks are in a rebuild now, but have built up a quality prospect pool. Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are the two new stars of this young team and will likely lead this club for the foreseeable future. Boeser was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2018, as he finished the season with 29 goals and 55 points. The Canucks added some veterans with Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel over the summer to surround some of their younger talent. The Canucks are young, but not quite ready to get back into the playoff mix.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
2017-18 Finish: 51-24-7; 109 points; 1st in the Pacific
Key Players: William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, Marc-Andre Fleury
Analysis: The Golden Knights set records last season and had a magical inaugural season. They won the Pacific Division, and followed it up with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights remained busy during the summer, as they signed free agent Paul Stastny to a 3-year deal. They also re-upped William Karlsson to a 1-year deal, as he is coming off a 43-goal campaign. The Golden Knights have a lot of quality players, and some good young prospects in the pipeline. It is likely that they will decline a little bit, but they should hover in the playoff race in 2018-19.
Elias Pettersson – Vancouver Canucks
Analysis: Pettersson has a lot of hype surrounding him, as he set Swedish Hockey League records a season ago. The 19-year old was drafted 5th overall by the Canucks in 2017. While he is slight, he has outstanding quickness and vision with the puck.
Dylan Strome – Arizona Coyotes
Analysis: Strome was the 3rd overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He finally saw a little bit of action in the NHL last season. The Coyotes are still very high on him, as he recorded 4 goals and 9 points in 21 games last season with the club.
Kailer Yamamoto – Edmonton Oilers
Analysis: Yamamoto may have a small frame, but the Oilers are excited for this young prospect. Taken 22nd overall in 2017, the Spokane native saw limited action before returning back to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. He has good hockey sense and a strong work ethic.
2018-19 PROJECTED PACIFIC DIVISION STANDINGS
1. Anaheim Ducks*
2. Los Angeles Kings*
3. Vegas Golden Knights*
4. San Jose Sharks*
5. Calgary Flames
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Arizona Coyotes
*denotes playoff teams
By: George Foussekis