3. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes, headlined by what should be a stifling defense, have one of the best rosters in the NHL.
Carolina added big names like Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty this offseason to offset the loss of players that helped the Canes win the Metro last year. With other players like Paul Stastny and Calvin de Haan added to be depth players, this team should be complete once again.
Things feel very up in the air in the Metro behind the Hurricanes, so I like this team to repeat as division champions and pace the Eastern Conference for most, if not all of the regular season.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
As was the case last offseason, the Lightning have lost key pieces of their championship-caliber squad.
Forward Ondrej Palat signed with the Devils over the summer, while defenseman Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Predators. Yes, both players will leave sizable gaps in the Bolts’ lineup, but we’ve seen this team overcome similar departures in recent years.
The Atlantic has a plethora of question marks, making it winnable for this Tampa Bay team. It’s hard to imagine a fourth straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, but at this point, there’s no reason to drop last year’s runner-up out of the top two.
1. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche lost a lot of important players over the summer, but that doesn’t mean that this team deserves to be bounced from the top spot entering this year.
Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, and Andre Burakovsky are some of the players that the Avs will be forced to replace, but even with the question marks in Colorado’s lineup, fans should be mindful of just how deep this club was last year.
I don’t anticipate the Avalanche dominating the Western Conference the way that they did last season, but until we actually see this team take a step backward, it deserves the benefit of the doubt. For now, Colorado holds the top spot.