For years I’ve put together Pacific Division previews and basically just shared them with family and friends. This year, thanks to the folks here at Oilers Nation, I get to share my Pacific predictions with all of you lucky individuals.
1. San Jose Sharks:
The Sharks made the biggest move of the off-season when they plucked Erik Karlsson out of Ottawa. They also managed to keep Evander Kane around long term and he was excellent after coming over from the Sabres. Kane scored nine times in 17 regular season games and added four more goals in nine playoff games.
2. Anaheim Ducks:
I know the Ducks are slightly banged up to start the season but I don’t see the loss of Perry or the delayed start of Kesler hurting the club in a significant way. John Gibson continues to emerge as an elite goaltender in the league and the Ducks top four on the blue line should only be getting better.
3. Los Angeles Kings:
Father time is not in the Kings favour but the god given ability of their top end talent appears to be holding up just fine. If Jonathan Quick stays healthy the Kings should be in the playoffs, it’s just that simple. I don’t see Kopitar repeating a career year offensively but I do believe Ilya Kovalchuk can still be an impact goal scorer in the NHL.
4. Edmonton Oilers:
The Oilers spot in the Pacific Division comes down to two players, Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot. If McDavid lives up the 120-point expectations I have for him and Talbot returns to a .917ish save percentage the Oilers will most certainly be in the thick of it.
5. Vegas Golden Knights:
Even with the additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty I still believe the Golden Knights will take a step backwards this season. Fleury should be solid between the pipes, I still believe they will have the ability to score goals but I’m not confident in their back end holding up as well as it did last year.
6. Calgary Flames:
If you could 100% guarantee me that Mike Smith was going stay healthy all year I’d have the Flames higher but I can’t believe in the big man’s durability. I really like the additions of Neal, Lindholm and Ryan up front but they weakened a blueline that underperformed last year.
7. Arizona Coyotes:
I’m not as bullish as some others on the Coyotes taking a significant step forward this year. Clayton Keller is a legit weapon to develop an offence around but the rest of this group needs a little more seasoning. Raanta was excellent in the second half of the season but will need to be even more superhuman this year if they are going to be in the playoff conversation.
8. Vancouver Canucks:
Vancouver is going to finish last in the division and that should make Canucks fans very happy. Boeser will take a run at 40 goals, Pettersson will likely be a Calder candidate and Horvat will continue to develop into an excellent top six forward. The top end of the 2019 draft is very talented and with Vancouver hosting the Canucks should be ecstatic to be a part of it.
THE TROPHY ROOM
PACIFIC DIVISION HART TROPHY: Connor McDavid
It doesn’t matter if the Oilers make the playoffs or not McDavid will be the most valuable player in the division and it’s not even close.
Next In Line: Anze Kopitar
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Marc Andre-Fleury
PACIFIC DIVISION ART ROSS TROPHY: Connor McDavid
I have set my sights on a 120-point campaign for McDavid but as Bob McKenzie said on the smash hit Nielson Show this past Friday there really isn’t a reason to put any limitations on the leagues best player.
Next In Line: Ryan Getzlaf
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Clayton Keller
PACIFIC DIVISION ROCKET RICHARD TROPHY: Connor McDavid
McDavid scored 41 goals last year and worked on his shot in the off-season with the end goal being the back of the net on a more regular basis. He should push for 50 snipes with 47 being a conservative expectation.
Next In Line: Brock Boeser/Max Pacioretty (sorry William Karlsson)
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Rickard Rakell
PACIFIC DIVISION NORRIS TROPHY: Erik Karlsson
I’m expecting a huge season offensively from Erik Karlsson, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t finish with at least 75 points. If Karlsson is close to a point-per-game and the Sharks win the division he will take home top defenseman honours, no matter what Drew Doughty does.
Next In Line: Drew Doughty
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
PACIFIC DIVISION VEZINA TROPHY: John Gibson
This was probably the most difficult decision within the Division with the likes of Fleury, Quick, Jones and possibly even Talbot once again being in the mix. Gibson has posted save percentages of .920, .924 and .926 over the last three seasons and there is no reason to expect anything different this year.
Next In Line: Marc-Andre Fleury
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Antti Raanta
PACIFIC DIVISION CALDER TROPHY: Elias Pettersson
Pettersson is an easy pick and will likely run away with the title of best rookie in the division. As I mentioned in my Hot Takes piece last week I’m projecting Pettersson to be close to 65-points this year. Overall it’s not a strong year for rookies in the division, in fact the second and third best freshmen may be playing right here in Edmonton.
Next In Line: Evan Bouchard
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Kailer Yamamoto (I wanted to say Dylan Strome but it looks like he has struggled in Coyotes camp)
PACIFIC DIVISION JACK ADAMS AWARD: Peter DeBoer
I’m expecting a huge year from the Sharks and in those situations the coach is usually recognized as the best among his peers.
Next In Line: John Stevens
Nielson’s Special Sleeper: Todd McLellan
So there you have it, now you know the exact opposite of how things will end up breaking down in the Pacific Division this year. Enjoy the season!
P.S. I don’t care about the damn Pacific Division Lady Byng.