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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Mighty Pacific

When the calendar flips to November the Edmonton Oilers will be in first place in the Pacific Division. Be happy, be very happy. This team is not perfect and the vast majority of their success is because of just a handful of players, but they have 19 points in the bank and you can’t take them back.

The interesting thing about the first month of the season is that the Oilers are in first place, but the 5th place Coyotes are just four points back. As of Wednesday night, Arizona’s 7-4-1 record would be good enough for third in both divisions out east. What I’m trying to say here is that the Pacific Division appears to be a bit better than many of us expected.

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Here is a look at how the division looks as we get set to wrap up October.

1st Place – Edmonton Oilers – 19 pts (9-4-1)

RESULTS:

So far this season, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal have carried the Oilers offensively. I’d expect Connor and Leon to remain among the scoring leaders in the league and for James Neal to contribute rather regularly on the power-play.

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The Oilers goaltending has been a pleasant surprise and thanks to Ethan Bear they’ve managed to overcome some injuries on the backend.

EXPECTATIONS:

It’s been a nice start for the Oilers, but my expectations haven’t changed to point where I’d expect them to contend for the division. If the Oilers can find any type of secondary scoring I do think they’ve put themselves in a spot to contend for a playoff spot, even if it’s a wild card.

2nd Place – Vegas Golden Knights – 16 pts (8-5-0)

RESULTS:

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It’s been a steady start for the Golden Knights. Mark Stone has cruised through his first October in Vegas. He leads the team with 16 points in 13 games. Marc-Andre Fleury is once again looking like Vezina contender winning eight of his 11 starts.

EXPECTATIONS:

I’d expect the Golden Knights to win the division, and I’ll be interested to see what they look to add to this roster throughout the year to take a run at winning it all.

3rd Place – Vancouver Canucks – 17 pts (8-3-1)

RESULTS:

The Canucks made a number of additions in the off-season and it looks like they may actually pay off. JT Miller is certainly taking advantage of a much larger role in Vancouver than he had in Tampa. The newcomer has 14 points 12 games and was second in goals to only Brock Boeser. Super sophomore Elias Pettersson started slow but has 11 points in his last five games.

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EXPECTATIONS:

I wasn’t buying into some of the pre-season hype that was popping up on the west coast, but I’m starting to come around to it. As this group continues to gel, I’m a believer they will be in contention for a playoff spot come March.

4th Place – Anaheim Ducks – 16 pts (8-6-0)

RESULTS:

It’s been a positive return to the NHL for Dallas Eakins in Anaheim. His club started hot winning three of their first four games and have managed to go 5-5 since then. The Ducks are taking care of business at home with a strong 5-1 record. They have a middle of the pack power-play and one of the worst penalty kills in the league. Adam Henrique has started well with eight goals in 14 games. 

EXPECTATIONS:

The Ducks have had a much better start then I expected, and as much as I respect John Gibson, I don’t think he’ll be able to carry them to the post-season. I still expect them to finish second last in the division.

5th Place – Arizona Coyotes – 15 pts (7-4-1)

RESULTS:

It’s been an interesting start for the Coyotes because they are certainly keeping their heads above water even though their big guns haven’t got going offensively. Clayton Keller has just one goal and Phil Kessel has two goals and five assists in 13 games. The goaltending duo of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta has been stellar so far.

EXPECTATIONS:

At some point, I’d expect Kessel and Keller to go on a bit of a tear and they will probably need to if the team is going to legitimately take a run at a playoff spot. I’d expect them to be fighting for over the final ten games of the season.

6th Place – Calgary Flames – 14 pts (6-6-2)

RESULTS:

The Calgary Flames are off to a so-so start in 2019 and maybe it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. It seems to me that this is a team that’s trying to change it’s identity a little and that may take some time to accomplish, if it can happen at all. The goaltending has been good, not great, but good enough. Sean Monahan has scored just twice in his first 14 games, that’s surprising.

EXPECTATIONS:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Flames will be hard-pressed to win the division this year but like the Canucks, Coyotes, Oilers and Sharks they should be right in the thick of it down the stretch.

7th Place – San Jose Sharks – 9 pts (4-8-1)

RESULTS:

I’m just waiting for the Sharks to find their game and it seems like everyone on that team is doing the same. The guys who are supposed to produce are doing just that, they have the best penalty kill in the league and a power-play that sits in the top ten. The issue in San Jose is their goaltending. Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are both sporting save percentages well below .900, it’s simply unacceptable.

EXPECTATIONS:

If one of their goaltenders can get on track I still think they’ll be a lock for a playoff spot, if they don’t they’ll be fighting with the three clubs from Western Canada.

8th Place – Los Angeles Kings – 8 pts (4-9-0)

RESULTS:

The first month of the season has not gone well for the Kings and they had better get used to it. There will be no playoffs in Todd McLellan’s first year with the Kings. Defenseman Sean Walker is 4th on the team in points, what else do you need to know?

EXPECTATIONS:

I believe things will get worse before they better for Rob Blake and the Kings.

PROJECTED FINISH:

  1. Golden Knights
  2. Sharks
  3. Canucks
  4. Oilers
  5. Flames
  6. Coyotes
  7. Ducks
  8. Kings

The good news for the Oilers is that the Central doesn’t look strong this year and there is a chance that four or five teams from the Pacific could make the post-season.

Previously by Dustin Nielson: