NHL Central Division Preview.

By William Bischak
Sep. 30, 2017

This is the third in a series of NHL previews. We take a look at the Central Division.

The Central Division looks to be a tight race with six of its seven teams being playoff caliber. There is a good chance that both of the Western Conference Wild Cards come out of this division. Nashville had an epic run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. St. Louis and Minnesota are on multiple playoff year runs. Winnipeg looks to be on the upswing and don't rule out Ken Hitchcocks' Dallas Stars.

Chicago Blackhawks

Last Year: 1st in Central Division (109 points)

Lost to Nashville; 4-0 in First Round

Additions:

LW Lance Bouma

G Anton Forsberg

D Connor Murphy

D Jan Ruuta

LW Brandon Saad

LW Patrick Sharp

LW Tommy Wingels

Departures:

D Brian Campbell

G Scott Darling

D Niklas Hjalmarsson

RW Marian Hossa

C Marcus Kruger

D Johnny Oduya

LW Artemi Panarin

D Trevor van Riemsdyk

You have to wonder if the Blackhawk dynasty has come to an end. The Nashville series last year was very ugly. Chicago was swept and only scoring two goals in the process.

This team has gone through a facelift. They still have great veteran talent and enough to put two strong lines out there. They added a couple of defensemen to an aging group. Losing Oduya and van Riemsdyk may hurt.

Prediction: 3rd in Central Division

Colorado Avalanche

Last Year: 7th in Central Division (48 points)

Additions:

G Jonathan Bernier

C Alexander Kerfoot

LW Colin Wilson

RW Nail Yakupov

Departures:

D Francois Beauchemin

LW Rene Bourque

C Mikhail Grigorenko

G Calvin Pickard

D Patrick Wiercioch

Colorado set a dubious record last year. Their 48 points were the fewest of any team in the salary cap era. They may set another one this year.

Scoring will be at a premium coupled with probably the worst defense in the league.

Trade value may be had with Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchesne.

Prediction: 7th in Central Division

Dallas Stars

Last Year: 6th in Central Division (79 points)

Additions:

G Ben Bishop

C Martin Hanzal

D Marc Methot

LW Alexander Radulov

Departures:

G Antii Niemi

LW Patrick Sharp

Ken Hitchcocks' side made a couple of interesting moves during the off-season. The Alexander Radulov signing is an upgrade over Patrick Sharp. Can goaltender; Ben Bishop regain his old form? Jamie Benn needs to overcome his injuries.

If the defense can improve, they could push for a Wild Card spot.

Prediction: 6th in Central Division

Minnesota Wild

Last Year: 2nd in Central Division (106 points)

Lost to St. Louis; 4-1, in First Round

Additions:

C Matt Cullen

RW Tyler Ennis

LW Marcus Foligno

D Kyle Quincey

D Ryan Murphy

Departures:

D Christian Folin

C Martin Hanzal

LW Erik Haula

G Darcy Kuemper

RW Jason Pominville

D Marco Scandella

Minnesota has made the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. Their forward depth could be enough to make it a sixth.

However, the Wild don't have a superstar scorer. The loss of defenseman, Marco Scandella, could be a painful one.

Minnesota will battle it out with Dallas and Winnipeg for a Wild Card spot.

Prediction: 4th in Central Division

Nashville Predators

Last Year: 4th in Central Division (94 points)

Lost to Pittsburgh; 4-2, in Stanley Cup Final

It was a remarkable run for the Preds last year. Can they continue their success?

They have a scoring punch with Filip Forsberg, Victor Arvidson and Ryan Johanson and a solid defense with Roman Josi, Matias Ekblom and P.K. Subban. They added more toughness with Scott Hartnell.

Defenseman; Ryan Ellis is out until January or February to injury. Can goalie; Pekka Rinne have another solid season in him?

Prediction: 1st in Central Division

St. Louis Blues

Last Year: 3rd in Central Division (99 points)

Lost to Nashville; 4-2 in Second Round

Additions:

RW Beau Bennett

C Brayden Schenn

RW Chris Thorburn

Departures:

C Jori Lehtera

LW David Perron

RW Ryan Reaves

RW Nail Yakupov

The Blues hired coach; Mike Yeo, and promptly went on a 22-8-2 run to push them into the playoffs. With the defense they have, they should make another appearance this year.

Center; Brayden Schenn will help with the scoring in the middle and could ignite Vladimir Tarasenko.

Concerns are the unproven forwards and the lack of scoring from the defense.

Prediction: 2nd in Central Division

Winnipeg Jets

Last Year: 5th in Central Division (87 points)

Additions:

LW Matt Hendricks

D Dmitry Kulikov

G Steve Mason

Departures:

G Ondrej Pavalec

D Paul Postma

RW Chris Thorburn

The Jets have a good amount of firepower with Patrick Laine, Blake Wheeler, Nikola Ehlers and Mark Scheifele. They also have a decent defense that includes Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien.

This is a big year for coach; Paul Maurice. He needs a playoff appearance. He may have enough to get there.

Prediction: 5th in Central Division

Order of Finish:

1 Nashville

2 St. Louis

3 Chicago

4 Minnesota

5 Winnipeg

6 Dallas

7 Colorado

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