Predicting the Central Division Standings

Tomas Vessio
Head of NHL/Podcast Host

The NHL announced the four divisions for the upcoming 2021 regular season and about two weeks ago, and we took a look as to what we might see at the end of the season in the standings.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

After shocking the hockey world defeating the Oilers as the lowest seed in the qualification round, the Chicago Blackhawks will most likely not have a 2021 campaign they want to remember. Massive injuries is the main cause to the problem as key players like Kirby Dach, Alexander Nylander and captain Jonathan Toews are all out long term and may not suit up for a single game. Another reason is, the depth scoring is just not there as their bottom six is filled with grinders and new faces that will have to adapt very quickly to the new team. Will it be a tire fire in the Windy City? We’ll find out very soon.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Patrick Kane

7. Detroit Red Wings

After finishing at the bottom in the Atlantic division last year, the Red Wings will get out of the basement this upcoming year. Adding players like Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Marc Staal, Troy Stecher, Jonathon Merrill and Thomas Greiss gives the team more wins and depth scoring to help out the big boys upfront. The Red Wings haven’t played a hockey game in almost 10 months, so when they step out there for the first NHL game, they will be hungry and excited to get going with a fairly new group of men.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Anthony Mantha

6. Florida Panthers

After losing key guys for nothing this offseason (Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov) the Panthers forward group took a little step back. Yes, they did bring in Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair, Vinnie Hinostroza and Carter Verhaeghe, but will they fill the mend that the other two brought in the lineup? We’ll find out very soon. The man in the cage, Sergei Bobrovsky will be a tipping point for the club because he didn’t have the greatest year last year and needs to be an elite goalie for them to have any sort of success this season.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Jonathan Huberdeau

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have been in the news lately about rumors that young centre star Pierre-Luc Dubois wants out of Columbus, yet signed a two-year contract worth five million per year. Dubois is a focal point on this team and without him there’s a big hole in the group, but as of right now, he is on the roster and ready to go for the 2021 season. The Blue Jackets were pretty busy in signing Mikko Koivu, Mikhail Grigorenko, and trading for Max Domi from Montreal. The Blue Jackets play a great system that’s run by HC John Tortorella and defended by a one two punch of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins who have made themselves a great duo to run with. The question will be for this team: is this enough to beat out the other better teams and can they cancel out all the background noise?

Highest Scorer Prediction: Pierre-Luc Dubois

4. Dallas Stars

After an unexpected run to the Finals last year, the Stars will most likely make the playoffs again, just not as high. The team really didn’t change, but it will be the players on the roster to bounce back after a long, weird season to get this team Lord Stanley. The young guns on the Stars are unbelievably talented and are a threat to play against which makes it hard for other teams to stop. To the goaltenders well, we don’t know if Khudobin can have that incredible performance and we don’t know if Bishop will be healthy to play a lot of games, so that is in question.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Denis Gurianov

3. Nashville Predators

The Preds are a very weird team and I’ll explain why. They have a pretty good group of players and yet, keep underperforming since that 2017 Stanley Cup final appearance. It all comes down to the big boys on this team besides Roman Josi because he comes into every game working at 100 percent. Players like Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg and the goaltenders have to step up immensely this season to have success and I think they will. When on there game, these guys are lights out and the Preds will be a good team to play against every night.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Filip Forsberg

2. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s most fun teams to watch on a nightly basis because of their entertainment off and on the ice. The group of players put on this team is spectacular from the forwards to the defense. Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin just to name a few, are the leaders and best players on the team and are the reason the Canes are exciting to watch. With all these guys hungry to play and win, the Hurricanes look to have a very strong season to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Sebastian Aho

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Stanley Cup champs from last season may win another thing again in winning the new division there placed in. They have a very strong group, despite missing star forward Nikita Kucherov for the whole regular season due to a hip injury. It is a similar situation for them when Steven Stamkos was out in the playoffs, so this isn’t something the Lightning aren’t used to when rallying together. Still having most of the group from last year probably at 100 percent health, the Lightning will be at the top of the NHL standings and take home the Central Division.

Highest Scorer Prediction: Brayden Point