— Colorado: Formidable up front and driven by puck-moving defensemen — including rookie of the year Cale Makar and new addition Devon Toews — the Avalanche are poised for a deep playoff run. Adding Brandon Saad (21 goals with a bad Chicago Blackhawks team last season) enhanced their depth and balance.
— St. Louis: The Blues lost size when standout defenseman Alex Pietrangelo left as a free agent but gained a power-play catalyst by signing defenseman Torey Krug. They’ll miss Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery), but free-agent forward Mike Hoffman should give them a shot at adding to their 2019 Cup championship.
— Vegas: Pietrangelo is a good addition, but to make room for his seven-year, $61.6 million deal, the Golden Knights had to trade core defenseman Nate Schmidt and No. 2 center Paul Stastny. Depth up the middle could be a problem, but their defense is mobile and active. The Golden Knights are solid in goal with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.
— Los Angeles : It’s time for the talented kids they’ve accumulated the last few dismal seasons to take ownership. The progress made last season by Matt Roy and Alex Iafallo and the potential for youngsters Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte to bring scoring this season gives them a chance to return to the playoffs.
— Minnesota: Left wing Kirill Kaprizov comes from Russia with big expectations. The Wild’s top four defensemen (Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter) are their backbone, and Cam Talbot should upgrade their goaltending. They’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot after the stacked top three.
— Arizona: Their new general manager, Bill Armstrong, has his work cut out: Arizona traded its 2020 first-round draft pick for rent-a-player Taylor Hall and lost its 2020 second-round and 2021 first-round picks for violating scouting combine rules. The team is scrappy and has some skill but lacks the scoring to go far.
— Anaheim: They shouldn’t put pressure on forward Trevor Zegras, who was spectacular for champion Team USA at the world junior championship, but he could make an impact for a team that last season ranked 29th in scoring and a bumbling 30th on the power play. Goalie John Gibson will keep them in most games despite regularly being subjected to too many shots.
— San Jose: They were last in the West last season completely on merit, or lack thereof. Their goaltending was atrocious even after assigning blame to their porous defense, and they don’t have young talent to offer imminent help.