Los Angeles Kings
Offense: Los Angeles’ core forwards who won the Cup are still intact. Anze Kopitar leads a deep group down the middle. Mike Richards is an ideal second-line center for a good team, and Jarret Stoll is an ideal third-line guy. Jeff Carter led the West with 26 goals last season.
Defense: Drew Doughty is the one true star, but Jake Muzzin led the team with a plus-16 last season. Slava Voynov has a knack for making the right plays in big moments. At his best, Jonathan Quick is up there with any goaltender in the league.
Between the lines: Keep an eye on Matt Frattin, who arrived with backup goalie Ben Scrivens when the Kings traded Jonathan Bernier to the Leafs. Frattin is a competitive kid who should fit with L.A.’s gritty forwards.
Final score: Los Angeles is best equipped to win a tough division. Whether it has enough to contend for a title again is another matter.
San Jose Sharks
Offense: Diehard Buffalo Bills fan Logan Couture is a two-time 30-goal scorer who is capable of scoring 40. He needs to stay hungry after signing a long-term contract. Same goes with Joe Pavelski. The Sharks are deep up front.
Defense: The Sharks don’t have overwhelming size on the back end, but as a unit they check all the boxes when it comes to speed, skill, reliability and toughness. They helped Antti Niemi as much as he helped them.
Between the lines: San Jose’s trade for Tyler Kennedy mostly was met with yawns, but he’s the type of player they needed. He’s gritty and knows what it takes to win a Cup. His numbers will improve while playing with Joe Thornton.
Final score: They’re always in contention for a division title, and they will be there again this season. But when will they break through and win the whole thing?
Offense: The Sedin twins and Alex Burrows still make up one of the top lines in the league. Zack Kassian must produce with Ryan Kesler and David Booth. Can Chris Higgins ever score 20 goals again?
Defense: Vancouver’s ongoing goaltending saga ended when it traded Cory Schneider and kept – or was stuck with – Roberto Luongo. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa lead one of the NHL’s better units. Former RIT star Chris Tanev continues to improve.
Between the lines: John Tortorella is the kind of coach who will demand his players maximize their potential. The chore will be turning marginal players into good ones. Note to Kassian: Beware of the top dog.
Final score: The Canucks aren’t that far away in terms of talent. If Torts can build the right chemistry, they’ll challenge for the division title.
Offense: Edmonton should expect more from a crop of young, highly skilled forwards. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is coming off shoulder surgery, but he’s expected to return early in the season. Taylor Hall will hold his position at center until he’s ready. David Perron comes over from St. Louis to provide needed leadership.
Defense: The big move along the blue line was landing Andrew Ference, who they’re hoping can show an inexperienced team what it takes to win. If he can share what he learned in Boston, the Oilers will be greatly improved. Devan Dubnyk’s career has been trending in the right direction, but he’s far from an elite goalie.
Between the lines: Dallas Eakins gets his chance as an NHL coach after his stock soared in the minors. Good young coach overseeing a good young team allows them to develop together.
Final score: They have enough talent to make the playoffs, but it takes more than talent. Their success will be determined by goaltending.
Offense: Bobby Ryan took 147 goals in 378 games to Ottawa in a trade for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noeson and a first-round pick. Silfverberg should thrive with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Teemu Selanne is playing one more season – at least.
Defense: Sheldon Souray is expected to be sidelined until January at the earliest after undergoing wrist surgery. He and Francois Beauchemin were tied with a team-high plus-19 rating last season. Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy need to perform well with an increase in ice time.
Between the lines: The Ducks had a 14-2-6 record, fourth-best in the NHL, in games decided by a goal and a 14-5-5 road record. In a tight division, they will need similar success if they want to make the playoffs.
Final score: Everything came together in a 48-game season last year. It’s a different story when trying to maintain the same level over 82 games.
Offense: Calgary traded for David Jones and TJ Galiardi with the idea it can build depth up front after trading Jarome Iginla. West Seneca native Lee Stempniak was on pace for a career-high 54 points in the shortened season, but his production was largely unnoticed on a poor team. Mike Cammalleri can score, but he needs help.
Defense: Calgary remains shaky along the blue line. Veterans Dennis Wideman and newcomer Shane O’Brien add experience. Jay Bouwmeester was shipped out last season. Their biggest issue is goaltending. Miikka Kiprusoff was good for 70-plus games before he retired. Karri Ramo is a reach.
Between the lines: Brian Burke was hired to help GM Jay Feaster but could end up replacing him. Burke is hoping to adjust the attitude of an organization that missed the playoffs four straight years.
Final score: In a strong division, the Flames would be thrilled with third place. There’s a better chance they’ll be third from the bottom of the conference.
Offense: Defenseman Keith Yandle led the Coyotes with 30 points last season, which says enough. Shane Doan doesn’t have much left in the tank. Radim Vrbata’s best years are behind him, too.
Defense: Rostislav Klesla was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a concussion after taking a clean hit from Kings forward Jordan Nolan. The hit actually sent two players to the sidelines. Paul Bissonette was suspended for 10 games for leaving the bench to settle the score with Nolan.
Between the lines: The uncertain future of the franchise is no longer a distraction, which could help. The bigger problem is spending the money needed to make them competitive.
Final score: Unless Mike Smith finds the form he had in 2011-12, when he had a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage, this team is going nowhere. – B.G.