Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 season preview: Pacific Division
We take a look at the Pacific Division ahead of the 2022-23 season.
We continue our countdown to the start of the NHL’s 2022-23 regular season with a look at the rest of the NHL, this time the Pacific Division.
Last season: 31-37-14 (76 points), seventh place in Pacific Division
Key losses: F Ryan Getzlaf, F Zach Aston-Reese, F Sonny Milano, F Sam Steel, F Nic Deslauriers
Key additions: D John Klingberg, D Dmitry Kulikov, F Ryan Strome, F Frank Vatrano, F Mason McTavish
The Anaheim Ducks continued their rebuild last season with exciting young players like Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras entering the lineup, but also saying goodbye to some stalwarts. Ryan Getzlaf, longtime Ducks captain, is officially retired, and the team traded away Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson at last season’s deadline. All of those players signed long-term contracts in their new homes. Anaheim will look to compete with their young players again this season, but have cast off a lot of players while bringing in new faces like Ryan Strome and John Klingberg.
Anaheim is clearly still young, and perhaps in a lesser position this year than the Kings were last season. But just like the 2021-22 Kings, the Ducks could shock a lot of people with success in the regular season leading to the playoffs, especially if the team is now operating with both Mason McTavish and Zegras at the NHL level.
Last season: 50-21-11 (111 points), first place in Pacific Division, lost in second round
Key losses: F Johnny Gaudreau, F Matthew Tkachuk, F Sean Monahan, F Ryan Carpenter, D Erik Gudbranson
Key additions: F Jonathan Huberdeau, D MacKenzie Weegar, F Nazem Kadri
The Calgary Flames took a bad hand — Gaudreau walked in free agency, Tkachuk wanted out as the Flames lost two-thirds of one of the best lines in hockey — and somehow walked out of it ... better? There’s a firm argument that the additions of Jonathan Huberdeau, coming off a 100-point season, and MacKenzie Weegar, perhaps Calgary’s new number one defenseman, improve this team. Let alone the addition of Nazem Kadri, coming off an MVP-level season and valuable contributions to a Cup run.
If the Flames win the Pacific Division again this season, as they did last year, it would not be shocking. The Oilers may have addressed their biggest area of need, but the offense remains largely focused on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the Golden Knights are tossing off good pieces for free.
Last season: 49-27-6 (104 points), second place in Pacific Division, lost in Western Conference Final
Key losses: F Josh Archibald, D Kris Russell, G Mike Smith, G Mikko Koskinen, D Duncan Keith, F Zack Kassian
Key additions: G Jack Campbell, F Mattias Janmark
After signing Evander Kane around last year’s trade deadline, the Oilers were forced to keep him after a good playoff showing. The biggest change for the Oilers this season is in net, as Stuart Skinner, who played much of the season, will now back up former Leafs goalie Jack Campbell, a marked improvement over the Oilers’ previous battery. Goaltending was long an issue the Oilers needed to address and they finally made an effort to this offseason.
Whether or not that takes them any farther in the postseason than they made it last year remains to be seen. The Oilers are still a long way off from being a perfect team, despite having two of the best players in the world, and could continue to improve their roster. Notably, their defense is still missing a few pieces, as any team with Cody Ceci in its top four does.
Los Angeles Kings
Last season: 44-27-11 (99 points), third place in Pacific Division, lost in first round
Key losses: F Dustin Brown, F Andreas Athanasiou, D Olli Maatta, D Troy Stecher, D Kale Clague
Key additions: F Kevin Fiala
Los Angeles surprised the league last season, as almost everyone predicted that despite their early success, the Kings would fall off. But they still finished third in the Pacific and gave the Oilers a fight in the first round. Several pieces, notably their own longtime captain Dustin Brown, also departed after the season, with Brown joining northern neighbor Ryan Getzlaf in retirement. The Kings have already announced a Dustin Brown statue at the former Staples Center.
The Kings have now added a scoring forward in Kevin Fiala and will hope to spark better results from second-overall pick Quinton Byfield this season. Byfield, unlike his skating, has gotten off to a slow NHL start after many predicted great things from the large center. If he can turn things around, the Kings could be looking at another trip to the postseason.
San Jose Sharks
Last season: 32-37-13 (77 points), sixth place in Pacific Division
Key losses: D Brent Burns, G Alex Stalock, F Rudolfs Balcers, G Adin Hill
Key additions: D Markus Nutivaara, F Nico Sturm, F William Eklund, F Oskar Lindblom, F Luke Kunin
The Sharks joined their California brethren in saying goodbye to a long-time franchise face in Brent Burns. The Sharks traded Burns to the Hurricanes effectively in exchange for some cap relief, something their fierce rival Vegas also did. The Sharks may not be making it back to the postseason this year, with a crowded field in front of them and too many of their players on the wrong side of 30, but they have some young faces to pay attention to.
This is the last year on Timo Meier’s deal, as he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of this season. He’s coming off a 76-point campaign in 77 games last year. In addition, William Eklund, the former projected third-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, will likely slot in to the Sharks’ lineup full-time this year and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen will play his first full season in the Bay.
Last season: 27-49-6 (60 points), eighth place in Pacific Division
Key losses: F Riley Sheahan
Key additions: F Shane Wright, D Justin Schultz, F Andre Burakovsky, F Oliver Bjorkstrand, G Martin Jones
After a lackluster expansion draft started the Kraken franchise off on the wrong foot, Seattle did what it threatened to do last season and weaponized its cap space, signing or trading for talented forwards in Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand. This will help an offense that couldn’t manage to score much last season. The even bigger help will be the likely long-term one-two punch of Matty Beniers and Shane Wright starting this season, as Wright fell all the way to Seattle at number four after being the projected number one pick for years.
The Kraken also added Martin Jones as a third-string goaltender as it deals with injuries in net and could look to be bad again this season with seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft.
Last season: 40-30-12 (92 points), eighth place in Pacific Division
Key losses: F Nic Petan, D Noah Juulsen, D Travis Hamonic, F Alex Chiasson
Key additions: F Ilya Mikheyev, F Curtis Lazar, Andrei Kuzmenko
After swapping to Bruce Boudreau part way through last season, the Canucks became a much-improved team, with the added benefit of sturdier goaltending from Thatcher Demko. Demko finished the season with a .915 save percentage and the Canucks finished fifth place in the Pacific after a 6-14-2 start to the season. Boudreau led the Canucks to a much better 34-16-10 record, causing some to question why the switch wasn’t made earlier.
The Canucks unloaded a few players taking up too much cap space, but will have to contend with a potentially less-injured Golden Knights, improved Oilers and refreshed Flames. This division only got tougher this offseason and the Canucks will need Demko to pull off Vezina-level goaltending again.
Vegas Golden Knights
Last season: 43-31-8 (94 points), fourth place in Pacific Division
Key losses: F Max Pacioretty, G Robin Lehner, F Mattias Janmark, D Dylan Coghlan, coach Pete DeBoer
Key additions: F Phil Kessel, coach Bruce Cassidy
The Vegas Golden Knights hoped to have a healthier season in 2022-23. Who wouldn’t after playing three goaltenders and 36 skaters in 2021-22. Unfortunately, they began their season by losing goaltender Robin Lehner to a hip injury, ending his season and potentially altering his career. The Golden Knights also got rid of coach Pete DeBoer, who couldn’t achieve the same lift of an injured team as Jared Bednar has done for rival Colorado much of the past few seasons, and replaced DeBoer with a better coach in Bruce Cassidy.
The Golden Knights cast aside primary goal scorer Max Pacioretty this offseason, sending him and relatively young defenseman Dylan Coghlan to Carolina for future considerations, and replaced Pacioretty with another, less defensively-apt goal scorer in Phil Kessel. If Kessel is paired with Mark Stone, however, his defensive lack won’t matter much. Vegas will attempt to re-enter the playoff conversation without a true starting goaltender, so that’s fun.