2023–24 NHL Central Division preview

The calendar has turned over to September, which means one thing. Hockey is nearly back. Captain’s skates are starting, prospects are getting ready for their camps and development tournaments, and the rest of the players are slowly making their way back to the rinks for training camps later in the month.

And with another offseason coming to a much anticipated close, there are some new looks around the league as many players are swapping jerseys. Over the month of September, tune in to our Division Preview series for a recap of some of the biggest moves per team in the offseason and a look at what the storyline for the upcoming season might be. Some players have yet to sign as of the writing of the article and are left out of the key subtractions category but are also not with the team they played for last season.

Next up will be the Central Division.

Arizona Coyotes 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Sean Durzi, Troy Stecher, Jason Zucker, Alexander Kerfoot, Nick Bjugstad, John Leonard, Travis Dermott, Zach Sanford, Matt Dumba

Key subtractions

Christian Fischer, Bokondji Imama, Connor Mackey, Zack Kassian

Season preview

The Arizona Coyotes are in the midst of one of the most thorough rebuilds the league has ever seen. The organization has completely dismantled itself from top to bottom in the process. So far, the results have not reflected in the standings. But that may be changing soon.

As seen in the key additions category, the team has added a ton of NHL-calibre players. Where the team, in recent years, has been filled out with seeming misfits or random depth players that wouldn’t make many other NHL rosters. For 2023–24, that is changing.

Led by Clayton Keller on offence, the Coyotes are slowly assembling a competitive group of veterans that is being complimented by prospects that are finally making their presence known in the NHL. Barrett Hayton, the fifth overall pick in 2018, seemed to have a bit of a breakout at the end of last season and will be looking to continue his growth.

The Coyotes might struggle a bit on the defensive side of the game again. Although their defence is improved by the additions, particularly Dumba, it is still weak overall. And Karel Vejmelka was solid given the situation with the team last season, but was not a game changer. Especially if the team in front of him is average defensively, at best.

The Coyotes have a significantly improved roster over last season. And they should start seeing more improvements soon. But they may still need another season growing and developing chemistry before the league sees some real results.

Chicago Blackhawks 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Corey Perry, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Ryan Donato, Connor Bedard

Key Subtractions

Andreas Englund, Caleb Jones, Alex Stalock

Season preview

What is there to say about the Chicago Blackhawks? They have blown up their roster and are making it clear that they have absolutely no intention to be a good, or even remotely competitive, team. The direction is tank. They have gotten rid of the entirety of their core from the Cup-winning years and are ushering in a new era led by Connor Bedard.

Looking at the roster heading into 2023–24, there is not a single point where Chicago can match up against other teams in the league. They are weak at every position at every spot in the lineup. Luckily they were able to acquire Hall so Bedard has someone with some offensive pedigree to play with but other than that, he is on his own.

Seth Jones is a strong defender and will be leaned on heavily once again. Do not be surprised if he is leading the league in average ice time since he will have to take on a big role in every situation while the team develops their other defenders like Kevin Korchinski.

Petr Mrazek can be a very good goalie. But with a weak team in front of him, and him being injury prone in general, they need to focus on goaltending depth to cover throughout the season.

Chicago has very clearly built a roster not designed to compete. They have not gotten significantly better year-over-year, and Bedard on his own will not be nearly enough to make a difference. They are in the running for the first overall draft pick for another season.

Colorado Avalanche 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Fredrik Olofsson, Ryan Johansen, Ross Colton, Miles Wood, Jonathan Drouin, Riley Tufte, Jack Ahcan, Corey Schueneman

Key subtractions

Alex Newhook, Alex Galchenyuk, J.T. Compher, Lars Eller, Josh Jacobs, Jonas Johansson, Erik Johnson, Denis Malgin, Mikhail Maltsev, Matt Nieto, Evan Rodrigues

Season preview

The Stanley Cup champions in 2021–22 faced a ton of adversity in their attempt to defend their title in 2022–23. Many injuries to key players, including Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, brought forth the issues that had plagued them for many years prior. Forward depth.

This past offseason, the team has attempted to address that. But in the meantime, they also lost a lot of what built their depth last season. In bringing in Ryan Johansen, the Avalanche are hoping he can be a legit number two centre. They are hoping Jonathan Drouin can reestablish chemistry with MacKinnon that the two shared in juniors. Ross Colton and Miles Wood are going to help with the team’s toughness while adding a scoring touch.

Colorado already had one of the best defensive groups in the league and found a solid starter in Alexandar Georgiev to take over their crease. So if they can find more depth scoring, they should be set to be a serious competitor yet again.

Dallas Stars 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Matt Duchene, Craig Smith, Sam Steel, Gavin Bayreuther, Derrick Pouliot

Key Subtractions

Fredrik Olofsson, Colin Miller, Will Butcher, Max Domi, Rhett Gardner, Luke Clendening, Ryan Shea, Riley Tufte

Season preview

The Dallas Stars finally broke out offensively last season with an organizational philosophy change combined with many players having major rebound seasons or breakout years. The core of the roster remains the same year-over-year, so it seems likely that they will be about as competitive. But the big question for them is sustainability.

Jamie Benn had his best season since 2017–18 and Tyler Seguin may not have had an offensive explosion, but he did become a stable and reliable presence in the lineup as he developed his game in new ways.

The Stars have one of the best goalies in the league in Jake Oettinger and can handle a bit of a focus on offence at the expense of defence. But is their defence good enough to manage even that? Ryan Suter was playing too many minutes and seems to hold Miro Heiskanen back a bit. But do they have anyone on the left side who can handle playing on the top pairing? The Stars did not address this over the offseason and it remains a hole in their roster.

Dallas was successful last season with the general state of their roster having elite players at every position. With very few significant changes to that core group, they should be approximately the same as they were in 2022–23. Hopefully this time with far fewer overtime losses.

Minnesota Wild 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Vinni Lettieri, Jacob Lucchini, Pat Maroon

Key Subtractions

Mitchell Chaffee, Matt Dumba, Joe Hicketts, John Klingberg, Gustav Nyquist, Ryan Reaves, Sam Steel, Oskar Sundqvist

Season preview

The Minnesota Wild have managed to be one of the more competitive teams in recent years despite their precarious cap situation. They were unable to make many major moves due to this and are entering the 2023–24 season with essentially the same roster as last year.

Given where they finished in the standings, third in the division and losing in the first round of the playoffs, that is not necessarily a bad thing. At least they are a playoff team. But that success hinges on two key players. Kirill Kaprizov and Filip Gustavsson.

The performance of two players were by far the most important indicators to the Wild’s success. For a lengthy stretch in the middle of the season, Minnesota’s offence ran almost entirely through Kaprizov. The team could not score when he was not on the ice. And with Gustavsson in net, the Wild had a 22–9 record as he had a .930 SV% and 2.10 GAA.

If the Wild want to improve, they need to find ways to succeed without relying on Kaprizov and Gustavsson. If they don’t, they will get lost in the mix of mid-level Central Division teams in 2023–24.

Nashville Predators 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist, Luke Schenn, Anthony Angello, Troy Grosenick, Denis Gurianov, Jasper Weatherby

Key Subtractions

Rasmus Asplund, Mark Borowiecki, Cal Foote, John Leonard, Zach Sanford

Season preview

It is the beginning of a new era for the Nashville Predators. Barry Trotz has taken over the team as general manager, becoming just the second person to hold that position in the team’s 24-year history. And he has quickly made his mark on the roster with significant changes involving many key personnel and positions.

Most of the subtractions happened at the trade deadline, such as the trade that sent Mattias Ekholm to the Edmonton Oilers. But the offseason has brought in a few new faces, including former St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly.

The Predators may be looking at a bit of a rebuilding phase as Trotz puts his identity on the organization. Although the team is off to a fantastic start in that with the amount of prospects and draft picks they’ve already acquired, it will take a few seasons where they may not be aiming at competing.

Looking at Nashville’s roster, they may still have one of the best defenders in the league in Roman Josi and one of the best goaltenders in Juuse Saros, but the rest of the roster has some holes that could be problematic. Luckily, many of the players who were given an opportunity last season, like Thomas Novak and Juuso Parssinen, succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.

A repeat of last season’s success from some of those depth players could leave the Predators in the chase for a while card spot.

St. Louis Blues 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Wyatt Kalynuk, Josh Jacobs, Malcolm Subban, Oskar Sundqvist, Kevin Hayes

Key Subtractions

Logan Brown, Thomas Greiss, Matthew Highmore, Brady Lyle, Tyler Pitlick, Steven Santini, Nathan Todd

Season preview

Have you noticed a theme in the Central Division yet? The St. Louis Blues are another team that is undergoing a rebuild/retool/identity change. They have lost a couple of the most identifiable players on the roster since the trade deadline, in Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. And with a lot of expensive players on the current roster, the team did not have much room to make any significant moves this offseason.

The Blues still have a strong roster that is more than capable of competing. Plenty of offensive talent, now led by the likes of Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Pavel Buchnevich, seem to be getting better each season.

A major point of difficulty for the Blues will, once again, be goaltending. Jordan Binnington has been inconsistent at best the last couple of seasons and that leaves St. Louis relying on their backup more often than they may want to. This season, that responsibility will fall on Joel Hofer, who has eight games of NHL experience.

Depending on which version of Binnington the Blues get, St. Louis could be a safe bet for a wild card spot.

Winnipeg Jets 2023–24 preview

Key additions

Jeffrey Viel, Collin Delia, Laurent Brossoit, Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, Alex Iafallo

Key subtractions

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler, Sam Gagner, Karson Kuhlman, David Rittich, Kevin Stenlund

Season preview

There have been rumblings and stories for seasons about the state of the locker room in Winnipeg. Last season, and this offseason, seem to be devoted to finding ways to correct this. One major move was buying out former captain Blake Wheeler.

But that was not the biggest move of the season. That title goes to the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade. The Jets have made out like bandits in the amount of quality roster players they acquired. It will go a long way to filling out the offensive depth on Winnipeg’s roster, notably with a couple of great younger players in Vilardi and Kupari.

It remains to be seen which version of the Winnipeg Jets will show up this season. They’ve been one of the more disappointing teams of the last few years, usually underperforming compared to predictions or how their roster looks on paper.

They will be relying once again on Connor Hellebuyck to be the Vezina-calibre goalie he is to help propel this team up the standings. The hope for Winnipeg, however, is that he decides to stay with the team.

Stay tuned over the next month as we get you prepared by previewing each division in the leadup to the 2023–24 season!

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Sean Laycock

Sean is a stubborn, lifelong Oilers fan who lives by the motto "There is always next year".

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