On the eve of the new NHL season, we’ve taken a look at the early prospects of every team using two different measures.
Firstly, to see how well they might start the new campaign, we’ve used our latest Stanley Cup odds to assess the strength of everyone’s first 10 opponents.
We’ve also considered how much each team’s roster has changed since last term in our NHL season preview 2021-22.
This has been measured by looking at the share of on-ice minutes in the 202-21 regular season that were accumulated by players who are still with the team.
Which teams will get a flyer?
The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs could start the season better than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are Eastern Conference favourites.
Four of the Lightning’s first five games are against strong opposition while their closest two rivals each start with three more winnable encounters.
Meanwhile, it could be a slow start for the unfancied Ottawa Senators, who start by facing two of the five shortest-priced teams and don’t meet a fellow longshot for the Stanley Cup until their 21st match of the season.
The looks set to be the most competitive division according to our NHL season preview 2021-22, with five of the eight teams priced at 25/1 or shorter to win the Stanley Cup.
Of these, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the toughest start, as they face three of the five favourites in their first six matches and don’t meet an outsider until their 13th game.
Meanwhile, two of the division’s less capable teams – the New Jersey Devils and the Columbus Blue Jackets – could make some early progress thanks to their relatively gentle opening schedules.
The Devils in particular have it easy to begin with, facing three weak opponents in their first eight games and avoiding the favourites in all of their opening 12.
Over in the Western Conference, Minnesota Wild could be the early pace-setters in the Central Division as they don’t come up against a strong opponent until their eighth match, by which time the favourites – Colorado Avalanche – will have played four.
We could also see a stronger-than-expected start by the Winnipeg Jets, whose first 10 fixtures only pit them against one opponent with odds shorter than 30/1 to win the Stanley Cup.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the favourites to win the Pacific Division this season but they may face early pressure from their four nearest challengers, who all have at least one easy game in their first four.
Their clash with the Edmonton Oilers in mid-October is the latter’s only tricky game out of their first nine, so these two may be tussling for the lead to begin with.
While the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games look difficult, they are followed by a run of nine opponents who appear far less formidable. This could see the Kings sitting higher than their true level by the time November rolls around.
NHL rosters: Who has rung the changes?
The Florida Panthers have the least-changed roster in the Atlantic Division, with over three-quarters of their playing minutes in the 2020-21 regular season racked up by players still with the team.
This includes over 90 per cent of the time their wingers spent on the ice. The Buffalo Sabres’ line-ups will be the least familiar, with the wings being the only area of the team not to have undergone significant changes since last season.
The New York Islanders are the least-changed team in the entire NHL going into the 2021-22 season, with almost 90 per cent of their on-ice minutes from last season accumulated by players still on their roster.
Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes will have the most new names to learn as both teams have retained less than 60 per cent of the minutes their teams played in the last regular season.
Both teams will need new talent in goal and in defense, with the Flyers’ wings also set to look a lot different this time around.
The Dallas Stars and St Louis Blues will both begin the season with more than three-quarters of their 2020-21 regular season minutes represented in their rosters.
Both will have to introduce new centers to their line-ups, however, with the Blues also having to recruit out wide.
The Arizona Coyotes have the most unfamiliar roster in the NHL by some distance after losing almost two-thirds of last season’s minutes on the ice. This includes five of their six most-used players and all of the goaltenders who saw regular season action.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the least-changed team in the Pacific Division, although they do need to replace veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after he left for Chicago.
Defence is the only area of the San Jose Sharks’ roster that will look familiar in 2021-22, with significant departures across the rest of the team.
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