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The NHL season would possibly possibly like a (temporarily) diversified stare in 2021. There will most probably be a shorter season (56 games), realignment designed to limit drag amid the coronavirus pandemic and completely intra-divisional play. The highlights are a regional setup that strategies a North Division of all of the Canadian teams and a Stanley Cup Closing matchup that would also simply moreover be the East vs. East (or West vs. West) since the teams are reseeded within the third spherical no topic division or aged conference.

Our USA TODAY Sports activities consultants predict that the Colorado Avalanche will lead the league in parts, with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs also pacing their respective divisions. The all-Canada division appears to be like to be the most competitive. 

North Division

The Maple Leafs will net pleasure from the arrival of defenseman T.J. Brodie and a beefy season of coach Sheldon Keefe. Plus, Boston and Tampa Bay are no longer within the division. … The Flames are two seasons eradicated from a division title, like a sturdy combination of gamers and now they’ve a sturdy goaltender in Jacob Markstrom. …. The Canadiens had been for sure one of many busiest teams within the offseason and would possibly possibly simply be the most improved this season, especially if Carve Suzuki builds on his playoff performance. … Newest MVPs Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid will present the Oilers with just a few offense, nonetheless there would possibly possibly be no longer considerable depth within the inspire of them and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Defenseman Tyson Barrie will most probably be motivated on a one-year contract. …  With Markstrom gone, the Canucks have to hope Braden Holtby regains his possess or Thatcher Demko presentations his playoff possess. … Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck became a workhorse last season and the Jets want extra of the identical. Will Patrik Laine be with the team at season’s cease?  … The Senators‘ offseason moves give them improved ahead depth and goaltending, nonetheless they’re restful the used hyperlink within the division. 

— Mike Brehm, USA TODAY Sports activities

East Division

After shedding Torey Krug and captain Zdeno Chara in free company, the Bruins like holes to like on defense.  Nonetheless the NHL’s most efficient standard-season team from last season restful has its top line with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand and deep series of operate gamers. … Henrik Lundqvist’s initiating-coronary heart surgical operation announcement locations the force on Ilya Samsonov to shoulder the weight as the Capitals’ No. 1 goalie, nonetheless the 2018 Stanley Cup champs would possibly possibly like one extra bustle in them with former coach Peter Laviolette. … The Flyers are on the upswing under Alain Vigneault. What they lack in smartly-known person vitality they make up for with depth, versatility and grit, no longer to mention for sure one of many league’s most efficient younger goalies, Carter Hart. …  Analytics paint the Islanders as a heart-of-the-pack team, nonetheless  they went to the conference finals within the route of the summer season restart. Their defense became lockdown and so that they would possibly possibly grind out wins in tight games, critically if rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin is as resplendent as marketed. … Will the addition of Kasperi Kapanen give an rising older roster a jolt? The Penguins also  want classic performances from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Don’t be insecure if their 14-year playoff plug ends. … The Rangers like to be enjoyable to peep, led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad and two Calder Trophy candidates in goalie Igor Shesterkin and No. 1 utilize Alexis Lafrenière. Nonetheless they’re most probably a year or two away from critically contending. … It certain will most probably be attention-grabbing to see how Sabres heart Jack Eichel meshes with free-agent addition Taylor Hall. Regardless, there are excellent too many holes in their bottom six, on defense and in net. … The Devils’ top six forwards are spellbinding, especially if 2019 No. 1 utilize Jack Hughes  can lift the subsequent step after an uneven rookie season. The hiring of coach Lindy Ruff became a head-scratcher for a team that will most probably be counting on too many inexperienced gamers.

— Vince Mercogliano, The Journal News, segment of the USA TODAY Community

Central Division

Even with Nikita Kucherov out for the season, the Lightning like the pieces to utilize a 2nd Stanley Cup in a row. … If the Hurricanes net fixed goaltending, peep out, Tampa Bay. … The defense will elevate the Stars, a team that needs extra scoring and would possibly possibly simply initiating the season with out Tyler Seguin; can Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz lift the subsequent step? … The Blue Jackets are top-heavy and would possibly possibly lack adequate sport breakers on offense, nonetheless coach John Tortorella and a used division will inspire this team competitive. … The Predators like no longer reached their lofty expectations in contemporary seasons, though the team restful has a plucky core. … The predominant to the Panthers last within the image is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. A .900 build share bask in he had in his first season would possibly possibly simply no longer net the job executed. … Because the Blackhawks embrace a formative years motion, they’ll be nothing if no longer thrilling; it on the total is a long season if the Collin Delia-Malcolm Subban tandem in net underwhelms. … The Crimson Wings will most probably be within the combination for the league’s worst team again.

— Jimmy Hascup, USA TODAY Sports activities

West Division

The Avalanche like spent the past few years ascending from worst to top Cup contender. After struggling Game 7 losses within the 2nd spherical in inspire-to-inspire years, is it Nathan MacKinnon and Co.’s time? … After reaching the final four nonetheless coming up empty in two of their first three seasons, the Golden Knights took yet every other wide swing by inking defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a monster deal in free company. … The Blues stumbled within the bubble after having the 2nd-most parts within the NHL sooner than the shutdown. Pietrangelo is gone and winger Vladimir Tarasenko is predicted to fail to establish the initiating of the season …. What roughly team does the Wild desire to be? Minnesota fired Bruce Boudreau, a transfer that seemingly signaled the initiating of a rebuild – besides for they then had a sturdy showing under coach Dean Evason sooner than the shutdown. They possess no longer like a course to plan the salary cap flexibility to slip all of it down. … The Sharks made the conference finals two seasons within the past, nonetheless the core continues to become older, the depth is diminished and there does no longer appear to be an resolution in operate. … A team caught in transition, the Geese like rising older skill matched with younger, largely unproven prospects. They’ll also get themselves in competitors within the division if goalie John Gibson bounces inspire. … The Coyotes like been in turmoil off the ice currently, which does no longer appear to bode effectively for a team that has generally impressed considerable rationalization for pleasure on it. … It will most probably be a rough season for the Kings, nonetheless with for sure one of many most easy prospect swimming pools in hockey, higher days seem no longer too distant.  

— Jace Evans, USA TODAY Sports activities