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WESTERN CONFERENCE

(In projected order of finish)

Central Division

ST. LOUIS BLUES

2018-19 record: 45-28-9

Coach: Craig Berube

Key newcomers: Justin Faulk, Klim Kostin

Key departures: Joel Edmundson, Pat Maroon, Chris Butler, Jordan Schmaltz, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Thorburn

Outlook: The reigning Stanley Cup champions return most of their championship lineup except for Maroon and Edmundson. Justin Faulk is a blue-line scorer (11 G, 24 A last year) and was an alternate captain for Carolina. Kostin, an elite power forward prospect, could replace Maroon's muscle up front. Berube is counting on further development from young forwards Sammy Blais, Zach Sanford, Robby Fabbri and Jordan Kyrou to keep things fresh. And look for forwards Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz to produce bigger regular seasons.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

2018-19 record: 47-29-6

Coach: Peter Laviolette

Key newcomers: Matt Duchene, Steven Santini

Key departures: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Brian Boyle, Zac Rinaldo

Outlook: The Preds essentially swapped Subban for Duchene, clearing salary cap space from their defensive strength to fill the void at center. Duchene creates a second scoring line and should add more juice to a power play that somehow ranked last in the NHL last season with a 12.9 percent conversion rate. If Duchene and new assistant coach Dan Lambert can fix that, this could be Nashville's year.

DALLAS STARS

2018-19 record: 43-32-7

Coach: Jim Montgomery

Key newcomers: Jim Pavelski, Corey Perry, Andrej Sekera

Key departures: Mats Zuccarello, Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin, Marc Methot

Outlook: The Stars came within a inch here or there from knocking off the Blues in the playoffs last spring, and they should be tougher this season. Miro Heiskanen is an emerging superstar on defense. Pavelski should anchor an effective No. 2 scoring line and bolster the power play. But Dallas needs more from its bottom six forwards and third defensive pairing to make a Cup run.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

2018-19 record: 38-30-14

Coach: Jared Bednar

Key newcomers: Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Bowen Byram, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, Kevin Connauton

Key departures: Tyson Barrie, Semyon Varlamov, Alexander Kerfoot, Carl Soderburg, Derick Brassard

Outlook: Soon the 'Lanche will have a strong defensive foundation as top prospects Byram, Cale Makar and Sam Girard mature. But they may suffer growing pains in the meantime in front of Philipp Grubauer, who finally gets his chance to be a No. 1 goaltender. The acquisition of Kadri, Burakovsky and Donskoi gives Colorado badly needed scoring depth behind the explosive top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

WINNIPEG JETS

2018-19 record: 47-30-5

Coach: Paul Maurice

Key newcomers: Neal Pionk, Mark Letestu

Key departures: Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Kevin Hayes, Ben Chiarot, Brandon Tanev, Marko Dano

Outlook: In this hypercompetitive conference the once-powerful Jets will have to fight to stay in the playoff hunt. They suffered big losses on defense, losing Trouba, Myers and Chiarot. Blue-line bulwark Dustin Byfuglien took a personal leave to ponder retirement. Restricted free agents Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine missed time during preseason play while negotiating new deals. Maurice had a trying training camp.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

2018-19 record: 36-34-12

Coach: Jeremy Colliton

Key newcomers: Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta, Andrew Shaw, Alexander Nylander, Zack Smith, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Carpenter

Key departures: Artem Anisimov, Dominik Kahun, Henri Jokiharju, Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz, Marcus Kruger

Outlook: The Blackhawks were highly entertaining after Colliton replaced long-time coach Joel Quenneville and turned Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex Debrincat and Co. loose. But they lost their defensive structure, and the goaltending was awful. Netminder Corey Crawford seems past his concussion woes, for now, and he forms a strong tandem with Lehner — who starred for the Islanders last season.

MINNESOTA WILD

2018-19 record: 37-36-9

Coach: Bruce Boudreau

Key newcomers: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman

Key departures: Eric Fehr, Nate Prosser, Pontus Aberg

Outlook: New general manager Bill Guerin, the former Blue, is cleaning up after the disastrous Paul Fenton regime. He needs to rebuild with youth around defenseman Matt Dumba, but the franchise has massive long-term dollars committed to Zuccarello, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. A bounce-back year from goaltender Devan Dubnyk and a full year of Mikko Koivu could keep the Wild viable while Guerin plots his long-term course.


Pacific Division

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

2018-19 record: 43-32-7

Coach: Gerard Gallant

Key newcomer: Cody Glass

Key departures: Erik Haula, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter

Outlook: Adding newcomer Mark Stone to the Paul Stastny/Max Pacioretty line made the Golden Knights dangerous in the playoffs. But for a bad call and an explosive Sharks power play, Vegas would have reached the Final Four. This historically successful expansion team is in "win now" mode behind goaltender Marc-Andrew Fleury and is a serious Cup threat again.

CALGARY FLAMES

2018-19 record: 50-25-7

Coach: Bill Peters

Key newcomers: Milan Lucic, Cam Talbot

Key departures: James Neal, Mike Smith, Garnet Hathaway, Curtis Lazar

Outlook: Our town's Matthew Tkachuk helped the Flames lord over this division last season. It took him no time to become one of the league's best (and most hated) power forwards, just like dad. But do they have Cup-caliber goaltending with David Rittich and Talbot? And will top guns Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm suffer regression this season as peak performances last season?

SAN JOSE SHARKS

2018-19 record: 46-27-9

Coach: Peter DeBoer

Key newcomers: None

Key departures: Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Braun

Outlook: Last season they had a maximum amount of talent under their salary cap. This season the Sharks don't have that sort of depth. Losing their captain, Pavelski, to free agency was especially hurtful. But if defenseman Erik Karlsson can stay healthy and forwards Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl reach their full potential, the Sharks could make another deep run.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

2018-19 record: 35-36-11

Coach: Travis Green

Key newcomers: J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, Michael Ferland, Jordie Benn

Key departures: Ben Hutton, Luke Schenn, Markus Granlund

Outlook: Finally the Canucks are heading in the right direction. Playmaker Elias Pettersson is a generational talent. He combines with excellent two-way center Bo Horvat to give Vancouver uncommon strength down the middle. Winger Brock Boeser and defenseman Quinn Hughes are budding stars, so the long-term nucleus is in place. As this group matures and the supporting cast improves, look out.

ARIZONA COYOTES

2018-19 record: 39-35-8

Coach: Rick Tocchet

Key newcomers: Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg

Key departures: Alexander Galchenyuk, Kevin Connauton, Richard Panik

Outlook: This is another emerging team. Our town's Clayton Keller along with Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun, Christian Dvorak and Vinnie Hinostroza form the youthful foundation. If Tocchet can motivate Kessel — who wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh — this team could slip into the playoff bracket. Getting goaltender Antti Raanta back to top form after an injury-ruined season would help.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

2018-19 record: 35-37-10

Coach: Dallas Eakins

Key newcomer: Michael Del Zotto

Key departures: Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Chad Johnson  

Outlook: It's time to hit the reset button. General manager Bob Murray took over as coach last season and saw that firsthand. Fortunately the Ducks have an army of good young forwards coming, led by Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Max Comtois and Max Jones. Forwards Rickard Rakell, Ondrej Kase and Jakob Silfverberg all have more to give, too, and John Gibson might be the NHL's best goaltender. But about that defense ...

EDMONTON OILERS

2018-19 record: 35-38-9

Coach: Dave Tippett

Key newcomers: James Neal, Mike Smith, Markus Granlund

Key departures: Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi

Outlook: Epic mismanagement left this team with a top-heavy roster. Connor McDavid is the NHL's brightest star. Forward Leon Draisaitl is an elite scorer. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defensemen Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are nice assets, too. But the rest of the skaters have little to offer, and the goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Smith is iffy. How is it possible to stay this bad this long?

LOS ANGELES KINGS

2018-19 record: 31-42-9

Coach: Todd McLellan

Key newcomers: Ben Hutton, Martin Frk

Key departure: Brendal Leipsic

Outlook: This team got old in a hurry, so investing millions in yesteryear sniper Ilya Kovalchuk last summer wasn't a bright move. He joins Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty in the fading veteran core group. All those seasons of trading picks and prospects to stay in the Cup chase took a toll. Rebuilding this team will take many years.