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NHL Predictions: Western Conference Sees Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues as Division Winners

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Opening night is finally upon us, and the Defending Big D staff finish out their predictions for the NHL season by trying to rank the super-competitive Western Conference.

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The NHL season kicks off tonight with four games slated for broadcast. In the US, we'll see the New York Rangers take on the Chicago Blackhawks at 7 PM CST followed by the San Jose Sharks taking on the Los Angeles Kings at 9:30 PM CST. Both games will be broadcast on NBCSN. If you're lucky enough to be in Canada or have access to Center Ice and/or GameCenter, you can choose to watch the Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs matchup at 6 PM CST and the Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames at 9 PM CST.

The Defending Big D staff is back with our last part of our predictions series. You can read our Eastern Conference predictions here and our Dallas Stars predictions here.

The average ranking given below is across everyone, and the writer by writer rankings are given at the bottom of this post so that you can ridicule any of us as you wish.

Pacific Division

Josh:
This division is surprisingly terrible. The Ducks are decent, but who else? The Oilers might make the playoffs because the division stinks. If Christian Ehrhoff is good to go the Kings could do some damage, and if some of the Sharks young players step forward they could do some damage. Capital Meh.

Erin:
Oh to be in this division, which falls off a cliff after the top two teams. A team with some real problems (like Vancouver and Calgary last year) is going to make the playoffs. My gut says that will be San Jose, but the Flames did get better and could sneak in again.

Taylor:
Pretty confident there won't be a wild card team out of the Pacific division again. It would take something massive for Anaheim not to run away with the Pacific title.

Robert:
The Ducks are closer to falling off the elite train than they realize, but the Pacific is weak, and they're the strongest ones there.

Derek:
Anaheim is too skilled and too deep to not run away in the Pacific. The Oilers still don't get over the hump, while the Canucks spiral into disaster. Last season's surprise Flames team proves to be the real deal.

Marcus:
Ducks are probably the class of the regular season running away with the Presidents' trophy. Everyone else is terrible, and LA probably wins a round or two in the playoffs. Go figure.

Wes:
The fact they play each other so many times masks a pretty week crop of teams in the Pacific. Big stories? A 6'1" 18-year old center isn't the piece keeping Edmonton out of the playoffs, and the rot really sets in for Vancouver.

David:
It's Anaheim and everyone else. I'm not particularly high on Calgary, but it's a weak division and they've got a top two of Giordano/Hamilton with younglings like Monahan, Bennett, and Gaudreau leading the way on O.  

Melissa:
The Ducks have an easy time of it (boo), the Flames surprise, and the Coyotes go into Full Tank Mode to land Arizona native Auston Matthews.

Huw:
Yes... I think the Oilers will make the playoffs. Call me crazy but the organisation just feels like it might actually start winning games. The Flames started moving in the right direction last season and now with a few more pieces (Hamilton for one) they are going to jump near to the top of the Pacific. The Sharks decide to rebuild halfway through the season but can't beat the Coyotes to the prize of Auston Matthews.

Central Division

Josh:
Every team took steps back or did little to improve except the Stars. Chicago is really going to struggle unless they can get something out of Trevor Daley. So, why not Dallas? Yes, there are questions, but they all have questions. Do it. Stars win the Central.

Erin:
This division is a mess of good talent - you could easily talk me into flipping Minnesota for Nashville straight up or pulling the four teams from 2-5 out of a hat. I'm not sold on Winnipeg's long-term goaltending or Colorado recapturing puck luck, but St. Louis will be the class of the regular season.

Taylor:
Pretty much you could pick up sticks and be convinced that is the order this division finishes in. I can only be assured of one thing: pain, and lots of it.

Robert:
The Jets don't go anywhere after their goalies come back down to earth. Minnesota probably needs more help than just a season's worth of Dubnyk can provide.

Derek:
The Blues are a team hitting their prime, while the Hawks find a way to avoid the off-ice distractions. Minnesota, Winnipeg and Nashville wage all-out war to claim the wildcard playoff spots.

Marcus:
Minnesota dominates behind the most boring hockey anyone can imagine. Wheels start to squeak in St. Louis, and they come off in the first round of the playoffs. Dallas has to overcome another slow start to surge into third in the Central.

Wes:
Tarasenko and the Blues figure things out, Chicago wobbles, and signs point to Winnipeg and Dallas taking leaps. This division is still the class of the NHL, but deep flaws doom Nashville (scoring), Minnesota (Dubnyk), and Colorado (defense).

David:
With the Blues' blueline, it could be Tarasenko and 11 Dave Bolland clones to round out the forward group and they'd still be a playoff team. I'm high on Dallas only because I think average goaltending will be enough with their offense in a division everyone struggles in.

Melissa:
Pekka Rinne struggles and the Preds slide, the Stars ride their high-octane offense to third place in the Central, and the Blackhawks keep chugging along despite offseason departures.

Huw:
It feels like the Blues and the Blackhawks are the top dogs here. The Wild, Predators and Stars battle to the bitter end with the Stars falling short. I think the Preds can surprise again and the Wild still have the talent to get one of the top three seedings.

WC Predictions