Part Six of the 2019-20 season preview will wrap up the series and finish the Pacific Division with training camps set to open. You can view Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five of the series, which has covered the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and the first part of the Pacific.
2018-19 Finish: 39-35-8 record, ninth in the Western Conference
Strengths: Arizona ranked sixth in the league in goals against per game (2.68) and placed eighth overall in even strength goals against (177) last season. The Coyotes got great goaltending from Darcy Kuemper with Antti Raanta missing most of the year due to injury. Arizona was fifth in the NHL in save percentage (.913) and placed just outside the top 10 in shots against. The team also ranked third in penalty kill percentage (85.0%), while finishing second in shorthanded goals for (16).
Weaknesses: The Coyotes major issue in 2018-19, aside from a plethora of injuries, was scoring. The club concluded the year with 2.55 goals for per game, which was better than just two teams in the league. Arizona ranked last in the NHL with 151 even-strength goals for and the power play placed 26th overall with a 16.3% success rate. Clayton Keller led the team with 47 points last year, while Brad Richardson topped the Coyotes with 19 goals. Arizona will get a lift from offensively from the acquisition of Kessel. Getting Nick Schmaltz back from injury and a bounce-back year from Keller will help as well.
Player to Watch: It will be interesting to see if the Coyotes receive meaningful contributions from Christian Dvorak, Barrett Hayton or Soderberg, but Schmaltz is the most intriguing player of the bunch. He had 14 points in 17 matches with Arizona after he was acquired from Chicago. Schmaltz is expected to get a chance to play with Kessel.
2018-19 Finish: 35-36-11 record, 12th in the Western Conference
Noteworthy Losses: Ben Hutton, Markus Granlund, Ryan Spooner
Strengths: Vancouver lacks depth up front, but the team’s top-two centers impressed last season. Elias Pettersson had a monster rookie year en route to a Calder Trophy, while Bo Horvat stepped up with a career season. The Canucks brought in Miller and Ferland during the summer in an attempt to bolster the top-six forward group and provide the team’s talented centers with some scorers to work with.
Weaknesses: Vancouver placed 26th in the league in goals for per game (2.67) and 25th in even-strength markers (169). The team’s .152 winning percentage when trailing after the first period ranked them 28th in the league and their winning percentage when the opposition scored first (.224) was better than just four clubs. The Canucks finished 29th in the league in expected goals for (159.6) and 31st in high-danger scoring chances for (314). They were also 28th in scoring chances for (1,543), while allowing the fifth-most scoring chances against (1,839). Vancouver hopes that a full season from Quinn Hughes as well the additions of Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn will help the defense corps. If Vancouver can spend less time in their own end then their forwards could have an easier time producing offense.
Player to Watch: Miller is expected to get a chance to play alongside Pettersson and Brock Boeser who still needs to be signed by the Canucks. He should also see time on the top power-play unit.
2018-19 Finish: 35-37-10 record, 13th in the Western Conference
Noteworthy Losses: Corey Perry
Strengths: John Gibson didn’t get much support from his teammates in 2018-19, but he was often the best player on the ice for the Ducks. He ended up with a 2.84 goals-against average, but had a strong start and finish to the year. Anaheim ranked 13th in the league in even-strength goals against (183). The Ducks also have some talented youngsters who will be given a chance to play key roles in 2019-20. Troy Terry, Maxime Comtois, Sam Steel and Max Jones could be regulars on the roster this campaign.
Weaknesses: Anaheim struggled offensively last season, while ranking 31st in the league in goals for per game (2.39). Ryan Getzlaf led the team in scoring with 48 points despite being limited to 67 appearances, while Jakob Silfverberg was the only played who surpassed 20 goals (24). The power play finished 24th in the NHL with a 17.0% success rate. Anaheim bought out Perry in the off-season to give the team’s younger players more responsibility and opportunities with the hope of getting the team back on track. The Ducks also need to shore up defensively after allowing the seventh-most shots against and the second-most high-danger scoring chances against last year.
Player to Watch: Assuming Ondrej Kase isn’t traded, he is certainly worth keeping an eye on for a potential breakout performance. Injuries have stood in the way, but he is a high-volume shooter with a goal scorer's touch. Terry is another player who could end up with top-six forward minutes for the Ducks after he had 13 points in 32 NHL outings last year.
2018-19 Finish: 35-38-9 record, 14th in the Western Conference
Strengths: The Oilers had two of the top four most productive players in the NHL last season. Connor McDavid was second overall with 116 points, while Leon Draisaitl ranked fourth with 105 points. A career year from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (28 goals, 41 assists) permitted Edmonton to use McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line for the vast majority of the season. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they were the top point pair in the NHL with 67 team goals where both players picked up a point.
Weaknesses: Aside from Nugent-Hopkins and a productive year from blueliner Darnell Nurse, Edmonton didn’t have any other players pose to be much of an offensive threat. Edmonton tied for 22nd in the league in even-strength goals (172). Neal, who was acquired from Calgary in the off-season, is slated to see time as a top-six forward and he could make an impact. The Oilers surrendered 202 even-strength goals against, which also ranked them 22nd overall. The penalty kill was also a disaster, while finishing 30th in the NHL in penalty kill percentage (74.8%). Edmonton allowed the second-most power-play goals against (62).
Player to Watch: Neal had a forgettable 2018-19 season with Calgary, with seven goals and 19 points in 63 games. However, he stands a very good chance of getting back to at least the 20-goal plateau this season. Neal won’t shoot 5.0% again and the chance to line up alongside McDavid and Draisaitl would provide him with a massive boost.
Los Angeles Kings
2018-19 Finish: 31-42-9 record, 15th in the Western Conference
Noteworthy Gains: Joakim Ryan
Noteworthy Losses: Dion Phaneuf
Strengths: The Kings struggled collectively last season and there weren’t many bright spots. Backup goalie Jack Campbell posted strong numbers, with a 2.30 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 31 appearances. Campbell and Jonathan Quick could form a strong goaltender tandem in 2019-20 if the latter rebounds from a disappointing year. The team’s aging core group feels they have something to prove and they are eager to bounce back with new head coach Todd McLellan leading the charge. There are plenty of doubters that Los Angeles can get back in the playoff hunt, but even if that comes to pass the individual performances of players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Drew Doughty and Quick should be better.
Weaknesses: Los Angeles ranked 30th in the league last season with 2.43 goals for per game and were 31st in expected goals for (155.4). As previously mentioned, there is plenty of room for improvement from some key players and they could turn that offensive problem around. The Kings may provide Carl Grundstrom, who showed some promise last season in a small sample size after he was acquired from Toronto, and Adrian Kempe with larger roles. The team will also be looking for more from Ilya Kovalchuk, who will get a fresh start with a new coach. The Kings’ coaching staff will also have to improve a penalty kill that finished 29th in the league last year.
Player to Watch: Kovalchuk had some success in 2018-19 when he played alongside Kopitar, but he ended up in the coach’s doghouse. If he gets a second chance on the top line and stays there then he could be in store for a productive year.