Eight teams all competing to be the best in their division. The Pacific Division is a tough place to play.
Will the Vegas Golden Knights be able to come back down to earth after their Cinderella season?
Can the Los Angeles Kings get enough out of signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a free agent contract and make a challenge for the top spot?
Or will the Edmonton Oilers, who possess the best player on the planet be able to recoup and make the playoffs?
Then there's the aging Anaheim Ducks who finished second in the division last season wondering if they have enough gas in the tank to finish the race.
The San Jose Sharks paid Evander Kane lots of money in hopes that he can take them to the Promise land, but is he enough?
The Calgary Flames made lots of changes including trading away Dougie Hamilton for Noah Hanifin. Will that work to their favor?
The upstart Arizona Coyotes also made some dramatic trades (again) and hope that newcomers Vinnie Hinostroza and Alex Galchenyuk can transform them into a better team who hope to surprise some come playoff time.
The lowly Vancouver Canucks are a mess. Trevor Linden is not there as the team president and losing the Sedin twins is not good news. But, they still have Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat to gloat about.
Here's how they'll finish:
Los Angeles Kings
Let's face it adding Kovalchuk is a feather in their cap, but they are also very low on cap space with just $2,154,773 according to capfriendly.com.
That doesn't give them much wiggle room if a key player goes down and they need a replacement.
While Kovalchuk is 35-years-old he can still play as displayed by his 30 goals or more the last two seasons in the KHL while only appearing in 60 or so games each year.
What really matters is can the Kings continue to be a very stingy defensive team while upping their lack of scoring goals?
If Anze Kopitar can duplicate his performance of last season (35 goals, 92 points), and Dustin Brown takes some youth serum they stand a good chance of bringing home the Pacific crown. They will have Jeff Carter back after he missed 55 games last season. That should help considerably.
Kings take the Pacific edging out the Golden Knights.
Vegas Golden Knights
Everyone knows that the Golden Knights overachieved last season, but it wasn't all luck or done with smoke and mirrors.
They have some talented players even though they lost James Neal and David Parron for nothing. While GM Gerard Gallant may have blown it by not trying to trade these two talented players it may be something that will haunt him for seasons to come.
He was able to snag Paul Stastny from the Winnipeg Jets and added blueliner Nick Holden at a reasonable $2.2 million for two years.
Is that enough? Well, if you still have one of the best goalies in the NHL between the pipes in Marc-Andre Fleury (2.24 GAA, .927 SV%) you always have a good shot at winning. Of course, the balance sheet of the Vegas team was hit with a three-year $21 million expense to keep Mr. Fleury employed in Sin City.
A small price to play for an exceptional competitor and player who can change the outcome of games.
Now this prediction may come under fire, but I'm sticking with it nonetheless.
Look... we all know that McDavid can take over games and make defenses look silly, but we also know he can't do it all alone. GM Peter Chiarelli didn't do much at all to improve his team as rumors were flying that Milan Lucic or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may be traded.
Granted, to make this out-on-the-limb prediction the two above mentioned players will need to perform much better, and there's nothing more motivating for a player to wake up than the rumors he may be traded.
Speaking of stepping up... Cam Talbot has to play more to his ability and have a much better season than last year.
Add to that list Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom on the blueline who both need to show better defense, and the offense will take care of itself.
Like I said, McDavid may seem superhuman but he isn't... he needs some support now and then.
One thing Mr. McDavid won't need is financial support. He will be starting his new eight-year $100 million contract... I think he's set for life.
Except he hasn't won a Cup... yet.
If the Ducks can stay healthy (which wasn't the case last season) they are a quality team with some talented veterans who still managed 101 points last season.
With star players like Ryan Kesler missing 38 games, and Corey Perry 11 games, and Ondrej Kase 16 games, Cam Fowler 15 games the Ducks seemed more like a MASH unit than an NHL team.
They added defenseman Luke Schenn from the Coyotes and Carter Rowney from the Pittsburgh Penguins, plus Brian Gibbons formerly with the New Jersey Devils.
The Ducks are a solid enough team to at least repeat last season's finish and will be a playoff team.
The Coyotes are beyond tired of not making the playoffs since 2011/12 and are doing something about it. Along with a group of young, speedy players they have been developing the last few seasons, GM John Chayka did what he does best... make deals.
Off went forward Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens for disgruntled forward Alex Galchenyuk in mid-June. It was a controversial trade, but one which seems to have gone Arizona's way.
Chakya wasn't done yet.
He pulled off a seven-player trade with one of his favorite trading partners the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only is Chayka adept at trades, he takes on dead contracts for teams as well.
He added Marian Hossa's to his list and got some pretty decent returns. Vinnie Hinostroza is a speedy forward who will fit right into the Coyotes style of play, and he'll get more playing time to boot.
The Coyotes also gathered a useful defenseman in Jordan Oesterle who should fit in as a sixth or seventh blueliner this fall.
And they gave up Marcus Kruger because we all know that the Blackhawks like to bring back players after they trade them away.
They also added a scorer in Michael Grabner whom they signed to a three-year $10.05 million free agent deal. He can fill the net.
Will these changes bring the Coyotes a long-coveted playoff berth?
If Galchenyuk and Hinostroza can supplement an already talented forward line (Brendan Perlini, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak, and Lawson Crouse) the team should have some success. They are long overdue and a lot hinges on whether Antti Raanta can pick up where he left off last season and the defense can button down the hatch.
So, the Coyotes may be in the hunt for something they want... and you know how that can be. They may surprise a lot of people... a wild card spot finally.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are not getting any younger, and they invested in 27-year-old Evander Kane to the extent of a seven-year $49 million contract. He did perform well in his short stint last season collecting 13 goals, 19 assists in 26 regular and playoff games, but is he the one to lead the team to the playoffs?
The team is aging. Joe Pavelski is now 34, and Joe Thornton is 39 and missed 35 games due to injury last season. Players start losing a step or two at this elevated age and it shows.
The Sharks may surpass the Coyotes to gain a valued wild-card spot, but it won't be easy. Oh yeah, almost forgot that Brent Burns is 33-years-old and will be 34 a month before season's end. Where does the time go?
Some may say that after the changes that GM Brad Treliving made acquiring tough forward James Neal in free agency and trading Dougie Hamilton for young Noah Hanifin that this will be a playoff team.
I beg to differ.
Because even with a talented group of forwards including Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sam Bennett this team just seems flat.
They finished fifth in their division after a nosedive late in the season. After a ten-game winning streak in mid-February to mid-March they fell apart just going .500 in their last 14 games and lost out a chance to be in the playoffs.
The main reason that the Flames will burn out is their weakness in goal. Mike Smith is reaching his golden years at 36, and he has no real quality backup to relieve him... the same situation when he was in Arizona.
If the Flames feel that Smith can strap the team to his aging back and take them home, they need to re-think that.
With a ton of good forwards last season this team was ranked 27th in goals scored and 29th on the power play. Their defense should have been stronger with the level of players on the blueline yet they only managed to finish 19th in goals against, and trading Hamilton will have its ill effects on the blueline.
Losing the Sedin twins, and the sudden departure of team president Trevor Linden means an organization in upheaval.
Sure they have some excellent young players in Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat but beyond them, this team is in trouble. They managed to barely squeeze by the Coyotes last season by a mere three points and don't seem to be headed to a better showing of the 73 points they managed in 2017/18.
They seem to have no clear direction and without Linden to guide them, they are really lost.
To put salt in the wound they signed Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel each to a four-year $12 million contract.
Who does that?
Beagle (33) had just seven goals and 15 assists in 79 games with the Cup champion Washington Capitals. Roussel (28) didn't manage much better with five goals 12 assists in 73 games.
It seems to defy logic to give Beagle $3 million a year at the age of 33. Between the two of them, they only managed 12 goals, 27 assists!
That won't be a word used by many to describe the Canucks this season.
How do you think the Pacific Division will finish this 2018/19 season? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to give us a follow on Twitter (@VAVELNHL_ENG) for more updates!