NHL Playoff Predictions: Western Conference First Round

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Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) in the first period during an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes, Monday, March 27, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rachael Millanta @rachaelmillanta Apr 17, 2023, 12:00 PM
  • Can the Avalanche advance to defend their title?
  • Will the Oilers beat the Kings for the second consecutive year?
  • Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jason Robertson will be players to watch.

With the 2022-23 NHL regular season now in the rearview mirror, all eyes have turned to Stanley Cup odds as the playoffs get underway. The eight Western Conference teams advancing to the postseason have been matched for the first round, with the format including the top three teams from each division and two Wild Card teams.

So which Western Conference players should you be watching in the first round? Here are three player predictions and four series predictions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions: First Round

Connor McDavid Will Record Over 12 Points

It can be hard to remember that McDavid is only 26 years old when considering everything he’s accomplished in the NHL, and it somehow seems he’s still getting better each year. During the 2022-23 regular season, the superstar center recorded 64 goals, 89 assists, 153 points, and 352 shots, ranking him first in the league on goals, assists, and points, and third on shots.

McDavid has played in 34 playoff games in his eight-year career and recorded 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists), so he’s certainly proven the postseason pressure doesn’t phase him. Last season, he led the league in the first round with four goals and 10 assists, becoming only the second player in history to record six multi-point games in a single playoff series. 

It’s a big ask, but I think 12 points by McDavid in the first round this season is extremely doable.

Nathan MacKinnon Will Record Over 10 Shots

MacKinnon finished the 2022-23 regular season with 42 goals, 69 assists, 111 points, and 366 shots, ranking him fourth in the league on points, third on assists, and second on shots. He had the best season of his 10-year career across all stats, and having won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche last year, the 27-year-old center is ready to defend the team’s title.

This is MacKinnon’s seventh trip to the playoffs, having previously recorded 93 points (41 goals, 52 assists) with 323 shots in 70 postseason games. He led all skaters with 13 goals in the 2022 playoffs, tied with Evander Kane, so asking for just 10 shots in the first round this year feels quite conservative. I think MacKinnon will be one to watch over the next few weeks.

Jason Robertson Will Record Over 6 Assists

During the 2022-23 regular season, Robertson recorded 46 goals, 63 assists, 109 points, and 313 shots, ranking him seventh in the league on goals and sixth on both assists and points. It’s been a major breakout year for the 23-year-old left winger, and I expect him to keep up the pace as he advances with the Stars.

In his four-year career, this is Robertson’s second advancement to the playoffs. In seven postseason games last season, he recorded four points (one goal, three assists), but looking at how his stats have improved this year from last, that hardly feels like a fair comparison. 

Robertson seems to keep getting better every time he hits the ice, and six assists in the first series shouldn’t be too much of an ask.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Vegas Golden Knights

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1April 189:30 p.m.T-Mobile Arena
Game 2April 2010:00 p.m.T-Mobile Arena
Game 3April 224:00 p.m.Canada Life Centre
Game 4April 249:30 p.m.Canada Life Centre
Game 5April 27TBDT-Mobile Arena
Game 6April 29TBDCanada Life Centre
Game 7May 1TBDT-Mobile Arena

Vegas Golden Knights: 51-22-9
Winnipeg Jets: 46-33-3

Prediction: Golden Knights in six games.

Winnipeg and Las Vegas met three times during the regular season, with the Golden Knights winning all three games (two at home and one on the road). While I’m picking the Golden Knights to advance, I don’t think this series will be as easy as some fans would like. The Jets have a strong roster, and I doubt they’ll go down without a fight.

Since the Golden Knights have the better regular-season record and, therefore, home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1April 1710:00 p.m.Rogers Place
Game 2April 1910:00 p.m.Rogers Place
Game 3April 2110:00 p.m.Crypto.com Arena
Game 4April 239:00 p.m.Crypto.com Arena
Game 5April 25TBDRogers Place
Game 6April 29TBDCrypto.com Arena
Game 7May 1TBDRogers Place

Edmonton Oilers: 50-23-9
Los Angeles Kings: 47-25-10

Prediction: Oilers in seven games.

Edmonton and Los Angeles met four times during the regular season, with each team winning two games — one at home and one on the road. This is the second consecutive year the Oilers and Kings have matched in the first round of the playoffs, and Edmonton will be going in hoping to repeat the success it had last year. 

The Kings have a strong roster, but against McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, I don’t think they’ll be any luckier this postseason than they were in 2022.

Since the Oilers have the better regular-season record and, therefore, home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.

Seattle Kraken vs. Colorado Avalanche

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1April 1810:00 p.m.Ball Arena
Game 2April 209:30 p.m.Ball Arena
Game 3April 2210:00 p.m.Climate Pledge Arena
Game 4April 2410:00 p.m.Climate Pledge Arena
Game 5April 26TBDBall Arena
Game 6April 28TBDClimate Pledge Arena
Game 7April 30TBDBall Arena

Seattle Kraken: 46-28-8
Colorado Avalanche: 51-24-7

Prediction: Avalanche in seven games.

In the 2022-23 regular season, the Avalanche and Kraken met three times, with Seattle winning two games, both on the road. This bodes well for the Kraken, but against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, this will be a very tough matchup, and I don’t know if Seattle has enough to pull off a series win. My pick’s the Avalanche, but I think it’ll take the full seven games.

Since the Avalanche have the better regular-season record and, therefore, home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at Ball Arena in Denver, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. 

Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars

GAMEDATETIMEARENA
Game 1April 179:30 p.m.American Airlines Center
Game 2April 199:30 p.m.American Airlines Center
Game 3April 219:30 p.m.Xcel Energy Center
Game 4April 236:30 p.m.Xcel Energy Center
Game 5April 25TBDAmerican Airlines Center
Game 6April 28TBDXcel Energy Center
Game 7April 30TBDAmerican Airlines Center

Minnesota Wild: 46-25-11
Dallas Stars: 47-21-14

Prediction: Stars in seven games.

In the regular season, the Stars played four games against the Wild and won two — one at home and two on the road. Of all the Western Conference matchups, I think this will be the tightest, which is why I’m not prepared to pick anyone to win earlier than the full seven games.

Since the Stars have the better regular-season record and, therefore, home ice advantage, Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 will be played at American Airlines Center in Dallas, while Games 3, 4, and 6 will be played at ​​Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

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About the Author

Rachael Millanta

Read More @rachaelmillanta

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Rachael Millanta is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM focusing on Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Her work has been published in SB Nation, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Slackjaw Humor. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Rachael now resides in Chicago, Illinois.