- 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.
63rd goal and 150th point for Connor McDavid. 👏 pic.twitter.com/dnmdeJA6dD
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 8, 2023
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.
Welp… NATHAN MACKINNON SEEMS READY FOR THE PLAYOFFS. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/sOeAXgEvoi
— NHL (@NHL) April 15, 2023
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
|Game 1||April 18||9:30 p.m.||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game 2||April 20||10:00 p.m.||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game 3||April 22||4:00 p.m.||Canada Life Centre|
|Game 4||April 24||9:30 p.m.||Canada Life Centre|
|Game 5||April 27||TBD||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game 6||April 29||TBD||Canada Life Centre|
|Game 7||May 1||TBD||T-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
|Game 1||April 17||10:00 p.m.||Rogers Place|
|Game 2||April 19||10:00 p.m.||Rogers Place|
|Game 3||April 21||10:00 p.m.||Crypto.com Arena|
|Game 4||April 23||9:00 p.m.||Crypto.com Arena|
|Game 5||April 25||TBD||Rogers Place|
|Game 6||April 29||TBD||Crypto.com Arena|
|Game 7||May 1||TBD||Rogers 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
|Game 1||April 18||10:00 p.m.||Ball Arena|
|Game 2||April 20||9:30 p.m.||Ball Arena|
|Game 3||April 22||10:00 p.m.||Climate Pledge Arena|
|Game 4||April 24||10:00 p.m.||Climate Pledge Arena|
|Game 5||April 26||TBD||Ball Arena|
|Game 6||April 28||TBD||Climate Pledge Arena|
|Game 7||April 30||TBD||Ball 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
|Game 1||April 17||9:30 p.m.||American Airlines Center|
|Game 2||April 19||9:30 p.m.||American Airlines Center|
|Game 3||April 21||9:30 p.m.||Xcel Energy Center|
|Game 4||April 23||6:30 p.m.||Xcel Energy Center|
|Game 5||April 25||TBD||American Airlines Center|
|Game 6||April 28||TBD||Xcel Energy Center|
|Game 7||April 30||TBD||American 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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