The last few years the Pacific Division has been dominated by the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. Their time as the big boys on the block is waning, however. The Edmonton Oilers and the Arizona Coyotes are the future of the Pacific Division.
Oilers and Coyotes: Future of the Pacific Division
Although the Coyotes are off to a rough start (2-6-0) their future is very bright. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair electrified NHL fans in the desert last year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been a force on the Coyotes blue line the last three years.
A number of Arizona’s top prospects made the team out of training camp this year. They were Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse and Jakob Chychrun. News will be coming soon who will be sticking with the Coyotes for the full 2016-17 season.
Believe it or not, the Coyotes have another wave of youngsters coming to Arizona. The best of the bunch is the seventh overall pick of the 2016 draft, center man Clayton Keller.
The Coyotes still have work to do to tighten up their blue line, as well as find their future starting goaltender.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) October 31, 2016
The Oilers are off to a red-hot start, coming out of the gates with a 7-2-0 record. Edmonton have a bunch of talented young forwards led by their 19-year old captain Connor McDavid. Part of this talented young core includes Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jesse Puljujarvi. Milan Lucic was brought in to help lead this young team.
The questions for the Oilers are their blue line, whether or not they have a number one goaltender, and their paper thin farm system. Right now Edmonton’s defensive core is anchored by Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefbom. The Oilers need at minimum either youngster Darnell Nurse or Griffin Reinhart to develop into a top-four defenseman.
Cam Talbot has picked up his play from his strong second half performance of last year. Talbot needs to show this year he can be counted on as a number one net minder in this league.
The bad news for Edmonton is the prospect pipeline is dry. At this point and time, the Oilers do not have a prospect that can project as part of their future core. This could be a problem for the Oilers moving forward.
The Oilers keep rolling with Connor McDavid leading the way: https://t.co/mYmeoLcQ40
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) October 29, 2016
Long-Term Pacific Team Issues
In terms of the rest of the division, the long-term outlook is troubling. The Sharks have a number of players including Brent Burns who become unrestricted free agents at season’s end. In addition, age will become a problem for San Jose in the near future.
The Ducks core is starting to get long in the tooth. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry both turn 32 in May, Ryan Kesler hits 33 next summer. The Kings lack roster depth, and have one of the worst prospect pipelines in the sport, all while being cap-strapped.
Calgary has a lot of talented players but can they keep the puck out of their own net? While the Canucks have gotten off to a decent start, it looks like they are starting a rebuild in Vancouver.
Given all the long-term issues facing most of the teams in the Pacific, there is a realistic opportunity for the Las Vegas franchise to hit the ground running.
If Las Vegas general manager George McPhee can tackle the expansion draft, as well as find players in the 2017 and 2018 amateur drafts, plus add a couple of players in this summer’s free agency, they can be a force early on. McPhee would be wise to make sure he sustains cap flexibility, so Las Vegas can be a player in free agency the next few years.
These are interesting times in the Pacific division. The changing of the guard in the Pacific is right around the corner.