1. Dallas -- they had an excellent season two years ago, but injuries and bad goaltending derailed them last year. Upgrading Sharp to Radulov, Eakin to Hanzal and Niemi to Bishop is three solid upgrades there. While Methot is being overrated, he will still be an excellent mentor for Klingberg, who should only be getting better. Honka should take a role in their everyday lineup, and he looks like an excellent defenseman in the makings. Tyler Pitlick I feel is an underrated addition that should pay off. Faksa and Ritchie should continue to grow, and I see a breakout year from Janmark coming. Not to mention, Hitch will bring a lot of structure to a team loaded with talent. They should be ready to win the division.
2. St. Louis -- adding Brayden Schenn is going to be a huge addition for them, whether he plays at wing or at center. Having a full seasons of Fabbri, Sobotka and Sanford will more than offset the losses of Reaves, Perron and Lehtera. Even without Shattenkirk, their defense is still extremely strong with Pietrangelo and Parayko. If what we saw from Allen towards the end of the season is something he can consistently come close to, the Blues are in for a fantastic season.
3. Nashville -- we all know about the defense, especially since they added Emelin for their third pairing. Absolutely stacked. But I think the loss of Neal is going to hurt more than people are expecting. While there is a very good chance that they reacquire him at the deadline (or someone like Perron), not having 30 goals in the regular season is going to be tough to replace. I'm sure some of it will be offset by guys like Fiala, Aberg and Gaudreau, but it's still a lot of production to make up. Rinne hasn't been able to put together a consistent regular season for some time, I don't see him doing it this year just because he got hot in the playoffs. Bonino has become extremely overrated, as he's a third line center on a contending team. Nashville would be smart to have Jarnkrok at 2C, but the way Bonino got paid, it seems like he'll be 2C. Should have an excellent season still, but I'm not quite as high on them as some others are.
4. Chicago (WC1) -- Saad should help jumpstart Toews' offensive game, and bringing Sharp back is good. Kane can play with anyone, so losing Panarin doesn't seem like as big a loss, especially if it means getting Toews playing well offensively again. Some of the youngsters up front should help make up for the loss of Hossa (Schmaltz, Hinnastroza, Kero, etc). My real concern with them is defense and backup goaltending. Losing Hjalmarsson is probably going to sting more than many are taking into account, given he's one of the best shutdown defenseman in the entire league. Murphy is a solid player, but nowhere near the level that Hjalmarsson is. Outside of Keith and Seabrook, there isn't a lot of depth there. Doesn't look too hot. Then there's the goaltending. When Crawford has an off night or gets pulled, the Hawks were more than confident with Darling there. Now he's gone, and they replaced him with Anton Forsberg. He has some decent potential, but he's definitely not the backup Chicago will need. They'll make the playoffs on the backs of Kane, Toews/Saad, Keith and Crawford.
5. Minnesota (WC2) -- I almost bumped them down, but Bruce Boudreau is an excellent regular season coach. Even with losing Scandella, they have a lot of good defensemen and their group of forwards is extremely deep. They have three good scoring lines, one of the best defense cores in the league, and Dubnyk is a high-end goalie. Dropping out of the playoffs seems realistic, but they have so many pieces in place right now that I'd bet on them to get back in.
6. Winnipeg -- aside from the fact that Boudreau is an excellent regular season coach, the other reason I don't have the Jets in the playoffs is that I don't trust the tandem of Mason and Hellebuyck, especially if Mason gets the majority of starts. If Winnipeg wants any chance at getting to the playoffs, Hellebuyck has to be a quality, consistent starter for them. It's just so hard to get in with bad goaltending. They have so much talent on both offense and defense that it's crazy to think they miss the playoffs. But in a stacked division, a team with bad goaltending won't get you places.
7. Colorado -- I don't even have to say anything.