Atlantic Division Preview: Outlook, Predictions For 2022-23 NHL Season

The Panthers are the favorite to win the division

by

September 27

The Atlantic Division always figures to be one of the toughest in the NHL, and that will be the case going into the 2022-23 season.

The Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs enter the season as the top two favorites to win the division, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Tampa Bay Lightning just behind them. But the Detroit Red Wings appear to be turning a corner and the Buffalo Sabres were a surprise last year.

The Boston Bruins will have their work cut out for them to begin the new campaign, but never are an easy opponent.

Let’s preview the Atlantic Division with Opening Night less than a month away.

Tampa Bay Lightning (Odds to win division: +300)
Notable additions: Philippe Myers, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ian Cole, Haydn Fleury
Notable subtractions: Riley Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta

Outlook: Replacing Palat will be no easy task, but the Lightning still are a very tough team in the division. Fresh off their third straight Stanley Cup Final appearance — losing to the Colorado Avalanche — the Bolts defense took a hit with Rutta and McDonagh leaving, but as we have seen so many times in the past, they certainly know how to get the very best out of each of their players.

Of course, the Lightning still have Andrei Vasilevskiy manning the net which will always put Tampa Bay in position to win.

Florida Panthers (Odds to win division: +200)
Notable additions: Matthew Tkachuk, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Alex Lyon, Colin White
Notable subtractions: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot, Noel Acciari, Mason Marchment

Outlook: The Panthers offense last year was unreal between Huberdeau’s 85 assists and the lineup having four 30-goal scorers and six 20-goal scorers. But a slew of changes this offseason doesn’t leave them in the same position as 2021-22. On top of all the departures, Anthony Duclair also is expected to miss significant time after suffering an Achilles injury.

On the defensive side, the Panthers didn’t do much to replace Weegar when they traded him to the Calgary Flames. That hole on the blueline could prove to be detrimental.

While Florida probably won’t duplicate last season’s offensive totals, even with the addition of Tkachuk, they’re still going to be a tough opponent and well above average.

Toronto Maple Leafs (Odds to win division: +170)
Notable additions: Ilya Samsonov, Jordie Benn, Matt Murray, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Victor Mete, Calle Jarnkrok, Adam Gaudette
Notable subtractions: Ondrej Kase, Petr Mrazek, Colin Blackwell, Michael Hutchinson, Jack Campbell, Ilya Mikheyev, Ilya Lyubushkin

Outlook: Did the Maple Leafs finally make the appropriate additions to help get them beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs? That, of course, remains to be seen, but there’s no reason to think Toronto will be at the bottom of the division. The offense will be fine and the power play finally figured it out last year. It’s always been the defense (and most times last year, goaltending) that has really kept the Leafs from reaching their potential.

The defensive depth won’t take long to be tested with Jake Muzzin nursing a back injury and Rasmus Sandin in a contract standoff. Their goaltending also will be tested early with the injury-prone Murray and Samsonov comes with risks himself. It will be an interesting year for Toronto, to say the least.

Boston Bruins (Odds to win division: +1100)
Notable additions: David Krejci, Pavel Zacha
Notable subtractions: Erik Haula, Curtis Lazar, Anton Blidh

Outlook: The return of David Krejci without a doubt helps fill a void that Boston struggled with last season, but there still are a lot of questions surrounding the Bruins. They’ll be without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk to begin the season and Zacha, who likely will take Marchand’s spot on the top line, never quite found his stride while he was with the New Jersey Devils.

The goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will return for a full season together after a successful 2021-22. Swayman looked like a seasoned vet between the pipes at times and didn’t let him getting sent to Providence upon Tuukka Rask’s brief return deter any growth. Ullmark was solid, as well, but it would be nice to see the both of them take it a step further this year.

The Atlantic Division already is grueling enough, but without three of your top players, a new head coach and uncertainty surrounding the bottom six’s production, it likely will be a tough start out of the gate for the Bruins.

Montreal Canadiens (Odds to win division: +20000)
Notable additions: Evgenii Dadonov, Mitchell Stephens, Mike Matheson, Kirby Dach, Sean Monahan
Notable subtractions: Jeff Petry, Shea Weber, William Lagesson, Alexander Romanov, Ryan Poehling

Outlook: Dadonov figures to bring some offensive pop to the Habs but after last year’s abysmal power play and averaging just 2.66 goals per game, it makes you wonder if they’ve done enough to help themselves. The Canadiens were a bad team last year, and that may be a bit of an understatement. The defense was worse than the offense and Montreal never could get out of its own way. Matheson probably will be relied upon to fill the void left behind by Weber and Petry and he does have the potential to be an underrated acquisition, but he’ll likely be playing in more of a shutdown role for Montreal than he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It also doesn’t sound like Carey Price will play this season, which is just another blow to the Canadiens.

Ottawa Senators (Odds to win division: +2800)
Notable additions: Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, Jacob Larsson, Tyler Motte, Cam Talbot, Jayce Hawryluk, Jacob Larsson
Notable subtractions: Tyler Ennis, Michael Del Zotto, Adam Gaudette, Matt Murray, Filip Gustavsson, Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, Colin White, Victor Mete

Outlook: DeBrincat certainly adds some offensive power to the Senators lineup and the addition of Giroux — though not the player he once was — can add a legitimate scoring threat while bringing a veteran presence to Ottawa. However, the Sens still are struggling on defense. The moves made for the blue line don’t exactly move the needle, which means Erik Brannstrom really needs to break out and develop into the player many believe he can be.

The Senators will be a fun team to watch offensively, but their defense may be the downfall of a team looking to get back to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings (Odds to win division: +3000)
Notable additions: Ben Chiarot, Ville Husso, Andrew Copp, Mark Pysyk, David Perron, Olli Maatta, Austin Czarnik
Notable subtractions: Marc Staal, Sam Gagner, Danny DeKeyser, Thomas Greiss, Magnus Hellberg, Olli Juolevi, Mitchell Stephens,

Outlook: The Red Wings were incredibly active this offseason and continued to make strides in not being a one-line team. The defense, though, still could use some help but the additions of Chiarot and Maatta will provide a veteran presence on the blue line.

Buffalo Sabres (Odds to win division: +7000)
Notable additions: Kale Clague, Riley Sheahan, Ilya Lyubushkin, Eric Comrie, Chase Priskie
Notable subtractions: Chase Priskie, Mark Jankowski, Colin Miller, Mark Pysyk, Cody Eakin, Will Butcher, Drake Caggiula

Outlook: You would think after the season the Sabres had last season — acting as someone of a surprise in the Atlantic Division — that Buffalo would try to improve in the offseason. That didn’t exactly happen and the moves that the Sabres made won’t exactly jolt them to the top. They struggled with their depth and that figures to be the same story this year.

The lack of a true veteran core or presence also doesn’t do them any favors and after a year of the revolving door of goalies, they’ll turn to 41-year-old Craig Anderson — who played 31 games for Buffalo last season — and Comrie.

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Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images

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