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Guide to the 2021 NHL West Division – New Division, Old Rivalries

| January 13, 2021 9:24 am PDT
NHL West Division 2021 Season Preview

For hockey fans of a certain age, the re-emergence of the West Division might seem like a blast from the past. Before the NHL realigned into two conferences of two divisions each, there was originally a West Division from 1967 to 1974. Thanks to the latest realignment, it has now made a welcome return.

The West – or Honda West Division for sponsorship reasons – has retained Californian teams, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes will also face familiar foes this season. But due to the movement of all Canadian teams, Colorado, St Louis, and Minnesota will also battle it out from this division.

This preview will take a look at the latest odds for an outright winner in the West, who is most likely to win – and who might be one of the lucky four to progress to the playoffs from the West Division.

2021 NHL West Division Odds

As with some of the other new divisions, there is a noticeable gap in strength between the top two or three and the weaker teams. Colorado, St Louis, and Vegas can all count themselves as genuine Stanley Cup contenders, so it is no surprise that the online hockey betting sites favor them to do well.

The Californian trio are arguably the weakest, so that may leave a fight for the final playoff spot between Minnesota and Arizona.

Colorado Avalanche+160
Vegas Golden Knights+175
St Louis Blues+375
Arizona Coyotes+1000
Minnesota Wild+1000
Los Angeles Kings+1600
San Jose Sharks+1800
Anaheim Ducks+2000

No-Hopers in the West Division

Hockey hasn’t always naturally sat with California – for obvious reasons – but there has been plenty of victories and success in the Golden State in recent times. But I’m not sure this season will be one for the three west coast teams to enjoy. I’m going to leave Los Angeles out of this section for now – but there seems no chance for San Jose and Anaheim in 2021.

San Jose endured a terrible time last season, and I’m not sure it will get any better any time soon. After years of being at the top of the game, there has been little new blood coming through to the required standard. The veteran stars are now getting on, and the goaltending has been particularly horrendous. In short, don’t look to San Jose for some healthy returns.

Anaheim’s chances look even slimmer, but the future looks brighter here than in San Jose. After years of attracting big players, Anaheim has embarked on an exciting rebuilding project that has already started to flourish. It might be a few years yet before the likes of Trevor Zergras really start bossing the league, but the Ducks have time on its side.

Outside Shot of the Playoffs

With the top three in the West Division quite a way ahead of the rest, it does leave one playoff spot open for a real scrap between Arizona, Minnesota, and Los Angeles. I was tempted to count the Kings completely out of the playoff picture, but there is a really exciting group of young players in LA that could be just about on the cusp of something special.

Drew Doughty is a great leader to rally behind – and there is a whole host of players that starred in the recent World Juniors that might find that this is the year their time comes in the big league. I’m not sure the Kings will make the playoffs this year – but they will soon.

I’m more inclined to look at Arizona or Minnesota for the last remaining postseason berth. Clayton Keller really needs to shine for the Coyotes to beat the Wild to fourth – and that feels like a lot of pressure to put on a player who had an excellent rookie season but needs players around him. Unfortunately, Arizona was found guilty of scouting violations, so the introduction of new arrivals has not really up to playoff standard.

That leaves me to think that Minnesota will snatch the playoff spot – but not go much further. It is a strange time for the Wild. I am very excited to see how Kirill Kaprizov will get on in the NHL (and there have been good reports from pre-season scrimmages), but there doesn’t seem to be a team here yet.

NHL West Division Favorites

There is no doubt in my mind that Colorado, Vegas, and St Louis will progress to the playoffs this year – but it is much tougher trying to work out which of the three will win the West. The slightly longer odds for St Louis are very interesting, as I don’t see the Blues as being that far behind the Golden Knights and the Avs.

Losing Alex Piertrangelo to a team that is now a divisional rival is a tough break for St Louis, but defensively this team is very strong. The match-ups with the other top two teams will be crucial – but there should not be a problem against the rest of the division.

That will be the same case for Colorado, who can legitimately consider itself a Stanley Cup contender this year. Cale Makar and Devon Toews should be a paring to look out for this season, but there is talent all through the roster. Nathan MacKinnon is a real star and might be the edge Colorado needs to overcome what will be a spirited fight between St Louis and Vegas.

Golden Knights fans will particularly enjoy seeing Pietrangelo suit up against his former team eight times this season, but there were some serious departures on the defensive front in the offseason. The strong plus point for Vegas is its strength in possession, though – and that means it will always be able to give any team a good game.

My Prediction for the West Division – Colorado Avalanche

I am more interested in how the West Division playoffs will pan out, really – with three very good teams battling it out for just one Stanley Cup semi-final spot. But as far as the regular season goes, I’m leaning towards the Avs.

The goaltending of Philip Grubauer needs to vastly improve, but I think there will be a real desire in Colorado to make up for the disappointment of the playoffs last season when the Avalanche was beaten by surprise team Dallas in the second round. I am not completely convinced by this team being the favorite to win the whole thing – but I do think it will just about sneak this division.

Dan Roberts
Dan Roberts

Dan Roberts is an experienced freelance writer specialising in sports and sports betting. He is particularly knowledgeable about world soccer, but also writes about football, basketball and cricket.

As a fan of Nottingham Forest, New York Knicks, Minnesota Vikings and New York Mets, Dan has not had much to celebrate recently.

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