2023 NHL season preview
🏒 How it works
The NHL consists of 32 teams divided between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Those conferences are further split into two divisions — the Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East, and Central and Pacific in the West.
Each team will play 82 games over the next six months — 41 at home and 41 away — to rack up points in the official standings: two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss, and a big ol’ goose egg for a regulation-time loss.
- The top three teams in each division move on to the postseason, along with the two next-best in each conference, for a grand total of 16 teams battling it out for the greatest trophy in sports.
🏆 The reigning champs: What happens in Vegas
Entering just their seventh NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights topped the Florida Panthers in last year’s Stanley Cup Final, becoming the fastest expansion franchise to lift Lord Stanley in the league’s modern history.
- And they made it look easy. Vegas needed just five games to defeat their Eastern Conference foes and only lost six games throughout their entire postseason run.
Vegas was (and should still be) a well-oiled machine. Twelve different Golden Knights notched at least 10 points (one for a goal, one for an assist) throughout the playoffs, with star center Jack Eichel, forward Jonathan Marchessault, and captain Mark Stone leading the way.
- Whether you tune in for the celebrity cameos, the wild pre-game performances, or the electric hockey, Vegas is sure to entertain. They'll begin their title defense against fellow league young’un, the Seattle Kraken, tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET.
🥊 The contenders
Carolina Hurricanes: One of the most fun teams in the league thanks to their sassy social presence and rowdy “Storm Surge” celebrations, the ’Canes — led by forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho — have been a perennial postseason presence since 2019. But they’ll need a big surge to make a deep postseason run.
Colorado Avalanche: The only thing stopping the Avs from winning their second Stanley Cup in three years is injuries. But even with captain Gabriel Landeskog expected to miss another season, Colorado still has one of the deepest rosters in the league including generational talent, center Nathan MacKinnon, and 2022 Norris Trophy winning defenseman Cale Makar.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils have not-so-quietly built one of the best, young rosters in the league, including a pair of first overall draft pick centers, Nico Hirschier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019). And Jack’s younger brother, Luke will also be looking to make an impact in his first full NHL season. Nothing like a little brotherly competition to up the ante.
🇨🇦 Canadian teams
⚜ Montréal Canadiens: From 2021 Stanley Cup finalists to basement dweller the last two seasons, the Habs head into this campaign with a serious chip on their shoulder. But don ’t expect les Habitants to turn it around in one season; they’re a young squad that’s still lacking depth and a solid goaltending option.
💙 Toronto Maple Leafs: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but it might actually be the Leafs year to hoist the Cup for the first time since 1967, the longest drought in NHL history.
- After firing general manager Kyle Dubas following their second-round playoff exit and signing star center Auston Matthews to a league-high four-year, $53M(!!!) contract extension in the offseason, the Buds seem poised to make a leap.
🔴 Ottawa Senators: Firmly in their new owner era, it can only get better from here for the youthful Sens. That said, as much as they were this close to advancing to the playoffs last season Ottawa is still squarely in rebuild mode after trading star winger Alex DeBrincat to the Detroit Red Wings.
🛫 Winnipeg Jets: The Jets’ season rests largely on the shoulders of a few key players, like netminder Connor Hellebuyck, forward Mark Scheifele, and All-Star defenseman Josh Morrissey. If it all comes together, we could see another year of their iconic Whiteout playoff tradition.
🔥 Calgary Flames: The expectations for Calgary were sky-high heading into last season, but the team flamed out and missed the playoffs. A key reason why? Star forward Jonathan Huberdeau dropping from 115 points when he played with Florida in 2022 to just 55 after being traded to Calgary.
- Now, they’re hoping a new head coach is the fuel they need to ignite the fire again.
🧡 Edmonton Oilers: Operation Get Connor McDavid a Stanley Cup is on in Oil Country, as the league’s undisputed top talent continues his search for the elusive hardware. But with the team’s roster mostly unchanged since last season’s second-round playoff exit, they’ll have to dig deep to find a way to win.
🐋 Vancouver Canucks: With more team drama than an episode of Vanderpump Rules, the Canucks will look to right the ship this year. But even a wealth of elite talent — including forward Elias Pettersson and d-man Quinn Hughes — might not be enough to help them navigate the stormy seas of the Western Conference.
📺 How to tune in
Settle in for a thrilling season ahead, with regular-season action running from October through April. Check out the full schedule, then don your jersey and tune into tonight’s tripleheader starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. Nothing like the good ol’ hockey game.