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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Western Conference Breakdown

Hunter Skoczylas breaks down and offers betting insight on all eight NHL Western Conference playoff teams.

With the 2022-23 NHL regular season wrapping up on Friday, April 14, warm weather makes a return as well as the Stanley Cup playoffs. The race for the cup will be intense as usual with plenty of deep, talented squads in each conference poised to claim the trophy by the end of the postseason.

But which Western Conference squad has what it takes to become the next Stanley Cup Champions?

The Colorado Avalanche started slow but finished the season very strong with multiple win streaks and all-around dominant hockey. But can they win back-to-back cups? Or is this the year Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers finally make it over the hump and win their first cup since 1990?

Read below for a breakdown of every Western Conference playoff team’s potential success this postseason, including an “X-Factor” for each team that could be the reason they’re hoisting the cup by the end.

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DraftKings Sportsbook Western Conference Preview

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t have one player propel himself that far ahead of the rest of the pack but rather a collective unit that was able to get pucks in the back of the net consistently. As a squad, they averaged 3.1 goals and the eighth most high-danger chances all while having 12 skaters with double-digit goals. On top of the offensive consistency, all four of Vegas’ goaltenders have posted save percentages of at least .915 so its opponents will have a tough time matching its overall depth, especially when the bottom six is out there.

X-Factor: Depth

Edmonton Oilers

Although they finished second in both the Pacific Division and Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers have been the hottest team since the trade deadline. Connor McDavid routinely reaches the 100-point club but was on another level this season, finishing with over 150 points. The goaltending and defense can be inconsistent at times, which means McDavid and the rest of the top six will need to bring some extra firepower if they’re going to outlast tougher squads like Vegas and Colorado. The good thing about all of this is McDavid has the ability to carry his team to victory, so as long as he’s out there, the Oilers can win.

X-Factor: Connor McDavid

Colorado Avalanche

The Stanley Cup hangover was a bit strong for the Colorado Avalanche at the start of the season and many began to doubt if they were capable of running it back for a second consecutive championship. They turned things around, however, and won the Central Division thanks to their strong top six and top four. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar led the squad in terms of points and will look to continue their postseason dominance just like they did last year. It’s also worth noting that the Avalanche have yet to officially rule out Gabriel Landeskog (knee) from making a possible return for the playoffs.

X-Factor: Top 6

Dallas Stars

Although they finished as the fourth seed in the conference and in second place in the Central Division, the Dallas Stars are a sneaky good team that could easily make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals because of their high-level play in all areas. Dallas has five skaters with at least 70 points and a starting goaltender with the fourth most wins on the season. Their depth is going to be hard to match for most teams, especially in a full seven-game series. If that wasn’t enough, the Stars have a top-six power play and top-three penalty kill unit.

X-Factor: Depth and discipline

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild finished the final 40 games of the season with a 23-11-6 record and finished in third place in the conference, crediting strong defense and goaltending. Despite having one of the youngest and dynamic snipers in the league in Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild tied for the sixth lowest goals per game average. Filip Gustavsson and the rest of the defense proved they can perform at a high level, so it will all come down to how well Kaprizov and the rest of the top six will perform in the games that matter.

X-Factor: Kirill Kaprizov

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings had a rough end to their season after dropping five of their last eight games but have a roster that’s built to withstand tough opponents. The Kings finished third in the Pacific Division and just seven points out of first place but don’t offer that high-powered feel that most of the other playoff teams do. The postseason success will almost directly stem from how well the team’s leaders, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, keep the team composed in those big moments and how well the power play continues to perform after finishing the season with the third-best power play percentage.

X-Factor: Experience

Seattle Kraken

As one of the more exciting options to root for when it comes to underdogs, the Seattle Kraken offer a ton of potential to steal games purely because of its offensive success. Seattle finished the season averaging 3.7 goals per game and logged the third most goals scored led by a strong top six. There’s depth all over the place and their bottom six will still be able to generate consistent offensive pressure. The Kraken’s main weakness is their goaltending and the opposing conference foes will certainly be able to get the puck in the back of the net more often than not.

X-Factor: Offensive attack

Winnipeg Jets

Despite going just 20-18-2 across their last 40 games of the season, the Winnipeg Jets clinched one of two final playoff spots and offer some intriguing value given how stellar their goaltending has been. Connor Hellebuyck finished the regular season with the third most wins and the fifth-best save percentage, and could single-handedly win Winnipeg a few games in any series. While the impressive goaltending is the main attraction, Winnipeg’s top six along with the first defensive pair have produced solid seasons, too, and come into the postseason with real potential to advance to the next round in an upset.

X-Factor: Goaltending

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Odds

COL Avalanche +650

EDM Oilers +800

VGK Golden Knights +1400

DAL Stars +1500

LA Kings +2200

MIN Wild +2200

WPG Jets +3500

SEA Kraken +4000

Favorite Pick

Dallas Stars +1500

I know it’s going to be hard to bet against Connor McDavid and the Oilers because of the season he’s having but man, this Stars team is being vastly undervalued in terms of odds here. Similar to a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of playoff experience and a roster built to withstand long seven-game series, Dallas’ path doesn’t seem too steep. Surely the Avalanche would present a major task if it comes down to it, but the Stars’ consistency on special teams, pure roster talent and overall discipline cannot be overlooked.

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All odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is huntersk) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.