Scouts' takes on all 31 NHL teams for the 2017-18 season

What do scouts think of Sidney Crosby's chances of lifting the Cup a third straight time? AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

We asked scouts around the league to give us their take on each of the 31 teams. Here's what they said.

Metropolitan Division | Atlantic Division | Central Division | Pacific Division

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes

"I think Carolina could be the surprise of the conference. They added some more veteran leadership to their room, and their defense is built for today's NHL. I think the real difference-maker for them will be whether [Scott] Darling is able to prove he's a full-time starter in the league." More

Columbus Blue Jackets

"They're an extremely hard-working team that is definitely difficult to play against. With the addition of [Artemi] Panarin and [Zach] Werenski continuing to get better, I think they're going to be right there with the top few teams in the Metro, battling it out with Pittsburgh." More

New Jersey Devils

"Getting the first overall pick with a guy who should be able to play right away in the league and trading for [Marcus] Johansson was big for them. But to me, the biggest issue may be the hiring of their goaltending coach and how he and [Cory] Schneider coexist together. From what I see right now, I would say they're not going to make the playoffs." More

New York Islanders

"It's been proven in the past that contract situations with star players can be a distraction. But I think the fact that Doug Weight was a star player himself will actually help [John] Tavares in that regard. It's clear they are going to be playing a much more entertaining, highly offensive game than they have in the past. I think they'll be right in the hunt again this year." More

New York Rangers

"The Rangers are always a dangerous team because of the depth they have and the speed they have through their lineup. That makes them a difficult team to defend against. The X factor is always their goaltender and his ability to steal games." More

Philadelphia Flyers

"They're tough to figure. They seem to be a team in between, in terms of where they were a few years ago and where they are now. They were a very difficult team to play against a couple years ago. And they seem to be rebuilding with some key players getting a little older. I think it's going to be a struggle for them to get in." More

Pittsburgh Penguins

"They're the early favorites to be the top team in the league because of their depth and the high-end skill they have in their core with [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Kris] Letang and a goaltender who's already won two Stanley Cups. They have a great foundation for success, and they know how to win. I also like their head coach's swagger and his approach with his players. He's direct and honest, and they play hard for him. They're at the top right now, and I expect they'll stay there." More

Washington Capitals

"Initially, I think there's going to be some growing pains. The last couple of years, the Caps have been able to get out to a lengthy lead early [in the season], and based upon the turnover in personnel, it may take a little while to get that group to jell. Ultimately, [Braden] Holtby is the key. They have to put some young guys like [Jakub] Vrana and [Christian] Djoos into their lineup, and it might take some time for those young players to develop some chemistry. Until they get up to speed, Holtby is going to have to steal them some games. If he can do that, they have a chance to be competing with Pittsburgh. If not, they're going to be scratching and clawing with everybody else." More

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins

"Boston's an interesting team in terms of how they want to play. From the days of Claude Julien to now, you see a whole new approach with [new coach Bruce] Cassidy. The addition of a guy like [Charlie] McAvoy to their D group, getting [Torey] Krug healthy and having a guy like [Tuukka] Rask, who has proven to be a real difference-maker, they might sneak up on some teams." More

Buffalo Sabres

"I think Buffalo is going to make a step. I'm just not sure how big it's going to be this year. It will be an adjustment with new management and a new coach coming in. They're going to get a little jolt just by having new voices, but they still need a little more depth through their lineup to compete for a playoff spot." More

Detroit Red Wings

"I think they're going to have a tough time. Some of their key guys are still stars in the league, but they're getting older, and with the schedule and the travel and the speed of the game now, it makes it very difficult. The league is favoring younger players now. They have some young speed with [Dylan] Larkin and [Andreas] Athanasiou, but I think they're in between, similar to the situation in Philly." More

Florida Panthers

"I really thought their team was going in the right direction before the changes they made prior to last season, and I think that sort of sent them down the wrong path. They seem to have solidified things behind the bench and are ready to get back to their form from two years ago." More

Montreal Canadiens

"Any time you have a goaltender of that pedigree, you should be considered one of the top threats in the Eastern Conference. The addition of [Jonathan] Drouin makes them very dangerous offensively. As long as they can stay healthy on the blue line, I think they'll have a bit of a bounce-back season." More

Ottawa Senators

"The adjustments Ottawa made systematically under [coach Guy] Boucher paid significant dividends. For them to continue the progress they made last season, they'll need to get healthy early in the season. They're going in with some injuries, and that will be a real good test for their organizational depth. If they're healthy, they can be where they finished last year. Otherwise, it's going to be a real organizational test for them." More

Tampa Bay Lightning

"He might not be an advanced-stat juggernaut, but bringing in a guy that has won before, like Dan Girardi, could make a real difference -- leadership-wise and how they defend. The injuries they had last year really hurt and not just [Steven] Stamkos'. Ryan Callahan's injury really flew under the radar, and if those two guys are healthy and Victor Hedman continues to solidify himself as one of the top defensemen in the league, they can be right back where they were two seasons ago." More

Toronto Maple Leafs

"The expectations are different this year for that team. They play in a top media market, and living up to expectations will challenge their team, but they have plenty of talent to be able to do it. Babcock is a hard-driving coach and that, coupled with the media, puts a little more pressure on those guys." More

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

"Patrick Kane won Stanley Cups without [Artemi] Panarin. I don't think [losing Panarin] is going to be a factor. Patrick Kane is talented enough, and Jonathan Toews is that good ... a leader that he's still going to drive this team. The player they'll really miss will be [Marian] Hossa. [Brandon] Saad's a good player, and he's a horse. Maybe they need him to clear some space and get to the net and get to the corners. If he can perform and [Patrick] Sharp can perform and their younger players start stepping up, they'll be OK." More

Colorado Avalanche

"They're a team that seems to have some talent at forward. [Nathan] MacKinnon I love, and [Gabriel] Landeskog is a big-leader, captain kind of guy. But there seems to be something missing there. There's turmoil. They want to trade Matt Duchene. I think that's a real distraction to the team. ... They don't have enough depth on defense. I don't think they've played well as a team. I don't think they're together. I think there's something missing between management and the players or something. There's something going on there." More

Dallas Stars

"I think if [Ben] Bishop can play the way Bishop played in Tampa when [he] was the No. 1 guy, I think that was their biggest acquisition because clearly they needed that. They had problems all last year in goal. Neither one [of their goaltenders] performed consistently. I think that was a problem. It hurts the team's mindset. They lost confidence in what they were sometimes. They had a couple of injuries, and then, bang, the next thing you know, the goalie's not winning games, and instead he's losing games for them." More

Minnesota Wild

"[Eric] Staal is not a young guy anymore. He had a helluva year, and he fit right in, but with those guys, you have to worry about falling off. But if he can have another good year and they can maintain their chemistry, I think they should build on where they were. They obviously reacted well to [coach Bruce] Boudreau, especially during the regular season. I think, internally, Boudreau has to figure out how they're going to get by in the playoffs when they're playing tough Central Division teams like Chicago and Nashville and St. Louis. That Central is not an easy division, but I think they should do well. I don't see any reason they wouldn't." More

Nashville Predators

"The only thing I think they're lacking is a little bit of leadership there. I think that losing [Ryan] Ellis out of the room and losing [Mike] Fisher, their leadership [absence leaves] a big hole. But I think they still have a good basis of what they are. [Ryan] Johansen finished pretty strong before he got hurt. I think that [Viktor] Arvidsson is just starting to go. I think they have some good direction, so they shouldn't miss a beat. I just think they're missing some leadership." More

St. Louis Blues

"I don't see them trending up, but they're already one of the better teams out there. I think they're strong defensively. They've always been strong defensively with [coach Ken Hitchcock], and now [coach Mike] Yeo, I think he's in that mindset as well. I think they're going to do well from that standpoint. I think they're going to be competitive and hard to play against, and that's their identity, and I think that puts them in a position to be successful throughout the year." More

Winnipeg Jets

"I look at their team, and I think they're better than the Chicago Blackhawks. They're deeper than the Chicago Blackhawks, and they killed the Chicago Blackhawks almost every time they played them. They're big, they're fast, they're dynamic up front with [Nikolaj] Ehlers and [Mark] Scheifele, [Blake] Wheeler and [Patrik] Laine. I just don't understand how they're not better." More

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

"They have goaltending with [John] Gibson, if he can stay healthy. I think their defense is really good. I'll tell you this about Ryan Getzlaf, and I think he's got lots in the tank: When the game is on the line and the game is most important, Ryan Getzlaf is able to raise his game to an unbelievable level. They've got a really good group of guys." More

Arizona Coyotes

"The biggest thing is, are they going to get the goaltending? Is [Antti] Raanta going to be the guy to carry the load? I think that remains to be seen. They'll be a different team with a whole new system. I think you'll see them open their game up a little bit more. [Former coach] Dave Tippett was very shrewd as far as how that team played defensively. It will be interesting to see how that team performs if they let go of the reins a little bit and let them play more offense." More

Calgary Flames

"I think they've nailed their goaltending situation for the short term. I've seen Mike Smith play some wonderful games where he's stopping 45 shots and still being the Mike Smith of six, seven years ago. You've got the speedster in [Johnny] Gaudreau, you've got [Mark] Giordano, you've got the centerman [Sean] Monahan, who is very underrated. He's as good a defensive forward as I've seen in a long time at such a young age. If I picked a dark horse, a team that may surprise somebody, it might be the Calgary Flames." More

Edmonton Oilers

"I think [Connor] McDavid represents this era so well. He's only going to get smarter. He's only going to get more sure in certain situations. [GM] Pete Chiarelli has put together a really good team. They have stuff behind [McDavid] that you have to have." More

Los Angeles Kings

"Jonathan Quick, regardless of what people say, to me is an elite goaltender. Take an elite goaltender out of your lineup, [Drew] Doughty had a down year, [Anze] Kopitar had a down year, I don't think it's going to go so well. That was a team that was banged up, and the guys they rely on for big minutes had off-seasons. If they have good seasons and they get somewhat good health, they can be a playoff team." More

San Jose Sharks

"They're going to miss [Patrick] Marleau. Marleau is a real good player. He'll help Toronto's kids. It will be nice to see how Joe [Thornton] bounces back. They went on a great run two years ago, but I don't know if that team is getting any better. I know there are other teams in the West that are getting better. The Calgarys, the Edmontons. I think Dallas and Winnipeg are going to get in this year; I think Winnipeg is ready for a run there. If Dallas and Winnipeg get in, who is going to miss [the postseason] that was in last year? Right now, I think San Jose misses the playoffs." More

Vancouver Canucks

"Bo Horvat is a guy they'll bill as a No. 2 center, but I suspect you'll get a more significant contribution from him than from Henrik Sedin. Depending on who flanks Horvat from night to night, I think they'll be a lot to reckon with. Sam Gagner is a guy for me who has yet to hit his full potential at the NHL level and may find a fit under the right circumstances. [New coach] Travis Green is guy who may be able to tap into his true potential." More

Vegas Golden Knights

"Are they going to be a great team? Who knows that? But they're certainly not going to be horrible by any means. They debuted pretty good, scoring nine goals in the preseason. They can score goals with guys like James Neal and David Perron. Alex Tuch is going to be a good young player. In goal, they've got a bona fide winner in Marc-Andre Fleury, who is not even close to being done." More

-- with files from Josh Cooper, Chuck Gormley, Tal Pinchevsky