Takeaways, predictions for all 31 NHL teams at the quarter-season mark

The surprising Rangers are in playoff position after the first quarter of the season. Will they be there in April? Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL has hit the quarter-season mark, and already we've seen some turmoil. Some of the season's biggest early disappointments have not wasted any time making changes to salvage their seasons; four teams (the Blackhawks, Blues, Kings and Oilers) fired their coaches, and the Flyers dismissed GM Ron Hextall. The Golden Knights are missing the juju from their inaugural season, and injuries have piled up for many teams (but it seems especially bad for the Ducks).

Then we have the pleasant surprises: The Sabres were a trendy sleeper pick this preseason, but who would have thought Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner & Co. would produce one of the best records in the Eastern Conference? (With 34 points, Buffalo enters Tuesday ahead of both the Maple Leafs and the Bruins). The Flames are atop the wide-open Pacific Division. The Preds reign in the Central, though last year's ahead-of-schedule surprise, the Avalanche, haven't shown much sign of drop-off. The Hurricanes seem to love being the plucky, young underdogs and celebrating as such.

The past five seasons, 62 of the 80 teams in playoff spots as of American Thanksgiving have gone on to clinch playoff berths. Who will help cement that trend, and who will buck it? Here's a glance at where all 31 teams stand, including their biggest concerns and a bold prediction for how the season will finish.

Read through all 31 teams by division, or skip ahead to your team by clicking on its logo below:

Note: Preseason standings point projections are per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes

Preseason standings point projection: 85.5

Current standings point pace: 89

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Canes might be having the most fun of any team in the NHL right now -- including creating, and defending, their postgame celebrations -- as first-year coach Rod Brind'Amour has his team fighting for a playoff spot in the wide-open Metro.

Biggest concern: The Hurricanes are currently juggling a three-goalie conundrum, which is not sustainable. Carolina will need to make a decision soon; does it have the guts to do something difficult, such as give up on Scott Darling in the second year of a four-year contract?

Bold prediction: The Canes move on from the Darling-as-a-No. 1 experiment by December. Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek give this upstart team the best chance to win.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Preseason standings point projection: 97.5

Current standings point pace: 103

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Blue Jackets seem to be in control. They're getting better secondary production outside Artemi Panarin, including from Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and one of the year's best redemption stories, Anthony Duclair.

Biggest concern: The uncertainty surrounding the futures of Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky still lingers. It's going to be awkward when this team is pushing for a top playoff seed and has to decide whether to deal one, or two, of its star players.

Bold prediction: Panarin and Bobrovsky both stay past the trade deadline as GM Jarmo Kekalainen decides to go all-in with this group.

New Jersey Devils

Preseason standings point projection: 91.5

Current standings point pace: 78

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Devils sit at the bottom of the Metro, but a run to the top isn't impossible. New Jersey's offense is performing well, and the advanced stats (including a sixth-best expected goals for percentage) say that if the Devils keep playing this way, results will improve.

Biggest concern: It has been a shaky go for Cory Schneider since his return from offseason hip surgery. Keith Kinkaid is a serviceable fill-in, but the Devils could really use Schneider at full form and a better defensive effort in front of him.

Bold prediction: The Devils keep playing hard under John Hynes, clean up the defense and find themselves once again an unlikely playoff team.

New York Islanders

Preseason standings point projection: 82.5

Current standings point pace: 93

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Isles might have felt slighted after John Tavares picked the Maple Leafs, but they're doing just fine without him. Turns out, New York's core was sturdier than we thought.

Biggest concern: The Islanders are still sporting a league-high PDO at 5-on-5, and they have already begun to show signs of the inevitable regression to the mean.

Bold prediction: The goaltending duo of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner actually holds up. Despite a few shaky performances by each lately, the tandem will become the biggest goaltending success story of the season.

New York Rangers

Preseason standings point projection: 75.5

Current standings point pace: 92

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Rebuild? What rebuild? The young, plucky Rangers, under first-year coach David Quinn -- who has an affinity for motivation-through-benching -- are shockingly in the playoff hunt.

Biggest concern: This was all a mirage. Bolstered by some vintage Henrik Lundqvist goaltending and inspired, us-against-the-world-play, the Blueshirts overachieved through the first quarter. But look at the talent level on this roster. Is it really sustainable?

Bold prediction: The Rangers make the playoffs. Not only that, but they make a run, just as they have for the better part of this decade, with a much more seasoned and star-studded roster.

Philadelphia Flyers

Preseason standings point projection: 97.5

Current standings point pace: 78

No. 1 takeaway thus far: This team is a lot further from a playoff contender than we thought. Of course, goaltending is a huge issue -- this is the Flyers we're talking about here -- but so are the slow starts, a sloppy penalty kill and a lack of consistency. All of it led to the team cutting ties with GM Ron Hextall on Monday.

Biggest concern: The middling combination of Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon and Cal Pickard has posted a league-worst .880 save percentage. Top prospect Carter Hart is still adjusting to the pro game in Allentown, which means immediate help is likely not on the way.

Bold prediction: Following the team's firing of Hextall, the new GM makes a bold trade to try to salvage the season. The most likely candidate is 30-year-old winger Wayne Simmonds, who is on the final year of his contract.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Preseason standings point projection: 102.5

Current standings point pace: 86

No. 1 takeaway thus far: It has been a sluggish start. Impatient GM Jim Rutherford has already made one big trade (swapping Carl Hagelin for Tanner Pearson) and has threatened to shake up his roster even further.

Biggest concern: What's going on with Matt Murray? The 24-year-old netminder is on injury reserve yet again, and he has hardly looked like the No. 1 franchise goaltender the Penguins believe him to be. Pittsburgh, trying to endure a tense time, must lean on the less experienced Casey DeSmith.

Bold prediction: It's pretty obvious that Rutherford still isn't satisfied with the current roster. In need of a defenseman, the GM ships out the popular Bryan Rust.

Washington Capitals

Preseason standings point projection: 97.5

Current standings point pace: 106

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The band came back together but haven't been able to all play together for most of this season due to injuries and suspensions. Nonetheless, Washington has stayed afloat while Alex Ovechkin (18 goals, one behind the league leaders) laughs at anyone who suggests a Cup hangover, be it real or figurative.

Biggest concern: The defense hasn't been too leaky, but it also hasn't been stellar, with some puck-management issues. The Caps have allowed 3.04 goals per game as Todd Reirden has already tried shuffling pairs to get the group going.

Bold prediction: Braden Holtby is off to a slow start, by his standards, but will heat up this winter and finish top-five in save percentage in the NHL, once again emerging as a Vezina Trophy candidate.

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins

Preseason standings point projection: 102.5

Current standings point pace: 103

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That the Bruins are good enough to win despite having nearly every defenseman on the roster injured in some way, shape or form (or so it would seem). Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and others have missed time this season. Yet Boston has the second-lowest goals against average in the NHL (2.39). Thanks, team defense and Jaroslav Halak!

Biggest concern: The Bruins were in the bottom third in the league on offense (2.83 goals per game), and being 26th overall in 5-on-5 goals is a big reason why, especially after being in the top 10 in that category last season. The truth is that the Bruins' scoring at forward runs five players deep right now, and that's not what you want to see knowing that the mile-deep Maple Leafs or Lightning could be blocking the road to a championship.

Bold prediction: Despite his early-season struggles, Tuukka Rask ends up with better overall numbers than Halak by season's end.

Buffalo Sabres

Preseason standings point projection: 80.5

Current standings point pace: 116

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That the hockey world had to wait far too long for Jeff Skinner to play with an elite center. With all due respect to Victor Rask, Riley Nash, Elias Lindholm and Eric Staal (before he figured out how to be Eric Staal again in Minnesota), playing with Jack Eichel has been revelatory for Skinner, who has 18 goals through 24 games. Yes, Jack has a history of boosting his linemates' shooting percentages. But Skinner went from an 8.7 percent clip to a 22.5 percent clip so far this season. That's incredible.

Biggest concern: There are some underlying metrics that are encouraging, like the fact that this isn't just a ride on the PDO train (the Sabres have a PDO of 100.8, with league average at 100). But they're on the negative side of possession (49.3 Corsi for percentage) and are just a plus-3 in 5-on-5 goal differential. But honestly, the biggest concern is that either Eichel or Skinner goes down with an injury; not only because they have a history of doing so, but because that top line is a such an engine for this team.

Bold prediction: Jeff Skinner's contract situation lingers through the season into the postseason, and the phrase "testing the market" starts to send shivers down Buffalo fans' spines.

Detroit Red Wings

Preseason standings point projection: 75.5

Current standings point pace: 79

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That Andreas Athanasiou might finally be something more than a set of wheels. The 24-year-old forward has 10 goals in 19 games, nearly doubling the best goals-per-game mark of his career. On a team still struggling to find total team offense -- at 2.65 goals per game, the Red Wings are 28th in the NHL -- he has been a revelation and a hope for the future.

Biggest concern: That despite some signs of life and early contention, this remains a defensively porous, offensively challenged team that inexplicably has its head pushed up against the salary cap ceiling. OK, "inexplicably" probably isn't correct. It's totally Ken Holland's fault.

Bold prediction: That Jimmy Howard trade we all figured would happen at some point during the last three years finally happens at the trade deadline, with the Wings picking up part of the salary tab.

Florida Panthers

Preseason standings point projection: 94.5

Current standings point pace: 82

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That expectation is not execution. The Panthers were picked by many (raises hand) to have a breakout season, but through 21 games they're last in the Eastern Conference. Most of this is due to their defense, in the sense that they haven't played much of it: 3.62 goals allowed per game, which is second only to Ottawa through 21 games. Only four Panthers who have played at least 15 games have a positive goal differential at 5-on-5.

Biggest concern: Much of this defensive failure tracks back to their goaltending, as James Reimer, Roberto Luongo and Michael Hutchinson have combined for an .884 team save percentage, second worst in the NHL to the Flyers, who just fired their general manager.

Bold prediction: The Panthers catch fire and rally to make the Eastern Conference playoffs as a wild-card team, because I hate being wrong.

Montreal Canadiens

Preseason standings point projection: 80.5

Current standings point pace: 92

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That apparently Max Domi and Tomas Tatar had a bit more to offer. Acquired from the Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk, Domi has 26 points in his first 24 games, including 11 goals, surpassing his total from last season (nine). Acquired in the Max Pacioretty trade, Tatar has 10 goals in 24 games for the Habs, or two more than Pacioretty has with Vegas.

Biggest concern: Carey Price. Which is a weird thing to say when the Habs are on the wild-card bubble and exceeding expectations. But frankly, they're winning despite Price, who has a minus-6.28 goals saved above average and a .902 even-strength save percentage.

Bold prediction: The Canadiens sell high on Andrew Shaw at the trade deadline.

Ottawa Senators

Preseason standings point projection: 69.5

Current standings point pace: 72

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That bad can be good. There have been few teams this season as entertaining as the Ottawa Senators, who are third in the NHL in goals scored per game (3.61) but last in the NHL in goals allowed per game by a country mile (4.35). And that's just on the ice: Who knew that the cyberbullying scandal from earlier this calendar year was just the appetizer for the "players talking smack on an Uber camera" and "team potentially creating Twitter sock puppets to defend beleaguered owner" scandals?

Biggest concern: That the Senators continue to run hot and cold and don't finish with the league's worst record in a rebuilding year. Wait, sorry ... that's actually Avalanche GM Joe Sakic's biggest concern about the Senators, since Colorado owns their 2019 first-rounder.

Bold prediction: Matt Duchene parlays his contract-year success into a long-term deal with the Senators worth eight years and $8.3 million annually.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Preseason standings point projection: 107.5

Current standings point pace: 120

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Depth, depth and more depth. How the Lightning looked on paper entering the season is how they've played, as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller, Tyler Johnson and Ryan McDonagh -- having a Norris Trophy-worthy season, according to coach Jon Cooper -- are all 17 points or better through 24 games. Cooper's like a chef with access to gourmet ingredients: No matter how many times he changes the recipe through his frequent line scrambling, the results are scrumptious, to the tune of 3.79 goals per game, the best in the NHL through 24 games.

Biggest concern: That the lessons they're learning this season on defense aren't applied in the postseason. The Lightning have made a concerted effort to be a more complete defensive team in front of (currently injured) goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. It's going to be the key to winning those marathon Eastern Conference final series they've lost in two of the last three seasons, in the sense that a stronger and more confident structure can end those series before they reach a sphincter-clenching seventh game.

Bold prediction: Brayden Point leads the Bolts in goals and, as is tradition, Professional Hockey Writers Association voters finally recognize him for his defense with a Selke Trophy nomination.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Preseason standings point projection: 106.5

Current standings point pace: 112

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Leafs are 8-5 without the injured Auston Matthews in the lineup, and 16-8-0 without William Nylander in the lineup, as the latter's contract situation has kept him off the ice for the entirety of the season. Mitch Marner has 30 points in 24 games, while John Tavares had 15 goals in 24 games. This is a team that had considerable depth, but one that has shown an impressive perspicacity for handling adversity.

Biggest concern: The defensive corps still remains the weakest part of the roster. Only two Maple Leafs defensemen are on the positive side of the shot-attempts counter at 5-on-5 (Travis Dermott, Igor Ozhiganov); and while their shots against per game are down about a shot per game from last season, their goalies are still seeing 32.7 shots against per contest.

Bold prediction: William Nylander signs before Saturday's deadline, and all this chatter about how this very specific situation affecting one specific team is somehow a harbinger of doom for other teams facing second contracts comes to an end.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks

Preseason standings point projection: 85.5

Current standings point pace: 79

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Blackhawks' dramatic firing coach of Joel Quenneville 15 games into the season (and promotion of 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton) means the team is looking to the future, though management is reluctant to embrace a full rebuild just yet.

Biggest concern: The team stays stuck in neutral. The hodgepodge roster of an aging star core and unseasoned young talent can't keep up with more balanced teams, and the Blackhawks lose relevance in a competitive market.

Bold prediction: GM Stan Bowman finds a way to take one of his unmovable contracts off the books; most likely (and conservatively), it's center Artem Anisimov, who has a limited no-trade clause and is an attractive middle-six option for teams in the playoff hunt.

Colorado Avalanche

Preseason standings point projection: 89.5

Current standings point pace: 107

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Avalanche continue to be plucky overachievers. They're propelled by the spectacular top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, though youngsters are stepping up (and developing nicely). Meanwhile, the platoon of Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer is going as well as expected.

Biggest concern: The Avalanche have had no trouble with scoring, with the league's second-best offense (3.74 goals per game). They also have the league's highest shooting percentage, meaning they've been at least a bit lucky.

Bold prediction: Last season, the top line willed this team into the playoffs without much secondary production. The gap will shrink as the season progresses, as players such as Alexander Kerfoot and J.T. Compher (who missed time with a head injury) begin to find their groove.

Dallas Stars

Preseason standings point projection: 94.5

Current standings point pace: 89

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Stars have been hit by the injury bug, especially on the blue line, and have endured some inconsistencies (including a 12-game goalless drought from Tyler Seguin) but remain well-positioned for a playoff spot.

Biggest concern: Streakiness is expected with a new coach implementing yet another new system, but the diminishing power play (the Stars have scored only five power-play goals in the past 52 opportunities) feels inexcusable.

Bold prediction: Hey, the Calder Trophy will probably go to a forward, as per usual, and likely Vancouver's Elias Pettersson. But if Miro Heiskanen keeps up his strong play, the 19-year-old defenseman could actually make it a race.

Minnesota Wild

Preseason standings point projection: 95.5

Current standings point pace: 107

No. 1 takeaway thus far: First-year GM Paul Fenton barely tweaked the roster, and the team he inherited is still quite good. There's a lot to like about this team, including ascending stars such as Matt Dumba (leading all defensemen with 10 goals and averaging nearly as much ice time as yeoman Ryan Suter).

Biggest concern: Last season, the Wild were waiting for Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter to flex the talent they have always promised. Now it seems both players are still trending in the wrong direction.

Bold prediction: It's a star turn for Mikael Granlund -- continuing the NHL's big trend of the Year of the Finns -- and the 26-year-old finishes top-20 in scoring.

Nashville Predators

Preseason standings point projection: 105.5

Current standings point pace: 120

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Rinse, wash, repeat. Even with a few recent injuries (the biggest: Viktor Arvidsson out at least a month), the Predators have the best record in the Western Conference, with a whopping plus-23 goal differential.

Biggest concern: How can a team so talented be so ineffective on the power play? The Predators have the third-worst power play in the league (15.2 percent). Last season, with virtually the same roster, Nashville hit on 21.2 percent of its opportunities.

Bold prediction: Kevin Fiala shakes off his season-long slump to become the secondary scoring hero the Predators need to win yet another Presidents' Trophy.

St. Louis Blues

Preseason standings point projection: 96.5

Current standings point pace: 71

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Blues are one of the NHL's biggest quarter-season disappointments. A summer of bold moves by GM Doug Armstrong has not panned out, as the built-to-win-now Blues are sitting near the bottom of the division, with fired coach Mike Yeo the casualty.

Biggest concern: Even with the coaching change, the group has trouble putting up consistent effort on a game-to-game basis. That's problematic because the talent level on this roster is good enough to be competing for a top playoff spot.

Bold prediction: He has threatened this before, but Armstrong finally shakes up the roster with a trade of a core player. Who would be truly shocking? Vladimir Tarasenko? Alex Pietrangelo? One of the top young players such as Robert Thomas?

Winnipeg Jets

Preseason standings point projection: 106.5

Current standings point pace: 104

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Maple Leafs might shoulder most of the attention, but the Jets are probably the Canadian team with the best chance of ending the country's 25-year Stanley Cup drought. The Jets have begun 2018-19 right where they left off last spring.

Biggest concern: On the surface, the Jets don't have trouble finding offense -- ranking eighth in the league, scoring 3.36 goals per game and with the league's top power play -- but 5-on-5 scoring hasn't been totally dominant, and the team needs more production from bottom-six forwards.

Bold prediction: Patrik Laine can be streaky, and he's just heating up now. A scorching December puts the Finn ahead in the goal-scoring race for good, and he runs away with the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks

Preseason standings point projection: 94.5

Current standings point pace: 82

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That John Gibson deserves to be leading the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy races, given that his .926 save percentage and 2.57 goals-against average defy how disastrous these Ducks have been in almost every other underlying metric.

Biggest concern: Pick your poison. Being the second-worst team in possession, ahead of only Ottawa? Being the second-worst team in goal differential, ahead of only Los Angeles? Being carried to playoff contention by a goalie who can't be expected to do it all on his own?

Bold prediction: Randy Carlyle is a losing streak away from being fired. That streak hits before the All-Star break.

Arizona Coyotes

Preseason standings point projection: 81.5

Current standings point pace: 75

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Why can't the offense and the defense be on the same page? The Coyotes get solid goaltending from Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper, to the tune of a 2.82 goals-against average. But their offense is sputtering, with 2.36 goals per game, 28th in the NHL.

Biggest concern: Offense, offense and offense. Their power play stinks (15.5 percent). They didn't have a player with more than 14 points at the 22-game mark. The trade of Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini for Nick Schmaltz was symbolic of the Coyotes' desire to stop waiting on potential and start demanding results.

Bold prediction: In two years, we're calling it simply "The Max Domi Trade."

Calgary Flames

Preseason standings point projection: 93.5

Current standings point pace: 99

No. 1 takeaway thus far: The Flames are getting oodles of offense from the line of Johnny Gaudreau (27 points), Sean Monahan (26 points) and Elias Lindholm, who has 11 goals and is fitting in exactly as GM Brad Treliving envisioned it. Then there's the season Matthew Tkachuk is having with usual partner in crime Mikael Backlund, as he has 12 goals and 15 assists in 24 games. Let's not forget defenseman Mark Giordano, who has 22 points in 24 games. The Flames have beaten opponents by three or more goals seven times.

Biggest concern: The Flames are at 2.83 goals allowed per game -- middle of the pack in the league -- which is a tribute to the play of "Big Save" Dave Rittich, who has a .953 even-strength save percentage while Mike Smith remains sub-.900. Our faith in the Calgary goaltending isn't exactly high; hey, it wouldn't be the first Bill Peters team subverted by lackluster netminding.

Bold prediction: Noah Hanifin outscores Dougie Hamilton on the season.

Edmonton Oilers

Preseason standings point projection: 89.5

Current standings point pace: 78

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That Todd McLellan was totally to blame for this team's inadequacies, and hence had to pay for it with his job. This is silly, of course, because the Oilers' problems are due to construction and not coaching. And when that's the case, you just throw some Ken Hitchcock at the problem and see what happens if you're GM Peter Chiarelli.

Biggest concern: That Hitchcock can't work his usual magic defensively for the Oilers, who are saddled by lackluster goaltending and a penalty kill ranked 27th in the NHL.

Bold prediction: Please don't make me do the "Connor McDavid would totally be the MVP were it not for the Oilers missing the playoffs" thing again. I'm so tired of that thing.

Los Angeles Kings

Preseason standings point projection: 92.5

Current standings point pace: 61

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Boy, that escalated quickly, huh? John Stevens was fired after a 4-8-1 start that saw Jonathan Quick limited to just four appearances due to injury. In comes Willie Desjardins, who decides to play Ilya Kovalchuk under seven minutes per game while going 4-6-0 to start his stint. Kovalchuk, by the way, has 14 points to lead the team as well as a minus-13, second to Dion Phaneuf's minus-14. Their combined age is 68.

Biggest concern: We're going to need the world's largest dart board and about a thousand Post-it notes with the Kings' issues on them. OK, here we go. [Throws dart] Anze Kopitar has gone from the best offensive year of his life to his worst points-per-game average. [Throws dart] Tanner Pearson has three goals in six games in Pittsburgh after having one assist in 17 games in L.A., which necessitated his trade. [Throws dart] The Kings look old on paper, and play even older.

Bold prediction: Say, Ron Hextall needs a job ...

San Jose Sharks

Preseason standings point projection: 101.5

Current standings point pace: 96

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That this is a veteran group with some significant improvements -- see Timo Meier's 13 goals and Erik Karlsson getting back to being Erik Karlsson -- on its journey back to challenging for that elusive Stanley Cup. Their most impressive stat might be that they're jumping on teams in the first period, to the tune of a plus-12 goal differential in that frame.

Biggest concern: Martin Jones. The Sharks have an overall team save percentage of .895, which is bad; his .881 even-strength save percentage in 16 starts is even worse. GM Doug Wilson put the team's faith in Jones to be a championship-caliber goalie. But goalies who have a minus-7.85 goals saved above average are not that, and alas that's where Jones is right now.

Bold prediction: The Sharks win the Pacific.

Vancouver Canucks

Preseason standings point projection: 77.5

Current standings point pace: 76

No. 1 takeaway thus far: That the future is bright. The Canucks have come back down to earth after a blistering start, but that's OK. Between Elias Pettersson's Calder Trophy campaign (13 goals), Bo Horvat's 22-point performance, the quality play of Nikolay Goldobin and "Shotgun" Jake Virtanen, and the continued burgeoning stardom of Brock Boeser (when healthy), there's a lot here to keep Canucks fans watching, even as their team slips deeper into the lottery again despite some impressive coaching from Travis Green, who's the real deal.

Biggest concern: Shot generation. Vancouver is at 28.2 shots for per game, which is 28th in the NHL. That should improve with Boeser back in the lineup, but it's also an indication that the depth still isn't there for Vancouver.

Bold prediction: Alexander Edler does the old "deadline trade, only to re-sign with his old team next season" routine.

Vegas Golden Knights

Preseason standings point projection: 101.5

Current standings point pace: 82

No. 1 takeaway thus far: Lightning is really hard to capture twice in a bottle. The Golden Knights are admirably still in the hunt despite losing free-agent prize Paul Stastny three games into the season, missing No. 1 defenseman Nate Schmidt for 20 games due to suspension, and seeing the general regression for everything from William Karlsson's goal-scoring (he's on pace for about 20 goals, down from 43) to their ability to overwhelm teams (they have a minus-1) goal differential. But a meek division means they're very much still in it.

Biggest concern: The Knights' power play is still adjusting to the personnel changes (and early-season manpower losses), clicking at 17.8 percent, down from 21.4 percent last season. Most concerning: It's just 15.2 percent at home, 26th in the NHL, down from 10th last season (24.2).

Bold prediction: The Golden Knights get rolling again and make the playoff cut.