People will always tell you that the preseason doesn’t matter. This isn’t just for the NHL, it’s for pretty much every professional sport that has a preseason. So when we look at the teams who performed the best during NHL preseason, we have to take those records with a grain of salt. But perhaps it may give us some insight into how teams will perform during the 2023-24 regular season. We’re going to take a look at the teams who finished first in their divisions during preseason and whether or not they’re contenders or pretenders.
NHL preseason takeaways
The Sens went 5-1-0 during the preseason to finish at the top of the Atlantic. Ottawa played in some tight games but good teams win close. The Senators added F Vladimir Tarasenko during the offseason and brought in Joonas Korpisalo to start in net. This forward group is going to be very dangerous, especially if center Josh Norris can get back on the ice soon. It’s unlikely the Sens make the jump from non-playoff team to contending. But Ottawa definitely has a roster that can compete for a postseason berth this season. The performance in the preseason gives us some hope the Sens can turn this thing around finally.
New Jersey Devils
This isn’t all that surprising and if you’re superstitious, was it a good thing the Devils went unbeaten during preseason? New Jersey is expected to contend for a Stanley Cup and that sentiment wouldn’t have changed even if the team went winless in preseason. Really all this tells us is the Devils are ready for the regular season.
Dallas is another contending team that did well in preseason and appear motivated after losing in the Western Conference Final last season. The Stars added veteran center Matt Duchene and has one of the most balanced lineups in the NHL in terms of youth and veteran presence. It really comes down to goalie Jake Oettinger and if he can bounce back. He wasn’t very good in 19 starts during last postseason and underperformed during the regular season as well.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings mostly beat up on the Sharks, Ducks and Coyotes during preseason. Still, this team continues to surprise by making the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The Kings made a big deal this offseason by adding C Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets and signing him long-term. Anze Kopitar also inked an extension for a few more seasons. Goaltending still feels like an issue with Pheonix Copley and Cam Talbot. But the Kings have a very deep roster riddled with youth, now featuring top 2021 draft pick Brandt Clarke.