Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller
With goaltender Antti Raanta out for the season, Arizona most likely aren’t looking at a playoff run this season. (What else is new?) They could consider trading some pieces, though aside from Jordan Weal (whom they already dealt to Philly), they don’t have many pending UFA contracts. Richard Panik could be the most likely option.
Keller, at just 20, leads the team in scoring. He’s a smart player and looks like the Coyotes’ centerpiece.
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Giordano, long a solid d-man, is having a fantastic season, putting up more points than ever and locking down difficult minutes. He and Kris Letang are the two primary competitors for the Norris Trophy.
For a surprising Flames team, Johnny Gaudreau is second in the league in scoring. Calgary is behind only Tampa Bay in offensive production, coaxing quality scoring out of Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. This success comes despite the utter disappointment of James Neal, who has been mostly invisible in his first season as a Flame.
Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson
The Canucks, of all teams, managed to stumble into one of the best young cores in the game. Horvat, Boeser and Pettersson have done plenty to tamper disappointment over the retirements of the Sedin brothers in Vancouver, though the Canucks have a long way to go to climb back into sustainable playoff contention.
Vancouver, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, have stuck around admirably in the Pacific Division. (The collapses of the Coyotes, Oilers and Kings have certainly helped in this regard.) Pettersson is the favorite for the Calder Trophy.
Winnipeg Jets: Depth and goalscoring
Predictably, the Jets lead the Central Division and have secured a spot among the NHL’s elite. They are one of the deeper teams in the league, despite the injury to defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.
Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele both score well over a point per game. Wheeler racks up the assists to Scheifele, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, high-volume scorers rivalling any other group in the league.
Florida Panthers: Solid top six scoring
It hasn’t been an ideal season for the Panthers, who sit well outside the playoff picture. The story is always the same: Good players at the top end of the lineup, but a lack of depth and inconsistent goaltending setting them back.
An injury to Vincent Trocheck hurt, but Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov can hold down the fort. Everyone below them, plus the regression of aging goaltender Roberto Luongo, stopped Florida from another run at a playoff spot.