Over the past few seasons, the Central Division has emerged as one of the most dangerous in all of hockey. In 2018-19, the Central sent five teams to the postseason, which was tied with the Metropolitan for the most in the NHL-- and after capturing the Stanley Cup via the St. Louis Blues, expect the Central to be right back in the mix in the upcoming campaign. With that in mind, let's rank the current pecking order amoung the division's seven teams.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
Unfortunately for Chicago fans, the Blackhawks won't be anywhere near the top in the 2019-20 season. Although they were able to snag Kirby Dach with the third pick in this year's draft and grab Robin Lehner from the Islanders, they really haven't done much else in the offseason to justify a standings boost. With a slew of aging forwards and d-men, the Blackhawks are likely going to dance around the basement of the Central next season.
6. Minnesota Wild
The big move of the offseason for the Wild? Signing Mats Zuccarello to a five-year deal. Other than a few other lower-level signings, however, the Wild are mostly going to go into next season with the same lineup. In all honesty, that's not going to get them very far. After a tough 2018-19 run, expect for the Wild to bounce around the fifth through seventh spots in the Central Division barring a potential hot streak.
5. Winnipeg Jets
This is definitley a tough call to make, but the Jets are likely to take a little drop in the standings next year. They're coming off a surprising upset against the Blues in the first round of the playoffs that left them broken and battered, and they've also lost two of their top four defensemen in Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers, and haven't made any groundbreaking deals to compensate for it. Although they're stacked with young forwards, that might not be enough to compete in the up-and-coming Central.
4. Nashville Predators
Nashville has been one of the most hotly discussed teams of the offseason. They lost PK Subban to the Devils, but managed to ink Matt Duchene to a long-term deal, and are generally stacked from top to bottom. The Preds are loaded with scorers, great defensemen lead by Roman Josi, and one of the league's best goalies in Pekka Rinne. Expect for them to hover near the top three spots the Central next year.
3. Dallas Stars
Seriously, watch out for the Stars in 2019-20. After knocking off the division-leading Preds in the first round last year and coming up one game short of defeating the eventual champion Blues, Dallas has got potential flowing all throughout their lineup. They're also blessed that Ben Bishop has returned to the type of goalie he was earlier in his career, earning a Vezina nod last season. They're definitley going to compete for more than just a Wild Card spot next year.
2. St. Louis Blues
You might be thinking to yourself, hey, didn't the Blues just win the Stanley Cup? Why aren't they No. 1? Well, the answer is because they barely squeaked into the playoffs last year despite the magical run that eventually came to fruition. This year will undoubtedly be different for the Blues in the regular season; with one of the best up-and-coming goaltenders in the league in Jordan Binnington and a chance to ride the Stanley Cup high, the Blues will finally find themselves towards the top of the Central-- but don't be surprised if they don't quite finish in pole position.
1. Colorado Avalanche
You might think this is a bold prediction, but why not? The Avs have the best forward line in hockey. They also have incredible young defensemen who play like they've been in the league for years. Expect Nate MacKinnon to have another MVP-caliber season. Joe Sakic also worked his magic to bring in more forward help in the forms of Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. They're going to be the team poised to shock the league in the new season.