It's time! After a short summer break, puck drop for the start of the 2021 NHL season is Wednesday. RotoWire's got you covered with our previews for the new Central, East, West and North Divisions, which include the teams favored to win the division, the sneaky sleeper team and your usual assortment of fantasy options.
Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Panthers, Predators, Lightning.
Favorite: Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning are the favorites to win the Cup again, though back-to-back titles are historically rare. They won't blitz through the regular season, but come playoffs they will demand a lot of respect as the defending champs. They have the best goalie in the league, the best defenseman in the league and a deep forward lineup that includes a healthy Steven Stamkos. Their riches could extend to their taxi squad at some point with top minor-league scorer Alex Barre-Boulet, who was assigned to the AHL on Monday.
Sleeper Team: The Hurricanes will be a popular dark horse again, but don't take the Predators lightly. They cut dead weight (Kyle Turris) and brought in extra help (Erik Haula, Luke Kunin, Mikael Granlund), and look for Dante Fabbro to take a step forward this season. The question will be consistency in net with Juuse Saros after a mediocre first season as the starter. The Stars and Jackets deserve a mention, but they have injuries to key players (Ben Bishop,