Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate PHNX Sports Community!

Bad for Bedard: A look at the Coyotes’ most likely competitors for the top 2023 draft pick

Craig Morgan Avatar
August 23, 2022

The roster has changed. The prospect pool has changed. Even the home venue has changed, but when it comes to the NHL standings, the 2022-23 Coyotes are going to look an awful lot like the 2021-22 Coyotes.

The rebuild is still in effect and there is one heck of a prize waiting at the end of the rainbow, should the Coyotes be fortunate enough to win the 2023 draft lottery. While the 2022 NHL Draft contained a number of very good prospects, 2023 is loaded at the top, and crowned by franchise-altering center Connor Bedard, who has received the highest praise from hockey’s most respected analysts.

“He’s both literally and figuratively exceptional,” TSN’s Bob McKenzie said. “Even amongst exceptional talents there’s a sense that he’s special.”

While the Coyotes added Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie to a stable of center prospects that already includes Barrett Hayton, Jack McBain, Nathan Smith and John Farinacci, there isn’t a scout on the planet who would pass on Bedard if given the chance to select him.

The Coyotes will almost certainly be in the mix for the top pick, but other teams could be bad enough for Bedard. Based on the most recent Vegas odds and other factors such as offseason moves, conference/division alignment and recent performance, here’s a look at 10 teams (plus the Coyotes) most likely to be in contention.

I reached out to media members in those cities to offer arguments for why those teams will or will not be in the mix for the league’s worst record.

Could a team not on this list sneak into the mix? Of course. The NHL season is unpredictable. Nobody expected the Canadiens to fall from Cup finalist to lottery winner in one season. 

There are greater expectations for teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets this season, but the NHL teaches us every year that progress is not linear and past performance is not always an indicator of what’s coming next, especially if your core is aging or still maturing. Sometimes, expectations aren’t in line with the reality of a roster so keep an eye on those three teams, and maybe a couple of dark horses.

Anaheim Ducks

Why the Ducks will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

While they made some notable free-agent additions over the summer, the Ducks still don’t have the kind of lineup that can strike fear in teams before they hit the ice.

The defense could still be leaky even with John Klingberg joining the blue line. Klingberg will help create offense, but the former Dallas rearguard has never been known for his shutdown abilities. Veterans Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk aren’t exactly bruisers on the back end either, while young and promising Jamie Drysdale is still learning on the job. It’s a group that isn’t physical and wasn’t great at limiting high-quality scoring chances.

If the vets struggle and Drysdale slumps as a sophomore, it will make things tough again for goalie John Gibson. Gibson’s numbers over the past four seasons have taken a sharp dive and it’s fair to start wondering if his struggles are the result of a slippage in his own play as well as the group that’s often taken the blame for his drop off.

Anaheim did improve offensively last season but that’s after being putrid in 2020-21. Troy Terry busted out for 37 goals, but it could be another long year if he fails to come close to 30 again and young star Trevor Zegras either gets hurt or doesn’t build on his Calder-quality campaign. Newcomers Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano have never been more than secondary scoring threats on their prior teams. If they fail to produce in bigger roles, the Ducks will be in trouble.

A poor start could put fourth-year coach Dallas Eakins in danger and have GM Pat Verbeek lean further into the rebuild that he’s undertaken, with Klingberg being at the front of the line when it comes to trade-deadline moves.

Why the Ducks won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Not only won’t they finish with the worst mark, but they could improve on last year’s 31-37-14 record. It might be the first season of the post-Ryan Getzlaf era, but it was the right time for the venerable captain to step aside and let the new core start to put a larger imprint on an improving club.

The 21-year-old Zegras only scratched the surface of his wildly creative playmaking ability as the Calder runner-up and could soon be an 80-to-90-point center with some developing finishers around him. Terry, 24, has arrived as a top-line goal producer after shifting his mindset to that of a shooter first. The two will be joined by 19-year-old Mason McTavish, their super prospect who was the MVP of the recent World Junior Championship.

Rounding out that core is Drysdale, who has 40-point potential from the back end. While he’s been thrown to the fire since reaching the NHL, Drysdale will have some veteran support in Klingberg and fellow puck movers Fowler and Shattenkirk. Those four should help give Anaheim a good transition game and put the forwards in attack mode.

The first half of last season was proof that Gibson can respond to an improved cast around him. If he can give them quality goaltending from start to finish, the Ducks will immediately be better. Strome and Vatrano give them a better forward corps, while Max Comtois and Max Jones will deepen the lineup with bounce-back seasons after their rough 2021-22 campaigns.

Courtesy of Eric Stephens, The Athletic

Arizona Coyotes

Why the Coyotes will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Let us count the ways. The forward group still lacks a legitimate top-six center and much scoring punch past the top line. The team has taken on more troublesome contracts (Zack Kassian, Patrick Nemeth) to acquire more draft assets, none of the franchise’s young prospects are ready to make an impact. The goaltending tandem as of today is Karel Vejmelka and Jon Gillies, and the Coyotes play 20 of their first 24 games on the road.

The Coyotes are in unabashed tank mode which is why Vegas gives them the worst odds of winning the Stanley Cup (plus-30,000). Arizona is not good. Arizona is not trying to be good and when the NHL trade deadline rolls around, GM Bill Armstrong will look to sell off more expiring contracts (Shayne Gostisbehere, Nick Ritchie, Kassian and maybe even Nick Bjugstad and Troy Stecher) for more assets.

To put it bluntly, the Coyotes management staff would be perfectly content with the NHL’s worst record in a pain-for-gain kind of way. 

Why the Coyotes won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The danger zone is twofold: The suddenly physical and big Coyotes could be so hard to play against that they win games through brute force. The more likely, but still remote possibility is that 2021-22 breakout players Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Lawson Crouse take another step forward, while Barrett Hayton emerges as a top-six center and Jakob Chychrun regains his form from 2020-21, or even the season before.  

The Coyotes have an annoying habit of screwing up their lottery chances, as they did late last season when they won their final three games in comeback fashion to overtake Montréal for 31st place in the NHL standings. The consequences were not as dire as they will be this season, but let’s not forget the Coyotes’ miserable lottery luck.

Despite Arizona’s dismal history — three postseason series wins in 25 seasons — the Coyotes have never won the lottery or even picked second. If that luck holds, the Coyotes still can take solace in the widespread belief that the 2023 draft is loaded. If not Bedard, Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli or Dalibor Dvorský will do just fine. 

Buffalo Sabres

Why the Sabres will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Hopes and reality don’t always come together and teams that go into a season with more than a few, “If this thing breaks right, they can do pretty well” parts of the process leave a lot to chance. This is where things can go way off the rails for the Buffalo Sabres.

If Tage Thompson’s 38-goal season was a one-season wonder, they’re in big trouble. Thompson solved their issue of not having a No. 1 center after trading Jack Eichel. If he comes crashing back to earth, it would be a crushing regression. 

They’re putting faith in a lot of young players to continue to grow and break out. Dylan Cozens, Peyton Krebs, and Owen Power are being counted on to take bigger steps.

Rasmus Dahlin must dominate like he did in the second half last season, and they’ll need Mattias Samuelsson to take another step as a defender. If they don’t, the blue line will stagnate and put a ton of pressure on Power to excel immediately.

Goaltending has been a tough subject the past few seasons because of injuries and poor play. GM Kevyn Adams addressed that by bringing back 41-year-old Craig Anderson and adding Eric Comrie who has 28 NHL games in six pro seasons. This is like a high-wire act over a pit of black mambas. If it doesn’t work, not only will you fall, but you’ll also get bitten by highly venomous snakes. A last place finish would send the fans into a rage not seen since… two years ago and kill all the good vibes that last season provided.

Why the Sabres won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The steps taken by Don Granato’s Sabres last season showed that the light at the end of the tunnel might not be a train after all.

The Sabres’ style of play was different than anything seen since the 2005-2006 team and their offensive skill players thrived with it. A repeat 30-plus goal season from Jeff Skinner added to Tage Thompson’s game taking another step, and a full season of a healthy Alex Tuch would make last season’s best line much stronger and more difficult for opponents. 

The corner Rasmus Dahlin’s game turned in the second half provides hope that Granato’s brand of hockey is just what was needed to break the 2018 No. 1 pick’s inconsistency. Adding Owen Power for a full season gives them an instant Calder Trophy contender to go along with a defensive corps light on age but heavier now with confidence. 

Buffalo should also have another injection of youth to their young roster as well. Forwards Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka will be factors this season; if not right away then not too long after. Both players had monster AHL seasons last year, and the sky is the limit for both. Their skill and pace are outstanding and should be ideal fits for their system.

The Sabres are young (aside from Craig Anderson, anyway) and there will be mistakes and inconsistency, but the talent level is high, and they have actual depth to go with it. The NHL is a young man’s league and with as many excellent young players as they have, it’ll be plenty enough to keep them out of the basement.

Courtesy of Joe Yerdon, Bleacher Report

The Blackhawks could be historically bad if they trade star Patrick Kane this season. (Getty Images)

Chicago Blackhawks

Why the Blackhawks will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The 2022-23 Blackhawks are constructed to lose and get the first overall pick in next year’s draft. They finished last season with the sixth-fewest points in the NHL, and this was with Patrick Kane’s 92 points, the third-highest total of his career, Alex DeBrincat’s career-high 41 goals, and three quarters of a season with Marc-Andre Fleury in the net. 

DeBrincat and Fleury are gone. So are Brandon Hagel, Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik and Calvin de Haan. They were replaced with Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi, Colin Blackwell, Brett Seney, Jack Johnson, Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock. This team struggled to score goals last season with a much better roster. 

You must also factor in a first-year coach. While I like the Luke Richardson hire, there are still many unknowns heading into the season. How long will it take for the team to gel and grasp his brand of hockey? How long will it take for Richardson to figure out his best line combinations? The early-season losses could quickly pile up while these questions are sorted out, and anyone who performs well will likely get moved before the deadline for more assets. 

Athanasiou and Domi were signed to one-year deals to get traded. There is still the possibility that Kane and Jonathan Toews will waive their no-movement clauses before the season ends. This team will look dramatically different for the last 20 games or so. 

Finally, the Blackhawks have four games against the Coyotes to go out and lose. Give those tilts to Stalock! 

Why the Blackhawks won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

If everything goes well, the Blackhawks might finish 28th. Kane can’t do it himself, but he might get some help. If top prospect Lukas Reichel takes a big jump and produces 50 to 60 points playing with Kane, that might lead to three or four extra wins and bump them up the standings a spot or two.

One wild card that could lead to a few extra wins is Mrazek. While the name doesn’t inspire championship aspirations, you need to remember that his last two contracts came from teams considered to be Stanley Cup contenders in the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs. His biggest issue of late has been staying on the ice. Mrazek has missed a ton of games in the last two seasons, but when he played with Carolina in 2020-21, he put up a .923 save percentage (SV%) and 2.06 goals-against average (GAA) in his 12 games. He has shown that he can be a starting goalie in the NHL. If Mrazek stays healthy and plays to his highest level, he can steal a few points you didn’t necessarily want.

The final factor in not finishing with the fewest points is defenseman Seth Jones. While he had 51 points in his first season in Chicago, he only had five goals, and none on the power play. The Blackhawks’ offense will struggle, but if Jones can recapture his goal-scoring touch, he might give the team a couple of extra wins.

Courtesy of Greg Boysen, CHGO Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets

Why the Blue Jackets will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The free-agent signing of left winger Johnny Gaudreau will go down as an historic day for this organization. Not only did the Blue Jackets add the top free agent on the 2022 market, but they may have begun to dispel the notion that Columbus isn’t a desired location.

While Gaudreau’s addition will spike ticket sales and boost confidence in a very young dressing room, it doesn’t address the Blue Jackets’ biggest need. Only Montreal (317), Detroit (310), Arizona (309) and New Jersey (302) allowed more goals last season than Columbus (297), which set a franchise record. Instead of sweeping changes on the back end — defensemen and goaltenders — the Blue Jackets opted to keep the band together.

Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen called his club’s defensive woes the biggest question of the offseason, saying they’d consider personnel changes, system changes, etc., to get back to sound defensive hockey. The only offseason addition on defense was the signing of veteran Eric Gudbranson, who will probably play on the third pair.

The Blue Jackets, then, are banking on their young blue-liners — we’re looking at you, Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean, Nick Blankenburg, and Andrew Peeke — to make huge strides. Two of those players will be asked to play on the right side of the top two pairs.

The feeling in Columbus is that the Blue Jackets can hang around for a top-four spot in the Metropolitan Division. Still, we’ve seen many times how organization rebuilds don’t always follow a northward trajectory. If the Blue Jackets aren’t dramatically improved defensively, it will be hard to escape the bottom third of the league. They’ll be back in the NHL draft lottery if they’re no better.

Why the Blue Jackets won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Blue Jackets were expected to be awful last season. They were the youngest team in the NHL and in the early stages of an organizational “restart” after trading away several veterans and rebuilding their roster through the draft. But a funny thing happened on the way to the cellar. The Blue Jackets never challenged for a playoff spot, but they flirted with a .500 record (37-38-7) and were far more competitive than expected.

Then came an impressive summer for GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his staff, who landed Gaudreau via free agency and re-signed winger Patrik Laine to a contract extension. There is momentum behind the franchise now, a sense that the sun is rising after two seasons out of the playoffs. Organization rebuilds aren’t supposed to be this quick; this relatively painless.

The Blue Jackets were in the top half of the league (No. 14) in scoring, despite having the 24th-best power play. Gaudreau’s arrival should send those numbers through the roof, especially with the man advantage. Can Laine score 50 on his opposite wing? 60?

A further push should come from Cole Sillinger, who had a very solid rookie season, Kent Johnson, who got a brief taste of the NHL late last season, and Kirill Marchenko, an offensively gifted player who is coming over from the KHL.

Are the Blue Jackets a playoff team? They finished 19 points out of a postseason spot last season; that’s a big hill to climb. But the Blue Jackets will score too many goals — and they have too much young talent — to be the worst team in the league.

Courtesy of Aaron Portzline, The Athletic

Montréal Canadiens

Why the Canadiens will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Let’s face it, the Montréal Canadiens did not add an excessive amount of talent to their roster. In fact, they did the exact opposite by trading Tyler Toffoli, Brett Kulak, Artturi Lehkonen and Ben Chiarot last season, as well as Jeff Petry this summer.

Even with those players on the roster for most of the season, the team finished among the bottom-five teams in terms of their goals for percentage (GF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%). In addition, they finished among the worst teams in the NHL regarding shot share (CF%), scoring chances (SCF%), and high-danger scoring chances (HDCF). 

Once you factor in that they only won 22 games last season, 19 of them in regulation, the possibility of finishing last becomes a very probable reality, especially because their defensive core has been gutted. They are also looking to move several of their players currently on the roster, which means Josh Anderson, Paul Byron and others could be moved for prospects or picks. 

However, when it comes to the Canadiens, finishing last once again may be part of the plan. Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton have been stockpiling first-round picks, and they would love to be in the running for the next generational talent to join the NHL: Connor Bedard. 

If Carey Price were healthy and ready to play the majority of the games, you could argue the team has a chance to sneak into a playoff spot, much as they have done during several of Price’s best seasons, but given his current injury situation (likely out for the season on LTIR) and Shea Weber’s unofficial retirement and trade, a last-place finish seems more than likely. 

Why the Canadiens won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

There’s only one answer to this question: Martin St.Louis.

Under St. Louis, the Canadiens jumped from last in the league in goal share to 15th. They improved every single important metric with the Art Ross winner behind the bench, which indicates there’s significant room for improvement in the standings.

The rookie coach did not just re-invigorate the lineup, his presence played a significant part in the resurgence of several players. Take Cole Caufield, for example. Under Dominique Ducharme, Caufield was scoring at a 0.17-goals-per-60-minutes  rate, whereas his numbers jumped to 1.61 goals per 60 with St.Louis, almost an 850% improvement. Caufield’s points per 60 also jumped from 0.85 to 2.18 after the coaching change.

St.Louis also helped Nick Suzuki improve his scoring rates, though it must be said Suzuki was one of the few players that wasn’t struggling mightily in the first half of the season. But that didn’t mean there was no room for improvement. Suzuki went from 0.28 goals per 60 to 0.64 goals per 60, and most impressively, jumped from a respectable 1.2 points per 60 all the way to 2.25 points per 60 in the latter half of the season.

The same experiment can be recreated with almost every player on the roster, including Christian Dvorak, who actually led the Canadiens in points per 60 once St.Louis came on board.

With a half season under his belt and an entire offseason to prepare, St. Louis will be the key to avoiding another last-place finish. 

Courtesy of Marc Dumont, All Things Habs

Two-time Cup winner Ondrej Palat was a key offseason acquisition for the Devils. (Getty Images)

New Jersey Devils

Why the Devils will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Here’s the scenario: It’s opening night for the Devils and the top line of Ondrej Palat, Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt instantly meshes. Palat’s gritty, veteran prowess bodes well for the two rising stars. Add in the newly acquired defensive depth and things look optimistic for coach Lindy Ruff.

But the Devils still lose the game 4-3. 

I can see a hypothetical like this playing out many times this season. The reason? A cursed goalie situation. The Devils are rolling with goalie Mackenzie Blackwood and newcomer Vitek Vanecek in 2022-23. They’re both solid — Blackwood especially, if he’s healthy — but don’t forget: This is the same team that shuffled through seven different netminders in 2021-22. The Devils haven’t found goaltending stability since Martin Brodeur left in 2014. If the goalie woes continue, they’ll be bottom feeders in the Metro Division.

Another problem the Devils will face is their bottom six forwards. General manager Tom Fitzgerald did a great job of adding depth on defense — hello, John Marino — but their third- and fourth-line forwards consist of names such as Andreas Johnsson, Erik Haula, an aging Tomas Tatar and a rarely-healthy Miles Wood. Fitzgerald needs to clear some cap space and bolster this wing/center depth immediately.

One off-ice reason the Devils may finish with the worst record in the NHL: They have been doomed for the past decade. The Devils have missed the playoffs in nine of their past 10 seasons. The only recent playoff berth was in 2018, when Taylor Hall shredded through the league. Not sure if this team is as gutsy as that one.

Why the Devils won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Devils will not finish with the worst record in the league. In fact, they’ll be in the playoff hunt. While I don’t think they’re a lock for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference or anything, I do believe they’re solid enough to fight for a wild card spot against their aging Metro Division opponents.

Jack Hughes will continue to flourish, Jesper Bratt is on a “prove it” one-year deal — watch out for the young Swedish winger — and veterans Ondrej Palat and a recovered Dougie Hamilton will teach them how to win.

For the first time in a while, New Jersey’s front office spent to the cap ceiling. They struck out on top free-agent prize Johnny Gaudreau and a few others, but they still added enough key pieces to make this an interesting team. The goalie situation still has some question marks, but if Blackwood gets back to form and Vitek Vanecek is motivated by an improved role, Lindy Ruff finally will not have to worry about goalie incompetence.

But I’m burying the lede here. The most important Devils offseason move was their assistant coaching shakeups. They added Jack Adams finalist Andrew Brunette, ex-Vegas Knights coach Ryan McGill and three-time Stanley Cup winner Sergei Brylin to Ruff’s staff. That’s three incredible coaches on one bench.

The Devils will have a turnaround soon. This offseason will be the foundation for that.

Courtesy of Ryan Novozinsky, NJ.com

Ottawa Senators

Why the Senators will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Regardless of all the exciting moves the Sens made in the offseason, at the end of the day they haven’t done anything to address their biggest weakness, which is their defense. There are high hopes for Jake Sanderson, but if he’s not ready, we’re looking at another season of Artem Zub, Nick Holden, Erik Brannstrom, Travis Hamonic and Nikita Zaitsev trying to help Thomas Chabot keep pucks out of the net — unless of course the Senators are able to pry Jakob Chychrun away from the Coyotes  

Why the Senators won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Sens were already an exciting team on the rise going into the offseason with Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Tim Stützle all coming off great seasons and Anton Forsberg emerging as a dependable option in net.

But then GM Pierre Dorion went hard in the offseason, first by getting a reliable goalie in Cam Talbot to replace injury-prone Matt Murray. He then traded for 41-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat and signed a still-immensely effective Claude Giroux. Plus the Sens have high pedigree prospect Sanderson coming in to help shore up the defense.

It would be a huge disappointment for the Sens to not be in the playoff race this year, and an absolute disaster if they somehow ended up even worse than they were last season and found themselves at the bottom of the league.

Courtesy of Elan Dubrofsky, Keeping Karlsson podcast, who had me on a recent show

Philadelphia Flyers

Why the Flyers will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The best case for the Flyers finishing with the worst record in the NHL this season is simple: They had the fourth-worst record in 2021-22, and it’s unclear that their roster is actually any better this time around.

Yes, they should get back a healthy Sean Couturier. And yes, Kevin Hayes looked much better over the final two months of 2021-22 after he finally got his core muscle issue figured out, and that should carry over into 2022-23. But those gains are at least in part canceled out by the fact that they received 57 very good games from Claude Giroux last year, and he’ll be giving them zero in 2022-23 because he’s in Ottawa. 

The underwhelming defense is nearly the same as last season, except with youngster Cam York stepping in full-time for Keith Yandle, and Tony DeAngelo likely replacing Ryan Ellis, whose status remains in question. Are they upgrades? York should be, but that’s more of an indictment on Yandle’s play than a full-throated endorsement of the unproven York. As for DeAngelo, yes, he’ll provide more value than Ellis did last year if he can simply play in more than four regular-season games. But his defensive play is justifiably maligned, and placing him on the first pair with Ivan Provorov is a serious gamble that he can actually hold up in those minutes with a partner not named Jaccob Slavin.

Add in the fact that the Flyers are basically winging it at backup goalie (meaning that any injury to Carter Hart would likely spell immediate disaster), have multiple young players in key lineup spots who have yet to prove they are worthy of full-time NHL status (York, Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett), and will be breaking in a new coach (John Tortorella) whose fiery style can rub some players wrong, and there are quite a few paths that see 2022-23 being a complete Flyers implosion.

Why the Flyers won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Flyers most likely won’t be especially good in 2022-23, but they have too much talent — and too good of a head coach — to actually finish as the worst club in hockey.

Couturier’s return should be huge, assuming he’s fully recovered from back surgery. His line, at the very least, should control play against anyone; the truly awful teams can’t say that about any of their lines. 

The Flyers might be lacking high-end, dynamic talent up front, but they do have more than a few quality second and third line caliber players, such as Hayes, Cam Atkinson, Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk. And while their defense on paper is nothing special, they at least have three legitimately above-average players on their back end (Provorov, DeAngelo and Travis Sanheim), with York possessing the potential to rapidly reach that level as well. 

Add in Hart in goal, and the Flyers’ roster — while certainly not great — probably isn’t truly horrid to the point of being a contender for the worst in hockey.

Then there’s Tortorella, who has long succeeded in getting the most out of clubs with limited talent — think of his early years in New York, and most of his tenure in Columbus. Tortorella will have the Flyers playing with energy and structure and discipline, or he’ll utterly lose his mind trying to get them there. Torts isn’t a miracle worker — it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to take a team with this many roster holes on a deep playoff run — but he’s fully capable of pushing Philadelphia back into the muddled middle, far away from the No. 1 pick.

Courtesy of Charlie O’Connor, The Athletic

Former Coyote Adin Hill could be on the move again due to a crowded Sharks’ crease. (Getty Images)

San Jose Sharks

Why the Sharks will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Sharks are one Erik Karlsson injury away from having arguably the thinnest defensive corps in the NHL and nobody proven to quarterback their power play. At the moment, the Sharks have two proven top-four defensemen in Karlsson and Mario Ferraro, and Ferraro is more defensively-oriented.

Of course, a healthy Karlsson has not been something that the Sharks have been able to rely upon since they traded for him. Karlsson has missed 91 games in the past four years, so a shallow blueline, combined with an unspectacular forward group and goaltending room, make it easy to see the Sharks falling hard for Connor Bedard.

Why the Sharks won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

The Sharks, however, are probably stuck in a place where they won’t be good enough to make the playoffs, but they won’t be bad enough to be the worst team in the league.

San Jose’s forwards and goaltending are unspectacular, but they have real potential to be solid groups. While the Sharks aren’t stocked with a wealth of high-end talent up front, they should have reliable NHL players all over their four lines. It might be faint praise, but this could be the deepest group of Sharks forwards since 2018-19.

Whoever stays between Kaapo Kahkonen, James Reimer and Adin Hill, something resembling league-average goaltending is also a realistic possibility for the Sharks. 

Defensive depth is a question mark, of course, but Karlsson has got to stay healthy and consistent for at least one of his San Jose seasons, right?

Courtesy of Sheng Peng, San Jose Hockey Now

Seattle Kraken

Why the Kraken will finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Inconsistency and injuries were a problem in the Kraken’s inaugural season. It is possible those could be problems this season, but there is a belief that the Kraken have made the type of adjustments to their lineup which should lead to improvements. 

Like every team, the Kraken will enter this season with their fair share of questions. Two of the more notable being: What improvements have been made to make their goaltending a strength rather than a concern? The second being how will Matty Beniers and Shane Wright — should the latter make the team out of training camp — perform in their first full NHL seasons? 

Why the Kraken won’t finish with the NHL’s worst record in 2022-23:

Signing André Burakovsky and trading for Oliver Bjorkstrand gives the Kraken two top-six forwards that they did not have last season. Getting Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand does not suggest that the Kraken will overcome all challenges, but it is expected to aid them considering 40 percent of their goals were scored by Ryan Donato, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde and Jared McCann last season. 

Then there is the matter of what happens with Beniers and Wright. Beniers scored nine points in 10 games and gave them a top-six center. Wright projects as a top-six center, but the questions around his immediate future should become clearer once training camp arrives. 

It is still possible the Kraken could struggle at times this season, but they now appear to have more scoring options than they did a year ago. 

Courtesy of Ryan Clark, The Athletic

Top photo of Connor Bedard via Getty Images

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter

Scroll to next article