Puck picks: SJ, Detroit will be class of Western Conference

The Ducks are almost starting from scratch on the back end. So Jonas Hiller will be tested often in net and will count on one of the league’s better top-six forward groups to provide enough offense – but it won’t score enough to get this club into the postseason.

11. St. Louis

I just don’t see how a team relying so much on bounce-back seasons from would-be scoring stars Brad Boyes and David Backes can really be a playoff threat. And I’m not convinced Jaroslav Halak is the second coming.

12. Minnesota

Nicklas Backstrom in goal gives the Wild a puncher’s chance to win every night. This team in transition lacks a superstar, but with one season now between them and the Jacques Lemaire era, Mikko Koivu & Co. should be able to keep things interesting until the season’s final weeks.

13. Edmonton

The infusion of three of the league’s best prospects – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi – should be enough to keep the Oilers out of the conference basement, even if the rest of the roster is a rag-tag group.

14. Columbus

The team that finished 14th in the West last season did nothing to improve this summer. So another next-to-last-place finish is in the cards. Rick Nash must regret re-signing in the Buckeye State every day he wakes up.

15. Dallas

If ever there was a team that obviously wants the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, it’s the Stars, who are counting on a lot of youth to emerge as primetime players at once. I’d expect Brad Richards will be the most coveted, and available, trade chip come February.

Eastern Conference

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