1. Boston Bruins—The Bruins are deep and loaded throughout their roster. They should contend if Tuukka Rask is ready to be their starting goalie and performs consistently.
2. Buffalo Sabres—Buffalo tried to become grittier by adding Steve Ott and John Scott. If they are a bit tougher to play against and Cody Hodgson, Ville Leino, Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff can have bounce-back years, the Sabres should be in line to reach the playoffs.
3. Ottawa Senators—The Sens surprised people by reaching the postseason last season, and their youth may be an advantage in a shortened season. Young players like Kyle Turris and Jakob Silfverberg need to step up and produce for the Senators to exceed last year's results, but this team is on the way up.
4. Montreal Canadiens—The Habs have a franchise goalie in Carey Price and a new feeling with Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin running the organization. If they get secondary scoring, a healthy year from Andrei Markov and more maturity from P.K. Subban, the Habs may go from worst in the conference to a playoff team, but they are probably a year away.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs—This team can score, but it lacks defensive defensemen, and goaltending remains a huge question mark. If the Leafs acquire Roberto Luongo as rumored, they could become instant playoff contenders, but with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in net, there are more questions than answers.