1. Vancouver Canucks
2. Calgary Flames
3. Minnesota Wild
4. Edmonton Oilers
5. Colorado Avalanche
The shortened schedule with increased divisional games should put the Canucks in prime position to get the No. 1 seed in the West for the third year in a row. The division is fairly weak behind them, and they will have many opportunities to beat up on the other four teams.
This may come as a surprise, but when is there a better time to make bold predictions than a shortened season? Sure, they finished second in the division last year as well, but the Flames aren't getting any praise this year. They added Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler as well as young hopefuls like Roman Cervenka and Sven Baertschi. If these two youngsters can perform well, they will give a big boost to the Flames. Also, the schedule could help Calgary as well, as they finished with a very good record against the Northwest last season.
Minnesota made big waves in July, signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Parise adds some much-needed star power to the offense, and Suter provides a little bit of experience to the defense. However, Suter may underperform without Shea Weber by his side, and the offense beyond the top six is fairly weak.
Certain Oilers have been tearing up the AHL during the lockout, especially defenseman Justin Schultz. This team has an unbelievable amount of potential, but it also has a lot of competition in the rest of the Western Conference. They'll improve, but next year will be the year where everything should start to come together.
Colorado really isn't that bad, but if Gabriel Landeskog has a sophomore slump, the Avs could be in a little bit of trouble. P.A. Parenteau could underperform, as he won't be playing next to guys like John Tavares, Michael Grabner, or Matt Moulson anymore, but he should help out the offense a little bit. Matt Duchene needs to bounce back for this team to have a shot at the playoffs.