It's a season like no other, so we want to do something different. Each Friday we'll be taking a look at the all-Canadian North Division.
Based on the current standings we’ll look at each team’s record, how they got to where they are, and preview their upcoming week.
You can always check out the updated odds to win the North Division on the NHL Futures page.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
Position last week: 1 (15-4-2)
Leading scorers: Auston Matthews (31 points); Auston Matthews (18 goals)
Key injuries: Frederik Andersen (day-to-day lower body); Jack Campbell (out indefinitely – leg); Wayne Simmonds (late March – hand); Joe Thornton (day-to-day lower body); Jake Muzzin (out indefinitely – face)
Upcoming games: @ EDM (Feb. 27); @ EDM (March 1); @ EDM (March 3); @ VAN (March 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +120; Last week -132; Current odds -286
If it wasn’t for William Nylander, there would be outrage in Toronto over the Leafs’ results last week. Toronto was less than four minutes away from being completely shutout in a two-game home set against the Flames, before Nylander tied Wednesday’s game late and added the OT winner for good measure. This team just keeps finding ways to win. They’re the first team to hit 15 wins on the season and they average 3.52 goals per game (fourth in the NHL). Something to keep an eye on is the wrist injury to Auston Matthews. Leading the NHL with 18 goals, Matthews has apparently been dealing with a minor wrist issue all season. If this is what he plays like with a wrist issue, hitting the 50-goal plateau might be within reach if he can get fully healthy. With only four points separating Toronto from Edmonton, this is a huge road trip for the Leafs. Three straight games against the Oilers could either allow Edmonton to hop Toronto for top spot in the North Division or give the Leafs a very comfortable gap between them and second place.
- Edmonton Oilers
Position last week: 3 (14-8-0)
Leading scorers: Connor McDavid (40 points); Connor McDavid (14 goals)
Key injuries: Oscar Klefbom (out for season – shoulder); Ethan Bear (out indefinitely – head); Zack Kassian (out indefinitely – upper body); Slater Koekkoek (out for season – collarbone); James Neal (day-to-day – undisclosed); William Lagesson
Upcoming games: vs. TOR (Feb. 27); vs. TOR (March 1); vs. TOR (March 3)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +450; Last week +1,200; Current odds +500
Edmonton used a busy stretch of games last week to make it clear to the hockey world that they are turning a corner and becoming a legitimate contender. The Oilers swept a two-game series with the Flames and another two-game series with the Canucks, allowing only five goals in those four games. Connor McDavid’s 40 points (14G, 26A) and Leon Draisaitl‘s 34 points (10G, 24A) are still No. 1 and No. 2 in league scoring. McDavid continues to flirt with a two-point per game average overall, putting up four goals and four assists last week. As crazy as it sounds, it’s just par for the course for McDavid and Draisaitl to be leading the league in scoring. What has actually been the difference-maker for the Oilers is goaltending. Mike Smith started three of the four games last week, finishing with a 1.33 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. Mikko Kosinen was also solid in his one start, stopping 43 of 44 shots. It’s a pretty simple game plan for the Oilers this week. They have a three-game home stand against the Leafs. Picking up at least five of the six points will allow them to jump to the top of the standings. We’re about to see the leading goal scorer in the NHL against the top two leaders in points go at it for three straight games. Whatever happens, it’s going to be entertaining hockey.
- Winnipeg Jets
Position last week: 4 (12-6-1)
Leading scorers: Mark Scheifele (28 points); Mark Scheifele (11 goals)
Key injuries: Tucker Poolman (day-to-day – undisclosed)
Upcoming games: vs. MTL (Feb. 27); vs. VAN (March 1); vs. VAN (March 2); @ MTL (March 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +800; Last week +1,100; Current odds +650
The Jets, more than any team in this division, have been flying under the radar. Winnipeg had a perfect week, picking up two wins in Vancouver, before downing Montreal on Thursday. The Montreal game is what’s really impressive. On paper, it should have been a fairly close game, but after the surprise firing of Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, there’s no doubt the Habs lineup was amped up to make some noise with a new coach. Those are the types of games that are deceptively difficult for the other team and Winnipeg not only won, but won convincingly. With three points in three games since joining the Jets, Pierre-Luc Dubois seems to have been the missing piece and catalyst to pull Winnipeg from the bottom of the division and become a dangerous team night in and night out. Only three points separate the Jets in the standings from the Oilers above them and the Canadiens below them, so the two games against Montreal this week are obviously important. Even if Winnipeg can split the series with Montreal, they also have a two-game home set against Vancouver that would give them a chance for four more points and potentially place them solidly in third place in the North Division and within striking distance of second.
- Montreal Canadiens
Position last week: 2 (9-6-4)
Key injuries: Josh Anderson (day-to-day – undisclosed)
Upcoming games: @ WPG (Feb. 27); vs. OTT (March 2); vs. WPG (March 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +415; Last week+140; Current odds+650
Where do you even start with this team? Up to this point in the season they’ve been the Jekyll and Hyde team of the NHL. After picking up 12 of a possible 14 points to start the season, Montreal has been in a free-fall down the standings and lost six of their last seven games, including four straight. This was all enough to cost head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller their jobs. You can’t blame all the Habs’ failures all on coaching. Carey Price is off to the second worst statistical start of his career. Price has a 5-4-3 record with a 3.13 GAA and .888 SV and has essentially been passed on the depth chart by Jake Allen, who was supposed to provide rest for Price in a condensed schedule. Dominique Ducharme has taken over, but what’s concerning is the lack of response for Montreal. Ducharme’s first game as head coach was a 6-3 loss to the Jets, a team Montreal is directly behind in the standings. If that’s the Habs’ response to a new coach in a crucial game, it’s got to be concerning to say the least if you’re a Montreal fan. The goods new is, the Habs have two more chances against Winnipeg this week and a game with Ottawa. Clinging to the last playoff spot, this certainly seems like it could be a turning point week for Montreal, one way or the other.
- Calgary Flames
Position last week: 5 (9-10-2)
Upcoming games: @ OTT (Feb. 27); @ OTT (March 1); vs. OTT (March 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +496; Last week +1,400; Current odds +2,500
It was a pretty disastrous week for Calgary. They dropped four of five games and were outscored a combined 9-2 in a two-game set with Edmonton. As bad as the series with the Oilers went, the Flames actually came out strong in a two-game set in Toronto. With Jacob Markstrom out, David Rittich was the hero in the first Toronto game and picked up his first shutout of the year. ‘Big Save Dave’ was back on top of his game in the second Toronto game, as the Flames were then less than four minutes from shutting the Leafs out for the second game in a row, before William Nylander’s heroics gave Toronto an OT win. Unfortunately, Calgary responded to the strong outings against Toronto by getting pummelled 6-1 by the worst team in the league, the Ottawa Senators. Calgary is only two points back of a reeling Montreal Canadiens team and with three games against the cellar-dweller Senators this week, it’s completely up to the Flames where they end up in the standings this time next week.
- Vancouver Canucks
Position last week: 6 (8-14-2)
Leading scorers: Brock Boeser (22 points); Brock Boeser (12 goals)
Upcoming games: @ WPG (March 1); @ WPG (March 2); vs. TOR (Feb. 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +800; Last week +4,000; Current odds +7,500
Vancouver is the only team that has struggled as much as Ottawa this year in the North Division, but they’re getting dangerously close to being jumped by the Senators in the standings. It was another week of losses for the Canucks as they were swept in all four home games they played against the Jets and Oilers. Elias Pettersson is the embodiment of Vancouver’s luck this season, hitting an NHL-high eight posts or crossbars in 23 games. With the amount of one-goal losses the Canucks have picked up, you’ve got to wonder where Vancouver would be if they had a little more puck luck early on. It’s not going to get any easier this week, as the Canucks face the Jets twice before taking on first place Toronto. It’s tough for Canucks fans to hear, but there’s really not much positive to say about this team right now.
- Ottawa Senators
Position last week: 7 (7-14-1)
Leading scorers: Brady Tkachuk (15 points); Brady Tkachuk (eight goals)
Upcoming games: vs. CGY (Feb. 27); vs. CGY (March 1); @ MTL (March 2); @ CGY (March 4)
Odds to win North Division: Opening line +3,500; Last week +25,000; Current odds +50,000
This is the most confident we’ve felt in Ottawa in the last calendar year. No, seriously, it is. The Senators legitimately seem to be turning a corner. It’s the young guns that are getting it done for the Sens with 12 of Ottawa’s last 14 goals coming from players aged 24 or younger. The Senators also have two of the top three leaders in the rookie points race in Josh Norris (4G, 8A) and Tim Stutzle (5G, 6A). Ottawa has now won five of their past 11 games, which is pretty good for a team who was riding a nine game losing streak a month ago. The Senators won all three games last week to give them their longest win streak of the year and also put the final nail in Claude Julien’s coffin when it comes to coaching in Montreal. Ottawa swept a two-game set against the Habs and crushed Calgary 6-1. It will be another busy week for the Sens as they face Calgary three more times and will head to the Bell Centre looking to keep their momentum against Montreal going. Ottawa has a young team that is going to experience a lot of ups and downs this year. No one is getting ahead of themselves and thinking the Sens can actually become a playoff team, but it’s looking more and more like they have a chance to at least not finish last in the North Division. For a team that lost nine of it’s first 10 games, take that as a win and look forward to the future.