Sixteen teams have a chance to win the 2022 Stanley Cup. Some are more likely to pull it off than others. We grouped them into five tiers to evaluate their likelihoods of ending the season on top.
Tier 1: Favorites
For the second straight season, the Avalanche are the Stanley Cup favorites. It didn't work out last season because the Avs threw away a second-round series lead against the Vegas Golden Knights. General Manager Joe Sakic, to his credit, did not panic and more or less returned the same group, only it's better.
There are simply no holes on this team. The Avs have star power up front with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and two-way unsung hero Valeri Nichushkin making up a dominant top line and Nazem Kadri (87 points) and Andre Burakovsky (61 points) had career years. On defense, Cale Makar, Devon Toews and Samuel Girard form an overwhelming trio. Philipp Grubauer's shocking move to the Seattle Kraken was a blessing in disguise, as Darcy Kuemper has proved to be an upgrade while costing much less.
Earlier in the season, the Avs were relying on that star power to compensate for a lack of depth. That is no longer necessary. Artturi Lehkonen, Nico Sturm and Andrew Cogliano were savvy additions, particularly for defensive protection. On the blue line, Josh Manson came over from the Anaheim Ducks and Bowen Byram, a potential star in the making, has returned from long-term injuries.
Few teams can come close to matching the star talent plus depth at all positions and the ones that can have much more difficult paths to the Stanley Cup Final. The salary cap will force roster turnover in the summer, so this might be Colorado's best chance to win a Stanley Cup for a few years.
Most people expected the Panthers to be good this season and perhaps even a strong playoff contender. I'm not sure how many earmarked them to win the Presidents' Trophy.
This team is borderline dominant in almost every facet of the game. Their 406 goals marks the most by any team since the implementation of the salary cap in 2005. Their 56.4 expected goals percentage at five-on-five ranks ninth since 2007-08. Their power play is among the best in the league and their penalty kill holds its own.
Florida has a bevy of star talent. Some are conventional names: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad. Others are less heralded but have been intrinsic to the Panthers' success over the last two seasons: forwards Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe and defensemen MacKenzie Weegar and Gustav Forsling. Claude Giroux gives the team an embarrassment of riches and four complete forward lines.
Most reassuring is that Sergei Bobrovsky has rebounded after two straight disastrous seasons. He gave up roughly 12 fewer goals than expected this season.
There are a few weak points on the roster—at least compared to Colorado. Ben Chiarot is not an ideal sixth defenseman, and Bobrovsky is still far removed from his past Vezina Trophy form. It might not matter, as the rest of the team is just that good. The Panthers clinched the title of Eastern Conference favorites because they are the only team that avoided a tough first-round matchup, as the Washington Capitals are a significantly inferior opponent.