The NHL concluded last season with the Vegas Golden Knights hoisting the Stanley Cup, just five years after they became a franchise. It has been an extremely impressive run, as most expansion teams haven't had nearly the amount of sustained success that Vegas has had since its inception. Usually, the team that is coming off a championship is the favorite to repeat the following season, but that is not the case with Vegas. In fact, you can get them right now at +1200 to win the Stanley Cup in 2024, which is the sixth-shortest option.
I will not be targeting them to repeat, as that is very hard to do, but I see value in another Western Conference team: the Dallas Stars.
Last season, I liked what I saw from the Stars and their potential heading into the 2023-24 NHL season. They managed to get past the Minnesota Wild in the first round last season and then went seven games against the Seattle Kraken before grabbing the series win. That right there was impressive to me, as I was quite high on the Kraken during last year's playoffs. They ultimately would fall in the WCF against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Golden Knights, but they still fought and won two games in that series. In fact, I think they could have beaten them if not for their goaltender having an epic collapse in the postseason.
Jake Oettinger was one of the best goalies in the NHL during the regular season last year, but really struggled in the playoffs. He posted just a 3.06 GAA and .895 save percentage in 19 playoff starts, and a really poor 3.84 GAA and .877 SV% against Vegas in those six games. His performance is what ultimately sank the team, but I believe he will bounce back. He's just 24 years old and has already shown his upside. Plus, we can't be sure he is a postseason choker, especially given the fact he did so well in the 2022 postseason with a 1.81 GAA and .954 SV% in seven starts.
Either way, the fact that Dallas managed to get that far into the playoffs with their star goaltender playing so poorly also reflects highly on them. They have a very good defense, and they have plenty of scoring options that should only get better this season. Jason Robertson is the headliner and quickly has become one of the league's best goal-scorers. Jamie Benn showed that he still has some of what made him great inside of him, and Roope Hintz is an underappreciated star who really is a great supporting player. Joe Pavelski, who is close to being 40, still can play at a high level and help the team.
Here's my x-factor. Wyatt Johnston had a fantastic rookie season, scoring 24 goals with 41 points and playing in all 82 games. He scored the game-winning goal against the tough Kraken defense in Game 7 of that series and got valuable postseason playing time. With 24 goals last season, he easily should develop into a 30 to 40-goal scorer, and I think that could happen even this year.
Overall, I think there is a lot of upside with Dallas this season, and an 18-1 number is pretty valuable for a team that is playing in the weaker of the two conferences. They should be close to a lock to make the postseason in my opinion.