Watchability rankings: 5 teams you’ll want to see this season

NHL

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If you’re an NHL fan, there’s a pretty good chance you’re a supporter of a specific team and most of your energy is dedicated to that franchise.

That’s totally reasonable, but over the next few months a time will come when you find yourself at a loose end thinking it might be nice to throw on a game when your team isn’t playing. There’s plenty of good hockey on after all — and you’re only human.

With many games to choose from it might be wise to prioritize a few specific clubs. While there’s no objective way to identify the NHL’s most watchable teams, we’ve identified five to keep an eye on in the season ahead.

You can quibble with this team’s supporting cast or get frustrated with Edmonton’s inability to get over the hump, but the beautiful music Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl make together simply cannot be ignored.

Edmonton ranked first in the NHL in goals last season by a healthy margin (+24) and put together the most efficient power-play unit of all time (32.4%). Offense isn’t the only thing that makes hockey exciting by any means, but the opportunity to watch the world’s best player — and a co-star who is also a top-five skater — is tough to pass up.

Watching Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl never gets old. (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Watching Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl never gets old. (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Goaltender Stuart Skinner will also be fascinating to observe in 2023-24. If he’s as solid as he was as a rookie he could help the Oilers remain a power in the Western Conference. If he experiences a sophomore slump, then Edmonton will be in for a lot of chaotic, high-scoring affairs.

The Sabres combine a compelling narrative with emerging talent and an engrossing playing style. Buffalo is on a quest to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11, and it clearly has a roster capable of getting over the hump.

Reaching the postseason isn’t a foregone conclusion, though, as it will have to fight through an Atlantic Division that includes the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Last season the Sabres ranked third in the NHL in goals (293) while allowing the seventh-most pucks into their own net (297), and it’s fair assume they’re in for another season of eventful hockey. Rookie goaltender Devon Levi is promising but untested, and this club hasn’t proven it can defend at a high level.

Tage Thompson is an emerging force who’s a treat to watch, the same could be said of Rasmus Dahlin — and Owen Power‘s second NHL season could be special.

Last year the Devils went from also-rans to true contenders, and they should be among the NHL’s best again in 2023-24.

New Jersey ranked fifth in the NHL in goals last season (289) and could become even more potent offensively with a full season of Timo Meier, the addition of Tyler Toffoli, and the possibility that Luke Hughes produces some magic as a rookie.

His brother, Jack, is a rising superstar who broke out last season with 99 points while establishing himself as one of the NHL’s most entertaining players.

Like Edmonton and Buffalo, the Devils are also leaning on relatively unproven goaltending. Last year, New Jersey had no trouble keeping pucks out of its net, but that could change in 2023-24 if Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid struggle.

Florida Panthers

Florida might come back to earth slightly after its magical 2023-24 playoff run, but the Panthers deserve inclusion here.

Not only does the Matthew Tkachuk-led squad possess plenty of talent, its game has a different flavor than the other teams on this list. For the fan that likes a team with a little bit of nastiness, the Panthers are capable of delivering.

Radko Gudas may be gone, but there’s still plenty of sandpaper here, some of it coming from Tkachuk himself. The Panthers aren’t a bunch of goons, though, as they ranked sixth in the NHL in goals last season (288) and the ever-erratic Sergei Bobrovksy is a fun goaltender to watch for fans of pure chaos.

Those who prefer players who are completely in control won’t be left out, though, as they can appreciate Aleksander Barkov‘s smooth, two-way excellence.

Gabriel Landeskog is out for the season and the bottom half of this roster is nothing to write home about, meaning this isn’t the best version of Colorado we’ve seen in recent years.

That doesn’t matter. This team features Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen. That’s good enough to make this list over sentimental favorites like the Seattle Kraken, any of the Atlantic Division’s traditional powers, or the undeniably-excellent Carolina Hurricanes.

As long as the Oilers have McDavid and Draisaitl they’ll demand our attention and this Avs trio is similarly worthy.

If you’re looking for other reasons to watch, the duo of Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin are fascinating reclamation projects, and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev is a great story.

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