NHL Power Rankings: Final Week Edition

Credit: NHL.com

The end is near. The playoffs are approaching. And the speculation for the next few months can finally begin.

First of all, a happy Mother’s Day to my mother, the mothers in the Sports Nerd Speaks community, and mothers all across the world. Your hard work and dedication will never go unnoticed.

The NHL picture is finally starting to come into focus. All but two Canadian teams as of this writing are left to be eliminated, and the seeding is being locked up with three of eight possible first-round matchups already decided. Divisions are being won, the Presidents Trophy race will come down to the wire, and the West Division focuses on a matchup between its top two teams that is, in my opinion, the most important regular season game of the year.

So where does that leave the rankings this week, with so little left at stake and teams settling in for the long haul of the playoffs? The answer is simple: look towards the future. The Expansion Draft and Entry Draft will each get their moments in due time, but what about the prospects that teams already have? I don’t need to regale you of how good the likes of Quinton Byfield and Trevor Zegras are (plenty of outlets do that already), but what about the prospects that go unnoticed? The ones that are just as impressive but slide under the radar, or the underrated prospect that is quietly producing big elsewhere? The NHL is always introducing new talent around this time, and this season has been no different, despite the pandemic.

So which prospect should your team be paying attention to? And how do the rankings look as the season finishes up? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are based on games played and statistics recorded as of May 8.

1. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): Plenty of prospects are cutting their teeth with the Knights or their AHL affiliate in Henderson, but the name Ivan Morozov won’t jump off the page immediately. It will soon, though, as his breakout season in the KHL (a league notorious for limiting the minutes of younger players) indicates the Knights made another good drafting decision in their young history.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (+1): Not willing to take a chance on losing a season of development, Jack Drury left Harvard in order to play professionally in Sweden’s top league. His gamble paid off nicely, as Drury didn’t look out of place playing against grown men.

3. Colorado Avalanche (-1): Finishing second in the NCAA goal-scoring race for the University of Minnesota, Sampo Ranta cashed in and signed his entry-level contract with the Avalanche after the Gophers were knocked out of the NCAA tournament. His professional career is off to a good start, providing some offense to an uneven Colorado Eagles team in the AHL.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (+1): Cup-winning teams require contributions from young players in order to stay dominant, and the Lightning have gotten that from an unexpected source in Alex Barre-Boulet. An undrafted player who has split time between Tampa Bay and Syracuse this season, the Expansion Draft and ABB’s own production could open the door for a full-time role with the Lightning next season.

5. Florida Panthers (-1): Talking about Spencer Knight may feel a little redundant, but it’s impossible to ignore his lightning-fast start to his NHL career. The top goaltending prospect in the NHL, Knight went from another great year at Boston College to beginning his NHL career with four consecutive victories.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (+5): It feels like a matter of time before Timothy Liljegren gains a full-time NHL roster spot, but I’m not sure if he’ll get that in Toronto. Always thrown around in trade rumors, a team would jump at the chance to land a 22-year-old defenseman with first-round pedigree and showing nice adjustment to the North American game (an add-on for an Expansion Draft trade with Seattle, perhaps?)

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (+3): The Penguins’ farm system is considered barren compared to the rest of the league, but diamonds like Samuel Poulin still exist. Lighting it up in the QMJHL this season, the big winger will get another opportunity to crack the Penguins lineup next season (potentially playing alongside friend and current linemate Nathan Legare is an added bonus).

8. Minnesota Wild (-1): Another top prospect to make the jump from the NCAA, Matt Boldy has put together a point-per-game pace in the AHL since making his arrival. He likely won’t make the same impact Kirill Kaprizov did this season, but he’ll provide more youth and excitement to a team that was in desperate need of both.

9. Washington Capitals (-3): After dropping in the 2020 Draft due to serious concussion issues, Hendrix Lapierre entered this season with something to prove. He ran with the chance, staying healthy and producing at a nice pace for Chicoutimi in the QMJHL.

10. Boston Bruins (-2): With the Bruins facing heavy criticism for their 2020 class, seeing positive development from top pick Mason Lohrei has to feel good. Initially seen as a reach in the second round, Lohrei made strong strides this season and will continue his development at Ohio State next year.

11. Edmonton Oilers (+1): While big names like Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, and Dylan Holloway steal the spotlight, lesser-known prospects like Carter Savoie are silently having strong seasons. A local product for the Oilers, Savoie led the University of Denver in goals as a freshman this season.

12. New York Islanders (-3): The Islanders have prided themselves on their defensive corps in the Barry Trotz era, and Robin Salo is making a case of joining that group in the near future. A solid two-way defenseman, Salo has put together his best professional season so far in Sweden this year, and he will likely make his North American debut next season.

13. St. Louis Blues (+5): I was one of the minority that actually liked St. Louis drafting Jake Neighbours last year, believing he could be the David Backes/Patrick Maroon type of player that could guide the Blues to another Cup. His scoring touch is also of note, finishing fourth in point per game in the WHL (for context, the players ahead of him are future top-10 picks Dylan Guenther and Connor Bedard, as well as top Vegas prospect Peyton Krebs).

14. Nashville Predators (+1): After a surprise bout with inconsistency at last year’s World Junior Championship, Yaroslav Askarov needed a bounce-back season. Despite only playing 9 KHL games this season, he finished with a 1.21 GAA and .951 save percentage to cement himself as the best goaltending prospect outside of North America.

15. Dallas Stars (+1): Rookies like Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger are making Stars fans excited about the future, and Thomas Harley will hope to place himself as Dallas’ next big rookie sensation. He is still a work in progress in his own zone, but his offensive skills from the back end have not gone unnoticed.

16. Montreal Canadiens (+1): Cayden Primeau has been given time to marinate in the AHL for a while, but his time may be coming soon in Montreal. With Carey Price experiencing inconsistency, Jake Allen looking like a good bet to head to Seattle in a couple months, and Laval Rocket coach Joel Bouchard a strong candidate to be promoted, the Canadiens could be in position to lean on their goaltender of the future.

17. Winnipeg Jets (-4): The Jets still desperately need improved play in their own zone, making a stay-at-home defenseman like Dylan Samberg a perfect fit. His puck movement skills definitely need work, but he should project as next season’s version of Logan Stanley and make his NHL debut at some point.

18. New York Rangers (-4): The Rangers are becoming flush with young defenseman (Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Zac Jones, etc.), and the next one to make their appearance will likely be Nils Lundkvist. His season this year in the SHL might not have been as strong as last year, but it should be good enough to warrant signing his entry-level contract and some AHL time next season to adjust to the North American game.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (Even): If you’re going to make a list of potential breakout players for next season, you’d be remiss not to include Wade Allison in that conversation. A late debut for the Flyers, Allison has scored four goals in thirteen games and is looking like he’ll be a fixture in Philadelphia’s middle-six for the foreseeable future.

20. Chicago Blackhawks (+1): A former first-round pick of the Florida Panthers who fell out of favor in the organization, Henrik Borgstrom was handed to the Blackhawks in exchange for taking Brett Connolly’s contract. Regaining his confidence in Finland this season, the Hawks are hoping that a fresh start is what Borgstrom needs to succeed at the NHL level.

21. Arizona Coyotes (+1): After losing half of last season due to a knee injury, Jan Jenik had to reestablish himself as the top prospect in the organization with Victor Soderstrom’s graduation. There is still work needed to be done, but scoring two goals in as many NHL games in his brief call-up is a promising sign.

22. Los Angeles Kings (+3): I’ll spare you the Quinton Byfield/Alex Turcotte cop-outs and instead point to someone who may benefit from their presence: Arthur Kaliyev. A natural goal-scorer, Kaliyev got his first NHL goal in his first game and has produced well for their AHL affiliate in Ontario (California, not Canada).

23. Calgary Flames (Even): Put me on the list of Dustin Wolf truthers. Despite being undersized, he was the second-best goaltender in the NHL behind potential first-round pick Sebastian Cossa this season, along with landing an 18-3 record and four shutouts.

24. Ottawa Senators (+3): The Senators seem to have found a nice talent pipeline in the University of North Dakota, with players like Shane Pinto being part of the future in Canada’s capital city. After a breakout performance at the World Junior Championships, Pinto has carried that momentum through a strong sophomore season and a hot start to his NHL career (six points in his first 10 games).

25. Vancouver Canucks (-5): Jim Benning balances his poor free agency decisions with strong drafting, and it looks like Jack Rathbone will be yet another example. A former standout at Harvard, Rathbone used a strong stint for the Utica Comets to land a call-up with the Canucks, scoring his first NHL goal in the process.

26. San Jose Sharks (-2): It’s telling that, despite all the talented freshmen the University of Michigan boasted this season, Thomas Bordeleau managed to lead the Wolverines in points. He’s definitely on the smaller side, but there’s no denying his playmaking abilities.

27. Detroit Red Wings (-1): The NHL has seen an influx of talented Germans enter the league, and Moritz Seider will likely be joining their ranks next season. Impressing in both North America last season and Sweden this season, Seider will hopefully help the Wings forget about the failed development of Dennis Cholowski.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): If the Kirill Marchenko hype train starts getting out of control, you heard it here first. Breaking out in the KHL this season, Marchenko will spend one more year in Russia before bringing his talents over to North America, where he could potentially make it straight to the NHL.

29. New Jersey Devils (+2): The Devils seem to have fully embraced the youth movement, which is good news for prospects like Dawson Mercer to see NHL time sooner rather than later. Breaking out with a strong performance at the World Junior Championships this season, Mercer has shown consistency and versatility in a number of roles.

30. Anaheim Ducks (-1): Lukas Dostal might not get the same level of attention as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, but he could reach that level. Taking over as the top goaltender for a quality AHL team in the San Diego Gulls, Dostal could compete for Ryan Miller’s soon-to-be vacated spot as John Gibson’s backup.

31. Buffalo Sabres (-1): John-Jason Peterka has had a wild season, appearing in Germany, Austria, and the World Junior Championships in the span of a year. He appears to have taken some positive strides in his development, however, and his remaining two seasons in Germany will hopefully be used to turn him into a more complete player.

NHL Power Rankings: Season Grades Edition

Credit: David Berding/USA Today Sports

Playoff hockey is getting closer, and the races are heating up.

As of this writing, a quarter of the sixteen playoff spots have already been filled up, with three of those coming from the West Division. Toronto is opening up a decent margin on the rest of the North, while the Central and East are looking to be dogfights. There’s even drama involving the bottom spots, as the West seems to be without a clear favorite and defending Western Conference Champion Dallas looking to claim a spot despite a slow start.

In other big news, it’s looking like hockey will be a lot different from this point forward. Hockey will be returning to ESPN shortly, while Turner Media has beaten NBC for the second block. It will be very interesting to see how that all unfolds, especially with ESPN and Turner’s strong ties to basketball. With the NHL and NBA having their seasons and playoffs start around the same time, what logistical issues will arise for both networks as they accommodate two sports simultaneously? It’s definitely a situation worth monitoring going into this offseason.

For now, though, let’s focus on this season. By now, we have an idea where everyone is going to be and we can safely evaluate how each team’s season went, so I decided to run an interesting exercise for this week’s rankings. For this week, I’ll grade each team’s season from A to F, taking not only performance, but where the team was expected to be at the beginning of the season into account. Don’t be too surprised to see a few bottom-feeders pick up positive receptions, while teams in the middle get marked down.

Has your team passed the test, or flunked out entirely? And where do the teams rank after last week? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are based on games played and statistics recorded as of April 25.

1. Vegas Golden Knights (+2): A. Considered a Stanley Cup contender at the start of the year, the Golden Knights have done everything to cement themselves as just that. Alex Pietrangelo is finally starting to heat up, which could prove devastating to opponents at this stage of the season.

2. Colorado Avalanche (-1): A. A couple of inconsistent stretches here and there, but they’re still a powerhouse when completely healthy. A second-round series against Vegas will be must-see TV.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (-1): A. It took a few tries, but the Hurricanes have finally clinched a spot in the playoffs. With no goaltending issues to set them back, they’re ready to prove they belong in the category of the NHL’s elite.

4. Florida Panthers (+3): A. If there was ever a team that defined the term ‘post-hype breakout’, this is it. A year after a disappointing start to the Quenneville-Bobrovsky era, picking up spare parts like Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair have helped to unlock this team’s potential.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (-1): B-. They’re still a strong team, but they haven’t dominated as expected. Getting Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will be critical for a playoff run, but repeating as Stanley Cup champions will not be easy.

6. Washington Capitals (-1): A-. Not as impressive as the heads of the class, but they’ve still been strong enough to put up a fight in the East. Alex Ovechkin’s injury definitely complicates matters, however, and a poor stretch could mean drawing a playoff pest in the Islanders for the First Round.

7. Minnesota Wild (+1): A. The Wild have long been considered a bland team, stuck between high lottery pick and first-round cannon fodder. Not anymore, has the stellar play of young players like Kirill Kaprizov and Kaapo Kahkonen gives them championship upside for the first time since 2012.

8. Boston Bruins (+1): B+. It hasn’t always been easy for the Bruins, but they’ve managed to stay with the big dogs in the East. A key component to their latest success: the second line of Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith have been the complement to the Perfection Line they’ve desperately needed.

9. New York Islanders (+2): A-. They’ve been exactly what you would expect: average on offense, but nearly lights-out on defense and goaltending. Their records against Washington and Pittsburgh have me concerned, but Barry Trotz is undefeated in the First Round, so something has to give there.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (Even): A-. Games like the one they played against Boston on Sunday are exactly the type of performances you need in the postseason. It’s a good look for a team I thought could be the odd man out in a stacked East Division going into the season.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (-5): B+. I’d give the Leafs an A for their work atop the North, but this recent stretch of play has provided more than enough concern. If they somehow lose in the First Round again, it might be the most embarrassing playoff exit Toronto has seen in the last ten years (yes, even worse than the 2013 Game 7 choke against Boston).

12. Edmonton Oilers (+1): B. Connor McDavid may be the only player to hit the 100-point plateau this season, and Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie have done their part on the back end. Too bad most of the key contributors remain inconsistent, and how much gas does Mike Smith have left in the tank?

13. Winnipeg Jets (-1): B+. This team would be a dark-horse contender, if they had worked harder to improve the defense at the trade deadline. The playoffs don’t exactly favor teams that require high-octane offense to win…

14. New York Rangers (Even): C+. The Rangers haven’t had that big push just yet, but that might be more a product of the division they play in. If they had a young forward break out, this team would be in the playoffs, and their grade would be much higher.

15. Nashville Predators (Even): C. If the Predators miss the playoffs, their decision to not sell at the deadline could come back to haunt them. That grade has room to drop quickly.

16. Dallas Stars (Even): C-. Unlike the Predators, the Stars have the chance to have their grade rise if they’re able to chase them down and sneak into the playoffs. It’s still been an up-and-down year for a team that nearly made it all the way last time, but the destination may end up being a lot more valuable than the journey.

17. Montreal Canadiens (Even): C. Another team whose grade could fall dramatically if they miss the postseason. They have a slightly larger margin of error than Nashville, but they can’t get too confident.

18. St. Louis Blues (+1): D+. The Blues were expected to be one of the big guns in the West, but they have been relegated to holding off Arizona for the final playoff spot. If they can hold on despite their difficult schedule, they will have earned it.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (+2): D. It’s hard to believe this is largely the same group that dominated the second half of last season. Expect a coaching change, a minor overhaul to the defensive corps, and praying to the deities of Broad Street that Carter Hart can regain his confidence.

20. Vancouver Canucks (+3): D+. Their post-COVID success has been a nice story, but it comes too late for this season. The big moves this offseason have done little to move the needle, and GM Jim Benning is looking like a decent bet for termination.

21. Chicago Blackhawks (-3): C-. This season has been a gut punch for Blackhawks fans, with Andrew Shaw joining Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford into retirement. That said, Alex DeBrincat’s bounce back and the emergence of young stars have this group closer than they expected to be.

22. Arizona Coyotes (-2): D+. They have a golden opportunity to make the playoffs, but they’ve picked a terrible time for a slump. Success against some of the weaker teams in their division is crucial if they want to play deep into May.

23. Calgary Flames (-1): D. They’re trying to make a playoff push, but I just don’t think they have the tenacity required to see it through. It’s been an unfortunate black mark against Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, who have developed poor tendencies to disappear in critical situations.

24. San Jose Sharks (Even): C-. Father Time hasn’t come to claim Brent Burns or Evander Kane yet, so that’s good. The bad news is Timo Meier and Kevin LaBanc haven’t shaken off the inconsistency, and goaltending is still shoddy as ever.

25. Los Angeles Kings (Even): C. It’s unlikely they make the playoffs, but they could at least make things interesting. With nothing to lose, now might be an excellent time to get Quinton Byfield and/or Alex Turcotte in the lineup to see how they handle the NHL game.

26. Detroit Red Wings (Even): B-. Yep, the Red Wings actually get a decent grade. They’ve improved dramatically over last season, younger players are beginning to emerge, and Jakub Vrana looks like he’ll be a core contributor for a long time.

27. Ottawa Senators (+1): D-. Nothing much to say here, as the Senators seem locked into the basement of the North Division. I will keep pounding the table on Filip Gustavsson, especially with Matt Murray likely finished for the season.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets (-1): F. A lackluster season that ended up with key pieces traded and a white flag raised since the end of March. John Tortorella is a near-certainty to be fired, as his style of play no longer seems to match what the Blue Jackets are aiming for.

29. Anaheim Ducks (Even): D-. Offense still isn’t there consistently, John Gibson cannot carry this team on his back, and the prospect core of Sam Steel, Max Jones, and company seem to have hit the ceiling for the most part. At least Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale will be useful in the near-future.

30. Buffalo Sabres (+1): F. Don Granato has the Sabres playing better, and it might be enough for him to shed the interim label and be at the helm next season. Still, the taste of 18 straight losses lingers.

31. New Jersey Devils (-1): F. They’ve knocked the Sabres out of dead last, which is enough to call this season a failure. They are in a decent position to get better this offseason, however, so they need to take advantage.

NHL Power Rankings: Post-Trade Deadline Edition

Credit: John Locher/Associated Press

The final month of the NHL season is in sight. We’re nearing the most exciting and intense time in all of sports, in my honest opinion: playoff hockey.

By now, we can safely guess where the teams will stack up. We know who’s got a realistic chance to lift the Stanley Cup in July, and who’s only kidding themselves with their ambitions. We also know who’s got an outside chance of the playoffs, who’s seeing their playoff ambitions dwindle in front of their eyes, and who’s in danger of being officially eliminated from the hunt. With our first elimination happening this past weekend (keep reading for who that might be), it is now time to start hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

With the playoffs so close and divisional races still yet to be determined, every game and point is important. As the season series between rivals and potential playoff opponents come to an end throughout the four divisions, those games will be the most pivotal of all. Win, and gain valuable momentum in the push for the Stanley Cup. Lose, and see your road to the greatest trophy in all of sports get more difficult.

These rankings will highlight the contenders, pretenders, and remainders as the regular season hits the home stretch. How has the last week and change affected teams in the rankings? And how have the deadline moves helped or hurt their chances? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are based on games played and statistics recorded as of April 19.

1. Colorado Avalanche (Even): The top line of MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog has been lighting up the league since March as the Avalanche pushed to the top of the West. They’ll need them more than ever as Colorado shakes off an absence due to COVID protocol, especially if Philipp Grubauer has to miss more time.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (Even): Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic have formed one of the league’s breakout goaltending tandems, placing third in total save percentage behind Vegas and the New York Islanders. For context of how vast the improvement’s been, the Hurricanes finished dead last in that category only three years ago.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (+3): A brief cold spell has given way to an impressive seven-game winning streak, with Mark Stone and Robin Lehner leading the charge. As expected, the final series against them and Colorado will basically determine the winner of the West Division.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (+1): Inconsistency has continued to hurt the Lightning at this point of the season, and Steven Stamkos being out for likely the rest of the regular season does not help their cause. They’ll be ok come playoff time, but reaching the top of the division would do wonders for their confidence.

5. Washington Capitals (-1): I still think the Capitals paid too much for Anthony Mantha, but he’s looked like a great fit so far with a goal scored in each of his first four games. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, though: the goaltending has continued to struggle, most notably in a humiliating 5-2 loss to Buffalo on Thursday.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (-3): Toronto has hit their first big rough patch of the season, losing four in a row and preparing to be without Zach Hyman after taking a dirty knee-on-knee hit. They better hope big deadline acquisition Nick Foligno can help turn things around in a hurry.

7. Florida Panthers (+2): Bad news: Mackenzie Weegar and Carter Verhaeghe will both be out for the Panthers, who have already lost Aaron Ekblad for the rest of the year. Good news: the Panthers have won three of their last four, and Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett have done well with their new team thus far.

8. Minnesota Wild (Even): A four-game win streak is helping the Wild keep pace with Colorado and Vegas in the West. Their first-round matchup will undoubtedly be brutal but, with only one series against either one left, a strong finish to the season could give them the momentum to make a surprise playoff run out of it.

9. Boston Bruins (+4): The Bruins have been undefeated since the deadline, and the rest of their schedule looks promising enough for them to make a mad dash to the East Division lead. Big acquisitions Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly have both been as advertised since arriving in Beantown.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (Even): Losing to the Flyers and Sabres does not help the Penguins in the East, which is turning into a tight race down the stretch. They have three games against the Devils next, but the impending series against Boston and Washington will be crucial in deciding Pittsburgh’s fate.

11. New York Islanders (-4): In their last ten games, the Islanders have scored more than two goals in regulation only once. The defense, goaltending, and coaching might negate the concerns come playoff time, but they need more out of their big offensive producers if they want to be taken seriously.

12. Winnipeg Jets (Even): The offense and goaltending have been strong, clocking in at eighth in goals per game and fourth in save percentage. If the defense could prove to be consistently trustworthy, their chances in the North would be much better.

13. Edmonton Oilers (-2): The Oilers are still doing their best to keep pace in the North, but the fact they only made a minor tweak at the deadline is still confusing to me. If Mike Smith can’t keep up his current performance and the scoring depth goes cold, the postseason could turn into a complete meltdown.

14. New York Rangers (+2): The top stars are performing well, Adam Fox is emerging as a sleeper for the Norris Trophy, and Igor Shesterkin is seeing his numbers improve with each game. If someone like Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kaako could finally get it going, I’d be more kind to their chances to land a surprise playoff berth.

15. Nashville Predators (-1): With two games against Columbus being the only series they play against a team not in the Central Division playoff race, the Predators are picking a bad time to start playing inconsistently. They certainly miss Eeli Tolvanen; since the talented Finnish wing got injured, the Predators haven’t scored a single power-play goal.

16. Dallas Stars (+6): Give the Stars credit for making a serious push for a playoff spot, and Jason Robertson has arguably been the NHL’s best rookie for the last little while. If Tyler Seguin can produce when he comes back, Dallas’s chances for playing summer hockey will improve dramatically.

17. Montreal Canadiens (+1): The Canadiens have lost six of their last eight and Carey Price has looked human throughout the year. Would it be too drastic to see what top prospect Cole Caufield can do at the NHL level?

18. Chicago Blackhawks (+2): The Blackhawks are the last of the three teams vying for the final Central Division playoff spot, and the rest of their schedule is against either their fellow competitors or teams likely in the playoffs already. This stretch will be pivotal towards Jeremy Colliton securing his coaching gig.

19. St. Louis Blues (-2): Losses against Colorado and Arizona could kill the momentum St. Louis was trying to build, and the end of their schedule is an absolute nightmare. Do you think they might be regretting not selling Mike Hoffman?

20. Arizona Coyotes (-5): They might be ahead of St. Louis, but winning only one in their last seven games is not promising towards their playoff hopes. They have the easier schedule of the two by far, but winning a playoff game against either Colorado or Vegas would be an accomplishment.

21. Philadelphia Flyers (+2): The Flyers have fallen hard from last season, and the main culprit isn’t overly difficult to spot. Philadelphia’s not only dead last in save percentage; they’re nine percentage points behind the second-lowest team in Ottawa.

22. Calgary Flames (+3): A three-game winning streak was nice, but it’s too little, too late for the Flames this season. I’d be shocked if Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are still in Alberta by the start of next season.

23. Vancouver Canucks (-2): I still find it hard to believe that Vancouver is back to playing, especially given just how accommodating the NHL had to be towards finishing their season. An overtime victory against Toronto isn’t bad for a team that hadn’t played in almost a month prior.

24. San Jose Sharks (-5): On Monday, Patrick Marleau played his record-breaking 1,768th career regular season game, and he will likely be following his jersey from that game into the Hall of Fame soon enough. It will likely be the final time to care about the Sharks, however, as losing seven of their last eight has likely capsized their playoff hopes.

25. Los Angeles Kings (+1): The season is basically over, which shouldn’t surprise a team that’s more focused on the future anyway. While we’re at it, though, is it too late to start a petition to bring that sweet royal purple color scheme back?

26. Detroit Red Wings (+3): The Red Wings won’t make the playoffs, but they at least are staying competitive for the moment. Now would be a great time to see what the prospects can do, as well as see how Jakub Vrana gels with his new team.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets (-3): Two wins in their last fifteen games is enough to prove that the Blue Jackets have waved the white flag on the season. The offseason will inevitably see a winner in the cold war between Patrik Laine and John Tortorella, a connection that was doomed from the start, in hindsight.

28. Ottawa Senators (+2): The Senators are destined to finish last in the North, so it’s time to give younger players a chance. That includes Filip Gustavsson, who hasn’t played a game since April 1 despite a decent stretch of play.

29. Anaheim Ducks (-1): They let a prime chance to begin a necessary rebuild slip away. It’s time to acknowledge that GM Bob Murray is part of the problem and needs to go, and Dallas Eakins will probably be out too to make room for a fresh start.

30. New Jersey Devils (-2): Two wins in their last fourteen games, as well as the worst home winning percentage in the 2000s. What is it with the Devils and draft classes without surefire top picks?

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): It seemed inevitable, but the Sabres will be spending their summer at the golf course. On Saturday, the Sabres were officially eliminated from the postseason, tying another NHL record…for most consecutive seasons without a playoff berth.

NHL Power Rankings: Trade Deadline Edition

Credit: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers

This isn’t just an average power rankings this week. This is the Trade Deadline edition of the power rankings.

With tomorrow’s trade deadline looming large, the deals can be expected to come in fast and furious as teams make last-ditch efforts to improve their rosters for the months ahead. Trade chips have already come off the board this weekend, but some of the bigger names are still up for grabs. With some sellers suddenly gearing up towards a playoff push and COVID protocols in Canada still requiring a week-long quarantine, however, there’s no guarantee that deadline day will be as action-packed as usual.

With a month remaining in the regular season, picking up momentum is as imperative as ever. While some teams have already started packing it in and preparing for the offseason, the Cup contenders in these rankings face a crucial stretch. Think about the Blues in 2018-19, who rode a second half of the season that took them from the bottom of the standings to the Stanley Cup. While some teams can expect to be playing into the summer, they are still very much jockeying for position in the playoff seedings, and one good late-season push could be the catalyst for a Cup run.

Who’s in position to make that scenario a reality? Whose Cup ambitions are dwindling before their eyes? And where do the teams stand compared to last week? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to April 10.

1. Colorado Avalanche (Even): A dud against the Wild halted the Avalanche’s point streak at 15 games, but they are still deserving of being considered the best team in the rankings. Minor moves to acquire Patrik Nemeth and Devan Dubnyk should shore up any holes on the back end.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (Even): An upset loss to Detroit ended Petr Mrazek’s first week back on a sour note, but it’s been his only rough performance on the year. If Mrazek remains consistent and Alex Nedeljkovic continues his strong rookie campaign, the issues in net might finally be answered for the Hurricanes.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (+4): It’s been a long odyssey for former first-round pick Jack Campbell, but he seems to have finally found a home in Toronto. A perfect 11-0 on the year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him truly replace Frederik Andersen and start in the playoffs for the Leafs.

4. Washington Capitals (Even): Alex Ovechkin might be starting to fall into Father Time’s clutches, but he still managed to hit the 20-goal mark again. One of the league’s all-time greatest snipers, he will almost certainly pass Marcel Dionne for 5th on the all-time goal list before the season is done.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (-2): An inconsistent few weeks and a challenge for Central Division supremacy likely prompted the Lightning’s bold acquisition of David Savard from the Blue Jackets. I know I should have learned this lesson from last year’s deadline, but…that price is an eyesore for a rental.

6. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): Friday’s game against Arizona was the Knights in a nutshell: dominant when on, ugly when off. More might be necessary, but with how the Knights have had to juggle lineups due to the salary cap, it’s more likely than not they’ll have to rely on their current roster working back into form.

7. New York Islanders (+3): Losing to the Rangers broke a 4-game winning streak for the Isles, but they’ve still performed well against playoff foes in the Capitals and Penguins. Give Lou Lamoriello credit for going in and landing both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from New Jersey for a decent price.

8. Minnesota Wild (-3): Sweeping Vegas and blowing out Colorado have the Wild as a sneaky bet to come out of the West. Getting blown out by St. Louis, however, is something that should keep those expectations in check.

9. Florida Panthers (-2): The Panthers have lost three in a row with a challenging series against Tampa ahead, so making moves made a lot of sense. Brandon Montour and Nikita Gusev are good buy-low propositions, while Lucas Carlsson could be an interesting piece for the future.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (-1): Tristan Jarry was welcomed back to action by getting lit up by the Rangers for four goals before being pulled in the first period of his return. Even if they draw the offensively-inconsistent Islanders in the first round, equally inconsistent goaltending won’t get the job done in the playoffs.

11. Edmonton Oilers (Even): Clinching the season sweep over the Senators was nice, but getting dominated by Calgary is not. Here’s an idea being floated around: do the Oilers repent the sins of Peter Chiarelli and bring back Taylor Hall?

12. Winnipeg Jets (Even): Losing captain Blake Wheeler is a huge loss, despite the fact that the Jets swept the Canadiens in their first two games without him. The pressure is on alternate captains Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey to pick up the leadership role and keep this team on course.

13. Boston Bruins (Even): The Bruins have to be pleased with the positive development of young goaltenders Daniel Vladar and Jeremy Swayman. It comes at a great time too, as the Bruin could be on the verge of losing another franchise legend in Tuukka Rask this offseason.

14. Nashville Predators (+2): The Predators might be rolling right now, but it’s time to get concerned about the number of injuries this team has. Losing emerging young players in Eeli Tolvanen, Dante Fabbro, and Mathieu Olivier has pushed the total of injured Predators to 10.

15. Arizona Coyotes (Even): The Coyotes are still trying to make a desperation push to the playoffs, but giving up four goals in the first ten minutes of a critical game does not help matters. Here’s hoping it’s not a sign of things to come for Adin Hill, who has struggled in his last two starts.

16. New York Rangers (+1): The Rangers are still an inconsistent team, but that’s to be expected for a team trying to promote youth development. Still, it would be very tempting for the Rangers to try and reunite coach David Quinn with Jack Eichel this offseason.

17. St. Louis Blues (+1): The Blues have fired off three straight wins after losing six straight, including a 9-1 blowout over Minnesota. In more concerning news, it appears the Blues are willing to bring the Mike Hoffman experiment to an end, as the scoring winger is on pace for a career-worst season since becoming an NHL regular in 2014-15.

18. Montreal Canadiens (-4): It’s been a rough ride for the Canadiens lately, losing Brendan Gallagher for the season and winning only one of their last five games. Also concerning: since scoring the game-winner against Edmonton, Eric Staal has recorded zero points and put up a -5 in his last three games.

19. San Jose Sharks (+3): After their upcoming series against Anaheim, every game San Jose plays will be against either playoff teams or teams in the West Division playoff hunt. What I said at the beginning about a crucial stretch might not apply to any other team more than the Sharks.

20. Chicago Blackhawks (-1): With their playoff hopes at stake, the Blackhawks picked a rough time to start playing inconsistently. The trade deadline did net them Henrik Borgstrom and Riley Stillman, who should both see increased playing time for a still-rebuilding Hawks team.

21. Vancouver Canucks (-1): The end of the regular season got pushed back to accommodate the Canucks, but the fact they’ll even get to see the end of the season is a pleasant surprise. Not so pleasant: Jim Benning overpaying on Tanner Pearson with extensions to Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes coming up.

22. Dallas Stars (+4): With the Predators’ injury woes and the Blackhawks’ inconsistency, the time has to be now for the Stars to break through and steal the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Key to the Stars’ playoff hopes will be Jason Robertson, who has emerged as an offensive weapon in his rookie year.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (Even): Inconsistency in a tough division is causing the Flyers to gradually slip further from the playoff race. If they don’t like their chances, perhaps they can try to swing deals for Scott Laughton and Shayne Gostisbehere at the deadline?

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (-3): Trading their big trade chip in David Savard, losing Boone Jenner and Zach Werenski for the season, and dropping nine of their last eleven games? Those feel like season-enders for the Jackets.

25. Calgary Flames (-1): Blowing out Edmonton is great, but losing eight of the last ten makes it feel like a hollow victory. Don’t be surprised if the Flames look very different next season when the inevitable new regime guts this underachieving core.

26. Los Angeles Kings (-1): Even with the teams in front of them struggling, the Kings would still be better off selling on deadline day. Alex Iafallo should net a nice return, and Dustin Brown’s season should be viewed as a sell-high opportunity.

27. New Jersey Devils (Even): Trading away Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, as well as releasing the disappointing Nikita Gusev, are telltale signs for a team that’s waved the white flag. They did pick up an intriguing piece in Jonas Siegenthaler, though, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

28. Anaheim Ducks (+2): The Ducks are running out of time to make something out of the deadline. Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson would both net decent packages to kickstart a much-needed rebuild, and it’s time Bob Murray admits that.

29. Detroit Red Wings (Even): Bobby Ryan is off the table due to injury, and a 7-1 loss to the Predators this week has symbolized how rough this season has been. With the intriguing coaching candidates available this offseason, it’s hard to visualize the Wings moving forward with Jeff Blashill past this season.

30. Ottawa Senators (-2): It’s not like the Senators had any playoff hopes left, but losing four straight games pretty much seals their fate. The rebuild is still very much in the early stages.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): Brandon Montour is out of the equation now. Now we wait to see who else becomes part of the purge.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 12 Edition

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

March came in like a lion, and we come out of this point of the NHL season with a clear view of what’s going on. Or did we?

This week might be the strangest week the season has had thus far, at least from a power rankings perspective. Teams have leaped up in the rankings to change their trade deadline statuses, the top two teams from last week tumble after rough patches, and a new leader has emerged not just as the top team in the rankings, but my current favorite to go all the way and skate around with the Stanley Cup come late May/early June.

Of course, with the deadline coming up, it’s not too late for the NHL landscape to shift dramatically. The top teams could load up and land a major piece to push them over the top, while the lower-tier playoff teams could land a couple key acquisitions to make themselves more competitive. It’s going to be an interesting week, and I intend to go through the deadline dealings in due time.

For now, though, it’s time to get to the rankings. Where did an insane week push your favorite team in the rankings this time? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to April 3.

1. Colorado Avalanche (+4): The Avalanche are riding a 14-game point streak, including 12 wins in that span. Do I need to justify their spot any further?

2. Carolina Hurricanes (+1): Congratulations to Dougie Hamilton for being only the 102nd defenseman in NHL history to score 100 career goals. Another reason for the Canes to celebrate as they safely add Martin Necas and Alex Nedeljkovic as key pieces to their young core.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (-2): It’s been a rough stretch for the Lightning, just breaking a three-game skid with close wins against Columbus and Detroit. Tampa is now averaging the second-most penalty minutes per game, something that will have to change (especially given Carolina has the league’s best power play).

4. Washington Capitals (Even): The Capitals have the lineup to make a deep run, but goaltending has been a major issue lately as their team save percentage hovers just above the bottom five. Jonathan Bernier or Jonathan Quick might be packing their bags for the nation’s capital within the week.

5. Minnesota Wild (+2): Minnesota has proven they have no problem dealing with Vegas, but if they can make a statement in this upcoming series against Colorado? That could push the Wild into dark-horse Cup candidate territory.

6. Vegas Golden Knights (-4): Forget getting swept by the Wild for a second: the Golden Knights now hold a 4-9-1 all-time record against their likely playoff opponent (only the Bruins hold a better mark). Not saying that’s a recipe for a first-round upset, but…

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1): Sweeping the Jets and riding a six-game point streak has put some distance between the Leafs and their North Division rivals. With a perfect 8-0 record and a strong stat line, can Jack Campbell earn himself an opportunity to siphon more starts from Frederik Andersen?

8. Florida Panthers (+1): After losing three straight, the Panthers have rattled off five consecutive wins to keep pace with the Lightning atop the Central Division. Signing the top college free agent in Matt Kiersted was a solid move for the future, but Aaron Ekblad’s injury still looms large over the Panthers.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins (+4): A tough-luck loss to the Bruins put an end to the Penguins’ five-game win and seven-game point streaks. They finally seem to have shaken off the inconsistent beginning of their season, but it appears Ron Hextall will target a center at the deadline to fill in for Evgeni Malkin (Scott Laughton, maybe?)

10. New York Islanders (-4): The Islanders have a very similar problem to the Golden Knights: they do great against the lower-end teams in their division, but struggle against their likely playoff opponents like Washington and Pittsburgh. Unlike their western counterparts, however, the Islanders will be able to use the deadline to do something about their situation.

11. Edmonton Oilers (Even): It’s been an inconsistent week for the Oilers, splitting their last four games. If you need proof about how reliant Edmonton is on Connor McDavid, he currently doubles up every other Oiler skater not named Leon Draisaitl in points.

12. Winnipeg Jets (-2): Despite the emergence of Logan Stanley, the Jets still could use some blueline reinforcements to push them past their Canadian rivals in the playoffs. Expect them to be in the mix for every top defenseman at the deadline.

13. Boston Bruins (-1): Splitting with the Devils and Penguins is fine, but the Bruins still need to look over their shoulders for the Flyers and Rangers. Expect them to be one of the deadline’s most aggressive buyers as they hunt for secondary scoring and defensive reinforcements.

14. Montreal Canadiens (+1): An embarrassing loss to Ottawa on Saturday put a damper on what was otherwise a solid week for the Canadiens. Eric Staal will finally make his debut for the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge this week, and I would be shocked if he’s the only piece on their way to Quebec.

15. Arizona Coyotes (+8): Colorado still poses a major problem for Arizona, but a sweep of San Jose and a bounce-back win over Anaheim has pushed the Coyotes over the Blues for the last playoff spot in the West. There’s still some serious questions regarding the Coyotes, but it looks like they might be a good candidate to pull a hockey trade.

16. Nashville Predators (+9): Talk about coming back from the dead. After victories in seven of their last eight, the Predators must now decide whether to stay the course and rebuild or go for one last push before a still-necessary retool.

17. New York Rangers (Even): A shootout loss to the Sabres is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers are still in striking distance for a playoff spot. They certainly hope another top prospect in Vitali Kravtsov doesn’t show the same inconsistency that Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere have endured.

18. St. Louis Blues (-4): A six-game losing streak has pushed the Blues to the brink, with playoffs no longer a sure thing. With all but four games remaining being against the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Wild, they might have to be an aggressive buyer just to get into the postseason again.

19. Chicago Blackhawks (-3): Losing all but one of their last five has the Blackhawks behind the Predators for the last playoff spot in the Central (ironically enough, the Predators have beaten Chicago three times in that span). They’ve still been well above expectations, but missing out on the postseason could still be considered a disappointment.

20. Vancouver Canucks (Even): It took about three months, but the Canucks may finally be going through the worst COVID outbreak of any NHL team so far. With most of the players and coaches testing positive and showing symptoms, it may be a long time before we see them take the ice again.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): It’s been eleven games since Patrik Laine has found the back of the net, and the Jackets have been an uneven 4-5-2 in that span. It’s clear he doesn’t fit John Tortorella’s hard-nosed style of coaching, so the question begins: who leaves Columbus first?

22. San Jose Sharks (+2): Don’t look now, but four straight victories has the Sharks tied with the Blues and one point away from the last playoff spot in the West. Patrick Marleau might be allowed to head to a legitimate contender for one last Cup run, but being so tantalizingly close to the postseason might steer Doug Wilson away from a total rebuild.

23. Philadelphia Flyers (-5): Publicly lambasting your young star goaltender, waiving one of the team’s better-performing defensemen, and getting blown out by a team that was tied for the longest losing streak in the 21st century? Remember this week if Alain Vigneault is sent packing in the offseason.

24. Calgary Flames (-2): Losing six of your last seven to douse the Flames’ playoff hopes is bad enough, but Darryl Sutter publicly calling out Johnny Gaudreau? It won’t happen at the deadline, but I’d be willing to bet on Gaudreau wearing a different team’s sweater next season.

25. Los Angeles Kings (-6): They’ve stolen two games from Vegas, but they have been the only victories the Kings have enjoyed in their last eight games. Selling high on Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick to get out of at least most of their contracts might be the best option for them.

26. Dallas Stars (-2): They’ve gotten points in five of their last six games, but it’s still looking like the Stars will go from Western Conference winner last season to out of the playoffs entirely this time around. Their final hope lies in the return of Tyler Seguin.

27. New Jersey Devils (Even): They have points in their last three games, but have won only once in their last five. With Kyle Palmieri being a healthy scratch and the organization waiving the white flag on Nikita Gusev, it seems the Devils are ready to call it for this year.

28. Ottawa Senators (Even): They have points in four of their last five, but the Senators have likely fallen too far behind to make any real noise in the North Division. Christian Wolanin was a small move, but it’s very likely the beginning of Ottawa’s latest deadline sale.

29. Detroit Red Wings (Even): Losing six of their last eight games is unsurprising for a Wings team that is all but officially eliminated from postseason contention. Jonathan Bernier, Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening, Marc Staal, and Jon Merrill are all amongst the Detroit players who could be moved in the next week.

30. Anaheim Ducks (Even): Losing five of their last seven puts the Ducks out of the playoff hunt, despite the struggles some of the teams above them are enduring right now. Moving Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson for decent packages should be the priority, as the Ducks could come out of the deadline as a winner.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): They finally won games and have points in every game this week. This feels like the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup, with how awful the Sabres have been this past month.

NHL Power Rankings: Early Trade Deadline Edition

Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP

The trade deadline is in full swing.

With the moves by Montreal and Los Angeles to acquire Eric Staal and Brendan Lemieux, respectively, one of the busiest times in the NHL season is officially underway. Teams will now be spending the next two weeks evaluating their teams and trying to fill any holes they may find before the deadline comes up.

The last couple of years have provided busy trade deadlines and key moves that are still impacting teams today. Mark Stone, the Vegas Golden Knights’ first-ever captain, was traded for and extended by the organization two seasons ago. Tampa Bay overpaid for Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, but were rewarded as both played key roles in the team’s Cup run last year. Not all moves made will have the impact of such deals, and there is likely going to be at least one major mistake revealed down the line. However, for teams looking into the present, they will have an assortment of trade chips to bargain over.

Granted, this deadline will take place amidst the league’s COVID protocols, so the heavy wheeling and dealing might not occur in some cases. That said, there are still plenty of storylines worth digging through. How will Nashville kickstart what is looking like an impending rebuild? Will Rickard Rakell set the market for top-six wingers like Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau? Will Taylor Hall be headed to a serious contender five months later? All of those questions and more will be decided shortly.

For now, though, it’s time to look at the season again and figure out just where everybody stands. While going through the week will still be done, any analysis on team needs will be determined here. Where do the teams stand since we hit the halfway point? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to March 27.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): Business as usual for the Lightning, who are looking as complete a team as there is in the NHL. Expect them to sit tight at the deadline and have Nikita Kucherov be their “big acquisition” come playoff time.

2. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): Being up close to the cap will mean any move the Knights make will guarantee a roster player going the other way. If they do decide to swing a deal, though, expect one for a wing to slot with Cody Glass and Alex Tuch to give Vegas yet another impact line.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (+2): The Hurricanes have been going through a strong stretch of play, losing in regulation just once in the last fourteen games. It’s unlikely the Hurricanes will disrupt their current roster with this momentum, but it will all depend on how confident they are about their chances against the Lightning.

4. Washington Capitals (-1): Don’t look now, but Alex Ovechkin is beginning to find that goal-scoring magic again. With 10 goals in as many games, he’s making a late-season push for what would be his tenth Rocket Richard Trophy.

5. Colorado Avalanche (+2): Riding a ten-game point streak, the Avalanche are jockeying for position with Vegas and Minnesota in a competitive race for the West Division crown. With a good supply of young players and contracts they can ship out, would it be surprising for Joe Sakic to land one of the big assets of the deadline to push the Avs over the top?

6. New York Islanders (Even): Just when everything was starting to come together for the Islanders, captain Anders Lee suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Given the high-powered offenses that their East Divison foes have, the Islanders will have to make an aggressive bid for a big asset to keep pace.

7. Minnesota Wild (+1): A team shaping up to be a postseason pest, the Wild have a big four-game stretch coming up against Vegas and Colorado that will likely determine their standing in the West. If they struggle to gain traction, they could pull a surprising move at the midnight hour (pairing Kirill Kaprizov with Nikita Gusev, maybe?)

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1): Good bounce-back week for the Leafs, rattling off three straight wins to balance out a three-game losing skid. With how close the North Division is, though, and Kyle Dubas’ admission that top prospects are available for trade, Toronto is shaping up as the deadline’s most aggressive buyer.

9. Florida Panthers (-5): Winning only two of their last six games has put the Panthers in a tight spot, losing ground to Tampa Bay and Carolina in the standings. With arguably the most difficult road to the Cup in front of them, expect Florida to make an unexpected move or two to keep up (consider them a dark horse candidate in the Rickard Rakell sweepstakes).

10. Winnipeg Jets (Even): A solid three-game winning streak was broken by Calgary on Saturday, but the Jets are still in the hunt for the North Division lead. With this year’s deadline playing host to a decent number of defensive rental pieces, expect the Jets to swing a deal for at least one new blueliner.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (Even): While the Penguins have stayed the course and have put themselves in a good position to make the postseason, GM Ron Hextall might still want to make his mark on the team. With so many forwards currently on injured reserve, do the Penguins decide to bring in some reinforcements?

12. Edmonton Oilers (+1): With a series against Montreal postponed due to COVID, Edmonton finds themselves in the middle of a season-defining tilt with Toronto. If they come up short against their eastern rivals, expect Ken Holland to be more aggressive at the deadline to get help for McDavid and Draisaitl.

13. Boston Bruins (-1): A loss to Buffalo would have undoubtedly knocked the Bruins further down the rankings, but they pulled through in the end. Still, coming so close to an embarrassing defeat should be enough to indicate that the Bruins need a big piece to be considered for Cup contention.

14. St. Louis Blues (Even): Dropping three straight and getting outscored 11-2 last week has the Blues flirting with disaster, as they’re currently tied with Arizona for the last playoff spot in the West. The Blues will almost certainly have to be aggressive at the deadline to keep their playoff hopes alive, including a backup goaltender to take the pressure off of Jordan Binnington.

15. Montreal Canadiens (Even): It’s a good thing the Habs went after Eric Staal when they did, as they became the first Canadian team to enter the league’s COVID protocols. Given the Canadiens were supposed to be one of the league’s bigger buyers at the deadline, how will this alter their plans?

16. Chicago Blackhawks (+1): Similar to the Blues, the Blackhawks’ recent rut has put the fringe teams in the Central Division in position to knock them out of the postseason. Getting Kirby Dach back will be a nice boost, but the Blackhawks will now have to decide whether to continue the rebuild or try and cement their postseason standing.

17. New York Rangers (+5): Despite terrorizing the Flyers by 17-3 in two games, it looks like it won’t be enough to stop the Rangers from selling. Lemieux and other depth pieces might be gone, but it may be a tougher ask to get someone like Ryan Strome or Alexandar Georgiev out of Broadway.

18. Philadelphia Flyers (-1): Redemption against the Rangers on Saturday still puts the Flyers three points behind the Bruins for the last playoff spot in the East, and the Bruins have played three less games. The Flyers will likely have to make a desperation push if they want to make the playoffs, which means top prospects and premium draft capital might be up for grabs.

19. Los Angeles Kings (Even): Getting swept by San Jose and an upcoming road series against Vegas could put a dent in the Kings’ dwindling playoff hopes. It would be wise for the Kings to stop their spending at Lemieux and focus more on keeping their future intact, but would they be willing to mortgage part of their farm system if Jack Eichel becomes available?

20. Vancouver Canucks (Even): Getting outscored 9-1 in their series against Winnipeg might be the end of Vancouver’s playoff ambitions. If Jim Benning’s awful contracts keep the Canucks from being active at the deadline, expect that to be the main reason the Canucks have a GM opening in the offseason.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): Three straight losses, including a rough loss to Detroit on Saturday, puts Columbus in the same boat as the other two teams ahead of them. Despite not being totally out of postseason contention yet, the Jackets would still be wiser to cut their losses and sell to replenish a depleted farm system.

22. Calgary Flames (-6): Saturday’s victory against Winnipeg would’ve been great if it didn’t break up a four-game losing streak, including being limited to two goals against Filip Gustavsson and the Senators. Expect smaller moves at the deadline but, if the Flames do miss the postseason, expect an even larger blowup in the offseason.

23. Arizona Coyotes (Even): A statement win against Colorado and third-stringer Adin Hill’s impressive showings against San Jose have the Coyotes close to a playoff spot. The Clayton Keller rumors are likely finished for this season, but what do the Coyotes do with a defensive corps loaded with expiring contracts?

24. Dallas Stars (Even): Defeating the Lightning was nice, but it was the only win the Stars could muster this week. Nearing the finish of a disappointing season, the Stars would be wise to sell off depth pieces and give their top prospects like Jason Robertson more time in order to assess their abilities.

25. Nashville Predators (Even): Yes, the Predators have won six of their last seven, but I’m not buying it. Even if the Predators wait to sell Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm and any rental forwards should still be put on the market to help the Preds build for the future.

26. San Jose Sharks (Even): Losing six of their last eight should be enough for San Jose to call it quits on this year. The rebuild continues with moving expiring contracts, but I don’t think Sharks fans would be opposed to Bob Boughner being a one-and-done deal at the helm.

27. New Jersey Devils (Even): A shutout loss to the Capitals has highlighted the Devils’ struggles, but they’re sitting on some decent assets. If they can get some good deals for the likes of Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Ryan Murray, and even selling high on P.K. Subban, Tom Fitzgerald could walk out of the trade deadline looking like a genius.

28. Ottawa Senators (+1): Filip Gustavsson’s strong showings against Calgary likely have him pegged as Ottawa’s goaltender of the future. They won’t make the postseason, but the quartet of Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Gustavsson emerging ensures Ottawa’s season isn’t a total failure.

29. Detroit Red Wings (-1): Defeating Columbus doesn’t brush off a 12-1 annihilation of the Red Wings in their previous three games. Unless the Anthony Mantha trade rumors are accurate, the Wings won’t be getting a whole lot to help the rebuild out.

30. Anaheim Ducks (Even): It doesn’t matter if Rickard Rakell is one of the rare offensive producers the Ducks have; trading him to kickstart the rebuild while his value is still high is imperative for the Ducks’ long-term success. If Bob Murray isn’t willing to fully commit to a rebuild, it may be time to consider if he’s part of the problem.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): The Sabres are one more loss from tying the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins’ record for the longest losing streak in NHL history. Past that, the only other reason to care about the Sabres is how much they’ll get out Taylor Hall, Brandon Montour, Rasmus Ristolainen, etc.

NHL Power Rankings: First Half Edition

Credit: Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review Journal

Well, friends, we’ve finally arrived. The first half of the NHL season is officially over, and now we await the drama and storylines of the next month and a half.

By the end of this upcoming week, the league could be looking a lot different. Every game will now have some level of playoff implications. Rosters could change dramatically with the trade deadline season in full effect. Rivalries have had the time to escalate and tensions may be higher than ever before. It’s a trying time for any fan, but it’s ultimately part of the reason why the game of hockey is so easy to fall in love with.

If you’ve followed along with my rankings, you know that the last few weeks have been full of speculation. Whether teams should be buyers or sellers at the deadline, who they should target or trade away, who could be available for the Seattle Kraken in a few months, the whole nine yards. To commemorate the first half of the season, however, I decided to go with a topic that’s a little more concrete.

While hockey is very much a team sport, you still need your stars to do well if you want to reach the heights of contention. Key contributions could be the difference between the promised land and the gutter, especially at this critical juncture of the season. With that in mind, these rankings will highlight a player from each team that has been responsible for where their team is at.

Who’s the first-half Hart Trophy candidate from each team? And where do the teams stand from last week? Let’s take a look.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to March 20.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): The Lightning’s stellar season has been in part to many key pieces, but Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves special mention for cementing his place as the best goaltender in the world. Among goaltenders who have played at least ten game, he ranks first in wins (20), tied for first in save percentage (.933), second in GAA (1.86), and has nearly doubled the field in GSAA (goals saved above average) with an eye-popping 16.66.

2. Vegas Golden Knights (+1): Like Vasilevskiy above him, Marc-Andre Fleury deserves all the credit in the world for helping a star-studded Knights squad play to their potential. He’s regained his starting job by ranking third in wins (16), tying Vasilevskiy for first in save percentage (.933), and coming in just a sliver under Vasilevskiy in GAA (1.87).

3. Washington Capitals (+4): In a first half where stars missed time due to suspension (Tom Wilson) or COVID protocols (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Samsonov), Nicklas Backstrom had to go from a supporting role to the spotlight. He’s rewarded the team by leading them in points with 34, as he enjoys his best offensive season in a decade.

4. Florida Panthers (Even): Long underrated due to a lack of exposure in Sunrise, Aleksander Barkov is aiming to shed that label at last. He currently leads the team in goals with 13, tied with Jonathan Huberdeau for the team lead in points with 35, and his work in his own zone and on the penalty kill makes him the current front-runner for the Selke Trophy this season.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (-3): I’d love to give Vincent Trocheck some love, but the Canes will need a top star like Sebastian Aho to continue his offensive production if they want to break through. Aho is currently tied with Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter for the team lead in goals with 13, as well as pacing the Hurricanes with 28 points.

6. New York Islanders (Even): Understudy Ilya Sorokin may be starting to shake off a rough start, but Semyon Varlamov has been the key to the Islanders continuing to frustrate teams and maximizing their strengths. Enjoying his best season in a decade, Varlamov is currently sixth in save percentage (.923) and eighth in GAA (2.17) among goaltenders who have played at least ten games.

7. Colorado Avalanche (+6): Just when it appeared Vasilevskiy and Fleury were the clear front-runners for the Vezina Trophy, Philipp Grubauer had to make a dark-horse run. Currently on a personal six-game winning streak, Grubauer ranks second in wins (18), third in save percentage (.929), and he currently leads the league in GAA (1.74) and shutouts (five, with three of them coming on this current win streak).

8. Minnesota Wild (+2): The Wild have long held the label of being uninteresting to watch, but Russian dynamo Kirill Kaprizov has changed that in an instant. The Calder Trophy front-runner currently leads all rookies with 10 goals, as well as leading his team with 25 points.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs (-4): The Leafs may have come out of this week with questions to answer on the back end, but there’s no denying that Auston Matthews has continued to be an offensive force. The preseason favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, he has come out of the first half tied with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the league lead with 21 goals.

10. Winnipeg Jets (-2): Mark Scheifele would be the easy choice but, in a year where underrated players are finally getting their respect, Nikolaj Ehlers deserves some recognition. Leading the team in plus/minus with +12 and second in both goals and points (15 and 33, respectively), Ehlers is on pace to enjoy the best offensive output of his career.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (+1): With goals in six of his last seven games, Jake Guentzel is starting to find his stride at the right time for the Penguins. The Omaha-born sniper is currently leading the team with 13 goals, and is only behind Sidney Crosby in points with 29.

12. Boston Bruins (-3): The Perfection Line continues to be the heart of the Bruins’ offense, and David Pastrnak hasn’t missed a beat since returning from injury. Despite playing in seven less games than his linemates, he leads the Bruins with 14 goals and is second to Brad Marchand with 26 points (for context, he’s outpacing Marchand in points per game with a 1.24 mark over Marchand’s 1.21.)

13. Edmonton Oilers (-2): It was nice of Connor McDavid to remind everybody that he’s still the best hockey player in the world today. Tied for the league lead in goals with 21 while also currently being the only player to sit at the 60-point mark, McDavid is continuing to keep an inconsistent Oilers squad competitive.

14. St. Louis Blues (Even): In his first year as the Blues’ captain, Ryan O’Reilly has continued to be one of hockey’s best two-way players. O’Reilly is not only tied with David Perron for assists (21) and second to Perron in points (31), but he also currently leads the team in plus/minus with +11.

15. Montreal Canadiens (+2): Long known for his skills in the offensive zone at the expense of being a defensive liability, Jeff Petry has been enjoying a spectacular year on both ends of the ice. Finding new life with defensive partner Joel Edmundson, Petry not only leads all defensemen with 11 goals, but is also on pace to finish with a positive mark in plus/minus for the first time in his career.

16. Calgary Flames (+4): Jacob Markstrom has been dealing with bouts of inconsistency this season, but Elias Lindholm has been finding new life as a top-line center for the Flames. Currently leading the team in points (28) and plus/minus (+8), Lindholm’s strong two-way play must continue if the Flames want to sneak in to the postseason.

17. Philadelphia Flyers (-2): It’s looking like a disappointing season for the Flyers, but fans can take Joel Farabee‘s impressive development as a step in the right direction. Tied with James van Riemsdyk for the team lead with 13 goals and second to JVR with 25 points, he’s taken the mantle as Philadelphia’s new marquee young gun.

18. Chicago Blackhawks (-2): If the Blackhawks sneak in to the postseason, Patrick Kane should be the one getting the Hart Trophy this season without question. Kane currently sits only behind Edmonton’s powerful duo of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with 42 points.

19. Los Angeles Kings (-1): The aging core of the Kings are doing their best to turn the clock back, with Anze Kopitar leading the charge as usual. If Kopitar leads the team in points this season (he currently is doing just that with 35 points), it will be the 13th season in Kopitar’s career where he has led the Kings in that category.

20. Vancouver Canucks (+4): After a rocky start to the season, the version of Thatcher Demko that nearly carried the Canucks to a postseason run has finally arrived. Winner of eight of his last nine starts, Demko is on pace for career highs in both save percentage and GAA (he currently has .921 and 2.66 marks in both categories, respectively).

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (+1): On a scrappy team trying to fight for a postseason berth once again, Oliver Bjorkstrand has continued to produce offensively. Tied with Cam Atkinson with 11 goals and leading the team with 27 points, Bjorkstrand is looking to beat his current career high of 40 points in a shortened season.

22. New York Rangers (-1): Despite his strong play this season, especially in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s hiatus, Pavel Buchnevich‘s future on Broadway is not guaranteed. Second behind Chris Kreider for the team lead with 11 goals and leading the Rangers with 28 points, Buchnevich could be one of the pieces that get flipped if GM Jeff Gorton pulls the trigger on a blockbuster Jack Eichel trade.

23. Arizona Coyotes (-4): Clayton Keller has endured an up-and-down start to his NHL career, but he’s seemed to improve this time around. The only Coyote so far to hit the 10-goal mark, he will need to continue the production if Arizona wants to remain competitive.

24. Dallas Stars (-1): Looking at Joe Pavelski‘s stats this season is indicative of the Stars’ offense. The good news is that Pavelski leads the team with 14 goals and 27 points; the bad news is that he’s nearly doubled up the rest of the team in goals and a near double-digit lead in points.

25. Nashville Predators (Even): There’s a reason why Filip Forsberg is the most sought-after trade chip on the market this deadline season. The catalyst for the Nashville offense with a team-leading 10 goals and 27 points, it will take a convincing package to pry Forsberg away from the Music City.

26. San Jose Sharks (Even): Off-ice issues not withstanding, Evander Kane has been able to focus completely on the game. It’s paid off for him so far, as he leads the Sharks with 26 points and is second to Logan Couture with 12 goals.

27. New Jersey Devils (Even): It may have taken a year for him to get situated, but Jack Hughes has finally found his game at the professional level. Tied with Pavel Zacha for the team lead with seven goals, the former top overall pick’s development will be crucial for the Devils to compete with the big boys in their division in the future.

28. Detroit Red Wings (+1): Jonathan Bernier is likely playing his final games in a Red Wings uniform, but he’s certainly doing his part to help the rebuild out. Putting up a solid .918 save percentage and 2.78 GAA, Bernier looks like he’ll net a nice trade package for Steve Yzerman to continue implementing his vision.

29. Ottawa Senators (+1): The Senators are beginning to form their new young core, with Brady Tkachuk taking on most of the offensive responsibility for now. Tied for the team lead with 11 goals and leading the Senators with 22 points, Tkachuk is on pace for his third consecutive 20-goal season.

30. Anaheim Ducks (-2): Don’t look now, but Rickard Rakell is beginning to find his touch again. Leading the team with 21 points, Rakell has become an increasingly valuable trade chip if Anaheim decides to kickstart their rebuild.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): There hasn’t been much of anything to get excited about in Buffalo. If you’re a fan who’s been loyal throughout this entire process, no one can question your team spirit.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 9 Edition

Credit: Seattle Kraken/AP

It’s been another week in the NHL, and you know what that means. It’s time for another version of the NHL Power Rankings.

First things first, it’s going to be an intense week for sports, in general. March Madness is finally kicking off as the nation prepares to figure out how their brackets will inevitably be busted. NFL free agency begins as teams prepare to pay up to get their team ready for the upcoming season. Needless to say, speculation is going to be running rampant for the next little while.

However, the NHL also has it’s own speculation-laden events coming up. While I’ve talked extensively about the Trade Deadline, there’s one major offseason happening that’s sure to draw attention: the expansion draft. It may be more than six months until the Seattle Kraken (yep, that name is still music to my ears) take the ice for their maiden season, but it will be about half that time when hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest learn who might be donning the Kraken’s dark blue jerseys.

Now, how the Kraken approach the Expansion Draft won’t be discussed here (trust me, I plan to get around to that later), but this is the time to start really looking into who might be up for grabs for Ron Francis, whoever he selects as the team’s first coach, and the rest of the Kraken brass. They’ve been doing their homework for the last year or so now to build their ideal squad, and we’re not too far away from figuring out just who will fill each spot. That’s why for this week’s power rankings, aside from listing how the teams stand, I will also be looking at just who might entice Francis and the Kraken’s mystery coach enough to hear their name called in a few months’ time.

Who might be headed to Seattle to release the Kraken? And where do the 31 teams they’ll be competing against stand compared to last week? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to March 13.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): While Tampa still has a couple of intriguing young players, it is widely expected that the Kraken will chase a side deal for a more expensive veteran. Spokane native Tyler Johnson is the obvious choice, but Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn could draw some interest (maybe Seattle can find a way to get two of these players, a la Panthers in 2017?)

2. Carolina Hurricanes (+4): Now this will be an interesting conundrum for Francis, as many of his former draft picks from his days as Hurricanes GM will be up for grabs. Former first-rounder Jake Bean would be at the top of the shortlist, but Morgan Geekie, Haydn Fleury, and Alex Nedeljkovic are decent alternates if Bean gets protected.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): In exchange for not gaining anything from the Kraken’s expansion fee, the Knights will not have their players be eligible for selection. Knowing this, could Vegas weaponize that fact and use it as leverage against teams preferring to get something out of certain players?

4. Florida Panthers (Even): Plenty of salary dumps to choose from here, from Brett Connolly and Alex Wennberg to Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas. If the Kraken are looking for an NHL-caliber veteran on a more manageable salary, Noel Acciari might be worth looking into (trying to land Henrik Borgstrom in the process might be worthwhile, as well.)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (-3): The Leafs have some intriguing young forwards in their ranks, but their ceilings might not be as high as other targets. I’d expect the Kraken to attack Toronto’s back end, with options like veteran blueliner Justin Holl, young defenseman Travis Dermott, and solid backup goalie Jack Campbell.

6. New York Islanders (+3): The Islanders’ protection list will have some questions to ask towards the bottom: do they keep veterans Josh Bailey and Nick Leddy, cost-effective players Kieffer Bellows and Scott Mayfield, or a combination of the two? Whoever gets the short end of those decisions instantly becomes a target.

7. Washington Capitals (Even): T.J. Oshie would easily be the local choice, but he’ll be 35 before the Kraken finish their first season. There’s far more interesting options in Washington, whether it be a side deal for a veteran defenseman (Justin Schultz, Dmitry Orlov, Brenden Dillon) or a younger player (Vitek Vanecek, Jonas Siegenthaler, Daniel Sprong, Garrett Pilon).

8. Winnipeg Jets (Even): The Jets have a few young players that aren’t getting extended NHL stays, making them easy pickings for the Kraken. Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, Logan Stanley, and Sami Niku are all high-upside plays.

9. Boston Bruins (-4): Middle-six stalwarts like Ondrej Kase and Craig Smith would both be side deal options, but would Boston really let recent acquisitions slip away that easily? Young defensemen like Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, and Jakub Zboril are all more interesting options, as is young netminder Daniel Vladar.

10. Minnesota Wild (+4): Matt Dumba and Kevin Fiala would be prizes for Seattle depending on what approach the Wild take for their protection list, making this a dangerous game for Bill Guerin. If he could convince the Kraken to instead take one of Marcus Foligno, Nico Sturm, or Louis Belpedio, how much would he have to give up to ensure that decision?

11. Edmonton Oilers (+4): The Oilers have one young player at nearly every position that could be of interest to the Kraken. They have a forward in Tyler Benson, defensemen in Caleb Jones and William Lagesson, and even a goaltending option in Stuart Skinner.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins (+5): Jared McCann and Teddy Blueger will both likely be exposed by the Penguins, giving the Kraken a choice of two capable middle-six forwards. Marcus Pettersson could be a side deal option, however, as Ron Hextall tries to clear up cap space.

13. Colorado Avalanche (-1): Regardless of what the Avalanche decide to do with Devon Toews, they are nearly guaranteed to lose a good player. Veterans like Nazem Kadri and Joonas Donskoi could be available, as well as younger options in Tyson Jost, Valeri Nichushkin, and Ryan Graves.

14. St. Louis Blues (-3): If Vince Dunn stays in St. Louis past the Trade Deadline and is exposed to the Kraken, he’d be a great pickup for the organization. After him, though, is a selection of depth forwards like Zach Sanford, Sammy Blais, Oskar Sundqvist, and Ivan Barbashev.

15. Philadelphia Flyers (-5): Side deal opportunities exist in cap dumps from Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk to Justin Braun and Shayne Gostisbehere. Younger players like Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Scott Laughton, however, are more likely to draw Seattle’s interest (throwing intriguing goaltending prospect Felix Sandstrom in a deal is an option.)

16. Chicago Blackhawks (-3): Andrew Shaw and Calvin de Haan are both capable veterans who can play shutdown roles and come with a little extra incentive to select them, while young players in Brandon Hagel and Lucas Carlsson could fight for extended roles in Seattle. If Malcolm Subban keeps putting in good work as Kevin Lankinen’s backup, however…

17. Montreal Canadiens (-1): After two straight years of shining in relief of the likes of Jordan Binnington and Carey Price, Jake Allen has earned the right to fight for a starting job again. If the Kraken don’t see him as a starting goaltender, however, they could go for shutdown forwards Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia, or take a young defenseman such as Cale Fleury or Victor Mete.

18. Los Angeles Kings (Even): Good luck to the Kings if they want to try and push the contracts of Jonathan Quick or even Dustin Brown onto the Kraken. Third-pairing defenseman Matt Roy stands out as a great value choice, but former Seattle Thunderbird Austin Strand and young forwards like Andreas Athanasiou and Matt Luff could make the choice interesting.

19. Arizona Coyotes (+1): Adin Hill seems like the near-unanimous choice for Seattle after multiple seasons of toiling away behind Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. Whichever energy forward between Tyler Pitlick and Christian Fischer doesn’t get protected could be in play, or the Kraken can go off the beaten path and select an interesting prospect in Brayden Burke.

20. Calgary Flames (-1): Sam Bennett would be the easy choice if he wasn’t a likely trade candidate, and Mark Giordano would only be in play if the Flames added sweeteners and were ready to begin a teardown. Past those two, young players in Glenn Gawdin and Oliver Kylington are the only other ones with any solid intrigue.

21. New York Rangers (+1): If the Kraken want to establish an identity as being tough to play against, Brendan Lemieux would be a nice choice if he’s exposed. Past him, however, lies a trio of high-upside young forwards in Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, and Tim Gettinger.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (-1): Slim pickings from the Jackets this time (no William Karlsson deal this time), but what they do have might be worth the time. Eric Robinson, Kevin Stenlund, and Gabriel Carlsson are all starting to carve out roles in the NHL.

23. Dallas Stars (Even): It was once believed that Anton Khudobin would be the pick, but his rough season has thrown that into question. Whoever isn’t protected between Jason Dickinson and Radek Faksa could fill in roles in the middle six, or the Kraken can choose to grab some toughness with Jamie Oleksiak.

24. Vancouver Canucks (+3): Similar to Khudobin, Braden Holtby was another Kraken goalie option that is now doubtful due to a mediocre season. The Canucks would love to make a deal to get Antoine Roussel off their hands, but it’s more likely the Canucks target youngsters like Kole Lind, Brogan Rafferty, and Jalen Chatfield.

25. Nashville Predators (Even): Let’s not beat around the bush: the only way the Predators win the Expansion Draft is to get an awful contract off of their hands. Ryan Johansen would be the best bet if the Preds can convince the Kraken of the possibility of a William Karlsson-esque renaissance, but Matt Duchene and Colton Sissons would also be adequate.

26. San Jose Sharks (Even): A couple of young forwards make the most sense here, with Bonney Lake native Dylan Gambrell and former Seattle Thunderbird Alexander True having ties to the area. After them is another decent prospect in Jonathan Dahlen, or the Kraken could see about a deal to take Radim Simek.

27. New Jersey Devils (-3): A side deal for P.K. Subban might not make much sense on the surface, but the Kraken might bite for an expiring contract on a player who can still be useful and would be the first face of the franchise. There are other options, however, ranging from decent players on manageable contracts (Miles Wood and Will Butcher) to high-upside forwards (Janne Kuokkanen, Nathan Bastian, Yegor Sharangovich).

28. Anaheim Ducks (Even): It may require a sweetener or two, but the Ducks could really use taking Adam Henrique or Josh Manson off the books to get their rebuild started. Young defensemen like Brendan Guhle and Josh Mahura might not find the chances they need here, though, so the Kraken could strike and nab one as a development project.

29. Detroit Red Wings (+1): Not much here in Detroit to look at, but a grinder in Givani Smith would help as far as building an identity and fostering potential in young players. Veteran defenseman Troy Stecher or younger alternative Gustav Lindstrom would also be in the mix.

30. Ottawa Senators (-1): Like the team above them, Ottawa doesn’t have much to bring to the table. Dirt-cheap veterans like Nick Paul and Austin Watson can fill certain roles, while Vitaly Abramov, Christian Wolanin and Joey Daccord represent the closest thing to upside plays you’ll find here.

31. Buffalo Sabres (Even): Colin Miller might be closing in on being the answer to the trivia question “Which NHL player was selected in the Expansion Draft by two different teams?” If the Kraken won’t take a side deal for him, they could land a fourth-line forward like Curtis Lazar or Riley Sheahan, or go for a third goaltender in Jonas Johansson.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 8 Edition

Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The halfway point of the 2021 NHL season is fast approaching, and with it comes a whole new set of wrinkles as teams prepare for what lies ahead.

Every game now means something, whether to secure a top seed in the divisional playoff brackets or better draft position. It also gives teams chances to evaluate where they are and what they can do to improve themselves either now or in the future. The upcoming Seattle expansion draft will throw a wrench in at least one team’s plans, but there is also another time to ponder about: the NHL Trade Deadline.

If you haven’t guessed from how last week’s rankings were formatted, the Trade Deadline is arguably my favorite time not just in the NHL, but in all of sports. A nearly month-long whirlwind of trade rumors, speculation, and potential fits always keeps fans and journalists on their toes as they try and establish any link between a team and a potential trade chip. At this point in the season, we have a guess who’s really selling, but who believes they have to pay a premium in order to make a real chance for themselves?

That’s what I hope to pin down with these rankings, as each team will be given an outlook on how they should approach the deadline, as well as a player or two who might pique their interest. Who’s buying, selling, or somewhere in between? Where is your team after a crazy last week in the league? Let’s begin.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to March 6.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): Last year’s deadline saw the Lightning make overpayments on Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, but it’s hard to argue with the results. This time around, I’d expect the Lightning to look for a salary dump and see if Steve Yzerman would like one of his guys back (with the possibility of adding Luke Glendening for the fourth line, perhaps?)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (Even): The Leafs have strong records against their likely divisional playoff foes, but they could be in for a whole different ball game against teams with far superior defenses. Adding the likes of Rickard Rakell or Mikael Granlund sounds like a luxury, but it could be exactly what Toronto needs to push them over the top.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): The Knights have been big-game hunters in each of their first three trade deadlines, but cap issues and the hot streak the team is riding right now will likely push them to the sidelines this time around. If they could make the cap work, however, a reunion with original Knight Erik Haula could improve their middle six.

4. Florida Panthers (+1): Given the Panthers may have to go through the Lightning to get past the second round, improvement might be necessary if the team wants to make a push. Eric Staal could be an interesting target to improve their second line, and cheap third-pairing defensemen like Ryan Murray and Dmitry Kulikov could also be of interest.

5. Boston Bruins (-1): With Brandon Carlo joining the ranks of injured defensemen and depth scoring still an issue, the Bruins could easily justify going all-in at the deadline. They’ll be on the likes of Mattias Ekholm and David Savard throughout the month, but the fact that they might be willing to shop Jake DeBrusk indicates a bigger move on the horizon…

6. Carolina Hurricanes (+1): It’s hard to predict what the Hurricanes might do and where they see themselves at the deadline. Here’s a question that may solve this: if Carolina doesn’t expect to retain Dougie Hamilton, do they shop him as a rental for a true contender, or is he the center of a package to bring a major piece over to Raleigh?

7. Washington Capitals (+3): This roster has the makings of a Stanley Cup contender, which might be why GM Brian MacLellan isn’t sure about going into the postseason with two rookie goaltenders. If he’s not convinced by Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek soon, expect the team to launch inquires on the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Antti Raanta, and Ryan Miller.

8. Winnipeg Jets (Even): Did you see the 7-1 pasting the Jets suffered at the hand of the Canadiens on Saturday? If that’s not enough proof about the need for a David Savard-type defenseman on the roster, I don’t know what is.

9. New York Islanders (+3): Mathew Barzal is still an offensive wizard and Oliver Wahlstrom is finding his footing in the NHL now, but I can’t help but feel the Isles still need a big-ticket scoring option to push them into real dark horse territory. They’ve been linked as a contender in the Filip Forsberg sweepstakes, but how much will it cost them, and are they willing to gamble their future on such a move?

10. Philadelphia Flyers (+1): The Flyers have had a Matt Niskanen-size hole on their blueline throughout the season, which is something that must be filled if the Flyers want to truly compete this year. With GM Chuck Fletcher not afraid to make the big move when necessary, expect the Flyers to make a serious push for a top prize like Mattias Ekholm.

11. St. Louis Blues (+2): What the Blues decide to do with Vince Dunn will be indicative of where the team sees itself and how serious they think contention is this season. Regardless, I’d expect them to go after a backup goaltender in order to give Jordan Binnington a much-needed break.

12. Colorado Avalanche (-6): With Nathan MacKinnon potentially missing more time due to injury, Joe Sakic might have little choice but to make a big deadline move in order to keep pace with the top dogs in the West. With the Avalanche in danger of losing quite a few good players in the expansion draft, could one of them get packaged to bring in a once-rumored target in Taylor Hall?

13. Chicago Blackhawks (+2): The big surprise of the season, the Blackhawks find themselves straddling the line between accelerating their rebuild and sticking to the plan. With the play of rookie forwards like Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev, could the Hawks believe Dylan Strome has lost his spot and make a hockey trade for him?

14. Minnesota Wild (Even): A team that’s seemed to live in the middle of the pack for a while now, it’s always impossible to gauge where Minnesota’s heads are at come deadline time. Matt Dumba is still in the mix, but would the Wild risk jeopardizing their playoff chances out of fear for the expansion draft?

15. Edmonton Oilers (-6): A humiliating three-game thrashing at the hands of the Maple Leafs should tell the Oilers all they need to know about what they should do. Expect Ken Holland to get in touch with the Red Wings again (Jonathan Bernier and Marc Staal would both make sense for the Oil) while also looking for options to stabilize the middle six.

16. Montreal Canadiens (Even): With the playoffs no longer looking like a sure thing and Marc Bergevin’s job security going out the window, the Habs might not have a choice but to make a big move. I’m not believing the rumors about Carey Price just yet, but I would expect Montreal to be in the mix for the likes of Rickard Rakell or Kyle Palmieri.

17. Pittsburgh Penguins (Even): Not having a first-round pick as ammunition definitely hampers whatever Ron Hextall might try to do this deadline, but that shouldn’t stop him from trying. Bringing aboard a proven playoff producer and middle-six energy player like Sam Bennett would be an ideal scenario to try and break the inconsistency.

18. Los Angeles Kings (Even): With core players turning the clock back to 2012 and the Kings standing right on the doorstep of the playoffs, Rob Blake’s vision for this season might be a little murkier now. Does he decide to accelerate the rebuild on a key piece like Vince Dunn, or does he ship out expiring contracts and wait until the offseason to sell high on someone like Dustin Brown?

19. Calgary Flames (+4): With a coaching change comes a new philosophy, and the deadline might be Darryl Sutter’s first opportunity to introduce his vision of the Flames to the hockey world. A right wing to feature on the top line would benefit the Flames greatly, so Kyle Palmieri or Nikita Gusev might be of interest.

20. Arizona Coyotes (Even): The Coyotes might be one of those weird teams that try to strike a balance between staying competitive and restocking their draft picks. A name like Brandon Montour could be of interest to shore up the defense but, with a lot of defenders on expiring contracts, expect Alex Goligoski and Niklas Hjalmarsson to have at least a couple eyes on them.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (Even): The Blue Jackets appear to be in the market for a center after trading Pierre-Luc Dubois, but this is a team stuck between a rebuilding effort and staying competitive. Could someone like Joonas Korpisalo end up being moved in a hockey trade for the Jackets to pick up somebody they think they need?

22. New York Rangers (+2): The Rangers are still firmly in the rebuilding process, so don’t expect much from them this time around. Keep an eye out in the offseason, though; their connections to Jack Eichel might make them the favorite to pull off the biggest blockbuster trade of the year.

23. Dallas Stars (-4): With the Stars trending towards a down year and players either struggling to stay healthy and/or productive, they’ll have to look at what they have sooner or later. Could smaller pieces like Radek Faksa, Andrew Cogliano, and Jamie Oleksiak be sent out for the Stars to get a closer look at their better prospects?

24. New Jersey Devils (-2): A safe bet to miss the playoffs, it’s high time for the Devils to move on from expiring contracts to get more assets to help the rebuilding effort. Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, Sami Vatanen, Ryan Murray, and Dmitry Kulikov are just some of the names to watch as the deadline draws closer.

25. Nashville Predators (Even): With the ideal plan being for Seattle to swallow Ryan Johansen’s deal at the expansion draft, the Predators should embrace a fire sale at the deadline to make up for any lost assets. Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm are two of the biggest trade chips on the market this time around, while pieces like Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok, and Erik Haula should draw at least something worthwhile.

26. San Jose Sharks (Even): The Sharks don’t really have any worthwhile expiring contracts to send out this year, and they are certainly not in any shape to land any big assets. Smaller deals for the likes of Radim Simek, Matt Nieto, and Devan Dubnyk should be expected, but Doug Wilson could easily decide to send out a big cap hit like Evander Kane to get a rebuild started.

27. Vancouver Canucks (+1): Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette both make for interesting reclamation projects, but the Canucks should have their sights set on moving out more than just those two. Veterans like Tanner Pearson, Brandon Sutter, and possibly even Alexander Edler should all be considered on the trading block.

28. Anaheim Ducks (+1): Josh Manson‘s injury-riddled season and Ryan Getzlaf‘s massive cap hit will make both difficult sells, but that shouldn’t stop the Ducks from firmly embracing a rebuild at last. Smaller pieces like Danton Heinen, Nicolas Deslauriers, Ben Hutton, Jani Hakanpaa, and Ryan Miller are starting points, but the success of this deadline could hinge on what the Ducks get out of Rickard Rakell.

29. Ottawa Senators (+1): Derek Stepan‘s season-ending injury effectively kills any idea of a trade, but the Senators do have other options. There isn’t a whole lot the Senators can get with Chris Tierney, Ryan Dzingel, and Erik Gudbranson, so they may have to send Logan Brown out and hope someone bites at the chance of a reclamation project.

30. Detroit Red Wings (+1): Unless the rumors of Anthony Mantha being a possible trade chip are true, the Red Wings will likely be accepting a series of smaller deals this time at the deadline. Bobby Ryan, Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening, Marc Staal, and Jonathan Bernier should all be expected to be on different teams by mid-April.

31. Buffalo Sabres (-4): This nightmare has to end at the deadline by way of a wholesale purge. Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Casey Mittelstadt, Brandon Montour, Henri Jokiharju, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Carter Hutton will all be put up for sale, but it’s high time the Sabres admit they failed Jack Eichel and send him out before the situation has a chance to become toxic.

NHL Power Rankings Week 6/7 Edition

Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to this new edition of the NHL power rankings!

First of all, allow me to apologize for neglecting a new set of rankings last week. Real-life obligations took top priority, and I did not feel as if I could make a proper assessment of where the teams stand by the time I had the opportunity to do so. With that in mind, these rankings will have moves that are larger than usual, as there is more of a sample size to judge each team off of.

As for what should be discussed, we are fast approaching one of the most exciting times of the NHL season: the trade deadline. On April 12, 3 p.m. EST, trades will no longer be allowed until the new league year, which gives teams a window to improve or send assets out to help their future. While it seems a little foolish to talk about the trade deadline over a month in advance, this is not an average season. With players having to go through protocol when moving to a new team, and the season ending shortly after the deadline, teams might be looking to make deals closer to the end of March, so as to help new players gel into their lineups and prepare for a postseason push.

With that in mind, which asset could rebuilding teams be looking to move on from? Which players might become expendable if a big fish comes along? And how have teams been faring since the last rankings came out? Let’s take a look.

Disclaimer: These rankings are reflective of games played and statistics recorded on or prior to February 28.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (Even): It might require a sweetener or two, but teams could do a lot worse for a middle-six scoring option than the versatile Tyler Johnson. In all likelihood, though, expect the Lightning to stand pat and build a package that sends Johnson to his home-state Seattle Kraken in a few months.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (+2): The Maple Leafs are in the driver’s seat for the North Division crown and the President’s Trophy, but they could be in for a rude awakening when they face a team with a superior defense. Could the Leafs move a young player like Travis Dermott or Pierre Engvall to bolster their own back end?

3. Vegas Golden Knights (Even): The emergences of young defensemen in Vegas has likely rendered Brayden McNabb expendable. With the Knights pushing up against the salary cap and having to make room for extensions soon, as well as plenty of teams needing a defenseman of McNabb’s skill set, moving on should make sense for both parties.

4. Boston Bruins (-2): With injuries becoming a real problem on the Bruins’ defensive corps, they could get aggressive looking for reinforcements. A player like Anders Bjork, who isn’t receiving much ice time and is on a team-friendly deal, could easily be sent the other way.

5. Florida Panthers (+4): Ever since being threatened as a healthy scratch to start the season, reliable defenseman Keith Yandle has been on the trade rumor mill. The talk has died down since then, and the Panthers are surging this season, but is there still a possibility they dangle Yandle and see if the right package comes along?

6. Colorado Avalanche (Even): Still struggling with consistency at this point of the season, GM Joe Sakic finds himself in a position where he could easily justify making a big move. A promising young player like Conor Timmins might be just one part of a massive package to bring a star-caliber player to bolster the lineup.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (Even): Similar to the Avalanche above them, the Hurricanes look like a team that still need one big piece to push them over the top. A younger player like Warren Foegele or Haydn Fleury might be worth looking into sending off.

8. Winnipeg Jets (+4): The Jets already knocked out their two major trade chips in Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic, so not much else can be done at this point. They could look at getting something out of an expiring contract like Mathieu Perreault, but his skill set could be vital if Winnipeg wants to make a long run in the postseason.

9. Edmonton Oilers (+8): Trouble seems to be brewing in Edmonton, as contract negotiations with pending UFA Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have stalled. If a deal can’t be reached in the next few weeks, could the Oilers be forced to move him so they don’t risk losing the former number 1 overall pick for nothing?

10. Washington Capitals (+1): The issue with Vitek Vanecek solidifying the goaltending situation in Ilya Samsonov’s absence is that it couldn’t have come at arguably a worse time. With Vanecek suddenly turning himself into a candidate for Seattle to take in the expansion draft, what moves could be made to keep Vanecek and retain a strong roster?

11. Philadelphia Flyers (-1): It’s become clear over the last couple of seasons that Shayne Gostisbehere is in desperate need of a change in scenery. A team looking for help generating offense from the back end and quarterbacking a power-play unit (we’re all looking at you, Nashville) could see if his services are worth it.

12. New York Islanders (+2): The Islanders stand out as a team no one wants to face in the postseason due to their defense and coaching, but they need a consistently powerful offense to push them into elite status. Last season’s trade for Jean-Gabriel Pageau has paid dividends so far, so why shouldn’t a top prospect like Kieffer Bellows be flipped to bring another quality forward to Long Island?

13. St. Louis Blues (-5): While the Blues might prefer keeping Vince Dunn around now that he’s found his way into the lineup consistently, the expansion draft, the team’s need for meaningful depth, and the pending arrival of top prospect Scott Perunovich could force their hand. It would be costly for a team to acquire Dunn’s services, and the Blues should not be afraid to take full advantage of that knowledge.

14. Minnesota Wild (+4): Matt Dumba stands out as another defenseman where his team would prefer to keep him, but the expansion draft threatens to alter those plans dramatically. A team searching for a capable top-four defenseman with some term left might be willing to match Minnesota’s asking price, which would be huge in bolstering an emerging young core.

15. Chicago Blackhawks (+6): The Blackhawks have very much become a young man’s team, which could lead to expiring contracts like Mattias Janmark getting pushed out in short order. A solid middle-six option, Janmark could make for a decent rental on a team needing forward depth to allow Chicago to keep their rebuild going strong.

16. Montreal Canadiens (-11): The fall from grace in Montreal has already cost former coach Claude Julien his job, and more pieces could be shown the door if things don’t turn around quickly. Most notably among these pieces is Phillip Danault, a center on an expiring contract and being pushed for playing time by Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

17. Pittsburgh Penguins (-1): With a new front office in charge and a playoff berth not a sure thing, the Penguins could once again look to get aggressive. Expiring contracts like Colton Sceviour and young players like Pierre-Olivier Joseph could have their futures hinge on what direction new GM Ron Hextall wants the team to go in.

18. Los Angeles Kings (+8): The Kings are by no means ready to tap into their prospect pool to acquire star players, but they should look at their roster and see what options benefit them. Moving on from an expiring contract like Olli Maatta could be a solid piece of business to give the Kings more picks to fuel their farm system.

19. Dallas Stars (-4): It would be a surprise to see last year’s runner-up miss the playoffs altogether, but inconsistency and injuries have put the Stars in that exact position. Sending a strong bottom-six center in Radek Faksa would hurt, but it’s better than losing him to Seattle for nothing.

20. Arizona Coyotes (Even): It might be too soon to talk about a Darcy Kuemper trade, but Antti Raanta should certainly be looked at during the deadline. For teams like St. Louis or Colorado who could use stability in net, Raanta could be a prime target for them.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (-8): Joonas Korpisalo‘s struggles this season have likely pushed him behind Elvis Merzlikins, and the crop of young goaltenders in Columbus’s system right now could be the difference in pushing him out altogether. Korpisalo could be a nice buy for a team willing to make a “hockey trade.”

22. New Jersey Devils (Even): With the Devils struggling to gain traction in a difficult division once again, expiring contracts should be expected to be shipped out. Veteran defensemen like Sami Vatanen or Dmitry Kulikov are examples of players whose times in New Jersey might be running out.

23. Calgary Flames (-4): Sam Bennett might not have panned out the way Calgary thought he would, but his leadership qualities and playoff success could make him a key target for teams needing depth forwards. Admitting defeat on this season, however, could be what forces the Flames to consider blowing up their roster this offseason.

24. New York Rangers (Even): The drama surrounding Tony DeAngelo and the Rangers have created an irreparable rift between the two. A trade appears inevitable, but what would the Rangers have to add for a team to even consider taking the talented, but troubled, defenseman.

25, Nashville Predators (-2): The Predators have reached a point where they are openly considering a fire sale, with forwards like Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok, and Erik Haula all available for the right price. This might just be a prelude for bigger moves, however, with Ryan Johansen likely being groomed for Seattle and Filip Forsberg approaching free agency in 2022.

26. San Jose Sharks (+3): Doug Wilson might not want to blow up the core of his team, but he might have to in order to save his job. Expect a smaller move like Radim Simek being shipped out while the Sharks consider what path might be best for them to take.

27. Buffalo Sabres (-2): Jack Eichel‘s trade value is honestly worth it’s own post, and it appears Taylor Hall will not be spending the entire season in Buffalo after all. Other key pieces like Eric Staal, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Brandon Montour should be looked at for trades in order for Buffalo to kickstart a total rebuild.

28. Vancouver Canucks (Even): The Canucks have kicked the tires on the trade values of Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette, indicating both young forwards may be on borrowed time in British Columbia. Sending out other pieces like Tanner Pearson and Brandon Sutter might be beneficial to Jim Benning, or whomever his successor may be.

29. Anaheim Ducks (-2): I’ll say this as often as it needs to be said: the Ducks need to go full rebuild and start by trading captain Ryan Getzlaf. Josh Manson is another option for a trade at this point, but the Ducks need to get something out of Getzlaf so they don’t risk losing him in free agency to a contender.

30. Ottawa Senators (+1): Derek Stepan has struggled to find his footing in Ottawa, both on and off the ice. The middle-six center is still a solid player, but leaving and finding his place on a contender would be beneficial for his career going forward.

31. Detroit Red Wings (-1): The Red Wings don’t have any key pieces that should be moved out, unless the trade rumors regarding Anthony Mantha are more truth than fiction. Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening, and Marc Staal are all solid players, but none will give Detroit a needle-moving return.