NHL Power Rankings: Post-All Star Edition

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Welcome back to the NHL Power Rankings, and the postseason race is officially on.

While the midseason mark has already passed, the All-Star Game is significant for being the true starting point of the playoff push. It gives teams an opportunity to look at where they are in the standings, figure out what they can expect going forward, and plan to either increase their odds in the postseason or start looking towards the future. While the Eastern Conference’s playoff field is realistically determined in every manner except seeding, the Western Conference looks to be coming down to the wire. By the time the March 21 trade deadline rolls around, we will have a clear picture of where every team sees themselves.

As a matter of fact, the first big domino on the trade market has fallen earlier today. New Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has wasted no time in beginning the fire sale that everyone was expecting. Tyler Toffoli, one of the key contributors of Montreal’s surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, has officially been shipped off to the Calgary Flames in exchange for first and fifth-round draft picks, prospect Emil Heineman, and a bottom-six forward in Tyler Pitlick. It’s a fair trade on both sides, in my opinion; Montreal officially gets their rebuild underway, while Calgary reunites Toffoli with coach Darryl Sutter, both of whom were on the Los Angeles Kings’ 2013-14 Stanley Cup-winning squad. It’s officially time for the trade rumor mills to spin out of control, and I’m excited to see what deals come out of the woodwork this time.

For now, however, where does the NHL stack up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since February 13.

1. Colorado Avalanche (1): Want to know how dominant the Avalanche have been this season? After losing six of their first ten games, Colorado has lost that same number in the next 36 games. Losing in the Second Round again will NOT cut it this time.

2. Florida Panthers (2): The Panthers have been linked to premier trade chip Jakob Chychrun, which would certainly bolster their chances at making it out of the Eastern Conference in the postseason. Can they avoid giving up Anton Lundell in the process, however?

3. Minnesota Wild (4): Defeating Carolina this weekend felt like a statement win for the Wild, who are firing on all cylinders. The ‘dark horse’ label I’ve given the Wild before might not be entirely accurate; they’re looking more like a legitimate Cup contender with each passing week.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (5): Losing to the Avalanche in a tightly-contested game doesn’t hurt too badly, which is why the Lightning rise in the rankings this week. After last season, it feels difficult to doubt this team’s ability to threepeat.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (3): Four games in five days didn’t help the Hurricanes, as a 6-0 blasting of Boston was the only real dominant effort this week. Expect them to get better, and possibly take a closer look at the John Klingberg rumors floating around.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (7): “When will the Penguins go away?”, cries every exacerbated hockey fan out there. It feels like every time pundits expect this team to start declining, they somehow continue to perform at a higher level.

7. Calgary Flames (13): The Flames are riding a six-game winning streak, look to usurp Vegas atop the Pacific Division, and the Toffoli trade gives them much-needed offensive depth. That said, this has to be the year this core proves it can handle the rigors of the postseason.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (6): Jack Campbell is starting to fall back down to Earth, and the Leafs are starting to fall behind their Florida counterparts in the Atlantic Division. For a long-suffering fanbase desperate for postseason success, that’s a massive cause for concern.

9. New York Rangers (9): This is a core that should compete with the big dogs in the East, but the depth is concerning. Expect the Rangers to be major players for any middle-six forward that comes up in the rumor mill.

10. Vegas Golden Knights (8): Mark Stone taking Jack Eichel’s place on LTIR all but guarantees the Knights will go the Lightning route in the playoffs and not trade anybody, which is great for them. If Robin Lehner can’t find his form consistently, though, it may not matter in the end.

11. Boston Bruins (10): Tuukka Rask’s hip injuries proved to be too severe to overcome, and Brad Marchand’s six-game suspension will highlight the depth issues continuing to plague Boston. Expect any and all future assets to be on the table in order to make good on a potential final Cup run with this core.

12. St. Louis Blues (12): The longer Jordan Binnington’s struggles continue to coincide with Ville Husso’s phenomenal play, the louder the goalie controversy in St. Louis will get. Is there a chance Husso gets the nod over Binnington in the playoffs if the issues go that far?

13. Nashville Predators (11): Losses to divisional rivals in Dallas and Winnipeg highlight the poor discipline the Predators have shown as of late. If they want to emerge as a true sleeper team in the postseason, that’s an issue that needs to get fixed quickly.

14. Washington Capitals (14): The Capitals tried to coax Marc-Andre Fleury to fix their goaltending, but it seems that the former Pittsburgh goalie has no interest in joining his former team’s rival. It’s looking more and more like Washington’s ceiling is a first-round exit.

15. Dallas Stars (16): John Klingberg trade rumors will haunt the team for the next month, but the Stars have started to find a groove. As young players like Jason Robertson continue to impress, Dallas will only see their chances to make the postseason grow.

16. Los Angeles Kings (18): The fact that the Kings are deep in the playoff hunt at this point makes this season a success for their rebuild. The only question is if they can push for more.

17. Edmonton Oilers (17): A rough stretch saw the end of Dave Tippett’s run in Edmonton, and it’s fair to assume that it will take a miracle second half for Ken Holland to not follow him out the door. Get those McDavid trade rumors firing up again.

18. Anaheim Ducks (15): I’m not sure if Anaheim has the horses to get into the playoffs, but their rebuild is starting to trend in the right direction. Trevor Zegras was robbed of the Breakaway Challenge victory, and I will NOT be told otherwise.

19. Vancouver Canucks (20): J.T. Miller’s continued to be a huge part of the Canucks, but it seems that the rest of the team’s struggles are too much to overcome. Could he be available if a contender is willing to pay?

20. Winnipeg Jets (21): Blake Wheeler’s five-point game against the Predators has to be an exciting prospect for the Jets. If they want to make a run to the postseason, Winnipeg will have to hope their captain can use that to build some much-needed momentum.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (25): The Eastern Conference’s postseason spots are likely locked up, so Columbus doesn’t have too much to play for right now. Seeing what Patrik Laine is capable of offensively, however, has to be a positive sign for the future.

22. Detroit Red Wings (23): Beating Philadelphia twice isn’t terribly impressive, but it’s still a positive sign for Detroit to beat the teams it should beat. Moritz Seider is slowly looking like he’ll be a star on the back end for a long time.

23. San Jose Sharks (22): Six of the next seven Sharks games will be in San Jose, so this feels like their last chance to start a run to the postseason. If they falter here, Tomas Hertl would be wise to pack his bags.

24. New York Islanders (19): Defensive problems on top of a continually-disappointing offense is a death knell to the Islanders. This is the most disappointing team in the NHL this season, and it doesn’t feel too close.

25. Ottawa Senators (27): The Senators shined in a five-game week, and the tandem of Matt Murray and Anton Forsberg have looked really good as of late. For a team that needs to look to the future, this has to be a positive sign.

26. Seattle Kraken (26): Expect the Kraken to be looked at for a few pieces at the deadline, most notably Mark Giordano and Calle Jarnkrok. Both players could give Seattle some pieces to work with for the future.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (24): A terrible season on and off the ice, and another poor stretch of play all but eliminates Chicago from playoff contention. An offseason of serious and necessary introspection awaits.

28. Buffalo Sabres (28): A four-goal game for Jeff Skinner has pushed him past the 20-goal mark for the first time since his 40-goal season three years ago. Buffalo would have liked to see this production with a certain star center still on the team, but better late than never.

29. New Jersey Devils (29): Two straight seven-goal games for the Devils had to be a pleasant surprise. With the struggles in net, however, this offensive explosion came just too late.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (30): Claude Giroux is all but gone, virtually every major player for the Flyers has struggled, and they’re locked in to some bad-looking contracts. Expecting this to be a quick turnaround is foolish optimism, at best.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): The Arizona State Coyotes are a real thing now? Do I have to make another Nerd Rage segment for this team?

32. Montreal Canadiens (32): Good luck, Martin St. Louis. That is all.

NHL Power Rankings: February Edition

Image Credit: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been a little while, but the NHL Power Rankings are back in full swing.

First of all, I would like to apologize for the brief hiatus from the blog. I have been insanely busy with real-life obligations for the last couple of weeks, and it required me to put this on the backburner for a minute to handle it. I have also had time to conceptualize a new project for this blog, and more information of that will be coming up shortly, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the past couple of weeks have seen the NHL landscape start to even out a bit. We’re starting to determine where teams truly stand, and that could mean big things for the trade deadline in March. Rumors are beginning to swirl around several big-time players, and teams like Washington, Boston, and Edmonton are emerging as aggressive buyer candidates going forward. While the Stanley Cup can’t be won off the back of a strong first half, it does make some serious inferences on who should be taken seriously as legitimate contenders?

So how does the NHL stack up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since January 30.

1. Colorado Avalanche (2): There’s a long list of reasons to watch the best team in the NHL right now, but the top of the list has to be watching Cale Makar. Makar is pushing the forty-goal mark, which would be the first time a defenseman has hit that number in over 35 years (Paul Coffey).

2. Florida Panthers (1): Jonathan Huberdeau was once the best player no one’s ever heard of; now he has a real chance to win the Hart Trophy this season. His 62 points are leading the NHL, and he has become the driving force behind the hottest offense in the league at this time.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (3): I had serious doubts when Carolina shifted away from their goaltending duo last season in favor of Frederik Andersen. He has rewarded the Hurricanes with a Vezina-caliber year.

4. Minnesota Wild (12): It’s amazing how the addition of a single player can shift a team from the middle of the pack to among the league’s elite so quickly. Kirill Kaprizov and crew could use a center at the deadline, but the results have this team looking like a dark horse to finally bring the Stanley Cup to the state of hockey.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (5): Everything is still the same: the elite players are rolling, depth contributions have been up, and Andrei Vasilevskiy still looks like the best goaltender on Earth. It’s odd, however, to think that their biggest competition for their third straight Stanley Cup may be in their own home state.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (7): Do you think the Coyotes are kicking themselves for letting Michael Bunting head north of the border? He’s been one of the quality depth forwards that Toronto has been coveting for years.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (4): The Penguins didn’t look as strong this past week, and players like Evan Rodrigues have started to slow down a bit after a torrid start. We’ve seen good teams break out of slumps like this before, though, so there’s nothing to be concerned about long-term.

8. Vegas Golden Knights (8): 2022 hasn’t been kind to the Knights so far, but a 2-1-1 record on a difficult East Coast road trip could be the start of things turning around for them. The fact this team still looks like the best team in the Pacific despite the serious injuries is a scary thought for the postseason.

9. New York Rangers (9): The analytics haven’t always been favorable towards the Rangers, and they’ve been bailed out far too many times by Igor Shesterkin. This is a good young team, but there are serious flaws that have to be addressed in the next month or so.

10. Boston Bruins (13): Tuukka Rask has been extremely up-and-down since returning to the Bruins, but that was to be expected with such a long layoff. With an aging core and Patrice Bergeron possibly leaving in the offseason, could they go after a player like Claude Giroux to make one more serious Cup run?

11. Nashville Predators (6): Once again, the Predators seem to have the on-ice results to keep holding off a rebuild. Will they be willing to extend Filip Forsberg past this season?

12. St. Louis Blues (11): We may be in the midst of a full-blown goalie controversy in St. Louis. Jordan Binnington’s mediocre season has opened the door for Ville Husso, and the young backup has been more than good enough to earn more opportunities.

13. Calgary Flames (17): Calgary put together the most dominant performance of the season against Columbus, putting up 62 shots in a 6-0 victory. With games in hand of Pacific Division-leading Vegas, that could be a race to monitor as the season progresses.

14. Washington Capitals (10): It’s becoming clear that the Capitals are interested in upgrading their goaltending, and the name they’ve circled is Marc-Andre Fleury. Could you imagine a first-round playoff series between Pittsburgh and Washington with MAF in a Capitals jersey?

15. Anaheim Ducks (14): John Gibson is stealing games, Troy Terry is still producing, and Trevor Zegras continues to produce mind-boggling highlights. The rebuild seems to be reaching a critical phase in Anaheim.

16. Dallas Stars (15): The Stars look good lately, but it seems like they’ve always followed up good runs with equally bad ones. It’s hard to trust them until we see them have this type of success with any sort of consistency.

17. Edmonton Oilers (21): A four-game winning streak has pulled Dave Tippett and Ken Holland out of the fire for now. Can they continue this success with the pressure somewhat alleviated, and will Evander Kane be an asset or a detriment to the locker room?

18. Los Angeles Kings (18): The Kings seem to be a fringe playoff contender at the moment, which could be somewhat disappointing given how high expectations were for them. A strong second half from Quinton Byfield would be huge in pushing them to the postseason without having to make any big trades.

19. New York Islanders (27): They’ve looked better in recent times, but a losing streak at this point would all but end the Islanders’ postseason ambitions. Ilya Sorokin can’t do this on his own, unless he can start scoring goals from his net.

20. Vancouver Canucks (16): The Canucks have cooled off recently, going from winning the first seven games with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench to .500 in the next twelve. Would they potentially trade J.T. Miller if the price is right?

21. Winnipeg Jets (19): Connor Hellebuyck has endured a down season to this point, which is concerning at this stage. Wasting a season where Kyle Connor has been producing outstanding offensive numbers would be disappointing, to say the least.

22. San Jose Sharks (20): The Sharks were already trying to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff picture. Losing Erik Karlsson might be the cannonball that sinks their ship.

23. Detroit Red Wings (22): The Red Wings have started to cool down, and it seems that they’ll be on the outside looking in the Eastern Conference by the time April rolls around. At least they’ll have two lottery tickets at the Calder Trophy?

24. Chicago Blackhawks (25): The vultures have started to circle Chicago to pick off pieces from them, and players like Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik are starting to worry fans about stalled development. Alex DeBrincat is still sniping goals, though…yay?

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (23): Losing 6-0 to Calgary with 62 shots is worthy of an apology to Elvis Merzlikins. It’s hard to get much worse than that.

26. Seattle Kraken (29): The Kraken are currently on one of those stretches where they’ve been playing better. It still won’t stop them from moving pieces at the deadline, though.

27. Ottawa Senators (28): Drake Batherson was arguably Ottawa’s best player all season. Losing him to long-term injury makes a bad team even worse.

28. Buffalo Sabres (30): The early returns on Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs have been promising, so they might turn out ok after trading Jack Eichel. It’s one of the few positive things going on in Buffalo right now.

29. New Jersey Devils (26): They’ve only won six games between December and January, and are now last in the Metropolitan behind a Flyers team that has had two massive losing streaks. I’ll be respectful towards Lindy Ruff, though, given recent circumstances.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (24): The good news is the Flyers broke their thirteen-game losing streak. The bad news is that it was their only win in January.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): The Coyotes have already been dealing with massive issues, and now they might be playing in a college stadium for the next three years? Gary Bettman’s pet project is on life support and fading fast.

32. Montreal Canadiens (32): Thank you, Canadiens. Thank you for telling us you’ve given up.

NHL Power Ranking: Futures Edition

Image credit: Stockton Heat

Time for an interesting version of the NHL Power Rankings this week.

I could wax rhetoric about Joe Thornton being only the sixth player in NHL history to surpass 1,700 games, or Marc-Andre Fleury becoming the first goaltender to defeat all 32 NHL teams, or even Cale Makar’s near-historic scoring pace for a defenseman. However, there really isn’t much to talk about. Some teams have played very little or not at all since the start of 2022, and the teams that have have mostly trended in the same directions. There didn’t seem to be enough anecdotes to make a compelling assessment on how the NHL was stacking up.

However, the junior leagues and international hockey is still going on, so it got me to thinking. Teams wait for years for the prospects they draft to mature and develop into NHL-caliber players, and each year seems to introduce at least one young player who appears to have such potential. With that in mind, why not make this list about these prospects? For these rankings, in lieu of discussing the week each team had or any significant statistic regarding a player, I’ll discuss a prospect who is worth keeping an eye on as they continue their journey to reach the NHL one day.

So which prospect is worth watching out for on your team and, more importantly, how does the NHL stack up this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since January 9.

1. Florida Panthers (1): In his second professional season, Cole Schwindt has started making an impact. The AHL’s Rookie of the Month in December, Schwindt’s strong season gave the Panthers enough confidence in him to make his NHL debut.

2. Colorado Avalanche (3): It’s worrying to think that Colorado may have another offensive threat in the works, but it feels that way with Oskar Olausson. The Avalanche’s first-round pick in the 2021 Draft, Olausson is scoring at a point-per-game pace in his first season in North America.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (2): The loss of Alex Nedeljkovic this offseason is somewhat offset by the continued development of goaltenders. Eetu Makiniemi, for instance, has been a revelation for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL with an 11-2-1 record, 2.06 GAA, and .922 save percentage.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (6): The Penguins have one of the more barren farm systems in the NHL, but don’t tell that to prospects like Joel Blomqvist. After being overshadowed by 2020 draft classmate Calle Clang, Blomqvist has recorded an insane 0.93 GAA in 10 games in Finland’s top hockey league.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (9): Great teams like the Lightning know how to strike in the late rounds of a draft, and they might have found a great value in Jaydon Dureau. A fifth-round pick in 2020, Dureau has translated in success in the WHL to time with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, including scoring his first professional goal this season.

6. Nashville Predators (10): After an up-and-down professional debut in the AHL, Luke Evangelista returned to the OHL with resounding success. Scoring at a near goal-per-game pace, Evangelista’s 23 goals already match his total from his last season in the OHL in a third of the games (24 games to reach that mark compared to 2019’s 62).

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (4): It took some time, but it seems that Topi Niemela is progressing towards the NHL. Despite playing for one of Finland’s top teams, Niemela’s 24 points is good for third on his squad as a defenseman.

8. Vegas Golden Knights (5): The Knights have developed a nice reputation at making value choices in their short history, and Jakub Demek is looking like the latest in that group. Vegas’s fourth-round selection in 2021, Demek has burst on the scene with a point-per-game season in his first year in North America.

9. New York Rangers (8): Even if the Rangers trade Alexandar Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin may have a battery mate in the near future in Dylan Garand. A standout for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, Garand is putting together a career-best season with a 1.86 GAA and .930 save percentage.

10. Washington Capitals (7): While Hendrix Lapierre draws the headlines in Washington’s farm system, the Capitals may get a boost on their defense soon with Vincent Iorio. A 2021 second-round pick, Iorio is on pace to have a career year for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL.

11. St. Louis Blues (11): With Scott Perunovich locking down a full-time NHL role, Jake Neighbours takes his place as St. Louis’s top prospect. After a solid nine-game stint with the Blues, Neighbours has returned to the WHL and continues to dominate with his physical two-way game.

12. Minnesota Wild (12): First-round goaltenders do carry a bit of risk, but Jesper Wallstedt has done a nice job in repaying Minnesota’s trust. Despite a 9-8 record in the Swedish Hockey League, Wallstedt’s 1.82 GAA and .923 save percentage paint a better picture of how special of a talent he is.

13. Boston Bruins (15): Boston’s 2020 draft class was met with some criticism, but defenseman Mason Lohrei has a done nice job representing it. Playing for Ohio State, Lohrei’s 18 points are good for second amongst all Buckeyes.

14. Anaheim Ducks (14): Olen Zellweger was a fast riser on draft boards last year, and he’s continued to show why. A point-per-game producer on defense in both league and international play last year, Zellweger has been dominant at both ends of the ice this year in the WHL.

15. Dallas Stars (21): The Stars will take any offensive production they can get, so Mavrik Bourque’s development has to be a positive sign for them. Despite injury concerns, Bourque has been impressive in his two seasons as a Stars prospect, including a good stint for the AHL’s Texas Stars.

16. Vancouver Canucks (16): While Jim Benning’s run as Vancouver GM will likely be remembered in infamy, he may have given the Canucks a diamond in the rough in Aidan McDonough. A seventh-round pick in 2019, McDonough has been a star for Northeastern University the past three seasons, including a point-per-game season this year.

17. Calgary Flames (13): If the title picture wasn’t a dead giveaway, I am and have always been a Dustin Wolf truther. After a rough first season in the AHL, Wolf has put together a dominant sophomore campaign with a 16-1-2 record, 1.92 GAA, and .936 save percentage.

18. Los Angeles Kings (18): While the Kings have the best farm system in the NHL, their best player so far has been Toronto transplant Sean Durzi. One of the pieces in the Jake Muzzin trade, Durzi has split time between the NHL and AHL this season and has looked good in both.

19. Winnipeg Jets (17): When a young player like Dmitri Rashevsky does well in the KHL, that’s enough of a signal to take notice. A fifth-round pick in 2021, Rashevsky’s first full season in the KHL has him third on his team in goals (19) and points (35).

20. San Jose Sharks (22): Getting progress out of mid-round picks like Brandon Coe will certainly help the Sharks accelerate their current rebuild. A fourth-round pick in 2020, Coe is one point away from matching his previous OHL total of 57 in just over half of the games.

21. Edmonton Oilers (19): Not even the most optimistic of Edmonton fans could have seen Matvei Petrov’s rise coming. A sixth-round pick in 2021, Petrov’s first season in North America has him second behind the aforementioned Brandon Coe in scoring for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion.

22. Detroit Red Wings (23): Another team that took the plunge on a first-round goaltender, the Red Wings are hoping Sebastian Cossa can be the next great Detroit netminder. While he isn’t having the same success as last year’s incredible run, Cossa has continued to be a steady presence in net for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (24): While Columbus is rebuilding its pool of high-end talent, they have one of the more underrated prospects in hockey in Trey Fix-Wolansky. After a lost season last year due to injury, Fix-Wolansky has picked up right where he left off and has put together great numbers for the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.

24. Philadelphia Flyers (20): Connor McClennon was one of my favorite picks in the 2020 Draft, and he’s continued to show why. A sixth-round pick by the Flyers, McClennon leads the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice in goals with 25.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (25): Germany has become a hotbed for top hockey talent in recent years, and Lukas Reichel is hoping to make his mark in the NHL soon. Chicago’s first-round pick in 2020, Reichel is currently leading the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in goals (10) and points (20) in his debut season in North America.

26. New Jersey Devils (26): Aside from having one of the best names in hockey, Akira Schmid is starting to come around as a solid young goaltender. While his stint in New Jersey showed a clear need for improvement, he earned that stint by going 8-0-2 with the AHL’s Utica Comets to go with a 1.60 GAA and .944 save percentage.

27. New York Islanders (27): While the Islanders’ farm system is devoid of a true top talent, William Dufour is doing his best to get himself noticed. A fifth-round pick in 2020, Dufour has already put together career-best numbers in the QMJHL with 22 goals and 47 points.

28. Ottawa Senators (28): The Senators have built a solid pipeline with the University of North Dakota, with Jake Sanderson looking like the crown jewel. The fifth overall pick in 2020, Sanderson’s 22 points are tied for the team lead for the Fighting Hawks.

29. Seattle Kraken (29): Being the NHL’s newest franchise means not having much to choose from for this topic, but the Kraken may have found something with Ryker Evans. A surprising second-round pick due to his age, Evans is currently on pace to have a career year in the WHL.

30. Buffalo Sabres (30): Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is emerging as Buffalo’s top netminder, and Devon Levi is hoping to make his own impact in the Sabres’ system. Coming over in the Sam Reinhart trade from Florida, Levi has been lights out for Northeastern University with a 15-4-1 record, 1.19 GAA, and .958 save percentage.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): The lost season for the Coyotes could give younger players like Matias Maccelli a chance to prove their worth at the NHL level. A fourth-round pick in 2019, Maccelli has put up a point per game in the AHL after a successful stint in Finland.

32. Montreal Canadiens (32): Marc Bergevin’s final draft will forever be remembered for the controversial first-round pick of Logan Mailloux, so he’ll have to produce at a high level. In Mailloux’s first two games back in the OHL, he already has two goals and four points.

NHL Power Rankings: New Year’s Edition

Image Credit: USA Today Sports

After a couple weeks’ hiatus to celebrate the holidays, we are back with the NHL power rankings.

To be fair, it hasn’t been an overly eventful couple of weeks on the ice. Mass postponements of games and several COVID outbreaks among teams forced the NHL to begin its holiday break a day early. The NHL has backed out of participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to concerns about China’s strict protocols regarding positive tests. The World Juniors tournament was quickly postponed after multiple forfeits due to positive tests. The NHL has also been forced to change things after the break, bringing back the taxi squads from last season and postponing several games in Canada due to COVID protocols limiting arena capacities. Needless to say, COVID has continued to work its way into how the NHL handles its business.

The good news is we still had hockey after Christmas, including the coldest game in NHL history in this season’s Winter Classic in Minneapolis’s Target Field. With the start of the new year, the urgency of teams to make their postseason pushes has certainly increased. Favorites like Florida and Carolina have continued to impress, but others are starting to trend in different directions from how they began. The New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks have started to pick things up as the season has gone along, while the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers have hit rough patches as the year changes. While early success does pose a factor in determining who makes the postseason, a strong finish could decide who gets sent packing early and who skates around with the Stanley Cup at the end.

So, how does the NHL stack up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since January 2.

1. Florida Panthers (1): The 9-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning was inflated by facing Maxime Lagace instead of Andrei Vasilevskiy, but the Panthers will take a victory over a major divisional rival any way they can. An easier road in the postseason would certainly be preferable.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (2): Coming back from a 4-0 deficit against Columbus is just the latest high mark in a season full of them for the Hurricanes. Even when you think they lose, they manage to win somehow.

3. Colorado Avalanche (3): Take a guess who’s leading the Avalanche in scoring right now? You’d be incorrect. The answer is Nazem Kadri, who’s currently tied for fifth in the league with 39 points.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (7): Toronto has seen this movie before: big-money players are producing, depth is coming up strong, and goaltending has looked improved. Until they win a postseason series for the first time since 2004, it won’t mean anything to them.

5. Vegas Golden Knights (9): The fact that Vegas is pacing the Western Conference and has one of the league’s most potent offenses with all of the injuries they’ve had to navigate through is praiseworthy. How good can they be when Jack Eichel gets healthy?

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (13): The Penguins have won eight in a row, Evan Rodrigues looks like a legitimate piece in Pittsburgh, and Evgeni Malkin could be returning soon. Almost everything is coming up roses for the Penguins right now.

7. Washington Capitals (5): Alex Ovechkin now has 24 goals on the season, matching his total from last season’s shortened schedule. If he continues to be the driving force for the Capitals, does he deserve to land just his second Hart Trophy?

8. New York Rangers (11): The Rangers continue to defy analytics, and picking up back-to-back wins over the Lightning was just the latest evidence of that. It may come back to bite them in the end, but they’re putting themselves in good position to make a playoff appearance in a stacked Eastern Conference.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): If there was ever a goaltender who deserved the Hart Trophy, it’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Since entering the league’s COVID protocol on December 28, the Lightning have let go of at least four goals in their four games since, including nine to the Florida Panthers.

10. Nashville Predators (10): Everything has worked out for the Predators lately, going 8-1-1 in their last ten games and getting key contributions from multiple sources. Expect another season of buying at the deadline, as it seems Smashville has some life left after all.

11. St. Louis Blues (12): The Blues have one of the best offenses in the league, but their best weapon might be one of the most underrated players in the league. Despite being eighth among Blues forwards in average ice time, Jordan Kyrou is second in points with 32, including four in the Winter Classic.

12. Minnesota Wild (4): The Wild have fallen off a bit since the last rankings, going on a five-game losing streak. Injuries to Joel Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon might have something to do with that, so it would be wise for the Wild not to hit the panic button just yet.

13. Calgary Flames (16): The Flames have been up-and-down this season, but Johnny Gaudreau has been solid in the regular season so far. A pending unrestricted free agent, it would be interesting if the Flames make some moves to get the money for an extension (Sean Monahan, perhaps?)

14. Anaheim Ducks (8): Similar to the Wild, the Ducks’ rough stretch can be blamed on injuries. Trevor Zegras’s absence can definitely be felt, as the Ducks have scored only four goals in the three games without their young star center.

15. Boston Bruins (14): While the Bruins’ offensive depth has been maligned over the years, David Pastrnak should take some of the blame for the inconsistent season in Boston. He’s only scored eight goals in 27 games so far, which is well below what was expected of him to start the year.

16. Vancouver Canucks (23): The Canucks have only lost once since Bruce Boudreau took the reins, but Thatcher Demko has been equally responsible for the recent hot streak. The NHL’s third star of December, Demko dominated last month with a .946 save percentage and a 1.72 GAA.

17. Winnipeg Jets (18): It seems the Jets needed a two-week pause from a middling stretch. Defeating the Golden Knights on the road was a good way to get back into the swing of things.

18. Los Angeles Kings (17): The Kings have remained close in the playoff race on the back of Jonathan Quick and some solid play. If they can improve on special teams, they have a chance to get into the postseason for the first time since 2017.

19. Edmonton Oilers (15): When you’re continuing to lose despite having arguably the two best players in the world at your disposal, that’s the sign of serious problems. There’s no more obvious buyer at the trade deadline.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (27): The Flyers have started to look better since firing Alain Vigneault, but the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture is looking pretty clear right now. Any prolonged struggle is enough to take a team out, especially in the Metropolitan Division.

21. Dallas Stars (19): The Stars haven’t played in two weeks, so it’s tough to get a gauge on them for now. It’s clear that they need more from their offensive players, but that’s been a common theme for a while.

22. San Jose Sharks (21): I have zero idea what the Sharks are doing, and I probably still won’t until the deadline. They aren’t bad enough to fall into the basement, but they seem well behind the top dogs in the Pacific.

23. Detroit Red Wings (20): Losing to the Bruins is one thing, but doing so in a key divisional matchup with potential playoff implications is disastrous. Still, the fact the Red Wings are at least in the picture after New Year’s Day is progress from where they were to start the year.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (22): Only one regulation win in their last twelve games, including that disastrous game against Carolina where they blew a 4-0 lead. Again, stretches like that are killers in the Metropolitan.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (26): A combined score of 11-2 is a disastrous outing for their last two games, even if both Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen were out. Speaking of Fleury, he’ll be the most intriguing goaltender on the trade market this season.

26. New Jersey Devils (29): A three-game winning streak is nice, and Jack Hughes has started to regain his form into a top offensive option. It’s too late for the Devils to make much postseason noise, but progress is progress.

27. New York Islanders (28): The schedule has been weird for the Islanders, from the thirteen-game road trip to start the year to having four games postponed. It’s not the sole explanation for this disappointing season, but it’s certainly part of it.

28. Ottawa Senators (24): The Senators seem to be stuck on their rebuild, but they still have some young players they’re waiting on. Give it time, keep getting more future assets, and see what comes up.

29. Seattle Kraken (25): The Kraken have been a huge disappointment, and Brandon Tanev’s ACL injury only adds more to the pain. Think they’d like a mulligan on the expansion draft?

30. Buffalo Sabres (32): It’s another lost season in Buffalo, but they’ve gotten to see some young players progress. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Tage Thompson have both been having good seasons, and Alex Tuch made a strong first impression since coming to Buffalo in the Jack Eichel trade.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): Scoring seven goals in a game and still losing is almost par for the course for the Coyotes. It’s sounding like every player is up for grabs as Arizona seems committed to a long-term rebuild.

32. Montreal Canadiens (30): The Canadiens won once in December…and it was in a shootout against Philadelphia. Every player not named Suzuki or Caufield is available as Jeff Gorton prepares for a natural disaster sale.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 9 Edition

Image Credit: NHL

We are rapidly approaching the Christmas break of the NHL season, and it’s nice of the league to have some nice gifts for us.

This has been a week of streaks, where unexpected teams have come out of the woodwork to emerge as potential playoff contenders. The Colorado Avalanche have emerged from a shaky start to return to what they were expected to be in October: a Stanley Cup contender. Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks have been pleasant surprises this season by way of resurgent seasons from veterans or young players finally breaking out.

However, this week has made many top teams from last week’s rankings look relatively average. The Oilers and Flames have gone on long losing streaks after looking like the top teams in the Pacific Division. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes suffered tough losses to the likes of Ottawa and Vancouver, respectively. It’s the parity of the league on full display; any team can pull out a victory on any given night.

So how does the NHL stack up?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded from December 12.

1. Florida Panthers (1): It was a bit of a rough week for the Panthers, but going .500 on a tough stretch without their best player is respectable enough to keep the top spot. Be forewarned, though; their grip on the top spot is tenuous, at best.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (5): The loss to Vancouver ended the week on a sour note for the Hurricanes, who had four straight wins prior to that. It’s fitting that the loss came without Sebastian Aho; he’s currently riding a five-game streak of scoring at least two points.

3. Colorado Avalanche (10): The Avalanche won all four of their games this week, have won twelve of their last fifteen games, and have scored at least six goals in their last three games. Their victory against Florida was all I needed to see; the Avs are back where they belong.

4. Minnesota Wild (2): Losing to LA and Vegas to end the week was rough, but those two have been their only losses in the last ten games. If the Kevin Fiala trade rumors are to be believed, the Wild could be in on some of the big trade targets at the deadline.

5. Washington Capitals (4): Alex Ovechkin has been impressive enough on his own, but the Capitals leading the Metropolitan Division without many key players is terrifying. Imagine how good this team might be when the likes of Nicklas Backstrom come back.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): The Lightning haven’t been bad enough to drop and, to Ottawa’s credit, they’ve won against pretty stiff competition these days. That, and Tampa Bay defeating the team below them keeps them even this week.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (3): The defensive play that helped the Leafs get off to a fantastic start has faltered since the calendar turned to December. The Leafs have let go of at least three goals in every game this month, and at least four goals in their last five games.

8. Anaheim Ducks (12): The Troy Terry breakout looks legitimate, and the Ducks have continued to stay competitive. Also, credit Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano for the new Goal of the Year favorite (and giving another reason for NHL teams to stay away from John Tortorella.)

9. Vegas Golden Knights (13): Breaking Philadelphia’s losing streak was outweighed with strong performances about then-hot teams in Dallas, Calgary, and Minnesota. The offense has predictably come back with the returns of their top players, but the goaltending has to get better if the Knights want to sustain this recent success.

10. Nashville Predators (19): I’m not a fan of spikes or drops like this, but a strange week has made it absolutely possible. That, and the Predators have the longest active winning streak in the league at five, including their last four games on the road.

11. New York Rangers (9): A blown call against Buffalo led to the Rangers’ only win this week, Chris Kreider has slowed down, and goaltending has struggled without Igor Shesterkin. The concerns about the Rangers being top-heavy were at least somewhat validated.

12. St. Louis Blues (16): With the Blues being rattled with injuries, they’ve needed players to step up in increased roles. This week was Nathan Walker’s turn to rise to the occasion, as the NHL’s only Aussie player picked up his first career hat trick against Detroit.

13. Pittsburgh Penguins (17): Another team that’s suffered from the injury bug got more bad news with leading scorer Jake Guentzel needing to miss more time. However, the Penguins are still on pace for another 100-point season, so can we really count them out at this stage?

14. Boston Bruins (14): Depth scoring has still been an issue, but the metrics show the Bruins as being more unlucky than bad. This is still a playoff-caliber team, but Boston could use some good bounces to improve on their current standing.

15. Edmonton Oilers (7): The old issues that have haunted the Oilers for years have re-emerged, and it’s led to Edmonton dropping five games in a row. Streaks like this are why I wouldn’t be surprised to see Edmonton as the most aggressive buyer at the trade deadline.

16. Calgary Flames (8): The Oilers’ cross-province rival isn’t doing so hot themselves, no pun intended. The Flames have lost four in a row, and now will have their next three games postponed due to COVID.

17. Los Angeles Kings (21): I will actively vouch for Jonathan Quick to make it to the All-Star game this year. He is the sole reason the Kings are anywhere close to the playoff picture right now.

18. Winnipeg Jets (18): Same story this week as usual: Kyle Connor’s been fantastic, but the rest of Winnipeg’s top players are middling at best. Not good news in a Central Division that’s looked more competitive than expected.

19. Dallas Stars (11): After an impressive winning streak, dropping three in a row has the Stars trending back in the wrong direction. A stretch against Central Division opponents could be the litmus test of where Dallas truly is.

20. Detroit Red Wings (15): Sure, this season has been all about progress for the Red Wings, but three blowout losses in the past week is not a good look. Hopefully, this doesn’t lead to a confidence-breaking losing streak for the young Wings.

21. San Jose Sharks (22): Jonathan Dahlen and James Reimer barely saw any NHL playing time down the stretch last season. Now, both have become key players for a Sharks team that’s been somewhat better than anticipated.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (20): It feels like the Jackets could use Patrik Laine back, but it may be even more important to give Elvis Merzlikins a reliable battery mate. Daniil Tarasov hasn’t gotten his first NHL victory yet, but do the otherwise solid stats give him a chance to unseat a struggling Joonas Korpisalo?

23. Vancouver Canucks (27): Give Bruce Boudreau some credit; he took a Canucks team in despair and has fired off four straight wins out of them. The difference in moods of Canucks fans last month and now have been night and day.

24. Ottawa Senators (28): The Senators have won four of their last five games, including wins against Carolina, Colorado, and Tampa Bay. Are we sure Brady Tkachuk isn’t real-life Peter Parker?; he’s been playing his best hockey of the season since the Brendan Lemieux bite.

25. Seattle Kraken (23): A couple of bad losses squandered the momentum that the Kraken seemed to be creating. Can anyone think of a bigger disappointment this season than the Philipp Grubauer/Chris Driedger goalie tandem?

26. Chicago Blackhawks (24): Congratulations to Marc-Andre Fleury on his 500th career NHL victory, and his play has certainly improved since Derek King took over as Blackhawks coach. If the offense could do the same, Chicago might be on to something.

27. Philadelphia Flyers (26): The Flyers broke their losing streak this week, but this has been par for the course far too often for this team. It always feels like a winning streak carries them to the playoffs, or a losing streak like this destroys their chances early.

28. New York Islanders (32): The Islanders finally won a game at UBS Arena, which has to be a relief. For a team as offensively challenged as this, however, being down this big in a competitive division might be an early kiss of death.

29. New Jersey Devils (25): The Devils have won two of their last 10 games, and Jack Hughes coming back hasn’t been the shot in the arm the team had hoped it would be. Maybe hiring Lindy Ruff in the midst of a clear rebuild wasn’t a good idea.

30. Montreal Canadiens (29): No team as a whole has been more disappointing this season, and Tyler Toffoli’s injury is just the latest setback. The teardown is coming.

31. Arizona Coyotes (31): Do we have to go any further?

32. Buffalo Sabres (30): One win in their last twelve games sees the Sabres return to the basement. How can a team be this consistently bad?

NHL Power Rankings: Week 8 Edition

Image Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

We have officially crossed the quarter mark of the NHL season.

It’s been a time of change for the NHL in recent weeks. Just last week, I was talking about the Canadiens firing Marc Bergevin and instantly getting Jeff Gorton to kickstart what’s looking like an inevitable rebuild. Within the last 24 hours or so, two more teams have made significant changes. In Vancouver, Travis Green and Jim Benning were shown the door in a move that, frankly, should have happened last offseason. With Bruce Boudreau now behind the bench and an expected collaborative effort in the front office, the Canucks will be looking to salvage what they can from what looks like a lost season.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Philadelphia Flyers have fired head coach Alain Vigneault after a 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the latest in an eight-game skid. Similar to another divisional rival in the New York Islanders, the Flyers’ recent string of losses are hurting their chances to remain competitive in a strong Metropolitan Division. Similar to the Canadiens, the Flyers deserve credit for at least getting aggressive and addressing the problem early. Bad news is that the interim head coach is a man Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is well-acquainted with: Mike Yeo. The last time we caught up with Yeo, he was running the Blues into the ground in the 2018-19 season before being replaced by Craig Berube and…well, you know the rest. Needless to say, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic that Yeo’s third tour of duty as an NHL head coach is going to go that well.

With all that said, how does the NHL stack up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded on December 5.

1. Florida Panthers (5): The most entertaining team in the NHL over the last couple of weeks, the Panthers won all of their games last week in come-from-behind fashion, including erasing three-goal deficits against Washington and Buffalo. That’s the type of resiliency that will serve this team well, come playoff time.

2. Minnesota Wild (9): The biggest riser of the week, the Wild have won six straight games and have pulled ahead in the Central Division. If they can just fix their power play, which currently ranks 28th in the league, I’m not sure if there’s a noticeable flaw that can be exploited.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (1): The Leafs had their winning streak broken by the Wild, necessitating a small drop in the rankings this week. Still, Auston Matthews is scoring goals left and right to insert himself back into the Rocket Richard Trophy conversation, including a hat trick against Colorado.

4. Washington Capitals (3): In this week’s Ovechkin Watch, Alex hit 20 goals this season and 750 on his career. That and the re-emergences of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov have been critical towards the Capitals being in the running for the Metropolitan Division crown.

5. Carolina Hurricanes (4): A 5-4-1 record in their last ten games is a disappointment for a Hurricanes squad that started off so strongly this season. The loss to a white-hot Dallas squad was somewhat understandable; losing to lowly Ottawa, not so much.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): If you were expecting the Lightning to fall off at some point, you’ll be disappointed to know that the defending champs are on a three-game winning streak. Steven Stamkos has been critical to Tampa Bay’s success, riding a seven-game point streak at the moment.

7. Edmonton Oilers (2): The Oilers fell back into some bad habits this week, with a top-heavy offense being unable to overcome a battered defense and shoddy goaltending. If this continues, expect Edmonton to be connected to any top goaltender on the trade market when the deadline rolls around.

8. Calgary Flames (8): The Flames have plenty of reasons to like their chances this season, and it starts with goaltending. Whether it’s Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar manning the crease, their play has given Calgary a chance to win every night.

9. New York Rangers (10): A six-game winning streak would normally indicate a massive rise, but Igor Shesterkin’s lower body injury complicates matters for the Rangers. He’s been a pivotal reason as to why New York is exceeding expectations, so they can prove something to a lot of people if they do well in this upcoming stretch.

10. Colorado Avalanche (7): The offense has been there for the Avalanche, but they desperately need to fix the back end. Their defense is currently sixth-worst in the league at 3.38 goals allowed per game, and Darcy Kuemper’s injury has forced an overmatched Jonas Johansson into starts.

11. Dallas Stars (16): A six-game winning streak has pushed the Stars closer to the top ten, and Roope Hintz has played a big part of that recent success. After a rough start to the season, Hintz now has ten goals in as many games, including a hat trick in an upset win over Carolina.

12. Anaheim Ducks (17): Troy Terry continues his hot start, and the Ducks may have an intriguing line with Trevor Zegras centering Sonny Milano and Rickard Rakell. After having the league’s worst offense last season, being seventh with 3.32 goals per game is a massive accomplishment.

13. Vegas Golden Knights (11): Vegas’s drop isn’t so much on them having a bad week more than the two teams leapfrogging them having better weeks. With Max Pacioretty being an offensive force right now and the team starting to find its way again, however, the descent likely shouldn’t go any further.

14. Boston Bruins (12): There is some cause for concern for Boston right now, as they are currently last in five-on-five shooting percentage with a dismal 5.84% success rate. It speaks to some issues with Boston’s offensive depth, which has been a common theme over the last few years.

15. Detroit Red Wings (21): The numbers haven’t been too supportive of their rise, but the Red Wings have won five games in a row. Sometimes, the results speak louder than the process.

16. St. Louis Blues (13): The offense has returned to form a bit in recent games, and the Blues have gotten back into the top ten on offense. Now, if only the rest of their underlying numbers were as positive…

17. Pittsburgh Penguins (14): Tristan Jarry is rewarding the Penguins for not giving up on him after his disastrous postseason. Out of goaltenders who have started ten games or more, Jarry is currently fourth in save percentage with .934 and third in GAA with 1.92.

18. Winnipeg Jets (18): A 4-5-1 in their last ten games isn’t a good thing, but Mark Scheifele did manage a breakout game against the Devils earlier this week. Hopefully, a hat trick is just Winnipeg’s number one center needed to break out of his early-season funk.

19. Nashville Predators (19): I’m still not sure if the Predators have what it takes to get anywhere beyond being a middle-of-the-road squad. A four-goal game for Filip Forsberg against Columbus certainly made him noticeable for any team needing offense at the deadline…assuming Nashville decides to stop holding off a rebuild.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets (15): A week where the Blue Jackets dropped three of four games and looked like the worse team in all of them speaks to where they are right now. They’ll play above their expectations one week, then sink below them the next.

21. Los Angeles Kings (23): The Kings haven’t been great lately, but the struggles of the teams above them put them closer to the top twenty. Anze Kopitar has been the only positive on offense so far, as the Kings are putting up only 2.64 goals per game.

22. San Jose Sharks (24): Similar to their in-state rivals, the Sharks have moved up more on the struggles of the teams above them than their own success. At least Erik Karlsson is playing up to his contract for arguably the first time since becoming the league’s highest-paid defenseman.

23. Seattle Kraken (25): The Kraken have been getting it together on offense, which speaks to their rise in the last week or so. My only concern is that the negatives surrounding the Kraken still outweigh the positives.

24. Chicago Blackhawks (26): The good news is that offseason acquisitions Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury have shaken off rough starts to their seasons. The bad news is that longtime stalwart and captain Jonathan Toews is still without a goal at the quarter mark.

25. New Jersey Devils (20): A three-game losing streak has the Devils sliding down the rankings, with the main culprit being poor goaltending. While the Devils defense as a whole has been alright, they are still letting go of over three goals per game.

26. Philadelphia Flyers (22): Everything’s gone wrong for the Flyers lately. That’s really all that has to be said.

27. Vancouver Canucks (31): The Canucks’ rise is more on my curiosity of Bruce Boudreau meshing with this current team. It probably won’t lead to much postseason success, but he is third all-time in points percentage for a reason.

28. Ottawa Senators (32): Fun fact: since being bitten by Brendan Lemieux, Brady Tkachuk has scored five points in the last three games, and the Senators have won against Carolina and Colorado. Relevant? No. Hilarious? Absolutely.

29. Montreal Canadiens (29): The Canadiens are 2-7-1 in their last ten games, and a loss to Colorado led to fans tossing their jerseys out onto the ice. I can only imagine the fans’ reaction when their favorite players are traded away.

30. Buffalo Sabres (27): Goaltending has turned into a real issue for the Sabres, with Malcom Subban joining the list of injuries at the position after a disastrous debut in net. It’s not a matter of if top prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen cracks the team, but when he takes over.

31. Arizona Coyotes (30): I’m willing to throw in the towel on Jakob Chychrun this season. Whether it’s due to not finding a full-time defensive partner or the general awfulness of this Coyotes team, Chychrun has had a rough year both in terms of statistics and metrics.

32. New York Islanders (28): The descent to the bottom is complete for the Islanders, who haven’t won a game in a month. If Barry Trotz didn’t have the pedigree he has, he’d undoubtedly be shown the door.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 7 Edition

Image Credit: David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

The second month of the NHL season is nearly in the books.

Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, we’ve reached a critical milestone when it comes to the NHL playoff picture. In the salary cap era, teams that are currently in playoff spots have a 77% chance of remaining there by the time the postseason rolls around. Of course, this doesn’t make Thanksgiving the be all, end all for playoff hopes; look at St. Louis and Buffalo in 2018-19 for example. The Blues were tied for the worst record in the NHL when Thanksgiving rolled around, while the Sabres rode a hot start to tie for the second playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Fast forward to the end of that season and, while the Sabres added another year to their current streak of postseason-less hockey, the Blues were skating around with the Stanley Cup. Realistically, you can expect two or three teams to sneak into playoff spots before the end of the season; the only questions are who those teams will be and who they will replace.

If we were to take a look at the standings, the picture starts to take shape. In the East, the top three in both divisions seem relatively secure. It’s the Wild Card spots that are much tighter races; Pittsburgh and Columbus held them when Thanksgiving rolled around, but teams like Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and even Detroit are right on their heels. The West is much more wide open, with spots in the division still well up for grabs. Each of the divisions are separated by a few points, and even the wild card races are close. Very few teams can safely be considered out of the hunt already, but who knows if any team can pull a St. Louis and climb all the way back?

For now, however, how does the NHL shape up this week?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded as of November 28.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (3): A new leader has emerged this week, as the Leafs have rolled to win 14 of their last 16 games. A lot of Toronto fans will obviously be looking to translate this into postseason success, but this has been a promising start so far.

2. Edmonton Oilers (2): Edmonton’s won four of their last five games, and Leon Draisaitl is still averaging two points PER GAME. The Pacific Division may be tighter than usual this season, but the Oilers are definitely at the top of the class right now.

3. Washington Capitals (5): An 8-1-1 record in their last ten games is nice enough, but Alex Ovechkin has been the real story. He’s collected seven goals in the last five games, putting his total to 19 goals in 22 games. Gretzky is very much is sight.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (1): Bit of a rough patch for the former leaders, who lost three of four last week and only scored more than two goals once. Nothing to worry about, as the Hurricanes still lead the league in points percentage with a mark of .750.

5. Florida Panthers (5): The Panthers stay in the top five for now, but they’re going to miss Anthony Duclair as much as they miss Aleksander Barkov. Duclair has put together a strong season, scoring nine goals and 17 points in 19 games.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (6): The Lightning are 7-2-1 in their last ten contests, even with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point on the injury list. The success they’ve had in this stretch, as well as when any other star player is out, shows just how deep this team is.

7. Colorado Avalanche (13): Safe to say the Avalanche have shaken off an iffy start, winning seven of their last eight games. The major catalyst for this success has been their league-leading offense, which is averaging four goals a game…mostly WITHOUT Nathan MacKinnon.

8. Calgary Flames (8): Darryl Sutter’s defensive-minded philosophy has finally resonated with the Flames, but their offense has come along very nicely. They may have found a nice first line with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk, as all three have been strong both in basic stats and analytics since being paired together.

9. Minnesota Wild (9): Kirill Kaprizov has started racking up the points, but my vote for the Wild’s early-season MVP would go to Ryan Hartman. He’s racked up four goals in his last five games to put his season total at 12, and he is currently on pace to shatter his career high of 19 goals in 2016-17.

10. New York Rangers (10): Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin seem to be the next trio of great players to wear the Rangers jerseys, and they have been rolling right now. Even better, the underlying numbers that have dogged the Blueshirts all season are starting to trend in the right direction.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (7): Vegas seems to be in that “getting key players back, but experiencing inconsistency as they readjust” phase. Still feels like a sleeping giant to me, especially with their top two centers still injured.

12. Boston Bruins (11): The Bruins are still very much in the playoff hunt but, like Vegas, the consistency just hasn’t been there for them yet. It might not be coming for a bit longer, as they’ll be without their best player in Brad Marchand for the next few games.

13. St. Louis Blues (15): The Blues have gotten points in three of their last four games, which should give them some momentum for the rough stretch ahead against Florida and Tampa Bay. After an impressive season last year, Jordan Kyrou seems poised for a true breakout with 22 points in 21 games.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (18): Despite massive personnel issues and Sidney Crosby being off to a slow start, the Penguins were still able to rattle off a five-game winning streak before falling to Montreal. The contributions of Jake Guentzel (not surprising) and Evan Rodrigues (very surprising) have been huge so far.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets (21): The Blue Jackets have won three of their last four, managing to stay in a very competitive Metropolitan Division. Give credit to Brad Larsen for continuing to make the Jackets one of the toughest teams to play against.

16. Dallas Stars (23): Don’t look now, but the Stars have gone on a four-game winning streak and have won six of their last seven games. The offense is starting to show some balance, while the re-emergence of Jake Oettinger means Dallas may have to make a decision on Braden Holtby or Anton Khudobin.

17. Anaheim Ducks (14): Troy Terry has started to slow down, and the Ducks have lost four of their last five. A streak of bad luck, or a regression back to their expectations?

18. Winnipeg Jets (12): A four-goal explosion against Calgary was sorely needed, as the Jets only scored five goals in a five-game losing streak before then. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have been core contributors to the problem so far, with only two goals between them so far this season.

19. Nashville Predators (16): Last week was an accurate representation of the Predators; good enough to beat average to bad teams, but a few steps below the league’s elite. Now watch as they break another winning streak at the deadline to keep them from selling.

20. New Jersey Devils (20): The Devils haven’t exactly been impressive lately, with only two wins in their last seven games. At least Dougie Hamilton is producing as expected.

21. Detroit Red Wings (22): With a nice stretch of games coming up and coming off back-to-back wins, the Red Wings have a chance to gain serious momentum this week. This team needs to start winning on the road, however; they have only won three times in 11 road games so far.

22. Philadelphia Flyers (17): The Flyers have started to unravel recently, losing six straight games, winning only two of their last ten games, and injuries beginning to make an impact. If Philadelphia wants to keep pace in a stacked Metropolitan Division, they’ll have to shake this off sooner rather than later.

23. Los Angeles Kings (19): The Kings have also struggled in recent times, losing five consecutive games before beating Ottawa (more on them later). The most notable thing for LA as of late? Brendan Lemieux’s Mike Tyson impression.

24. San Jose Sharks (26): The Sharks have done alright to stick around the playoff picture, and Timo Meier’s been playing arguably his best hockey this season. I still just can’t see a team this inconsistent as a playoff threat.

25. Seattle Kraken (31): A stretch against four of the top six teams in these rankings, and the Kraken managed to win three out of four? This is the kind of stretch that builds serious momentum.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (25): Good news: the Blackhawks have won six of their last nine games and Marc-Andre Fleury is starting to figure it out in Chicago. Bad news: only three Hawks have scored more than three times this season.

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): It was nice of the Sabres to fade before Thanksgiving this season. At least Tage Thompson is looking like a key piece of the seemingly eternal rebuild.

28. New York Islanders (24): Putting the Islanders on pause due to a COVID outbreak almost feels like an act of mercy. They’ve lost eight games in a row, UBS Arena has yet to see a home victory, and they are digging a hole that could eventually become too tough to climb out of.

29. Montreal Canadiens (29): Being fired mere months after making the Stanley Cup Finals is the last chapter of Marc Bergevin’s complicated legacy as Canadiens GM. With Jeff Gorton now at the helm and the season slipping away, expect a rebuild soon.

30. Arizona Coyotes (32): The Coyotes are still terrible, but the two teams that fell below them have somehow been even worse. At least Shayne Gostisbehere is helping himself out.

31. Vancouver Canucks (28): Elias Pettersson has been the poster child of Vancouver’s problems, scoring only one point in his last nine games and only ten throughout this season. Travis Green and Jim Benning seem like safe bets to be fired as apathy is setting in.

32. Ottawa Senators (30): Believe it or not, the Coyotes beat the Senators to the ten-point mark on the season (COVID’s only played a small part of the problem). Matt Murray going unclaimed on waivers has completed his own personal fall from grace.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 6 Edition

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Another week of the NHL season has come and gone.

For this week, the rankings will be a little bit special. Normally, I’d talk about each team’s week and why their play in that time reflects their new spot in the rankings. However, with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I figured it would be more appropriate to embrace the spirit of the holiday.

For these rankings, each team’s entry will list one thing they should be thankful for in this early part of the season. Granted, not every team has a lot to be thankful for at this point, but it’s still worth trying. Everyone needs at least some reason to celebrate.

So how does the NHL stack up this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded since November 21.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (1): The Hurricanes are thankful for their offseason decisions turning out correct. With the exception of Jesperi Kotkaniemi (which was more of trolling Montreal for the Sebastian Aho offer sheet business, anyway), Carolina has been rolling based off of the strong play of the likes of Frederik Andersen and Tony DeAngelo.

2. Edmonton Oilers (2): The Oilers are thankful that the offense has been as prolific as ever. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are leading a team loaded with scoring options, which is a good thing with a mid-tier defense that will be without its top player in Darnell Nurse for a little while.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (4): The Maple Leafs are thankful that the defense and goaltending are getting the job done when their offense can’t. While Toronto is sitting with a bottom-ten offense, they are currently giving up only 2.25 goals per game (only Calgary and Carolina have lower marks.)

4. Florida Panthers (6): While Sergei Bobrovsky is one reason, the Panthers are thankful that the hockey gods took mercy on Aleksander Barkov. While the Florida captain is still listed as week-to-week with a knee injury, this nasty knee-on-knee hit will not end his season.

5. Washington Capitals (8): The Capitals are thankful to John Scott for his less-than-flattering remarks towards Alex Ovechkin and the team before the season. So far this season, the Capitals are second in the Metropolitan Division, and Alex Ovechkin has passed Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull so far on the all-time goal scoring list.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (5): The Lightning are thankful that they have experience being without key players. Despite Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point being out long-term, the Lightning are 7-1-2 in their last ten games.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (7): The Golden Knights are thankful that this current group is holding the line with the injuries to star players. Whether it’s current players in expanded roles or rookies in their first NHL tours of duty, the Knights have been lucky to receive positive contributions to stay in the early playoff conversation.

8. Calgary Flames (15): The Flames are thankful that Jacob Markstrom has been Darryl Sutter’s latest great goaltender. Markstrom has been top-two in every major goaltending stat, only trailing Toronto’s Jack Campbell in GAA and save percentage and a league-leading five shutouts.

9. Minnesota Wild (3): The Wild are thankful that their offense has picked it up, currently tied for fourth with 3.5 goals per game. Unfortunately, it’s come at the price of having the sixth-worst defense in the league, which could come to haunt them sooner or later.

10. New York Rangers (12): The Rangers are thankful that Igor Shesterkin has been bailing out the defensive corps. Despite his team having some of the worst metrics at their own end, Shesterkin has put together a .931 save percentage, good for eighth in the league.

11. Boston Bruins (9): The Bruins are thankful that Jeremy Swayman has been at least somewhat productive in his rookie season. The only question is whether he’s done enough for the Bruins to not look at bringing back Tuukka Rask when the longtime Boston netminder is healthy.

13. Colorado Avalanche (13): The Avalanche are thankful that the offense has been thriving in their current situation. Despite being without Nathan MacKinnon and other players, the Avalanche are on a four-game winning streak with 24 goals scored in that stretch.

14. Anaheim Ducks (14): The Ducks are thankful that they have exceeded expectations, headlined by a sixth-ranked offense scoring 3.39 goals per game. The winning streak is broken, however, and Max Comtois’s injury could cause some complications.

15. St. Louis Blues (10): The Blues are thankful for the hot start they had to start the year. Despite winning only twice in the last eight games, the Blues are still managing to hang on to a playoff spot in the Central.

16. Nashville Predators (17): The Predators are thankful that Matt Duchene is living up to the massive contract he signed two years ago. Coming off a mediocre couple seasons in Nashville, Duchene is currently tied for fifth in the league with 12 goals.

17. Philadelphia Flyers (19): The Flyers are thankful that Carter Hart’s down year is looking like a mirage. After being statistically the worst goaltender in the NHL last season, Hart is currently top-ten in both GAA (ninth) and save percentage (seventh).

18. Pittsburgh Penguins (24): The Penguins are thankful that they have a little momentum to go off of. After an up-and-down start to the season, Pittsburgh managed to get shutout in back-to-back games.

19. Los Angeles Kings (16): The Kings are thankful that the defense hasn’t crumbled without Drew Doughty. Despite being the streakiest team in the league, the Kings at least are giving up the seventh-lowest goals per game with 2.56.

20. New Jersey Devils (21): The Devils are thankful that Dawson Mercer has stepped up in the absence of Jack Hughes to tie for the team lead in scoring. Meanwhile, hockey fans will be thankful if these leaked alternate jerseys remain just a leak.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (22): The Blue Jackets are thankful that this team is once again managing to overachieve on low expectations. Columbus is largely led by their tenth-ranked offense, headlined by Oliver Bjorkstrand’s 17 points in 15 games.

22. Detroit Red Wings (18): The Red Wings are thankful that things are going according to schedule. Losing five of their last six is certainly not good, but Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider will both be in the running for the Calder Trophy all season long.

23. Dallas Stars (23): The Stars are thankful that karma exists. A 7-2 blowout loss to Minnesota is one thing, but what Rick Bowness did to Riley Tufte in his hometown is something that’s just inexcusable.

24. New York Islanders (20): The Islanders are thankful that UBS Arena looks nice. The bad news is that their first two games in their new home are the latest two of a six-game losing streak, were outscored 27-6 and shut out twice in that span, and have lost a top defenseman in Ryan Pulock to injury.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (25): The Blackhawks are thankful that Derek King has started to right the ship. King has gotten off to a 5-1 start since taking over for Jeremy Colliton, with Marc-Andre Fleury appearing to be the biggest beneficiary of the move (four straight appearances with two or less goals against).

26. San Jose Sharks (26): The Sharks are thankful that at least one of their goaltenders seems to be viable. While Adin Hill has struggled (.890 save percentage and 3.11 GAA), James Reimer has at least been good to start the year (.938/1.98).

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): The Sabres are thankful that the Jack Eichel saga is finally over. They likely aren’t close to a playoff team yet, but at least they now have something concrete to work their rebuild around.

28. Vancouver Canucks (28): The Canucks are thankful that Thatcher Demko has made them better than they are. There isn’t anything else positive to take away right now, starting with a league-worst 62.3% penalty kill.

29. Montreal Canadiens (30): The Canadiens are thankful that Nick Suzuki is at least doing something. Meanwhile, their other promising young forward in Cole Caufield might be better off in the AHL this season with how dreadful the team has been overall.

30. Ottawa Senators (31): The Senators are thankful that they can put this latest COVID scare behind them. Has the slow start already buried them, though?

31. Seattle Kraken (29): The Kraken are thankful that…well, they have a team. Their 2-8 record in the last ten and season-long poor goaltending is proof that Vegas was the exception to the expansion team rule.

32. Arizona Coyotes (32): The Coyotes are thankful that they’re at least looking viable. A week where they picked up seven of eight points wasn’t quite enough to take them out of the bottom slot, but at least the comparisons to the expansion Capitals have stopped.

NHL Power Rankings: Week 5 Edition

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It’s hard to believe that we’re quickly approaching the quarter mark of the 2021-22 NHL season, but here we are.

While (spoiler alert) the Carolina Hurricanes have reclaimed their top spot in the rankings, no team has gone on a roll quite like the Anaheim Ducks have. At the start of the season, the Ducks were widely considered a competitor in the Shane Wright sweepstakes, with the closest thing to in-season intrigue they were presumed to have being who would be sold off at the trade deadline. Instead, they have rattled off seven wins in a row, but they haven’t done it on the back of John Gibson. The offense has finally found its legs, with Troy Terry emerging as a legitimate star. While it’s not certain if the Ducks or any of the early-season surprises, for that matter, can keep this run of form going, but those storylines are what make the NHL so exciting year after year.

Of course, not all surprises are of the good variety. The Florida Panthers followed up a dramatic victory over Carolina with a winless week, the Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to show how important their injured players truly are, and the Vancouver Canucks have gone through one of the ugliest stretches of the season. Then there’s the Arizona Coyotes, who are worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. The Coyotes, at the moment, have won one game and earned just 10% of their possible points this season. To put it in perspective, the expansion 1974-75 Washington Capitals won eight games and earned 13.1% of possible points. Fifteen games is obviously too soon to say the Coyotes are that bad, but the fact they haven’t even looked remotely close to competitive has them rubbing elbows with some of the worst teams in NHL history.

So how does the NHL stack up this time?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based on games played and stats recorded as of November 15.

1. Carolina Hurricanes (2): The best record, best goal differential, and even their more controversial offseason deals in Frederik Andersen and Tony DeAngelo are paying massive dividends so far. Even in a stacked Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes have a good chance to claw their way to Cup contention.

2. Edmonton Oilers (3): I can’t say I trust the Oilers one hundred percent, as losses to Detroit and Buffalo indicate more help is needed on defense and in net. Still, with Leon Draisaitl averaging over two points per game and Connor McDavid scoring at a similar rate, there isn’t a more exciting team to watch.

3. Minnesota Wild (4): November has been kind to the Wild so far, as they’ve won all but one game as they continue to stake their claim as a dark horse Cup contender. What’s scary is they’ve managed to have all of this success with mediocre to subpar goaltending and Kirill Kaprizov not yet finding consistent offense.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (8): A 2-4-1 start had Toronto fans clamoring for the panic button. Winning eight of their last nine on the back of their superstar forwards and Jack Campbell has eased such fears, at least for now.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (7): In the absence of Nikita Kucherov yet again, Steven Stamkos has been relied upon to put up the offensive numbers for the Lightning. I’d say that a 5-0-2 record in their last seven games shows how successful that strategy has been.

6. Florida Panthers (1): The sooner the Panthers break out of this rough patch, the better off they’ll be. The last thing they need is for the “Joel Quenneville made them good” rumors to start swirling around any longer than they have.

7. Vegas Golden Knights (12): Don’t look now, but the Knights have gone 8-2 in their last ten games, Chandler Stephenson has been playing lights-out to counteract the wave of injuries, and captain Mark Stone is back. Tuesday’s game against Carolina could determine if Vegas has turned the corner on this season.

8. Washington Capitals (15): Alex Ovechkin passed Brett Hull for fourth on the all-time goal-scoring list with goal number 472. Next on the list: Jaromir Jagr, who sits 24 goals away from the Great 8.

9. Boston Bruins (9): The Perfection Line is starting to get rolling, which is bad news for any team facing Boston. What has been surprising has been the emergence of Jeremy Swayman, who has thoroughly outproduced Linus Ullmark thus far (.914 save percentage and 2.16 GAA for Swayman, compared to Ullmark’s .903/3.01 line).

10. St. Louis Blues (5): A one-win week for the Blues is a step back, and the analytics did expect results like this after St. Louis’s unbelievable start to the season. At least Pavel Buchnevich has started to come alive in the month of November, though.

11. Winnipeg Jets (14): The rhetoric towards Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois has gone on all season long, but what about the defense? Stalwarts like Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk are off to solid starts, but Nate Schmidt has looked more like the defenseman we saw in Vegas than last year’s version in Vancouver.

12. New York Rangers (13): The Rangers had a great week, but there is cause for concern with the Blueshirts. They have been bailed out by the play of their superstars and goaltender, and the underlying numbers suggest a substantial regression is coming.

13. Colorado Avalanche (17): A similar arc to Vegas: Stanley Cup contender suffering from injuries to star players and a slow start, but starting to find its form as the calendar changes months. Watch out.

14. Anaheim Ducks (21): Even with GM Bob Murray resigning from the team, the Ducks have still managed to continue their early success. Now the question is this: is this an early-season apparition, or the emergence of an underrated squad?

15. Calgary Flames (6): Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar have been one of the best goaltending tandems to start the season, but recent results have shown an overreliance on the Flames’ netminders. A .500 record in November with a middle-of-the-road offense is proving that Calgary needs more to sustain their hot start.

16. Los Angeles Kings (20): Who had Jonathan Quick re-emerging as a number one netminder on their 2021-22 season bingo cards? In the month of November, he has lead all goaltenders with at least three starts with a .97 GAA.

17. Nashville Predators (23): The Predators’ offense has Nashville rolling with an 8-1-1 record in their last ten, and Matt Duchene has been a pivotal part of the early success. The much-maligned forward has finally started living up to his contract this season, scoring eight goals in his last nine games.

18. Detroit Red Wings (19): Tyler Bertuzzi and Detroit’s dazzling rookie duo are in the spotlight in Hockeytown, but Vladislav Namestnikov has been playing his part superbly. His 29.2% shooting percentage certainly isn’t sustainable, but his career high of 22 goals in 2017-18 is within reach.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (10): The Flyers’ bouts with inconsistency have carried on, at least for this week. Hopefully, getting Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis back helps them out in that regard.

20. New York Islanders (11): It’s been typical Islanders hockey this season: sixth-best defense in the league, sixth-worst offense. At least we’ll finally get to see UBS Arena this weekend.

21. New Jersey Devils (22): The Devils have gotten solid contributions from the likes of Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, and another talented rookie in Dawson Mercer. Imagine if the team can keep this up when Jack Hughes and Dougie Hamilton get healthy.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (16): I get the Blue Jackets are shopping Joonas Korpisalo and trying to give him every chance to boost his trade value, but this experiment is only hurting the team. Korpisalo has been an unimpressive 2-3-0 with a .897 save percentage and 3.56 GAA, compared to Elvis Merzlikins’s 5-2-0 record and .929/2.42 stat line.

23. Dallas Stars (26): They finally got their first regulation win against Philadelphia this week, but a 2.38 goals per game mark (fourth-worst in the league) isn’t going to cut it. A lot of Dallas’s big offensive weapons are off to slow starts, something that has to change if the Stars want to go anywhere.

24. Pittsburgh Penguins (18): The Penguins have struggled massively with their stars being out, highlighted by a 6-1 pasting at the hands of their rival Washington and a league-worst power play that’s two percentage points behind the next-lowest mark. At least Sidney Crosby was kind enough to give a physical demonstration of Pittsburgh’s frustration.

25. Chicago Blackhawks (30): No one’s going to mistake Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Arizona as the shining stars of the league, but Chicago’s three-game winning streak still has to feel good. Bottom-five marks in all phases of play still have the Blackhawks behind the eight ball, so interim coach Derek King will be pressed to continue his good first impression.

26. San Jose Sharks (25): Logan Couture and James Reimer have been bright spots thus far, and the Sharks are getting a lot of guys back from COVID protocol. Still, this is a team that has only won three of their last ten, and several key defenders (Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Radim Simek, in particular) have been struggling.

27. Buffalo Sabres (27): The Sabres have only won once in their last seven games, and have let go of less than four goals twice in that span. They’ve regressed quickly, but at least the divisional rivals below them seem content on staying in the basement of the Atlantic for a while.

28. Vancouver Canucks (24): 22 goals against the Canucks this week, including back-to-back games where they let go of seven, have highlighted how bad the defense has been this season. Travis Green and Jim Benning will have to move quickly if they want to have jobs in the new year.

29. Seattle Kraken (28): Is it safe to call Philipp Grubauer the biggest disappointment thus far this season? Signed by the Kraken to be their version of Marc-Andre Fleury, Grubauer has responded with a -9.53 goals saved above average mark, which is four goals worse than the next-lowest goalie.

30. Montreal Canadiens (31): Nick Suzuki has been the only player worth anything in Montreal this season. The decision to place Philip Danault and even Jesperi Kotkaniemi with Christian Dvorak has backfired dramatically, with Dvorak scoring only one goal (five points) and a second-worst -17 mark.

31. Ottawa Senators (29): At least the Senators had a high note in their last game against Pittsburgh. COVID ravaging their roster will see Ottawa on a bye week.

32. Arizona Coyotes (32): …The NHL expects fans in Tempe to watch this? Was cruel and unusual punishment allowable now?

NHL Power Rankings: Week 4 Edition

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The first month of the NHL season is officially over, and things got interesting really quick this week.

I don’t think I need to tell you about the major story regarding Jack Eichel’s trade to the Vegas Golden Knights. I’ve already made a post that documents my thoughts on the subject, and you can read it here. As for the rest of the league, the first clash between the top two teams in the rankings occurred, with the Florida Panthers besting the Carolina Hurricanes to end their pipedreams of an 82-0 season. The two have been deadlocked in the top two spots for the last couple weeks, but a win like this only further legitimizes the Panthers, especially with this win coming in the wake of Joel Quenneville resigning for his role in the Brad Aldrich scandal.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to round into form as their quartet of star forwards ramped up their production, while a pair of rebuilding California teams suddenly have momentum to build off of. It hasn’t been all good news, however, as the Buffalo Sabres are starting to crash back to reality, and the first NHL coach has been fired to kick off the coaching carousel early.

So, how does the NHL stack up this time around?

Disclaimer: these rankings are based off of games played and stats recorded from November 7.

1. Florida Panthers (2): Including their big victory over the Hurricanes, the Panthers have not lost in regulation so far this season and have collected all but one possible point out of 22. The hype isn’t just real; this team may be even better than anyone could have imagined.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (1): A disappointing result against Florida, and the schedule doesn’t get much easier in the near future. I imagine their latest stint at the top of the rankings won’t be their last, though.

3. Edmonton Oilers (3): I’m not quite as sold on the Oilers as I am on the two teams in front of them, but they’ve been getting plenty of contributions to pair with their two stars in McDavid and Draisaitl. Also, kudos to the former for ending the Goal of the Year race early.

4. Minnesota Wild (16): The Wild are the big risers in the rankings this week, in large part to Kirill Kaprizov starting to find his scoring touch with a pair of goals. The comeback victories show that this Wild group has heart, but I’d like to see them put up some dominant wins before I label them a legitimate contender.

5. St. Louis Blues (4): The Blues have played well to start the year, but an unlucky West Coast trip saw them lose games to Anaheim and Los Angeles that they probably should have won. They’re passing the eye test and the statistics look great, but advanced metrics still aren’t as convinced on the Blues’ successful first month.

6. Calgary Flames (5): Another unlucky team this week, losing back-to-back overtime games against Nashville and Dallas that would have ended in victories most nights. So long as Jacob Markstrom remains a shutout machine (four in nine starts), Calgary will be up this far for at least a little while longer.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (8): The Lightning seem to have finally found their game, picking up five of six points this week and showing that they can still score with the best of them. Good thing too; their opponents this week are the Hurricanes and Panthers.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (18): A five-game winning streak is the perfect tonic for a fanbase that was calling for blood after a slow start. How good are the Leafs really, and can stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner finally get it done when it truly matters?

9. Boston Bruins (9): The Perfection Line hasn’t been perfect as of late, but the metrics suggest that the Bruins are in line for some positive regression on offense. Here’s hoping Patrice Bergeron’s four-goal game against Detroit was the beginning.

10. Philadelphia Flyers (15): The Flyers were already breathing a sigh of relief with Carter Hart bouncing back after a terrible 2020-21 season. Even more shocking, however, has been the revival of Martin Jones, who currently sports a .950 save percentage after three straight sub-.900 seasons in San Jose.

11. New York Islanders (11): The defense has been unsurprisingly superb, leading the league for fewest goals against once again. Semyon Varlamov coming back should help, but Ilya Sorokin’s play gives the Islanders time to let the veteran netminder get fully healthy.

12. Vegas Golden Knights (14): Robin Lehner has started to emerge as a legit number one netminder after an up-and down start, and he was easily the best player on a road trip where Vegas went .500. There will be questions about the makeup of this team when everyone (including Eichel) is healthy, but they have the potential to skyrocket up the rankings as long as this current group holds the line.

13. New York Rangers (6): Alberta was not kind to the Rangers, as they had five players baptized on McDavid’s insane goal in Edmonton before getting stomped by Calgary. Igor Shesterkin and Adam Fox have been great, but it’s been an incredibly inconsistent season for the Rangers in the early going.

14. Winnipeg Jets (13): Kyle Connor has led the charge for Winnipeg’s fast start, but they are another team that analytics have primed for a regression. What they need is for Connor Hellebuyck to shake off the inconsistent start and turn back into the Vezina-caliber netminder we’ve come to know.

15. Washington Capitals (7): Three of Washington’s losses this week came in one-goal games, and the Capitals have lost all four of their overtime games so far. Alex Ovechkin’s doing his best, but the injuries to Washington’s top six are starting to take their toll.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets (19): The bad news is that Patrik Laine will be out for a little while, which is unfortunate given his re-emergence as a top offensive player. The good news is that Columbus beat Colorado twice, Elvis Merzlikins has still been fantastic, and rookie Cole Sillinger looks like a legitimate building block for Brad Larsen.

17. Colorado Avalanche (10): I’m starting to get mildly concerned about the Avalanche this season. Injuries have played a part of it, but relatively poor goaltending and inconsistent offensive play are not helping Jared Bednar’s hot seat get any cooler.

18. Pittsburgh Penguins (12): The Penguins started strong, but the injuries and COVID issues are starting to pile up. They’ve gone 1-3-1 in their last five, and a stacked Metropolitan Division isn’t going to make a climb back up the standings any easier.

19. Detroit Red Wings (20): Tyler Bertuzzi has continued to produce, while Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider might just be one and two in the Calder Trophy conversation. I’d be surprised if this is a playoff team at the end of the season, but the Yzerplan is finally starting to come together.

20. Los Angeles Kings (28): Despite losing Drew Doughty and Sean Walker long-term, the Kings have fired off four straight wins. Anze Kopitar’s continued to produce up front, but who thought Jonathan Quick would turn back the clock to 2011 for a stretch?

21. Anaheim Ducks (29): Similar to their rivals in LA, the Ducks are on a four-game winning streak. Troy Terry has finally emerged as a piece of Anaheim’s short and long-term future, riding an 11-game point streak.

22. New Jersey Devils (17): Being without Jack Hughes and now Dougie Hamilton can only hurt the Devils at this point. The metrics at least are on their side, so they have some room for growth when their two stars come back healthy.

23. Nashville Predators (22): Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have finally been producing at a level that’s at least close to worthy of their massive contracts. Despite the winning week, however, I’m still not convinced about the Predators being a serious playoff threat.

24. Vancouver Canucks (27): Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have both started off strong in their first season in Vancouver, J.T. Miller continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league, and Thatcher Demko is starting to play up to his potential. With all that said, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser need to start producing if Vancouver wants to vault up the rankings.

25. San Jose Sharks (24): Since winning their first four games, the Sharks have gone 2-4-1. Don’t let the overall record fool you; this is still a bad team.

26. Dallas Stars (25): In an unsurprising turn of events, the Stars have still struggled to put up goals. Until the offense finally gets something going on that end of the ice, it’s impossible to truly take Dallas seriously.

27. Buffalo Sabres (21): Copy-paste the Sharks segment, except the Sabres have gone 2-4-2 since winning their first three. The foolish optimism was fun while it lasted.

28. Seattle Kraken (23): It was a week of lows for the Kraken, as they gave the Coyotes their first win this season and sank below Vegas in terms of power-play production. In case you forgot, this is what is common for an expansion team.

29. Ottawa Senators (26): The Senators went winless in their last four games, letting go of at least five goals in each one. Is this really a great time to put your statistically-best goaltender back in the minors (do I even have to say his name?)

30. Chicago Blackhawks (32): The on-ice product is still terrible, and Jeremy Colliton just became the latest casualty of the Blackhawks’ disappointing start. If things don’t pick up soon, the roster could look a lot different come March.

31. Montreal Canadiens (30): Welcome back to the NHL, Carey Price. Enjoy the dumpster fire your team has become.

32. Arizona Coyotes (32): Andre Tourigny finally has his first NHL win. He won’t get many more by the time this season is done.