NHL Power Rankings: Observations, overreactions and everything in between for all 32 teams after the first two weeks
We are almost through the October portion of the NHL schedule and who would have thought that the Stars would be one of the best teams, the Lightning would be under .500 and the Canucks wouldn’t have a win yet?
It’s been an intriguing start to the season, as some clubs that were expected to perform well have struggled to start, and teams that were predicted to be playing for the lottery are winning contests left and right. Of course, it is still super early in the season, as no team has even played 10 games yet, but there are still interesting storylines to follow.
With the NHL season more than two weeks under way, The Sporting News gives one overreaction to every team in this edition of the power rankings. Some of the overreactions are serious, while others are more lighthearted and should be taken extra caution.
Here is a look at the Sporting News’ NHL power rankings through Oct. 25.
NHL Power Rankings
1. Boston Bruins
Bruins don’t need Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy
The biggest question for the Bruins heading into the season was how would the team do to start with no Marchand or McAvoy. Well, the Bruins are 6-1-0 and have shown exceptional depth scoring to start, something that has been the team’s Achilles heel for the last couple of years. Boston is only going to get better once Marchand and McAvoy are back and healthy.
2. Calgary Flames
Flames don’t miss Johnny Gaudreau or Matthew Tkachuk
It’s easy to see why the Flames were confident they could bounce back after losing two 100-point scorers from last year. The team has come out flying to start the season, with new additions Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar all producing right away, with Kadri leading the team with nine points so far. Sure, Gaudreau and Tkachuk would be nice to have, but right now, the Flames are better off without them.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
Logan Thompson is the Calder frontrunner
Goaltending was the biggest question for Vegas entering the season with Robin Lehner out for the year. Well, it’s still early, but Thompson appears to have the crease locked up. The 25-year-old is 3-2-0 with a 2.03 GAA and .931 SV% so far to start the season. While other rookies like Calen Addison and Shane Pinto have impressed early, Thompson’s stellar play has been critical to the Golden Knights’ early success.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby hits 100 points this season
The Pittsburgh offense is off to an insane start to the season, averaging over five goals per game as the team has scored six times in four of the first five contests. Leading the way is Crosby, who has 10 points so far. He hasn’t hit 100 points since the 2018-19 season, but a fully healthy Crosby this year should be able to do it again, which would be for the seventh time in his career.
5. Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger will win the Vezina
Dallas has consistently relied on its goaltending and defense to win games, and that appears to be no different this season. The Stars have the lowest GAA in the league so far at 1.60 and Oettinger has carried the brunt of that so far. The 23-year-old is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 GAA and .953 SV%, carrying over all of the momentum from his stellar play in the 2022 playoffs.
6. Florida Panthers
Panthers are screwed on the blue line without Aaron Ekblad
When Florida acquired Matthew Tkachuk from the Flames, it cost them not only Jonathan Huberdeau but also MacKenzie Weegar. Without Weegar, there were questions surrounding the Panthers’ blue line, and those concerns are now amplified with Ekblad sidelined. Florida may have one of the worst defensive personnel groups, which is tough for a team viewed as a contender.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
Andrei Svechnikov scores 40 goals this season
The Hurricanes have been looking for that go-to goal scorer for quite some time now. Svechnikov is showing that it’s him. The young forward is up to six goals through five games on the season and while he’s on pace for more than 82 goals this season, let’s tone down the expectations and shoot for 40, an accomplishment that has not been achieved by a Carolina player since Eric Staal in 2008-09.
8. Colorado Avalanche
Valeri Nichushkin will finish top-three in power-play goals
Colorado made a big-time commitment to Nichushkin in the offseason, re-signing the winger on an eight-year, $49 million deal. So far, he’s been worth every penny and more for the Avs, with seven goals and 12 points in seven games. He is tied for the league lead with five power-play goals already. With all of the talent around here in Denver, all Nichushkin needs to do is get to the front of the net to clean up rebounds and deflect shots, and there’s a good chance he’ll rack up a ton of PPGs.
9. Detroit Red Wings
Never doubt the Yzer-plan
It was only a matter of time before Detroit lost in regulation, but it took six games to do so. The Red Wings had a ton of personnel turnover this summer, but the changes have been working so far. Dominik Kubalik leads the team in points, David Perron is first in goals, and Olli Maatta and Ben Chiarot have fit in seamlessly on the blue line. Steve Yzerman has done it again.
10. St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington is back to being elite
St. Louis made a definitive choice in net this summer, electing to keep Binnington and ride with the goalie who brought the city a Stanley Cup in 2019 while sending Ville Husso to Detroit. It’s paid off in the early goings, as Binnington is 3-0-0, allowing just five goals through three games and posting a .940 SV%. This is the goalie that helped lift the Blues to a Cup and the one that St. Louis needs.
11. Buffalo Sabres
Dahlin’s breakout year is finally here
When Dahlin was selected with the No. 1 pick in 2018, heavy expectations were put on his shoulders. While the Swede hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t produced like the player he was touted to be. Well, patience is a virtue, as the Sabres defenseman has five goals and eight points through five games. This is the best team that Dahlin has had around him, so it’s not shocking to see he is finally getting on the score sheet at a high rate.
12. Ottawa Senators
The defense isn’t as big of an issue as expected
It was the summer of Pierre in Ottawa, as GM Pierre Dorion brought in key acquisitions to help the team take its final step out of the rebuild. The major concern was the blue line, as the Senators didn’t make a big splash on defense, however, it has held up just fine so far. Ottawa is allowing three goals per game, which isn’t a horrible rate, but when the offense is scoring over four goals a game, you can afford to get away with a bit on the back end. It’s not a long-term recipe for success, but it’s working for now.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs have a No. 1 goalie in Ilya Samsonov
To start the season, Toronto was expected to split the crease duties between Samsonov and Matt Murray, but a groin injury has limited the latter to just one start so far and Samsonov is running away in the goalie battle. He is 4-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .932 SV% to kick off the year. Granted, Samsonov had a strong beginning of the season last year before he fell off, but for now, it’s the Russian’s net to lose.
14. New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt will be extended before the new year
For some reason, the Devils elected to not give Bratt a long-term extension to stay in New Jersey. Instead, he was given a one-year deal worth $5.45 million before the two sides hit arbitration. Bratt has responded with 10 points through the first seven games of the season, proving that his breakout year in 2021-22 was no fluke. He’s exactly the kind of player that the Devils need in order to become contenders again, and GM Tom Fitzgerald should lock Bratt in before his price goes through the roof.
15. New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin wins the Art Ross
Panarin has always been a high point producer, yet the dangerous duo out in Edmonton always seems to lead the league in points. Not this season. This year, the Rangers winger is off to a flaming hot start, as his 12 points are tied for first in the NHL. New York is going to be a top team in the East, and Panarin is going to finish at the top of the table in points this season.
16. Washington Capitals
Dylan Strome is the perfect replacement for Nicklas Backstrom
OK, perfect is a strong word. Strome is by no means the same player or passer that Backstrom is, but while the veteran center is sidelined for the time being, Strome has been an excellent addition down the middle. He is tied with Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson for the team lead in points and is tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov for the lead in assists. Washington got Strome for a steal in free agency and it’s paying off nicely.
17. Philadelphia Flyers
John Tortorella will win the Jack Adams
It’s been only six games and the Flyers could still end up as a lottery team, but Philadelphia has been a tough out so far and has earned wins in four out of their first six games. A good portion of that credit should go to Tortorella, who has brought in a fresh, honest perspective to the organization. The Flyers don’t have a lot of talent, but that hasn’t stopped a Torts-led team from being a hard club to play against in the past, and that won’t change this season.
18. Chicago Blackhawks
Alex Stalock is the Blackhawks’ top goalie
Chicago overhauled the goalie position last year, taking on Petr Mrazek’s contract and signing Stalock. While Mrazek was expected to be the starter, it looks like it’s Stalock’s crease for now. The 35-year-old is 3-1-0 with a 2.09 GAA and .928 SV%, seeing starts in the last three games. Stalock’s past history doesn’t give faith that he can keep up this pace, but he’s the No. 1 goalie in Chicago for now.
19. Edmonton Oilers
The Jack Campbell signing will only look worse as the season goes on
Edmonton needed a change in net from last season, so the club signed Campbell to a five-year, $25 million deal. The hope was he would come in and finally be the No. 1 goalie that Connor McDavid and Co. have been looking for. Through five games, it doesn’t appear Campbell is the solution as he owns a 3-2-0 record with a 2.62 GAA and .895 SV%. along with a -1.8 goals saved above expected. The signing was a gamble, considering Campbell’s small sample size of succeeding as a starter, and the Oilers are seeing that risk early.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning
This year is the end of the Lightning dynasty
No one has been as dominant over the last few seasons as the Lightning have, resulting in three consecutive finals appearances and two Stanley Cups. The magic has finally worn off. The defending Eastern Conference champions have not impressed early on in the season and with other teams improving in the East, it feels like this is the year that Tampa Bay’s run of terrorizing the league ends.
21. Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield scores 40 goals this season
They don’t call him Goal Caufield for nothing. The shining youngster for the Habs is up to five goals in seven games to kick off the campaign. He has turned into a lethal scorer underneath Martin St. Louis, who has given Caufield more freedom and ice time. The talented sniper is not going to get a ton of help from his teammates in the scoring department, so he’ll be the go-to scorer on the club.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets
Blue Jackets have a major goaltending problem
Columbus wasn’t expected to be a top team this season, however, with the way the club’s goaltenders are performing, the team is going to finish a lot lower in the standings. Elvis Merzlikins and Daniil Tarasov have both stumbled out of the gate. Merzlikins is 2-2-0 with a 4.06 GAA and .863 SV%, while Tarasov is 1-3-0 with a 3.91 GAA and .888 SV%.
23. Seattle Kraken
Shane Wright will be sent back to Kingston soon
Maybe the Canadiens were right all along. After the Habs passed on the longtime consensus No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, the Kraken selected Wright at No. 4. It’s been tough sledding so far for the rookie, who has one point through five games and is averaging 6:50 time on ice. Playing limited minutes in a fourth-line role is no way for a player of his caliber to develop, so if Dave Hakstol isn’t going to use him at the NHL level, he’s better off playing top minutes back in the CHL and saving a year on his entry-level contract.
24. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings don’t have a No. 1 goalie
One of the reasons why the Kings made the playoffs last season was their ability to use both Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick in net. With two goalies going strong, it gives you the ability to either split or ride the hot hand. Which works great, until neither is performing well and you’re left with the situation Los Angeles finds itself in now. Quick is 1-3-0 with a 3.94 GAA and .889 SV% while Petersen owns a 2-1-0 record with an unsightly 4.97 GAA and .842 SV%. The Kings may have a real goaltending problem soon if neither steps up.
25. New York Islanders
This will be Lou Lamoriello’s last season as GM of the Islanders
Lamoriello made a statement this summer by having a very quiet offseason, sending a message to the current roster that he believes they can win with what they have. However, the Islanders are off to another slow start to the year, dropping four of their first six contests. If Lamoriello’s all-in gamble doesn’t result in a playoff berth, he should be out of Long Island.
26. Nashville Predators
Predators need to play all of their games in Europe
Nashville could not have asked for a better start to the season, collecting two wins against the Sharks while participating in the 2022 NHL Global Series in Prague. Since those two contests in the Czech Republic, the Predators haven’t won, as the team has dropped five in a row. Maybe there’s a chance the Preds can ask and take either the Avs’ or the Blue Jackets’ spot in the upcoming Global Series games in Finland.
27. Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck sets a new career-high in starts
Hellebuyck has always been a workhorse. He started in 66 games last season, only trailing Juuse Saros for the most in the NHL. It hasn’t mattered who his backup has been, he is always going to get a good portion of the starts, but with David Rittich now No. 2 in Winnipeg, Hellebuyck will be called upon more than he has ever been in his career. Rittich has never had impressive numbers and only started 12 games last season as the backup to, guess who, Saros in Nashville.
28. Minnesota Wild
Father Time has arrived for Marc-Andre Fleury
One of the biggest surprises so far has been the horrid start for the Wild. It’s not just that the team is 2-3-1; they have allowed 4.67 goals per game. Fleury has been far from stellar, as he owns a 4.30 GAA, a .869 SV% and already has been pulled from two games. The 37-year-old wasn’t good either last season with the Wild and Blackhawks. It appears as though his prime is behind him, which is not good news for the Wild.
29. San Jose Sharks
Sharks finally fully commit to a rebuild
San Jose has been in this weird limbo stage for a few seasons now, where the team has a lot of money tied up to underperforming veterans and as a result, the direction of the franchise is unknown. The previous leadership group under Doug Wilson wouldn’t commit to a rebuild, but new GM Mike Grier should, especially with the Sharks looking to be more in play for Connor Bedard than expected.
30. Anaheim Ducks
Ducks won’t get as much for John Klingberg as expected
When the Ducks signed Klingberg to a one-year deal this offseason, the thought process was clear — bring him in to play top minutes, run the power play and eventually trade him at the deadline for assets. While Klingberg hasn’t driven up his value by any means, with just two assists through six games. At one point in time, Klingberg would surely have netted Anaheim a first-round pick and more in a trade, but his production has dropped significantly over the years and Ducks GM Pat Verbeek may not get much at the deadline for the blue liner.
31. Arizona Coyotes
Coyotes will finish with the most goals allowed
The Coyotes are exactly where they were expected to be — near the bottom. Despite a stunning win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto, the Coyotes have dropped their other four contests. The team’s 4.83 goals allowed per game ranks dead last in the league, as Arizona has given up six goals in all four of its losses.
32. Vancouver Canucks
Major changes are coming to Vancouver
There’s only one team in the league without a win and that’s the Canucks. After kicking off the year with multi-goal leads blown in each of the first four games, we now have fans throwing jerseys and the front office talking about a potential rebuild. It feels like only a matter of time before something shifts in Vancouver.