NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Entering Training Camp
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
It’s not exactly New Year’s Eve.
But it’s close.
Excitement and anticipation are palpable in the cities of the NHL’s 32 teams—or at least in most of them—as the league counts down into mid-September and training camps begin to open.
Preseason games will commence Sept. 25, and the slate of 1,312 regular-season games will begin with faceoffs in Tampa Bay and Las Vegas on Oct. 12.
Not surprisingly, zeal for the imminent arrival of sticks and pucks has spread to the B/R hockey writing types, who got together again to cast ballots for the preseason’s inaugural power rankings.
It’s the first time around in a 32-team format thanks to the arrival of the Seattle Kraken, as they and 30 others try to wrest the Stanley Cup away from the two-time defending champion Lightning.
Click through to see where your favorite squad wound up on the eve of full-on preparation for the season, and feel free to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments section.
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Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
32. Buffalo Sabres
Need a respite from Jack Eichel talk? OK. Here’s a note. The Sabres will welcome the first goalie to wear No. 30—free-agent signee Aaron Dell—since former franchise cornerstone Ryan Miller was traded in 2014. The move hasn’t been received well by some. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Sabres are reassessing interest in Eichel.
31. Seattle Kraken
The Kraken made a pre-camp acquisition when they signed journeyman winger Ryan Donato to a one-year, $750,000 deal after he’d been left unprotected and was not extended a qualifying offer by the San Jose Sharks as a restricted free agent. He scored 14 goals in 2019-20 and is set for a bottom-six role.
30. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes solidified their coaching staff with the hiring of 46-year-old former Colorado Avalanche assistant Mario Duhamel, who served with new Arizona coach Andre Tourigny during Tourigny’s days in junior. He joins returning assistants Phil Housley and Cory Stillman, as well as goaltending coach Corey Schwab.
29. Ottawa Senators
A report by the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch suggests the Senators are going all-in on 21-year-old winger Brady Tkachuk with an eight-year offer worth $64 million. Tkachuk has scored 60 goals in three seasons with Ottawa since he was chosen fourth overall in the 2018 entry draft. He finished a three-year, $10.275 million deal in 2020-21.
28. Anaheim Ducks
It’s the dawn of the Trevor Zegras era in Anaheim, where the Ducks are hoping to regain altitude following a season in which they averaged just 2.21 goals per game and possessed the league’s worst power play. Zegras had 13 points in his first 24 NHL games alongside 21 points in 17 games in the AHL.
27. Detroit Red Wings
Heard about the rebuilding that general manager Steve Yzerman has done with the Red Wings? This could be a year where it translates to upward standings mobility. Detroit acquired two significant pieces this offseason in goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (from the Carolina Panthers) and defenseman Nick Leddy (from the New York Islanders).
26. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are on the verge of entering the final season of a four-year contract forward/alternate captain Tomas Hertl signed in 2018 that was worth $22.5 million. He has a three-team trade list built into the deal, and The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz discussed what it would cost to get him in a recent mailbag.
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25. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets made a staff switch after assistant Sylvain Lefebvre decided against receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and was let go, in connection with a league mandate that anyone working closely with hockey operations personnel be fully vaccinated. Steve McCarthy of the team’s AHL affiliate replaced him.
24. Vancouver Canucks
The arrival of rookie camp means the arrival of 20-year-old Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin, who played 35 regular-season and 16 more postseason games in the KHL in 2020-21 while recording 11 goals and 22 points. He was drafted 10th overall in 2019 and is considered the organization’s premier prospect.
23. Nashville Predators
To deal or not to deal? That’s the question facing GM David Poile, whose alternate captain/left wing Filip Forsberg is entering the final season of a six-year, $36 million deal struck in 2016. The team has moved out other big-ticket items recently, and Forsberg is Nashville’s leading scorer (372 points) since 2014-15.
22. Calgary Flames
What a difference a season makes, eh? As they began 2020-21, the Flames were optimistic after hauling in goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Chris Tanev as free agents. But the bloom was soon gone, and coach Geoff Ward lost his job. Darryl Sutter enters his first full year as coach after going 15-15-0.
21. New Jersey Devils
You can’t blame New Jersey fans for the optimistic feeling as training camp arrives, following a summer in which the Devils were major players in the free-agency market. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was the big fish with a seven-year, $63 million deal, and others included Jonathan Bernier and Tomas Tatar.
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20. Los Angeles Kings
There’s potential for a beginning and an end to an era in Los Angeles, where Calvin Petersen will make a play to become the Kings’ long-term goaltender as he wrests the job from veteran Jonathan Quick. Petersen is a free agent after this season and was 9-18-5 with a .911 save percentage in 2020-21.
19. Chicago Blackhawks
The job security of the head coach and the general manager is tied to the play of offseason acquisition Seth Jones, who was traded from Columbus and soon after signed an extension worth $9.5 million a season for eight years. The 26-year-old had 28 points in 56 games with the Blue Jackets last season.
18. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens watched some talent walk out the door in the offseason, but they will also welcome the additional offensive punch provided by free-agent signee Mike Hoffman (from the St. Louis Blues) and former Arizona Coyote Christian Dvorak, who arrived in a trade. Each scored 17 goals with his former team in 2020-21.
17. Philadelphia Flyers
The buzzword on Broad Street is improvement as the Flyers look to climb closer to the performances that had them slotted as the East’s No. 1 playoff seed in 2019-20. They responded to missing the playoffs last season with the arrivals of Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis and Keith Yandle to solidify the blue line.
16. New York Rangers
It’s been 32 years since Brian Leetch became the most recent Ranger to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, but 21-year-old winger Vitali Kravtsov is an under-the-radar candidate for 2021-22. He had 16 goals in the KHL last season before scoring twice in a 20-game stint with New York.
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David Becker/Associated Press
15. Pittsburgh Penguins
The fate of the Penguins, particularly if Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin miss time, will be largely determined by goaltender Tristan Jarry’s ability to rebound from a poor playoff. Jarry won 25 times in the regular season but had a .888 save percentage in the postseason and allowed 21 goals in six games.
14. Dallas Stars
It’ll be an adjustment for veteran defenseman Ryan Suter, who’ll debut with the Stars this season after spending the initial 16 seasons of his career in Nashville and Minnesota. The 36-year-old was bought out of the remainder of his deal with the Wild and signed a four-year, $14.6 million pact with Dallas in July.
13. St. Louis Blues
The Blues held on to one of their own at a deep discount, signing veteran forward Tyler Bozak to a one-year deal worth $750,000 as an unrestricted free agent. Now 35, he’s been in St. Louis since 2018, when he inked a three-year deal that paid $5 million annually. He’s scored 31 goals in 170 games with the team.
12. Edmonton Oilers
Following an active offseason in which he kept Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie and Mike Smith and brought in Duncan Keith, Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele, general manager Ken Holland is claiming “the time is now” for the Oilers to transition from a good team to an elite team. Edmonton was 11th overall in 2020-21.
11. Winnipeg Jets
The future seems uncertain when it comes to forward Andrew Copp. The 27-year-old has been with the organization since his fourth-round selection in 2013, but he only signed for one year and $3.64 million after playing out a two-year deal that paid $4.56 million. Copp scored 15 goals in 55 games last season.
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Seth Wenig/Associated Press
10. Washington Capitals
No one in the nation’s capital is seeking to turn the page on 2020-21 any more than forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had two stints on the COVID-19 protocol list and managed just 29 points in 41 games. He was scoreless in three playoff games, too, but has five NHL seasons of at least 19 goals.
9. Minnesota Wild
The opening of training camp is imminent and the reigning Calder Trophy winner, prolific forward Kirill Kaprizov, is still not under contract. Now 24, he had a cap hit of $925,000 last season in the second year of a two-year deal that had begun while he was still in Europe. He had 27 goals in 55 games in 2020-21.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
It was the summer of defensemen cashing big checks, and the Maple Leafs may pay the price as their stalwart blueliner Morgan Rielly enters the last season of a six-year deal paying him $30 million. Rielly is represented by the same agent who helped Dougie Hamilton get seven years and $63 million from the New Jersey Devils.
7. New York Islanders
The Islanders will open 2021-22 with 13 straight road games before they finally get to christen their new home facility, UBS Arena at Belmont Park, against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 20. The home opener was sold out within minutes, and its arrival ends a nearly 50-year run for the team at Nassau Coliseum.
6. Florida Panthers
Speaking of rookies primed to make an impact, look no further than goalie Spencer Knight, who went 4-0 in a call-up to end 2020-21 and split two starts in the playoffs. The 20-year-old will share net time with Sergei Bobrovsky. Finnish forward Anton Lundell, just 19, is also expected to see time in 2021-22.
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5. Boston Bruins
Veteran forward Craig Smith was a productive member of the Bruins’ second line with Taylor Hall and David Krejci late last season, and he’ll return on year two of a three-year contract worth $9.3 million. But he’ll have to pick up some slack left by Krejci’s return to his native Czech Republic this summer.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes won their division and won a round in the playoffs but still underwent a significant amount of offseason turnover. Dougie Hamilton was the biggest exit, but forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi arrives. from Montreal on an offer sheet, and Derek Stepan and Ethan Bear are in from Arizona and Edmonton, respectively.
3. Colorado Avalanche
The Avs will relocate from last season’s West Division back to a more familiar Central. Colorado will share space with St. Louis, Minnesota and Arizona once again, but the team will be reintroduced to legacy foes Dallas, Chicago, Nashville and Winnipeg once the season starts. The Avs are the Stanley Cup favorites for a reason.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
It’s been more than four years since the Flyers made forward Nolan Patrick the second pick in the 2017 draft, but the soon-to-be 23-year-old is still looking for a niche. He was dealt to Nashville and then flipped to Vegas in a flurry of July activity and is looking to add to the 70 points he’s scored in 197 NHL games.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The two-time champs are already just the second team to repeat in the salary-cap era, and they’ll chase even more history by trying to become the first back-to-back-to-back winners since the Islanders took their third of four straight 40 years ago in 1981-82. They’re a +700 option (bet $100 to win $700).
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
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