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NHL power rankings: Powerful Capitals overtake no. 1 spot, Panthers’ injuries plague club

Sportsnaut
Sportsnaut
 6 days ago

Now that the 2021-22 season is underway, it’s time for some updated NHL power rankings to get a sense of where teams really stand, based in large part on what we’ve seen so far and what transpired in free agency.

It has been quite a season start so far, with key injuries, signings and rookies making an impact early in the season. We’re getting looks at what teams’ strengths are, and what they’ll be working on as the season progresses.

Without further ado, here are Sportsnaut’s NHL power rankings as we look ahead to the 2021-22 campaign.

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NHL power rankings: Ovechkin leads the Capitals

1. Washington Capitals (Previous Ranking: 3)

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Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Caps are powering through the early part of the season, finally finding themselves at the top of the NHL power rankings. They’ve gone 8-1-1 in their last ten and won their last three straight, led by their powerhouse captain Alex Ovechkin. He’s second in the league in points with 37 (behind Leon Draisaitl), and the entire club is benefiting from his chasing Gretzky’s record–as evidenced by their +26 goal differential. Evgeni Kuznetsov has 27 points in 22 contests, rebounding from last season’s disappointing campaign. Even with mediocre special teams numbers (read: an 18.8% power play efficiency), they’re finding ways to win.

The Capitals are sticking true to form, sitting near the top of the Metropolitan division, proving that they still are a force to be reckoned with.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Capitals, check out #ALLCAPS rumors, rankings, and news here .

2. Carolina Hurricanes (Previous Ranking: 1)

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Canes were edged out of the top spot in the NHL power rankings, as they’ve gone 6-3-1 in their last ten games. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Still, they have a +23 goal differential and boast a 15-4-1 record. They’re getting offense and defense alike from every part of the team, and they’re just playing solid, well-rounded hockey. They’re an exciting team to watch, and their gameplay keeps them up close to the top.

Led by Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck and Andrei Svechnikov, the offense is succeeding (66 goals in 20 games). Aho and Svechnikov have 20 points apiece, and they’ve racked up eight and 11 power-play points respectively. The defense, populated by Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, is solid, and Freddie Andersen has been beyond impressive so far with a 1.98 goals-against average (among the best in the league) and a .932 save percentage. They are also among the best power play and penalty kill teams in the league. If they keep this up, they can really make a deep playoff run.

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3. Toronto Maple Leafs (Previous Ranking: 4)

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Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs have won nine of their last ten games (four straight), and their core four in John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander are finally showing up. Tavares has 22 points in as many games, and six points in his last three games. The Leafs’ captain is leading the charge.

They seem to be working in all the right areas, improving their goal differential to +17. Their power play and penalty kill are successful and effective, with both among the best in the league. The Leafs’ recent gameplay is certainly promising, and sees them rise to the top three in the NHL power rankings.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Maple Leafs, check out #LeafsForever rumors, rankings, and news here .

4. Colorado Avalanche (Previous Ranking: 5)

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Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Avs are finally playing like Cup contenders, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games and returning to the top five in the NHL power rankings.

They’ve done really well without Nathan MacKinnon, who is slated to return for the club’s contest against Toronto. Even without him, they are seeing huge boosts to their roster with massive returns from Devon Toews , Bowen Byram and Cale Makar , who has ten points in his last five games. What’s more, Nazem Kadri is having a heck of a season, with a whopping 27 points (20 of which are assists) in 18 games.

They’ve improved their goal differential to a +17 thanks to several big wins, despite a blemish in a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. Their power play has improved to 21.9%, but the penalty kill still needs some work if they’re going to return to the top of the league. But, when they get MacKinnon back, the Avs could be really scary. Added bonus: they have games in hand over every club in the division.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Avalanche, check out #GoAvsGo rumors, rankings, and news here .

5. Edmonton Oilers (Previous Ranking: 6)

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Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like the club is slipping slightly. They’re still among the top teams in the league, but their 6-4-0 record in their last ten games is a far cry from their strong start to the season. The power play is their strongest asset, by far, with an absolutely insane 37.7% effectiveness rating. Penalty kill wise, they’re also at the top of the league, with a 87.1% kill rate. The numbers have gone down a touch, though, which is the cause for the team’s drop in the NHL power rankings.

Still, even playing on different lines, the superstars are shining bright. McDavid and Draisaitl, with 36 and 40 points respectively, are big reasons why this offense is firing on all cylinders–which could be a direct result of the addition of Zach Hyman. Fan favorite Jesse Puljujarvi is coming into his own, too, with 16 points in 20 games, leading analysts to commend general manager Ken Holland for his patience. Many predict McDavid will break an NHL record and score at least 150 points this season, which will certainly help the club stay in the top half of the league.

Interesting times are ahead for the Oilers, though, who placed Cody Ceci in Covid protocol and moved defenseman Duncan Keith to injured reserve.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Oilers, check out #EdmontonOilers rumors, rankings, and news here .

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (Previous Ranking: 7)

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Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts are clinging to third place in the Atlantic division, despite some key blows to their roster: Brayden Point is injured , and will miss at least 4 weeks of ice time. And, they’re already playing with a handicap, after Nikita Kucherov sustained a significant lower-body injury, which causes them to decrease their goal differential to only +8, and stay out of the top five in the NHL power rankings.

Victor Hedman is the team’s not-so-secret weapon though, as the massive defenseman–touted as one of the best in the league–continues to shine on the blue line. He has 15 assists on the season, eats huge minutes for the club, and is not afraid to use his big body to create space for offense. His presence allows captain Steven Stamkos to shine up top, too, and the forward has collected a respectable 24 points in 20 contests.

7. Florida Panthers (Previous Ranking: 2)

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries, yet again, have taken a hold of the Panthers, who are really missing captain Aleksander Barkov. Anthony Duclair is now day-to-day , too, adding to the lengthy list of injuries that the Panthers, who are already coachless , are facing.

They lost their first place spot in their division, though they still have games in hand over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Without all of those key players, though, their power play is suffering, and they’ve lost two straight games. But, they still have an impressive .738 win percentage, which is emblematic of the talent on their roster. The Panthers are a scary, intimidating team and, when healthy, can really dominate in this league, and will likely rise again in the NHL power rankings.

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8. Minnesota Wild (Previous Ranking: 8)

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Nov 20, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the third period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that the Wild have, in fact, broken out of their middling role. Currently sitting atop the Central division, they remain in the top ten of the NHL power rankings with their understated offensive success. With a huge win over the Winnipeg Jets, they created an even bigger gap between them and the second place St. Louis Blues, with each team at 21 games played. Somehow, though, there’s nothing particular–at least stat-wise–that points to their success.

They have middling special teams numbers, and only one point-per-game player in Kirill Kaprizov, though Ryan Hartman has been stellar of late. They now have the challenge of playing without captain Jared Spurgeon , who is week-to-week with a lower body injury, and Mats Zuccarello, who is day-to-day. Nonetheless, the Wild have beaten some good teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning. Whatever it is they’re doing, it’s working.

9. Calgary Flames (Previous Ranking: 10)

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Nov 18, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) looks for the puck during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Flames have cooled off a bit again, they still remain in the top ten of the NHL power rankings.

Jacob Markstrom has been nothing short of stellar with a 1.75 goals against average and a .938 save percentage, both of which are among the top of the league. The goaltender is a big part–alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, who each are better than point-per-game players–for the team’s meteoric rise in the NHL power rankings, and their unexpected success this season. They sit in second in their division with an impressive power play and a solid penalty kill and, as long as they can keep this up, are in good shape for the rest of the season.

10. Vegas Golden Knights (Previous Ranking: 9)

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Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Even though they have plateaued, the Knights are recovering from an injury-plagued start to the season. That doesn’t necessarily mean less injuries on the roster, though. No matter, captain Mark Stone has returned in a big way, racking up four points in his last five games and averaging roughly 20 minutes of ice time per game. They still need to work on their power play, which is only at a 10.6% effectiveness rating. But, they could get help soon, as Jack Eichel underwent successful surgery and is now recovering . Once they heal, expect them to climb even higher in the NHL power rankings.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Knights, check out #VegasBorn rumors, rankings, and news here .

NHL power rankings: Second-tier contenders to watch out for in new season

11. New York Rangers (Previous Ranking: 14)

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Nov 16, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save on Montreal Canadiens center Ryan Poehling (25) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Even though they had a game against the Islanders postponed , the Rangers have been another one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season, boasting 29 points and a .725 win percentage so far this season. Led by offensive dynamo Artemi Panarin, the Rangers are demanding to be taken seriously. Evidence: they’re 7-2-1 in their last ten games.

They just signed blue liner Adam Fox to a lengthy extension , and have solid goaltending from Igor Shesterkin, who’s recorded a solid 2.22 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. They improved their power play performance significantly (it sits at 20.3%) and, if they work on their goal differential, which sits at +6, and continue to improve their penalty kill, they could climb the NHL power rankings even higher.

12. St. Louis Blues (Previous Ranking: 11)

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Credit: Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

The Blues take the 12th spot in the NHL power rankings as they are starting to show signs of life, though there is definitely room for improvement.

Their impressive special teams, with the power play in particular sitting at 29.3% (among the best in the league), is carrying them again, though the penalty kill is also decently good. Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko are definitely producing offensively, and are a huge reason for the club’s +12 goal differential. Somehow, though, they still have a 3-5-2 record, which is likely a result of Jordan Binnington’s inconsistency in net. If the Blues are going to climb the NHL power rankings even higher and return to early season form, Binnington will need to step up.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Blues, check out #STLBlues rumors, rankings, and news here .

13. Boston Bruins (Previous Ranking: 13)

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Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins have a lot of work to do. With a roster like this, there is no reason they shouldn’t be in the top ten in the NHL power rankings and winning games at huge margins. Brad Marchand’s suspension sees the Bs lose a significant part of their office, so the rest of the big guns in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall need to step up.

When they start to play like they’re capable of–and like we’ve seen them do just last season–this team could be scary and should rise in the NHL power rankings.

14. Anaheim Ducks (Previous Ranking: 15)

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Nov 9, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tucker Poolman (5) checks Anaheim Ducks forward Troy Terry (19) in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks are enjoying an early-season streak, winning eight straight games before going 6-4-0 in their last ten. Still, Troy Terry went on a sixteen game point streak before the loss, leading his club to a playoff spot in their division. What’s more, John Gibson has been winning games for his club and standing on his head. He’s already touted as an early Vezina Trophy contender, with a (declining) 2.61 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.

The Ducks’ play has shocked analysts everywhere and, while sustaining play like this is a question mark, it’s certainly a fun sight to see.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins (Previous Ranking: 16)

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Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pens seem to be rebounding, finding themselves in the middle of the Metropolitan division, though a part of their position is a direct result of other teams performing poorly. Even with Sidney Crosby’s return, Evgeni Malkin is still out, leaving Pittsburgh in the middle of the NHL power rankings.

They have one of the worst power plays in the league, and seem to be playing inconsistent hockey, though Tristan Jarry has more than proven his worth between the pipes. Other than goaltending, the only thing that keeps them middling is their wildly impressive penalty kill (90.9%) and their extremely experienced roster, which could heat up at any moment and change things for the club in an instant.

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16. Winnipeg Jets (Previous Ranking: 12)

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Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

In short, the Jets are slumping. The issue in Winnipeg could be that Connor Hellebuyck is not playing up to his ability, as he holds only a .918 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. It’s a far cry from his Vezina-contending seasons, and the netminder has to step up if they’re going to climb the NHL power rankings.

The club’s other glaring issue is their dismal penalty kill, which sits at a 68.9% effectiveness. If they’re going to contend, they’ll need to find a way to stop the opposing man advantages. The bright spot, though, is their offense, where Kyle Connor leads the charge. He has 24 points in 22 games, and Pierre-Luc Dubois and Andrew Copp have 18 and 17 points respectively in the same time.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Jets, check out #GoJetsGo rumors, rankings, and news here .

NHL power rankings: Franchises on the outside looking in at playoff contention

17. New York Islanders (Previous Ranking: 17)

18. Columbus Blue Jackets (Previous Ranking: 19)

19. Nashville Predators (Previous Ranking: 18)

20. Dallas Stars (Previous Ranking: 21)

21. Philadelphia Flyers (Previous Ranking: 22)

22. Los Angeles Kings (Previous Ranking: 20)

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23. Detroit Red Wings (Previous Ranking: 23)

24. New Jersey Devils (Previous Ranking: 25)

25. San Jose Sharks (Previous Ranking: 24)

26. Buffalo Sabres (Previous Ranking: 26)

27. Chicago Blackhawks (Previous Ranking: 27)

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28. Vancouver Canucks (Previous Ranking: 28)

29. Seattle Kraken (Previous Ranking: 30)

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30. Montreal Canadiens (Previous Ranking: 31)

31. Arizona Coyotes (Previous Ranking: 32)

32. Ottawa Senators (Previous Ranking: 29)

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