Welcome to the second edition of my weekly NHL Power Rankings for The Hockey Writers, where the league’s top half is evaluated. These rankings will focus on how the teams have performed in the past week of play and significantly factor in their overall strength and where they are at the time in the standings. With that being said, let’s take a look at the top 16 teams in the league at this moment.
16. New York Islanders (3-2-2)
Last Weeks Rank: 8
This past week was a very quiet one for the Islanders, as they played just one game. Unfortunately, they lost that contest in a shootout to the Nashville Predators by a final score of 3-2.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 1-2
As was mentioned last week, this team has gotten off to slow starts with head coach Barry Trotz in the past, so their play early on isn’t terribly shocking. They should be able to pick things up moving forward and get back to being one of the better teams in the league.
15. Vegas Golden Knights (4-4-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 15
The Golden Knights made up for their slow start to the season, winning all three of their games this past week. However, the wins didn’t exactly come in convincing fashion, notably Friday night’s 5-4 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks, a game in which they blew a three-goal lead.
With the injuries this team has currently to Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, they likely won’t be as dominant this season, at least for the time being, as many expected. However, they still have plenty of other talent in their lineup and should stay afloat even without their two best forwards.
14. Colorado Avalanche (4-4-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 12
The Avalanche are a very good team but have yet to show that early into the 2021-22 season. Darcy Kuemper has had a slow start, while Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have yet to truly dominate, like we all have come to expect from them.
As was said last week, there isn’t a ton to worry about here. This roster is too stacked to continue this stretch of mediocrity for much longer, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they are much higher on this list as soon as next week.
13. Buffalo Sabres (5-2-1)
Last Weeks Rank: 16
I don’t think anybody expected to see the Sabres as a top 16 team on a power ranking list at any point during the 2021-22 season, but their play early on is impossible to ignore. After beginning the season on a three-game win streak, they then lost the next two, and many expected that their fun start was already finished.
However, they were able to beat and dominate the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night and took down the Ducks on Thursday. This play from this group will likely not be sustained, but it is extremely impressive what they have done so far.
12. Minnesota Wild (5-3-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 9
This past week was not kind for the Wild, as they lost three of four games. It was even more concerning that none of the games were particularly close, as they lost all three by three goals.
It has been a bit of a slow start for Kirill Kaprizov, who is still searching for his first goal. He will turn things around, but there are still some uncertainties surrounding this team. One is the status of Mats Zuccarello, who is currently leading the team in scoring. The 34-year-old is on the COVID protocol list and will be out until at least Nov. 7. They will need others to step up during his absence.
11. Philadelphia Flyers (4-2-1)
Last Weeks Rank: NA
After a very disappointing 2020-21 season, the Flyers made some big changes to their roster in hopes of becoming a better team defensively. The changes seem to be working early on, as they have had an excellent start to the year.
Perhaps the biggest concern regarding this time was their goaltending, as Carter Hart had a horrendous 2020-21 season and newcomer in Martin Jones was run out of town in San Jose due to struggles of his own. So far, however, both have looked solid. If they can keep up their play, the Flyers could be a very dangerous team this season.
10. Winnipeg Jets (4-2-2)
Last Weeks Rank: NA
After dropping their first three games to kick off the 2021-22 season, the Jets have picked things up in a big way, winning four of their last five games. Kyle Connor has been incredible with 14 points in just eight games, while Pierre-Luc Dubois looks much more comfortable this season with 10 points thus far.
This team hasn’t really been able to play together yet this season due to injuries, but they are finally getting healthy and should be able to keep this current play going. Once Connor Hellebuyck can play like the Vezina Trophy caliber netminder he is, they could end up being one of the better teams in the league this season.
9. Boston Bruins (4-3-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 7
Though they did lose two of three games this past week, Bruins fans shouldn’t worry about their team. They had a challenging schedule, playing the first-place Florida Panthers twice, and also had a game against the second-place Carolina Hurricanes.
They were unable to pick up points in their first two games on Wednesday and Thursday but were able to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season thanks to a 3-2 shootout victory. Their schedule gets much easier in November and should result in them picking up plenty of wins.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-3-1)
Last Weeks Rank: 11
The slow start for the Lightning has continued, as they have yet to rack up wins consistently in 2021-22. Their play early on isn’t a huge surprise given the fact they are coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup wins and are easing their way back into things.
The loss of Nikita Kucherov certainly hurts, but as they proved last year without him, they are an elite team regardless of whether or not he is on the ice. This team should be in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy by the end of the season.
7. New York Rangers (5-2-1)
Last Weeks Rank: 6
The Rangers were a team many thought was primed to take a big step forward this season, and so far, that appears to be the case. As of now, they sit third in the Metropolitan Division, and may very well get back into the playoffs in 2021-22, something they haven’t done since the 2016-17 campaign.
Their great start can be attributed heavily to the play of Igor Shesterkin, who has put up a spectacular 1.70 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .948 save percentage (SV%) through seven games. Look out for this team once guys like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad get back to playing like their elite selves.
6. St. Louis Blues (6-1-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 4
The Blues could not continue their unbeaten streak, as they fell to the Avalanche on Thursday night. However, it wasn’t all bad as they won the other two games on their schedule this past week against the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks.
They may be coming in slightly lower than some would expect because they have had a relatively easy schedule to begin the season. That isn’t to take away from how they’ve played, as they very much look like a Stanley Cup contender right now. The good news is that their schedule isn’t a lot tougher in November, meaning they should continue to pick up wins.
5. Edmonton Oilers (6-1-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 3
Like the Blues, the Oilers also failed to remain undefeated, losing a game they deserved to win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. By all accounts, they were the better team, but some shaky goals allowed by Mikko Koskinen allowed the Flyers to walk away with a 5-3 victory.
Goaltending was one of the main concerns coming into the season for the Oilers, so Wednesday’s result wasn’t a complete surprise. In defense of Koskinen, he has been very good aside from that performance against the Flyers and boasts a 2.26 GAA along with a .934 SV% on the year. His goaltending partner in Mike Smith is expected to return from injury soon as well.
4. Calgary Flames (6-1-1)
Last Weeks Rank: NA
The hottest team in the NHL right now is the Flames, who have won six straight and have looked very good doing so. Leading the way is Jacob Markstrom, who looks to be worth every cent of the massive contract he signed in Calgary during the 2020 offseason, as he already has three shutouts on the season.
This team looks completely different than they did a season ago, and having Darryl Sutter behind the bench from the get-go likely has a lot to do with that. They may regress slightly from the torrid pace they are on right now, but it appears they are ready for a bounce back after a down 2020-21 season.
3. Washington Capitals (5-0-3)
Last Weeks Rank: 5
While some question marks were surrounding the Capitals ahead of the 2021-22 season, they look as good as ever right now. Leading the way is Alex Ovechkin, who at age 36 is playing some of his best hockey with nine goals and 15 points in just eight games.
Another very positive sign for this team is the play of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was subject to trade rumors this summer after a down 2020-21 season. He has five goals and 12 points through eight games and appears to be back to his old self. They will get even more dangerous once Nicklas Backstrom can make his season debut, something which sounds like it could happen soon.
2. Florida Panthers (8-0-1)
Last Weeks Rank: 1
The Panthers were another team that was unable to remain undefeated on the season, as, like mentioned above, they lost to the Bruins on Saturday night.
There is some turmoil surrounding this team right now, given the resignation of Joel Quenneville. While the head coaching situation is one to monitor, it shouldn’t have a major impact. This team has so much skill that it really doesn’t matter who is standing behind the bench.
1. Carolina Hurricanes (8-0-0)
Last Weeks Rank: 2
The Hurricanes are now the only undefeated team in the NHL. Despite losing a great defenseman in Dougie Hamilton this summer, they appear to be as good as ever and are serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.
Their MVP early on is goaltender Frederik Andersen, who they signed to a two-year deal this offseason. The decision to bring him in looks genius right now, as he has an otherworldly 1.29 GAA along with a .956 SV% in seven games played.
Changes to Come
These rankings will continue to change each week throughout the season, as all teams go through highs and lows. Of course, the true contenders will likely always remain on the list, but where they are ranked could change each and every week. Tune in at this time next week to see the changes!