Welcome to the sixth 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 will significantly factor in their overall strength and where they are at the time in the standings. With that said, let’s take a look at the top 16 teams in the league at this moment.
16. Winnipeg Jets (10-7-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 11
This past week was a rough one for the Jets, as they dropped three of four games, including being walloped 7-1 by the Minnesota Wild on Friday. The good news is that they could find a way to beat a very good team in the Calgary Flames on Saturday to put an end to a five-game skid.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 6
Many said early this season that Blake Wheeler was in a slump, but at 35-years-old it is fair to start being concerned whether father time may be running its course as he has yet to score a goal in 16 games. Other forwards in Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele are also struggling, which has the Jets looking like a rather average team as of late.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-4)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
It has been a very tumultuous go for the Penguins a quarter through the 2021-22 season. After starting hot out of the gate, they went into a downward spiral shortly after, mainly because they were without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins were able to win their first three games this week to give them a five-game winning streak, and although that was broken by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, they are certainly moving in the right direction. The return of Crosby has played a big role in that, and they should only get better once Malkin can get back on the ice as well, though it is unclear when exactly that will happen.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-7-0)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
The Blue Jackets have been one of the bigger surprises of the league early on. After a rough 2020-21 season, many expected they would be near the bottom of the league standings in 2021-22, but in this case, that isn’t the point. Through 19 games, they sit at an impressive 12-7-0, which is good enough for fourth in the Metropolitan Division.
The Blue Jackets have had contributions from many this season, but leading the way is goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. Through 12 starts, he owns a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .929 save percentage (SV%) and a sparkling 9-3-0 record.
13. Boston Bruins (11-7-0)
Last Week’s Rank: 16
It has been a slow start to the season for the Bruins, but they are slowly starting to turn things around. They were able to win two of three this past week as they continue to attempt to climb back into the thick of things in the Atlantic Division.
After a rough start to his tenure with the Bruins, Linus Ullmark appears to have figured things out as of late and now owns a 2.76 GAA along with a .914 SV% on the year. If he can keep it rolling, this team should put themselves back into Stanley Cup contending status.
12. Vegas Golden Knights (12-9-0)
Last Week’s Rank: 10
Just when the Golden Knights appeared to be getting on a roll, their inconsistencies showed again this past week as they lost two of their three games. In their defense, they deserved a much better fate in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, a game in which they dominated but ran into a red hot Mikko Koskinen.
Thankfully, they added Max Pacioretty back into the lineup as they slowly continue to get healthier. As they continue to get bodies back, they should climb the standings and get back into the race for first place in the Pacific Division.
11. St. Louis Blues (11-7-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 12
The Blues have been in a bit of a funk lately but were able to pick up points in three of four games this past week. While that result seems relatively impressive, it is somewhat concerning that they lost their two games to much weaker opponents than themselves in the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
Both Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas have been phenomenal for the Blues this year, as they currently find themselves in spots one and two for team scoring. One player who has struggled to get it going offensively, however, is Ryan O’Reilly, who has just 10 points on the season. He should be able to get back to form soon, and once he does, this team will be extremely dangerous.
10. Colorado Avalanche (11-6-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 14
It appears the Avalanche have returned to form. After a disappointing start to their 2021-22 campaign, they have picked things up in recent weeks and have a 7-2-1 record over their last 10 contests. What makes this run so impressive is that they have done it without Nathan MacKinnon, who hasn’t played since Nov. 6 due to a lower-body injury.
While several players are responsible for the Avalanche’s uptick in play recently, the one who deserves the most credit is Nazem Kadri. The 31-year-old is in the midst of the hottest stretch in his career, with 22 points over his last 11 games. He has stepped up in a major way to help replace MacKinnon’s offense, and as a result, the Avalanche are re-establishing themselves as one of the better teams in the entire league.
9. Calgary Flames (12-4-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 8
Many thought the Flames came in too low on last week’s ranking, and that may very well be the case again here. There is no denying that they have gotten off to a great start in 2021-22 under head coach Darryl Sutter, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 5
With that being said, they have had a relatively soft schedule early on. They certainly aren’t to blame for that, but it is hard to rank them higher than other teams above them on this list for that exact reason. Flames fans may disagree with where they stand here but can take solace in the fact that their team looks as good as we have seen them since the 2018-19 season.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 4
The Lightning were able to win two of three this past week, including back-to-back shutouts against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Seattle Kraken. Their fall in this week’s ranking has less to do with their play and more with other teams ahead of them having fantastic weeks.
The one concern with the Bolts is that they currently have two key players injured in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Steven Stamkos has been able to do plenty of the heavy lifting offensively in their absence and will need to continue to do so moving forward as neither is expected to return any time soon.
7. Edmonton Oilers (15-5-0)
Last Week’s Rank: 3
Much like the Lightning, the Oilers dropping on this list has more to do with other teams play than their own. They, too, won two of three games this past week, though most would agree they weren’t deserving in Saturday’s win over the Golden Knights. Nonetheless, they sit at a very impressive 15-5-0 this season and look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Due to the team’s success, the recent play of Jesse Puljujarvi and Zach Hyman hadn’t been discussed much. However, both were in goal droughts as Puljujarvi hadn’t scored for eight straight while Hyman hadn’t found the back of the net in seven. Thankfully, both were able to beat Robin Lehner on Saturday, and as a result, should have their confidence back moving forward.
6. New York Rangers (13-4-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Early into the 2021-22 season, the Rangers look like one of the most dangerous teams in the entire NHL. The most surprising thing about this is that some of their best players in Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have yet to play to their full potential.
Instead, they have relied on individuals such as Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin, all of whom have been incredible to this point. Once Panarin and Zibanejad get back to their elite-level form, this team will be downright scary to play against.
5. Minnesota Wild (14-6-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 9
After years of being thought of as one of, if not the most average team in the NHL, the Wild appear to be for real. They kept things rolling this past week, winning all three of their games which included hammering the Jets and beating the Lightning on Sunday night.
For Kirill Kaprizov’s lofty standards, he got off to a bit of a slow start in 2021-22 but has fully turned things around with 12 points in his last six games. They have also been getting great play from Ryan Hartman, who, with 12 goals on the season, is just seven shy of his career-high set back in 2016-17.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (15-6-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 5
The Maple Leafs are having yet another great regular season but are winning in a different way in 2021-22. In the past, this team generally picked up wins in large part due to the brilliance of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. That hasn’t quite been the case this season, as neither has performed at the levels we have seen from them in the past.
Instead, this team is winning thanks to contributions from many throughout the lineup, as secondary scoring has been a major plus this season. The majority of the credit, however, should be given to Jack Campbell, who, through 18 games, owns an incredible 1.64 GAA along with a .946 SV% on the season.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (15-4-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 1
After topping the charts in last week’s ranking, the Hurricanes stumbled a bit this past week, going 1-2-1 in their four games. The most disappointing of the bunch was a 2-1 loss to the struggling Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night, where they struggled to solve Philipp Grubauer.
Some of the Hurricanes’ top talents are in a bit of a rut lately. Vincent Trocheck has not recorded a point in six straight, while Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnkiov, and Teuvo Teravainen have been held off the scoresheet in four of their last six contests. This team is too talented for this to be a concern, but they have slipped slightly in the rankings.
2. Florida Panthers (14-4-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 2
This past week, the Panthers also struggled a bit, picking up just one win in their three games. They too lost to the Kraken, though it came on the second half of a back-to-back, with the first game being against the Washington Capitals.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 4
The Panthers have run into a bit of injury trouble as of late, as they are currently without two of their top offensive talents in Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair. Thankfully, neither are expected to miss extended periods of time. Once both are back, this team is as good as any in the league.
1. Washington Capitals (14-3-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 6
While the Capitals core is aging, they are not slowing down whatsoever. In fact, they appear to be getting even better. Leading the way is Alexander Ovechkin, who is in the running for the Hart Trophy with a ridiculous 19 goals and 37 points through just 22 games.
What makes the Capitals hot start so impressive is that they have done so without Nicklas Backstrom, who has yet to suit up this season due to a hip injury. Once they get both him and T.J. Oshie back into the lineup, they could very well win yet another President’s Trophy.
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 like 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.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.