Welcome to the eighth 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. Pittsburgh Penguins (14-8-5)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
Since the return of Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a much better team. They currently hold the top wild-card position in the Eastern Conference and are managing to do so without Evgeni Malkin, who has yet to play this season due to knee surgery this summer.
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While Crosby’s play has had plenty to do with the Penguins turning things around, another is the play of goaltender Tristan Jarry. The 26-year-old has bounced back tremendously after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign and owns a 1.92 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .934 save percentage (SV%).
15. Winnipeg Jets (13-9-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 11
This Jets team continues to be a disappointing one this season. It is clear to everyone that they have one of the more talented lineups in the league, but they haven’t been able to put together wins on a consistent basis to this point.
One would think that with how talented this forward group is, they will begin scoring more goals as the season goes on. If that happens, they will climb the standings and be one of the biggest threats in the entire Western Conference.
14. Anaheim Ducks (16-9-5)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
While there is still plenty of season to go, it appears many may have underestimated this Ducks squad. Heading into 2021-22, most expected them to be a lottery team. That has been far from the case, as they are currently leading the Pacific Division and eighth in league standings.
The youth of the Ducks is getting it done, as both Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry have been phenomenal to this point of the season. Both Ryan Getzlaf and Sonny Milano have been great as well, and goaltender John Gibson has been his usual rock-solid self. Whether or not they sustain this play remains to be seen, but it has been a terrific start and one that deserves praise.
13. Boston Bruins (14-8-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 15
The Bruins made fine work of their Western Canadian road swing this week, defeating both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames while picking up a single point in a shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. They appear to be finally rounding into form and as a result, find themselves in the second wild-card position in the East.
While many have discussed the struggles of players like Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, one who has struggled to perform at his usual elite level is David Pastrnak, who has just eight goals in 24 games. Expect him to pick things up in the near future.
12. Calgary Flames (15-7-6)
Last Week’s Rank: 5
After some terrific play the past few weeks, the Flames managed to pick up just one point in three games this past week. They lost by two goals to both the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, while failing to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime.
While there isn’t a ton to worry about here, it is worth noting that some players on this roster aren’t putting up offensive numbers like they were to begin the season, one, in particular, being Andrew Mangiapane. Nonetheless, this team should bounce back from the off week right away, as they appear to be 100 percent bought in to Darryl Sutter’s systems.
11. Nashville Predators (17-10-1)
Last Week’s Rank: NA
Riding a five-game win streak, the Predators are the hottest team in the NHL. Four of those five wins have come against middling to weak teams, but the most recent was against one of the best teams in the league to start the season in the New York Rangers.
The biggest issue with the Predators over the years has always been scoring, but a quarter way into the 2021-22 season that hasn’t been a problem. Players like Roman Josi, Mikael Granlund, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have all been fantastic to this point. It is still early, but this team appears to be a true threat in the West once again.
10. St. Louis Blues (15-8-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 12
After several average weeks as of late, the Blues were able to pick things up this week, winning three of their four games. The most impressive came on Tuesday night when they were able to defeat one of the best teams in the entire league in the Florida Panthers in a 4-3 overtime win.
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What makes this latest stretch so impressive is that they were able to do so without David Perron, who hasn’t played since Nov. 26. On top of that, both Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko haven’t been at their best recently, proving just how deep this team is. If they are able to keep up this play for another week or two, they will shoot up this list.
9. Minnesota Wild (19-8-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 4
It was a great start to the week for the Wild, as they were able to beat both the Oilers and Sharks in convincing fashion. However, they then went on to lose to both the L.A. Kings as well as the Vegas Golden Knights, causing them to fall in this week’s ranking.
Despite the slight fall in the rankings, there is plenty to like about this Wild team. Players like Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello are leading the way offensively, while guys like Ryan Hartman, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno are putting up great numbers as well. This team will continue to take many by surprise as the season continues.
8. Vegas Golden Knights (16-11-0)
Last Week’s Rank: 10
While they haven’t been talked about much as of late, the Golden Knights are rounding back into form. They were not only able to defeat the Wild on Sunday but put an end to the Dallas Stars seven-game win streak on Wednesday.
Despite the better play as of late, however, there are still concerns regarding the Golden Knights. The biggest is in terms of goaltending, as Robin Lehner has struggled and was even mocked by his fanbase after being pulled in their win over the Stars. His previous track record suggests he should turn things around, and if he does then this team will be truly elite once again.
7. New York Rangers (18-6-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 3
In the Rangers’ four games this past week, they defeated two weak rosters in the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres, while falling to stronger ones in the Colorado Avalanche and the Predators. The Avalanche game was a real ugly one, as they gave up seven goals on the night.
Many believed this team could be in trouble when Igor Shesterkin went down with an injury last week, but Alexandar Georgiev has stepped up remarkably in his absence. Instead, the problem as of late has been the offence, as they have mustered up just five goals in their last three games. Things won’t get easier next week, as they have two difficult games against both the Avalanche and Golden Knights.
6. Colorado Avalanche (16-7-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 13
It took some time, but the Avalanche appears to be back on track. Through their past 10 games, they have put together a 7-2-1 record, and are winners of four straight.
The Avalanche have what many would agree is the most potent lineup offensively in the entire league. Both their offence and defence are capable of scoring plenty of goals night in and night out. The main issue this season has been the play of Darcy Kuemper, though perhaps his big performance in Sunday’s win over the Panthers will be what it takes to get him on the right track.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-6-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Even with their injury troubles, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been able to get off to a pretty good start this season. This past week, they were able to defeat both the Montreal Canadiens and a very good Toronto Maple Leafs team but fell to a much lesser Ottawa Senators squad on Saturday.
While players like Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy have all been great this season, their undisputed MVP through the first quarter has been Steven Stamkos. The 31-year-old has stepped up remarkably with the absences of both Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, scoring 13 goals and 32 points in 26 games thus far.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-8-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 6
Despite their loss to the Lightning, the Leafs were able to win their other two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks. After what was a slow start to their season, they are now tied for first in the league standings.
Despite losing Mitch Marner for three-to-four weeks with a shoulder injury, the offence shouldn’t be a problem with this group moving forward with how well Auston Matthews has played as of late. The 24-year-old has scored in eight of his last nine games and won’t likely be slowing down anytime soon.
3. Washington Capitals (17-5-6)
Last Week’s Rank: 2
Though the Capitals were able to win two of their three games this past week, neither came easy. Both wins came via the shootout, with the first against the Ducks and the second against the Sabres. Unfortunately for them, they fell 4-2 to the Penguins in between.
It gets talked about every week, but Alex Ovechkin continues to put up points at a ridiculous pace this season. Through 28 games, he has scored 20 goals and 44 points. At 36-years-old he is off to the best start of his career, and his play is elevating his team in a major way.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (19-7-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 8
After a bit of down play as of late, the Hurricanes were able to pick things right back up this week. They started their week 3-0 thanks to wins over the Jets, Flames and Oilers, though they did fall to the Canucks on Sunday, albeit on the second half of a back-to-back.
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They were able to string together these latest wins without two key pieces of their defence in Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo, both of whom are on the NHLs COVID-19 protocol list. It sounds as though both are close to returning, which will help this team even more moving forward.
1. Florida Panthers (18-5-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 1
It wasn’t the greatest week from the Panthers, but it is extremely hard to argue any team was deserving to surpass them on this ranking. Despite losses to both the Blues and Avalanche, they still sit atop the league standings and should get right back on track this next week.
This Panthers squad has been without Aleksander Barkov again recently, as the Finnish forward has had trouble staying healthy this season. The good news is that he is listed as day-to-day, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he is able to return at some point this week.
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.
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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.