We are one week into the new NHL season and already fans are getting amped about their respective teams. Some groups are stumbling out of the gate, like the Montreal Canadiens, while others are picking up the points early like the Vancouver Canucks.
As we grind through this year’s edition of the full 82-game schedule, we’ll stop in every week to rank the NHL’s teams in the latest series for The Hockey Writers – the NHL Power Rankings.
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It’s early, but there are already storylines forming in some markets that could affect the outcome of the season for teams. Injuries. Investigations. COVID protocol coming into affect. Regardless, it’s the first time we’ll be ranking the NHL’s 32nd franchise – the Seattle Kraken – who are off to a better-than-expected start to their inaugural season and already we have a new number one from the end of last season.
With that, here’s how the NHL shakes down after just one week of play.
1. Colorado Avalanche (1-1-0; 2 points)
The time is now for the Avalanche. The re-signed Gabriel Landeskog (suspended) and brought in Darcy Kuemper this offseason, but the core is in tact and ready for a legitimate run this spring. It all starts with winning in the regular season, though, and it’s safe to say they know how to do that.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0; 4 points)
I’m not sold on the three-peat yet, or the four-peat if you’re Pat Maroon, but the Lightning are still a strong contender this season. Their start wasn’t ideal, giving up 12 goals in two games to the lowly Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins who are missing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, but it’s not enough to pull them out of the top five yet.
3. Vegas Golden Knights (1-1-0; 2 points)
The tides might be changing in Vegas. They decided to move on from Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason and, now, have been dealt early season injuries to both Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. While it will offer up a good opportunity to Nolan Patrick, the Knights could be relying on their depth and Robin Lehner to keep them afloat early on this season.
4. Carolina Hurricanes (2-0-0; 4 points)
Again, they might be going about their business quietly. Freddie Andersen is leading the charge in Carolina now and, if he can stay healthy, this could be a fun Hurricanes team to watch for a full 82-game season.
5. Florida Panthers (2-0-0; 4 points)
The battle for the state of Florida still belongs to the Lightning, but the Panthers have taken some real strides in becoming a top-tier team in the Atlantic Division this season. They have a real battle in net between Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, but outside of the crease, this might be the best Panthers’ team we’ve seen in some time.
6. New York Islanders (0-2-0; 0 points)
One game is nothing. And for the New York Islanders, they know that trusting in Lou will lead this team into contention. Anders Lee seems to be back and healthy. Noah Dobson should be a force for the team this season and another strong playoff run isn’t out of the question for the Islanders.
7. Washington Capitals (1-0-1; 3 points)
Hendrix Lapierre opened his NHL career with a goal and while his milestone was the first of many, Alex Ovechkin continues to chase an NHL record. While they aren’t at the same level they were when they won the Cup in 2018, the Capitals can still make some noise in the Metro Division – including on the physical side of the puck, with Tom Wilson. Stay tuned.
8. Winnipeg Jets (0-2-0; 0 points)
On paper, they have some of the better depth options up front and a top-tier goalie in Connor Hellebuyck. But, the Jets are still looking for that offence from Pierre-Luc Dubois that they sought in the trade and still don’t have the best defence, considering what they had a few years ago. Still, they should be able to overcome their challenges and push for a playoff spot this season.
9. Boston Bruins (1-0-0; 2 points)
No Tuukka Rask and no David Krejci and that changes the complexion of the Bruins’ lineup. Still the core is far superior than most in the NHL and at a good cost. Bergeron. Marchand. Pastrnak. Hall. McAvoy. Will these big bad Bruins ever go away?
10. Edmonton Oilers (2-0-0; 4 points)
After a disappointing first-round exit in last year’s postseason, the Oilers went out and acquired Duncan Keith and Zach Hyman to bolster their depth. Their top power play unit is arguably one of the best in the league, but for the Oilers this season, it’s all about consistency outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-1-0; 4 points)
Jason Spezza said that this team needs to find their identity after their loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Two slow starts and still the team came out on top in one. But, Auston Matthews started the season on the team’s injured reserve and Petr Mrazek was dealt a small blow which could affect the team. Still, some of the young guys are getting an opportunity – with Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren both slotting in early. Is this another heartbreak season for Leafs Nation, though?
12. Dallas Stars (1-2-0; 2 points)
A healthy Tyler Seguin and the addition of Ryan Suter should kickstart this Dallas Stars team to getting back into contention. While still hesitant to call them a top-10 team in the league, a win to kick of the season against a Rangers team with a lot of firepower is definitely an early season confidence boost.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-1; 5 points)
Considering the injuries they’ve been dealt to start the season, the Penguins should be happy with where they are. Their goaltending situation was exposed in last year’s playoffs and while that might be the weakest point on this roster, time is running out for another run from this aging Penguins squad.
14. Minnesota Wild (2-0-0; 4 points)
Two buyouts in the offseason and Bill Guerin is putting his hand print all over the Wild roster. They locked up Kirill Kaprizov and have seen Kevin Fiala take the next step in his development which has added a level of competitiveness to this team over the past couple of seasons. They are trending in the right direciton, but they aren’t where they need to be quite yet.
15. Montreal Canadiens (0-3-0; 0 points)
Normally, we’d call it the Stanley Cup hangover. But there was no Stanley Cup for the Canadiens and no celebrating in the offseason. It could be that they are missing both Carey Price and Shea Weber, or it could be that Jonathan Drouin is the only player to score for the Canadiens thus far this season. Good thing it’s an 82-game season this year – with time to turn it all around.
16. Vancouver Canucks (1-1-1; 3 points)
After a season that saw most of the Canucks battle COVID, it’s time for them to bounce back. Their goaltending situations seems to be solidified and they’ve got a ton of talent up front, adding Podkolzin to the mix. Now, could we be seeing the Canucks team that had success a couple season ago? Don’t sleep on them.
17. New York Rangers (1-1-1; 3 points)
Are the Rangers going to let Lafreniere get some more minutes this season? That could be the answer to what was a disappointing start to the season. No distractions in the room this time around, and a goaltending duo that should be among the league’s best, the Rangers could take a step towards the playoffs this season. However, I’d still call them a bubble team.
18. Los Angeles Kings (1-1-0; 2 points)
Call them a sleeper pick this season. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty have started the year on fire with Viktor Arvidsson having something to prove this time around. While they’re still not able to get Quinton Byfield into the lineup, this Kings team isn’t calling it quits just yet on their aging core.
19. Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-1; 1 point)
The Flyers will go how Carter Hart goes. They lost Jakub Voracek and brought in Cam Atkinson in one of the busiest offseasons in recent memory, but it will come down to how much they rely on Hart to steal them some games. On paper, this team should be good, but recency bias is telling us otherwise.
20. St. Louis Blues (1-0-0; 2 points)
How is this team not higher you ask? Well, does Vladimir Tarasenko actually want to be there? Still, they added Pavel Buchnevich, James Neal and Brandon Saad and have a pretty sturdy back end. And they are just two seasons removed from when they raised the Cup. They could be on the rise in coming weeks, but only time will tell.
21. Seattle Kraken (1-1-1; 3 points)
Debuting on the list at 21st, the Kraken have three points out of a possible six to start their inaugural season. Phillip Grubauer has shown glimpses of what made him a Vezina candidate last season and the team is doing their part to help him out. While they might be a long shot, this team could fight for a playoff spot in the Pacific.
22. New Jersey Devils (1-0-0; 2 points)
They made a big splash in free agency, signing Dougie Hamilton to a massive contract and Jack Hughes opened the year with a highlight reel game-winner. While there are still some questions surrounding Mackenzie Blackwood, this team could be a fun one to watch again with the likes of Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer.
23. Nashville Predators (0-2-0; 0 points)
It’s the Jusse Saros era in Nashville and it hasn’t started off on the right foot as the team is 0-2 to start the year. Filip Forsberg lost his friend Arvidsson in the offseason and Ryan Ellis joined the Flyers. While there are exciting times ahead for the Preds, don’t expect this season to be a lock for playoffs.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (0-2-1; 1 point)
Flower should’ve helped bloom a new era in Chicago, but Fleury hasn’t had the start he likely would’ve wanted with the Blackhawks. That, along with the return of Jonathan Toews and a healthy Kirby Dach, this team needs to build some chemistry again and it could take some time.
25. Ottawa Senators (2-1-0; 4 points)
No Brady Tkachuk to start the year, the Sens were still able to steal one from their divisional rival Maple Leafs to start the year. Now, with Tkachuk signed and ready to go, don’t expect the Senators to be in the lower part of these rankings for long. A playoff squad? Maybe not. But they sure are going to push their way up in the Atlantic Division.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0-0; 4 points)
Their biggest loss came in the offseason and since then, Elvis Merzlikins has vowed to win the Vezina this season. Two games in and the team has four points and is looking strong. The goal will be to maintain that inspiration throughout the season. It’s a no-Torts era in Columbus and it’ll be interesting to see how Patrik Laine evolves with a new coach at the helm.
27. Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0; 2 points)
John Gibson has already suffered a minor injury, but while goaltending might be an issue, the young guns in Anaheim could make this team interesting to watch this year. Mason McTavish opened the year with a two-point effort and Jamie Drysdale looks like he could be the real deal on the back end. Add Trevor Zegras to the mix and the Ducks are well on their way to becoming a contending team in a couple of seasons.
28. Calgary Flames (0-1-0; 0 points)
What can be expected from the Flames this season? That’s the biggest question in Alberta right now as it pertains to hockey. Their leader is gone – with Giordano going to Seattle in the expansion draft – and now the team will need to form a new identity. That could push them back this season, forcing them to miss the playoffs once again.
29. Detroit Red Wings (1-0-1; 3 points)
Let Steve Yzerman build another contender – this time in Detroit. While Tyler Bertuzzi won’t be able to play games in Canada, the rest of the team is looking impressive to start the year. Alex Nedeljkovic was a major pick up this offseason and Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider will both make this young squad a force to be reckoned with.
30. Buffalo Sabres (2-0-0; 4 points)
No Jack Eichel. No problem. While the Eichel-Sabres saga continues, the team has picked up two wins to start the year and lead the Atlantic Division. Sabres fans should take any silver lining they can from this season because it’s going to be a long one. Still, both Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson have goals against averages under 1.00 in their first games and the Sabres aren’t at the bottom of this power rankings… yet.
31. San Jose Sharks (1-0-0; 2 points)
With Evander Kane out for the foreseeable future, the Sharks are relying on anyone else to help drive this team. There’s a lot of names that can fill the net, but I’m not sold on the goaltending yet – with Adin Hill and James Reimer between the pipes. This could be a long season for the Sharks.
32. Arizona Coyotes (0-1-1; 1 point)
Already written off after one game, the Coyotes could be an interesting team come the trade deadline. After all, with Carter Hutton in net, don’t expect this team to win a lot of games. Their future is questionable at this point in time and the present has led them to the bottom of the power rankings this week.
There’s a lot of hockey left in 2021-22 and many of these teams can climb and drop on these rankings. Still, the Avalanche are leading the charge to start the year as one of the teams to look out for right up and into the playoffs.
As for the Kraken, there was a lot of conversation of how they aren’t like the Golden Knights in how competitive they might be in their inaugural season, but don’t count them out yet. The Kraken have a solid back end and legitimate goaltending which could make them more of a threat than others in the Pacific.
Join us next week for another edition of the THW Power Rankings, and comment below on whether or not you agree with where your team sits on this week’s rankings.
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Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.