That was a fun project — ranking the NHL teams by position.
Fun and enlightening, yet challenging since the league’s parity is so prevalent on paper.
There were tiers at every position that opened the door to much debate, with the slightest of margins separating several teams. That made for difficult decisions from top to bottom, especially with the forwards and defence but even extending to the goaltenders.
The end result is these power rankings based on my positional rankings. For this exercise, I simply added up those three rankings — forwards, defence and goaltenders — with the lowest totals being the best and the highest obviously being the worst.
In wrapping up this four-part series, here are the power rankings based on my positional rankings — counting down from No. 31 to No. 1.
31) Detroit Red Wings
Previous Ranking: 31
ANALYSIS: The Detroit Red Wings struggled in all areas during the 2019-20 season from offence all the way down to goaltending. They couldn’t score, defend, or keep the puck out of the net. When a team is that bad, they can usually find solace in the fact that they will be getting the first overall pick. Unfortunately for general manager Steve Yzerman and the gang, that won’t be happening after a disappointing draft lottery result that finds them selecting fourth. On the bright side, they can only go up from here.
30) Los Angeles Kings
Previous Ranking: 27
ANALYSIS: The Los Angeles Kings are in the midst of a rebuild, and these rankings show it. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, and Drew Doughty are all approaching the twilight of their careers and are not the dominant forces they once were. So it’s no wonder they struggled as a team this past season. There is a lot to look forward to though as they have a strong pipeline that is only going to get stronger.
In fact, THW’s own Josh Bell ranked their farm system first in the entire NHL. If all goes according to the projections, they will also be selecting Quinton Byfield with the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, so I don’t think they will be giving up the crown very soon (pardon the pun). Needless to say, the future looks very bright in Hollywood.
29) New Jersey Devils
Previous Ranking: 19
ANALYSIS: How the mighty have fallen. At the beginning of the 2019-20 season, the Devils were predicted by many to be a playoff team, not another footnote at the bottom of the NHL standings. First, they lost nine of their first 11 games, then Taylor Hall was traded, and finally, their GM Ray Shero was fired. Then, to top it all off, their head coach John Hynes was fired too. Oh, yes, I almost forgot, their prized acquisition PK Subban had his worst season in the NHL as well. Talk about a disappointing season.
Fortunately, Lindy Ruff was hired in the offseason to potentially right the ship. His up-tempo system should cater to Subban’s puck-moving abilities, so I would bet we will see more of the 40-50 point version instead of the 18-point one.
28) Ottawa Senators
Previous Ranking: 31
ANALYSIS: The Senators are clearly rebuilding still, but could be turning a corner soon. They will be getting an influx of premier talent in the 2020 Draft and their young guns are starting to find their way in the NHL, so at the very least, their seems to be some forward momentum going on right now. If they could somehow get some solid goaltending next season, they may surprise some people. Especially if they are able to transform some of the draft picks they have into solid NHL assets for their 2020-21 roster.
27) San Jose Sharks
Previous Ranking: 14
ANALYSIS: After a relatively solid ranking at the beginning of the season, the Sharks now find themselves 28th overall. Most of that had to do with the continued decline of starting goaltender Martin Jones and the porous defence from two of the best in Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. They also had a heck of a time scoring goals as well. Who knew that losing your best player and captain to free agency would do so much to your lineup? Joe Pavelski drove the offence for many seasons, and his absence was definitely noticeable throughout the season. If the Sharks want to turn a corner, their expensive long-term pillars on defence have to bounce back, and their goaltending needs to move on from Jones.
26) Anaheim Ducks
Previous Ranking: 24
ANALYSIS: The Ducks are still led by the grizzled veteran Ryan Getzlaf, who just finished his 15th season in the NHL. He is approaching the vaunted 1000-point mark and will probably be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done. Unfortunately, his production is not where it once was, as he has now gone two seasons without eclipsing 50 points. That means someone younger will have to take the reigns from him soon. As of right now, he remains the Ducks’ number one center at 35-years-old. That has to change if they want to climb back to the realm of playoff contention once again.
John Gibson is still in his prime and the defence has potential with Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson leading the way, so a bounce-back is not out of the question. Though a new forward core has to start emerging soon, or that will never happen.
25) Buffalo Sabres
Previous Ranking: 21
ANALYSIS: The Sabres had another frustrating season in all areas. On paper, they really shouldn’t be all that bad, especially with elite talents like Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin leading the way. Eichel had a career-high 36 goals and Dahlin had 40 points, so they did their best to turn the ship around. Consistency seems to be the thing that has eluded them in recent seasons, so if they can remedy that, they could contend for a playoff spot in 2020-21.
24) Edmonton Oilers
ANALYSIS: The Oilers have two of the best players in the NHL, yet they missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Their defence and goaltending are still a work in progress and depth is certainly a problem beyond Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The answer is not James Neal, even though he scored 19 goals. They need to stop relying solely on the trident of Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and Connor McDavid if they want to start becoming a perennial playoff contender again.
23) Chicago Blackhawks
Previous Ranking: 11
ANALYSIS: The Blackhawks still boast the talents of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith from the glory days and now have up and coming stars in Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Adam Boqvist. Their offensive power is certainly impressive, that’s why they ultimately made the playoffs before succumbing to the power of the Vegas Golden Knights. If they can get their defence and goaltending to be consistent for 2020-21, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
22) Calgary Flames
Previous Ranking: 15
ANALYSIS: It’s cliche, but to win, your best players have to be your best players. That wasn’t the case for the Calgary Flames this season, as Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Shawn Monahan all hit a rut. To put their struggles into perspective, as a unit they had 69 goals and 160 points in 2019-20 compared to 97 goals and 259 points in 2018-19. That’s a lot of production to lose from your top line. Their Norris Trophy winning defenceman Mark Giordano also slumped to 31 points after finishing last season with 74 points. Long story short, the Flames need their top dogs to be that again in 2020-21 if they hope to make the playoffs and get past the first round.
21) Minnesota Wild
Previous Ranking: 22
ANALYSIS: The Wild were propped up in these rankings by the depth and performance of their defence led by the core four of Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. They were dragged down by their goaltending as Devan Dubnyk struggled to maintain any sort of positive momentum. His backup Alex Stalock stepped in admirably to lead them back to the postseason, but at 33-years-old you can’t expect him to lead the crease full-time next season. Either Dubnyk bounces back or Kaapo Kahkonen transitions from the goaltender of the future to the goaltender of today or they will struggle to make the playoffs once again.
20) Arizona Coyotes
Previous Ranking: 25
ANALYSIS: The Arizona Coyotes vault above the Wild their superior goaltending and defence. Their offence left a lot to be desired with one of the worst units in the NHL even with the star power of Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel.
Like the Sabres, they were a better team on paper than on the ice. Hall and Kessel both struggled to generate their usual offence, as they failed to crack 20 goals on the season. In fact, as a team, they only finished with one 20 goal scorer in Conor Garland, who didn’t even play on the top line. Their team defence and goaltending were stifling, but offence continued to be a struggle. That’s why they find themselves in the bottom half of these rankings.
19) Montreal Canadiens
Previous Ranking: 13
ANALYSIS: The Montreal Canadiens saved themselves from a lower ranking by upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins and giving the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs. They may have finished 24th overall in the standings, but get a well-deserved boost for their performance in the postseason.
Carey Price showed everyone why he’s still an elite goaltender in the NHL at 33-years-old and young centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki also put on a show. So after a disappointing regular season and surprising first-round appearance, the future seems to be brighter for the Habs now than it was just a few months ago.
18) Nashville Predators
Previous Ranking: 2
ANALYSIS: Just like the Wild, the Nashville Predators’ strength and performance of their core-four on defence is the reason for their higher ranking. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, and Dante Fabbro all had solid seasons, and three of them could be top-pairing defencemen on any other team. So to say that their strength is on defence would be an understatement.
Their offensive depth is strong on paper but left a lot on the table in 2019-20. Prized free-agent acquisition Matt Duchene didn’t have the desired positive effect and the duo of Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris couldn’t help prop up the offence either, so this is where they find themselves. General manager David Poile sure has a lot to look at this offseason if they hope to right the ship when the next season gets going in a few months time.
17) Florida Panthers
Previous Ranking: 7
ANALYSIS: The Florida Panthers proved this season that scoring goals was easy. It was their defence and goaltending that left them wanting more. Their defence core may have generated points, but had a tough time defending their own house.
Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t have a good first season as the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL so that just compounded the problem. If they can get those things sorted out, and you can bet that head coach Joel Quenneville will make that happen, they will be a force to be reckoned with next season. All they have to do is re-sign a couple of key free agents in leading scorers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov and they will be laughing.
16) New York Rangers
Previous Ranking: 20
ANALYSIS: The New York Rangers were an exciting team to watch this season on many fronts. From Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin’s offensive performance to the emergence of a young stud in Igor Shesterkin, they showed us all why they will be a team to keep an eye on in the future. With Alexis Lafreniere most likely joining the team next season, they are only going to get stronger.
15) Winnipeg Jets
Previous Ranking: 17
ANALYSIS: The Winnipeg Jets were contending for the playoffs thanks mostly to the all-world performance of their goaltender Connor Hellabuyck. The Vezina Trophy finalist played out of his mind throughout the season stopping the most shots and high danger chances in the NHL. If not for him, they are toiling in the basement, and that’s not an exaggeration.
Their forward depth was challenged without Bryan Little, but with the star power of Patrick Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Blake Wheeler still available they were still a powerhouse on most nights. Their defence struggled to keep the scoring chances down, but Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey are legitimate top-pairing defenders, so with a bit of tweaking they should be able to tighten that up next season.
14) Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous Ranking: 12
ANALYSIS: Any team that has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang in their arsenal should be a perennial playoff contender. That’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Penguins are and will continue to be as long as they are on the roster. Unfortunately, their star power couldn’t get them by the upstart Canadiens in the qualifying round.
Their defence is still captained by Letang, but they will need an influx of talent soon especially if Justin Schultz is not re-signed. The goaltending tandem of Matt Murray and Tristin Jarry were a strong duo but could see a change especially if the rumours of trading Murray are true.
13) Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous Ranking: 28
ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets rocketed up the rankings in this edition because of the goaltending tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikens. The defence core led by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski helped as well, but it was the two-headed monster of Elvis and Joonas that got them rubbing shoulders in the top-15.
Especially Korpisalo, who almost willed his team past the Tampa Bay Lightning, who as you will soon find out are pretty high in these rankings. If not for him, they don’t make it past the Maple Leafs or even challenge the Lightning at all. Now don’t get me wrong, their defence helped too, but it was the goaltending that powered them in the playoffs. One thing’s for sure, he’s making them forget about Bobrovsky now.
12) Vancouver Canucks
Previous Ranking: 18
ANALYSIS: Just like the Blue Jackets and Jets before them, the Vancouver Canucks got a massive boost from their goaltender this season. Jacob Markstrom and later on, Thatcher Demko, put on quite a show for the Canucks faithful. The former was a definite MVP and the latter made it known to everyone that he’s one to watch in the future.
The star power generated by young guns Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson continued the narrative and JT Miller was probably the best trade this franchise has seen in years. If all goes according to plan, this team will be in the top-five in these rankings in no time.
11) Dallas Stars
Previous Ranking: 5
ANALYSIS: The Dallas Stars would have made the top-ten if only their offence was as strong in the regular season as it appears to be in the postseason. As with most of the top-15, they were led by a star offensive defenceman. In their case it was the silky Miro Heiskanen. He had a solid season, but has been a revalation in the playoffs. If Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are the stars on offence, he’s the star on defence.
10) Washington Capitals
Previous Ranking: 6
ANALYSIS: The Washington Capitals will continue to be an offensive force as long as Alex Ovechkin is on the roster. He’s showing no signs of slowing down and should bump against Wayne Gretzky’s record soon enough. The fact that they remained a power in the Eastern Conference despite Braden Holtby’s mediocre performance is a statement to how good a team they are.
The only reason the Capitals couldn’t make it out of the qualifying round was because of the strength of the New York Islanders’ defensive game and superior coaching from former head coach Barry Trotz. Not to mention their Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson was battling an injury too. If Holtby is ultimately not re-signed, Ilya Samsonov should provide adequate goaltending for them to remain a top-ten team in these rankings.
9) Carolina Hurricanes
Previous Ranking: 16
ANALYSIS: The ever-interesting Carolina Hurricanes continued their assault on the top-ten this season mostly because of the strength of their defence core. Dougie Hamilton was a Norris Trophy contender before he got injured, Jacob Slavin was a two-way force yet again and their depth was strengthened even more with the acquisition of Brady Skjei.
The Canes also boast two young stars in Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastien Aho. To top it all off, they could draft a stud goaltender in Jaroslav Askarov in the 2020 NHL Draft too. Talk about an embarrassment of riches if that was to happen. Regardless, they remain a team to watch in the coming seasons.
8) Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous Ranking: 3
ANALYSIS: This ranking is probably a little flattering to the Toronto Maple Leafs considering how they finished the season and exited the playoffs. Their offence was the envy of the league again with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner leading the charge, but their defence was lacking at times.
The Maple Leafs have two legitimate top defenders in Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, but beyond that, they really don’t have a strong core. With all the talent they possess up front, they need more of a balance on the back end. Their goaltending was average with Frederik Andersen, so that compounded problems at times. They ranked higher because of their star power, that’s just the reality of it.
7) New York Islanders
Previous Ranking: 26
ANALYSIS: The New York Islanders were another significant riser in these rankings. Their defence and goaltending saw to that. Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov were a strong tandem throughout the season and their defence led by the underrated Ryan Pulock was a rock most of the time as well.
Their forward depth was bolstered by the addition of two-way centerman Jean Gabriel Pageau and he’s been a key reason why they are in the Eastern Conference Finals right now. Their depth, in general, has carried them throughout the postseason. With all that going for them, they should continue to be a thorn in everyone’s sides as they develop into perennial playoff contenders.
6) St. Louis Blues
Previous Ranking: 8
ANALYSIS: The St. Louis Blues finished the season with a strong record, but hit a wall with the youthful Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. Granted they were missing a key sniper in Vladimir Tarasenko and Jordan Binnington was not his superhero self, but they still were not strong enough to beat the speed and skill of the Canucks.
The Blues will probably continue to be a playoff team next season, but Binnington has to bounce back in a big way after his first playoff series where he did not walk away with a win. If Alex Pietrangelo is not re-signed, their defensive ranking will take a massive hit, so uncertainty abounds as they get ready for 2020-21.
5) Colorado Avalanche
Previous Ranking: 23
ANALYSIS: Despite not getting past the Stars in the second round of the playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche should still be proud of what they accomplished. Nathan MacKinnon is developing into one of the best forwards in the league, and they also have one of the top young defenders in Cale Makar. Not to mention they have another future star in Bowen Byram waiting in the wings. Needless to say, they are well deserving of the top-five.
4) Philadelphia Flyers
Previous Ranking: 9
ANALYSIS: The Philadelphia Flyers finished the season as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and have a burgeoning star in goal in the form of Carter Hart. Even without the dominance of Claude Giroux, they still finished in the top-five in offence and made it to the second round of the playoffs. If not for the brilliant defensive structure of the Islanders, they are probably in the Conference Finals against the Lightning. So, look for them to be a dominant team again in 2020-21.
3) Vegas Golden Knights
Previous Ranking: 10
ANALYSIS: The Vegas Golden Knights did not start 2019-20 on a good note, but are sure finishing it on one. Their top-six is the envy of the league, their system is as effective as any in the NHL and they have goaltending depth to boot. They have given every team that has met them in the postseason fits and will continue to do so until they get eliminated or win the Stanley Cup. They are well deserving of their third-place ranking.
2) Boston Bruins
Previous Ranking: 4
ANALYSIS: The Boston Bruins were the toast of the NHL in 2019-20 finishing with the best record overall. The “Perfection Line” remains one of the best in the league with the lethal David Pastrnak leading the way along with the reliable Patrice Bergeron and the pesky Brad Marchand completing the trio.
The Bruins’ defence is deep and their goaltending boasts one of the best in the NHL in Tuukka Rask. The only reason they did not go further was that he opted out of the playoffs because of family concerns. Next season should see more of the same as their team probably won’t see many changes at the top of the lineup.
1) Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous Ranking: 1
ANALYSIS: Another season is in the books and the King has not been toppled off his throne. The Tampa Bay Lightning remain atop these rankings and it’s fitting since they are probably as close to a Stanley Cup favorite as you can get. They boast a deep lineup from forwards to defence and one of the best goaltenders in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning got a bit of a scare with the Blue Jackets again, but have been dominant ever since dispatching them and the Bruins en route to the Eastern Conference Final. The Islanders are going to give them all they can handle, but I predict we will be seeing them hoist the Stanley Cup very soon.
Feel free to disagree with those rankings and share your own in the comments below.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.