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NHL Power Rankings: Bubble starting to burst for Cinderella teams

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NHL Power Rankings: Bubble starting to burst for Cinderella teams

The bubble is beginning to burst for some of the Cinderella teams out of the starting gate around the NHL. The Kings have lost four games in a row and look like the offense is again becoming a problem, the Rangers are back to losing after an extended winning streak, and both the Flyers and Stars have dropped three games in a row after decent starts to their seasons amid low expectations.

There are still a few other teams like the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights, among others, that are bucking expectations and defying convention thus far. It will take a bit more sustained success before people are truly ready to buy in on them this season. Until that happens they remain a nice little story among the true contenders vying for league dominance.  

Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s preseason power rankings:

1.  Tampa Bay Lightning (regular season record: 15-2-2, rank last week: 2) – The Bolts are on another five-game winning streak, and continue to serve notice that they were the sorta new, sorta old sheriff in the Eastern Conference. First in the NHL in goals scored, second in goals against and second in power play is some pretty amazing performance.

2.  St. Louis Blues (14-5-1, rank last week: 1) – Brayden Schenn and Jordan Schwartz are the top two scorers for a Blues team that’s fought their way to the top of the Central Division. While that’s a great story in St. Louis, it does raise questions about how long they can sustain that over the course of a full hockey season.

3.  Winnipeg Jets (11-4-3, rank last week: 5) – Three wins in a row and one regulation loss in the last 10 games for a Jets team that seems to finally be getting it. Mark Schiefele has really become a difference-maker in Winnipeg.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-7-0, rank last week: 6) – The Maple Leafs have won five games in a row without Auston Matthews, which is a pretty impressive feat for such a young group. It does appear like it could also be a season of streaks for a Toronto club that’s shown both extremes already this season.

5. New Jersey Devils (11-4-3, rank last week: 7) – The New Jersey home for wayward Bruins has been pretty good thus far with both Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes making the most of their next opportunity after varying degrees of success in Boston… very varying.

6. Los Angeles Kings (11-6-2, rank last week: 3) – The Kings have hit a bit of a wall with four losses in a row where they’ve scored a grand total of six goals while looking much more like last season’s bunch of Kings. Jonathan Quick will keep them in those games now that he’s healthy again, but you’re not going to win if you can’t score.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-7-1, rank last week: 8) – The Blue Jackets have bounced back from four losses in a row to win three games in a row where they needed to grind it out with an on-his-game Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s pretty much how it’s going to go for Columbus.   

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, rank last week: 4) – Phil Kessel is leading the Penguins in scoring and Sidney Crosby has been merely okay offensively (six goals in 21 games) with a minus-12 on the season. Has the whole world of the Penguins turned upside down or what?

9. Vegas Golden Knights (11-6-1, rank last week: 9) – The long goaltending nightmare is over for Vegas as it appears that Malcolm Subban is approaching a return to the lineup. Credit to the Golden Knights for holding things together while the injuries played out, and continuing to defy the odds of what they could do this season.   

10. Nashville Predators (10-6-2, rank last week: 10) – The Predators are 5-1-1 in Music City and once again making that a tough place to play for opponents. Certainly the sight of PK Subban in a cowboy hat during pregame warm-ups is sign that the Predators players are fully buying into what’s going on in Nashville, and that makes them a very formidable opponent.

11.   New York Islanders (10-6-2, rank last week: 11) – The Isles have won a couple of games in a row and appear to have hit their stride while slowly moving up the Metro Division ranks. That they’ve done with so-so seasons for Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd certainly says plenty about other guys stepping up.  

12. Ottawa Senators (8-4-5, rank last week: 13) – Nobody has played fewer games in the NHL than the Senators, and they are just outside a playoff spot after adding Matt Duchene to their lineup. I’d say things are looking pretty good for Ottawa and where they’re set up at this point in the season.

13. San Jose Sharks (10-7-0, rank last week: 20) – The Sharks are the best defensive team in the NHL, and have the second-best penalty kill in the league this season. That’s certainly a change from the past for the Sharks, but they remain, as ever, in the hunt for the playoffs.

14. Detroit Red Wings (10-8-2, rank last week: 19) – It’s less than a week before Thanksgiving and the Red Wings are in a playoff spot. It’s a big question if they can sustain what they’ve built up this far and they do have three or four games on much of their Atlantic Division competition, but they are in a better spot than anybody could have imagined at this point.

15. Minnesota Wild (9-7-2, rank last week: 26) – The Wild have won four games in a row as Devan Dubnyk is starting to get his stuff together, and are once again in the mix in the Central Division as they seemingly always have been over the recent past.

16. Chicago Blackhawks (9-8-2, rank last week: 24) – The Blackhawks have been jolted back to life by rookie Alex DeBrincat pumping up the offense to support the longtime veteran core. They’ve won two of their last three games and scored 15 goals in those three games as well.

17. Calgary Flames (10-8-0, rank last week: 12) – The Flames have won five of their last seven games, but also gave up eight goals to the Red Wings in their last loss. Jaromir Jagr has been pretty okay since getting healthy for the Flames, so the legend keeps on growing.

18. Washington Capitals (10-9-1, rank last week: 18) – The Capitals are 24th in the NHL in goals against and Braden Holtby has been pretty ordinary for the Capitals this season. It sure feels like they’ve lost a little something defensively this season, which doesn’t bode well for their Cup chances.

19.  Vancouver Canucks (9-8-2, rank last week: 15) – All three of their leading scorers are young, talented forwards, so at least the Canucks have that going for them…which is nice. But the Sedins have five goals and a combined 15 points in 38 games, and it appears the end may be nearing for the Swedish twins.

20.  Colorado Avalanche (9-7-1, rank last week: 21) – It feels like Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon have both played much better since the Matt Duchene train left the station. Maybe that’s a coincidence, but it doesn’t feel like it for whatever reason.

21. Philadelphia Flyers (8-6-0, rank last week: 14) – The Flyers have scored a grand total of one goal in their last three games, which is also a three-game losing streak for the Broad Street Bullies. Who would have guessed that offense would be a major issue for this group?

22. Anaheim Ducks (8-7-3, rank last week: 17) – The Ducks have points in four of their last five games, and finally seem to be pulling things together a month into the season. This isn’t the same team that was a Western Conference powerhouse a couple of years ago, but they can still be a heavy, formidable foe on any given night.

23. New York Rangers (9-9-2, rank last week: 16) – The bad news for the Rangers is that the six-game winning streak is in the rearview mirror. The good news is that Rick Nash seems to have found his game, and is producing offense for a Blueshirts group that needs everything they can get.

24. Boston Bruins (7-7-4, rank last week: 23) – The Bruins, through injuries and major inexperience, are slowly sliding down into oblivion before Thanksgiving, and are going to need to find some things to hang their hat on if they want to survive the month of November.  

25. Dallas Stars (9-9-1, rank last week: 22) – The Stars are 2-4-1 in the month of November, and have been outscored 24-7 in the losses this month. It really feels like there is a compete problem in Big ‘D’ where they shouldn’t be getting dominated like that from a talent standpoint.

26. Montreal Canadiens (8-10-2, rank last week: 25) – While it’s good that Charlie Lindgren has stepped up and been pretty good for the Habs in an emergency-type situation, it’s an absolute disaster that Carey Price is banged up again for Montreal. This is a season where everything that could go wrong pretty much has for the Habs.

27. Carolina Hurricanes (7-6-4, rank last week: 27) – The Hurricanes have taken seven of their last 10 points, but it’s not really making much of a dent in the Metro Division. The one truly encouraging sign has been some very good goaltending from Scott Darling and Cam Ward.

28. Edmonton Oilers (7-10-2, rank last week: 28) – The Oilers seemed like they might be pulling out of their early-season funk, but then lost four of their last five games to stick close to the Pacific Division basement. It’s been a rough start for Cam Talbot, and that’s been one of the big differences for the Oil.   

29. Florida Panthers (7-9-2, rank last week: 30) – You have to wonder where the Panthers would be if they hadn’t brought in a player like Evgenii Dadonov, who has been one of the best offensive players on the team this year. That’s a nice win for Florida’s management group to get him back in the fold this season.

30. Buffalo Sabres (5-10-4, rank last week: 29) – So many sticks to break for Jack Eichel, so little time.

31. Arizona Coyotes (3-15-3, rank last week: 31) – The Coyotes have gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. That is considered a major roll for them, so they have to be getting pretty excited out in the desert.

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Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Appearing Friday morning on Toucher & Rich, 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson spoke about the Bruins' chances at signing former NHL All-Star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, saying he thinks they might have a leg up on other teams due to their cap space.

Kovalchuk, 35, was regarded as one of the NHL's premier scorers for much of his tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, before returning to his native Russia in the summer of 2013 to play in the KHL full-time. He most recently won a Gold Medal with the makeshift "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team at the 2018 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament.

Candidates for the Bruins' top pick in the 2018 NHL draft

Candidates for the Bruins' top pick in the 2018 NHL draft

It’s difficult enough to project players to be taken in the first round of an NHL Draft, so it gets really dicey when that’s extended to the second round and beyond. But the Bruins will have to wait until the 57th overall pick before taking a player next weekend at the NHL draft in Dallas after shipping their first-round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash at the trade deadline. 

So the B's will have to rely on their scouting legwork and research they’ve put into their group of targeted prospects once their pick comes up at the end of the second round. But the second round has been pretty good to the Bruins as of late: Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Ryan Spooner were all second round picks that have turned into NHL regulars after being selected by the B’s over the last 10 years.

Still, the last regular NHL player to be developed after being the 57th overall pick in the draft was William Carrier, who was drafted by St. Louis in the second round of the 2013 draft before later developing into an energy player for the Buffalo Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights. Here are a few players to give you an idea of what the Bruins will be looking at as draft possibilities when they step to the podium to make their second-round pick next weekend in Dallas. . .

Oskar Back – center (Farjestads): The 6-foot-2, 192-pound center has the size and tools that you look for in a frontline center and posted 10 goals and 32 points in 38 games for his Swedish junior team this past season. The Bruins already have a wave of young center prospects in Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jack Studnicka, but you can never have too much depth or quality down the middle of your lineup. Back didn’t score in a 14-game audition in the Swedish Elite League last season, but just the fact that he was there for that many games says something about his game and the high ceiling for his hockey talent. His overall performance doesn’t scream out anything dynamic offensively, but the reports indicate he’s smart, strong along the boards and makes his teammates better when he’s out on the ice. He’d be a pretty safe pick at the 57th spot, but given his size/strength and the intangibles in his game, it certainly sounds like there’s some serious NHL potential there even if he doesn’t turn out to be a top-6 center. Why the Bruins would select Back: They certainly value prospects coming out of Sweden and he checks off many boxes at the point that the Bruins will be selecting at the very end of the second round. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Back: He sounds like another potential third line center in an organization where they’ve already got a couple of those guys in Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.   

Aidan Dudas – center/right wing (Owen Sound): The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Dudas is the kind of player that seems to be finding a lot of success at the NHL level these days. He’s extremely undersized, but he’s also fast, creative and highly productive offensively. The Bruins have already passed on a couple of these type players in the draft having bypassed both Alex DeBrincat and Kailer Yamamoto in recent years, and perhaps they’ll make up for that by zeroing in on Dudas. The right-shooting center-wing finished his draft season with 31 goals and 65 points in 68 games for the Owen Sound Attack, and really elevated his draft stock this year after a quiet rookie season in the OHL. The fact he also busted out for a pair of goals and three points in the CHL Top Prospects Game against the best and brightest of his peers also showed that size and strength levels will play beyond junior hockey. His blistering shot and release are probably his most NHL-ready attributes and certainly could carry him a long way. Why the Bruins would select Dudas: You can never have enough speed and skill, and Dudas has both of those things in large amounts even if he doesn’t have the prototypical size to go along with it. Plus the kid is from Parry Sound, and things worked out pretty well for the Bruins the last time they took the best player from that area. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Dudas: They’ve passed on smaller skill players like DeBrincat and Yamamoto before, so they certainly could do it again as they’re already size and strength-challenged a bit on the wing. 

Kevin Bahl – defenseman (Ottawa): The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Bahl is one of the biggest players in this year’s draft and has consistently been a winner and among the best shutdown D-men of his age group throughout his amateur hockey career. Bahl is intimidating at his size and strength level, using his stick very well for a younger player and also skates pretty smoothly despite his massive frame. He hasn’t shown much offense at all to this point in his career and may be a fairly one-dimensional shutdown defenseman at the NHL level. Still, there is room for those kinds of players at Bahl’s size. The one thing that seems to be an issue for Bahl at this point in his career is his willingness to throw his weight around and play a more physical game. That’s something he’s going to need to do if he’s going to consistently play at the NHL level without much offensive skill. For the Bruins, it’s certainly a good value pick if you can get an accomplished, mammoth shutdown D-man at the end of the second round. Why the Bruins would select Bahl: With Zdeno Chara turning 42 years old this upcoming season, the idea of drafting a huge, left-shot shutdown defenseman is pretty sound logic. Bahl has been a winner throughout his career as well, and the Bruins value those kinds of players. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Bahl: They already have Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen in the system, and may not want to use their top selection in this draft on another left shot D-man. We’ll see.   

Justin Almeida – center (Moose Jaw): The 5-foot-10, 163-pound Almeida didn’t look like he was going to be much of a high-end draft prospect headed into this season, and then he absolutely exploded for the Moose Jaw Warriors this year. Almeida used his speed and high-end scoring ability to rack up 43 goals and 98 points in 72 games this season before piling up another six goals and 13 points in 14 playoff games for Moose Jaw. He’s obviously a bit of a project given his current size and he’s only got the one dominant season on his resume after being a bit of an underachiever earlier in his junior career, but it’s hard to ignore the kind of production and dominance he showed as a center/left wing this season in the WHL. Why the Bruins would select Almeida: The skills are there and if he’d done a bit more consistently, he’d probably be talked about as a possible first-round selection even though he’s already 19 years old. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Almeida: He was a bit of an underachiever prior to his one excellent season, so it’s difficult to gauge what exactly he’s going to be at the next level where he projected as a bottom-6 prospect prior to this season. 

Stanislav Demin – defenseman (Wenatchee): The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Demin was extremely productive in the BCHL with nine goals and 45 points in 57 games for the Wenatchee Wild. The California native is the highest-rated prospect coming out of the BCHL and had a strong playoff as well for the Wild. He’s committed to the University of Denver in the fall and could be a good, long-range defenseman prospect that the Bruins could let develop at the college ranks for a bit. The size and skill level is good as is the skating game for a solid D-man that’s only real question is going to be the competition level he faced in the BCHL. Why the Bruins would select Demin: He’s good value at the end of the second round as he looks and sounds like a prospect that could turn into a very useful and productive NHL player. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Demin: They’ve taken a defenseman with their top pick in each of the last three drafts and might decide to go in a different direction this time around, though it shouldn’t really matter if he’s the best player available.  

Liam Foudy – center/left wing (London): The 6-foot, 161-pound Foudy was a player that really bumped up his profile in the second half of the OHL season after getting a bigger role with the London Knights. Foudy finished with 24 goals and 40 points in 65 games for the Knights and showed good skating ability to go along with a pretty good shot and solid offensive instincts. Clearly, Foudy is a player that needs to get stronger and a team will really have to project with the player they see in front of them right now. All that being said he could turn into a very good pick if he develops into a monster for the Knights next season as he gains strengths and matures while in a bigger role with the Knights. Why the Bruins would select Foudy: They could be getting in on the ground floor with an extremely talented player just as they did with the Jack Studnicka pick a year ago, and the second half of this past junior season could just be the tip of the iceberg. Why the Bruins won’t select Foudy: There will be more polished or finished prospects available to the Bruins when they select 57th overall, and they may not be looking to roll the dice with their top pick in the draft. Based on last year’s season in London, Foudy certainly seems to be on the right track.  

Jay O’Brien – center (Thayer Academy): You’ve got to have a local kid among the hopefuls for the Bruins, right? The Hingham native and Thayer Academy star dominated at the prep school level this season and has been developing right in the Bruins’ backyard under the watchful eye of Thayer head coach and former NHL standout Tony Amonte. The 6-foot, 174-pound O’Brien finished with 43 goals and a whopping 80 points in 30 games for Thayer, and has dipped his toes on other teams just to show he can play at those levels. O’Brien is committed to Providence College for next season and will be in a good spot playing for a Nate Leaman-led program that’s produced a number of Bruins players over the last few seasons. In a lot of ways, O’Brien is similar to Ryan Donato when he was drafted by the Bruins in the second round a few years back given his size and scoring abilities. So it wouldn’t be a shock if Boston calls his name should he still be available with the 57th overall pick. Why the Bruins would select O’Brien: He’s the best available local prospect, he’s going to a Hockey East school and he’s already got ties to the Bruins given a relationship he has with Ryan Donato. He makes a lot of sense. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select: There are always the questions about lack of competition from a prep player like O’Brien, but he’s clearly got the goods if he’s all lined up for Hockey East next season.  

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