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NHL Power Rankings: Who is playing their way out of postseason early?

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NHL Power Rankings: Who is playing their way out of postseason early?

With December here, it’s time to give last rites to some of the teams that have already played their way out of the playoffs this season.

Mathematically, of course, every team is still alive, but realistically any team that hopes to be in the postseason can’t fall more than a handful of points out of the playoff picture this late into the regular season. The Buffalo Sabres are already 13 points out of a playoff spot in the East, and have been an uninspired mess since the very first few days of the season.

The Flyers are eight points out of a playoff spot after losing their 10th game in a row on Saturday afternoon, and have five teams in front of them in the playoff pole position. That’s pretty much a wrap already for the Broad Street Bullies.

In the West it’s only Arizona that has already played their way out of the postseason while 12 points outside the playoffs. That’s nothing new for the Coyotes fans out there, of course. But if trade rumor hounds want to start looking to the places where rumors are going to come from, right now it’s the Sabres, Flyers and Coyotes that are already closing in on “wait until next year” time with teams that dropped like a stone right out of the gate.  

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

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (15-2-2, rank last week: 1) – The Bolts are on a bit of a mini-skid with four losses in their last seven games, but they still have quality wins over San Jose and Chicago during that stretch. They are the class of the Atlantic Division.

2. Winnipeg Jets (16-6-4, rank last week: 3) – How about those Winnipeg Jets? They continue to win and keep their fine standing in the Western Conference, and look like that potential is finally turning into actual results on the ice. It is a crazy amount of young talent on that team when you look at the roster.

3. Nashville Predators (16-7-3, rank last week: 10) – The Predators are winning and Viktor Arvidsson is dishing the ring for postgame wedding engagements in Nashville. It sounds like the Preds are over that little Stanley Cup Final hangover from the beginning of the season.

4. Los Angeles Kings (16-8-3, rank last week: 6) – Everybody was talking about Drew Doughty’s contract and his NHL future over the last couple of weeks, and with good reason. He continues to dominate while playing 27 minutes of ice time per game.

5.   St. Louis Blues (17-8-2, rank last week: 2) – The Blues have lost three in a row for the first time all season, and fell short against fellow Western Conference hopefuls in Los Angeles, Minnesota and Anaheim. It’s still been a very good season for the Blues thus far, but this has been a down note lately.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets (17-9-1, rank last week: 7) – The Blue Jackets have won eight of their last 10 games and won six in a row during that stretch. Many of those wins were one-goal games as Sergei Bobrovsky continues to refuse to turn over his badge (inside joke for the Jay and Dan fans up in Canada).

7.  Toronto Maple Leafs (17-10-1, rank last week: 4) – The Leafs are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games and continue to stay within striking distance of the Lightning. No pun intended. Okay, maybe it was.    

8.  New Jersey Devils (15-7-4, rank last week: 5) – The Devils are still heavily in the mix for the playoffs after a surprising first couple of months to the season, but it’s going to take a while for the stink to come off a 5-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes this weekend. Ouch.

9. New York Islanders (15-8-2, rank last week: 11) – The Isles have cranked out 39 goals in their last nine games and continue to push upward in the Metro Division with some pretty impressive numbers across the board. It looks like Doug Weight behind the bench has been very good for that team.   

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (15-10-3, rank last week: 8) – Boy, this Tristan Jarry has come out of nowhere and been exactly what the Penguins needed while ripping off four wins in a row. Matt Murray better be careful that he doesn’t get Mark-Andre Fleury-ed.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (15-9-1, rank last week: 9) – I don’t think anybody foresaw William Karlsson as the leading goal-scorer for Vegas, or that the Golden Knights would be in a playoff position two months into the season. Welp, so much for all those know-it-all talking heads.

12. Dallas Stars (15-10-1, rank last week: 25) – The Stars have racked up four wins in a row and started to get the defensive side of things under control a bit. There’s still a long way to go, but maybe Ken Hitchcock’s message is starting to sink in.

13. San Jose Sharks (14-9-2, rank last week: 13) – One goal in 25 games for Brent Burns after he scored 56 goals over the previous two seasons, and won the Norris Trophy last season. How the heck does that even happen?

14. Washington Capitals (15-11-1, rank last week: 18) – Five wins in their last seven games, and they’ve done a good job of cracking down defensively after giving up six goals in back-to-back losses to Nashville and Colorado. They are in a playoff spot, but just barely right now.

15. New York Rangers (14-10-2, rank last week: 23) – The Rangers have won each of their last five Henrik Lundqvist starts, and King Henrik has only given up six goals over that time span. That’s exactly what the Blueshirts needed to kick them back into gear, but they’re still on the outside looking in for the playoffs.

16. Vancouver Canucks (13-10-4, rank last week: 19) – The Canucks are hanging around, and it looks like Anders Nilsson is pushing for more playing time between the pipes behind a group of talented, young players.

17. Minnesota Wild (13-10-3, rank last week: 15) – The Wild really feel like an also-ran in the Western Conference right now, and perhaps that’s accentuated even more by how average Devan Dubnyk has been this season. If he’s not superhuman then neither are the Wild.

18. Montreal Canadiens (13-12-3, rank last week: 26) – The Habs usher Carey Price back into the proceedings, and they all of a sudden rip off five wins in a row while upping their goal-producing gusto as well. Price’s importance to that Habs team is nothing short of amazing.

19.  Boston Bruins (12-8-4, rank last week: 24) – The Bruins have won six of seven games, and they’re finally healthy for the first time all season. It’s going to be a different kind of challenge to keep everybody happy once roles get changed with good health, but it’s a big development that Tuukka Rask is finally on track.

20.  Calgary Flames (14-11-1, rank last week: 17) – A whopping 36 points in 26 games for Johnny Gaudreau is something special, but the Flames as a team are scrapping just to try to get into the playoff picture.

21. Chicago Blackhawks (12-9-5, rank last week: 16) – Did you hear the one about the Chicago Blackhawks playing in another outdoor hockey game? Yeah, me too.

22. Ottawa Senators (9-9-6, rank last week: 12) – Matt Duchene has one goal and a minus-9 in his first 10 games as a member of the Senators, which has to be pretty disappointing given the investment they made to get him.

23. Carolina Hurricanes (11-9-5, rank last week: 17) – Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho are the two leading scorers for the Hurricanes, so there’s reason for excitement with the young players. But once again the Canes are rounding up the rear in the Metro Division.

24. Anaheim Ducks (11-11-5, rank last week: 22) – The Anaheim Ducks are trying to bolster their offense by adding Adam Henrique, but the jury is out on how well it’s going to end up working for a team scoring 2.6 goals per game.  

25. Detroit Red Wings (10-12-5, rank last week: 14) – The Red Wings have lost seven in a row, and are in serious danger of dropping completely out of the playoff picture in early December. There are trying times for Jeff Blashill.  

26. Colorado Avalanche (12-10-2, rank last week: 20) – Harvard’s Alexander Kerfoot is turning out to be a pretty good signing for the Avs with eight goals and 18 points in 24 games this season. Avs have been okay this season, so at least there’s that.

27. Philadelphia Flyers (8-11-7, rank last week: 27) – The Flyers have lost 10 games in a row while completely nose-diving to the bottom of the Metro Division. Cue the whispers about Dave Hakstol being in jeopardy and everybody being on the trade block.

28. Edmonton Oilers (11-14-2, rank last week: 28) – The Oilers were already struggling and now they’ve lost Cam Talbot to injury as well. It just looks more and more like this is going to be a lost year for the Oil given how bad things are right now.

29. Florida Panthers (10-13-3, rank last week: 29) – The Panthers are 28th in goals against, 29th in power play success rate and 30th in the penalty kill this season. That is exactly why they’re circling the drain in the East.

30. Buffalo Sabres (6-17-4, rank last week: 30) – The Sabres have lost another four games in a row, and things are absolutely miserable in Big Buff Land. It’s only a matter of time until Evander Kane gets dealt somewhere.

31. Arizona Coyotes (7-18-4, rank last week: 31) – Second-to-last in offense, and dead least in defense in the NHL. At least they’ve got Clayton Keller, but he’s cooled off a bit while racking up a whopping minus-17 mark in 29 games.   

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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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