NHL Power Rankings: 2017-18 preview and predictions
NHL Power Rankings
NBC Sports Chicago's Charlie Roumeliotis unveils his NHL Power Rankings going into the 2017-18 season, and predicts where each team will finish.
31. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights did the right thing by collecting as many picks as possible in the expansion draft, and starting from the bottom up. You need a franchise player to build around, and the only way to get that is by securing a top pick. They'll be exciting, but finish near the basement isn't a bad thing.
Prediction: Eighth in Pacific
30. Colorado Avalanche
There is no way the Avalanche will endure a worse season than last year, but they will still have trouble getting out of the cellar. The question here isn't if Matt Duchene is getting traded, it's when, and for what? Their only hope to maximize their return is if a contending team loses a star player to injury.
Prediction: Seventh in Central
29. Vancouver Canucks
Could this be the Sedin twins' last run in the NHL? If so, what a duo that was. It's time to hand the keys of the franchise to someone else.
Prediction: Seventh in Pacific
28. Detroit Red Wings
After a historic 25-year run, the Red Wings' playoff streak is over. And it's probably for the better. Rather than fighting to make the playoffs every year or hovering around the middle of the pack, it might be wise to bottom out and finally refocus on stockpiling high-end talent.
Prediction: Eighth in Atlantic
27. New Jersey Devils
The Devils would have been an intriguing team going into the year if they weren't deal with some significant blows early on. Top center Travis Zajac will miss at least half the season with a torn pectoral muscle while veteran center Brian Boyle was diagnosed with cancer. No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier should have fans excited for the future.
Prediction: Seventh in Metropolitan
26. Buffalo Sabres
Just in time for the season, Jack Eichel signed an eight-year, $80 million extension to solidify their franchise player for the next decade. The rest of the roster is still a work in progress. How quickly can Phil Housley speed up Buffalo's rebuild?
Prediction: Sixth in Atlantic
25. New York Islanders
The Islanders added offensively-gifted winger Jordan Eberle to pair with John Tavares, but shipped out Travis Hamonic from draft picks, not position players to surround their soon-to-be unrestricted free agent captain. The goaltending position wasn't addressed, the blue line got weaker, and there are still question marks surrounding their bottom six. It might be another long year in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Eighth in Metropolitan
24. Arizona Coyotes
When's the last time there was buzz around Arizona? The Coyotes acquired Derek Stepan to serve as their top center, Niklas Hjalmarsson to anchor the blue line with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Calder Trophy candidate Clayton Keller will have a chance to play top line minutes. And Antti Raanta has shown to be ready to be a full-time starting goaltender.
Prediction: Fifth in Pacific
23. Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau missed more than half of last season and Aleksander Barkov missed 21 games. That's two of their three top-liners missing a large chunk together. Bring in offensively-skilled winger Evgeny Dadonov from the KHL, and the Panthers should have a dangerous first line that will set the tone for the rest of the group.
Prediction: Fourth in Atlantic, first wild card spot
22. Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick played in only 17 games last year due to injury and it really set the Kings off on the wrong foot. Although Peter Budaj did a spectacular job filling in, it was psychologically demoralizing for a team thinking about a deep postseason run then missing out all together. If Anze Kopitar can rebound off a down season, they'll be in the mix of the playoff race.
Prediction: Third in Pacific
21. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have the potential to be a surprise team or a disaster. We think it will be the former. Shayne Gostisbehere plays more like his rookie self than his sophomore self in a bounce-back campaign. Ivan Provorov builds off a terrific rookie season. Nolan Patrick and Jori Lehtera shore up some much-needed center depth. And if Brian Elliott resembles the goaltender he was with the 2016 Blues rather than the 2017 Flames, this team will compete. Michal Neuvirth turning into a reliable backup again would certainly help, too.
Prediction: Fourth in Metropolitan, second wild card spot
20. Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson's foot injury will prevent him from playing in the first couple weeks of the season, which is already a huge hole to fill from the get go. They also lost a top-four defenseman in Marc Methot and replaced him with 36-year-old Johnny Oduya. Bobby Ryan had a monster postseason, but his regular-season production continues to decrease. It was a magical run Ottawa went on last year, but it will be difficult to replicate.
Prediction: Seventh in Atlantic
19. Winnipeg Jets
Will there be a more exciting team to watch this year than Winnipeg? The Jets are loaded with offensive firepower, and should have a lethal power play. They made a question decision to bring in Steve Mason to help solve their goaltending woes, and his play will undoubtedly determine where they'll finish in the standings.
Prediction: Fourth in Central, first wild card spot
18. Montreal Canadiens
There were a lot of additions and subtractions on this roster, and it's still unclear if they got better or worse. Jonathan Drouin certainly made sense for a team searching for that star offensive playmaker, but can he's better suited on the wing than at center. Can he change life in Montreal?
Prediction: Fifth in Atlantic
17. Carolina Hurricanes
Over the last three seasons combined, the Hurricanes have been the sixth-best even-strength possession team in the league. They've also finished in the bottom 3 in even-strength save percentage during those three seasons. Scott Darling ranked third in EV save percentage last year. They are ready to go.
Prediction: Third in Metropolitan
16. San Jose Sharks
Re-signing Joe Thornton was the right move, but losing Patrick Marleau in the process will prove to be a tough loss. They didn't add much else this offseason, and there are a lot of "ifs" going into the year, perhaps starting with whether or not Logan Couture can stay healthy or not.
Prediction: Sixth in Pacific
15. Boston Bruins
The Bruins were the second-best puck possession team in the league last year, but had the second-worst even-strength save percentage. If they can get back to being just average in the latter area, they could make some noise. Charlie McAvoy will live up to the postseason hype and win the Calder Trophy.
Prediction: Third in Atlantic
14. St. Louis Blues
The injury bug seemingly hits the Blues in a hard way every year. Robby Fabbri missing the entire season with a torn ACL is difficult to swallow, even though Vladimir Tarasenko might flirt with 50 goals this season. Perhaps Brayden Schenn can help ease the pain of losing a top-six player.
Prediction: Sixth in Central
13. New York Rangers
The Rangers continued to take away from their forward group by trading away Derek Stepan and stacking their blue line with the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk. Scoring goals will be an issue.
Prediction: Sixth in Metropolitan
12. Minnesota Wild
Bruce Boudreau-led teams almost always finish among the top in the regular season, but there are causes for concern about a possible regression. Can Eric Staal build off his huge bounce-back year in which he doubled his shooting percentage from the previous season? Zach Parise is no longer a top-line player, and continues to battle injuries. And the Wild failed to address their backup goaltending position again, which means Devan Dubnyk will carry a heavy workload again.
Prediction: Fifth in Central
11. Calgary Flames
There might not be a better defensively group in the Western Conference than the one the Flames have. Their forward depth is the best it's been in years, too. Can they get the goaltending from Mike Smith? That's the biggest question.
Prediction: Fourth in Pacific, second wild card spot, lose in Western Conference Final
10. Dallas Stars
The Stars were absolutely decimated with injuries last year and could never get into a groove. Ken Hitchcock was brought in to help tighten things up defensively. Alexander Radulov immediately slots in on the top line and should have a big offensive role. Martin Hanzal bolsters their center depth, Marc Methot adds a much-needed top-four defenseman to the mix and Ben Bishop is a major upgrade in goal, and is our surprise pick to win the Vezina Trophy.
Prediction: Second in Central
9. Chicago Blackhawks
We can't remember a year where the Blackhawks have been picked by some to miss the playoffs and win the division by others in the same year. Chicago's top-nine is solid, with Brandon Saad making the top line better, and Nick Schmaltz emerging as a real offensive threat on the second line with Patrick Kane. The biggest question mark comes on defense.
Prediction: Third in Central
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
Patrick Marleau was a perfect addition to this young Maple Leafs team, even if the third year on his deal might be difficult to swallow. He brings a veteran presence, can still skate top-six minutes if needed and contribute on the power play, and is hungry to win his first Stanley Cup. Auston Matthews will find himself in the Hart Trophy discussion, and Mike Babcock should win his first Jack Adams Award.
Prediction: First in Atlantic
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
After jumping out to a 27-5-4 start, the Blue Jackets cooled off and finished last season 23-19-4 down the stretch. Sergei Bobrovsky was absolutely lights out as well. The acquisition of Artemi Panarin gives this club the offensive weapon they've been looking for, but a regression in the standings might be inevitable.
Prediction: Fifth in Metropolitan
6. Washington Capitals
We've reached "we'll believe it when we see it" with the Capitals in the playoffs. This might be the year they take a step back in the regular season, which really isn't the worst thing. They've consistently underachieved as the favorites. How will they fare as potential underdogs in the spring?
Prediction: Second in Metropolitan
5. Nashville Predators
The Predators are officially back and they aren't going anywhere. Nick Bonino is a perfect replacement for captain Mike Fisher, who announced his retirement. Scott Hartnell should be a nice bottom-six player and a pest in front of the net. Their biggest concern might be trying to stay above water until Ryan Ellis (knee) returns towards the middle of the season. But they'll be fine.
Prediction: First in Central
4. Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Kesler (hip) will be out until Christmas. Sami Vatanen (shoulder) is expected to miss the opening month of the season. Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) won't be back until November. But if there's any team that can deal with these blows early on, it's the Ducks. They're loaded with depth in all areas, even backup goaltender Ryan Miller who is a perfect guy to learn from for John Gibson. Once they all get healthy, this train will be hard to stop.
Prediction: First in Pacific
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning were hit hard with the injury bug last year to key players, including captain Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan who combined for only 35 games. Nikita Kucherov is coming off an MVP-type season, Victor Hedman lock up his first career Norris Trophy, they also added potential top-four defenseman in Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy and Peter Budaj form a strong 1-2 punch in goal.
Prediction: Second in Atlantic, win Stanley Cup
2. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have gone from the last place to the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in two years, thanks to Connor McDavid, who will win both the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy again. Inexperience concerns are out the door after last year, Leon Draisaitl is a superstar and getting Andrej Sekera back late in the season will be a nice boost for that blue line anchored by Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson. But they really need to find a way to reduce Cam Talbot's load. He started in 73 games last year, which is way too much for a team that plans to play into June.
Prediction: Second in Pacific, lose in Stanley Cup Final
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
If there's any team that can win three in a row in the salary cap era, it's this one. The X-factor of a potential three-repeat hinges on the health of Kris Letang, who was sidelined for the entire playoffs with a neck injury.
Prediction: First in Metropolitan, lose in Eastern Conference Final