Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks' road to repeat officially begins

NHL Power Rankings: Blackhawks' road to repeat officially begins

And with the blink of an eye, another 82-game season is in the books, and only the Stanley Cup Playoffs to go.

The Capitals secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after building such a large cushion to start the season while the Stars staved off the Blues for the top seed in the Western Conference.

But all of that is meaningless in the postseason, where anything can happen.

With that, here are the final power rankings of the 2015-16 regular-season. (The top-16 spots are occupied by teams that clinched a playoff berth, but it's not necessarily a prediction of where they'll finish in the playoffs).

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23 | Week 24 | Week 25 | Week 26

 

Rank Team Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

48-26-8, 104 points: The Penguins finished the 2015-16 campaign by winning 14 of their last 16 games, and are heading into the postseason as one of the most dangerous teams in not only the Eastern Conference, but of all 16 playoff clubs. 

2   2 49-24-9, 107 points: The Blues won 14 of their last 18 games to close out the season, and are getting healthy at the perfect time. Brian Elliott will get the first crack in net against the Blackhawks, which will certainly make for an entertaining first-round series.
3 3 56-18-8, 120 points: Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur for most wins (48) by a goaltender in a single season, putting a stamp on a sensational season for the netminder. On to the important games for the Capitals, who haven't played in a meaningful game in a while.
4 4

46-25-11, 103 points: After starting the season 1-7-2, the Ducks went 45-18-9 and captured their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title on the final day of the regular season. It seems like this is said every year, but this is the best team they've had in years. They allowed the fewest goals of any NHL team, and ranked No. 1 on both the power play and penalty kill, the first time that's happened since 1984-95 (Islanders).

5 5

50-23-9, 109 points: The Stars wrapped up the year on a 9-2-0 run, and did so without Tyler Seguin, who returned to practice on Monday. If he's ready for Game 1, there's an extra jump for an already-hot team.

6   6 48-28-6, 102 points: The Kings have struggled to the finish line, going 4-6-1 in their final 11 games. There shouldn't be much concern about them in the postseason, but a first-round matchup against the Sharks definitely isn't a sure thing.
7  7 47-26-9, 103 points: The Blackhawks, like their first-round opponent Blues, are also getting healthy just in time for Game 1 of the playoffs. Corey Crawford snuck in a game during the season finale, and Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov and Andrew Shaw are all expected to play Wednesday.
8   8 47-26-9, 103 points: The Panthers are heading into the postseason having won five of their last six games, but they're not at full strength. Vincent Trocheck (foot injury) is questionable for Game 1, and he may still be a little ways away from returning. Erik Gudbranson (concussion), however, is expected to start the series.
9 11

46-30-6, 98 points: The Sharks are a top-10 puck possession team, and are seeking revenge from the Kings, who overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Sharks in 2014 en route to a Stanley Cup victory. This may be the most entertaining first-round matchup.

10   10 41-27-14, 96 points: The Predators went through a stretch in late February and March where they looked like one of the most dangerous teams. They still are, but they only won two of their final seven games are drew a tough first-round matchup against a Ducks team that was one game away from reaching last year's Stanley Cup Final.
11 9 46-31-5, 97 points: The Lightning are already without Steven Stamkos (blood clots) and Anton Stralman (leg injury), and now they may be without Tyler Johnson, who suffered an injury on a boarding penalty. The injury bug is hitting them at the wrong time, if there is a right one.
12   12 46-27-9, 101 points: The Rangers have had their way with the Penguins in previous postseasons, but this year, they don't want any part of them. They're a bottom-five puck possession team while the Penguins are the complete opposite.
13 14

45-27-10, 100 points: The Islanders finished the season on a high note, going 6-2-1 in their final nine games, but they're entering the postseason with Thomas Greiss as their starting goaltender. That's a big disadvantage, especially considering their first-round opponent is countering with Roberto Luongo.

14 13 41-27-14, 96 points: The Flyers picked up wins over the Penguins and Islanders in their final two games, entering the postseason with high confidence. But they're drawing the first-place Capitals in the first round, which will be a tough task.
15 16

41-30-11, 93 points: The streak is still alive. The Red Wings backed into the playoffs, their league-leading 25th straight appearance, and it may be their last one without Pavel Datsyuk, who's expected to go back to Russia at the end of the season due to personal reasons.

16 17

38-33-11, 87 points: The Wild's 87 points are the fewest of 160 playoff teams in the shootout era, excluding the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune

17 15 42-31-9, 93 points: Second straight year the Bruins have missed out on the postseason after they sputtered down the stretch. Change is certainly to be coming, but firing Claude Julien isn't the way to go.
18 18

35-31-16, 86 points: The Hurricanes' position in the standings doesn't quite reflect how well they played this season. They were tied for No. 10 in possession numbers, despite trading away three key players, including captain Eric Staal, at the trade deadline.

19 23 38-38-6, 82 points: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that Michel Therrien will return as head coach next season, and reiterated that he has no intentions of trading P.K. Subban. The latter is undoubtedly the correct move. The former is up in the air, but if Claude Julien becomes available, the Canadiens must reconsider. 
20 19

38-35-9, 85 points: Erik Karlsson had one of the best seasons by a defenseman in a while, but even that wasn't enough as the Senators missed out on the playoffs and finished third-to-last in the league in goals allowed (247). 

21 21

38-36-8, 84 points: The Devils' season was Cory Schneider or bust. They averaged only 24.4 shots per game, which was by far the lowest amount in the league. The next lowest was 27.6. That's more than a three-shot differential.

22 20 39-39-4, 82 points: Joe Sakic gave Patrick Roy a vote of confidence as Colorado's head coach, but it's hard to applaud it. It's the second consecutive season the Avalanche finished last or second-to-last in the league when it comes to possession numbers. That shouldn't happen with guys like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.
23 22 35-39-8, 78 points: The Coyotes officially announced that GM Don Maloney has been relieved of his duties. Whoever the new general manager will be is hoping his first big decision will be easy: Taking Auston Matthews with the No. 1 overall pick.
24 24

35-36-11, 81 points: The Sabres are in position to draft high once again, which certainly isn't a bad thing for a team still on the rebuild. With Jack Eichel having a year under his belt, and Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly getting accustomed to the system, they should be much better next year.

25 25

35-40-7, 77 points: No team allowed more goals this season than the Flames, who gave up 260. Disappointing number — and season — after they acquired Dougie Hamilton to help strengthen their blue line.

26   26

35-39-8, 78 points: Great news for the Jets as the season ended as Kyle Connor, a Hober Baker Award finalist, announced he will sign an entry-level contract with the team instead of going back to Michigan for his senior season. They're on the rise.

27 28 34-40-8, 76 points: Finally, the season has ended for the Blue Jackets. Every single member of that organization needs to get as far away from the rink as possible and rid themselves of the bad taste, given the expectations heading into the year, before game-planning for 2016-17.
28 27

31-38-13, 75 points: Henrik Sedin summed up the season for the Canucks, who finished with a league-worst minus-52 goal differential, perfectly. When asked if he was happy that they ended the season on a win, he responded: "I'm happy it's over."

29   29

31-43-8, 70 points: Year 1 of the Connor McDavid era is in the books, and the Oilers may never experience a season like this with him on the roster.

30   30

29-42-11, 69 points: This was actually a successful year for the Maple Leafs. They loaded up on draft picks at the trade deadline, they got many of their young guys some valuable NHL experience, and they finished last in the league, guaranteeing a top-three draft pick in June.

*Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."