Welcome to the first power rankings for the NHL on Rotoworld. The rankings are going to change significantly over the course of the season because that is what parity does in the NHL but for now, here are the pre-season rankings.
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1. Tampa Bay – The deepest team in the league from the net out. Vasilevskiy is a top-three goalie, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev head a strong blueline while Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point, J.T. Miller and Ondrej Palat give the Bolts plenty of firepower up front.
2. Winnipeg – Can the Cup return to Canada after a 26 year absence? The Jets are a close second to the Lightning as they have a strong netminder in Connor Hellebuyck, a great top-nine up front with Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers etc. They have quite a good defensive corps headed up by Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba.
3. San Jose – The addition of Erik Karlsson makes them a contender as he and Brent Burns give the Sharks the best one-two punch on the blueline in the NHL. Martin Jones is a solid NHL goalie. The Sharks have a nice mix of veteran and young forwards in Evander Kane, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl.
4. Toronto – John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri form the best center group in the NHL and teams will have a tough time getting the puck from the top three lines. Toss in Mitch Marner, RFA William Nylander and Patrick Marleau and you can see why the opposition will have trouble. Frederik Andersen is a good goalie but the one point of contention is their lack of a stud on the blueline but Morgan Rielly could take a step forward. The Leafs will have a tough time coming out of the Atlantic which has three of the best seven teams in the NHL.
5. Nashville – They had the best record last season but lost to a young and improving Winnipeg team in the divisional final. Can they do as well this season? Pekka Rinne is one of the best but is a year older. Their defense is one of the best in the NHL with P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Arvidsson is one of the most underrated forwards in the league. Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris are their best forwards.
6. Boston – Best first line in hockey with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Backes give them a second good line. The defense is good with Torey Krug, an aging but still effective Zdeno Chara and an up-and-coming Charlie McAvoy. Tuukka Rask is still a top-ten goalie and could be a top-five.
7. Washington – The Stanley Cup Champions have Alex Ovechkin to lead them. Backstrom had an inconsistent regular season before starring in the playoffs and the same can be said for Braden Holtby. Evgeny Kuznetsov is solid up front and Tom Wilson provides some scoring and plenty of grit. John Carlson leads the blueline. The question is whether or not the team partied too much in the summer?
8. Pittsburgh – Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will always make them contenders as they are elite centers. Phil Kessel will have trouble approaching the career-high 92 points from last season. Kris Letang looks like he is ready to regain his spot as an elite defenseman again. Matt Murray was inconsistent last season and the Penguins need a lot better from him this season.
9. Vegas – The Cinderella story of sports. Can they come close again? My head says no but there is still plenty of talent. Marc-Andre Fleury and William Karlsson should come back down to Earth after unworldly seasons last year. But there is plenty of talented young forwards and terrific depth on the blueline. They could surprise again.
10. Columbus –The loss of Seth Jones for 4-6 weeks will hurt but Zach Werenski is ready to go and it was thought he would be out to start the season. Columbus needs a big year from Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin who will likely be UFA’s at the end of the season. Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc -Dubois, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner are nice pieces up front and the defense with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski leading the way is strong.
11. Anaheim – The Ducks are hurting now with Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves and Ryan Kesler out for various periods of time. John Gibson is a very good goalie who is getting better. The blueline has Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour and Josh Manson and that helps. Getzlaf is still the leader of the team with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg helping out up front. The youngsters like Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois and Troy Terry will get an early opportunity to show their talent.
12. Philadelphia – The Flyers have plenty of young talent especially in goal where Carter Hart will start the season in the minors. The big question mark in Philly is whether or not Brian Elliott can to the job. If not, Hart will be up sooner rather than later. Claude Giroux had a career year and should regress. Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds are just some of the excellent forwards while Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere lead a good and young blueline.
13. Dallas – The Stars have been an enigma the last two seasons. There is plenty of talent at forward with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and the return of Valeri Nichushkin. Jason Spezza looks to be done. The blueline has John Klingberg and a great rookie in Miro Heiskanen. The goaltending should be better with Anton Khudobin backing up Ben Bishop.
14. Minnesota – The Wild are veteran team with Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Devan Dubnyk leading the way. Staal is unlikely to repeat 42 goal season. Zach Parise looks to bounce back after two bad years and five average seasons. The future up front is in Mikael Granlund and Jordan Zucker. Matt Dumba took a big step forward last season. Dubnyk is better than good in net but the Wild will net a Herculian performance to go anywhere.
15. Los Angeles – The Kings got career years from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown and still barely made the playoffs. Brown is out indefinitely to start the season with a broken finger. The Kings signed Ilya Kovalchuk and he will play alongside Kopitar. Jeff Carter should get back to the 30-goal mark after an injury filled 2017-18. Drew Doughty leads a very good blueline which includes Jake Muzzin. Jonathan Quick gives the Kings great goaltending.
16. Florida – Aleksander Barkov is the new captain and the real deal. He is joined up front by Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov,Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman. The defense features Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and the up-and-coming Mike Matheson. Roberto Luongo needs to give them 50 games in net as the Panthers are old between the pipes with James Reimer as the backup.
17. Edmonton – Connor McDavid is the best player in the world. The problem is that he does not have enough talent around him. Leon Draisaitl is solid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a nice complement to McDavid but they need Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to step it up. Milan Lucic had a terrible season last year and needs to bounce back. The blueline is okay but non-descript with Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson the best of the bunch. Evan Bouchard is the unknown on the blueline. Cam Talbot must have a comeback season if the Oilers are to contend for a playoff spot.
18. St. Louis – Goaltending is always a question mark with the Blues as Jake Allen has had every opportunity to corral the top job but rarely rises to the occasion. Vladimir Tarasenko is a top player and leads the forward crew which includes Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Alexander Steen and off-season acquisitions Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Patrick Maroon and David Perron. Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko lead the blueline.
19. Colorado – The Avalanche came out of nowhere to make the playoffs after finishing dead last in 2016-17. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen give Colorado a great 1-2 punch up front. Add in linemate Gabriel Landeskog and the Avs have a big top line. Tyson Barrie is their top defenseman but watch for Samuel Girard who has plenty of talent. The Avs could be vulnerable in net with the oft-injured Semyon Varlamov but picked up Philipp Grubauer from Washington to back him up this season.
20. Calgary – The Flames are one of the teams who could surprise or take a downward turn. Their trade with Carolina should help as they picked up Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are terrific on the first line and will have both Lindholm and UFA pickup James Neal splitting time on the other side. Sam Bennett needs to show why he was selected fourth overall a few years ago. The defense is strong with Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic as well as Hanifin. Mike Smith is a veteran in goal but he is inconsistent.
21. Buffalo – This is a rising team. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart lead the way up front. Casey Mittelstadt could be the top rookie in the league this season as could Rasmus Dahlin, the possible generational defenseman who was selected first overall in the 2018 Draft. This will ease some pressure on Rasmus Ristolainen. They eventually will be a great one-two punch but that could be a couple of seasons away. Carter Hutton was a UFA signing and needs to be good in goal for the Sabres to make the playoffs.
22. New Jersey – Another Cinderella team from last season as they came out of nowhere to make the playoffs. It helped that Taylor Hall was the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s MVP. There is talent up front with Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson to name a few. The blueline was bolstered last season with Sami Vatanen coming over from Anaheim to anchor the defense. Will Butcher quarterbacks the power play and will look to repeat his offensive prowess from his rookie season. Cory Schneider needs to be better as he was unable to win a regular season game after December 29.
23. Carolina – Another team that could surprise. The biggest problem is in net with Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek but if they are unable to do the job, rookie Alex Nedeljkovic could be recalled from the minors quickly. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen lead the way up front while Dougie Hamilton, who the Canes acquired from Calgary, leads a good blueline which includes Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin as well as Calvin de Haan.
24. New York Rangers – Four of the next six teams were original six squads. The Rangers start with veteran Henrik Lundqvist in goal but he is not the Lundqvist from even a couple of seasons ago. He is not a top-15 goalie anymore and may not be in the top-25 by the end of the season. The thing the Rangers have going for them is their talented youth, be it on the big club or in the minors. There is youth up front with Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson and Vitali Kravtsov and that bodes well for the future. The future is bright for the Rangers but there could be a couple of tough seasons.
25. Chicago – The Blackhawks received some good news as Corey Crawford is back at practice after not playing since December 23. The defense is old as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook had bad seasons last year and it does not look like they are going to return to their glory years. The same goes for Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane had an off-season for himself but is young enough to bounce back. Don’t be surprised if Chicago finishes last in the Central Division if Crawford is not great.
26. Montreal – The Canadiens would be a lot higher if they did not pull off so many poor trades, including dealing P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk over the last couple of seasons. Carey Price had an awful season last year and needs to bounce back. Shea Weber was named captain but will be on the shelf until at least the middle of December after off-season knee surgery. They may have a stud in rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin could be good but too many mistakes in the front office has cost them dearly.
27. New York Islanders -The loss of John Tavares to free agency hurts bad. Mathew Barzal takes over as the top center but it is doubtful he can come close to the 85 points from his Calder Trophy winning season from last year. The goaltending is suspect with Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner and the defense has Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock. The Islanders did well at the draft with Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson but they are still not close to making the team. It will be a long year on the Island and in Brooklyn.
28. Arizona – The Coyotes will start rising up the rankings but for now this is where they have settled in. Antti Raanta should give them NHL goaltending if he can remain healthy. There is a lot of young talent but the trade that brought Alex Galchenyuk to the desert will have to wait as he was injured in preseason. When healthy, they will be fine at center with Derek Stepan, Galchenyuk and Dylan Strome while Clayton Keller will star on the wing. Brendan Perlini and Lawson Crouse should have solid careers in Arizona. Oliver Ekman-Larsson leads the blueline with the injured Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski supplying support. The Coyotes could surprise this season.
29. Detroit – The once proud Red Wings are re-building and it will take a miracle to make the post-season without buying a ticket. Jimmy Howard is a veteran goalie as is his backup Jonathan Bernier. Veteran Mike Green leads the defense corps while the loss to retirement of Henrik Zetterberg hurts on the ice and in the dressing room. Youngsters Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina (who was sent to the minors) provide some hope for the future but it will be a long time coming.
30. Vancouver – The Sedin era is over as the twins retired last season. As with many bottom dwellers, there is hope on the horizon as the Canucks have a plethora of young talent including forwards Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat with goaltender Thatcher Demko waiting at the minor league level. Even on the blueline there is hope for the future with Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi. They should struggle this season but the future is bright on the West Coast of Canada.
31. Ottawa – The future is not bright in the Canadian capital as the Senators have been torn apart by trades and troubles in the dressing room. The real bad news is that they do not even own their first pick this season, giving it away in a trade that brought Matt Duchene to town last season. Duchene and Mark Stone lead the Senators up front and Brady Tkachuk is the future after being drafted fourth overall this season. Craig Anderson needs a comeback season and the defense looks weak even with Cody Ceci leading the way.