It’s December, and all 31 NHL teams have begun to find their identity in their respective divisions. Some teams have played up to expectations, proving why they were expected to be top teams, while others have struggled mightily in a league filled with youth and goal scoring. Through just about 25 games, where does each team sit in the GNGH edition of the NHL power rankings?
31 Buffalo Sabres
The team tied for last in points in the NHL finds themselves in sole possession of the lowest ranking on this list. Despite having the same number of points as the Coyotes, the Sabres haven’t dealt with the same goaltending problems. Their goaltending has been bad, their defense has been bad, and their scoring hasn’t been good enough. The one thing the Sabres have going for them? If this play keeps up, they will have a pretty good chance at Rasmus Dahlin come the summer of 2018.
30 Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes avoided a historically bad start to the season, but they are still in the basement of the league. The only promise this team has seen so far has been the play of rookie Clayton Keller, who got off to a fantastic start, and now sits at 21 points through 28 games. The only reason Arizona doesn’t find themselves last on this list is goaltending. Antti Raanta, their starting netminder, has played only 13 games, and has played well, considering the team’s record. They won’t be a playoff team, but if Raanta remains healthy, their rank on this list has the potential to increase.
29 Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are yet another team that just can’t seem to find a win lately. They had a decent start to the season, but after their recent loss to Boston, they find themselves winless in their last ten games and sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The play of Brian Elliot hasn’t been quite what the team was looking for, but there isn’t just one specific section of the Flyers’ game that has been terrible. They just haven’t been good as a whole, and, as a result, find themselves struggling for wins on a nightly basis.
28 Edmonton Oilers
Few would have expected the Oilers to be one of the league’s worst teams, but they have only 22 points through 26 games, good for third-worst in the NHL. The only player that has lived up to expectations has been none other than Connor McDavid, who has 31 points in 26 games. Players like Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, and Cam Talbot’s levels of play have dipped significantly since last season and, as a result, the Oilers find themselves in the draft lottery conversation.
27 Ottawa Senators
Since trading for Matt Duchene, the Senators have been one of the worst teams in the league. Duchene has only two points since becoming a member of the team, a number much too low for the player that they expected to help push the team into a high playoff spot. The play of Duchene hasn’t been the only problem, however. Their goaltending simply hasn’t been good enough to get them anywhere, and their depth scoring is almost nonexistent. If more players can find the back of the net, the Sens will be a half-decent team but, right now, they are sitting near the bottom of the league.
26 Florida Panthers
Despite their record, Florida doesn’t seem to be too disappointed with their current standing. Roberto Luongo recently reached his 200th win as a Panther and has been playing surprisingly well, considering the large number of shots he faces every night. Jonathan Huberdeau has also been putting up some pretty impressive numbers, but the rest of the team just seems invisible on some nights. This wasn’t a team people expected to be pushing for a playoff spot, but it is still a bit odd to see them struggle so mightily, considering some of the talent on their roster.
25 Detroit Red Wings
Detroit was another team that got off to a decent start, and then cooled off after a bit of time. They have received strong play from both of their netminders, but haven’t been able to score enough goals since their hot start, and there’s only so much that the man with all the pads can do for a team.
24 Carolina Hurricanes
Up to this point, the Hurricanes’ season has been pretty rough. New starting goaltender Scott Darling simply hasn’t gotten the job done behind the young ‘Canes. They are set for an extremely strong future but, so far this season, the youth on their blue line has shown up too often, and the team as a whole is struggling mightily as a result.
23 Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are a team that can’t really help their position on this list. They have been torn apart by injury all season long, whether it be Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler, or any of their other star players. Once they get healthy, expect the Ducks to make a push back towards the top of the Pacific division pretty quickly.
22 Colorado Avalanche
After one of the worst seasons in NHL history, the Avalanche got off to a surprisingly strong start. Since the end of October, they have cooled down significantly, but the Matt Duchene trade brought in a few strong, young players that show good promise. It has also been nice to see the way Nathan MacKinnon has stepped up since Duchene was traded to Ottawa.
21 Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild have been quite possibly the streakiest team in the league. If their offense is clicking, it’s likely that either their defense or goaltending is not. On the nights where all cylinders are firing, however, the Wild are a very dangerous team; they just need to be a bit more consistent on a game-to-game basis.
20 Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens had one of the most startling and painful starts of any team. The early play of Carey Price was absolutely brutal, and the trade for Jonathan Drouin wasn’t looking very good at all. Now, however, Drouin has picked his pace up a bit and, since returning from injury, Carey Price has been the team’s MVP.
19 Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are yet another surprise team. Many figured them to be a basement team, battling for a lottery pick more so than a playoff spot but, as of now, they are only one point out of the playoffs in the West. Players like Brock Boesser and Bo Horvat are the reason the team is doing as well as it is, but staying just outside the playoffs may not be the best thing for the future of the franchise. If they can find their way in, though, how bad can that really be?
18 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are a team ravaged by the salary cap. They have their Stanley Cup-winning core in tact, but they aren’t quite as young and fast as they used to be. The biggest issue for Chicago seems to be their blue line, as Keith and Seabrook can’t play every minute of the game, and their other defensemen haven’t been up to the standard they need to be in order for the team to be successful. Despite this, the play of their goaltenders has been pretty strong – it is the reason that they aren’t lower on this list.
17 Boston Bruins
Despite some goaltending controversy between Rask and Khudobin, the Bruins are staying afloat. They have received strong play from multiple rookies, making the future pretty bright for the black and gold. If they continue to fight through games, and are hard to play against, they may have a shot at sneaking into the playoff picture in the East.
16 Washington Capitals
After being shredded by the salary cap, the Capitals are no longer the team that will always be at the top of the rankings in the regular season. They simply aren’t as deep as they used to be, and they are aging fast. The good news? Their core is mainly still around, and Ovechkin seems to have tapped into the fountain of youth. They definitely aren’t the East’s best team anymore, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs if the play of their leaders continues to be strong.
15 Calgary Flames
The Flames are one of the few teams that have been what people expected them to be this year: a pretty strong team with lots of youth that relies on a few goal-scorers and their all-star defense. The play of Mike Smith has been a big upgrade compared to their goaltending of the past few seasons, and offers them a chance to be one of the better teams in the Pacific. If they make it that far, they have a shot to make some serious noise come playoff time.
14 Dallas Stars
The Stars are another team that has disappointed so far this year. With one of, the most dangerous lines in hockey with Benn, Seguin, and Radulov, goal scoring should power them to the top of the Central Division, right? Well, not quite. Their defense simply hasn’t been good enough and Ben Bishop hasn’t exactly been the knight in shining armor that the team was expecting him to be.
13 Vegas Golden Knights
Expansion team who? The Golden Knights have undoubtedly been the story of the season so far. They have had to rely on four different goalies to start games, and have seen ice time from five. The best part? They are still in second in the Pacific Division. If their strong play can continue, they may have a legitimate shot at a playoff spot, and will have had one of the most exciting runs an NHL team has had in a long time.
12 Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are yet another surprise team, but not in a good way. For many, the Penguins were still the favorite to win the Stanley Cup entering this season, despite having won it in the previous two. The good thing for the Penguins? The twelfth spot on this list is low for them. If they step up their play and get stronger play out of their goaltenders, they will quickly rise to, once again, one of the top teams in the league.
11 New York Rangers
After one of the worst starts in the league, the Rangers have powered themselves back to relevance. “King” Henrik is playing like himself once again, and the team has gotten strong offensive play from players like Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. The key to their success will be the continued play of Lundqvist, as well as a bit more goal -coring from some other key players to ensure themselves a playoff berth in April.
10 San Jose Sharks
The ever-consistent Sharks are still a strong team. They recently got their first goal from All-Star defensemen Brent Burns and, despite his age, Joe Thornton is still playing quite well. The most impressive thing about the Sharks, however, is the play of Martin Jones and their overall ability to keep the puck out of their own net. They have allowed the least goals in the entire league, mostly thanks to the stellar numbers that Jones has been producing, and doing so in a subtle manner that hasn’t exactly resulted in the praise he deserves.
9 New Jersey Devils
Cory Schneider and the high-scoring Devils are number nine on this power ranking. High-scoring Devils? That’s right. The Devils have received strong depth scoring from a number of different players, propelling them to a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division, a spot many people didn’t see them in for another season or two, at least.
8 New York Islanders
Another pleasant surprise comes out of Long Island with the New York Islanders. Many thought that between their goaltending problems and all of the rumors surrounding John Tavares, the Isles wouldn’t be in the playoff conversation. For now, however, they’re proving a lot of the critics wrong, thanks to the strong play of captain Tavares and rookie Matt Barzal.
7 Los Angeles Kings
At the end of last season, many thought the Kings’ time as a playoff team would be done for a few seasons. That seems to be a distant memory now, as the Kings blasted off at the beginning of the season. They seemed to cool off a bit after their loss to Tampa Bay back on November 9th, but they still remain one of the best teams in the West. They are led by their veteran players, including goaltender Jonathan Quick, whose numbers have been extremely impressive.
6 Nashville Predators
Since picking up Kyle Turris in the three-way trade with Colorado and Ottawa, the Preds are possibly the league’s hottest team. They are 7-2-1 in their last ten games, the defense is holding strong despite the absence of Ryan Ellis, and Pekka Rinne looks like he is still in his prime.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are an offensive juggernaut, no doubt about it. The 98 times they’ve turned on the red light so far this season is the most of any team. If they can round out some of their defensive issues, and Freddy Andersen can remain consistent, the Leafs will make a strong case for the number-one team in the Atlantic Division, and even the Eastern Conference.
4 St. Louis Blues
It isn’t a huge surprise that the Blues are this high on the rankings, but it wasn’t exactly expected either. They aren’t the deepest team, most talented, or strongest when it comes to defense. Combine that with some tough injuries, and the idea of the Blues being a top team in the NHL seems a bit unrealistic, but here we are.
3 Columbus Blue Jackets
Not a lot has changed for the Jackets from last year. Once again, Sergei Bobrovsky is the team’s best player, and that is the reason that they’re winning. Columbus has the third lowest goals against in the league, behind only San Jose and Los Angeles, making them one of the league’s strongest teams. If players like Nick Foligno and Artemi Panarin can step up their play, they will be an even stronger team.
2 Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are pretty high on the list of this year’s surprising teams. Everybody knew that they had the ability to score goals, but not many realized just how good they would be at keeping the puck out of their own net. Between the play of their defensemen, and Connor Hellebuyck stepping up to become the starting goaltender, the Jets are a team nobody wants to play against.
1 Tampa Bay Lightning
This isn’t much of a surprise, is it? The Lightning have two of the league’s leading scorers, a strong core on defense – among which is a big, strong rookie defensemen that looks to be just getting started – and a young goaltender in his first full season as a starter who is playing like a goalie that wants a Vezina Trophy and a Stanley Cup. With all this going for them, who is going to be able to stop the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning?