31. Arizona Coyotes
Not much has changed over the course of the season for Arizona. Clayton Keller has cooled off significantly since his early-season hot streak, and Antti Raanta hasn’t been able to steal enough games to lift the ‘Yotes out of the basement.
Team MVP: Clayton Keller
30. Ottawa Senators
Nothing has gone right for Ottawa since acquiring Matt Duchene. The team as a whole simply has not played well, and there are a number of names rumored to be heading out the door at the trade deadline of a season that is nothing but a disappointment, considering they were one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Team MVP: Mark Stone
29. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have been a somewhat interesting team all season, despite their place in the league standings. Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Ryan O’Reilly have all put up strong campaigns, especially considering the way the team has played, with Eichel also taking a significant jump in effective play from his previous two seasons.
Team MVP: Jack Eichel
28. Edmonton Oilers
Another team that has been a big-time disappointment, Edmonton has completely fallen off the wagon when compared to last season. A number of players have performed at a significantly lower level than they did last season, specifically Cam Talbot and Oscar Klefbom, which will inevitably cause management to look within at what can be fixed over the summer.
Team MVP: Connor McDavid
27. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks’ season has oddly seemed like an exciting one. Both Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat have had very strong campaigns, and while the goaltending hasn’t been great, Thatcher Demko has played extremely well for Utica and looks to be a promising young goalie that could be NHL ready in as short as one season.
Team MVP: Brock Boeser
26. Montreal Canadiens
From the poor play of Carey Price to the lack of goal scoring, the Canadiens’ season hasn’t been a pretty one. To add salt to the already-deep wound, it is looking more and more like the Lightning were the clear winners in the trade that brought in Jonathan Drouin in return for Mikhail Sergachev.
Team MVP: Brendan Gallagher
25. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit is one of the few teams ranked this low that have played just about as well as people expected before the season began. They have a decent roster, but contracts and their defensive core are going to be their biggest issues over the next few seasons.
Team MVP: Dylan Larkin
24. Florida Panthers
The Panthers have been plagued by injuries this season, specifically in goal. The recent play of goaltender Harri Sateri has been good enough to keep the team afloat, but will not be good enough for the team to consider him for a starting job, leaving the future of the Panthers’ net in doubt.
Team MVP: Jonathan Huberdeau
23. Chicago Blackhawks
Another team at the mercy of goaltending injuries? Here comes Chicago. The Blackhawks look to be a shell of their former selves without goalie Corey Crawford. Pair this with their aging group of defensemen, and the Hawks are no longer the Stanley Cup threat that they have been in years past.
Team MVP: Corey Crawford
22. New York Rangers
The Rangers started the season terribly, got hot quick, and have since dulled out to be nothing more than a mediocre team. Yet another team with a number of rumors as the trade deadline approaches, the Rangers are only two points outside of the second wildcard spot, yet have had the idea of a rebuild floating around for a long time. The fate of their season could very well be decided at the trade deadline.
Team MVP: Henrik Lundqvist
21. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets were a favorite to come out of the East before the season begun, and they had a strong first half, but have struggled mightily recently. The team has done well at keeping the puck out of their own net, but haven’t scored enough to push them into a definite playoff spot.
Team MVP: Sergei Bobrovsky
20. New York Islanders
The Islanders are one of the best examples of a hot-and-cold team this year. Some nights, the offense is booming and the team looks unstoppable, yet other nights they get their teeth knocked in early and the game is over by the end of the first period. They have the offense to make a playoff run, but their defense and goaltending is simply not good enough for a deep run. Look for a move for a defenseman or goaltender at the deadline.
Team MVP: John Tavares
19. New Jersey Devils
The young Devils who looked like a force to be reckoned with early in the season are finally coming back to earth. It did, however, take an injury to their star goaltender, Cory Schneider, to bring the team down; once he is back, the Devils should see an increase in wins. If the young guns can keep rolling and Schneider can stay healthy, they may be able to slide into the playoffs.
Team MVP: Cory Schneider
18. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s most interesting teams. It seems like they have all of the pieces intact. A young core with improving depth and a hot streak from either Scott Darling or Cam Ward could propel the ‘Canes into the playoffs.
Team MVP: Sebastian Aho
17. Colorado Avalanche
The league’s second-biggest surprise this year has undoubtedly been the Avalanche. The emergence of Nathan MacKinnon has sparked a young team and pushed them towards the playoff bubble. If he can stay healthy, and their goaltending can support the team, they too may be able to sneak into the playoffs in a high-powered central division.
Team MVP: Nathan MacKinnon
16. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are finally back. They survived a first half of the season that saw many of their stars injured for significant amounts of time. If they can be the team that everyone expects them to be, they should make their way back into the playoffs.
Team MVP: John Gibson
15. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings started the season as one of the league’s best teams, but have slowed down as the season has gone along. If the offensive guns can keep scoring, they should be able to make the playoffs, assuming Jonathan Quick stays healthy.
Team MVP: Anze Kopitar
14. Calgary Flames
The Flames have a lot of the tools needed in order to make a deep playoff run. The only thing they could really ask for is a bit more depth up front. The injury to Mike Smith could be a serious blow to the team’s playoff chances if it is a long-term one, as he has been a key to their success.
Team MVP: Johnny Gaudreau
13. Philadelphia Flyers
Following their massive losing streak, the Flyers have rebounded to be one of the league’s hottest teams, shooting up to third in the Metropolitan Division. If they continue their strong offensive play, they have the potential to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise as well.
Team MVP: Claude Giroux
12. Minnesota Wild
After a patchy first half, the Minnesota Wild have started to turn into the team people expected. If Devan Dubnyk can play at the level he has played at in the past couple seasons, the Wild will both make the playoffs and be a force to be reckoned with.
Team MVP: Eric Staal
11. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have done well this season on just about every front. They started the season with some scoring issues, but those have begun to dissolve as the season progresses. Brent Burns has returned to the level of play we witnessed last season, and the team’s goaltending as a whole has been pretty good.
Team MVP: Brent Burns
10. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins, after being near the bottom of the Metro, have climbed back to a level of play that everyone anticipated before the season began. Since the turn of the calendar year, the trio of Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel have been absolutely monstrous. The team is once again looking ready for a playoff run, and potentially a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
Team MVP: Phil Kessel
9. Washington Capitals
Washington has been one of the league’s more consistent teams so far this season. Ovechkin has proved that he still has young energy in his legs (and his shot), and the young defensemen have held their own. If Braden Holtby can stay strong in the playoffs, the Capitals could make a deep run.
Team MVP: Alex Ovechkin
8. Dallas Stars
The Stars’ offseason moves are finally paying off. They have the scoring ability and strengthened defensive group, plus the goaltending has improved greatly. If the team can keep playing as a unit, they are a sleeper to be the team representing the West in the Stanley Cup Final.
Team MVP: John Klingberg
7. St. Louis Blues
The Blues have one of the strongest offensive units in the entire NHL. The thing keeping them from being higher on the list? The teams above them have groups that can be even scarier. If the Blues can keep the puck out of their own net, this could be the year that they make a deep Cup run.
Team MVP: Brayden Schenn
6. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have been one of the biggest bounce-back teams in the league. A lot of people figured they would be a good team (maybe a wildcard team), but not this good. A handful of players have stepped up big-time for the Jets, especially in the absence of Mark Scheifele. If the young group can keep it up in the postseason, they are not going to be a fun team to play against.
Team MVP: Connor Hellebuyck
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have one of the most exciting young teams in the league. Their lack of playoff experience may be one of the Leafs’ only downfalls come playoff time, but if they can learn on the fly, they will be a very dangerous team in a playoff series.
Team MVP: Auston Matthews
4. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights haven’t had the drop that everybody has been anticipating. They are one of the fastest teams in the entire NHL, if not the fastest, and have the most favorable home atmosphere in the entire league. If they remain at the top of the Pacific Division, they will have a huge advantage when at home in the playoffs. Vegas making a deep playoff run seems more and more probable by the day.
Team MVP: Marc-Andre Fleury
3. Nashville Predators
The Preds became a monster in the Western Conference once the Matt Duchene three-way trade went through. They have an explosive offensive core, a lockdown defensive group, and a goaltender who is defying his age. The Predators are definitely one of the best teams in both the West and the entire league, and another Stanley Cup Final is definitely in the realm of possibility for Smashville.
Team MVP: Pekka Rinne
2. Boston Bruins
This was one team that nobody saw coming. The Bruins have undeniably been the hottest team in the NHL since the turn of the calendar year; they have lost only two games so far in regulation since January 1st. Tukka Rask has returned to form, and their key players have stepped up, alongside some talented rookies, to make the Bruins a true game-changer in the Eastern Conference.
Team MVP: Brad Marchand
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are still the league’s best team. The arrival of Andrei Vasilevskiy, continued excellent play of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kuchervov, and emergence of Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev have made the Lightning an end-to-end roster that no team seems able to truly match.
Team MVP: Nikita Kucherov