NHL PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
- EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL BY BRANDON WAMSLEY
- WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL BY BROCK HARTLEY
1. COLORADO AVALANCHE
You had to know they’d be at #1, right? The defending champs are odds on favorites to repeat… and I wouldn’t bet against them.
2. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Last season, the Hurricanes were one of the most complete teams in hockey with their excellent defense. A lack of scoring and star power caused Carolina to fall short of their ultimate goal – which they addressed by grabbing Max Pacioretty. It’s certainly Cup or bust in Carolina this season.
3. NEW YORK RANGERS
Last year we saw just how far a great goaltender can take you. Igor Shesterkin will give the Rangers a chance to win every game he plays, but the Rangers hope to improve play in front of him this year. Having lost a lot of offense with the departure of Copp, Strome, and Vatrano, the Rangers will be looking at the young talent, especially that third line to take the next step and propel the team into Stanley Cup contention.
4. CALGARY FLAMES
GM Brad Treliving put on a masterclass this summer on how to deal with adversity. He saw two 40-goal scorers depart, but I think this team is just as good as the one he iced last season.
5. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Tampa got closer to a 3-peat than any team in the modern era last season, and they bring back the key pieces that made that happen. The real question for the Lightning this year is how long they can hold up health wise after so many games played.
6. EDMONTON OILERS
Is this the season that McDavid finally accomplishes the ultimate goal? I don’t think so – but I also didn’t think they’d make it to the Western Conference Final last season, so what do I know? I just can’t help but feel they’re still a move or two away from a SCF appearance.
7. BOSTON BRUINS
In one of the more shocking developments during the off-season, Boston decided to part ways with Bruce Cassidy. Jim Montgomery takes over and does so with a potential Stanley Cup winning roster. The Bruins convinced Patrice Bergeron to give it one more shot, and he did so for nearly free, giving Boston cap room to bolster the team even further. They also bring back longtime teammate David Krejci who decided to make his NHL return on a 1-year deal. So, the cast is all back together for 1 final Cup run. If Jeremy Swayman progresses like many believe he can, they have a real chance.
8. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto probably had the best team in the East last season with one question mark – goaltending – which ultimately cost them when they fell in the 1st round for the SIXTH straight season. So naturally this off-season, in true Leafs fashion, they went out and.. didn’t address the issue whatsoever. I like Matt Murray, but if Toronto loses early again this year then there might be riots in the streets. Betting the season on a guy who hasn’t looked good for 3 years seems a bit risky.
9. MINNESOTA WILD
I wasn’t wild about trading Fiala, but tough decisions needed to be made. If Matt Boldy continues to make strides after his phenomenal rookie season, then that could soften the blow of your lineup losing a 30-goal scorer.
10. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
I liked what I saw from Nashville last season. It appears that their front office did as well. A surprise playoff appearance last year delayed what many thought would be the beginning of a rebuild. The Preds locked up Filip Forsberg and brought in Nino Niederreiter in preparation for another postseason appearance.
11. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
After losing to Florida in the 1st round last season, there were a lot of question marks around an aging Capitals core group, and how to move forward. Those questions were answered quickly when they made a big move and signed Darcy Kuemper. They also added Dylan Strome coming off a 22-goal season in Chicago. The Capitals are flying under the radar but they can be sneaky good this season.
12. FLORIDA PANTHERS
A President’s trophy didn’t look so nice after being swept in the second round by in-state rival Tampa Bay. After bringing in Paul Maurice, the Panthers made the blockbuster deal of the summer and got Matthew Tkachuck. What nobody seems to address is they gave up 2 of their best players to do so in Huberdeau and Weegar. Florida also lost Claude Giroux and Mason Marchment. While everyone is excited to watch Tkachuck in Florida, the significantly weakened roster is why I have them lower than most.
13. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
It’s shocking that a team who has only existed for 5 years has already had so many issues. They’ve gone through 3 coaches, players have left unhappy, and the salary cap has become a massive issue that still hasn’t been resolved. As if that weren’t enough, Robin Lehner will miss the entire season.
14. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
After a disappointing first round loss to the New York Rangers last season, it looked like we might have seen the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Despite it seeming more unlikely as the days went by this summer, Pittsburgh managed to re-sign both Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin to team friendly deals. So the Big 3 are back together again for a final run at a 4th Stanley Cup.
15. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
This is one of the teams that I’m most curious about. The talent is there. It appears that they have found a competent head coach in Bruce Boudreau. Can this team find the form that they had when they made a lot of noise in the bubble playoffs?
16. DALLAS STARS
The Stars are once again expected to be a middle of the pack team who is capable of making some noise. Locking down young star forward Jason Robertson was good news consider he finished 2nd on the team in scoring last year, only following the aging Joe Pavelski. Robertson will more than likely have to maintain that level of production if Dallas still wants to be playing in mid-April.
17. ST. LOUIS BLUES
This team kind of flew under the radar last year. They were a lot better than people gave them credit for. But the loss of goalie Ville Husso and forward David Perron could hurt this team more than you might think.
18. LOS ANGELES KINGS
A surprising playoff berth last year was confirmation of sorts that the rebuild is working. The front office got that message. They bring in winger Kevin Fiala to help boost production in hopes of building on their Round 1 exit last spring.
19. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Arguably last season’s most disappointing team, the Islanders look to right the ship under new head coach Lane Lambert. With a talented roster and a Vezina favorite between the pipes, anything less than a playoff run would be another disappointment for the Isles.
20. WINNIPEG JETS
If there was a word to describe the Jets, it would be consistent. They are consistently projected to be a middle of the pack team and their defense consistently lets down star goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who is one of the best in the game. Let’s see if a change behind the bench also means a change in the system that so often left Hellebuyck out to dry.
21. DETROIT RED WINGS
The rebuild is in full progress in Hockeytown, and it seems to be thriving. General Manager Steve Yzerman brought in some help for his budding stars this offseason adding David Perron and Andrew Copp to go alongside much needed goaltender Ville Husso. With the new additions complementing Mo Seider and Lucas Raymond, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Wings threatening for a playoff berth much sooner than expected this season.
22. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Do you like goals? If so, you should enjoy watching the Devils this season. They brought in Ondrej Palat to go alongside a very talented group of young forwards. The Devils will score, however the defense does not have the same promise. The Devils are hoping to get a big boost in net from Vitek Vanecek this season but nothing is proven there yet and he will face plenty of shots. The Devils’ games should be fun to watch and bettors who favor the over should love this team.
23. OTTAWA SENATORS
Slotting in nicely behind New Jersey, we have another future favorite of over bettors. Much like the Devils, the Senators have a group of young talented forwards all looking to take the next step. Also, like Jersey, Ottawa brought in goaltending help with Cam Talbot, who should split with Anton Forsberg coming off a promising campaign. However, they will both play in front of a shaky defense to say the least. There are a lot of similarities here, so again, expect high scoring, fun to watch hockey, that might not be the best style for winning games, but should keep us all entertained.
24. ANAHEIM DUCKS
The Ducks had a hot start last season but eventually fell to the wayside. Trevor Zegras will surely be a treat to watch once again this year, but the pieces just aren’t there quite yet for a playoff appearance.
25. BUFFALO SABRES
The Sabres generated a lot of talk with how they finished last season. While they might not have a ton of success winning games this season, there are still some storylines to keep an eye on. The most obvious is Tage Thompson, after receiving a big new contract everyone will be looking to see if last season was legit or a fluke.
26. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Columbus shocked everyone and grabbed the biggest free agent on the market in Johnny Gaudreau this summer. It should be fun to see what he and Patrick Laine can do together. The Blue Jackets decided to follow that up with some confusing moves in multiple directions. Fans’ opinions on the season in Columbus should really just come down to expectations, which should be kept low.
27. SEATTLE KRAKEN
I was high on the Kraken in their inaugural season. The goalie situation proved highly problematic as their investment in Philipp Grubauer proved to be a massive bust. If he can find the game he had that made him a Vezina finalist years ago, the Kraken could take a step forward in Year 2.
28. SAN JOSE SHARKS
After a season that featured a lot of distractions involving Evander Kane, the Sharks look to get back to business. The departure of Brent Burns, a long-time fixture on the Sharks blue line, will take some getting used to, but I expect this season will be used to help further develop their younger players.
29. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
After a disastrous season, Philly decided the best man to resurrect the franchise was John Tortorella. Let’s add that to a long line of “questionable” decisions made lately in Philadelphia. The only fun part of watching the Flyers this season will be watching the locker room implode.
30. MONTREAL CANADIENS
The Canadiens were a different team when Martin St. Louis took over last season. So it only made sense to bring him back and drop the interim title. Still, the 2 biggest storylines in Montreal this year will be Juraj Slafkovsky, and if the team is bad enough to enter the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. 30/32 is never where you want your team to be ranked, but this year it’s even worse, as you’d really love being #32 for the increased odds of landing a franchise altering draft pick. Considering the situations in Chicago and Arizona, Montreal might be in the worst spot of any team entering this season in terms of draft lottery potential.
31. ARIZONA COYOTES
The Coyotes are a team that has long been mocked in the hockey world. Although the rebuild is underway and shaping up nicely, I’m expecting a lot more jokes at the Coyotes expense this year since they’re playing in a bubble hockey table.
32. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
This roster is just bad. It’s odd saying that about this team, but outside of Patrick Kane I have no clue where the scoring is going to come from.