Skip to main content
Publish date:

The Hockey News Power Rankings: Canes, Panthers Early Leaders

The first edition of The Hockey News' power rankings for the 2021-22 season are here, and it seems like a bunch of pre-season favorites haven't lived up to the billing – but it's still early.
Author:
USATSI_15690260

The first edition of The Hockey News' power rankings for the 2021-22 season are here, and it seems like a bunch of pre-season favorites haven't lived up to the billing – but it's still early.

Jason Chen takes a look at the early season numbers:

(All fancy stats courtesy naturalstattrick.com)

1. Carolina Hurricanes (8-0-0, +21 goal differential. 5v5 CF%: 6th, 5v5 xGF%: 10th)
2. Florida Panthers (8-0-1, +18. 5v5 CF%: 2nd, 5v5 xGF%: 15th)

What can you say about the two teams who have yet to be beaten in regulation time? The Canes get the No. 1 spot because they’re literally perfect, but both teams look like Cup contenders after the first month. The once-popular dark horses will not be considered dark horses if they enter the playoffs as the top seeds.

3. Washington Capitals (5-1-3, +10. 5v5 CF%: 9th, 5v5 xGF%: 5th)

Evgeny Kuznetsov is an early candidate for comeback player of the year and the Caps have played very well in spite of injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and now T.J. Oshie. Alex Ovechkin is on pace for 82 goals this season which seems impossible for anybody in the universe except him.

4. Calgary Flames (6-1-2, +13. 5v5 CF%: 4th, 5v5 xGF%: 11th)
5. Edmonton Oilers (7-1-0, +13. 5v5 CF%: 19th, 5v5 xGF%: 16th)
6. St. Louis Blues (6-1-0, +14. 5v5 CF%: 20th, 5v5 xGF%: 26th)

Calgary, Edmonton and St. Louis make it this far by virtue of their quality goaltending. Calgary’s possession numbers are strong and Jacob Markstrom has been a literal wall, while the Oilers and Blues are getting efficient scoring and good goaltending to mask some of their weaknesses as a team. The trio, however, have been three of the bigger positive surprises so far this season.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (5-3-1, -1. 5v5 CF%: 8th, 5v5 xGF%: 12th)
8. Colorado Avalanche (4-4-0, -3. 5v5 CF%: 13th, 5v5 xGF%: 7th)
9. Boston Bruins (4-3-0, -2. 5v5 CF%: 7th, 5v5 xGF%: 2nd)

Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Darcy Kuemper have played much better recently, and the Bruins seem to have settled on Linus Ullmark as their starter. As their goaltending improves, so will their records. All three teams are Cup contenders if not for injuries to key players, and despite slow starts they cannot be written off.

10. New York Rangers (6-2-2, +2. 5v5 CF%: 25th, 5v5 xGF%: 25th)

Are we sure the Rangers are good? Igor Shesterkin has been excellent and their winning record warrants a top-10 spot, but their underlying numbers are horrible and five of the opponents they faced currently have losing records. I’m cautiously optimistic about the Rangers, but their schedule has been very easy so far; they don’t face Florida for the first time until next Monday, Tampa Bay until Dec. 31 or Carolina until Jan. 21.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-4-1, -4. 5v5 CF%: 1st, 5v5 xGF%: 3rd)
12. Winnipeg Jets (5-2-2, +3. 5v5 CF%: 14th, 5v5 xGF%: 19th)
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-3-2, +1. 5v5 CF%: 12th, 5v5 xGF%: 4th)
14. New York Islanders (3-2-2, -1. 5v5 CF%: 32nd, 5v5 xGF%: 23rd)

This is the start of the meaty middle class, where parity is most evident and the only thing that may be different about the 10th-ranked team vs. the 18th-ranked team is a little luck. The top four are separated because each of them could conceivably go on a deep playoff run. The Leafs’ stars are waking up, the Jets are arguably the second-best team in Canada, the Isles continue to defy all analytical expectations and the Pens are getting Sidney Crosby back.

15. Nashville Predators (5-4-0, +2. 5v5 CF%: 18th, 5v5 xGF%: 18th)
16. Philadelphia Flyers (5-2-1, +7. 5v5 CF%: 28th, 5v5 xGF%: 27th)
17. Minnesota Wild (6-3-0, -3. 5v5 CF%: 3rd, 5v5 xGF%: 1st)
18. Vegas Golden Knights (4-5-0, -9. 5v5 CF%: 22nd, 5v5 xGF%: 30th)

Are we even sure Vegas is good? They can’t afford to slip in the playoff race and get involved in a wild-card chase that will surely involve at least two other good teams from the Central. Three of their top-six players are out of the lineup and the one they’re in the hunt for – Jack Eichel – may not even play this season, and Robin Lehner has not been able to steal games.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets (5-3-0, +1. 5v5 CF%: 24th, 5v5 xGF%: 28th)
20. San Jose Sharks (6-3-0, +5. 5v5 CF%: 27th, 5v5 xGF%: 24th)
21. Buffalo Sabres (5-3-1, +6. 5v5 CF%: 16th, 5v5 xGF%: 17th)

The Sabres are winning without Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart and their underlying possession numbers are a lot better than expected – it’s rather average, as opposed to being atrocious, which it definitely could’ve been. It’s a hint that the Sabres’ even-strength play is no fluke, though their goaltending still might be, and the Sabres would rank a little higher on this chart if they didn’t just lose to the Sharks on Tuesday.

22. Anaheim Ducks (4-4-3, even. 5v5 CF%: 23rd, 5v5 xGF%: 29th)
23. Los Angeles Kings (3-5-1, -3. 5v5 CF%: 5th, 5v5 xGF%: 8th)

The Kings – once the shining example of the analytical movement’s progress after winning the Cup in 2012 – will be an experiment again to see if strong possession numbers can lead to more wins. The Kings are 2-1-0 at home since returning from a 0-3-1 road trip, and it’s still tough to gauge exactly how good they are despite ranking top-10 in both Corsi and expected goals percentages. Anze Kopitar’s play cooling off and losing Drew Doughty will make it even tougher to win games.

24. New Jersey Devils (4-3-1, -4. 5v5 CF%: 10th, 5v5 xGF%: 6th)
25. Detroit Red Wings (4-4-2, -5. 5v5 CF%: 31st, 5v5 xGF%: 22nd)
26. Vancouver Canucks (4-5-1, -2. 5v5 CF%: 17th, 5v5 xGF%: 31st)
27. Ottawa Senators (3-5-1, -6. 5v5 CF%: 30th, 5v5 xGF%: 20th)

The Wings pushed the Lightning, Caps and Panthers to overtime and lost to the Leafs by just one goal, but at the same time have also lost twice to the Habs by a combined 9-1 score. Being so good yet so bad at the same time is the norm for a young but talented team. The Canucks and Sens are in a similar boat.

28. Dallas Stars (3-4-2, -8. 5v5 CF%: 21st, 5v5 xGF%: 9th)
29. Seattle Kraken (3-6-1, -8. 5v5 CF%: 11th, 5v5 xGF%: 14th)
30. Montreal Canadiens (3-8-0, -12. 5v5 CF%: 15th, 5v5 xGF%: 13th)
31. Chicago Blackhawks (1-7-2, -16. 5v5 CF%: 29th, 5v5 xGF%: 32nd)
32. Arizona Coyotes (0-9-1, -29. 5v5 CF%: 26th, 5v5 xGF%: 21st)

As per tankathon.com’s draft lottery odds calculator, the Coyotes currently have a 25.7 percent chance of landing the first overall pick. They have never picked higher than third overall, which they did twice in 2007 (Kyle Turris) and 2015 (Dylan Strome). Making the right pick at the draft will be the Coyotes’ biggest challenge this season, since asking them to win games seems unreasonable. They gotta do this… Wright. 

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_17039468
Play

Which NHL Milestones Should You Be Watching?

From high win totals, breaking the 1,500-game barrier and catching near-untouchable scoring records, we could see a couple of big names hit major milestones this season. Here's a look at a few players inching ever so closer to doing so.

Canadiens logo

Where do the Montreal Canadiens Go From Here?

The Habs made big changes on Sunday, signaling the start of a new era for the storied franchise. This organization desperately needs all-encompassing change, and that is now Jeff Gorton’s task.

Marc Bergevin
Play

Canadiens Fire Bergevin, Other Executives

The Montreal Canadiens have fired Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins, and Paul Wilson in a sweeping front office housecleaning.