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THN Power Rankings: Pre-Season

Which teams moved up or down after last season's playoffs and off-season? Find out in the first power rankings of the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning versus Carolina Hurricanes

Published every Wednesday, we will take stock of all 32 teams and move them up and down as the season progresses based on their weekly performance. The reason? To ascertain a clear hierarchy of teams by the conclusion of the season, and also because lists are fun. (Scroll to the very bottom to see your favorite team).

Last season, 15 of the top 16 teams on the final Power Rankings (April 27) ended up making the playoffs, with the 16th-ranked Canucks narrowly missing and the 17th-ranked Kings qualifying instead.

There are slight changes from last season’s final list, but nothing major. The pre-season ranks considered both last year’s playoff performance and moves made in the off-season. 

The Avalanche are the pre-season No. 1 as the defending champions after finishing second in last year’s Power Rankings behind the Panthers, whose lacklustre playoff showing drops them outside the top five. In retrospect, we should’ve known better than to crown the Presidents’ Trophy winner as the No. 1, since history has shown they almost never win the holy grail. 

(All fancy stats are 5v5 and courtesy naturalstattrick.com. CF% stands for Corsi For Percentage and xGF% represents Expected Goals For Percentage.)

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last season: 56-19-7, +78 goal differential. CF%: 7th, xGF%: 11th)

Key loss: Nazem Kadri, but the defending champions reserve the right to retain the top spot until puck drop.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (51-28-8, +54. CF%: 12th, xGF%: 9th)

Key losses: Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh, but it’s more of the same – excellence amidst cap casualties – as the Lightning go for their fourth straight Cup final appearance. They would become only the third team in history to do so following the Habs (1951 to '60, ‘65 to ‘69, ’75 to ’79) and the Isles (1980 to '84).

3. New York Rangers (52-24-6, +47. CF%: 25th, xGF%: 24th)

Key addition: Vincent Trocheck to replace Ryan Strome, but their Cup prospects really depend on Igor Shesterkin, who singlehandedly defied all analytical models and pushed the Rangers to the conference finals. They had easily the most impressive, if not shocking, playoff run last season.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (54-20-8, +76. CF%: 2nd, xGF%: 4th)

Key additions: Max Pacioretty (injured) and Brent Burns, their third right-hand offensive ‘D’ in three seasons after Dougie Hamilton and Tony DeAngelo. The Canes have made the playoffs four seasons in a row with two second-round exits and a sweep in the conference finals, so it’s about time the storm broke through, right?

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (54-21-7, +62. CF%: 6th, xGF%: 3rd)

Key loss: Jack Campbell, whom Toronto couldn’t/didn’t want to pay and opted for Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray instead, two goalies whose own careers… I mean, really, who’s saving who here? 

6. Calgary Flames (50-21-11, +85. CF%: 3rd, xGF%: 5th)

Key additions: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri. GM Brad Treliving deserves an award for best facelift since John Travolta and Nicolas Cage in Face/Off.

7. Edmonton Oilers (49-27-6, +38. CF%: 9th, xGF%: 12th)

Key addition: Jack Campbell, who’s definitely the most talented goalie they’ve ever had in the Connor McDavid era, but can he stay healthy or consistent? How will he fare behind a weaker defense?

8. Florida Panthers (58-18-6, +94. CF%: 1st, xGF%: 2nd)

Key addition: Matthew Tkachuk, who will drag the Panthers into the fight after a shaky first-round playoff performance and a sweep by their in-state rival in the following round. Key question: can they defend?! (Exclamation point added for effect).

9. St. Louis Blues (49-22-11, +69. CF%: 24th, xGF%: 23rd)

Key loss: David Perron, but it’s more likely he misses being in St. Louis. The Avs lost just three times at home in the playoffs, two of them at the hands of the Blues. Can Thomas Greiss push Jordan Binnington like Ville Husso? 

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-11, +43. CF%: 10th, xGF%: 8th)

Key addition: Jeff Petry, who should take some pressure off Kris Letang. The silver lining after blowing a 3-1 lead against the New York Shesterkins due to injuries and bad spicy pork was a hint that this aging core might have one more Cup in them.

11. Minnesota Wild (53-22-7, +57. CF%: 11th, xGF%: 6th)

Key loss: Kevin Fiala, their only other scoring threat behind Kirill Kaprizov, and also the nearly $13 million in cap space that is forcing them to bet on prospects and cheap contracts to keep them competitive.

12. Boston Bruins (51-26-5, +35. CF%: 4th, xGF%: 1st)

Key addition: The return of David Krejci, which gives the B’s another option behind Patrice Bergeron to solidify their center depth. The Bruins must hold on while Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy are out of the lineup.

13. Washington Capitals (44-26-12, +30. CF%: 14th, xGF%: 15th)

Key loss: Nicklas Backstrom, whose career is in limbo and robs the Caps of their best center for the past 15 seasons. If the Caps are making a push for one more title in the Alex Ovechkin era, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of urgency.

14. Nashville Predators (45-30-7, +14. CF%: 17th, xGF%: 16th)

Key addition: Ryan McDonagh, who landed in their lap thanks to Tampa’s cap crunch. The biggest mystery is if Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen can continue to carry this team’s offense as they did last season. The Preds are always a bit of a wild card, but they own the second-longest current post-season streak at eight seasons.

15. Los Angeles Kings (44-27-11, +3. CF%: 5th, xGF%: 7th)

Key addition: Kevin Fiala, a bona fide scoring winger which they’ve forever lacked. The Kings are expected to take a big leap with a wave of young talent and pushed their first-round playoff series to the limit without Drew Doughty. 

16. Vegas Golden Knights (43-31-8, +18. CF%: 8th, xGF%: 10th)

Key addition: A healthy amount of pessimism after a honeymoon start to their franchise. Vegas’ take-no-prisoner, all-in approach to acquiring every shiny toy on the market is forcing them to sell premium assets for pennies on the dollar due to cap constraints, and they also have little recourse in replacing the injured Robin Lehner.

17. Dallas Stars (46-30-6, -8. CF%: 19th, xGF%: 14th)

Key addition: Peter DeBoer, who should unlock more of the Stars’ offensive potential… except they might begin the season without top scorer Jason Robertson.

18. Vancouver Canucks (40-30-12, +13. CF%: 16th, xGF%: 18th)

Key addition: Andrei Kuzmenko’s signing is literally a story of turning lemons into lemonade. The Canucks landed a potential top-six winger on a cheap ELC that cost them virtually nothing, which is a big win for a team that’s vastly underperformed relative to their cap expenditure. That defense, though…

19. New York Islanders (37-35-10, -6. CF%: 29th, xGF%: 22nd)

Key addition: Haha, the joke’s on you! After a disappointing season, the Isles bumbled through the summer and whiffed on all of their big-name targets.

20. Winnipeg Jets (39-32-11, -5. CF%: 18th, xGF%: 17th)

Key addition: A full-time role for Cole Perfetti? Rick Bowness was an odd choice for a team without a bona fide defender and an overworked goalie. There’s already more tension in their room than Maverick and Rooster at a bar with Jerry Lee Lewis blasting in the background.

21. Ottawa Senators (33-42-7, -39. CF%: 21st, xGF%: 25th)

Key addition: Alex DeBrincat, one of the new faces during the Summer of Dorion and giving the Sens the hottest makeover since Laney Boggs in She’s All That. It’s playoff or bust for the Sens, who enter the season with more hope and excitement than ever with a young roster loaded with top-tier talent.

22. Detroit Red Wings (32-40-10, -82. CF%: 28th, xGF%: 27th)

Key addition: Ville Husso, which dwarfs the other acquisitions because goaltending was their biggest headache last year, at times pulling their starter for their backup and then pulling their backup for their starter in the same game. It was truly as bewildering as that sentence sounds.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (37-38-7, -38. CF%: 23rd, xGF%: 31st)

Key addition: Johnny Gaudreau, who left money on the table in Calgary and opted for a different lifestyle in low-key Columbus. If we’re judging GMs by their ability to follow a singular plan, Jarmo Kekalainen deserves a ton of credit for aggressive decision-making and forcing his way into the playoff conversation. In fact, Erik Gudbranson’s contract was so aggressive, it was actually kind of offensive.

24. New Jersey Devils (27-46-9, -59. CF%: 15th, xGF%: 13th)

Key addition: Ondrej Palat, who can play up and down the lineup and brings a wealth of experience for a team that has made the playoffs just once in 10 seasons, incidentally losing to Palat and the Lightning that year. That being said, acquiring Vitek Vanecek might end up being the more impactful move.

25. Buffalo Sabres (32-39-11, -58. CF%: 20th, xGF%: 28th)

Key loss: None, which is important as the Adams-Granato regime tries to build on the seeds of optimism sowed last season. Their 232 goals scored were the most in over a decade, and for the first time, it seemed as though everyone was happy to be in Buffalo. An exciting class of young players is coming in, headlined by AHL rookie of the year Jack Quinn.

26. Seattle Kraken (27-49-6, -69. CF%: 13th, xGF%: 19th)

Key addition: A better plan, which involved adding more scoring in Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky, and then having Shane Wright fall into their lap at the draft. Another hope? Phillip Grubauer, whose play took a plunge into the depths of Puget Sound, and once you hit the bottom, there should be no way to go but up.

27. Anaheim Ducks (31-37-14, -39. CF%: 22nd, xGF%: 20th)

Key addition: John Klingberg in a brilliant asset-management move by new GM Pat Verbeek that gives the Ducks a very good trade chip as they continue to build toward the future. Could Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish form the next dynasty after Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry?

28. San Jose Sharks (32-37-13, -50. CF%: 31st, xGF%: 21st)

Key loss: Brent Burns, who spent 11 seasons in the Bay Area and became the first casualty as new GM Mike Grier tries to untangle their cap mess. It leaves their ‘D’ extraordinarily thin with $18.5 million tied up in Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and leaving Mario Ferraro – underrated but also not top-pairing material – as their top defender.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (25-46-11, -87. CF%: 27th, xGF%: 26th)

Key addition: John Tortorella, who comes in guns ablaze and whose oversized reputation can overshadow his on-ice impact. The baffling roster moves were not his call, and we shall see if this so-called match made in heaven becomes a nightmare. We need more behind-the-scenes cameras on this team, stat.

30. Montreal Canadiens (22-49-11, -98. CF%: 26th, xGF%: 29th)

Key loss: Carey Price, who was able to return late last season and whose retirement would close the chapter on one of the best goalies to ever pull on the bleu, blanc et rouge. This is a new era now with Nick Suzuki, newly minted with a ‘C’ and also the ugliest jersey sponsor patch of all time.

31. Arizona Coyotes (25-50-7, -106. CF%: 32nd, xGF%: 32nd)

Key loss: How about a place to call home? Jokes aside, the key addition is draft picks, and the Yotes could have as many as 18 picks in the first three rounds in the next three drafts. The scary part? Bill Armstrong is set to add more with $20 million in cap space this season and an additional $20 million next season, especially once Jakob Chychrun is dealt. Cap space is the ultimate leverage, people.

32. Chicago Blackhawks (28-42-12, -72. CF%: 30th, xGF%: 30th)

Key loss: Dignity, basically. The Hawks are in the process of gutting their roster and have a long road ahead in rehabilitating just about every facet of their organization. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are both entering the final year of their contracts, marking the end of a championship era that now feels ugly and tainted. 

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