Well, the sports world has officially hit a standstill, folks. Both NBA and NHL drafts are complete, awards are all handed out, free agency has yet to begin, the NFL is still in hibernation, and the MLB is in it’s dog days. It’s truly the worst time to be a sports fan and even worse time to be a sports writer.
So right after the draft and right before the free agency period, a power rankings feels in line for the sport of hockey. The NHL is in a weird state, with a massive power shift that comes every decade or so in full swing. Former laughingstocks like Toronto and Edmonton are slowly finding relevance again and giants like Los Angeles and Montreal are all but fallen.
The 2018 season is revving up to be a wild one, so right before things start getting crazy again, let’s lay some foundation on what can be expected this upcoming season with some way-too-early power rankings.
31: Vancouver Canucks
The Sedin twins pushing 37 years of age and already on a sharp decline while the Canucks have no replacement for the near or distant future. With pretty much zero talent outside of Daniel and Henrik, Vancouver is in for a rough season.
30: Arizona Coyotes
The little talent the Coyotes have keep them above Vancouver but aside Max Domi, Louis Domingue and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona doesn’t have much to look forward to in the future. Much of the scoring load is on the shoulders of aging veterans like Radim Vrbata and unless the youth they have starts to blossom as hoped, it’s another year in the cellar for the Coyotes.
29: Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have a solid reserve of promising young talent in players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart but the lack of depth and goaltending leave a lot to be desired on this team. There is some hope but without addressing the more glaring issues of this roster soon is going to lead to a lot more misery in Buffalo.
28: Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche have just endured a pathetic season where they even lost at tanking. They have enough talent to not be dead last but it was clear this season was an absolute disaster for them. Hopefully Mikko Rantanen and the former Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon can take the next step and start to peruse their way out of the basement.
27: New Jersey Devils
First overall pick Nico Hischier will become a strong top line center one day but right now the Devils hang their hats on the scoring efforts of Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall. Cory Schneider is a good enough goalie to keep the Devils halfway competitive until Hischier and 19 year old Pavel Zacha develop into All-Star level players as hoped. For now, another underwhelming year is in store.
26: Las Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury is a top tier goaltender in this league but even he is going to keep this unexciting roster from not winding up near the bottom. With not much star power outside of him and James Neal while lacking in star potential (aside from maybe Shea Theodore or Tomas Nosek, Vegas is in store for a tough inaugural season.
25: Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are shells of their former selves and without suitable replacements for their spots as faces of a franchise, Detroit is going to start regressing hard. After years of brilliant drafting, the glory days of the Red Wings are officially over.
24: Florida Panthers
The Panthers showed a ton of promise a couple of seasons ago but it almost feels like the potential had burned itself out. Aaron Ekblad hasn’t turned into that elite defenseman everyone has hoped while other “future stars” had flamed out completely. Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad have all but fallen off a cliff and with no goaltending help for the foreseeable future, the Panthers are going to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard often for now.
23: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are a total dumpster fire at this point. Superstars good enough to win multiple rings like Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick are all but washed up veterans at this point. They have an alarming lack of exciting youth on the roster and could easily be placed a lot lower if their defense and puck control style didn’t work so well. Unfortunately there is a grand total of zero offensive stars on this roster so it’s to the basement with you LA.
22: Dallas Stars
All-Stars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are good enough to keep Dallas above a decent amount of the teams in this league but there is a noticeable absence of anything else outside of them. Ben Bishop was a solid acquisition and hopefully he can solve their goaltending woes but it will be a complete fluke if Dallas finishes anywhere above .500.
21: Philadelphia Flyers
Philly used to be good. This can also be said for the faces of franchises Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are going to be solid players one day but that’s one day. With not much else to be excited about besides second overall Nolan Patrick, the Flyers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
20: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are far from the Stanley Cup Final appearance only two seasons ago. Moving on from rising star Jonathan Drouin isn’t going to help and with the injury headaches with Steven Stamkos handicaps this team more than it should. With some star potential in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, Tampa should be able to contend once again one day but chock this season up for a loss.
19: Carolina Hurricanes
Their top three scorers are all 24 years old or younger. That’s a very good sign for a franchise going forward. However with a ton of questions at goalie means they won’t hit their stride this season, but there’s a lot to be excited for in Carolina.
18: Winnipeg Jets
Patrik Laine is going to be a bonafide superstar barring any unforeseen circumstance and surrounding him with respectable talent like Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien is going to lead to bigger and better things real soon. A lot of raw talent and spotty goaltending holds them back but there only a couple of pieces away from contention.
17: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have finally hit the end of the road with their Big Three of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. San Jose has put together a roster of a win-now mentality for years now but it’s time to start to prepare to win tomorrow. They’ll get enough productivity out of Brent Burns and Logan Couture to compete for a wild card spot but there is just not enough young talent to keep contending for years to come.
16: New York Islanders
No team can flatout fail with John Tavares on the roster and with enough supporting depth in Josh Bailey and Anders Lee allows them to compete for a playoff spot but without consistent goaltending and lack of stars outside of Tavares, that’s all that can be hoped for in Brooklyn.
15: New York Rangers
The Rangers have hit the end of the road with this roster they have put together. They wasted Henrik Lundqvist’s prime and now it’s lights out in New York. The Rangers have enough talent (Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello) to make the second round for a few more years but championship hopes are all but gone for the Rangers.
14: Calgary Flames
The Flames have been proving themselves to us for years now. Johnny Gaudreau and co. have a strong mix youth and veterans and it’s worked well. But not well enough. They’re a team lacking in superstar talent but in a couple of seasons with a couple more pieces and good goaltender, they’ll be contenders. However I think we can all bet on another first round exit for Calgary this season.
13: Ottawa Senators
The Sens have been defying hockey logic ever since they made the postseason after being 14 points out of contention and have probably topped that with an Eastern Conference Final appearance this past playoffs. Erik Karlsson is an elite defenseman and easily the best offensive dman in the league and paired with Mark Stone is a strong duo. Honestly there is no way to predict where Ottawa will land in terms of power rankings because one night, they look like a Stanley Cup team while other nights lead to 7 point blowout. There are not to be doubted but not betted on.
12: Boston Bruins
The Bruins have consistently been one of the most respectable teams in the league. However respect doesn’t mean they can win championships. Even though they should be competing for a Cup. They have a Vezina level goalie in Tuukka Rask, 85 point scorer in Brad Marchand paired with a lot of rising talent. There’s no reason they can’t win a Cup, they’re just not. Maybe they’ll realize this before it’s too late.
11: St. Louis Blues
There are some teams in sports known for choking. And then there are the St.Louis Blues. Every year brings so much promise and then they blow it. They have a talented roster however with a choking tendency means they are wildly unpredictable. Could this be the year? Probably not but a team with this level of goaltending and offensive firepower, who knows with these guys anymore.
10: Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens live and die by Carey Price. His play dictates the entire team’s play. And that’s not a good thing for a team. He’s not getting any younger and without the proper talent around him, there’s little even he can do in terms of playoff success. Trading away PK Subban has come back to bite them and they officially find themselves in No Man’s Land. Have fun losing in the second round for years to come, Habs fans.
9: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets were one of the best surprises last season. They had an 108 point season and gave the future Cup champions Penguins absolute fits in the first round of the playoffs. They are brimming with young talent and if they hold on to the 2017 Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky’s prime for long enough or find a strong and younger replacement, they are without a doubt heavy contenders for a Cup run.
8: Nashville Predators
The Western Conference champs are honestly a total wild card coming into this year. They barely snuck into the playoffs with the final wild card spot and they found themselves in the Final. Pekka Rinne has one or two more years of elite play and the loss of James Neal isn’t going to go down well. However, they have enough talent to win the Western Conference again but at this point, it’s just a race against time to capitalize on Rinne’s prime before he starts to decline.
7: Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have been Cup contenders for years but time is running out in Anaheim. Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry is aging hard but the central core is still elite. Everything else about this team is just solid. They’ll contend for a Western Conference Final berth but that’s about it in Anaheim.
6: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs were one of the most exciting teams from a season ago and with a whole season under the belts of the rising Big Three Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander is going to be huge in their development. Those are three almost a guaranteed All-Star trio and surrounded with a sturdy supporting cast is going to lead to very good things in the near future.
5: Minnesota Wild
The Wild are in a lot of trouble right now. Devan Dubnyk is a great enough goalie to propel the Wild into a top spot yearly and with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter make sure they can compete. But with them well past 30 and a lack of a truly great prospect on the roster isn’t going to fare well in the future. They’ll compete hard this season but the success is for sure fleeting.
4: Chicago Blackhawks
Yeah so after a flurry of moves and the loss of Marian Hossa isn’t going to bode well with the Hawks, but the core of Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook and Crawford is still intact. The addition of Brandon Saad will work wonders for the defensive end and if Toews can make a comeback to superstardom like he can do, it’s possible to see another Cup run on the storied decade for the Hawks.
3: Washington Capitals
The only team more prone to choking than the Blues are the wonderful Washington Capitals. Even though this team is President Cup caliber, they consistently get eliminated in the second round. With the aging legend Alexander Ovechkin already in his 30s, the Capital’s time is limited to win a Cup. But if they can past those pesky Penguins, it may be championship time in Washington.
2: Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid is the second youngest player ever to win the Hart. He is a franchise cornerstone who will be an all-time great when he walks away. He is surrounded by an offensive powerhouse that, with a little more refining, is a top tier team who can very well be a dynasty from here on out.
1: Pittsburgh Penguins
The loss of Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t going to hurt that bad especially with budding star in Matt Murray. The Penguins have capitalized on this power shift in the league, where almost every team is either too old to compete or too young except for the Penguins, who are the best team in the league basically everywhere. They were the first team to go back-to-back since the ‘99-’00 Red Wings and with a still intact roster, there’s no reason they can’t go for the threepeat.