NHL Power Rankings: Ranking All Teams Ahead of Stanley Cup Qualifiers 2020

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2020

NHL Power Rankings: Ranking All Teams Ahead of Stanley Cup Qualifiers 2020

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    More than four months after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the NHL's 2019-20 regular-season schedule, the curtain is about to rise on the 24-team playoff tournament under Phase 4 of the league's return-to-play plan. Following exhibition games this week, the tournament begins Saturday.

    During the last two weeks, those teams completed the Phase 3 training camp period at their respective NHL cities. They followed strict league-mandated health and safety protocols, including frequent testing for COVID-19.

    On Sunday, the clubs journeyed to their respective Canadian hub cities, with 12 Eastern Conference clubs in Toronto and 12 Western Conference teams in Edmonton, Alberta. They'll be competing for the Stanley Cup while quarantining.

    While that's going on, the seven clubs that didn't qualify for the playoffs face a prolonged offseason. They'll get an early start on prepping for the 2020 NHL draft, which follows the postseason.

    The long break since March will affect the teams as they return to the ice. Read on to see where your favorite club sits in our pre-tournament NHL power rankings. Please note that these rankings are based on regular-season performance and noteworthy team news since mid-March.

31-25: The Non-Playoff Clubs

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    31. Detroit Red Wings (17 wins, 49 losses, five overtime losses, 39 points)

    Having the worst regular-season record didn't help the Red Wings in the draft lottery, as they wound up with the fourth overall selection. General manager Steve Yzerman faces a busy offseason. His rebuilding club needs a reliable starting goalie, blue-line depth and secondary scoring.

             

    30. Buffalo Sabres (30 wins, 31 losses, eight overtime losses, 68 points)

    The Sabres just missed qualifying for the playoffs. On June 16, they fired GM Jason Botterill and purged their scouting department and minor league coaching staff. Botterill's replacement, Kevyn Adams, has no NHL managerial experience. The Sabres' ongoing mediocrity could raise questions about superstar Jack Eichel's future in Buffalo.

                  

    29. New Jersey Devils (28 wins, 29 losses, 12 overtime losses, 68 points)

    This was a season of change for the Devils, as they traded away star Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes. They also fired head coach John Hynes and GM Ray Shero, replacing them on an interim basis with Alain Nasreddine and Tom Fitzgerald. The latter was recently made full-time GM, but Nasreddine was replaced by veteran NHL bench boss Lindy Ruff.

                 

    28. Anaheim Ducks (29 wins, 33 losses, nine overtime losses, 67 points)

    On June 3, the Orange County Register's Elliott Teaford reported GM Bob Murray wants more out of his club next season. "We were a decent hockey team a lot of nights," he said. "I expect much more next year." That depends on Murray improving the third-worst offense (2.56 goals per game) in 2019-20.

                  

    27. San Jose Sharks (29 wins, 36 losses, five overtime losses, 63 points)

    Expected to be a Cup contender, the veteran-laden Sharks crashed and burned this season. Poor goaltending, a popgun power play and injuries to stars Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl contributed to their decline. Cap Friendly indicates they have $66.6 million invested in 13 players, leaving little room to significantly improve the roster.

                  

    26. Ottawa Senators (25 wins, 34 losses, 12 overtime losses, 62 points)

    The rebuilding Senators failed to win the first overall pick in the draft lottery. With the third and fifth selections, however, they're in good shape to land two high-quality prospects. With 13 picks in this year's draft, including three in the first round and four in the second, GM Pierre Dorion could use some of those selections as trade bait to pry a good young player from a cap-strapped rival.

                 

    25. Los Angeles Kings (29 wins, 35 losses, six overtime losses, 64 points)

    While the Kings didn't win the draft lottery, landing the second overall pick was a fine consolation prize for a club with the league's fourth-worst record. With a deep prospect pool that includes Tyler Madden, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev—as well as Gabe Vilardi, Calvin Petersen and Blake Lizotte, who are already on the roster—the Kings have a bright future.

24-17: Chicago Blackhawks-Nashville Predators

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    24Chicago Blackhawks (32 wins, 30 losses, eight overtime losses, 72 points)

    The Blackhawks' leadership core—Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and captain Jonathan Toews—has considerable Stanley Cup experience. It's also an aging group, with only Kane still among the league's elite players. Longtime starting goalie Corey Crawford missed Phase 3 after testing positive for COVID-19. He's recovered but has little time to prepare for the qualifying round.

                   

    23. Montreal Canadiens (31 wins, 31 losses, nine overtime losses, 71 points) 

    Starting goaltender Carey Price is healthy and looked sharp during training camp. They Canadiens will need him at his best to upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. Their special teams (17.7 power-play percentage, 78.7 penalty-killing percentage) were both below league average in the regular season. They lack a skilled left-side top-four defenseman and reliable scoring punch.

                  

    22. Florida Panthers (35 wins, 26 losses, eight overtime losses, 78 points)  

    Hopes were high for the Panthers this season, with Joel Quenneville as their new head coach and the offseason signing of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. However, they were inconsistent, and Bobrovsky looked nothing like a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. If those issues haven't improved, the Panthers will be in trouble.

               

    21. Arizona Coyotes (33 wins, 29 losses, eight overtime losses, 74 points)

    This tournament is the closest the Coyotes have come to the playoffs since 2012. They have a solid goalie tandem in Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta plus a decent defense corps led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Many of their young core players, however, lack postseason experience. Veteran stars Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel must lead the way if they're to have a chance of advancing.

                  

    20. Minnesota Wild (35 wins, 27 losses, seven overtime losses, 77 points) 

    The Wild were tumbling in the standings until they promoted Dean Evason to head coach on Valentine's Day. They rallied to win eight of 12 games under Evason before COVID-19 derailed the schedule. Was that hot streak a serious turnaround or merely a flash in the pan? They could struggle to regain that winning form following a long layoff.

                 

    19. Calgary Flames (36 wins, 27 losses, seven overtime losses, 79 points) 

    After finishing first overall in the Western Conference last season, the Flames spent this year trying to hang on to one of the final playoff berths. The goalie tandem of Cam Talbot and David Rittich blew hot and cold throughout the campaign. Winger Johnny Gaudreau's absence from the top line during the first week of Phase 3 training camp raised eyebrows.

                   

    18. Vancouver Canucks (36 wins, 27 losses, six overtime losses, 78 points) 

    Led by Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes, the Canucks are a promising young team. Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom has recovered from his late-season knee injury, but concerns over the blue-line depth linger. They allowed the fourth-most shots per game (33.3) and struggled during Markstrom's absence.

                     

    17. Nashville Predators (35 wins, 26 losses, eight overtime losses, 78 points)

    The Predators have tumbled since their Presidents' Trophy-winning campaign of 2017-18. They were bounced from the opening round of the 2019 playoffs and struggled to stay in the chase this season. Former Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne stumbled through a career-worst performance between the pipes. The addition of Matt Duchene last summer failed to bolster their middle-of-the-pack offense.

16-11: New York Islanders-Carolina Hurricanes

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    Jim McIsaac/Associated Press

    16. New York Islanders (35 wins, 23 losses, 10 overtime losses, 80 points)

    Expectations were high for the Islanders following last season's 103-point performance, but they haven't met them this season. They have good goaltending and play a solid defensive system under coach Barry Trotz. However, their offense and power play (2.78 goals per game, 17.3 PP percentage) finished the regular season in the bottom third of the league.

               

    15. New York Rangers (37 wins, 28 losses, five overtime losses, 79 points)

    Led by Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin and 41-goal scorer Mika Zibanejad, the rebuilding Rangers have the potential to pull off an upset or two. Promising goaltender Igor Shesterkin (.932 save percentage) won 10 of 12 starts following his debut in early January. Power forward Chris Kreider has recovered from his late-season foot injury.

                     

    14. Winnipeg Jets (37 wins, 28 losses, six overtime losses, 80 points)

    The Jets possess superb goaltending in Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck and a potent first line of  Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and team captain Blake Wheeler. Their blue-line depth was depleted compared to the past two seasons. That could become a serious issue if Hellebuyck struggles to regain his form in the qualifying round.

                  

    13. Toronto Maple Leafs (36 wins, 25 losses, nine overtime losses, 81 points)

    This season was a roller-coaster for Toronto. A sputtering start led to a coaching change, which was followed by a solid midseason run before the team stumbled prior to the shutdown. The Leafs have a powerful offense led by John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but starting goalie Frederik Andersen was inconsistent, and they lack skilled right-side blue-line depth.

                   

    12. Columbus Blue Jackets (33 wins, 22 losses, 15 overtime losses, 81 points)

    An anemic offense and an injury-depleted roster failed to derail the plucky Blue Jackets. Guided by coach John Tortorella, they remained in the playoff hunt before the season was halted. Most of their players who were sidelined earlier this season, including Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand, are healthy. The wild cards are the inexperienced goalie tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo.

                    

    11. Carolina Hurricanes (38 wins, 25 losses, five overtime losses, 81 points)

    The Hurricanes sat fourth in the Metropolitan Division when the schedule was paused. Young stars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov enjoyed solid performances. Top defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been recovering from a broken leg suffered in January but hasn't practiced since leaving the ice in pain Wednesday, per Chip Alexander of the News and Observer. Goaltending could be a concern, as Petr Mrazek and James Reimer lack winning playoff records.

10. Dallas Stars

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Dallas Stars finished third in the Central Division with 37 wins, 24 losses and eight overtime losses for 82 points.

         

    How They Got Here

    Thanks to stellar goaltending from Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, the Stars allowed the second-fewest goals per game (2.52) in the regular season. They also play a solid defensive game, ranking eighth in blocked shots with 1,031. However, their offense (2.58 goals allowed per game) ranked 26th.

            

    Players to Watch

    Top-scoring forwards Tyler Seguin (50 points), Jamie Benn (39) and Alexander Radulov (34) were well below last season's pace before the schedule was interrupted. The Stars need a better effort from those three in the playoffs. Sophomore defenseman Miro Heiskanen, 21, plays with a poise and maturity that belies his youth.

9. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Philadelphia Flyers finished second in the Metropolitan Division with 41 wins, 21 losses and seven overtime losses for 89 points.

         

    How They Got Here

    After missing the playoffs last season, the Flyers responded well to new head coach Alain Vigneault. They improved their offense (3.29 goals per game) while reducing their goals against per game to 2.77, putting them in the top 10 in both categories. Center Sean Couturier's two-way play made him a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

             

    Players to Watch

    Goaltender Carter Hart enjoyed a solid sophomore season, but this will be his first taste of Stanley Cup playoff action. Leading scorer Travis Konecny and first-pairing defenseman Ivan Provorov also have limited postseason experience. Puck-moving blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere tumbled down the depth chart and needs a solid playoff performance to redeem himself.

8. Edmonton Oilers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 37 wins, 25 losses and nine overtime losses for 83 points.

             

    How They Got Here

    The offensive punch of captain Connor McDavid and Art Ross Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl powered the Oilers to their first playoff appearance since 2017. Their special teams improved this season, sporting a league-leading 29.5 power-play percentage and an 84.4 penalty-killing percentage (No. 2 in the league).

           

    Players to Watch

    Goaltenders Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith (combined 3.03 goals against per game) will need a better effort in the postseason. Rookie winger Kailer Yamamoto (26 points in 27 games) and defenseman Ethan Bear (21 points) brought a welcome boost to the lineup. Veteran winger James Neal must rediscover his early-season scoring pace.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Pittsburgh Penguins finished third in the Metropolitan Division with 40 wins, 23 losses and six overtime losses for 86 points.

          

    How They Got Here

    Pittsburgh's roster depth and veteran experience proved critical as injuries waylaid core players such as Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Brian Dumoulin for long periods this season. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang stepped in to fill the gap, and winger Bryan Rust enjoyed a career-best 56-point performance. Late-season addition Jason Zucker provided additional depth to the team's scoring lines.

             

    Players to Watch

    Crosby dealt with a minor ailment during training camp that could bear monitoring during the qualifying round. Guentzel will attempt to regain his high-scoring ways after missing half the season with a shoulder injury. After splitting the goaltending duties this season, Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry will jockey for the starting job this postseason.

6. Vegas Golden Knights

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Vegas Golden Knights finished on top of the Pacific Division with 39 wins, 24 losses and eight overtime losses for 86 points.

              

    How They Got Here

    In danger of tumbling down the standings, the Golden Knights steadied the ship on Jan. 16 by replacing Gerard Gallant as head coach with Peter DeBoer. They also bolstered their goaltending depth by acquiring Robin Lehner at the trade deadline. Forwards Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone powered the offense and provided veteran leadership.

               

    Players to Watch

    Lehner could challenge Marc-Andre Fleury for the starting job. Pacioretty suffered a minor injury during training camp and will join his teammates in Edmonton at a later date. Shea Theodore (46 points) is coming into his own as a puck-moving defenseman. Promising power forward Alex Tuch will try to put his injury-hampered season behind him. Veteran center Paul Stastny (39 points) must rediscover his scoring touch.

5. Washington Capitals

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Washington Capitals finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 41 wins, 20 losses and eight overtime losses for 90 points.

               

    How They Got Here

    The Capitals had 33 wins in 49 games before the All-Star break in January but only eight victories over the following 20 games before the pandemic shut down the season. Led by captain Alex Ovechkin's 48 goals and James Norris Memorial Trophy finalist John Carlson's 75 points, the Capitals scored the second-most goals per game (3.42). Their goaltending, however, was spotty, ranking 18th in goals against per game.

              

    Players to Watch

    Former Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby will attempt to regain his once stellar form after struggling through the worst season of his NHL career. Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie tend to rise to the occasion in the postseason. Winger Jakub Vrana enjoyed a career-high 52-point performance.

4. Colorado Avalanche

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Colorado Avalanche finished second in the Central Division with 42 wins, 20 losses and eight overtime losses for 92 points.

               

    How They Got Here

    Led by Hart Memorial Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche overcame a series of injuries to stars such as Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog. The additions of Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky and Vladislav Namestnikov since last summer provided an invaluable boost of experienced depth.

                   

    Players to Watch

    Kadri must contain the temper that earned him costly suspensions the past two postseasons. Defenseman (and Calder Memorial Trophy finalist) Cale Makar was dealing with an unspecified ailment unrelated to COVID-19 during training camp. Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz could jockey for the starting goalie job.

3.Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Tampa Bay Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division with 43 wins, 21 losses and six overtime losses for 92 points.

           

    How They Got Here

    Following last year's shocking first-round playoff exit after a record-tying 62-win season, the Lightning were a dominant club for most of this campaign. They led the league with 3.47 goals per game. Defenseman Victor Hedman is a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, and 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy is up for the award again this season.

           

    Players to Watch

    Captain Steven Stamkos missed Phase 3 training camp with a lower-body injury but is expected to be ready for the playoffs. He and fellow core players Hedman, Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov will attempt to atone for last spring's poor postseason outing.

2. St. Louis Blues

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The defending Stanley Cup champions finished on top of the Western Conference with 42 wins, 19 losses and 10 overtime losses for 94 points.

          

    How They Got Here

    Picking up where they left off in the 2019 playoffs, the Blues avoided the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover with solid two-way play. Leading scorer and 2019 playoff MVP Ryan O'Reilly is up for his second straight Frank J. Selke Trophy. They got solid goaltending from Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen. Their scoring was down this season, but that was partially because of Vladimir Tarasenko's lengthy absence to shoulder surgery.

              

    Players to Watch

    Tarasenko has recovered and rejoined his teammates. This could be team captain Alex Pietrangelo's last playoff run with the Blues, as the defenseman is an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Blueliner Justin Faulk will attempt to overcome an erratic regular-season performance. 

1. Boston Bruins

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Regular-Season Record

    The Bruins won the 2019-20 Presidents' Trophy with a league-best record of 44 wins, 14 losses and 12 overtime losses. They were the only club to reach 100 points.

           

    How They Got Here

    Boston needed no time to shake off last year's heartbreaking loss to St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins had the league's best goals-against average (2.39), the second-best power-play percentage (25.2) and the third-best penalty kill (84.3), while they ranked ninth in goals per game (3.24). Secondary scoring is a concern, as their production drops sharply beyond the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

       

    Players to Watch

    Pastrnak and winger Ondrej Kase missed Phase 3 training camp for suspected exposure to COVID-19. Pastrnak traveled with his teammates to Toronto, but Kase remains in Boston for the time being. Offensive defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent and could be playing his final postseason with the Bruins. Winger Jake DeBrusk and center David Krejci must take some pressure off the top-scoring line.

                        

    Stats via NHL.com and Hockey Reference. Additional information via Cap Friendly.