NHL Power Rankings: All Teams Ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020 First Round

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, file photo, fans pose below the NHL league logo at a display outside Falcon Stadium before an NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The NHL nailed down the final details of a playoff format if the season can resume on the same day word came out that another player has tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The games have begun. The hubs are abuzz with activity.

And all of a sudden, we have a 16-team bracket to determine a Stanley Cup champion.

A week's worth of play in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, eliminated eight teams—including both the hosts—and sent the rest on to battles with the top four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Those best-of-seven series will halve the field from 16 to eight before the field is again whittled to four for the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final, which will be played entirely in Edmonton.

The 15 clubs on the outside looking in face a prolonged offseason and get an early start on prepping for the 2020 NHL draft, which follows the postseason.

Read on to see where your favorite club sits in our post-qualifying NHL power rankings, which are based on regular-season and qualifying-round performance (where applicable) and noteworthy team news since mid-March.


31-25: Non-Playoff Participants

Matt Slocum/Associated Press


31. Detroit Red Wings (17-49-5, 39 points)

As if getting 39 points in 71 games—exactly 23 fewer than the next-worst team—weren't bad enough, the Red Wings managed to not earn the No. 1 draft pick, either. Instead, they'll pick fourth and begin as big a renovation as Steve Yzerman has had in his decade-long run as a GM in the league. On the good side, they do have a fortuitous salary-cap situation, and Yzerman is a proven commodity in the executive suite.


30. Ottawa Senators (25-34-12, 62 points)

The Senators are a spot ahead of Detroit here because of the aforementioned 23-point gap in the standings and the fact that they'll have some assets with which to swing a deal or two at draft time. That said, the stability of the personnel above GM Pierre Dorion is hardly a lock given the firing of CEO Jim Little after barely two months on the job earlier this year. 


29. New Jersey Devils (28-29-12, 68 points)

Just getting a few months of familiarity might be a fitting tonic for the Devils, who dealt away their best player and replaced both the head coach and general manager in the midst of a lost pre-pandemic season. New Jersey will pick seventh in the draft and should land another solid prospect there, and the well-traveled Lindy Ruff gets the chance to add an 11th playoff appearance in his 19th season behind an NHL bench.


28. San Jose Sharks (29-36-5, 63 points)

The Sharks were expected to be far better heading into a season with a fleet of proven veterans and a load of high-end salaries. It didn't work out thanks to a variety of factors, though, which leaves the team with a challenging cap situation and a roster that's another year older. It wouldn't be a reach to suggest San Jose will be close to the playoff cut next spring, but the long-range future is less rosy.


27. Los Angeles Kings (29-35-6, 64 points)

The Kings are close to the Sharks in terms of the standings, but they're a better commodity if you're buying stock in teams based on their long-term outlooks. Los Angeles will draft second and possibly get itself a blue-chipper to go along with a laundry list of prospects that includes Blake Lizotte, Calvin Petersen and Gabe Vilardi, along with farm-system jewels Tyler Madden, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev.


26. Anaheim Ducks (29-33-9, 67 points)

GM Bob Murray was no doubt frustrated watching an anemic offensive unit all season long in Anaheim and insisted he's expecting "much more next year." That'll mean a quick offensive rebuild for a team that averaged the third-fewest goals in the league—2.56 per game—across 71 outings. In fact, the Ducks scored more than only five teams while posting the league's fifth-worst goal differential at minus-39.


25. Buffalo Sabres (30-31-8, 68 points)

It's got to be particularly frustrating for the Buffalo faithful to watch the Canadiens advance past the qualifying round while realizing the Sabres were only three points behind Montreal—and had played two fewer gameswhen the league shut down. Kevyn Adams is a newbie stepping into the role of general manager, but having Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin on the roster is as good a welcome gift as any.


24-17: Qualifying-Round Losers

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press


24. New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points)

The 11th-seeded Rangers were a popular pick to advance beyond the qualifiers but found themselves on the wrong end of a sweep by the No. 6 Carolina Hurricanes. Disappointment aside, New York has an MVP finalist in Artemi Panarin, a 40-goal scorer in Mika Zibanejad and young studs on the blue line and in the net to look forward to.


23. Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points)

Given their qualifying flop against the New York Islanders and a run of 24 years since a postseason series victory, it's easy to forget the Panthers were excited heading into the season with a proven coach in Joel Quenneville and multiple-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in goal. Going forward, though, center Aleksander Barkov (20 goals) and winger Jonathan Huberdeau (23 goals) are important pieces.


22. Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points) 

The Wild are an archetypal enigma. They finished with eight wins in 12 games and made the qualifiers as a No. 10 seed and then dropped three straight to the Vancouver Canucks after opening the tournament with a 3-0 victory. During their 69-game schedule, they scored and allowed exactly 220 goals, making it difficult to determine specific strengths and weaknesses. New coach Dean Evason has some work to do to decipher it all.


21. Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Once the woe of a qualifying loss to the Calgary Flames wears off, there's plenty of reason for optimism in Winnipeg. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck is among the league's best, and the top-six forward crop boasts the likes of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor. Skill and depth on the defensive side is a legitimate concern, though, and the past two seasons have been a skid after a conference final appearance in 2018.


20. Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points)

The Maple Leafs will line up alongside another eliminated team (see No. 17) for consideration of who's the most underachieving. Toronto had top-shelf offensive talent in John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner but scored just 10 goals in five qualifying games against Columbus and none on 33 shots in the deciding game. The personnel is there, but the salary cap may be a concern.


19. Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points)

The Predators' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 suddenly seems like a long time ago. Nashville was one of two high Western seeds to lose in the qualifiers, and even though Pekka Rinne is still a former Vezina winner, he's also just three months away from his 38th birthday. Among 31 teams, the Predators were precisely in the middle of the road in offense. It's hard to gauge where it could all go in 2020-21.  


18. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points)

This wasn't supposed to be where we'd see the Penguins in the rankings. But in the aftermath of a stellar qualifier by Montreal goalie Carey Price, the postseason questions have already begun about whether this star-studded team's title window is closed. Veterans Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are 33, and Evgeni Malkin is 34, and the trio combined to miss 50 games in the regular season.


17. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points)

Did they underachieve or overachieve? That's being asked around Edmonton after a fizzle against the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. The Oilers were probably viewed a bit too high after logging the ninth-most points in the NHL considering there's not much beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Immediate needs include reinforcements on the blue line, more production from bottom-six forwards and better goaltending.    


16-13: Surprise Survivors

Paul Sancya/Associated Press


16. Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

How They Got Here

Defeated Nashville, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

If ever a solid team could have used a qualifying exit and a shot at the No. 1 overall pick, it was the Coyotes. But instead, they'll move on to meet the Colorado Avalanche in the round of 16. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel are a pretty good one-two punch, and Arizona has solid goaltending and a respectable defensive corps, but beating the Avalanche will probably require more than that. Going forward, re-signing Hall is a huge priority.  


15. Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points) 

How They Got Here

Defeated Pittsburgh, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

Whether it was the real playoffs or just a pandemic-necessitated pretend round, Price proved that a hot goalie and some opportunistic offense can still steal a series. The reward of a best-of-seven series with the streaking Philadelphia Flyers is harsh, and it'll take an even better version of the soon-to-be-33-year-old (his birthday is Aug. 16) to steal more than a game. Next year, send more scoring and better special teams.  


14. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

How They Got Here

Defeated Edmonton, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

Barely made the 24-team tournament and facing a team with three of the league's last four scoring champions? No problem, says Jonathan Toews, who was the best player on the ice for nearly every minute of four games against the Oilers. Toews, goalie Corey Crawford, flashy Patrick Kane and stalwart Duncan Keith know the way to the promised land, but beating the Vegas Golden Knights as an encore is a tough ask.


13. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points)

How They Got Here

Defeated Toronto, 3-2, in qualifiers

What to Watch

There's nothing like a shutout to get a team revved up to advance in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets got that from Joonas Korpisalo, continuing a season-long trend that saw the team give up the third-fewest goals in the league while finishing 14th overall in points. And don't think John Tortorella won't want to beat the Lightning, whom he coached to a Stanley Cup in 2004.


12-9: Bracket-Fillers

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press


12: Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) 

How They Got Here

Defeated Winnipeg, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

Nothing like a good soap opera to precede a long playoff run, eh? Standout winger Johnny Gaudreau's fitness level became the topic of discussion when the idea of him being traded grew stale, but the Flames still managed to beat the Jets and advance to face Dallas. The Stars were ineffective in the round robin, so mark this one as an upset possibility if Calgary's goaltending holds up.


11: Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) 

How They Got Here

Defeated Minnesota, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

The Canucks scored 12 goals in three games after being shut out in the qualifying-round opener against Minnesota, and they'll face a St Louis Blues team that won the Stanley Cup last season but was an unspectacular 0-3 in the round-robin phase. The Blues could shake off the rust on muscle memory alone once elimination games begin, but Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson have a breakout in their sights.


10: New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points)

How They Got Here

Defeated Florida, 3-1, in qualifiers

What to Watch

Barry Trotz's Isles clamped things down and allowed a mere seven goals in four games against the Panthers in the qualifying round, but it'll obviously be a different animal when they meet the Washington Capitals. Lest anyone forget, Trotz was behind the bench with the Caps when they won the Cup two years ago, and it'll be compelling drama to watch him battle Alex Ovechkin and Co. Timely scoring, anyone?


9: Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points)

How They Got Here

Defeated New York Rangers, 3-0, in qualifiers

What to Watch

Go ahead, ask the Boston Bruins if they're excited about facing a team that swept out the Rangers in the qualifiers. Particularly considering the Bruins laid an 0-3 round-robin egg after capturing the Presidents' Trophy. The Hurricanes are armed and very dangerous, thanks in no small part to center Sebastian Aho, who scored three goals and chipped in five assists in three games against New York.


5-8: Second-Tier Selections

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press


8. Dallas Stars (37-24-8, 82 points

How They Got Here

Went 1-2 in Western Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

How much can be gained from winning once in five months? We'll find out by watching the Stars, who finished the West's round robin with an OT defeat of St. Louis. Entering the finale with the Blues, they had lost their final six regular-season games, an exhibition game and two round-robin contests. On the plus side, they controlled zone play, got good goaltending and played with urgency, which is a good playoff script. 


7. Boston Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points) 

How They Got Here

Went 0-3 in Eastern Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

Just how much panic should be felt will be determined by just how much the round-robin series mattered. For example, Boston was 0-of-9 on the power play in three pre-playoff games but converted at a better than 25 percent rate in the regular season. Its top forward line generated a single point in those same three games, but any team with David Pastrnak (48 goals, 95 points) has reason for optimism.


6. St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, 94 points) 

How They Got Here

Went 0-2-1 in Western Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

Sometimes players-only meetings are a cure-all for struggling teams. And other times they're simply a signal that things are already too far gone. The former is probably the case for a defending Stanley Cup champion, but the fact that the Blues had to have such a meeting in the round-robin phase is surely a concern. After all, St. Louis was outscored 14-6 in its regulation round-robin games and an exhibition.


5. Washington Capitals (41-20-8, 90 points)

How They Got Here

Went 1-1-1 in Eastern Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

The Capitals were listless during round-robin games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, losing 3-1 and 3-2, respectively, before bouncing back to beat the Bruins. The players said all the right things in the aftermath about playoff experience, but it'll be a unique challenge considering they'll face an Islanders team coached by the man who led their championship run in 2018. Goalie Braden Holtby will be a huge factor.


4-1: Best of the Best


4. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, 92 points)

How They Got Here

Went 2-0-1 in Western Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

As frustrating as an overtime loss to Vegas in the round-robin finale might have beenconsidering it kept the Avalanche from staying unbeaten—it was probably good news considering it'll match Colorado with a playoff-novice Arizona team rather than the dangerous Blackhawks. The teams split two games in the regular season, but the Coyotes were 18 points behind the Avs in the overall league standings.


3. Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points)

How They Got Here

Went 2-1 in Eastern Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

The Lightning have been waiting to atone for last year's four-game playoff exit after a 62-win regular season. But how long the run will last will depend on the health of two stars. Defenseman Victor Hedman left Saturday's round-robin finale with what looked like a right ankle injury, and forward Steven Stamkos has a lower-body injury and hasn't played since before training camp. Keep an eye on their updates.


2. Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, 86 points)

How They Got Here

Went 3-0 in Western Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

The Golden Knights enter the traditional playoffs with an embarrassment of riches in a few key places. Goaltender Robin Lehner was acquired at the trade deadline and may assume the No. 1 role ahead of perennial playoff standout Marc-Andre Fleury, which makes it a win-win. Also, Vegas killed eight of 10 penalties in three round-robin games, which is a nice trend to be riding against the Blackhawks.


1. Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, 89 points)

How They Got Here

Went 3-0 in Eastern Conference Round Robin

What to Watch

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

If you thought a hiatus would blunt the momentum built by nine wins in 10 games to end the regular season, think again. The Flyers won their exhibition game and then swept the round-robin series while scoring 11 goals and allowing only three. Goalie Carter Hart has been special all season and looks even better these days, and no five-man unit is playing any better than Philly's. Right now, this is the best team in hockey.