NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands on Opening Night

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2021

NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands on Opening Night

0 of 6

    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    It's been exactly 97 days.

    Or, if you prefer, roughly 2,300 hours, 139,000 minutes or 8.3 million seconds.

    What is "it" you ask?

    Well, the time since the last meaningful NHL game, of course.

    Pucks drop on the 2021-22 regular season in a pair of cities Tuesday night, when the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning host the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the league's newest franchise—the Seattle Kraken—visit the Vegas Golden Knights to open their initial journey through a now-32-team gauntlet.

    Needless to say, it's kind of a big deal to the writer types on the B/R hockey team.

    And in recognition of the time that's passed since the Lightning vanquished the Montreal Canadiens with a Game 5 victory on July 7, it was everyone back into the power rankings pool to compile what'll be a weekly 32-to-1 list of where each team in the league finds itself.

    The Lightning were the top choice on four of the panel's five ballots and open the season in the No. 1 spot, followed closely by the Colorado Avalanche, who received the other first-place vote and were a top-three pick on four of the five ballots. Rounding out the inaugural top three are the New York Islanders, who've been Eastern Conference finalists in each of the last two seasons before losing to Tampa Bay.

    But that's not all. The other 29 teams are included, too, and we invite you to click through to see where your favorites landed and to leave a season-opening viewpoint or two in the comments section.

Nos. 32-26: Sabres, Sharks, Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Kraken, Ducks, Senators

1 of 6

    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    32. Buffalo Sabres

    Two wins in six preseason games doesn't inspire giddiness, but it might be a tick up from what Sabres fans have grown accustomed to lately. Still, it's all about the Jack Eichel drama and where he'll land.


    31. San Jose Sharks

    The Sharks' offseason has been overshadowed, and Evander Kane's NHL future is unclear. The winger is being investigated by the NHL over two matters: allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence brought by his estranged wife, Anna Kane, and the possible use of a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.


    30. Arizona Coyotes

    Raise your hand if you saw a 5-1 preseason coming for Arizona. The biggest surprise? Winger Lawson Crouse scored four goals to lead the team after scoring four in 51 games last season.


    29. Columbus Blue Jackets

    It's apparently all about the kids this season in middle Ohio, after the Blue Jackets kept a pair of recent first-round draft picks—18-year-old Cole Sillinger (2021) and 20-year-old Yegor Chinakhov (2020).


    28. Seattle Kraken

    As if being the new kid weren't enough, the Kraken may be short-handed for Game 1 after Calle Jarnkrok, Jaren McCann, Jamie Oleksiak, Marcus Johansson and Joonas Donskoi entered COVID-19 protocol.


    27. Anaheim Ducks

    Feast or famine? The Ducks scored 13 goals in three preseason wins and eight in four losses. But help may be on the way if Anaheim remains a contender for Eichel, as TSN's Darren Dreger suggests.


    26. Ottawa Senators

    The doomsday scenario has apparently arrived, with restricted free agent Brady Tkachuk still unsigned as the Senators prepare to begin play on Thursday. Now 22, Tkachuk had 17 goals and 19 assists last season.

Nos. 25-21: Red Wings, Devils, Predators, Flames, Kings

2 of 6

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    25. Detroit Red Wings

    It was an inconsistent preseason for the Red Wings, who won three, lost three and then split their last two games. Lucas Raymond scored six points in six games and made the roster as a 19-year-old.


    24. New Jersey Devils

    The Devils were touch and go with 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, thanks to injuries that limited him to one preseason game. But he pronounced himself ready for Friday's opener against Chicago.


    23. Nashville Predators

    The Predators finished the preseason on a four-game win streak, scoring at least four goals in three of the victories. And it appears assistant coach Todd Richards will return soon after a heart attack on Oct. 1.


    22. Calgary Flames

    High-profile free-agent acquisition Blake Coleman won't play in the opener thanks to a suspension for boarding Winnipeg's Jansen Harkins on Oct. 6. Coleman had 31 points for Tampa Bay in 2020-21.


    21. Los Angeles Kings

    Bad news came early for the Kings when last year's No. 2 overall pick Quinton Byfield fractured his left ankle in a preseason game on Oct. 6. He was placed on injured reserve and will be reevaluated later in the season.

Nos. 20-16: Canucks, Canadiens, Flyers, Blackhawks, Penguins

3 of 6

    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    20. Vancouver Canucks

    Veteran defenseman Travis Hamonic was waived and assigned to the team's AHL affiliate after not joining the team during training camp and the preseason for personal reasons. He signed a two-year contract in July.


    19. Montreal Canadiens

    Goalie Carey Price will be away from the team for a minimum of 30 days after voluntarily entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. Jake Allen is likely to assume the No. 1 role in Price's absence.


    18. Philadelphia Flyers

    The Flyers plucked forward Patrick Brown, a veteran of 33 NHL games, off waivers from Vegas on Monday, and he'll be on the team's opening night roster when it begins play on Friday night against Vancouver.


    17. Chicago Blackhawks

    Veteran Erik Gustafsson returned to Chicago on a one-year contract Monday and will help a blue line hit hard by injuries. Now 29, Gustafsson played in 214 games with the Blackhawks over nearly four seasons between 2015-16 and 2019-20.


    16. Pittsburgh Penguins

    Neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin will be in uniform for the Penguins in Tampa. But while Crosby's absence is expected to last just a few games, Malkin is likely out for two months after knee surgery.

Nos. 15-11: Stars, Rangers, Blues, Capitals, Oilers

4 of 6

    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    15. Dallas Stars

    The goalie logjam eased a little when Ben Bishop was placed on long-term injured reserve to start the season. That leaves Jake Oettinger, Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby on the NHL roster for the opener.


    14. New York Rangers

    New York will have a lead group of Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow, but no captain. Also, Zibanejad got a contract extension worth $68 million. 


    13. St. Louis Blues

    Nineteen-year-old Jake Neighbours, a first-round pick by the Blues in 2020, is on the roster to start the 2021-22 season. He can play nine games before a 10th appearance would trigger his entry-level contract. 


    12. Washington Capitals

    Another 2020 first-rounder, Hendrix Lapierre, will begin 2021-22 with the Capitals after tying for the team lead with five preseason points. He centered a line with Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie in a Monday practice.


    11. Edmonton Oilers

    The NHL debut of Philip Broberg, picked eighth overall in 2019, is imminent after he was called up from the AHL to join the Oilers' opening roster. To make room, veteran Kyle Turris was waived and sent down.

Nos. 10-6: Jets, Wild, Golden Knights, Bruins, Panthers

5 of 6

    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    10. Winnipeg Jets

    Confidence abounds in Manitoba after the Jets addressed a primary need, defensive help, with trades for Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt in the summer. "We're excited," forward Andrew Copp said. "I feel like we've improved."


    9. Minnesota Wild

    The Wild sent top prospects Adam Beckman and Marco Rossi back to the AHL and settled on 24-year-old winger Brandon Duhaime, who was a fourth-rounder in 2016, for a roster spot. He played 24 AHL games in 2020-21.


    8. Vegas Golden Knights

    Vegas has been elite since arriving as an expansion team, but Jonathan Marchessault expects more. "It's the best team we've had on paper I think since the beginning," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.


    7. Boston Bruins

    Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark each played three preseason games, but Swayman had the edge. His .932 save percentage beat Ullmark's .839, and his 1.99 goals-against average topped Ullmark's 3.90.


    6. Florida Panthers

    Sam Bennett missed the preseason finale because he was in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol, but he practiced Monday and is cleared to play Thursday against Tampa Bay. Bennett had 15 points in 10 games after arriving from Calgary in April.

Nos. 5-1: Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Islanders, Avalanche, Lightning

6 of 6

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    5. Toronto Maple Leafs

    Auston Matthews' bid to repeat as the league's goal-scoring king will wait a while. The 24-year-old will miss the season's first three games while recovering from wrist surgery he had in August.


    4. Carolina Hurricanes

    The season-starting placement of Vincent Trocheck on injured reserve helped open a spot for 19-year-old Seth Jarvis, a first-round pick in 2020. He can play nine games and still return to his junior team.


    3. New York Islanders

    There's a legitimate buzz and an expectation New York will improve on two straight final four runs. Two NHL.com staffers predict a Stanley Cup in 2021-22 and four others have them reaching the Cup final.


    2. Colorado Avalanche

    A training camp invite paid off for 15-year veteran defenseman Jack Johnson, who was signed to a one-year deal after playing in four preseason games and registering a goal and two assists.


    1. Tampa Bay Lightning

    Two Stanley Cups yielded three more years for coach Jon Cooper, who agreed to a contract extension through 2024-25. Cooper, who took over in 2013, is the NHL's longest-tenured coach and has the franchise records for games and wins. He's also 16 wins away from reaching 400 for his NHL career.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.