NHL preseason power rankings
1) St. Louis Blues
Last year was no flash in the pan. Alex Pietrangelo is a budding defensive superstar, while Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz will be ready to crack the lineup of the league’s stiffest forecheck and hardest working team. Get the ice bags ready when matching up against centers David Backes and Patrik Berglund.
2) New York Rangers
There’s an awfully nice mix of playmaking ability, goal scoring, and, most of all, toughness. The Rangers will be among the tougher NHL teams to play, night in and night out, making them the favorites to come out of the East.
3) Los Angeles Kings
Minor questions over injuries to Anze Kopitar, Willie Mitchell and Jonathan Quick will be answered relatively soon, but excellent depth will keep the Cup champs from sliding much in the standings.
4) Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Brandon Sutter. There’s excellent depth down the middle, which should improve the Penguins’ goals allowed mark. Questions remain on the blue line, but this team should outscore any of its issues during the regular season.
5) Vancouver Canucks
There’s still a legitimate Cup chance in Vancouver. There are some holes on the second line that may need to be addressed, but a varied defense and standout goaltending should be able to carry them through any minor scoring hiccups.
6) Boston Bruins
Though Tuukka Rask enters the season as the team’s question mark, the Bruins’ storyline will soon evolve into their great of a collection of young forwards. Tyler Seguin is developing into a future (current?) Hart Trophy candidate.
7) Chicago Blackhawks
It’s not exactly nuclear fission trying to understand what this team’s major question is. How far can goalie Corey Crawford lead Chicago? With this team’s window still open, don’t count out a potential trade if he lags.
8) Philadelphia Flyers
We’re kind of excited thinking of Brayden Schenn as a first-line right wing, someone certainly capable of filling Jaromir Jagr’s role from a season ago. There is obviously still a big question in net heading into the season.
9) Tampa Bay Lightning
Anders Lindback, come on down. Let’s see what you’re made of. (Seriously, we don’t know – you’ve played 38 career games).
10) Washington Capitals
With more stability in hockey operations, the Caps are in good hands with new coach Adam Oates and should be better on all sides of the puck. They’ll have to win more frequently on the road to be a serious contender.
11) Phoenix Coyotes
Do not doubt coach Dave Tippett. Don’t do it. The playoffs will return to the desert for the fourth straight season behind a diverse defense and excellent goaltending. Can 35-goal man Radim Vrbata bounce back from a muted playoff run, and without Ray Whitney?
12) Minnesota Wild
The acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter bolstered by a deep prospect base give off an awfully good omen for the next several years – though there are some immediate questions defensively. We’re excited to watch Mikael Granlund this season.
13) Ottawa Senators
This team would be considerably higher had Jared Cowen been healthy. There are a ton of offensive options on this team and more competition in net.
14) Detroit Red Wings
There is still plenty of character and veteran experience, even in the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Brendan Smith is no Lidstrom, but he is capable of earning top-four minutes and developing into a two-way workhorse on the blue line.
15) Nashville Predators
The Predators have significant questions on the blue line for the first time in a long time. Their two-way forward committee (and goalie Pekka Rinne) will be instrumental in keeping scores down.
16) San Jose Sharks
Is San Jose getting stale? It’s an interesting question posed to coach Todd McLellan, who will be under pressure to find results after the Sharks have lost some bite over the previous 18 months.
17) Anaheim Ducks
Considering the talent on this team, the prospect depth and how good it looked under coach Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks could certainly slot higher. Considering they finished 15 points out of the playoffs last year, they could certainly slot lower. This is a playoff bubble team with both upside and downside.
18) Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers started quick out of the gate a year ago, and in a shortened schedule that type of start has a much better chance of being maintained. Justin Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will all be fine – we’re hoping to see that leap toward hockey’s elite by Taylor Hall.
19) Carolina Hurricanes
Not as much of a surefire playoff team as many are expecting, the Canes give up too many shots and have questions defensively. Get well, Tuomo Ruutu! Get well!
20) Colorado Avalanche
The young forwards’ continued development and Gabriel Landeskog’s role as the youngest captain in league history will be interesting to watch in Colorado. This team certainly has the pieces to contend for a playoff spot. Uhh, is Ryan O’Reilly going to sign anytime soon?
21) New Jersey Devils
A new staff under Peter DeBoer will have to continue to get excellent returns from a so-so defense and a 40-year-old goaltender in Martin Brodeur. Though strong offensively a season ago, there have been defections from the top-six, making New Jersey more of a playoff-cusp team than an actual contender.
22) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres scooped up as much toughness as they could find over the offseason and will be a much more difficult team to play against. Tyler Myers is a lock for a bounce-back season.
23) Florida Panthers
With Jason Garrison replaced by Filip Kuba and Dmitriy Kulikov unsigned, the Panthers’ defense is perilously thin. Coach Kevin Dineen will keep this team afloat, but a second straight playoff berth will be a major challenge.
24) Calgary Flames
GM Jay Feaster has about nine fingers plugging holes in a bursting dike. Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler are your latest Flames Acquisitions Preventing A Fullscale Rebuild.
25) Dallas Stars
The Stars lost toughness and a consistent first-line center in Mike Ribeiro over the offseason, while proven finisher Jamie Benn remains unsigned. There were a handful of Western Conference teams that improved over the offseason; Dallas wasn’t one of them.
26) Montreal Canadiens
There’s not much hope of rebounding significantly after the Habs bottomed out last year, but where there’s Carey Price, there’s a chance. P.K. Subban carries the load on what could be an effective defense, but he’s still a ways apart from the team in contract negotiations.
27) Winnipeg Jets
Tobias Enstrom, who has averaged 44.7 points over the last three seasons, is among the more underrated defensemen in the NHL. How difficult will travel be with such a compacted schedule?
28) Columbus Blue Jackets
Many forgot that the Jackets won 11 of 19 down the stretch last year, defeating five playoff teams. Don’t count out Ryan Johansen as a player capable of making a sophomore leap.
29) New York Islanders
The Lubomir Visnovsky saga has cast a cloud over Nassau Coliseum before one game has even been played. John Tavares is a lock, but the Isles are going to need consistent scoring to emerge from its stable of young, developing forwards.
30) Toronto Maple Leafs
They’re lousy down the middle, lousy defensively and lousy in net. Toronto did little over the offseason to actually shore up its deficiencies (see first sentence).