Now that the 2020-21 season is entering the home stretch, it’s time for some updated NHL power rankings to get a sense of where teams really stand as the playoffs near Buckle up, because this could be a truly wild time, with numerous rankings fluctuations and maneuvers.
Due to the persistent uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, division realignment and shortened, 56-game schedule as opposed to the regular slate of 82, there’s a sense anything can happen. Even the best clubs could stumble once the postseason rolls around and as the pressure tightens just before then. On the other hand, continuity has served some top Stanley Cup contenders very well so far.
Without further ado, here are Sportsnaut’s NHL power rankings, which are updated each week.
NHL power rankings: Avalanche atop league-wide standings
1. Colorado Avalanche (Previous Ranking: 1)
Colorado’s monstrous point streak came to a screeching halt when they suffered an 8-3 blowout at the hands of the Minnesota Wild. No matter for the Avs, though, who just restarted a new, three-game win streak. With the best goal differential in the NHL (+52), the best win percentage in the NHL (.738) and one of the best players in the league in Nathon MacKinnon, it’s hard to say anything bad about the Avs. And, they added some depth at the trade deadline, too, and are real contenders
2. Washington Capitals (Previous Ranking: 3)
Acquiring Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings and Michael Raffl from the Philadelphia Flyers beefs up the Caps’ offensive corps. As they fight for the top spot in the East with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin and company are putting on an offensive clinic, complete with an 8-1 thrashing of the Boston Bruins. They’re 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, but with Mantha and Raffl in the lineup, expect them to heat up.
3. Vegas Golden Knights (Previous Ranking: 7)
Winners of their last three straight games, Vegas is still in the running for top spot in the West division, just four points behind the Colorado Avalanche. What’s more, they acquired one of the top available players–Mattias Janmark–on trade deadline day. The Knights have been in the top part of the NHL power rankings for most of the season, and it’s easy to see why. Marc Andre Fleury has been one of the best goalies in the league, and they keep finding ways to win, thanks in large part to their penalty kill, which sits second in the league with a 85.2% kill percentage.
4. New York Islanders (Previous Ranking: 9)
The Isles jump up in the NHL power rankings again thanks to key lineup additions in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Palmieri has already delivered a goal for his new club, and both forwards, along with Braydon Coburn (brought over in a trade with the Ottawa Senators) help the Islanders prepare for a postseason run. The club has gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games, and finds offense from all ends of their lineup. They’ll need to improve their power play–which is once again in the bottom ten in the league–but Palmieri, in particular, can help with that.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (Previous Ranking: 6)
Entangled in one of the hardest-fought division battles of the season, the Bolts are on shaky ground atop the Central division, though one misstep can change that. The club has one of the most talented lineups from top to bottom, and one of the best goaltenders in the world, but have struggled of late. There’s no question that Tampa Bay is a force to be reckoned with, though, and the addition of David Savard can only help the Lightning. They, too, have generated goals from all ends of their lineup, and are already looking at a deep playoff run.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (Previous Ranking: 10)
The Pens have jumped significantly in the NHL power rankings of late, as they continue to be competitive in the East division. They’re 8-2-0 in their last ten games and playing a whole new game of hockey after a mediocre first half of the season. And, they’re taking on non-playoff teams in the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils until April 25 (when they match up against the Boston Bruins), which should help them pad their point total for the season. And, of course, trading for Jeff Carter doesn’t hurt their goal-scoring capability, either.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (Previous Ranking: 8)
After a solid and busy trade deadline, where the Leafs saw Nick Foligno, David Rittich, Stefan Noesen and Ben Hutton join the blue and white, the Leafs are looking to the playoffs. They’ve returned to the form they held at the beginning of the season, going 8-1-1 in their last ten games, and Auston Matthews is once again finding the back of the net, with 11 points in his last five games. Foligno especially adds grit to the team, a valuable asset for a playoff run. They have a six-point advantage for the top spot in the North division, a pretty comfortable lead considering they’ve entered the last month of the season. It’s quite clear that, in Toronto, the mindset is already focused on the post-season.
NHL power rankings: Second-tier contenders with problematic flaws
8. Nashville Predators (Previous Ranking: 4)
Continuing their impressive surge, the Preds still sit in the last playoff spot in the Central Division, which is an even bigger feat considering they have one of the worst penalty kills in the league (75.0%). Acquiring Erik Gudbranson from the Senators at the trade deadline was a solid move, too, but their fall in the NHL power rankings is a result, mainly, of their upcoming schedule: their next three contests have them taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning (who blanked them 3-0 on the weekend) and the Carolina Hurricanes, the top teams in their division.
9. Carolina Hurricanes (Previous Ranking: 11)
Going 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, the Canes still have the best power play in the league and one of the best goaltending situations in the league. Petr Mrazek has been absolutely lights out for the club, posting a 1.47 goals against average and an insane .943 save percentage through seven matchups. Alex Nedeljkovic is right behind him, with a 1.98 goals against average and .928 save percentage through 15 contests. But, offensively, the club has played better hockey–they’ve lost three of their last four games, including two to the Detroit Red Wings and a key contest against the Florida Panthers.
10. Florida Panthers (Previous Ranking: 2)
The Cats hope that Brandon Montour can step into Aaron Ekblad’s place on the blue line and provide some of what Ekblad did offensively and defensively. They’ve lost their last three games, but padded their roster significantly at the deadline, trading for Sam Bennett and signing free agent Nikita Gusev, among other moves. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Carter Verhaeghe are still carrying the team offensively, posting 43, 42 and 35 points respectively (Barkov’s 43 come in just 36 games, while Huberdeau and Verhaeghe have each played 42 games). When they get out of this slump, expect the Panthers to climb the NHL power rankings again.
11. Minnesota Wild (Previous Ranking: 12)
The Wild sit comfortably in the third position in the West Division, and that’s likely where they’ll end the season, with several points separating them from both second and fourth place. Calder Trophy favourite Kirill Kaprizov is still putting on a show, posting 34 points in 40 games, and Kevin Fiala’s impressive season continues, with 21 points in 34 games–not to mention that hat trick in the blowout against the Avalanche. Looking to the postseason, though their power play, one of the worst in the league at 15.1%, could use some life.
12. Winnipeg Jets (Previous Ranking: 13)
Overtaking the Maple Leafs for the top spot in the North Division seems to fall farther and farther out of the Jets’ reach. They are now six points behind the Maple Leafs with no games in hand. They’ve gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, and are slated for a bunch of tilts with the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the coming weeks, which will ultimately decide their fate. The club still has the third best power play in the league at 25.6%, and captain Blake Wheeler has begun skating again, which could help the club be even more competitive in the final stretch of the season and in the playoffs. And, of course, Connor Hellebuyck is having a Vezina-worthy season: in his last ten games, he’s gone 7-1-1 with a 1.66 GAA and a .943 save percentage.
13. St. Louis Blues (Previous Ranking: 21)
The Blues don’t want to be counted out of the postseason just yet, skyrocketing in the NHL power rankings and returning to a playoff spot. They’ve won their last three contests–including an offensive onslaught in a 9-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, where captain Ryan O’Reilly scored a hat trick, but need to prove that they can play this kind of hockey consistently for the remainder of the season. Colton Parayko is back to the lineup, too, which helps the club on the blue line.
14. Boston Bruins (Previous Ranking: 14)
It remains to be seen what the addition of Taylor Hall, who struggled this season with the Buffalo Sabres, will do for the Bruins’ offense. It’s an interesting move, considering the Bruins have a pretty solid front end, centered around the likes of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. With Tuukka Rask injured, the crease is where the Bruins struggle most: through five starts this season, backup goalie Dan Vladar has a .886 save percentage and a 3.40 goals against average. Rask has only played one period since March 7, and his health could impact the Bruins towards the end of the season and in the playoffs.
15. Edmonton Oilers (Previous Ranking: 16)
Considering Connor McDavid leads the league in points with 69 points in 42 games and Leon Draisaitl is second in the league with 61 points, it’s hard to understand why the Oilers only have a +14 goal differential. They’ve gone 6-2-2 in their last ten games, but were once way more competitive than they look now. They’re solidly in a playoff spot, sure, and have the second best power play in the league with a 26.7% effectiveness rating, but they can’t seem to overcome the hurdle and beat out Winnipeg or Toronto to climb the standings. Mikko Koskinen’s inconsistent goaltending may be a cause, but the Oilers have enough talent on their roster to be winning more games.
16. Montreal Canadiens (Previous Ranking: 15)
The Canadiens’ form was slipping for some time, but after a three-game hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols, they came back strong with a 4-0 shutout of Edmonton and won two of three after that. Boasting the league’s third-highest shots per game (32.9), this team has proven that they can create offense on command. Montreal should still be a considered a Stanley Cup contender. A goaltender tandem as strong as Carey Price and Jake Allen makes anything seem possible, and the Habs should benefit from that enviable backstop depth chart come playoff time.
NHL power rankings: Teams on the playoff picture border
17. New York Rangers (Previous Ranking: 20)
It seems the Tony DeAngelo drama really affected the Rangers’ locker room in the early going. More adversity struck when Artemi Panarin took a hiatus from the team, and the Blueshirts lost defenseman Jacob Trouba to a long-term injury. Goalie Igor Shesterkin has seen much of his stellar play in net go to waste, as he’s posted an excellent 2.35 GAA but only has a 11-9-3 record to show for it. Nevertheless, the Rangers get a bump this week due to other clubs’ ineptitude and their recent stretch of winning hockey.
18. Dallas Stars (Previous Ranking: 18)
Dallas’ bad scheduling luck plagued the club early, leading to postponed games amid the winter storm in Texas. John Klingberg and Joe Pavelski are leading this team. Roope Hintz has been an exciting addition to the club, but unfortunately, the Stars just haven’t been able to find a rhythm despite an impressive collection of talent and depth. They’re holding steady in the NHL power rankings, though, because they’ve gutted out 12 points in overtime losses and trail Nashville by seven points for fourth in the Central, with three games in hand.
19. Chicago Blackhawks (Previous Ranking: 22)
Jonathan Toews’ absence loomed large in Chicago at the start of the season, as the team looked like an undisciplined mess for a time without their captain, who’s dealing with an illness and is out indefinitely. It was surprising to see a team with multiple Stanley Cup champions like Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith come out so sluggish in 2021. Since that rocky opening, though, the Blackhawks’ high-risk, high-reward playing style has them within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Central.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (Previous Ranking: 19)
Goaltending issues have become extremely apparent in Philadelphia, which certainly contributes to the team’s uneven play. Brian Elliott has stepped up of late, but prodigy Carter Hart continues to struggle. Hart is 8-11-5 with a 3.79 GAA, and was supposed to be the long-term answer at the all-important backstop spot. Now, it’s looking like the Flyers have to count on Hart’s backup Elliott to have any hope of going deep in the postseason — or even making it there.
21. Arizona Coyotes (Previous Ranking: 5)
The Yotes had caught fire to overtake the Blues for the final playoff spot in the West Division. Unfortunately, they’ve since gone on a four-game slide as momentum has completely swung back in St. Louis’ favor. Arizona still has a top-10 penalty killing unit and showed a lot of grit to get off the mat when star goaltender Darcy Kuemper went down with an injury. It may just be that these Coyotes are among the clubs to catch the tough-luck break of being phased out of the playoff picture due to Colorado, Vegas, Minnesota and St. Louis all being in the West.
22. San Jose Sharks (Previous Ranking: 17)
The Sharks’ play was inconsistent at best and dreadful at worst all season long. That is, until they rattled off four straight W’s, going from obscure afterthought to the thick of the postseason race. Sadly, netminder Martin Jones yielded only seven goals in the span of four starts, only to let in four goals in three of his next four appearances. Jones and recently-traded Devan Dubnyk had comprised an unsavory goalie situation that was holding San Jose back. Now, the Sharks are swimming with the big fish, and are running out of time.
23. Los Angeles Kings (Previous Ranking: 23)
The Kings were among the most surprising teams in the league when they rattled off six straight wins earlier in the season. Unfortunately, they gave it all back almost right away, losing seven of nine contests, with all but two of those defeats coming by merely one goal. Closing games out has been a persistent problem for Los Angeles, and the club is really struggling of late amid a 3-7 stretch. It’s not the most difficult finishing schedule, though, so maybe the Kings can still make a run.
NHL power rankings: Teams eying optimism for next year
24. Calgary Flames (Previous Ranking: 27)
Jacob Markstrom had an impressive start to his maiden season in Calgary with a 5-3-1 record, a 2.55 GAA and a .915 save percentage. That’s what the Flames were looking for when they signed the former Vancouver netminder to a lucrative, long-term free agent contract this past offseason. Unfortunately, Markstrom missed significant time due to injury, causing Calgary to slump. The team has never recovered, and are 3-7 in their last 10 despite back-to-back wins.
25. Vancouver Canucks (Previous Ranking: 26)
A root cause for Vancouver’s down season to date: The Canucks are allowing the most shots per game to opponents with a 33.8 average. It’s an unforgiving North Division — even for a team as talented as Vancouver. However, the Nucks won seven of eight to get back into the playoff mix before dropping their last three and having COVID pause their season. Vancouver can hopefully build on that aforementioned positive run, because there isn’t much else to look forward to right now.
26. Columbus Blue Jackets (Previous Ranking: 24)
A wildly inconsistent and disappointing first half of the season has led the Jackets to a 15-20-9 mark. It’s almost impossible to trust Columbus’ offense to produce at a steady rate, yet it’s been the defense that’s been most disappointing. Typically a stout defensive club under coach John Tortorella, the Blue Jackets are conceding goals at an alarming rate. That’s not ideal, especially with a goalie tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo. Columbus’ severe drop in the NHL power rankings this season may ultimately lead to Tortorella’s seat getting hot in 2022.
27. New Jersey Devils (Previous Ranking: 25)
New Jersey was very much in limbo for a period of time due to its lengthy hiatus brought on by COVID-19. Promising goalie Mackenzie Blackwood led the charge in the Devils’ return to the ice after almost a month away, though, making 37 saves on 39 shots as New Jersey defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 on February 16, then followed that with a win over Boston. Things have gone south in Newark, as the Devils have lost 12 of their next 14 games, and they’ve lost their last three, which eliminates any playoff hopes.
NHL power rankings: Worst teams in pro hockey
28. Detroit Red Wings (Previous Ranking: 29)
The indubitable worst team in the NHL from last season was showing signs of improvement early on, but as Detroit legend Steve Yzerman continues his grand undertaking as GM to rebuild this roster, it became clear the Red Wings are far away from competing for the playoffs when they went on an eight-game losing streak. Such a setback ensured Detroit remained among the NHL’s worst teams. However, the Wings just won back-to-back games over Carolina, so that counts for something.
29. Ottawa Senators (Previous Ranking: 28)
Despite having the league’s second-worst goal differential deficit as of this writing, the Sens are at least flashing indications of better form. Other teams are playing worse hockey than them, and not having their top goalie available shouldn’t count too much against them either. The offseason addition of former Penguins goalie Matt Murray didn’t made too much of a difference, however, as he logged a 3.84 GAA in 20 starts (22 games total) before going on injured reserve. Ottawa has a long way to go before it has a competitive roster again, its recent, decent run notwithstanding.
30. Anaheim Ducks (Previous Ranking: 30)
Poaching defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Lightning probably wasn’t going to be enough to ignite hopes of a playoff season in Anaheim, yet it was a step in the right direction. The bigger red flag is the lack of weapons the Ducks have at forward, and with 97 goals through 43 games, their anemic offense is costing them dearly. Anaheim’s attack has just not been enough to sustain any kind of momentum. The Ducks have had a couple recent wins against San Jose, but it’s hardly any consolation at this point.
31. Buffalo Sabres (Previous Ranking: 31)
And that brings us to the Sabres, losers of 18 straight before managing three wins in their last eight outings. Jack Eichel has been injured, and losing a captain is never easy, particularly on a team that’s already lacking for high-end scoring like Buffalo. Unfortunately, COVID-19 knocked the Sabres out of action for a time, and the club’s return was against a red-hot Islanders outfit that handed the Sabres consecutive defeats in which the total score has was 6-1. Buffalo’s unbelievable skid has caused the club to be a mainstay all the way to the bottom of the NHL power rankings.