NHL Power Rankings: October 2023 Edition

As we are officially a month away from the 2023-24 season, the players have returned to their NHL teams, with preseason set to commence soon. We are steps closer to the season, and looking at it, it’s time for another monthly edition of the NHL power rankings. Let’s get on with them.

32nd: San Jose Sharks

Previous Ranking: 32nd

While Erik Karlsson has been traded, the Sharks still can’t properly rebuild. The roster is mostly filled with veterans from the previous core that were drafted by previous general manager Doug Wilson, young-ish talent, rental players, and veterans on bad contracts, thus preventing much of their prospects from getting a proper shot at the NHL. When looking at the defensive core, there is not a no. 1 defenseman on the active roster. With Brent Burns and Karlsson traded away in consecutive offseasons, their highest-scoring defenseman is Matt Benning, who had just 24 points last season. Both Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund are veterans on anchor contracts. Hoffman has become a one-dimensional power play specialist and Granlund’s play fell off a cliff when he arrived in Pittsburgh, after he had a 64-point season with the Nashville Predators in 2021-22. Logan Couture and Tomáš Hertl are still around, and they are still talented veteran centers, though they are both under contract for at least the next four seasons, which is not ideal for rebuilding teams. While they did sign Filip Zadina after he agreed to a mutual contract termination with the Detroit Red Wings, the hope is that he finds his way with the Sharks and get a fresh start. The hope is that he finds his stride playing with either Couture or Hertl. The other concern is about who emerges as the starting goaltender. All of Kaapo Kähkönen, James Reimer, Aaron Dell, and Eetu Makiniemi combined for a 3.79 GAA and a .881 save percentage that ranked at the bottom three in the league in both categories. Adding Mackenzie Blackwood only adds more questions than answers as he has looked like anything but his rookie self in the last few years.

Current Lineup


#94 Alex Barabanov — #48 Tomáš Hertl — #18 Filip Zadina

#72 William Eklund — #64 Mikael Granlund — #11 Luke Kunin

#68 Mike Hoffman — #17 Thomas Bordeleau — #10 Anthony Duclair

#54 Givani Smith — #7 Nico Sturm — #62 Kevin Labanc


#38 Mario Ferraro — #5 Matt Benning

#44 Marc-Édouard Vlasic — #84 Jan Rutta

#3 Henry Thrun — #4 Kyle Burroughs


#36 Kaapo Kähkönen — #29 Mackenzie Blackwood


#6 Ty Emberson (D) — #20 Fabian Zetterlund (F) — #71 Nikola Knyzhov (D)

Injured Reserve

#9 Jacob MacDonald (D) — #39 Logan Couture (F) — #51 TRadim Šimek (D)

#83 Nikita Okhotiuk (D)

31st: Philadelphia Flyers

Previous Ranking: 31st

Like the Sharks, can we really say the Flyers are truly rebuilding when they have veterans from the old core still around on the roster? Yes, they saw the departures of Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, and James van Riemsdyk. Yet Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanheim are still here after their names were in trade speculation in the offseason and nothing mounted. It’s not exactly a bad thing that they’re still around, but general manager Danny Brière wants to emphasize a complete roster teardown so that the next generation of the Flyers can come in. Last season saw Owen Tippett, Cam York, Morgan Frost, and Noah Cates get bigger responsibilities as part of the young core, with Tippett having his best NHL season of his career (27 goals and 22 assists for 49 points) and Cates emerging as the team’s top defensive center in Couturier’s absence. The hope is that York becomes the team’s no. 1 defenseman after earning the trust of the coaching staff. Provorov getting dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tony DeAngelo getting bought out opened space for York and the defensive core to step up, though the Flyers are also counting on their defensive prospects to earn NHL ice time. Forester, a first round pick from 2020, also looks to build on his eight-game stint last season where he had seven points (three goals, four assists) to be a long-term staple to the team’s lineup after putting up 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points in 66 games with Lehigh Valley. With head coach John Tortorella, however, nothing is guaranteed, so young guys will have to earn their opportunities. Lastly, it’s yet to be seen how Couturier and Cam Atkinson will bounce back. Both of them have missed all of last season with injuries to their back and neck, respectively, and Couturier had back surgery twice since he last played on December 18th, 2021. They are key players who can play in all situations and provide leadership to a young core on and off the ice. The team knows they are far away from contention, though the foundation is just getting established for what is to come.

Current Lineup


#86 Joel Farabee — #14 Sean Couturier — #71 Tyson Forester

#89 Cam Atkinson — #48 Morgan Frost — #74 Owen Tippett

#21 Scott Laughton — #27 Noah Cates — #11 Travis Konecny

#44 Nic Deslauriers — #25 Ryan Poehling — #19 Garnet Hathaway


#18 Marc Staal — #6 Travis Sanheim

#8 Cam York — #5 Yegor Zamula

#24 Nick Seeler — #26 Sean Walker


#79 Carter Hart — #33 Sam Ersson


#32 Felix Sandström (G) — #36 Emil Andrae (D) — #46 Bobby Brink (F)

Injured Reserve

#55 Rasmus Ristolainen (D) — #94 Ryan Ellis (D)

30th: Chicago Blackhawks

Previous Ranking: 30th

It’s truly out with the old, in with the new in the Windy City as they accelerate the rebuild with Connor Bedard. He comes in having led the WHL with 71 goals, 143 points, 360 shots on goal, 2.51 points per game and 1.25 goals per game in 57 games with the Regina Pats, and had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in seven games for Canada at the 2023 World Juniors. He is expected to make his NHL debut at 18 years old, so they want to get him some veteran presence for opportunities to take on more responsibility, getting Taylor Hall as Bedard’s first line left wing, along with Nick Foligno and Corey Perry in mentorship roles. The Blackhawks are prepared for the hype, so they can handle the pressure and help him along the journey, with head coach Luke Richardson seconding this with the “internal conversations with players and peers who have that experience,” which will “go a long way.” The other question surrounds the captaincy. Two potential candidates for the captaincy are Connor Murphy and Seth Jones. Murphy has been a full- or part-time alternate captain since 2020-21, wearing the “A” for road games in the last two seasons, and is now the longest-tenured Blackhawk after the departures of Toews and Patrick Kane. Jones has worn the “A” for home games last season, and given that he is on the second year of his eight-year extension that he signed in the 2021 offseason, he will no doubt be part of the leadership group. There will be growing pains this season with new acquisitions adjusting to Richardson’s system and prospects adjusting to the NHL, but it’s still the start of a new era in Chicago.

Current Lineup


#71 Taylor Hall — #98 Connor Bedard — #11 Taylor Raddysh

#89 Andreas Athansiou — #27 Lukas Reichel — #90 Tyler Johnson

#14 Boris Katchouk — #70 Cole Guttman — #8 Ryan Donato

#17 Nick Foligno — #16 Jason Dickinson — #94 Corey Perry


#72 Alex Vlasic — #4 Seth Jones

#55 Kevin Korchinski — #5 Connor Murphy

#25 Jarred Tinordi — #44 Wyatt Kaiser


#34 Petr Mrázek — #40 Arvid Söderblom


#22 Nikita Zaitsev (D) — #52 Reese Johnson (F) — #58 Mackenzie Entwistle (F)

Injured Reserve

#23 Philipp Kurashev (F) — #28 Colton Dach (F) — #39 Luke Philp (F)

#43 Colin Blackwell (F)

29th: Anaheim Ducks

Previous Ranking: 29th

The Ducks are clearly rebuilding, but new head coach Greg Cronin is looking to coach the team to their first playoff appearance since 2018. For a team that is coming off a season where they ranked at the bottom two in several statistical categories last season, that’s a big ask. Though he gets to work with plenty of young talent, led by Trevor Zegras (22), Troy Terry (25), and Jamie Drysdale (21), but to add to that, he’s also overseeing players looking to make the roster out of training camp, like second overall pick Leo Carlsson. Alex Killorn and Radko Gudas bring valuable playoff experience as they have both been to the Stanley Cup Final, though it’s fair to wonder how much longer they can produce at the rate they were with their previous teams given they are both 33 and are under contract for at least three years. Even with signing Killorn, they still don’t have a legitimate scoring threat, and with him added to the mix, the Ducks have five players who scored at least 20 goals last season, though none have scored over 30. Cronin wants to “design a system that’s going to invite that team scoring mentality.” Given the situation Cronin is putting himself in, it’s a tough situation, as the Ducks have been bad offensively and worse defensively, leaving John Gibson on an island on most nights. Cronin, however, has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant, previously with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, even though he last was the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. He wants a healthy balance between the young talent and his coaching style, in a way that would “mesh really well with what [general manager] Pat [Verbeek] is trying to do here in terms of building a championship team.” The last question is about who gets named the captain, though Cronin said the captaincy cannot be forced on people, and that some people will emerge as natural leaders.

Current Lineup


#11 Trevor Zegras — #37 Leo Carlsson — #19 Troy Terry

#77 Frank Vatrano — #23 Mason McTavish — #16 Ryan Strome

#14 Adam Henrique — #50 Benoit-Olivier Groulx — #33 Jakob Silfverberg

#49 Max Jones — #39 Sam Carrick — #26 Brock McGinn


#4 Cam Fowler — #6 Jamie Drysdale

#34 Pavel Mintyukov — #46 Ilya Lyubushkin

#60 Jackson LaCombe — #7 Radko Gudas


#36 John Gibson — #1 Lukas Dostal


#5 Urho Vaakanainen (D) — #20 Brett Leason (F) — #67 Tristan Luneau (D)

Injured Reserve

#17 Alex Killorn (F) — #21 Isac Lundeström (F)

28th: Arizona Coyotes

Previous Ranking: 28th

The hope for the Coyotes is that they take the next step. They have a foundation in place with head coach André Tourigny and are led by stud winger Clayton Keller, whose 86 points last season tied Keith Tkachuk for the most points in a season with the franchise since they relocated from Winnipeg in 1996. In the push to get out of the basement, general manager Bill Armstrong got busy in the offseason, signing forwards Jason Zucker, Nick Bjugstad, and Alex Kerfoot, defensemen Matt Dumba and Troy Stecher, and traded for defenseman Sean Durzi. Zucker will help them on the offensive end, having scored at least 20 goals six times, including last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, with 27, the most since his career-high 33 with the Minnesota Wild in 2017-18. There is indeed going to be all the talk about what venue they will be playing at, whether it be in Arizona or elsewhere, but they will once again play at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on Arizona State University’ campus, where, interestingly, were 21-15-5, their best home record since going 22-15-4 at Gila River Arena (now Desert Diamond Arena) in 2015-16. Tourigny said the team is not worried about the outside noise and that they’re focused on the on-ice product, and that they’re looking to sustain the success that they had at home last season and carry it onto this season. One improvement they’re looking to make is on the power play, where they ranked 24th (18.9%) last season, and 30th (16.6%) in Tourigny’s two seasons, and they would want to get more goals going both on the man advantage and at even strength, sand with Forsythe into the equation, it brings a new energy to the power play. The start of the regular season for them, however, will be a harrowing one, as they will begin in the East Coast and play six of their first nine games on the road, then play three straight games at home, before a mid-November five-game road trip. Last season, they began the year on a six-game road trip, then four games at home, before they played 14 straight on the road. They were 7-13-4 before they returned home on December 9th.

Current Lineup


#9 Clayton Keller — #29 Barrett Hayton — #8 Nick Schmaltz

#16 Jason Zucker — #92 Logan Cooley — #15 Alex Kerfoot

#63 Matias Maccelli — #72 Travis Boyd — #67 Lawson Crouse

#38 Liam O’Brien — #22 Jack McBain — #17 Nick Bjugstad


#90 J.J. Moser — #24 Matt Dumba

#4 Juuso Välimäki — #50 Sean Durzi

#51 Troy Stecher — #3 Josh Brown


#70 Karel Vejmelka — #39 Connor Ingram


#33 Travis Dermott (D) — #53 Michael Carcone (F)

27th: Montreal Canadiens

Previous Ranking: 27th

Injuries have ravaged the Canadiens in the last two seasons. It is not known where they would have gone if everyone stayed healthy, but the expectation is that they see improvement on this young core. Veteran defensemen Mike Matheson and David Savard will continue helping the young defensemen, headlined by Kaiden Guhle, to get more playing experience, especially after Joel Edmundson was traded away to the Washington Capitals. However, general manager Kent Hughes hopes that Edmundson’s leadership and his Stanley Cup-winning experience carries over with the young defensemen. Most of the forward core is still here, with Sean Monahan coming back after being limited to 25 games, not playing after December 5th due to injury, though he had a resurgent season, scoring 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in that span. Hughes didn’t do a lot in the offseason, but that’s typical for rebuilding teams. The big move of significance was Alex Newhook, who is looking for bigger opportunities under head coach Martin St. Louis. While the Stanley Cup Final run is a distant memory, the emergence of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield during that run marked the changing of the guard, and despite many injuries, Hughes thinks the roster is in a position to improve, and with St. Louis as the head coach, it is certainly possible. Caufield has given Montreal a reason to be excited—he was on pace for 40 goals before a shoulder injury ended his season in January. The Habs have not had a 40-goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse in 1993-94, and last had a 50-goal scorer in 1989-90 when Stéphane Richer scored 51. A fully healthy Caufield is must-watch hockey for the Habs Faithful. However, there is not a clear no. 1 goalie on the team. Jake Allen is better suited as a backup than a starter, and he got 41 starts, where he was below average. Sam Montembeault continued showing improvement, but he’s not a long-term starter. At the likeliest, he and Allen will continue splitting the goaltending duties.

Current Lineup


#22 Cole Caufield — #14 Nick Suzuki — #17 Josh Anderson

#15 Alex Newhook — #77 Kirby Dach — #20 Juraj Slafkovský

#70 Tanner Pearson — #91 Sean Monahan — #11 Brendan Gallagher

#49 Rafaël Harvey-Pinard — #71 Jake Evans — #40 Joel Armia


#8 Mike Matheson — #58 David Savard

#21 Kaiden Guhle — #26 Jonathan Kovacevic

#54 Jordan Harris — #52 Justin Barron


#35 Sam Montembeault — #34 Jake Allen


#30 Cayden Primeau (G) — #55 Michael Pezzetta (F) — #56 Jesse Ylönen (F)

Injured Reserve

#6 Chris Wideman (D) – #28 Christian Dvorak (F) — #31 Carey Price (G)

26th: St. Louis Blues

Previous Ranking: 25th

While the Blues believe they have the pieces to make a playoff run, after what happened last season, it’s fair to wonder if they could consider a rebuild. After seeing assistant coach Jim Montgomery head to the Boston Bruins, things turned southward under assistants Craig MacTavish and Mike Van Ryn, who were let go after last season, being replaced by Mike Weber, who will work with the defensemen after he spent the last three seasons as an assistant with the AHL’s Rochester Americans (the Buffalo Sabres’ minor league affiliate), and Michael Babcock, who will be a skills coach. They went from second on the power play and 5th on the penalty kill to tied for 22nd and 30th in those categories, respectively. Last season, the Blues allowed 298 goals, their most since 1983-84 (316), and head coach Craig Berube is intent on bringing Weber in to fix those issues. They made some changes, but not a major overhaul, despite trading away all of Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, and Ivan Barbashev during last year’s trade deadline. They did bring in Kevin Hayes, who made the All-Star game for the first time last season (18 goals and 36 assists for 54 points in 81 games), impressive since he was on an offensively bad Philadelphia Flyers team. Even with that, they’ll have to see more of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, who are each entering the first years of their respective eight-year contracts ($8.125 million per year). Though Kyrou led the Blues in goals (37) and points (73) last season, he was also a -38, tied for the second-worst in the NHL. Thomas was second-best in points on the team (18 goals and 47 assists for 65 points). Both may likely embrace leadership roles as they are the faces of the Blues’ future. Jordan Binnington will also need a bounce-back season after he set career-worst numbers (3.31 GAA, .894 save percentage in 61 games, starting 60 of them), though every season his numbers have gotten worse since his rookie year.

Current Lineup


#89 Pavel Buchnevich — #18 Robert Thomas — #25 Jordan Kyrou

#20 Brandon Saad — #12 Kevin Hayes — #42 Kasperi Kapanen

#63 Jake Neighbours — #10 Brayden Schenn — #15 Jakub Vrána

#79 Sammy Blais — #70 Oskar Sundqvist — #13 Alexey Toropchenko


#47 Torey Krug — #72 Justin Faulk

#4 Nick Leddy — #55 Colton Parayko

#6 Marco Scandella — #75 Tyler Tucker


#50 Jordan Binnington — #30 Joel Hofer


#41 Robert Bortuzzo (D) — #48 Scott Perunovich (D) — #59 Nikita Alexandrov (F)

25th: Vancouver Canucks

Previous Ranking: 26th

What head coach Rick Tocchet wants to do is make the Canucks harder to play against and better defensively. He wants to look for accountability from the players, focus on the work habits and the little things that can lead to a big change. The additions of Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, Teddy Blueger, and Pius Suter can attest to that, especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ice, where they have struggled. Soucy adds a physical presence to the core, and has plenty of experience killing penalties. So does Cole, who has played on a shutdown role throughout his career, making a living off blocking shots and killing penalties. They fit perfectly in Tocchet’s coaching preferences, and can make big strides in upgrading significantly a penalty kill that ranked last in the league in the last two seasons (73.2%; killed off 71.6% of penalties last season). Blueger and Suter are defense-first centremen that can also kill penalties. These four should improve the defensive end of Vancouver, as they were 25th defensively (3.61 goals against per game). While part of that problem was because Thatcher Demko missed almost three months to a groin injury, Vancouver leaned too much on goaltending because of poor defense. The GAA dipped from 3.96 to 3.17, and the penalty killing improved from 65.9% to 78.4 since Tocchet was hired, however. Along with the rest of the defense, they’re looking to have them mesh in with Quinn Hughes. Filip Hronek only played four games with the Canucks because of injury, but he has established himself as a top-four defenseman back with the Detroit Red Wings. Soucy will face tougher questions about his ability to transition the puck, as he is primarily a third-pairing defenseman, and he is getting a bigger workload on the team’s second pair. The last question is around Demko’s health. He didn’t play a full season as a true starting goalie in the last two seasons because of a knee injury in 2021-22 that required offseason surgery and a groin injury that forced him to miss three months. He looked and felt better when returning from injury, as shown by his strong finish. However, the backups are inconsistent between Casey DeSmith, Spencer Martin, and Arturs Silovs.

Current Lineup


#96 Andrei Kuzmenko — #40 Elias Pettersson — #8 Conor Garland

#34 Phil Di Giuseppe — #9 J.T. Miller — #6 Brock Boeser

#81 Dakota Joshua — #24 Pius Suter — #72 Anthony Beauvillier

#21 Nils Höglander — #53 Teddy Blueger — #18 Sam Lafferty


#43 Quinn Hughes — #17 Filip Hronek

#82 Ian Cole — #57 Tyler Myers

#55 Gruillaume Brisebois — #47 Noah Juulsen


#35 Thatcher Demko — #29 Casey DeSmith


#7 Carson Soucy (D; Inj.) — #92 Vasily Podkolzin (F)

Injured Reserve

#5 Tucker Poolman (D) — #65 Ilya Mikheyev (F)

24th: Calgary Flames

Previous Ranking: 24th

The hope is that the Flames have a renewed sense of optimism with new general manager Craig Conroy and head coach Ryan Huska. It’s a fresh perspective on the team, and Conroy believes that Huska is the right man to coach the guys, with familiarity being the reason from Conroy hiring the new head coach. Huska coached the team’s AHL affiliate, the Calgary Wranglers (formerly the Stockton Heat) from 2014 to 2018, and spent the last five seasons as an assistant with the Flames. They’re looking to get more out of a team that was retooled by previous general manager Brad Treliving. The main piece was Jonathan Huberdeau, whose eight-year, $84 million contract will kick in this season. He was acquired alongside MacKenzie Weegar from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk, and though Huberdeau struggled mightily to the tune of a 60-point drop-off from 2021-22 to 2022-23 (115 points in 2022, 55 in 2023), Conroy expects a bounce-back season from him. He said the same about Nazem Kadri, who signed a seven-year, $49 million contract last summer. Huberdeau and Kadri were supposed to fill in the void left behind by Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, though it will be easier said than done since they traded away Tyler Toffoli, their leading goal scorer last season, to the New Jersey Devils for Yegor Sharangovich and a third round pick, and Huberdeau and Kadri had noticeable scoring declines. There is still a lot of work to be done, as eight players are on contract years, including Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov, who are all unrestricted free agents, and pending restricted free agents Dillon Dubé and Jakob Pelletier. Huska, however, is more than familiar with the Flames’ makeup, having been with the franchise over the past decade. Huberdeau, in his case, is a much better player than his output in 2022-23, and he knows that he wants to bounce back. Conroy also wants to mesh in the younger players to the Flames’ lineup and give them an extended opportunity. Among the young guys also includes rookie Matthew Coronato and potentially top goaltending prospect Dustin Wolf.

Current Lineup


#10 Jonathan Huberdeau — #28 Elias Lindholm — #29 Dillon Dubé

#17 Yegor Sharangovich — #91 Nazem Kadri — #27 Matthew Coronato

#88 Andrew Mangiapane — #11 Mikael Backlund — #20 Blake Coleman

#15 Dryden Hunt — #63 Adam Ružička — #71 Walker Duehr


#55 Noah Hanifin — #4 Rasmus Andersson

#16 Nikita Zadorov — #52 MacKenzie Weegar

#82 Jordan Oesterle — #8 Chris Tanev


#25 Jacob Markström — #80 Dan Vladař


#18 A.J. Greer (F) — #48 Dennis Gilbert (D)

Injured Reserve

#21 Kevin Rooney (F) — #22 Jakob Pelletier (F) — #58 Oliver Kylington (D)

23rd: Winnipeg Jets

Previous Ranking: 23rd

The Jets will have a very different look heading into the 2023-24 season. Out go Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois, in come Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, and Rasmus Kupari. The three of them will join a core headlined by Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Cole Perfetti, Josh Morrissey, and new captain Adam Lowry. However, Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck are staying put on their new seven-year contract extensions. There was talk of them possibly going elsewhere, but Winnipeg plans to keep both around on their retool. Meanwhile, Vilardi saw his development hampered by a back injury earlier in his career, but is coming off the best season of his NHL career, with 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points. He should help them in the foreseeable future, and with Morrissey coming off a breakout season (16 goals and 60 assists for 76 points). Laurent Brossoit is also coming back to the team after a two-year stint with the Vegas Golden Knights and should help ease the load off Connor Hellebuyck, who led the NHL in starts last season with 64, and remains one of the best goalies in the league. Plus, all three of Vilardi, Iafallo, and Kupari help shore up the depth for Winnipeg, and while Dubois is not easy to replace, aside from Vilardi, Kupari has shown his two-way capabilities with the Kings in a bottom six role, and Iafallo is coming up as one of the best shutdown forwards in the league. The last part is about Morrissey being able to reproduce his offensive production from last season. He got extended opportunities in driving the offense by head coach Rick Bowness, and it paid off to the tune of 28 power play points and tying Quinn Hughes for second-most points among defensemen in the NHL, behind only Erik Karlsson. The Jets were among the bottom half in the league on power play conversion rate, so they will need another strong offensive season from Morrissey to improve the man advantage unit.

Current Lineup


#81 Kyle Connor — #55 Mark Scheifele — #27 Nikolaj Ehlers

#91 Cole Perfetti — #13 Gabe Vilardi — #62 Nino Niederreiter

#9 Alex Iafallo — #17 Adam Lowry — #7 Vladislav Namestnikov

#36 Morgan Barron — #15 Rasmus Kupari — #22 Mason Appleton


#44 Josh Morrissey — #2 Dylan DeMelo

#5 Brenden Dillon — #4 Neal Pionk

#54 Dylan Samberg — #88 Nate Schmidt


#37 Connor Hellebuyck — #39 Laurent Brossoit


#19 David Gustafsson (F) — #47 Declan Chisholm (D) — #64 Logan Stanley (D)

Injured Reserve

#14 Ville Heinola (D)

22nd: Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous Ranking: 22nd

The Blue Jackets aren’t wasting time in trying to get a new era after firing previous head coach Brad Larsen. They did double down on defense, with Ivan Provorv and Damon Severson added to go with the return of Zach Werenski to the young core, along with the drafting of Adam Fantilli 3rd overall, who is projected to fit on the top two lines. Werenski wants to speed up the rebuild, noting how the players don’t want to go through that. The roster has been transformed and they didn’t have to go through free agency to do that, where they were rather quiet on the personnel front since Babcock’s hiring. Also coming back are Justin Danforth, who missed the last 76 games of last season since October 23rd with a torn labrum, and Alex Texier, who was granted a leave of absence in March 2022 and played last season for Zürich in the Swiss National League on advice of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavior Health Program so he can be close to his family in France after a series of personal tragedies. They’re also expecting the deep pool of prospects to step up along with the likes of David Jiřiček and Dimitri Voronkov stepping up. They need to see a bounce-back season from Elvis Merzļikins and see if he bounces back to rookie form, when he had a 2.35 goals against average, a .923 save percentage and five shutouts in an eight-game span through 31 starts. He’s looking to get a fully healthy season under his belt after he missed 21 games last season because of illness, injuries, and returning home to Latvia after the death of his grandmother. They had 563 man-games lost to injury, 55 more than their previous franchise record of 508 (2014-15), with three of their players missing at least 67 games with in-season injuries, and four others missed at least 20. Werenski and Jakub Voráček were among their key absentees, with Voráček’s playing career essentially over. With Mike Babcock out of the equation, Pascal Vincent will be the bench boss for the team, and as he knows the system, he will bring fresh, new ideas to the team that is eager to return to the playoffs.

Current Lineup


#13 Johnny Gaudreau — #38 Boone Jenner — #86 Kirill Marchenko

#91 Kent Johnson — #11 Adam Fantilli — #29 Patrik Laine

#42 Alex Texier — #4 Cole Sillinger — #96 Jack Roslovic

#50 Eric Robinson — #7 Sean Kuraly — #52 Emil Bemström


#8 Zach Werenski — #78 Damon Severson

#9 Ivan Provorov — #27 Adam Boqvist

#22 Jake Bean — #44 Erik Gudbranson


#90 Elvis Merzļikins — #30 Spencer Martin


#2 Andrew Peeke (D) — #17 Justin Danforth (F) — #19 Liam Foudy (F)

Injured Reserve

#24 Mathieu Olivier (F) — #40 Daniil Tarasov (G) — #59 Yegor Chinakov (F)

21st: Washington Capitals

Previous Ranking: 21st

While the contention window may be closed, the Capitals are going to stay competitive as long as they have Alex Ovechkin with them. With new head coach Spencer Carbery, they know that last season left a bitter taste in their mouths, and they want to come out with something to prove. It’s a tough task for Carbery, who is trying to squeeze together the remains of an aging core from the 2018 Stanley Cup-winning team. All of Ovechkin, Nicklas Bäckström, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are in their 30s, with Ovechkin having turned 38. Tom Wilson is also 29, and his new contract starts next season, when he turns 30. They were also decimated by injuries, with Bäckström missing 42 games to hip resurfacing surgery, Wilson missing 49 games to ACL surgery and an injured ankle, Carlson 42 to a skull fracture, severed temporal artery, and a lower-body injury, and Oshie 24 to a back injury. They’re wanting to have everyone fully healthy on this retool-on-the-fly. That process started with them trading away Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson, and Lars Eller for key pieces for their future, including Rasmus Sandin. If they get in playoff contention again, are they going to trade for another top-six forward to go with the offseason signing of Max Pacioretty? Pacioretty won’t be ready for the start of the season as he is continuing to heal from his second straight torn Achilles tendon, the same one he tore in 2021-22. They’re still hoping that they’ll address that need, as Dylan Strome was the only forward outside of Ovechkin to top 20 goals for Washington last season. And while there are questions on whether Bäckström and Oshie can return to being top-nine forwards in the NHL, Ovechkin remains one of the most consistent goal-scorers in the league, and the expectations for him are still high. His 42 goals last season marked an NHL-record 13th time for 40-goal seasons by a player. He’ll need 73 goals to pass Wayne Gretzky for the all-time goals record, so he’ll likely have to wait until 2024-25 for that to happen with another productive season in the goal-scoring department this year. Carbery will also have the challenge of getting the Caps back to the playoffs, and he has experience working with high-end talent back to his days as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also previously coached the Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate.

Current Lineup


#8 Alex Ovechkin — #92 Evgeny Kuznetsov — #43 Tom Wilson

#39 Anthony Mantha — #17 Dylan Strome — #77 T.J. Oshie

#45 Matthew Phillips — #19 Nicklas Bäckström — #15 Sonny Milano

#47 Beck Malentsyn — #26 Nic Dowd — #67 Riley Sutter


#42 Martin Fehérvary — #74 John Carlson

#38 Rasmus Sandin — #3 Nick Jensen

#46 Lucas Johansen — #57 Trevor van Riemsdyk


#35 Darcy Kuemper — #79 Charlie Lindgren


#27 Alex Alexeyev (D) — #63 Ivan Miroshnichenko (F)

Injured Reserve

#6 Joel Edmundson (D) — #67 Max Pacioretty (F)

20th: Nashville Predators

Previous Ranking: 16th

More and more, I’m getting divided with the Predators’ season. On one end, it made sense with the veteran signings they made this offseason. But I want to keep expectations modest with this core because we don’t know what to truly expect, even with the additions of Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist, and Luke Schenn. Though their playoff experience can be beneficial to this young core, as all three of them have a combined 188 Stanley Cup playoff games and a combined three Stanley Cups. O’Reilly has a pedigree of being a reliable two-way center, helping the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019, and was their captain for three seasons. His leadership qualities can carry over with the Predators, and he and Nyquist could add to a forward core that is looking for the continued development of Tommy Novak, Cody Glass, Luke Evangelista, Philip Tomasino, and Juuso Pärssinen. Each one of them played a huge part in keeping the team in playoff contention despite a roster depleted by injuries up until the final days of the regular season. Coming in as their head coach is Andrew Brunette, who can help bolster the power play given that he oversaw a Florida Panthers team that was tied for 4th in the NHL, with a success rate of 24.4%, when he was their interim head coach. Last season, Nashville’s power play finished 27th in the league, converting 17.6% of their chances. The previous year, the Predators tied the Panthers in power play success rate, and Florida led the NHL with 337 goals, and when Brunette was an associate coach with the New Jersey Devils, they finished tied for 4th with 289 goals. The goaltenders will help them stay in games, with Juuse Saros finishing 4th in the Vezina Trophy ballots after accumulating a .919 save percentage in 63 starts last season. There were considerations about trading Saros at the deadline, especially with Nashville trading away all of Mattias Ekholm, Nino Niederreiter, Tanner Jeannot, and Mikael Granlund. It’s going to be hard to see the Predators in the playoff mix if Saros is traded, though another factor is the continued development of goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov. If there are signs that he’s the goalie of the future, and the team isn’t competing for a playoff spot by the deadline, Nashville could be persuaded to see what they could get for Saros.

Current Lineup


#9 Filip Forsberg — #90 Ryan O’Reilly — #77 Luke Evangelista

#14 Gustav Nyquist — #82 Tommy Novak — #8 Cody Glass

#26 Philip Tomasino — #75 Juuso Pärssinen — #44 Kiefer Sherwood

#13 Yakov Trenin — #10 Colton Sissons — #36 Cole Smith


#59 Roman Josi — #2 Luke Schenn

#27 Ryan McDonagh — #45 Alex Carrier

#3 Jérémy Lauzon — #22 Tyson BArrie


#74 Juuse Saros — #32 Kevin Lankinen


#11 Sam Fagemo (F) — #47 Michael McCarron (F) — #57 Dante Fabbro (D)

Injured Reserve

#70 Egor Afanasyev (F)

19th: Detroit Red Wings

Previous Ranking: 19th

The Red Wings are looking for a big stride this season after another big offseason push where they were heavily active. In total, they added seven players via free agency, including J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, and Shayne Gostisbehere, to go with the trade acquisition of Alex DeBrincat, a two-time 40-goal scorer. Goal-scoring has been an issue for them, as they were in the bottom half of the league in goals in the last few seasons, and have not had a 40-goal scorer since Marián Hossa in 2008-09. DeBrincat has scored 41 goals twice in his career. All of Compher, Sprong, and Klim Kostin had career years with their respective teams last season, though Compher said he’s not afraid of a rebuild. When he first came into the NHL, he was on a Colorado Avalanche team that finished dead last in 2016-17. Five years later, he was a Stanley Cup champion with them. Sprong has been on such a turnaround as well. He finished the 2021-22 campaign with the Seattle Kraken, who finished 3rd-to-last in their inaugural season in the league. The next year, they not only improved by 40 points, but also came within a game of reaching the Western Conference Final. But it will be tough for Detroit to make the playoffs, even though they made a lot of additions. The Eastern Conference is absolutely stacked, and there are at most 14 teams that can realistically have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit finished 12 points out of a wild card spot last season, and the Atlantic Division is extremely competitive. That’s why they brought in DeBrincat, their big centerpiece in trying to improve the offense. He played with an elite setup forward in Patrick Kane back with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he won’t have anyone like him in Detroit. Though he can find himself on the top line with Dylan Larkin at center and Lucas Raymond at right wing, and DeBrincat can get on his usual spot on the left dot with the first power play unit. The last question is about their goaltending. They finished 22nd in goals against (3.35 per game) and tied for 23rd in save percentage (.890) despite allowing the 11th fewest shots against (30.4 per game). Ville Husso was inconsistent, and his two backups, Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg, were just as inconsistent if not bad. Husso now has a new partner, 35-year-old James Reimer, though it’s not much of an upgrade given the season he had last year, though it could also be attributed to being in a bad situation with the San Jose Sharks.

Current Lineup


#93 Alex DeBrincat — #71 Dylan Larkin — #23 Lucas Raymond

#14 Robby Fabbri — #37 J.T. Compher — #57 David Perron

#18 Andrew Copp — #90 Joe Veleno — #36 Christian Fischer

#24 Klim Kostin — #27 Michael Rasmussen — #88 Daniel Sprong


#96 Jake Walman — #53 Moritz Seider

#8 Ben Chiarot — #46 Jeff Petry

#2 Olli Määttä — #41 Shayne Gostisbehere


#35 Ville Husso — #47 James Reimer


#3 Justin Holl (D) — #34 Alex Lyon (G)

Injured Reserve

#22 Matt Luff (F) — #32 Carter Mazur (F)

18th: New York Islanders

Previous Ranking: 20th

A recurring theme for Lou Lamoriello teams is running it back with the same roster they had in the previous season. Apparently, this is fine by them. He feels the strength is of the stability on the team, though there are various concerns surrounding the core, notably with an offense that needs to find their traction and a silently aging core, including the defense. Last season was neither a rebuild nor a retool for them, though it’s fair to wonder how much longer they’re going to stay in the playoff contention race considering one can make an argument that they already reached their ceiling with the core in 2020-21. The biggest reason they made the playoffs was Ilya Sorokin, and it was no doubt that he was the biggest key considering they went 19-9-4 in their last 32 games to clinch on the final day of the regular season. However, they were treading water between playoff spot and outsider, at the bottom half of the league offensively, and with the 3rd-worst power play in the entire NHL, with that latter mark dropping to the worst when Mat Barzal got injured and missed the remainder of the regular season. It’s not what they envisioned when they acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks, though they expect him to play at the top line center spot with Barzal shifting to his right wing full time. Though Horvat did admit that there was a significant physical and mental toll adjusting to the Islanders. And although Barzal has been a center throughout his NHL career, he has not had good faceoff numbers, so the Islanders would likely want to opt to get Barzal on Horvat’s right wing as they look to have the duo replicate the chemistry they had playing together. Plus, on the power play, they scored just one man advantage goal in the first round on 18 tries, and gave up a shorthanded goal. Barzal and Noah Dobson tied the team lead for power play points in the regular season, with 19. Something needs to be fixed on the power play if they were to go on a deep run like they did in 2020 and 2021.

Current Lineup


#21 Kyle Palmieri — #14 Bo Horvat — #13 Mat Barzal

#18 Pierre Engvall — #29 Brock Nelson — #26 Oliver Wahlstrom

#27 Anders Lee — #44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau — #20 Hudson Fasching

#17 Matt Martin — #53 Casey Cizikas — #15 Cal Clutterbuck


#3 Adam Pelech — #6 Ryan Pulock

#28 Alex Romanov — #8 Noah Dobson

#25 Sebastian Aho — #24 Scott Mayfield


#30 Ilya Sorokin — #40 Semyon Varlamov


#4 Sam Bolduc (D) — #16 Julien Gauthier (F) — #32 Ross Johnson (F)

17th: Ottawa Senators

Previous Ranking: 18th

There is some belief within the Ottawa Senators that they could end their playoff drought this season. They believe Joonas Korpisalo is the missing piece in net to stabilize the crease for the first time since Craig Anderson was their starting netminder. They certainly have the pieces to mesh together, and he has a better team in front of him than he had with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the last few years there. He has a reason to be excited, considering that he has a supporting cast that has the looks of a playoff contender, and it has different looks in other areas outside of the crease. While the team traded away Alex DeBrincat, the Senators think they have more than made up for the loss of his offensive production with the additions of Vladimir Tarasenko and Dominik Kubalík to mesh with Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Claude Giroux, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson. Tarasenko was signed to a one-year deal, and Ottawa is hoping he bounces back to the form he was with the St. Louis Blues. They will lean on him to help with the power play. Also, a full season of Jakob Chychrun will help a very promising defensive core led by Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson. Chychrun missed the final 10 games of the regular season last year, but with him consistently being a mainstay on the Sens’ blue line, he gives the team a foundation there that can get long-term optimism. Plus, with the franchise being purchased by Michael Andlauer, the ownership is secure, and both Pierre Dorion and D.J. Smith are back as general manager and head coach, respectively, with Andlauer’s blessing. However, this could change if they don’t make the playoffs. Both Dorion and Smith oversaw an extensive rebuild, with Smith being the bench boss for four years. Andlauer wants to create the image of a perennial contender, along with possible sites for a different area closer to the downtown area. Another year without playoff hockey won’t sit well with him, especially for a loyal fanbase patient with the rebuild.

Current Lineup


#7 Brady Tkachuk — #18 Tim Stützle — #28 Claude Grioux

#21 Mathieu Joseph — #71 Ridly Greig — #19 Drake Batherson

#81 Dominik Kubalík — #49 rourke Chartier — #71 Ridly Greig

#27 Parker Kelly — #12 Mark Kastelic — #17 Zack MacEwen


#72 Thomas Chabot — #6 Jakob Chychrun

#85 Jake Sanderson — #2 Artem Zub

#26 Erik Brännström — #23 Travis Hamonic


#70 Joonas Korpisalo — #40 Mads Søgaard



Injured Reserve

#9 Josh Norris (F)

Did Not Report

#57 Shane Pinto (F)

16th: Minnesota Wild

Previous Ranking: 17th

The Wild desperately needed a deep playoff run after the first year of the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but now they’re feeling the pain of the buyouts. It was the seventh time in eight years they fell in the first round, and now the cap penalties are even worse. The season before last year, the Wild were one of the most fun teams to watch in the league, with Kirill Kaprizov forming a nice chemistry on the top line with Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello. But with Kevin Fiala now in Los Angeles, Kaprizov and Matt Boldy were the only two players in the State of Hockey to score more than 23 goals. With Kaprizov out with injury, that exposed the team’s lack of scoring depth, and even when he came back, they showed a glaring inability to finish. With a lineup that is relatively unchanged, it’s really hard to gauge if they can get that secondary scoring with them. Zuccarello has found a knack for being a playmaker on Kaprizov’s line, while Joel Eriksson Ek is a strong two-way center. But after them, the drop-off is very steep, even with Hartman regressing badly last season. If Marco Rossi doesn’t make the jump, can they get a bounce-back from Hartman? Though while they lost their scoring touch, their defense continues to be one of their biggest strengths. The majority of their personnel are returning, where they have iced a top 10 penalty kill, and among 113 duos that logged at least 300 minutes together on 5-on-5 last season, they had the 14th-lowest expected goals against per 60, behind just Devon Toews and Cale Makar. The question is if Brock Faber is ready to assume the role of Jonas Brodin’s partner as the right-shot second pairing defenseman. He should get every opportunity to be a top-four fixture this season, and they need him to. The depth chart thins out behind veteran Jon Merrill and Alex Goligoski and offense-only defender Calen Addison. They don’t hurt for defensive forwards like Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Freddy Gaudreau. As for the goaltending, one could not have predicted the breakout year of Filip Gustavsson, but he has solidified his spot as the starting netminder for the time being. Even if he is 80% good as he was last season, Marc-André Fleury has good insurance as the backup.

Projected Day One Lineup


#97 Kirill Kaprizov — #38 Ryan Hartman — #36 Mats Zuccarello

#90 Marcus Johansson — #14 Joel Eriksson Ek — #12 Matt Boldy

#17 Marcus Foligno — #23 Marco Rossi — #89 Freddy Gaudreau

#20 Patrick Maroon — #26 Connor Dewar — #21 Brandon Duhaime


#5 Jake Middleton — #46 Jared Spurgeon

#25 Jonas Brodin — #7 Brock Faber

#4 Jon Merrill — #2 Calen Addison


#32 Filip Gustavsson — #29 Marc-André Fleury


#19 Nic Petan (F) — #33 Alex Goligoski (D) — #74 Sammy Walker (F)

15th: Buffalo Sabres

Previous Ranking: 15th

Still, the Sabres are a young and talented team with Rasmus Dahlin and Tage Thompson leading the way. Dylan Cozens, Owen Power, Jack Quinn, John-Jason Peterka, and recently drafted prospects Zach Benson and Matt Savoie are ascending youngsters that are added into the helm, and in a perfect world where everyone is healthy, this is the year they can start their journey to becoming an elite team in the NHL. Thompson has emerged into a legitimate superstar in front of everyone’s eyes, with slick hands and a big-rig mentality. Don’t doubt that he hits the 50-goal mark this year. Plus, with reliable veterans like Alex Tuch, who had a career-high 36 goals last season, to go with Jeff Skinner and captain Kyle Okposo, is key for the new era the Sabres are in. Cozens has also displayed his physicality and generated 36 takeaways, showing signs he can be a dynamic power forward. Casey Mittelstadt has quietly turned his career around, with 15 goals and 44 assists last season. The team as a whole scored the third-most goals last season, and if they can maintain this offense, they have a real shot at the playoffs, and snapping their 12-year postseason drought. While it hurts to lose Quinn for the start of the season, they will rely on Benson for the first few games while the second-year forward recovers from an Achilles injury. Though they had a bit of trouble keeping the puck out of their net, with an expected goals against per 60 of 3.46, 6th-worst in the league. It’s hard to expect a lot when the oldest defenseman was 29 years old last year. Dahlin became the first Sabres defenseman to hit 70 points since Phil Housley, and he recently got an eight-year extension, so he will stay with this core for a long time. Mattias Samuelsson plays a stay-at-home role, and while the rest of the core is relatively young, whether it be promising sophomore defenseman Owen Power or the physical Connor Clifton, they get the veteran leadership with Stanley Cup experience in Erik Johnson, who will help instill a winning culture to Buffalo. The goaltending is where things get weird. They were speculated to get a goalie at the deadline last year, but instead turned to Devon Levi. He has the track to be the starter for them, and having a goalie prospect like him on the pipeline is something the Sabres were waiting a long time for. In seven games last year in the NHL, he went 5-2.

Current Lineup


#53 Jeff Skinner — #72 Tage Thompson — #89 Alex Tuch

#77 John-Jason Peterka — #24 Dylan Cozens — #71 Victor Olofsson

#37 Casey Mittelstadt — #19 Peyton Krebs — #9 Zach Benson

#12 Jordan Greenway — #28 Zemgus Girgensons — #21 Kyle Okposo


#23 Mattias Samuelsson — #26 Rasmus Dahlin

#25 Owen Power — #10 Henri Jokiharju

#6 Erik Johnson — #75 Connor Clifton


#27 Devon Levi — #1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen


#17 Tyson Jost (F) — #31 Eric Comrie (G) — #78 Jacob Bryson (D)

Injured Reserve

#22 Jack Quinn (F) — #93 Matt Savoie (F)

14th: Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Ranking: 14th

Nothing summarized the disappointment of last year’s Penguins offseason more than offensive output. They were in the middle of the pack in goals per game, and yet they were third in 5-on-5 expected goals per 60 with 3.18 as opposed to having 2.57 5-on-5 goals per 60. Having the second-worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage is definitely going to cause that, as the depth could not even score a goal. All of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Rickard Rakell, the now-departed Jason Zucker, and Bryan Rust all scored at least 20 goals, while no one else had more than 13, and just three guys had double-digit goal totals. That’s not the finishing ability one wants in an elite core for Stanley Cup contention. Reilly Smith and Erik Karlsson should provide an offensive punch, though the offensive talent doesn’t look much different than last season in the bottom six. Defensively, there weren’t any underlying numbers that suggested the struggles were due to bad luck, though it didn’t help that Mike Matheson and John Marino had excellent seasons with their new teams. It was because of a lack of defense from the top six forwards. But Dubas did a good job at bringing in forwards that were consistent on their own end, and did this with Matt Nieto, Lars Eller, and Noel Acciari, though none of them are top sixers. Smith’s defensive ability isn’t up to par, though it should be solid even if it technically downgrades because of the addition of Karlsson. The goaltending neither kept the Pens afloat nor cost them last year. They were just… there. Both Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were in the middle of the pack in terms of performance. Their save percentages (.909 and .905, respectively) were more because of the team in front of them. DeSmith is now in Vancouver, but Jarry is back for five more years, so the Pens should see similar performances from him. Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg will be the backup and third-stringer, respectively, and Nedeljkovic is looking for a bounce-back after two forgetful years in Detroit, showing that he can be the goalie he was with the Carolina Hurricanes. Considering his best year came behind one of the best defenses and his worst behind one of the worst defenses, if the Pens keep an average defense in front of him, he should be plausible.

Current Lineup


#59 Jake Guentzel — #87 Sidney Crosby — #17 Bryan Rust

#19 Reilly Smith — #71 Evgeni Malkin — #67 Rickard Rakell

#10 Drew O’Connor — #20 Lars Eller — #43 Jansen Harkins

#83 Matt Nieto — #55 Noel Acciari — #77 Jeff Carter


#28 Marcus Pettersson — #65 Erik Karlsson

#27 Ryan Graves — #58 Kris Letang

#73 Pierre-Olivier Joseph — #2 Chad Ruhwedel


#35 Tristan Jarry — #39 Alex Nedeljkovic


#5 Ryan Shea (D) — #7 John Ludvig (D)

Injured Reserve

#8 Will Butcher (D) — #80 Raivis Ansons (F)

13th: Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous Ranking: 8th

The reality of the situation with the Lightning is that players are pricing themselves out of the team’s salary cap. This is what happened with Alex Killorn when he hit free agency when his previous contract expired. But let’s not lie, this is still a very good forward group consisting of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point, along with impact players like Tanner Jeannot, Conor Sheary, Nick Paul, Mikey Eyssimont, Luke Glendening, and Tyler Motte. Not to mention the breakout of Brandon Hagel and the two-way play of Anthony Cirelli. Paul remains one of the best third line centers in the league, and though this isn’t the best forward group from Tampa, that’s going to happen after many years of cap circumvention. A big factor they will take into consideration is the play of Victor Hedman. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league, but had a major setback. He was not as strong defensively as with previous years and put up 49 points, a 36-point drop-off from his previous season. It’s possible that age is catching up with him after many playoff runs, but there may be a bounce-back. Besides him and Mikhail Sergachev, the latter of whom has emerged into a top-pairing caliber defenseman, defense has really taken a hit. Erik Černak is signed to an eight-year contract and is the best right-shot defenseman on the team. But that they have to play one of Nick Perbix, Darren Raddysh, or Calvin de Haan in the top four is concerning. And if one of Hedman or Sergachev miss a long period of time, this team is in trouble. But that’s not the worst of worries. They will not have Andrei Vasilevskiy until late November or early December after he had back surgery. The team lives or dies on the back of him, as he has been one of the best, if not the best, goalies in the league over the last half decade. While there was no cause for concern regarding his regular season play, he struggled mightily in last year’s playoffs. He, like the majority of the team, have played too much hockey through the last five years and they ran out of gas. However, the Bolts haven’t spent more than the league minimum for their second goalie, and this year is no different. Jonas Johansson is signed to a two-year deal, and he hasn’t truly put up good numbers in a meaningful stretch of games. He did well in the AHL, but this is a big gamble to see if he can be a reliable backup in the NHL, though when a team has no cap space, there really isn’t a choice.

Current Lineup


#91 Steven Stamkos — #21 Brayden Point — #86 Nikita Kucherov

#38 Brandon Hagel — #71 Anthony Cirelli — #84 Tanner Jeannot

#73 Conor Sheary — #20 Nick Paul — #23 Mikey Eyssimont

#64 Tyler Motte — #11 Luke Glendening — #51 Austin Watson


#77 Victor hedman — #48 Nick Perbix

#98 Mikhail Sergachev — #43 Darren Raddysh

#44 Calvin de Haan — #81 Erik Černák


#31 Jonas Johansson — #90 Matt Tomkins


#7 Haydn Fleury (D) — #12 Alex Barré-Boulet (F) — #39 Waltteri Merelä (F)

Injured Reserve

#22 Logan Brown (F) — #62 Jack Finley (F)

#76 Roman Schmidt (D) — #88 Andrei Vasilevskiy (G)

12th: Boston Bruins

Previous Ranking: 9th

This Bruins team is going to look drastically different than what many people were used to seeing last season. The defense was the best in the league last year, with their 2.12 goals against per game almost half a goal fewer than the next best team and managed just 1.74 against per 60 minutes on 5-on-5, though some of the reasons for stellar results was because of goaltending, but it’s not like the guys in front of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. Hampus Lindholm stepped up as a shutdown defenseman in Charlie McAvoy’s absence. Patrice Bergeron got his sixth and final Selke Trophy, and the rest of the group played up to Jim Montgomery’s system. However, it’s about to take a hit with Bergeron retiring. Losing a first line center is already a big hole to fill, but replacing one of the best defensive forwards of all time is a daunting task. It’s not as bad as the back end, where they have McAvoy, Lindholm, and Brandon Carlo, and while they did lose Dmitry Orlov and Connor Clifton, Kevin Shattenkirk isn’t a bad addition. But without a true top six center, the Bruins aren’t going to have the best defense in the league again. Goaltending-wise, they are running it back with both Ullmark and Swayman, and the latter would have received praise if he was on a different team as their starter, with a .920 save percentage and a 20.99 5-on-5 goals saved above expected, ranking 4th and 10th among goalies with a minimum of 35 games played. However, Ullmark led the league with 40 wins despite not playing 50 games, had 38.21 goals saved above expected, and his .939 save percentage was the second-highest in NHL history among goalies with at least 40 games played in a season. The Vezina was his to lose, and the goals saved above expected wasn’t just because of the team in front of him. Though as great as his 2022-23 was, it was well above his career average, so expect some regression for this season. Plus, part of the immense success last season was because of the offense. They have taken a beating, as they lost the equivalent of two top-nine lines because of the cap crunch. Their top two centers now are Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle, and while David Pastrňák, Brad Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk can salvage the offseason losses, and James van Riemsdyk is a solid cheap signing to go with a breakout year from Trent Frederic last season, this forward core outside of the aforementioned names, it leaves a lot to be desired, especially on the depth.

Current Lineup


#21 James van Riemsdyk — #18 Pavel Zacha — #88 David Pastrňák

#63 Brad Marchand — #13 Charlie Coyle — #74 Jake DeBrusk

#11 Trent Frederic — #51 Matthew Poitras — #39 Morgan Geekie

#17 Milan Lucic — #19 John Beecher — #94 Jakub Lauko


#48 Matt Grzelcyk — #73 Charlie McAvoy

#27 Hampus Lindholm — #25 Brandon Carlo

#28 Derek Forbort — #12 Kevin Shattenkirk


#35 Linus Ullmark — #11 Jeremy Swayman


#14 Ian Mitchell (D)

11th: New York Rangers

Previous Ranking: 13th

The Rangers have a bunch of star power with them on the forward core. However, the year before last year, they were below average on 5-on-5, relying on an elite power play. They remedied that problem last season, and were at the middle of the pack on even strength while maintaining their efficiency on the man advantage. Five Rangers eclipsed 20 goals and seven scored more than 15—nine when including Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane. Filip Chytil’s emergence bolstered the depth, snagging 22 goals on a third-line role. There are question marks on the right wing side, which is why they went after Tarasenko and Kane. Both are gone, and Blake Wheeler will fill in one of those two spots. Despite being 37, he quietly averages more than 70 points per 82 games in the last three years. But what about the other right wing spot? The Rangers are still waiting for either one of Alexis Lafrenière or Kaapo Kakko to cement themselves on the top six. Their numbers suggest they have improved their play, but can Peter Laviolette fix them? Defensively, they are decent, with potential for additional growth. They relied a lot less on Igor Shesterkin, and Adam Fox leads the way with this core, doing everything at an elite level. He and Ryan Lindgren are established as the top pair, as are the big and punishing duo of Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller. They got 54.25% of the expected 5-on-5 goals from the Lindgren-Fox pair, while they are an exciting team to watch with the Miller-Trouba duo on the ice. The third pair has some upside, with the underrated Braden Schneider and play-driving offensive defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who brings nice power play insurance. For Shesterkin, it’s never easy to match his magical 2021-22 season. He was still a top goalie in the league last season, but rather disappointing by his standards to go from a .935 save percentage to .916. However, it should be noted he started a career-high 58 games. Because he played a style that relies on reflexes, 58 games feels more like 70. That makes the signing of Jonathan Quick as the team’s backup as a questionable decision. Quick in his heyday was what Shesterkin is today, and it wore down on Quick’s body. Ideally, the Rangers would get someone they can count on for 25+ starts, but the insurance policy is now an injury-prone veteran.

Current Lineup


#20 Chris Kreider — #93 Mika Zibanejad — #24 Kaapo Kakko

#10 Artemi Panarin — #72 Filip Chytil — #13 Alexis Lafrenière

#50 Will Cuylle — #16 Vincent Trocheck — #17 Blake Wheeler

#26 Jimmy Vesey — #12 Nick Bonino — #21 Barclay Goodrow


#55 Ryan Lindgren — #23 Adam Fox

#79 K’Andre Miller — #8 Jacob Trouba

#56 Erik Gustafsson — #4 Braden Schneider


#31 Igor Shesterkin — #32 Jonathan Quick


#6 Zac Jones (D) — #71 Tyler Pitlick (F; Inj.)

10th: Los Angeles Kings

Previous Ranking: 11th

The Kings shift from rebuild to potential contender, and they made it clear during last season they wanted to go deep when bringing in Joonas Korpisalo and Vladislav Gavrikov. Though with losing to the Edmonton Oilers in two straight years and Anže Kopitar’s prime coming to a close, the Kings are clearly in win-now mode. Kopitar led the team in scoring for six straight seasons, even with the acquisition of Kevin Fiala last summer to bolster the offense. This summer, general manager Rob Blake traded all of Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabe Vilardi to the Winnipeg Jets to get Pierre-Luc Dubois, someone that head coach Todd McLellan can rely on to get over the first round hump. The offense is mostly set, with Fiala continuing over his production from his days with the Minnesota Wild, Viktor Arvidsson having his highest output since 2017-18, and Adrian Kempe scoring a career-high 41 goals. They had five 20-goal scorers, but while they can’t rely on just a few players, they should have no problem finding the back of the net this season. Kempe has become an underrated top goal scorer and could possibly be on the watch for 50 goals this season. Dubois will likely be the second line center with Fiala and either Alex Laferriere or Arthur Kaliyev. They have relied heavily on Drew Doughty on the blueline for many years, and expect this year to be no different. With Sean Walker and Sean Durzi traded away, this opens rom for Brandt Clarke and others like Tobias Björnfot to slot into the third pairing. Mikey Anderson has silently emerged into one of the better shutdown defenders in the league, blocking 129 shots, third on the Kings roster behind Durzi (142) and Matt Roy (153) last season, while leading all Kings in hits (162). Gavrikov will also see an increased role as the minute-munching defenseman the Kings wanted when they traded for him. However, goaltending is the weak link. Pheonix Copley, Cam Talbot, and David Rittich is not necessarily the most potent trio between the pipes compared to what other teams have in goaltending duos. Talbot had a down year with the Ottawa Senators, though Copley saw himself have a breakout year with the Kings, showing anything is possible with Copley riding a decent year and a seasoned vet like Talbot. But will they go after an elite goalie this season?

Current Lineup


#55 Quinton Byfield — #11 Anže Kopitar — #9 Adrian Kempe

#22 Kevin Fiala — #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois — #78 Alex Laferriere

#12 Trevor Moore — #24 Phillip Danault — #33 Viktor Arvidsson

#91 Carl Grundström — #46 Blake Lizotte — #61 Trevor Lewis


#44 Mikey Anderson — #8 Drew Doughty

#84 Vladislav Gavrikov — #3 Matt Roy

#5 Andreas Englund — #7 Tobias Björnfot


#29 Pheonix Copley — #39 Cam Talbot


#31 David Rittich (G)

9th: Florida Panthers

Previous Ranking: 12th

There were a lot of questions if the Panthers gave up too much depth in adding Matthew Tkachuk, and they seemed to be well-founded, but people seemed to forget how good this Panthers team could be, and thrived as an underdog in the playoffs. While the Panthers struggled during the regular season, it wasn’t because of the offense. They were 6th in the league in goals per game (3.51), and second in 5-on-5 expected goals per 60 (3.22). The latter stat was on par with the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy, even if there was regression from the record-setting offense in actual goals. Tkachuk was worth the price to pay on his way to being a Hart Trophy finalist, Aleksander Barkov was his usual self, and both Carter Verhaeghe and Brandon Montour had breakout years. Gustav Forsling, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Anton Lundell, and Eetu Luostarinen chimed in on secondary scoring. Outside of Anthony Duclair, the majority of Florida’s players are back here, with Evan Rodrigues proving to be a nice addition. The bad news is that Montour and Aaron Ekblad will miss the first few weeks to start the season, so they may struggle with moving the puck from the blueline. At the very least, all of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dmitry Kulikov, Niko Mikkola, and Mike Reilly could be buy-low signings that could pan out to ease the burden when Ekblad and Montour recover. The defense was alright, but it leaned towards being a bad defense. Barkov gets a lot of headlines for being the best defensive player on the team, but they already have good defensive results from guys like Lundell, Luostarinen, and Sam Reinhart, who led all forwards in defensive goals above replacement. There wasn’t really a defenseman who stood out on their own end, but it was an overall team effort. The defensive additions on the D-core may not be stalwarts, but a new environment and system could allow them to see improvement. Sergei Bobrovsky was inconsistent through the year, and Spencer Knight wasn’t much better as the backup. It wasn’t until Alex Lyon got action in the final week of the season did Florida finally get the goaltending they were looking for, where Bobrovsky eventually took over and played his best hockey since his Columbus years. New third-stringer Anthony Stolarz is a solid backup through his career, but was in a bad spot in Anaheim. He’ll have a better team in front of him this year, and it should help him improve. He’ll start as the backup as Knight may not be ready to start after leaving the player assistance program in the summer. With “Bob” being 35 to start the year, he might not handle the starting netminder role much longer on the long haul, but people saw what he is still capable of in the playoffs.

Current Lineup


#23 Carter Verhaeghe — #16 Aleksander Barkov — #17 Evan Rodrigues

#25 Mackie Samoskevich — #27 Eetu Luostarinen — #19 Matthew Tkachuk

#21 Nick Cousins — #15 Anton Lundell — #14 Grigori Denisenko

#94 Ryan Lomberg — #18 Steven Lorentz — #82 Kevin Stenlund


#42 Gustav Forsling — #28 Josh Mahura

#91 Oliver Eiman-Larsson — #7 Dmitry Kulikov

#77 Niko Mikkola — #6 Mike Reilly


#72 Sergei Bobrovsky — #41 Anthony Stolarz


#9 Sam Bennett (F; Inj.) — #26 Uvis Balinskis (D)

Injured Reserve

#5 Aaron Ekblad (D) — #62 Brandon Montour (D)

8th: Seattle Kraken

Previous Ranking: 10th

The Kraken are as balanced as they are in the NHL. There aren’t really any weak links in the forward core, even if there isn’t a true superstar. Jared McCann exploded with 40 goals and 70 points in 79 games, though in today’s NHL, 70-point scorers are not that hard to come by. It’s not a knock against him, but for Seattle, they’re hoping that Matty Beniers can surpass his offensive ceiling. If he can get more steps offensively while continuing to grow on the defensive end, he can be one of the top centers in the league in a few years. But with guys like Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Logan Cooley primed for jumpstarting their careers, Beniers will have no shortage of competition. While this Seattle center core is not flashy, the trio of him, Alex Wennberg, and Yanni Gourde cannot be overlooked. They have talent on the wings, with McCann, André Burakovsky, Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Eeli Tolvanen making up one of the strongest top nine winger groups in the league, and having Brandon Tanev and Kailer Yamamoto on the fourth line is an incredible luxury. Defensively, Vince Dunn broke out with 14 goals and 64 points in 81 games, but didn’t score at the same level in the playoffs and his defensive results were just okay. He will continue to grow on a Kraken defensive core that goes with a by-committee approach. A top four of Dunn, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, and Will Borgen doesn’t look like a lot, but they play a specific role. This is a versatile core, even if there isn’t a true superstar. It remains to be seen if, like last year, the same six starters can blend in defensively and get something better than what’s seen on paper. This strong defense made up for a lot of the goaltending issues last season. It’s hard to win a Stanley Cup with Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones being the goalie tandem, but they were halfway there. Grubauer went from a .895 save percentage in the regular season to a .903 in the playoffs, but he still has yet to live up to his contract. It’s now up to Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger to battle for the backup spot. Driedger didn’t play in the NHL last season while rehabbing a torn ACL, while Daccord excelled with the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds on the way to the Calder Cup Final.

Current Lineup


#19 Jared McCann — #10 Matty Beniers — #7 Jordan Eberle

#17 Jaden Schwartz — #21 Alex Wennberg — #95 André Burakovsky

#20 Eeli Tolvanen — #37 Yanni Gourde — #22 Oliver Bjorkstrand

#13 Brandon Tanev — #41 Pierre-Édouard Bellemare — #56 Kailer Yamamoto


#29 Vince Dunn — #6 Adam Larsson

#24 Jamie Oleksiak — #3 Will Borgen

#8 Brian Dumoulin — #4 Justin Schultz


#31 Philipp Grubauer — #35 Joey Daccord


#44 Jaycob Megna (D) — #52 Tye Kartye (F)

7th: Colorado Avalanche

Previous Ranking: 5th

If there was one thing the Avs were plagued by last season, it was the depleted roster. Not only did they lose a lot of key pieces from their 2022 Stanley Cup winning team because of the cap crunch. It made for a rocky first half of the season, then got three separate six-game winning streaks to win the Central Division, but the depleted roster was no match for the depth the Seattle Kraken had, paired with the off-ice drama surrounding Valeri Nuchushkin and a one-game suspension on Cale Makar. The offense wasn’t as dynamic as usually expected last season, but it was mostly because of the lack of depth. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hit the 100-point marker for the first time in their careers, Makar was on pace with his Norris Trophy-winning 2021-22 season had it not been for injuries, and all of Nichushkin, J.T. Compher, Artturi Lehkonen, and Evan Rodrigues all had career years in elevated roles. But outside of them, there wasn’t a lot of contributions, and with Gabriel Landeskog out for the year, that led to Colorado’s eventual fall. It’s not going to be any easier. Compher and Rodrigues are out of the equation, and Landeskog is injured for another year. Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin could find new success in a new environment, Ross Colton has the potential to be a top six forward, and both Tomáš Tatar and Miles Wood can help the team on a middle six role. The defense is mostly the same iteration as last year’s so the same result can be expected from them, but there are a lot of questions up front outside of MacKinnon and Rantanen. Defensively, they thrived as much as they always had. It helped that most of the losses were from the forward core, so they kept much of the same group on the blueline. But injuries hurt them too. The same group, minus Erik Johnson, Rodrigues, and Lars Eller, will return, so it’s not out of the equation that similar results happen this season, even if they don’t have as many injuries and can get more than half a season out of Bowen Byram and Josh Manson. Alexandar Georgiev had question marks heading into his first full year as a starting goalie, especially since he never played more than 34 games in a season and didn’t post above a .910 save percentage in three straight seasons. He had a strong year in his first season as a starter in Colorado, almost doubling his games played mark (62), tying Linus Ullmark in first for wins (40), and had a .919 save percentage. It wasn’t because he was playing behind a sturdy defense, as he finished the year with 17.29 5-on-5 goals saved above expected. He and Pavel Francouz come back, with a similar defensive core in front of them, so that there is a strong chance they repeat their success.

Current Lineup


#27 Jonathan Drouin — #29 Nathan MacKinnon — #96 Mikko Rantanen

#62 Artturi Lehkonen — #12 Ryan Johansen — #13 Valei Nichushkin

#28 Miles Wood — #20 Ross Colton — #90 Tomáš Tatar

#11 Andrew Cogliano — #22 Fredrik Olofsson — #25 Logan O’Connor


#7 Devon Toews — #8 Cale Makar

#49 Sam Girard — #4 Bowen Byram

#3 Jack Johnson — #42 Josh Manson


#40 Alexandar Georgiev — #50 Ivan Prosvetov


#56 Kurtis MacDermid (D)

Injured Reserve

#14 Chris Wagner (F) — #39 Pavel Francouz (G) — #74 Alex Beaucage (F)

#92 Gabriel Landeskog (F) — #93 Jean-Luc Foudy (F)

6th: Dallas Stars

Previous Ranking: 7th

The Stars now have established themselves as a true Stanley Cup contender, with an offensive explosion and with a breakout year from Jason Robertson. With a lot of impact players on the roster, it’s hard to not see them succeeding in upcoming years. Even so, general manager Jim Nill felt like he wanted to add speed and scoring, and this is where Matt Duchene comes in. He has not fallen off in his offensive game, as he snagged 56 points in 71 games last season, and should not have a problem fitting in with the Dallas Stars. He gives Peter DeBoer more weapons to use. This is a team that has one of the best scoring lines in the league in the last few years, with Robertson setting a franchise record for points since the team relocated from Minnesota, topping Mike Modano. Jamie Benn had a resurgence, Joe Pavelski looks like the ageless wonder that he is, and Roope Hintz continues to be one of the most underrated centers in the league. Veterans like Benn and Tyler Seguin will once again be heavily relied on. It’s hard to not forget that they account for $19.35 million against the cap, a lot of money for players who are no longer the everyday scorers on Dallas. They also looked for bottom sixers to fill the holes along the likes of Mason Marchment, Radek Faksa, and Ty Dellandrea. This is where Craig Smith and Sam Steel come in. The Stars also leaned heavily on Miro Heiskanen, who grew into a bellcow role as the Stars’ top defenseman and power play quarterback. With Colin Miller out, there won’t be a lot of change to the defense pairings. Ryan Suter will continue with Heiskanen, while Jani Hakanpää and Esa Lindell are a nice one-two defensive punch. Thomas Harley now slots into the lineup with Nils Lundkvist. Plus, Jake Oettinger will once again be the man in the crease, and he has become one of the best young goaltenders in the league in the last few seasons. He was tied for third in starts among NHL goalies last season, with 62, and has nice insurance in Scott Wedgewood, who appeared in 21 games. While Peter DeBoer had a nice first year with Dallas, he has managed to coach teams deep into the playoffs, though the question is if come playoff time he adjusts to his opponents.

Current Lineup


#21 Jason Robertson — #24 Roope Hintz — #16 Joe Pavelski

#14 Jamie Benn — #53 Wyatt Johnston — #63 Evgenii Dadonov

#27 Mason Marchment — #91 Tyler Seguin — #95 Matt Duchene

#15 Craig Smith — #12 Radek Faksa — #10 Ty Dellandrea


#20 Ryan Suter — #4 Miro Heiskanen

#23 Esa Lindell — #5 Nils Lundkvist

#55 Thomas Harley — #2 Jani Hakanpää


#29 Jake Oettinger — #41 Scott Wedgewood


#18 Sam Steel (F) — #44 Joel Hanley (D)

5th: New Jersey Devils

Previous Ranking: 4th

After a league-record 49-point improvement, Lindy Ruff’s reputation as a head coach is as strong as ever. He’s now the 5th-winningest coach in NHL history, and has an explosive offense at his disposal, which featured six different 20-goal scorers, even before acquiring three-time 30-goal scorer Timo Meier. They would probably have improved without tinkering, as Nico Hischier was the oldest of the team’s four 27-goal scorers, at just 24 years old, between him, Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Dawson Mercer. The star players are just now entering their primes. But it didn’t deter general manager Tom Fitzgerald from acquiring Tyler Toffoli while dealing Yegor Sharangovich and a third round pick, and adding both Toffoli and Meier to the mix will give the Devils an unstoppable top six. While Tomáš Tatar and Miles Wood are no longer in the equation, it doesn’t hurt that much now with a lot of talent at the top of the lineup. Tomáš Nosek, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian are one of the most physical fourth lines in the league that can also chime in offensively. Dougie Hamilton had a career year on the offensive side, finishing in the top six for the Norris Trophy. His pairing with Jonas Siegenthaler has been seamless. Siegenthaler and John Marino are both nice shutdown options for New Jersey, though Ruff has to start over in 2023-24 after both Ryan Graves and Damon Severson priced themselves out of the Devils’ plans. Luke Hughes will not replaces Graves’ shot blocking and penalty killing, but can form something similar to the Siegenthaler-Hamilton pairing, with Hughes driving the offense and Marino being the stay-at-home defenseman. And with Mackenzie Blackwood out of the picture, Akira Schmid and Vitek Vaněček will split goaltending duties. In his first two seasons, Vaněček split duties with Ilya Samsonov with the Washington Capitals. Fitzgerald expected similar play from him when he acquired him last summer, and he did more than that, starting 48 games, and although his .911 save percentage was hardly dominant, his consistency elevated them. With Blackwood missing time, Schmid stepped up with an impressive 18-game stint, where he was the Devils’ best goalie, with a 2.13 GAA and a .922 save percentage. His playoff heroics, which included two shutouts, were enough to lift them past the New York Rangers while Vaněček struggled. Vaněček can keep New Jersey in games, but the playoffs exposed his upper limit while Schmid excelled.

Current Lineup


#63 Jesper Bratt — #86 Jack Hughes — #73 Tyler Toffoli

#28 Timo Meier — #13 Nico Hischier — #91 Dawson Mercer

#18 Ondřej Palát — #56 Erik Haula — #10 Alex Holtz

#92 Tomáš Nosek — #20 Michael McLeod — #14 Nathan Bastian


#71 Jonas Siegenthaler — #7 Dougie Hamilton

#43 Luke Hughes — #6 John Marino

#88 Kevin Bahl — #24 Colin Miller


#40 Akira Schmid — #41 Vitek Vaněček


#2 Brendan Smith (D) — #11 Chris Tierney (F) — #42 Curtis Lazar (F)

4th: Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous Ranking: 3rd

It was quite the offseason in Toronto, with Auston Matthews signing a four-year extension that will make him the NHL’s highest-paid player starting in 2024-25. Any team built around the Core Four of him, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares, will score at will. While it wasn’t the 60-goal season that Matthews was expecting, he still had 40, as did Nylander, while Marner was close to 100 points. The power play excelled with Spencer Carbery coaching the group, so it’s yet to be seen if Guy Boucher can coach that same level of excellence. This may look like a shallower forward group given the offseason departures, but they were top heavy last season, with the Core Four scoring 146 of the team’s 278 goals. Tyler Bertuzzi, signed for one year, will get a look with Matthews and Marner after he flourished as a playoff rental for the Boston Bruins, and should be an upgrade over Michael Bunting. It’s also possible that John Klingberg may be the next error-prone scapegoat on the defensive core, but he is still a solid offensive contributor from the blueline. Even with his play declining, he is still at the top of the league in primary assists per 60 on the power play. Speaking of the defense, early in the Matthews/Marner era, they thought little about defense, but that identity changed a few years ago, silently becoming one of the better defensive teams in the league. But when previous general manager Kyle Dubas went to a play-driving approach at the trade deadline, the defense slipped. This Toronto team looks slower defensively than they were last season. T.J. Brodie limits mistakes, and is the top shutdown defenseman of this core. Morgan Rielly isn’t truly strong on his own end despite his minute-munching games, Jake McCabe looked shaky during the playoffs, and Mark Giordano has just turned 40. Whether the blueline becomes a liability again may depend on what Timothy Liljegren can do. The best defensive asset is the forwards committing to defense, like Marner, an all-around player who kills penalties, blocks shots, and intercepts pucks, where his 104 takeaways were a league-best last season, 12 higher than the next-closest player. At the goaltending situation, Matt Murray is the latest resident of Robidas Island as he joins defenseman Jake Muzzin on the LTIR. While Ilya Samsonov was quietly consistent in the regular season, he was up-and-down in the playoffs, particularly at home. When he got hurt, Joseph Woll stepped in and immediately looked like the better goalie. Samsonov opens the year as the starter, but Woll will get every opportunity to steal the job.

Current Lineup


#59 Tyler Bertuzzi — #34 Auston Matthews — #16 Mitch Marner

#23 Matt Knies — #91 John Tavares — #88 William Nylander

#39 Fraser Minten — #11 Max Domi — #19 Calle Järnkrok

#18 Noah Gregor — #64 David Kämpf — #75 Ryan Reaves


#44 Morgan Rielly — #78 T.J. Brodie

#22 Jake McCabe — #3 John Klingberg

#55 Mark Giordano — #37 Timothy Liljegren


#35 Ilya Samsonov — #60 Joseph Woll


#53 Easton Cowan (F) — #74 Bobby McMann (F; Inj.)

Injured Reserve

#8 Jake Muzzin (D) — #25 Conor Timmins (D) — #30 Matt Murray (G)

3rd: Carolina Hurricanes

Previous Ranking: 6th

This is a critical year for head coach Rod Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes. Adding all of Michael Bunting, Dmitry Orlov, and Tony DeAngelo sends the message that it’s time to go all-in on a Stanley Cup push. With just 11 players under contract beyond next season and just six signed through 2025, this has to be the year they capitalize. Andrei Svechnikov’s torn ACL and Max Pacioretty re-tearing his Achilles truly stung, but the offense had the 7th-worst shooting percentage in the league, at 9.2%, and their 3.2 goals per game were not outliers in the Brind’Amour era—they won 46 games in 2018-19 despite having an 8.6% shooting percentage. Long story short, they have not focused enough on goal-scoring. Their puck possession metrics, however, mean they don’t need to be flashy to score, but that has handicapped them in the playoffs. Star power, or lack thereof, has hampered them, as they were relying on bottom-six players like Jordan Martinook and Stefan Noesen offensively, especially with Teuvo Teräväinen limited with a broken hand. The hope is that Bunting provides the offense a competent option. Martin Nečas is only getting better, and Teräväinen has been more than serviceable, averaging .75 points per game since arriving in Carolina, plus with the rise of Seth Jarvis and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The team-wide defensive system has been rock-solid. They did not have to block shots like the other defensive standouts because opposing teams rarely have the puck long enough to put them under pressure. The third line of Martinook, Jordan Staal, and Jesper Fast headline the relentless forecheck, and that top four defensive core of Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, Brady Skjei, and Brett Pesce is as scary as they can get. Orlov will immediately shake up the core, and DeAngelo comes back to replace Shayne Gostisbehere on the right side of the power play, and though his tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers was disastrous, he is still a dangerous offensive defenseman, with 42 points for a nonexistent Flyers offense. Take into account Jalen Chatfield playing his first full NHL season last year, and Carolina has seven NHL-caliber defensemen. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are still reliable goalies, though neither of them are high-end starting goalies given their stages of their careers. Pyotr Kochetkov also comes back on his new four-year deal, but he remains a relative unknown with just 27 NHL games played. They’re good enough defensively to win regular season games with anyone in net, having allowed 26.0 shots per game last season, the fewest in the league. If one of these three goalies can play at an elite level, Carolina’s Stanley Cup odds will be peaking.

Current Lineup


#58 Michael Bunting — #20 Sebastian Aho — #24 Seth Jarvis

#86 Teuvo Teräväinen — #82 Jesperi Kotkaniemi — #88 Martin Nečas

#48 Jordan Martinook — #11 Jordan Staal — #71 Jesper Fast

#28 Brendan Lemieux — #18 Jack Drury — #23 Stefan Noesen


#74 Jaccob Slavin — #8 Brent Burns

#76 Brady Skjei — #22 Brett Pesce

#7 Dmitry Orlov — #77 Tony DeAngelo


#31 Freddie Andersen — #32 Antti Raanta


#5 Jalen Chatfield (D)

Injured Reserve

#37 Andrei Svechnikov (F) — #61 Ryan Suzuki (F) — #92 Vasili Ponomarev (F)

2nd: Edmonton Oilers

Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Stanley Cup Playoffs show that scoring can only cover a lot of issues, and the Vegas Golden Knights forced the Oilers to play at even strength. Oilers fans may have a reason to believe they missed their best chance at the Cup, especially considering that last year’s team had the most prolific offense in the league, with the second-most potent scoring attack of the 21st century on the record-setting power play. All of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman recorded at least 80 points, with the former three recording triple digits. McDavid also became the first player since Mario Lemieux to record at least 150 points in a season, though it takes more than four players to win a series, and the lack of depth scoring has been as problematic as the goaltending woes. Darnell Nurse was 5th on the team in points, with 43, a 40-point dropoff from Hyman. The only other defensemen to crack the 40-point barrier were Tyson Barrie, who was traded to Nashville, and Evan Bouchard. The next highest point total by a forward came from Warren Foegele and Evander Kane, who had 28 each, and Kane played just 41 games. A healthy Kane would be enough to give the Oilers a very formidable top six, and while new addition Connor Brown is not a superstar, his playstyle and his high floor can make him an easy candidate for a breakout year. Bouchard will also likely overtake Nurse as the highest-scoring defenseman on the team. The Oilers are not really a shutdown team as they are catering to McDavid’s reputation for an electric brand of hockey that has him go end to end. But it’s no secret that their defensive strategy is to rack up a lot of goals and hope for the best. Mattias Ekholm had a +28 rating in his first 21 games in Edmonton, transforming the way the Oilers played to where head coach Jay Woodcroft relied on the new duo of Ekholm and Bouchard as his go-to pairing. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci ate up a lot of minutes, but fell flat as the shutdown pairing. Ceci wasn’t confident enough to cover for the more talented Nurse despite being top two in hits and blocks. While they got better in net, that doesn’t mean they were good. Jack Campbell’s 21-9-4 record overshadows his career-worst GAA (3.41) and save percentage (.888). Woodcroft relied on Stuart Skinner as his starter, and the rookie did not disappoint (2.75 GAA, .913 SV%). He was by no means dominant, but he kept the Oilers in games. However, the play of both of them, especially with Skinner in the playoffs, raises valid questions heading into this season. Who truly is Skinner, and could Campbell push him for the starting job?

Current Lineup


#91 Evander Kane — #97 Connor McDavid — #18 Zach Hyman

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — #29 Leon Draisaitl — #28 Connor Brown

#55 Dylan Holloway — #71 Ryan McLeod — #37 Warren Foegele

#13 Mattias Janmark — #10 Derek Ryan — #62 Raphael Lavoie


#25 Darnell Nurse — #5 Cody Ceci

#14 Mattias Ekholm — #2 Evan Bouchard

#27 Brett Kulak — #73 Vincent Desharnais


#74 Stuart Skinner — #36 Jack Campbell


#19 Lane Pederson (F) — #80 Markus Niemeläinen (D)

1st: Vegas Golden Knights

Previous Ranking: 1st

Last year’s Golden Knights were a machine that plays their games very business-like, and this year’s edition looks very similar. While they don’t have the best forward group in the NHL, there are still a lot of talented forwards on the team. Jack Eichel is still a top center, Jonathan Marchessault is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Ivan Barbashev is a gritty two-way winger who meshed in perfectly at the trade deadline, and Mark Stone and William Karlsson are two defensively minded forwards with high offensive skills. The biggest subtraction was easily Reilly Smith, and he will be missed, but he also had the least impressive playoffs out of the Vegas forwards. He cemented himself as an icon among the Golden Misfits, but he had to be moved to make room for Barbashev and Adin Hill. William Carrier and Keegan Kolesar on the same line adds sandpaper to the lineup to round out a well-constructed unit, but now will have to lean on Brett Howden and Mike Amadio to make up for the loss of Smith. But it should be noted that Chandler Stephenson wasn’t seen as a top six center when Vegas acquired him from the Washington Capitals. With Eichel, Stephenson, Karlsson, and Nic Roy being capable of leading the charge on their lines, the Knights can afford to take a hit on the forward core. Their defensive system is a very stout one. Head coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff know how to evenly distribute the ice time among the six defensemen, ranging from between 18 and 24 minutes. They are very comfortable with their defensive pairs. Everyone is back for another year, and Zach Whitecloud shows himself to be a nice third-pairing defenseman. With him signed to a six-year deal, Vegas believes he will take another step forward. Same thing goes with Nic Hague, who is now in Year 2 of a three-year deal. In net, Hill was rewarded for his stellar playoff run with a two-year, $4.9 million AAV deal. He’ll start as the starting netminder, but it’s easy to forget how good Logan Thompson was before suffering a season-ending lower-body injury. He went 21-13-3 with a .915 save percentage in 37 games for Vegas, and with Robin Lehner out of the picture seemingly for good, Hill and Thompson will be the 1A and 1B in Vegas. Hill’s track record is spotty, as he never really had a bad year, but also hasn’t really stood out to when he posted a .932 save percentage in 16 playoff games. Even with Hill’s new contract, Thompson may still realistically get the starting job if he gets a strong run.

Current Lineup


#49 Ivan Barbashev — #9 Jack Eichel — #81 Jonathan Marchessault

#21 Brett Howden — #20 Chandler Stephenson — #61 Mark Stone

#43 Paul Cotter — #71 William Karlsson — #22 Mike Amadio

#28 William Carrier — #10 Nic Roy — #55 Keegan Kolesar


#14 Nic Hague — #7 Alex Pietrangelo

#3 Brayden McNabb — #27 Shea Theodore

#17 Ben Hutton — #94 Brayden Pachal


#33 Adin Hill — #36 Logan Thompson


#16 Pavel Dorofeyev (F)

Injured Reseve

#2 Zach Whitecloud (D) — #23 Alec Martinez (D) — #62 Daniil Miromanov (D) — #90 Robin Lehner (G)

Written by Alec Nava

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