31) Arizona Coyotes – Arizona’s struggled mightily, but what makes matters even worse for them is that Dylan Strome doesn’t look like he’ll ever be the guy he’s been down in the AHL, where he’s dominated scoring-wise.
30) Buffalo Sabres – Buffalo’s season has been depression to follow, but at least they can say that they have a true foundational piece to build around in Jack Eichel.
29) Detroit Red Wings – After getting embarrassed twice in the same week by the Canadiens, the Red Wings had a nice bounce back outing against the Jets. Even so, this team isn’t going anywhere fast.
28) Florida Panthers – There’s really not much to say about this Panthers’ season. Tough to understand where they’re headed long term. The top line gives some hope, at least.
27) Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon has had a standout season, and the Avalanche haven’t been anywhere near the train wreck they were last year, so there’s that.
26) Ottawa Senators – The Senators are 2-7-1 in their last ten games, are nine points out of a playoff spot, and aren’t really doing anything to make one think that much will change.
25) Minnesota Wild – Zach Parise’s injury has brought to light that Minnesota’s supporting cast may not be all that elite, while the supposed “Bruce Boudreau magic” seems to be effectively gone. They’re still in the playoff hunt, but it’s hard to feel optimistic about this team.
24) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks made a big trade in sending Sami Vatanen to New Jersey in exchange for Adam Henrique and Joe Blandisi. The newly-minted Ducks certainly make them deeper up front, but Vatanen’s departure creates some serious question marks on the back end.
23) Vancouver Canucks – Vancouver is a sneakily fun story this season, especially with the rise of stud rookie forward Brock Boeser. They’re currently in a playoff spot, but it feels like they come back down to earth at some point in the near future.
22) New Jersey Devils — New Jersey has been refreshingly exciting this season, but unlike Vegas, this presumed house of cards may actually come down sooner rather than later. The addition of Sami Vatanen makes them even more interesting offensively, so maybe this joyride continues for Jersey fans.
21) Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh is dealing with some big time injuries in net, and isn’t playing particularly well despite holding the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. As always with this team though, we’ll wait to scrutinize them more heavily down the stretch.
20) New York Rangers — For all the criticism Alain Vigneault seems to get, his teams consistently challenge for the playoffs, and make noise when they do get in. This season feels no different. The upside, however, feels limited.
19) Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin can only score goals on the power play, it would seem, while Matt Niskanen’s injury proved crippling to an already thinned-out blueline. The Capitals can’t be ignored for obvious reasons, but things just don’t feel the same this year.
18) Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers have been a circus this season. They’re treading water right now, but the playoffs are starting to feel like a distant possibility.
17) Carolina Hurricanes – Just when it seemed like the Hurricanes had some win in their sails, they’ve sputtered their way back down the standings, and are now in a tough playoff race.
16) San Jose Sharks — Once again, the Sharks are downright dominant at even strength. Scoring goals, on the other hand, has been an entirely different matter (just ask Brent Burns). This team feels like a trade deadline goal scorer acquisition away from being a true contender.
15) Calgary Flames — Just on the outside of the playoff picture by tie-breaker, the Flames feel like a team that could really make a push as we enter the second quarter of the season.
14) Nashville Predators – Still hanging around in Ryan Ellis’s absence, the Predators are making sure that they’ll be hitting their collective stride once their blueline lynchpin returns to the lineup.
13) Boston Bruins – The Bruins have managed to defy some pre-season pessimism thanks to a strong even strength game, but their upside feels somewhat limited without top-to-bottom firepower. Even so, they should not be overlooked.
12) Dallas Stars – The Stars certainly aren’t without their flaws, but on any given night, the sheer talent on this roster can go toe-to-toe with just about any club in the league.
11) Philadelphia Flyers – An improved team at even strength, the Flyers are riding the breakout season of one Sean Couturier, who’s finally putting it all together while elevating his team in the process.
10) Vegas Golden Knights — For a while, it seemed as if the Golden Knights were a house of cards waiting to collapse. They’ve had an easier schedule, but their underlying numbers paint them as a very good team. Get used to seeing them up here.
9) Chicago Blackhawks — The Hawks might be back. After being carried along by Corey Crawford, Chicago is picking up its five-on-five. They exploded for seven goals against Anaheim, showing just how much of an offensive force they can still be.
8) Montreal Canadiens – Warning to the rest of the NHL: Carey Price is back, and he looks like Carey Price again. The Canadiens are scoring goals in bulk, notably with a ten-goal beat down of the hapless Red Wings. Already an elite team at five-on-five, the Habs are clear-cut risers right now.
7) Winnipeg Jets — Winnipeg’s magical shooting percentage-driven ride continues, and although their five-on-five numbers aren’t impressive, you just have to buy in to the talent this team can ice at any given moment.
6) Toronto Maples Leafs — The Leafs score goals at a ridiculous rate, essentially out-scoring their defensive woes in the process. In a word: scary.
5) New York Islanders — Jordan Eberle continues to prove that the Oilers – as well as their ridiculous media cohort – were fools for running him out of town. Like the Leafs, this team can score in bunches.
4) Los Angeles Kings — Much like the Jets, the Kings don’t necessarily jump off the page statistically, but that was exactly what they wanted this season, gladly trading in some “Corsi’s” for those things called goals. Jonathan Quick has been excellent in the process as well
3) St.Louis Blues- The Blues are dominant in nearly every significant statistical category. These aren’t the Blues of yesteryear, as they feature one of the most exciting offensive first lines in hockey. However, they’re some depth scoring away from being truly the best team in the NHL.
2) Columbus Blue Jackets — Power play struggles aside, the Blue Jackets continue to establish themselves as one of the powerhouses of the NHL.
1) Tampa Bay Lightning – As good as the St. Louis Blues may be, the Lightning have that top-end talent that just makes you believe in them that much more.
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