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NHL Power Rankings: Where every team stands vs. preseason expectations

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 24 November 2023 06:20

The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks are blowing their preseason point total over/unders out of the water thus far. The Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames? Not so much.

But how do all 32 teams rate against their preseason expected points pace? That's what's on tap as part of this week's rankings.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors each send in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the previous edition, published Nov. 17. Points percentages are through the games of Nov. 22. Preseason point total over/unders courtesy of ESPN BET.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 86.11%
Next seven days: vs. DET (Nov. 24), @ NYR (Nov. 25), @ CBJ (Nov. 27), vs. SJ (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 99.5
Points pace: 141

With the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Boston's preseason point total over/under was 10th in the league. Now, it appears the Bruins are aiming for the record books again. Led by superstar David Pastrnak up front, an elite blue-line group led by Charlie McAvoy and the NHL's best goaltending tandem, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt here.


2. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 75.00%
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Nov. 25), @ CGY (Nov. 27), @ EDM (Nov. 28), @ VAN (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 103.5
Points pace: 123

Ho-hum, defending Stanley Cup champs, predicted to eclipse triple digits in points again, and they are blowing well past that level of expectation. One of the league's true powerhouses, and with some iconic new Winter Classic jerseys to boot!


3. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 67.50%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Nov. 24), @ SJ (Nov. 25), vs. ANA (Nov. 28), vs. VGK (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 89.5
Points pace: 111

For those who predicted that a Canadian team would finally break the decades-long streak of no Cups for the north-of-the-border teams ... did anyone think it would be the Canucks? There's not much to dislike about this team, from Hart Trophy candidate Elias Pettersson to Norris candidate Quinn Hughes to Vezina candidate Thatcher Demko, they've got all three levels covered, all while coach Rick Tocchet appears to be hitting all the right buttons.


4. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 79.41%
Next seven days: @ PHI (Nov. 24), vs. BOS (Nov. 25), vs. BUF (Nov. 27), vs. DET (Nov. 29)
Preseason O/U: 103.5
Points pace: 130

Two springs ago, the Rangers had a convincing run all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. After an abrupt first-round exit in the 2023 playoffs, they replaced Gerard Gallant behind the bench with Peter Laviolette, and somehow found a magic elixir to turn Jonathan Quick back to the vintage edition of himself. They should be near the top of the East all season.


5. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 73.53%
Next seven days: @ ANA (Nov. 24), vs. MTL (Nov. 25), vs. WSH (Nov. 29)
Preseason O/U: 100
Points pace: 121

In recent seasons, the Kings were found near the top of the prospect pipeline rankings, and all of that excellent drafting and development is paying dividends. Though familiar faces like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still at the forefront, a young core is now carrying this club, including 2020 No. 2 pick Quinton Byfield, who has 15 points through 17 games.


6. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 72.22%
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Nov. 24), @ WPG (Nov. 28), @ CGY (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 105.5
Points pace: 118

The Stars took the Golden Knights to six games in the Western Conference finals, and there were obviously high expectations placed on them again this season (with some even picking them to win the Cup). So far, so good, and that summertime Matt Duchene signing is looking smarter by the day.


7. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 65.79%
Next seven days: vs. WPG (Nov. 24), @ OTT (Nov. 27), @ TOR (Nov. 28), @ MTL (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 99
Points pace: 108

The Panthers' run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final coincided with the coronation of Matthew Tkachuk as one of the league's next superstars. The Cats are back near the top of the standings this season, and it appears that it's Sam Reinhart's turn to level up -- he has 25 points through 19 games, with a career high of 82.


8. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 66.67%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Nov. 24), vs. CGY (Nov. 25), vs. TB (Nov. 27), @ ARI (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 107.5
Points pace: 109

Colorado's abrupt exit from the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs didn't do much to dissuade the sportsbooks that it would be a top contender this season; the Avalanche's preseason point total projection was No. 2 in the league (behind Carolina's). And to the surprise of few, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar & Co. are hitting those early-season pace targets. The hunger is there for a second Cup in three years.


9. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 66.67%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Nov. 24), @ NSH (Nov. 26), vs. DAL (Nov. 28), vs. EDM (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 92
Points pace: 109

Rebuild, what rebuild? After the Jets traded Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Kings this summer, some expected that franchise goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and center Mark Scheifele (both hitting free agency next summer) wouldn't be far behind out the door. Instead, they both signed long-term extensions, and the Jets have looked every bit like a playoff contender once again.


10. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 68.75%
Next seven days: vs. EDM (Nov. 24), @ SJ (Nov. 27), @ LA (Nov. 29), @ ANA (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 85
Points pace: 113

Seeing the Capitals on a 113-point pace through 16 games, one would assume that Alex Ovechkin had probably hit double digits in goals. He has five, and his 12 points lead the team? The Caps have seen an early leveling up by backup goaltender Charlie Lindgren -- who has gone 4-1-0, with a .940 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against average -- and have gotten the goals when needed. Despite an overall even goal differential -- and being 27th in the league in expected goals percentage (46.7%) -- they're out to a 10-4-2 record. We're all confused.


11. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 64.71%
Next seven days: @ CHI (Nov. 24), @ PIT (Nov. 25), vs. FLA (Nov. 28), vs. SEA (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 106.5
Points pace: 106

An extremely good regular-season hockey team in recent campaigns, it's not surprising to anyone that the Leafs are on pace for triple digits in standings points again this season. It's that pesky postseason about which observers are concerned. After winning a series in the 2023 playoffs, could they make it two or more this time around?


12. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 61.11%
Next seven days: vs. TB (Nov. 24), vs. CBJ (Nov. 26), @ PHI (Nov. 28), vs. NYI (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 108.5
Points pace: 100

As a popular preseason Stanley Cup pick, the Canes' "slow" start might be befuddling to some. Then again, through Nov. 25 last season, they had gone 10-6-5 -- a 25 points-in-21 games pace that equates to 97.6 points by season's end; as we know, they shattered that total, finishing with 113. There are no concerns here.


13. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 55.26%
Next seven days: vs. NYR (Nov. 24), @ NYI (Nov. 25), vs. CAR (Nov. 28), vs. NJ (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 74
Points pace: 91

Those making preseason predictions were of the mind that although the Flyers had put a good group in charge of the franchise (team president Keith Jones and GM Daniel Briere), the club was still a year or two away from the playoffs. Then the games started, and apparently they forgot to tell John Tortorella and his players. Maybe the Flyers felt left out given the recent success for the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers?


14. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 57.50%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Nov. 24), @ COL (Nov. 27), @ ARI (Nov. 28), vs. PIT (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 93
Points pace: 94

At some point, Father Time (and Uncle Salary Cap Space) is going to catch up to the Lightning. But not quite yet, it would seem. Nikita Kucherov appears poised to author another elite scoring season, the Lightning are in playoff position and Andrei Vasilevskiy -- one of the world's best goalies -- has yet to play a single game.


15. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 58.33%
Next seven days: @ BOS (Nov. 24), vs. MIN (Nov. 26), @ NYR (Nov. 29), vs. CHI (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 86.5
Points pace: 96

Early in the season, the Red Wings were a wagon, winning six of their first seven games. The Michigan-born connection of Dylan Larkin and Alex DeBrincat looked like one of the league's most dangerous scoring duos. But after winning just three of their ensuing 11 games, the Wings have fallen back to the cusp of the playoff window.


16. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 58.33%
Next seven days: vs. NSH (Nov. 24), @ CHI (Nov. 26), @ MIN (Nov. 28), vs. BUF (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 83.5
Points pace: 96

The Blues didn't exactly set the world on fire with their offseason moves -- although the Kevin Hayes trade was a nice bit of business -- so they were not among the clubs projected to be in playoff position. But then Jordan Binnington decided that wasn't good enough, and has turned back into a stabilizing force in net, with a .912 save percentage and 2.79 goals-against average after being at .894 and 3.31, respectively, last season.


17. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ BUF (Nov. 24), vs. TOR (Nov. 25), @ NSH (Nov. 28), @ TB (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 97
Points pace: 82

The Penguins made the summer's biggest move in trading for reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, in an effort to push the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin-Kris Letang triumvirate across the line for another Stanley Cup. The results have been a mixed bag -- perhaps an upgrade in goal was needed instead of one on the blue line.


18. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Nov. 24), vs. BUF (Nov. 25), vs. NYI (Nov. 28), @ PHI (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 106
Points pace: 82

Behind superstar Jack Hughes and an elite young core, the Devils ran up an impressive point total last season and won a playoff round against the rival Rangers. So it wasn't bizarre to see them among the Cup favorites this season. Due to a wild rash of injuries (to Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier and others), things haven't gone to plan yet. With better health, will the results turn back in the right direction?


19. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 47.37%
Next seven days: @ VGK (Nov. 25), vs. TB (Nov. 28), vs. COL (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 77.5
Points pace: 78

The Yotes' future in Arizona remains as murky as ever. Nevertheless, the on-ice results have been a pleasant surprise this season. Rookie Logan Cooley appears to be the real deal, a thrilling star to build around along with Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Matias Maccelli. They might be a year away from a legit playoff push, but they should be playing meaningful hockey longer than many expected this season.


20. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 47.37%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Nov. 24), @ EDM (Nov. 26), @ VAN (Nov. 28), vs. WSH (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 66.5
Points pace: 78

After finishing last in the league in 2022-23, the Ducks had modest expectations -- in fact, their over/under of 66.5 total points was the second lowest this season, ahead of only the Sharks'. But thanks to a mix of dependable veterans like Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome, along with ascendant youngsters like Mason McTavish and Pavel Mintyukov, the scoring has been there; and thanks to a resurgent John Gibson, so has the goaltending.


21. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 53.33%
Next seven days: vs. NYI (Nov. 24), vs. FLA (Nov. 27)
Preseason O/U: 93.5
Points pace: 88

Out of Ottawa, Detroit and Buffalo, the expectation was that one of the ascendant trio would be in position to earn a playoff spot this season. Ottawa's 2023-24 journey has been the bumpiest of the three: a player suspended 41 games for gambling; the loss of a first-round pick due to what amounted to poor records-keeping; and a GM firing as a result of the latter. Despite all of that, the talent is still here to mount a comeback this season.


22. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 52.78%
Next seven days: @ OTT (Nov. 24), vs. PHI (Nov. 25), @ NJ (Nov. 28), @ CAR (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 93
Points pace: 87

The Islanders finished the 2022-23 season with 93 points, earning the penultimate playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After an offseason of little change to the roster, a similar result was expected. To this point, they're a bit off that pace, though part of that margin could be Ilya Sorokin being good (.909 save percentage, 3.21 goals-against average) instead of elite, as he was last season (.924, 2.34).


23. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: vs. VAN (Nov. 24), @ CHI (Nov. 28), @ TOR (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 92
Points pace: 82

Much like the creature for which they were named, patrolling the depths of the ocean, the Kraken's calling card in 2022-23 was the depth of their scoring. Unfortunately, this season has seen them be a bit too top-heavy, and that has led to them taking a step backward from expectations. (And it would help if Philipp Grubauer would turn back into Playoff Grubauer, too.)


24. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 47.37%
Next seven days: vs. PIT (Nov. 24), @ NJ (Nov. 25), @ NYR (Nov. 27), @ STL (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 94
Points pace: 78

One of the "Atlantic Rising" trio of teams (along with Ottawa and Detroit), the Sabres have yet to really hit their stride. Unlike in seasons past -- where early-campaign surges were followed by extended losing streaks -- Buffalo has had consecutive victories just once. Perhaps when Tage Thompson gets going (he has only six goals in 16 games and is out injured now), so will the Sabres.


25. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 44.74%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Nov. 24), @ COL (Nov. 25), vs. VGK (Nov. 27), vs. DAL (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 95
Points pace: 73

Two seasons ago, the Flames won the Pacific Division by seven points. Last season was their first in the post-Johnny Gaudreau/Matthew Tkachuk era, but they were in the playoff mix until the end, missing the postseason by just two points. So yeah, a 73-point pace is disappointing. But like their fellow Albertans in Edmonton, the Flames have around three-quarters of a season to get back on track -- or start trading in those pending free agents for draft picks.


26. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 44.44%
Next seven days: @ STL (Nov. 24), vs. WPG (Nov. 26), vs. PIT (Nov. 28), vs. MIN (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 87
Points pace: 73

The Predators were in the mix for a playoff spot until April last season, prior to nascent GM Barry Trotz doing quite a bit of surgery on the roster this summer. Out are head coach John Hynes as well as veteran forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. Expectations were muted for the club in Andrew Brunette's first season behind Nashville's bench, but they're lagging behind even those modest hopes.


27. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 47.37%
Next seven days: @ SJ (Nov. 24), @ LA (Nov. 25), @ CBJ (Nov. 29), vs. FLA (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 73
Points pace: 78

There is a lot to like about this Canadiens team -- Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and a resurgent Sean Monahan are delivering the goods -- but Habs fans will need to wait another year or two for a real playoff push.


28. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 30.56%
Next seven days: @ WSH (Nov. 24), vs. ANA (Nov. 26), vs. VGK (Nov. 28), @ WPG (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 106.5
Points pace: 50

Entering the season with a projected points total that was tied for the third highest in the league, the Oilers have underperformed by the most of any team (by a wide margin). They demoted a highly paid veteran (goalie Jack Campbell), they fired head coach Jay Woodcroft, and ... have gone 2-3 since switching bench bosses. The entire hockey world believes this team can be a factor in the playoffs, but at some point they'll have to start stringing together some W's to get there.


29. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 41.18%
Next seven days: vs. COL (Nov. 24), @ DET (Nov. 26), vs. STL (Nov. 28), @ NSH (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 97
Points pace: 68

In the alternate universe where the Oilers aren't stinking up the league like they are, the Wild would hold the title for this season's biggest disappointment at American Thanksgiving. A playoff team last season, matching that result this season seems outlandish to suggest given what the team has done thus far.


30. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 35.00%
Next seven days: @ NJ (Nov. 24), @ CAR (Nov. 26), vs. BOS (Nov. 27), vs. MTL (Nov. 29)
Preseason O/U: 75
Points pace: 57

As the offseason began, there were some who believed the Blue Jackets would take the next step this season, perhaps even pushing for a wild card. There have been some things to like about Columbus' campaign; No. 3 pick Adam Fantilli has been all they'd hoped, and trade addition Ivan Provorov is among the team's leading scorers. But for a team that employs Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau ... should Zach Werenski be the leading scorer?


31. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 29.41%
Next seven days: vs. TOR (Nov. 24), vs. STL (Nov. 26), vs. SEA (Nov. 28), @ DET (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 71
Points pace: 48

Year 1 of the Connor Bedard era has gone about as expected: He's scoring a lot of points and generating content for highlight reels (or their equivalent these days), but the team is not winning all that much. And the loss of Taylor Hall for the rest of the season won't help on that front.


32. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 18.42%
Next seven days: vs. MTL (Nov. 24), vs. VAN (Nov. 25), vs. WSH (Nov. 27), @ BOS (Nov. 30)
Preseason O/U: 64.5
Points pace: 30

No one expected too much out of the Sharks this season, as GM Mike Grier begins the process of rebuilding this once-dominant club. But maybe he was a little too good in, ahem, putting them in the top draft lottery position?

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