NHL Power Rankings: The Top Ten and FINALE

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It is finally time to wrap up my NHL Power Rankings! I apologize for the wait, but some things came up and I had to postpone this longer than I originally anticipated. But, here we go! In case you missed it, you can find part one (the bottom feeders) here, part two (the lower-middle tier) here, and part three (the upper-middle tier) here! I was going to split the top ten into two articles, but again, things came up and I now have to push them both into one.

 

  1. Vegas Golden Knights

Projected lineup:

Marchessault (27-48-75)-Karlsson (43-35-78)-Smith (22-38-60)

Pacioretty (17-20-37)-Stastny (16-37-53)-Tuch (15-22-37)

Nosek (7-8-15)-Haula (29-26-55)-Carpenter (9-5-14)

Lindberg (9-2-11)/Carr (6-10-16)-Eakin (11-16-27)-Reaves (4-6-10)/Bellemare (6-10-16)

 

McNabb (5-10-15)-Miller (10-31-41)

Theodore (6-23-29)-Engelland (5-18-23)

Merrill (1-2-3)/Holden (4-13-17)-Hunt (3-15-18)

 

Fleury (29-13-4 record, 2.24 GAA, .927 SV%, 4 shutouts)

Subban (13-4-2 record, 2.68 GAA, .910 SV%, 0 shutouts)

 

Overview: Literally nobody saw the expansion Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals coming in their inaugural season in the NHL last year. A lot of that should be attributed to William Karlsson somehow turning into an offensive machine. The entire lineup last year was full of the scraps from around the NHL, and they pulled it all together and they just kept winning. Based on last year, that top six is extremely good, and there is good depth in the bottom six. Ideally you add another top nine scorer, but they’re solid for now. The defense is iffy, especially if Shea Theodore’s contract issues spill into the season, and even more so after losing Nate Schmidt for 20 games due to suspension. It’s still not awful as is, but the beginning of the season could be rough without Schmidt and Theodore in the lineup. Fleury had a resurgence in net, and it was amazing to see. The backup goalie carrousel went through Vegas last year, but Malcom Subban looks primed to run away with it this year. If I was being completely honest, I would say that you can expect some hard regressions from guys like Karlsson and Smith, and that the team won’t be as good as it was a year ago. But, since these are power rankings and not playoff predictions, Vegas is rightfully towards the top of the list, and it should be another interesting and crazy year. But, like I said at the end of last year, I think Vegas is going to regress and miss the playoffs altogether this year.

 

  1. St. Louis Blues

Projected lineup:

Maroon (17-26-43)-O’Reilly (24-37-61)-Tarasenko (33-33-66)

Schwartz (24-35-59)-Schenn (28-42-70)-Perron (16-50-66)

Steen (15-31-46)-Bozak (11-32-43)-Fabbri (N/A)

Nolan (4-4-8)/Thorburn (1-6-7)-Barbashev (7-6-13)/Thomas (N/A)-Jaskin (6-11-17)

 

Bouwmeester (2-5-7)-Pietrangelo (15-39-54)

Edmundson (7-10-17)-Parayko (6-29-35)

Dunn (5-19-24)-Gunnarsson (5-4-9)/Bortuzzo (4-9-13)

 

Allen (27-25-3 record, 2.75 GAA, .906 SV%, 1 shutout)

Johnson (10-17-3 record, 3.59 GAA, .890 SV%, 0 shutouts)

 

Overview: The Blues are easily one of the most improved NHL teams coming into this season. Adding Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak really bolsters their center depth, and getting Robby Fabbri back from another major injury should be huge. The top nine is all-around dangerous, and they have a couple of young centers that probably could make a case for a top nine role as well. The defense is also solid. The top four is pretty good, although I think you could upgrade on Bouwmeester. The team would probably be served well to add a top four defenseman. Goaltending is definitely shaky. The Blues let Carter Hutton go in free agency, so it’s all on Jake Allen now, and he’s proven to be wildly inconsistent. If Allen can find his groove and turn in a solid season, the Blues should be a dangerous team. But, due to the questions around Allen’s consistency, it’s hard to see how the Blues can finish in a top three spot in such a tough division. They’ll be right there, but a wildcard spot might be more likely.

 

  1. Boston Bruins

Projected lineup:

Marchand (34-51-85)-Bergeron (30-33-63)-Pastrnak (35-45-80)

DeBrusk (16-27-43)-Krejci (17-27-44)- Heinen (16-31-47)

Bjork (4-8-12)- Donato (5-4-9)- Backes (14-19-33)

Wagner (7-9-16)/Nordstrom (2-5-7)-Kuraly (6-8-14)-Acciari (10-1-11)

 

Chara (7-17-24)-McAvoy (7-25-32)

Krug (14-45-59)-Carlo (0-6-6)

Moore (7-11-18)-Miller (1-15-16)/Grzelcyk (3-12-15)/Kampfer (0-1-1)

 

Rask (34-14-5 record, 2.36 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 shutouts)

Halak (20-26-6 record, 3.19 GAA, .908 SV%, 1 shutout)

 

Overview: Boston has a very nice group of forwards. Marchand and Pastrnak are two of the best wingers in the NHL, and Bergeron is arguably the best two-way forward in the NHL. Boston has a lot of young players that are looking to come in and take a spot, and I think that the offense should be very good. There are some question marks around some players in the bottom six, but the Bruins have players like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson who could be ready to jump in. The defense is solid as well, especially with a top pairing of Chara and McAvoy. Torey Krug is one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, and if Brandon Carlo can prove himself to be ready, he could find himself playing a key role as well. John Moore was a good pickup for the bottom pairing and should excel on this team. Tuukka Rask is one of the better goaltenders in the game, but he can be inconsistent at times. I don’t have much faith in Halak behind him, so the Bruins hopes will likely sit on Rask’s shoulders. This should definitely be a top three team in the Atlantic Division if they can stay healthy.

 

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Projected lineup:

Guentzel (22-26-48)-Crosby (29-60-89)-Hornqvist (29-20-49)

Hagelin (10-21-31)-Malkin (42-56-98)-Kessel (34-58-92)

Rust (13-25-38)-Brassard (21-25-46)-Sprong (2-1-3)

Aston Reese (4-2-6)/Simon (4-8-12)-Cullen (11-11-22)-Sheahan (11-21-32)

 

Dumoulin (5-13-18)-Letang (9-42-51)

Maatta (7-22-29)-Schultz (4-23-27)

Johnson (3-8-11)-Oleksiak (5-12-17)

 

Murray (27-16-3 record, 2.92 GAA, .907 SV%, 1 shutout)

Jarry (14-6-2 record, 2.77 GAA, .908 SV%, 2 shutouts)

 

Overview: Surprise surprise, the Penguins look good. Crosby, Malkin, and Brassard make up the best group of top nine centers in the NHL, and no other team really comes remotely close. The Penguins could arguably use another top nine winger, but it’s also not a pressing need, at least not if Sprong proves he is ready to be a full time NHL player. The team has depth, and a lot of it. The defense is a little iffy, however. Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, and Olli Maatta all have history of injuries, although they stayed relatively healthy last season. I’m not very high on Maata, or even Dumoulin, and think they could upgrade there, but that’s probably not likely to happen. I would say they could add a defenseman to get Jack Johnson out of the lineup, but they are pretty committed to him, for whatever reason. I’m also not a huge fan of Matt Murray’s game, and he has injury issues as well, but he can still be solid. Pittsburgh should yet again be a top three team in the Metropolitan Division, and I could see them making another deep run into the playoffs.

 

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs

Projected lineup:

Marleau (27-20-47)-Matthews (34-29-63)-Nylander (20-41-61)

Hyman (15-25-40)-Tavares (37-47-84)-Marner (22-47-69)

Johnsson (2-1-3)-Kadri (32-23-55)-Brown (14-14-28)

Ennis (8-14-22)-Lindholm (N/A)/Gauthier (1-0-1)-Kapanen (7-2-9)/Leivo (1-3-4)

 

Rielly (6-46-52)-Hainsey (4-19-23)

Gardiner (5-47-52)-Zaitsev (5-8-13)

Dermott (1-12-13)-Carrick (4-8-12)/Holl (2-0-2)

 

Andersen (38-21-5 record, 2.81 GAA, .918 SV%, 5 shutouts)

McElhinney (11-5-1 record, 2.14 GAA, .934 SV%, 3 shutouts)/Sparks (N/A)

 

Overview: The Maple Leafs caught the biggest fish of the offseason when they signed star center John Tavares in free agency. Toronto now has the best group of centers in the NHL, and they have a couple of solid wingers in Mitch Marner and William Nylander (if he is signed) to go with them. Toronto would be well served to add a top six or top nine forward to the lineup, and maybe even two depending on how some younger guys perform. The defense is shaky, but it’s not terrible. Rielly and Gardiner are both definitely offensive minded defensemen, and their defensive game is suspect at times. I really like Travis Dermott, and I also think Connor Carrick is a solid guy to have on the bottom pairing. Ron Hainsey is getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be playing on the top pair at all. Toronto would also be well served to add a right shot defenseman to the top four. Freddy Andersen is a great goalie, and there shouldn’t be any problems there. Garrett Sparks has been the AHL’s best goalie for what seems like forever, but who knows if he’ll get the shot to finally make it to the NHL. The Toronto lineup is a good one overall, but it isn’t without its flaws. They’ll be good enough to be top three in the Atlantic Division as is, but I question whether or not they’ll be able to make a serious run beyond that.

 

  1. San Jose Sharks

Projected lineup:

Kane (29-25-54)-Thornton (13-23-36)-Pavelski (22-44-66)

Donskoi (14-18-32)-Couture (34-27-61)-Meier (21-15-36)

Hertl (22-25-47)-Suomela (N/A)-Labanc (11-28-39)

Sorenson (5-2-7)-Goodrow (7-7-14)/Gambrell (N/A)-Karlsson (8-11-19)

 

Vlasic (11-21-32)-Karlsson (9-53-62)

Ryan (3-9-12)-Burns (12-55-67)

Dillon (5-17-22)-Braun (5-28-33)

 

Jones (30-22-6 record, 2.55 GAA, .915 SV%, 4 shutouts)

Dell (15-5-4 record, 2.64 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 shutouts)

 

Overview: Following a 100 point campaign that ended up earning third place in the Pacific Division, San Jose once again looks like a legit contender. The top nine looks to be good, and pretty much all of those guys could slot up and down the entirety of the forward lineup. I think Logan Couture is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, and all around I like the forwards for the Sharks. After trading for star defenseman Erik Karlsson, San Jose has one of the top defensive units in the NHL. Burns, Vlasic, Karlsson, Dillon, Braun, and Ryan is one hell of a defensive unit. There are a lot of different ways to deploy those defenders, but you really can’t go wrong. Martin Jones is a good goalie, and Aaron Dell is one of the best backups in the NHL. All around, this team is talented and has plenty of depth. If San Jose can stay healthy, which is a concern, they could be the best team in the division, and I think they are a serious contender to make a run this season.

 

  1. Washington Capitals

Projected lineup:

Ovechkin (49-38-87)-Kuznetsov (27-56-83)-Wilson (14-21-35)

Vrana (13-14-27)-Backstrom (21-50-71)-Oshie (18-29-47)

Burakovsky (12-13-25)-Eller (18-20-38)-Connolly (15-12-27)

Stephenson (6-12-18)-Boyd (0-1-1)/Dowd (3-1-4)-Smith Pelly (7-9-16)/Shumakov (N/A)

 

Kempny (3-7-10)-Carlson (15-53-68)

Orlov (10-21-31)-Niskanen (7-22-29)

Djoos (3-11-14)-Bowey (0-12-12)/Orpik (0-10-10)

 

Holtby (34-16-4 record, 2.99 GAA, .907 SV%, 0 shutouts)

Copley (N/A)

 

Overview: They finally did it! Ovechkin finally got his cup, and the nation’s capital celebrated all summer long. Overall, I like the Capitals’ lineup again. The top six would probably be better without Tom Wilson, but I guess it works for them. They have somewhat decent winger depth, and I think that KHL signing Shumakov will be a nice fit in Washington. I would definitely say that adding a top six winger should be a priority for this team. The defense is solid, especially with the likes of John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov. Kempny shouldn’t be on the top pair, and is probably better suited on the bottom pairing. The defense isn’t a huge issue, but the Caps would also be smart to look for a top four left handed defenseman to play in the top four. Braden Holtby wasn’t his usual dominant self a year ago, and that sparks some concern with former backup Phillip Grubauer now in Colorado. I think that Holtby will return to his elite form, but if he doesn’t, this team might be in trouble. Washington again looks to be one of the two best teams in the Metropolitan Division, but they are a major injury or two away from being in serious trouble.

 

  1. Nashville Predators

Projected lineup:

Forsberg (26-38-64)-Johansen (15-39-54)-Arvidsson (29-32-61)

Fiala (23-25-48)-Turris (16-35-51)-Smith (25-26-51)

Tolvanen (N/A)-Bonino (12-13-25)-Sissons (9-18-27)

Salomaki (2-6-8)/Watson (14-5-19)-Jarnkrok (16-19-35)-Hartman (11-20-31)

 

Josi (14-39-53)-Ellis (9-23-32)

Ekholm (10-24-34)-Subban (16-43-59)

Hamhuis (3-21-24)/Irwin (2-6-8)-Weber (2-3-5)

 

Rinne (42-13-4 record, 2.31 GAA, .927 SV%, 8 shutouts)

Saros (11-5-7 record, 2.44 GAA, .925 SV%, 3 shutouts)

 

Overview: In case you didn’t know, Nashville is pretty darn good. The top six is one of the best all around units in the NHL. If Tolvanen can find his game in the NHL and Bonino bounces back, the third line could be dangerous as well. And then, the fourth line is solid too, even with Austin Watson eventually there. The defense is a top two unit in the NHL with Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban. That’s just unfair. Hamhuis is a nice addition to the bottom pair to replace Alexi Emelin. Pekka Rinne had an amazing season last year, and he took home the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie. Saros will eventually be the starter in Nashville, but for now he’s arguably the best backup goalie in the NHL. All around, this team is stacked. I could see them trying to add another top nine goal scorer at the deadline, but there aren’t any glaring weaknesses in this lineup. Expect a top two finish in the Central Division.

 

  1. Winnipeg Jets

Projected lineup:

Connor (31-26-57)-Scheifele (23-37-60)-Wheeler (23-68-91)

Ehlers (29-31-60)-Little (16-27-43)-Laine (44-26-70)

Vesalainen (N/A)/Dano (2-1-3)-Roslovic (5-9-14)-Perreault (17-22-39)

Copp (9-19-28)-Lowry (8-13-21)-Tanev (8-10-18)/Petan (2-0-2)

 

Morrissey (7-19-26)-Trouba (3-21-24)

Kulikov (3-8-11)-Byfuglien (8-37-45)

Chiarot (2-12-14)/Morrow (6-10-16)-Myers (6-30-36)

 

Hellebuyck (44-11-9 record, 2.36 GAA, .924 SV%, 6 shutouts)

Brossoit (3-7-1 record, 3.24 GAA, .883 SV%, 0 shutouts)

 

Overview: I love Winnipeg. They had an amazing year last season, and lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden Knights. Who would’ve thought that those two teams meet in the WCF??? The Jets’ offense looks stacked again, at least in the top nine. Losing Paul Stastny will hurt, but youngster Jack Roslovic should be a good replacement. If Vesalainen proves he isn’t ready for the NHL quite yet, the Jets should probably look to add a winger to replace him for this year. This offense has a lot of star power, and all lines could potentially be a threat to do damage. The defense is solid, and it would be a lot better if one of Trouba, Byfuglien, or Myers played on the left side. Trouba could, but I think that he wants to stay on the right side. I really, really like Josh Morrissey, and I think that he’s a very good defenseman to have in your top four. Connor Hellebuyck came in second in Vezina voting (again, who would’ve thought?), and if he can perform like that again, there is no stopping this team. The Central Division will be tough, but Winnipeg is almost a sure bet to remain as one of the top two teams.

 

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Projected lineup:

Miller (23-35-58)-Stamkos (27-59-86)-Kucherov (39-61-100)

Palat (11-24-35)-Point (32-34-66)-Gourde (25-39-64)

Killorn (15-32-47)-Cirelli (5-6-11)-Johnson (21-29-50)

Conacher (8-4-12)-Paquette (5-4-9)-Andreoff (3-6-9)/Erne (3-1-4)

 

Hedman (17-46-63)-Stralman (4-14-18)

McDonagh (4-25-29)-Girardi (6-12-18)/Dotchin (3-8-11)

Coburn (1-14-15)/Koekkoek (4-4-8)-Sergachev (9-31-40)

 

Vasilevskiy (44-17-3 record, 2.62 GAA, .920 SV%, 8 shutouts)

Domingue (7-9-1 record, 3.41 GAA, .894 SV%, 0 shutouts)

 

Overview: Surprise surprise, Tampa Bay is looking like one of the best teams in the NHL heading into the season! The Lightning have some seriously strong center depth, which at least four centers that should be playing key top nine minutes. The wingers are just as impressive, as they have a lot of depth at every offensive position, with plenty of star power to go around. Ryan Callahan will likely miss some time to start the season as he recovers from an injury, but he shouldn’t be out for too long. On defense, the Lightning probably have eight defensemen that are capable of playing in the NHL. You really can’t go wrong, but I also guess that you could with Dan Girardi. Victor Hedman won the Norris Trophy last season, and he’ll look to have an even stronger campaign on a stacked defense. The team is just deep all-around, and they have young talent in the AHL that could be close to NHL ready as well. Vasilevskiy was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL a year ago, and he had a serious case for the Vezina Trophy. Domingue is a very shaky backup, but if he can find consistency in his presumed limited time of action, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Tampa Bay has a history of key injuries to star players early on, but if they can avoid that, they’re a clear contender to be atop the Eastern Conference. I probably should have learned by now that picking Tampa Bay as the top team in the league is always a bad idea, but here we are again. Their roster is impressive, and gives them the slight edge over Winnipeg and Nashville for the top spot in my rankings.

 

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