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NHL Power Rankings: Jets offense can be scary good

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

When we talk about the top Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference the first team that comes to mind would have to be the Nashville Predators. They were in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, made significant additions to the roster, and are still in a position to make at least one more this week before the NHL trade deadline.

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights, currently the top team in the West, also have to be in that conversation as well. They have a great offense, strong goaltending, and seem to have that intangible chip on the shoulder with something to prove.

But after that who do we have next?

Well, it might just have to be the Winnipeg Jets thanks in large part to an offense that has become ridiculously good in a short period of time. After finishing sixth in the league in goals a season ago, the Jets have come back this season and entering play on Monday are third in the league in goals per game.

Now that Mark Scheifele is back in the lineup that are clicking on all cylinders.

They not only have high-end talent like Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Scheifele, and Nikolaj Ehlers, it is a deep, balanced offense that really does not have many weak links.

Entering the week they have the top spot in the Central Division (though Nashville is only two points back with two games still in hand) and are just two points back of Vegas for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.

This is an organization that is still searching for its first ever postseason victory, and how well Connor Hellebuyck holds up in net will determine how many wins they will be able to get in the playoffs once they get there, but this offense is going to give them a chance against anybody.

They reach the No. 3 spot in this week’s power rankings.

Let us take a look at where everyone else sits this week.

The Elites

1. Boston Bruins — They were blown out by Vancouver recently but that is just a small blip on the radar. They are still 20-3-3 in their past 26 games.

2. Vegas Golden Knights — Entering play on Monday the Vegas Golden Knights have the best points percentage in the NHL. That means they are on track to win the Presidents’ Trophy. In their first season.

3. Winnipeg Jets — They are a fun team to watch. The rebuild has been slow, but it is finally paying off.

4. Nashville Predators — They have to be considered one of the top favorites in the NHL at this point and you have to assume they are going to make a big addition before the trade deadline. Rick Nash seems perfect.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning — With four losses in their past seven games that qualifies as a little bit of a slump. Still not much to worry about big picture. This team is legit. Slumps like this happen over 82 games.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins — Matt Murray and Carl Hagelin starting to round into form is a pretty big deal for the Penguins. Could be game-changers.

The Rest Of The Contenders

7. Toronto Maple Leafs — They lost four games in a row in mid-January. Since then they are 11-4-0 and scoring a ton of goals. They are never boring.

8. Dallas Stars — Remember just a couple of years ago how their games were just defense optional goal scoring surges? The Stars are fifth in the NHL in goals against this season. The Ken Hitchcock effect.

9. Philadelphia Flyers — They are winning an awful lot but with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth injured who is going to play in goal?

10. Washington Capitals — The results are there, but the more I watch them the more doubts I have about them. Still very good. Still a dangerous team. Just not sure about them.

All Of These Teams Seem The Same

11. San Jose Sharks — Have to give the Sharks a lot of credit for getting through some pretty significant injuries and still finding ways to score goals and win. Not easy to be without a player like Joe Thornton.

12. New Jersey Devils — Just when it looked like they were in danger of really falling out of the playoff race they go on a four-game winning streak. Taylor Hall is making a strong MVP argument for himself.

13. St. Louis Blues — A three-game losing streak, as well as a surging Dallas team, has pushed the Blues back into a Wild Card spot and a little closer to the playoff bubble. They are still in pretty good shape so concern shouldn’t be too high. Yet.

14. Minnesota Wild — Eric Staal is quietly having a better season this year than he did last year. His performance last year was completely unexpected, too. If they make the playoffs he will be a big reason why.

15. Calgary Flames — Along with the Kings and Ducks, the two teams that follow them in this week’s rankings, they could either finish in the top-three of the Pacific Division or just as easily miss the playoffs. They have only won five of their past 14 games.

16. Los Angeles Kings — They don’t have a ton of talent and could probably use a bit of a reset in terms of how they build their team. They could make the playoffs, but even if they do, do they seem like a threat to go far?

17. Anaheim Ducks — Right in the thick of that jumbled Western Conference playoff race, but everyone they are competing with has games in hand on them, giving them a slightly steeper mountain to climb with less margin for error than some of the other teams they are competing with.

18. New York Islanders — They already have seven players with at least 14 goals this season. Imagine them with a halfway decent defense and goaltending situation.

19. Carolina Hurricanes — Let’s take a look at how things have gone for the Hurricanes over the past month. Lost two. Won three. Lost three. Won three. Lost three. Consistently inconsistent.

20. Florida Panthers — They have won a lot recently, they still have a ton of games in hand on everybody, but it still seems like that gap is still too much to make up. But we will give them credit for the way they have played recently and bump them up a few spots.

21. Colorado Avalanche — Nathan MacKinnon returned, and that is good. Then they lost to Edmonton at home. That is … not good.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets — They are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. They should be better than this. They might be better than this. They need to start getting some results though.

Buy A Lottery Ticket

23. New York Rangers — Henrik Lundqvist looks completely exhausted and totally worn out. The team in front of him is lousy defensively and is probably only going to get worse over the next week when players get traded.

24. Detroit Red Wings — Bad time for Mike Green to be injured. Unless they are just keeping him out of the lineup to preserve him for a trade?

25. Chicago Blackhawks — The eight-game losing streak got a lot of attention but it is actually much worse than that. They have won just five of their past 17 games entering play on Monday.

26. Ottawa Senators — Who is going to go over the next week? Derrick Brassard? Mike Hoffman? Jean-Gabriel Pageau? Dare we ask … Erik Karlsson?

27. Vancouver Canucks — When you are rebuilding and out of the playoff race you just have to re-sign Eric Gudbranson. Well, no, no you don’t, but the Canucks seem determined to make that happen anyway.

28. Arizona Coyotes — They still have the worst record in the league but give them a lot of credit for playing the way they have recently and stringing some wins together.

A Level Of Their Own At The Bottom

29. Edmonton Oilers — Updating a stat from a week ago. Since Feb. 1, a stretch of nine games, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined to score 16 goals. The Edmonton Oilers have won two of those games. Keep boosting those draft lottery odds.

3o. Buffalo Sabres — They were lousy with Jack Eichel. They are even lousier without him. Perhaps the low point of the season came over the weekend against the Los Angeles Kings when they gave up three goals on three consecutive shots.

31. Montreal Canadiens — Only 4-11-1 in their past 16 and one of the worst records in the NHL overall.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fantasy Adds & Drops: Time to lose Lucic

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This weekly column will aim to help you navigate through the rough waters of your fantasy league’s waiver wire. We’ll recommend players you should think of adding that are owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and we’ll also make recommendations on players you should think of dropping. 

Here we go:

Adds:

Clayton Keller– C/LW/RW- Arizona Coyotes (44 percent)

After a terrific start to his rookie season, Keller’s play dropped off. He wasn’t putting up as many points and he wasn’t making as many headlines as he was in October and November. But it looks like now might be the right time to pick up in your fantasy leagues. He has eight points in his last six games, including a four-point night against Montreal last week.

Anthony Mantha– LW/RW- Detroit Red Wings (39 percent)

Mantha was owned in a lot more leagues earlier this season, but his production dropped off quite a bit. He appears to be back on now, as he’s picked up six points in his last six games. He’s versatile enough because he’s eligible to play both wing positions in Yahoo leagues. The Red Wings forward should be added in deeper leagues.

Nico Hischier– C- New Jersey Devils (30 percent)

Hischier and Taylor Hall have formed a remarkable duo over the last little while. After hitting a bit of a wall near the midway point of the season, the first overall pick from last June’s draft has managed to pick up the offensive part of his game. He’s now found the back of the net in four straight games and he’s riding a five-game point streak.

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Derick Brassard– C- Ottawa Senators (25 percent)

It sure seems like trade winds have given Brassard an added boost of motivation. The Sens forward has racked up six points in his last four games and he’s coming off a three-point performance against the Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

Ondrej Kase– LW/RW- Anaheim Ducks (11 percent)

Kase isn’t a big name, but he’s been lighting it up for Anaheim lately. The 22-year-old has nine points in his last seven games. He’s on pace to hit the 25-goal mark in 2017-18. He could be an intriguing add in deeper fantasy leagues.

Drops:

Milan Lucic– LW- Edmonton Oilers (59 percent)

If your league doesn’t award points for penalty minutes, there’s absolutely no reason for Lucic to be on your roster. He hasn’t picked up a point in any of his last 11 games and he hasn’t scored in 22. And in his last 12 contests, he’s also managed to accumulate just four penalty minutes. Lucic needs to be dropped ASAP.

[More Fantasy: Check out the Rotoworld Hockey Podcast]

Ryan Kesler– C- Anaheim Ducks (47 percent)

The 2017-18 season hasn’t been kind to Kesler. He missed over two months of action because of a hip injury and he just hasn’t looked like himself since returning. The Ducks forward missed the last game because of a lower-body issue. It’s time to cut ties with him and add one of the other players mentioned above.

Robin Lehner– G- Buffalo Sabres (51 percent)

Not only are the Sabres struggling, but Lehner is now day-to-day with an injury. Don’t expect Buffalo to win many games down the stretch, so picking up someone like Petr Mrazek, who might get traded before the deadline, could be a worthwhile gamble.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Olympic qualification matchups set; Ducks GM thinks deadline prices are too high

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com

• The round robin portion of the men’s tournament is over, which means the qualification matchups have been set. (NBC Olympics)

• The U.S. Women’s Hockey players proved to be activists in their quest for equal pay and benefits. (Yahoo)

• German goalie Danny aus den Birken came up huge in a win over Norway. (NBC Olympics)

• There doesn’t appear to be many quality American hockey players outside of the NHL. USA Hockey should probably be blamed for that. (scottywazz.com)

• James Wisniewski’s father, who is in South Korea taking in the Olympics, has been diagnosed with a norovirus. (USA Today)

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

• Ducks GM Bob Murray thinks the asking prices from other general managers are a little too high right now. (OC Register)

• The ‘Hawks might be struggling right now, but they enjoyed a heck of a run over the last decade. (Daily Herald)

• New Jersey has a pretty special duo in Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall. (All About the Jersey)

Eric Staal has been an important member of the Minnesota Wild this season. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Take a deeper look at what makes Aleksander Barkov such an awesome two-way player. (NHL.com)

• Eugene Melnyck made himself the new CEO of the Ottawa Senators. (Ottawa Sun)

• There’s always a difference between what a fan thinks a player is worth and what a player is actually worth on the trade market. (Spector’s Hockey)

• Are the Coyotes actively looking to move Max Domi? Different hockey insiders have given us different answers. (Arizona Sports 98.7FM)

• The Blues are in a Wild Card spot right now, so should they consider being buyers or sellers at the deadline? (St. Louis Game Time)

• Dallas should consider making a trade to improve their struggling power play. (Defending Big D)

• The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the worst teams in the NHL this season, and season ticket holders are paying the financial price. (Buffalo News)

• Being part of the 2016 All-Star has opened up a number of different opportunities for John Scott. (CFJC Today)

• It sounds like the San Jose Sharks will start using their old logo again. (NBC Bay Area)

Cam Ward and his seven-year-old son shared a special moment on the ice on Friday night. (Charlotte News & Observer)

• You can check out the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Rangers and Flyers by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Nugent-Hopkins for Hoffman makes sense; OAR dominate Slovenia

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Team USA veterans like Brian Gionta and Matt Gilroy have helped young players feel comfortable. (NBC Olympics)

• Slovenia managed to beat Team USA, but they weren’t so fortunate against the Olympic Athletes of Russia. (NBC Olympics)

• The puck used to score Korea’s first goal at the Olympics is heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Yonhap News)

• American Matt McIlvane has the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of Team Germany’s coaching staff. (NBC Olympics)

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

• The Kings probably won’t have to make a trade to get an offensive boost, as Jeff Carter is closing in on a return. (LA Times)

• A trade involving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mike Hoffman makes a lot of sense for the Sens and Oilers. (TSN.ca)

• It’s been a rough year for the Blackhawks, but it looks like they have a plan moving forward. (ESPN)

• Dave Lozo writes an interesting piece about how every team should make the playoffs! (Vice Sports)

• Sabres could Chad Johnson could be on the move before the trade deadline. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• How will Lightning GM Steve Yzerman approach the trade deadline? (Raw Charge)

• Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers has a hard time scoring on breakaways. (Jets Nation)

Zach Werenski showed off his elite vision while shopping for furniture. (1st Ohio Battery)

• Here’s the story of a young hockey player that left Canaan to come to Canada to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL. (Times of Israel)

• Certain Sabres have stepped up in Jack Eichel‘s absence. (Die By the Blade)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Taylor Hall sets Devils franchise record with 16-game point streak

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Taylor Hall did something on Thursday night that no other New Jersey Devils player has in the team’s history.

With an assist on Nico Hischier‘s third-period goal, Hall extended his point streak to 16 games.

Hall has 11 goals and 24 points during the streak. And perhaps what is most impressive about his hot run is how much punishment he’s taken while on it.

Many will remember the attack Hall endured from Alex Burrows on Feb. 6.

Burrows, who was later suspended 10-games for his antics, appeared to drive his knee into the back of Hall’s head twice, this after jumping him from behind.

And then a few nights ago, Hall was on the receiving end of a devastating (but clean) hit from Philadelphia Flyers forward Radko Gudas.

Hall actually scored on the play, and despite appearing very shaken up, returned to the game later on.

Hall also nearly ended his streak on his own accord after a dangerous hit from behind on Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo.

Hall escaped suspension on the hit, getting hit in the wallet to the tune of $5,000 in lieu.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck