NHL Power Rankings: Reactions from first week of NHL season

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the first week of the NHL season and some of the overreactions that may have come from it.

The first week of a season is always a great time to jump to conclusions, and there is always the chance of overreacting to a ridiculously small sample size of games. You spend all offseason waiting for the first game, and you think your team is either going to win the Stanley Cup or the season is already over depending on what they did at the start. That is going to be especially easy to do this season given the shortened training camp, lack of preseason games, and the fact everybody is just jumping right into the real games.

Every team is still getting getting up to speed and figuring itself out, and it has produced some pretty wild results so far.

So let’s take a look at some of those early results and see where your team currently sits after one week. Many of these will change dramatically in the coming weeks. Rankings only account for games through Sunday.

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. No Nikita Kucherov? No problem. A well oiled machine that just keeps humming along.

2. Philadelphia Flyers. They scored 11 goals in two games against the Penguins and Carter Hart looks strong. The latter point is the important one. If that guy is good, the Flyers are going to be good.

3. Vegas Golden Knights. As far as two-way players go Mark Stone is as good as it gets right now. With four games against a Coyotes team that will be without its captain (and top defender) for at least two of those games the Golden Knights can get off to a great start.

4. Colorado Avalanche. We saw on Saturday night what this team can do when it is clicking on all cylinders. It is scary good.

5. Washington Capitals. They have not always looked great, but five out of six points during a three-game in four-day stretch (all on the road) is a fine way to start the season.

6. Nashville Predators. Improved special teams play (the penalty kill is perfect through two games) could make this team a surprising contender again.

7. Minnesota Wild. Kirill Kaprizov looks like he is going to be worth the wait. In the spirit of overreactions the Calder Trophy might be his to lose.

8. Montreal Canadiens. Josh Anderson has two goals in two games. He had one goal in 26 games a year ago. If he is healthy and rediscovers his goal scoring touch that would be a significant addition.

9. Boston Bruins. They have played two games and only scored three goals with none of them coming at even-strength. Not too concerned about that. Yet.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs. They have not been great so far by any means, but they have done enough to win two out of three games.

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11. Calgary Flames. They let a two-goal lead slip away in the season opener, but then came back and helped Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev shut out their former team.

12. Arizona Coyotes. The Phil Kessel redemption season might be underway. The Coyotes certainly need it.

13. St. Louis Blues. When you lose the second game of the season 8-0 it kind of makes it easy to forget about the strong performance in the season opener.

14. Florida Panthers. New plan for this season: Tell Keith Yandle he is going to be a healthy scratch before every game, then play him and watch him score goals.

15. Winnipeg Jets. It is only one game, but Patrik Laine looked great in that one game.

16. Pittsburgh Penguins. They have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net so far and the power play looks horrific. Lot of wild cards on this team, none bigger than the unproven goalie duo. Think the rest of the team will figure it out.

17. Carolina Hurricanes. Andrei Svechnikov is going to be special, and he is really going to take a big step toward that this season.

18. New York Islanders. Ilya Sorokin had a tough debut, but he was also put into a tough spot when he was not expecting to play. The Islanders have played one dominant game and one lousy game.

19. New York Rangers. The Rangers have played one dominant game and one lousy game.

20. New Jersey Devils. We have seen the key to any success for them this season, and it is Mackenzie Blackwood.

21. Vancouver Canucks. The bottom half of this lineup is still a huge concern.

22. Ottawa Senators. Thomas Chabot is already a really good player and he has been great in the first two games.

23. San Jose Sharks. This goaltending situation still seems like a major issue that has not been adequately addressed yet.

24. Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going to light up the scoreboard almost every game, but the question will still be whether or not this team can stop anybody. So far the answer is no.

25. Buffalo Sabres. They probably deserved a better result in one of those first two games, but this season is still going to be an uphill battle with that goalie duo in that division.

26. Los Angeles Kings. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory so far. They have had a 3-1 lead in each game, only to lose both games 4-3 in overtime. They were two seconds away from winning the second game until Ryan Suter sent it to overtime.

27. Detroit Red Wings. Credit to them for stealing a win against Carolina, but in two games they have been outshot 73-35. That is not a sustainable way to compete.

28. Anaheim Ducks. It is still hard to see where the offense is going to come from on this team. Interesting young talent, but not enough difference makers right now.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets. Their top forward (Pierre-Luc Dubois) wants out and they looked bad in their first two games. Still think this is a potential playoff team, but this is not the start you want.

30. Chicago Blackhawks. This was going to be a bad hockey team even before they lost their top two centers. Without them it might be the worst team in the league. They have not even been competitive yet.

Unranked

Dallas Stars. How do you react to no games played yet? Check back in next week.

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.

Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

“I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

“It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

“We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers ready for 1st training camp together

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov was sound asleep at his home in Finland when the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers was finalized, which isn’t surprising considering it was around 4 a.m. in that part of the world.

He woke up and read texts from friends reacting to the deal.

And it wasn’t too long before he got a message from Tkachuk.

“The first message was `(expletive) right’ and how he was excited to come to Florida,” Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, said at Florida’s media day. “`Let’s take this next step, let’s be a winning team for many years to come.’ That’s who he is. He wants to win. He wants to bring that character to this organization. And I think he’s done some damage already.”

With that, Barkov was sold.

And after a few weeks of informally skating with one another, the Panthers start the process of officially seeing what they have in Tkachuk when the team’s training camp – the first under new coach Paul Maurice – opens.

“We’ve basically had everybody here for a few weeks,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like I’ve been in training camp for a couple of weeks. So today doesn’t feel that new to me. I’ve gotten to know everybody … so let’s get these games going. I’m sick and tired of just practicing and working. I want to start playing some games. I think everybody feels the same way.”

Maurice was hired over the summer as well, inheriting a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and went to the second round of the playoffs — the first series win for Florida since the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

He’s as eager as the players are for the first formal practice, calling it “our first Christmas.”

“The house is bought. Most of the boxes are unpacked,” Maurice said. “I’ve got two kids that kind of came with me; one’s in Coral Gables, one’s in Estero. Their places are unpacked. They’re out of our house. Once you get down here, for me, you spend most of your days at the rink. So, experiencing all of South Florida, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

As part of the deal that went down on July 22, the 24-year-old Tkachuk signed a eight-year, $76 million contract. That’s not the only big cost that the Panthers had to agree to while executing the trade; they also sent Jonathan Huberdeau, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a left wing who had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points last season.

“I wish all the best to Huby and Weegs,” Barkov said. “They’re great. Everyone loved them. Only good things to say about them. It happens, and for sure, it was best for the team and organization to do this. We move on, and we’ll get ready for a new season.”

BOBROVSKY’S SUMMER

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is Russian, still makes his home in St. Petersburg, and went there for the bulk of his offseason.

He said it was not logistically difficult to travel there (or return to the U.S.) this summer, even as the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine continues. Bobrovsky said last season that he was not trying to focus on anything but hockey, and when asked if it was difficult to be back in Russia as war continues he kept the same approach.

“I had a good summer,” Bobrovsky said. “I saw friends, I saw family. It’s all been fine. I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. I’m not involved in that stuff.”

CAMP ROSTER

Florida is opening camp with 56 players – 31 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goalies. That group includes brothers Eric Staal and Marc Staal; Marc Staal signed as a free agent in July; Eric Staal is with Florida on a tryout contract.

Coyotes sign Barrett Hayton right before training camp

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes signed forward Barrett Hayton to a two-year contract right before the start of training camp.

Terms of the deal were not released.

The 22-year-old Hayton was a restricted free agent and not initially listed on Arizona’s roster for camp.

Hayton had 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games with the Coyotes last season, all career highs.

Arizona drafted the Peterborough, Ontario native with the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft. He has 13 goals and 18 assists in 94 career games with the Coyotes.