NHL Power Rankings: Early surprises, disappointments, and mystery teams

In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we have a couple of surprises at the top and bottom of the rankings.

At the top, we have the Montreal Canadiens who have been the most impressive (and surprising) team in the league with a 4-0-2 start that has looked even better than the record.

At the opposite end of that spectrum, we have a Vancouver Canucks teams that has been one of the biggest early season disappointments.

We take a look at them, and every other team in the league.

Where does your team rank so far?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Montreal Canadiens. They have 10 out of a possible 12 points, the best goal differential, and great possession numbers while every game so far has been on the road. They look great. Let them enjoy the top spot for a week.

2. Vegas Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury is not giving up his job without a fight and you should be puttting Mark Stone in your early season MVP discussion.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos is back, healthy, and looks great. That will help cover up for the absence of Nikita Kucherov.

4. Colorado Avalanche. Okay maybe at this point this is more of a projection given their early results. But this is the best team in the league on paper. There is no obvious weakness. The results will follow. Be patient.

5. Boston Bruins. The floodgates are starting to open offensively after a slow start, and David Pastrnak‘s return is still looming.

6. New York Islanders. Offense is not great so far (as expected) but they do not give up anything. Betting against a Barry Trotz coached team is never a good idea. They always seem to find a way.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs. The stars at the top are doing their thing offensively. Need the goaltending to be a little better.

8. Calgary Flames. A great start for Jacob Markstrom to shut down his former team in back-to-back games. If he plays like this all year that is going to be a game-changer in the North Division.

9. Dallas Stars. Small sample size alert! But, no team has won more playoff games than the Stars over the past two years and after an extended layoff to start the season they came out and put seven goals on the board in their first game.

10. St. Louis Blues. They had one terrible game against Colorado, but this is still going to be a contender and they still have the Vladimir Tarasenko wild card in their back pocket.

Promising start but need to see more to know it is for real

11. Washington Capitals. On one hand, they have at least one point in every game. On the other hand four of their games (and all three wins) are against a questionable Buffalo team and they blew a bunch of leads against Pittsburgh and turned what looked like wins into losses. Mixed bag here so far.

12. New Jersey Devils. A very surprising start here, especially the two games without Mackenzie Blackwood. Jack Hughes is ready to become a star.

13. Minnesota Wild. Kirill Kaprizov is exactly what the Wild needed.

14. Carolina Hurricanes. Hard to get a read on them since we have only seen three games, and their schedule the rest of the way is going to be very condensed.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins. They are winning games, but there is nothing pretty about them. They have played with the lead for 34 minutes this season, second lowest total in the league. They have spent more than 160 minutes trailing, third most in the league. Something has to change there if wins are going to continue.

16. Winnipeg Jets. This season looks exactly like it should have been expected: Great offense, strong goaltending, very weak defense.

The mystery teams (what are they going to be?)

17. Philadelphia Flyers. After sweeping Pittsburgh to open the season the Flyers have lost three out of four and allowed at last five goals in each of those losses. They were a mystery at the start and nothing has changed through a week-and-a-half.

18. Florida Panthers. They only have two games but they did what they should have done: Beat a bad team.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrik Laine should boost the power play, but his arrival brings a lot of questions.

20. Los Angeles Kings. It is early, but they have been more competitive than expected against some of the league’s top teams.

21. Anaheim Ducks. John Gibson is off to an incredible start. If the Ducks are going to compete, they need that.

22. San Jose Sharks. The schedule has not been kind (all on the road, tough teams, etc.), and it is not going to get any easier this week with Colorado and Vegas looming over the next four games.

23. Edmonton Oilers. This looks an awful lot like every other Oilers season in the Connor McDavidLeon Draisaitl era. Those two carry the offense, the rest of the team provides nothing. That recipe has not worked.

24. Buffalo Sabres. They have kept things close against some good teams, but that is not going to be good enough in this division.

25. Nashville Predators. Filip Forsberg is scoring goals, but those special teams issues that hurt them a year ago are still out there so far.

It could be a long season

26. Arizona Coyotes. They were going to be facing an uphill battle with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the lineup. Going to be even tougher without him for a few weeks.

27. New York Rangers. Not the start they envisioned, and making up ground in this division might be tough.

28. Chicago Blackhawks. Against Detroit they are 2-0 and outscored them 10-3. Against teams not from Detroit they are 0-4 and been outscored 20-9.

29. Detroit Red Wings. Bobby Ryan might end up being a real bright spot (until he gets traded to a contender).

30. Ottawa Senators. The roster looks better on paper but there is still a long way to go here.

31. Vancouver Canucks. No, you should not expect the Canucks to be here all year. They will get better. But this start? Yikes. It deserves the bottom spot at least for one week. Three straight games against Ottawa this week might be what they need.

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.

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    Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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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

    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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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.