NHL Power Rankings: Looking at the Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders

In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a little bit of a different look at the rankings since there have not been many games over the past week. This week we are going to simply take a look at where every team stands in the league and separate them into four different tiers of teams.

Those tiers include….

  • The Favorites. Teams that should be head and shoulders above the rest of the league and front runners to win the Stanley Cup.
  • The Contenders. Teams that still have a chance to win the Stanley Cup but are maybe a tier below the favorites.
  • The Pretenders. These teams might be playoff teams, they might be fringe playoff teams, they might be just outside of the playoff picture, but they are probably not going to win the Stanley Cup this season.
  • The Lottery Teams. Teams that are probably not going to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Where does your team sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

The Favorites (the elites)

Carolina Hurricanes. If Frederik Andersen stays healthy and keeps playing the way he has they can beat anybody.

Tampa Bay Lightning. They have all of the ingredients in place to three-peat and will have a rested, healthy Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point back come playoff time. They are still winning games without their two best skaters and after losing their entire third line in the offseason. Incredible team.

[Related: Lightning looking like team capable of three-peat]

Colorado Avalanche. By points percentage they have the best record in the Western Conference entering the week. They have not really had a fully healthy roster all season, either. Incredible team.

Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky will determine a lot, but even if he struggles they still have Spencer Knight waiting in the wings.

The Contenders (Stanley Cup is still realistic goal)

Toronto Maple Leafs. I know, I know. That recent playoff history will follow them around until they do something to change the narrative.

Minnesota Wild. Really like this team, but they need some good news on the Joel Eriksson Ek injury front in the short term. He is a key cog for that team.

Washington Capitals. They are one of the best teams in the league and have been without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha for most of the season. Goaltending will be the key here.

Pittsburgh Penguins. They have better depth than most people around the league realize and have an Evgeni Malkin return (he has yet to play this season) looming. Goaltending will be the key here.

Vegas Golden Knights. Almost put them in the favorites category. When healthy, they are still outstanding and they have Jack Eichel‘s arrival to look forward to at some point.

New York Rangers. Still not sure exactly how good they are, and there are some question marks here, but they have superstars in the right places. Including the most important place (goalie). That can take a team a long way.

The Pretenders Part 1 (but still playoff teams)

Nashville Predators. Probably one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Juuse Saros gives them a chance every night and some big money players have bounced back in a big way. Playoffs are realistic goal. Maybe an expectation at this point. Stanley Cup? Probably not.

St. Louis Blues. Lot to like here, including the resurgence of Vladimir Tarasenko, but not sure how much the goaltending can be trusted.

Calgary Flames. Very hot and cold team this season. Darryl Sutter hockey is not the most entertaining, but it wins and keeps teams competitive.

Edmonton Oilers. It is a complete failure on the part of the front office that they are in this tier this far into Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s career, and given how good those two players are. The bottom-six is the worst in the league, defense has questions, goaltending is a concern.

[Related: Which teams have built around their stars the best (and worst)]

Anaheim Ducks. Love the progress they have made in a short period of time this season, love the way Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale look as young cornerstones. Could be a surprise playoff team. Just not a Stanley Cup team right now.

Boston Bruins. They are back to being a one-line team and really need to figure out how to fix that again.

The Pretenders Part 2 (fringe playoff teams or outside of the playoffs)

Winnipeg Jets. I could see them moving up a tier with a big second half from Connor Hellebuyck.

Dallas Stars. Thought the returns of Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin would make a bigger impact this season. They are right on the fringe between this tier and the one above.

Detroit Red Wings. If you are a Red Wings fan you have a lot of reasons to be excited about this team. Maybe not a playoff team yet, but they are in the hunt.

Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart has had a nice bounce back but the rest of the team has struggled. Wrong division for a slow start.

San Jose Sharks. Erik Karlsson is having a great bounce back season and James Reimer has been a great pickup in goal. Is that enough to get them in the playoffs?

[Related: Erik Karlsson is back]

Los Angeles Kings. Still a veteran group leading the way for a rebuilding team. Not out of it, but the real fun for this team starts when prospects like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte arrive.

Vancouver Canucks. Bruce Boudreau has clearly made a difference, but will they be able to sustain that? They are still facing an uphill climb here.

Columbus Blue Jackets. With strong goaltending and a healthy Patrik Laine they could be an interesting team, but probably not a playoff team in a tough division and Eastern Conference.

The Lottery Teams

New York Islanders. This has just been a tough season. They still have a lot of hockey to play but they need to play at a level they have not played at over the past three years (with better teams) to have a realistic chance at the playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks. There is nothing here beyond the top players on the lineup, and even they have struggled at times.

New Jersey Devils. Thought we would have seen more from this group by now. The injury to Jack Hughes obviously sidetracked things a lot this season.

Seattle Kraken. Wonder if they would like a re-do on the expansion draft. Wonder if they would do anything different with that re-do on it.

Ottawa Senators. They played a lot better in December, but this is a team that still has a long way to go.

Buffalo Sabres. They still seem to be years away from being a playoff team.

Montreal Canadiens. This season was always going to be a struggle, but not sure anybody expected it to be this much of a struggle.

Arizona Coyotes. The best thing to look forward to here is getting some solid returns on trading their veterans.

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    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.