NHL Power Rankings: Hurricanes stay on top; Islanders, Canucks improving

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings the Carolina Hurricanes maintain the top spot thanks to a four-game winning streak, the league’s best points percentage, and the league’s best goal differential. They have no real weakness — at least not an obvious one — with a deep, talented group of forwards, a strong defense, and excellent goaltending. They are no strangers to that spot as they have consistently been one of the best teams from the start, as was expected.

Elsewhere, the New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks are trying to shake off miserable starts and play their way back into playoff contention. They both still have a long way to go in their respective races, but they had to start somewhere and have both seen dramatic improvements in the records over the past month. The Islanders are collecting points at the pace they need to play their way back into it, while the Canucks have gained a point in all nine games under Bruce Boudreau.

Too little, too late? Or the start of an improbable turnaround? We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 1). So much talent, so much depth, and the goaltending changes have worked. An outstanding team from top to bottom.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 4). A lot of teams missed out on Anthony Duclair while they had him on their own roster. The Panthers are benefitting from that.

[Related: Duclair has found a home with Panthers]

3. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 3). When they are healthy they still have the best roster in the league. They are starting to get healthy and have been unstoppable since the middle of November.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 2). Andrei Vasilevskiy should probably win the Hart Trophy every year as long as he keeps playing at the level he has the past few years. When he is not the goalie of record the Lightning is a .500 team since the start of 2019-20. When he is the goalie of record they play at a 125-point pace over 82 games.

5. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 7). They are one of the highest scoring teams in the league despite the fact they have been crushed by injuries for much of the year and have yet to get a minute of playing time from Jack Eichel. Still a dangerous team.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 6). This is still a really good hockey team. They key will still be the goaltending.

[Related: Penguins’ Rodrigues making most of his increased role]

7. Washington Capitals (LW: 5). The good news for them is playoff overtime is not 3-on-3 hockey.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 9). There is a lot to like about this team. The big money players are performing, the depth is solid, and Jack Campbell has been great in net.

9. Nashville Predators (LW: 8). Everything that they needed to happen for them to be good (Juuse Saros performing, big money players rebounding from down years) has happened. Things do not always work out that well for teams.

10. New York Rangers (LW: 11). It was only a matter of time until Mika Zibanejad started to score goals again, and now they have Igor Shesterkin back.

11. St. Louis Blues (LW: 13). A sneaky good offensive team here. They are fifth in the NHL in goals per game and have the third best power play.

12. Boston Bruins (LW: 14). They have started to get a little more offense from some forwards outside of their top line in recent games. Their ability to maintain that will determine what this team is capable of this season.

13. Calgary Flames (LW: 17). Still fascinated to see how the Johnny Gaudreau situation plays out. He is having a monster year offensively.

14. Minnesota Wild (LW: 10). The injuries to Joel Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon are significant. They need them back.

[Related: Evason extension makes sense for Wild but biggest test awaits]

15. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16). Kyle Connor became a regular in the lineup at the start of the 2017-18 season. Here is the list of players that have scored more goals than him since then: Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak. That is it. That is the complete list.

16. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 12). Since their eight-game winning streak ended they have won just seven out of the following 18 games, with only five of those wins coming in regulation. Something to be concerned about?

[Related: Ducks making strong push for playoffs]

17. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 18). Completely different looking team under Bruce Boudreau. Still worry that it is too little, too late for this season.

18. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 15). They should not be this bad with two players that great at the top of the lineup. But you already know that by now.

[Related: Stunning numbers with McDavid, Ovechkin, and more]

19. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 21). They are very quietly hanging around in the playoff race.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 20). If you ever think you have a firm grasp on how good or bad they are you are probably wrong.

21. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 19). The good news is they are only one behind Boston for a Wild Card spot. The bad news is Boston has five games in hand and just beat the Red Wings 5-1 on Sunday.

22. New York Islanders (LW: 25). Since the start of December they are 5-2-4, which is a decent start in making up all of that ground in the playoff race. Still a long way to go with a lot of teams still ahead of them.

23. Dallas Stars (LW: 22). We have not seen them play a game in two weeks.

24. San Jose Sharks (LW: 23). This is just a completely average team. Not all that great, not all that bad.

25. New Jersey Devils (LW: 30). Jack Hughes looks great, so that is good news.

26. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 24). They only have one regulation win over the past 12 games (with an overtime and shootout win added in with that).

27. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 27). The biggest failing here on the ice remains the fact the front office really tried to be good this season. This is what they thought a good team would look like.

28. Ottawa Senators (LW: 26). There is some good young individual talent here but the organization as a whole is not making any progress in its rebuild.

29. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 28). Remember that 5-1-1 start? They are 5-17-5 since then.

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 29). Not sure anybody expected the goaltending to be as bad as it has been.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). You know Phil Kessel is going to be traded. Shayne Gostisbehere probably could be traded. Would they really go full scale rebuild and part ways with Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun?

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). Right now they just simply do not have any players.

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    NHL top prospect Connor Bedard draws comparisons to Connor McDavid as draft approaches

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NHL is going to have another Connor to contend with very shortly.

    For everything two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid has accomplished in Edmonton since being selected No. 1 in the 2015 draft, Connor Bedard is on the same trajectory in being pegged as this year’s top eligible draft prospect, Central Scouting director Dan Marr said Friday.

    “He’s right up there with Connor McDavid, it’s just the next generation,” Marr said in touting Bedard’s quickness, shot and ability to read and adapt. “So Connor McDavid started that trend, and Connor Bedard is going to lead it into the next trend.”

    The annual NHL pre-draft combine in Buffalo, New York, is resembling more of a coronation for the 17-year-old Bedard, who has spent the past two years putting up generational numbers with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League while also shining against his peers on the international stage.

    “I think you can use a lot of adjectives to describe it,” Regina coach John Paddock told The Associated Press recently in comparing Bedard’s production at the same age level to McDavid and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

    “That’s quite a high ceiling,” said Paddock, a former NHL coach and player. “But there’s no indication he’s not going to do that based on what he’s done to date.”

    The Chicago Blackhawks own the No. 1 pick, and are highly anticipated to use it on Bedard when the draft opens in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 28.

    Bedard held his latest meeting with the Blackhawks at the combine in a relationship that began at a top-prospects camp in Toronto last summer.

    Bedard’s arrival would coincide with the franchise in transition, with Chicago moving on from its aging core after trading 2007 No. 1 pick, Patrick Kane, and with captain Jonathan Toews’ future uncertain.

    “Yeah, it’d be awesome,” Bedard said of the possibility of being selected by the Blackhawks. “The history of that organization, that city with sports would be unbelievable. We’ll see what happens, but to be selected, that would be a huge honor.”

    Bedard said he’s following McDavid’s advice to stay in the moment and not peak too far ahead. He added, his dream to play in the NHL began no different than those of his colleagues: the moment he picked up a hockey stick growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

    What separates Bedard, however, is his exceptional skating ability and a hard shot, which is even more lethal given his quick release.

    With Bedard the likely top pick, the intrigue at the draft is likely to revolve around who rounds out the remainder of the top five selections.

    University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli is second among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final list, followed by top American prospect, William Smith, who played for USA Hockey’s developmental program. The top two European skaters are also considered in the mix with Sweden’s Leo Carlsson and Russia’s Matvei Michkov.

    Anaheim is scheduled to pick second followed by Columbus, San Jose and Montreal.

    Marr gives the edge to Bedard while also being impressed with Fantilli – just the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker Trophy awarded to college hockey’s top players – in a draft class considered very deep with offensive-minded forwards.

    “You’re going to win with both,” Marr said. “And whoever gets these two players they’re going to help define a franchise.”

    What distinguishes Bedard, who doesn’t turn 18 until next month, has been his consistency.

    Last season, his 71 goals in just 57 games were the most in the WHL since Pavel Brendl scored 73 in 1998-99. Bedard’s 143 points were the most in the CHL since three players topped that mark in 1995-96. And it was a season in which he enjoyed 10 games with five or more points, and just five games in which he failed to register a point.

    In 2020-21, Bedard became just the third WHL 16-year-old to reach 100 points, and was the youngest to score 50 goals in finishing with 51.

    He’s also made a splash on the international stage. Bedard led Canada with nine goals and 23 points at the world juniors last winter, and his combined production of 17 goals and 36 points in just 16 games ranks fourth on the career tournament list.

    Bedard has honed his talent by spending countless hours practicing shots in his backyard, which he referred to as his “Happy Place.” He was so dedicated to work on his shot that he preferred practicing than joining his family for a vacation to Disneyland, and eventually vacationed in Hawaii but only after he was allowed to bring his inline skates and sticks to practice.

    Noted for being soft-spoken, Bedard said he’s not yet allowed himself to envision being drafted or making his NHL debut yet.

    “It’s hard kind of think of that. But of course, I’ll work as hard as I can to try to achieve that goal,” he said. “And hopefully I do.”

    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

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    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.