NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche stay on top; Wild, Flames climb

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings there are no major changes at the top where the Colorado Avalanche, winners of 10 games in a row, remain in the top spot, followed immediately by the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.

The big changes come with the Minnesota Wild who make a jump into the top-five thanks to their current winning streak, and the Calgary Flames who move up four spots thanks to their recent stretch of play. The Wild have won five games in a row and are currently on a nine-game point streak (8-0-1) to help give them one of the league’s best records. The Flames, meanwhile, have been dominant over the past couple of weeks thanks to their top-line duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and some strong goaltending.

We take a look at all of those storylines and more in this week’s rankings.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 1). Does not matter who they are without, they just keep crushing teams. Best team in the league right now.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 2). Jonathan Huberdeau has a real shot to win the NHL’s scoring title this season. Also should be in the MVP discussion.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3). Frederik Andersen, Vezina Trophy contender is not a storyline many people saw happening here this season.

4. Minnesota Wild (LW: 8). Kirill Kaprizov is the obvious superstar here, but there are not really any weak links anywhere on the roster. Solid team from top to bottom and a team that deserves some attention as a Stanley Cup contender.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4). Sometimes it feels like we take for granted how good Steven Stamkos is and has been in his career.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs: (LW: 9). Michael Bunting has been such a great pickup this offseason. They needed to find some cheap depth, and they did.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 5). They hit a little bit of a slump this week but still managed to collect a couple of points in the process. They need to get Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues going again.

8. New York Rangers (LW: 6). Forget only winning the Vezina Trophy, Igor Shesterkin should be in the MVP discussion.

9. Nashville Predators (LW: 11). Getting Filip Forsberg re-signed seems like a must. Still so good.

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). As long as they get their goaltending situation figured out this is still a really good team with a sneaky dangerous offense.

[Related: Capitals, Blues, Avs have goalie situations worth watching]

11. Boston Bruins (LW: 7). Going to keep saying this until it happens, but Claude Giroux would make so much sense here. So. Much. Sense.

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Marc-Andre Fleury, Washington Capital, would certainly add some intrigue to the Penguins-Capitals rivalry. They are rumored to be interested in him.

13. Calgary Flames (LW: 18). They have really turned things around here lately and while the overall standings might not show it, they are quickly gaining ground on the Golden Knights in the Pacific Division race. They are right on their heels by points percentage and have five games in hand.

[Related: Gaudreau, Tkachuk showing value as contract extension decisions loom]

14. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 13). Same story here since the beginning of the season: Just be healthy for the playoffs. If they are, this roster is still a top-tier roster.

15. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 17). Trevor Zegras remains a one-man highlight reel every game. What a player.

[Related: Zegras adds ‘Michigan’ lacrosse-style goal to highlight reel]

16. Dallas Stars (LW: 19). At various times they look like a playoff team that could cause some real problems, and then look like a total disappointment at other times. Most Jekyll and Hyde team in the league.

17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 14). If Quinton Byfield can take a big step forward in the second half that would be a significant game-changer for their playoff push.

18. New York Islanders (LW: 15). At this point they have no margin for error and losing three out of four this past week after making up some ground was a definite step back.

19. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 21). They have won four games in a row. That is nice progress. But is it real progress or just a mirage? Even with Evander Kane in the mix all of the same questions still remain.

[Related: Desperate Oilers decide signing Kane is worth the risk]

20. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16). Missing the playoffs with that goalie and Kyle Connor having the season he is would be a pretty significant disappointment.

21. San Jose Sharks (LW: 20). Losing Erik Karlsson is going to put a dent in their already slim playoff chances.

22. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 22). The question now is will both of Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider be Calder Trophy Finalists, or just one of them? It should be both.

23. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 23). After starting 7-0-0 under new head coach Bruce Boudreau they are now just 4-4-4 in the 12 games after. That is a .500 points percentage. Which is their points percentage for the season as a whole. This is what they are.

24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 24). Drake Batherson has been a nice bright spot this season so his injury is definitely a disappointment.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 26). They rebounded nicely after what was arguably the worst single game any team played this season, a 6-0 loss to the Calgary Flames where they allowed 62 shots on goal.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 25). Probably time to start worrying about Kirby Dach‘s chances of being an impact player.

27. Seattle Kraken (LW: 28). Every once in a while they go through a stretch like this where they start to put everything together and win some games. The key will be finding a way to sustain that. So far they have not been able to do that for any extended stretch of time.

28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 29). Here is some good news: Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch, the two main parts of the Jack Eichel trade, have looked really good lately. Jeff Skinner has also been really good.

[Related: The relief of Skinner just getting to play]

29. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27). They have just six wins since the start of December, with only four of them coming in regulation.

30. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 30). They finally got a win, snapping what had been a 13-game winless streak. They have won just three games since the middle of December, with none of them coming in regulation.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Never really sure what to say about this team here in this spot except that everything is going as it was expected to go this season.

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). Not only are they the worst team in the NHL this season this is one of the worst single seasons in the history of the entire Montreal Canadiens franchise.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
    André Ringuette/Getty Images
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.