NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche in a tier all by themselves

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we have the Colorado Avalanche still in the top spot as they continue to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the league.

How good are the Avalanche right now? Well, their current points percentage for the season of .783 is .049 points better than the second best team in the league. Their goal differential of plus-59 is No. 1, and makes them one of only three teams to be better than plus-45 for the season, and they are 30-3-3 over their past 36 games after a 4-5-1 start. They have also not lost a game in regulation in, quite literally, two months, last losing a game in regulation on Dec. 16. Their points percentage of .875 dating back to Nov. 11 (the start of that 36 game run) is .133 points better than the second best team in the league during that stretch. That gap between them and the No. 2 team is the same as the gap between the No. 2 team and the No. 14 team in the league during that same stretch.

In other words, the Avalanche is in a tier by themselves right now.

Also this week, the Minnesota Wild crack the top-three while the Calgary Flames keep climbing into the top-10.

We take a look at all of that 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). Perhaps the wildest part of their record this season is they have not really been fully healthy at any point this season, always playing without at least one (or more) key players. Expectations are going to be insanely high.

2. Florida Panthers (LW: 3). Anton Lundell wants to be mentioned in your Calder Trophy discussions. He also should be.

3. Minnesota Wild (LW: 4). Really impressive win this weekend against a top team in Carolina. The Wild are contenders and deserve to be treated as such.

4. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3). Little bit of a slump this week, but still an elite team set up for success this season and well into the future.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 6). They still have one of the league’s best records, are still back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions, and it still feels like they have another level they can reach this season.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 7). The thing that stands out about them is they can beat you in a variety of different ways. Very balanced team without many weaknesses.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 5). Maybe it is just a slump. But maybe it is something to be thinking about. Jack Campbell has been struggling over the past couple of weeks.

8. Calgary Flames (LW: 11). They needed some improved depth beyond their top line. Tyler Toffoli should help address that. Great trade.

[Related: Flames get Tyler Toffoli from Canadiens]

9. New York Rangers (LW: 9). Their top tier players are as good as any other team’s top-tier players. Legitimate Stanley Cup core. But the secondary players are still badly lacking. That will hold them back against better teams in the playoffs.

10. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). Goaltending will make or break their chances. Will Jordan Binnington be better in the second half? Will Ville Husso keep outperforming him and taking playing time?

11. Nashville Predators (LW: 8). Still not quite sure what to make of this team. Juuse Saros is a game changer though.

12. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 14). There is always a way to make the salary cap work. They are setting themselves up to be fully healthy (and loaded) for the playoffs. That is really all that matters.

13. Boston Bruins (LW: 13). They do not have enough depth for Brad Marchand to be taking himself out of the lineup for six games (and still not getting the message).

14. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Starting to think their concerns run deeper than just goaltending.

15. Dallas Stars (LW: 16). Such an intriguing team. Jason Robertson is becoming a star. They are playing better. But they might have to trade one of their top players (John Klingberg) before the trade deadline. Should be a playoff team, but they are on the bubble.

16. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 15). They do not have a lot of difference makers right now after Anze Kopitar, but they still have some surprisingly strong depth.

17. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 17). The players, coaches (and general managers) keep changing. The results stay the same. The problems always start at the top and run downhill.

[Related: Can coaching change get Oilers on right path for playoffs?]

18. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 18). Even if they do not make the playoffs this season is still shaping up to be a positive step in the right direction. Nobody expected them to make the playoffs this season anyway.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 24). Probably too late to make the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference but you have to love the way Patrik Laine is playing right now.

[Related: Laine is back on track and that is good news for everybody]

20. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 22). Kyle Connor is fantastic and just keeps getting better.

21. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23). Moritz Seider is going to quickly join the Cale Makar, Adam Fox, Quinn Hughes, Miro Heiskanen group of superstar defensemen.

22. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 20). After the initial boost from the coaching change they have settled back into a .500 team.

23. New York Islanders (LW: 19). Sometimes for one reason or another it is just not your season.

24. San Jose Sharks (LW: 21). They are saying all of the right things about wanting to re-sign Tomas Hertl, but a trade still seems likely here, right?

25. Ottawa Senators (LW: 25). They play really hard and Matt Murray has really turned his season around. Very important developments there.

26. Seattle Kraken (LW: 27). They have played better recently, just as the goaltending has started to get a little better. Not a coincidence.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 26). The new general manager, whoever it is, is going to have a major mess to clean up. Not a lot to like here.

28. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 28). This is going to be the first time since the early 1990s that the Philadelphia Flyers have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs in consecutive seasons.

29. New Jersey Devils (LW: 30). There is some good, promising young talent here but they just seem so far behind the other top teams in the Metropolitan Division.

30. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 29). Jeff Skinner‘s resurgence and the early promising returns on the Jack Eichel trade are at least some positives here.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Their shootout win against Colorado is definitely one of the more stunning individual game results of the season.

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). They have absolutely nothing to lose by giving Martin St. Louis a chance to prove himself the rest of this season. At least they tried something different.

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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
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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

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    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

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    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.