NHL Power Rankings: Kings look great; Avalanche, Flames, Blues still rolling

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Los Angeles Kings make another big climb as they inch closer to the top-10 of the league. They are one of the hottest teams right now with a 9-1-2 mark over their past 12 games that has pushed them to second place in the Pacific Division. Some smart offseason additions, a strong young core, and some of their star veterans (specifically Anze Kopitar) have helped this team become a playoff contender much sooner than expected.

They have good center depth, they defend well, and some bounce-back seasons from Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick have been just what they needed. If some of their young players can take a step forward during the stretch run (Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev) they could be a tough team to knock out in the playoffs.

Also this week the Colorado Avalanche maintain their top spot, while the Calgary Flames move into the top-five for the first time this season. The St. Louis Blues also sit in the top-10 for this week.

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). This offense is incredible, but the defense is what really separates them from everybody else in the league. It probably deserves more attention than it gets (and thanks to Cale Makar it gets a lot of attention around the league).

2. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 3). They do everything well at forward and defense and are also getting a Vezina-worthy goalie performance from Frederik Andersen. That is a winning combination.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 5). They have very quietly moved ahead of Florida in the Atlantic Division based on points percentage. Do not rule out the three-peat for this team. If anybody can win three Stanley Cups in a row, this team can.

4. Calgary Flames (LW: 6). Ugly game against Vancouver this week, but they are 14-3-0 in their past 17 games and have beaten a lot of really good teams during that stretch. Seems highly possible that they are going to end up in the Western Conference Final while everybody quietly ponders how it happened.

5. Florida Panthers (LW: 2). Little bit of a slump here, but they get three straight games against Ottawa, Detroit, and Buffalo to maybe snap out of it.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 7). Would be very concerned about the goaltending right now, but wow that offense can score goals.

7. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). What an absolute steal Pavel Buchnevich has been.

8. Minnesota Wild (LW: 3). Even good teams hit a tough stretch at some point during an 82-game season.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 8). Very impressive weekend with wins over the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Evgeni Malkin is starting to get rolling for them right now and play at a high level.

10. New York Rangers (LW: 9). Every time you watch them it becomes more and more clear that not only is Igor Shesterkin the Vezina Trophy winner, he should be the league MVP as well.

11. Boston Bruins (LW: 14). They beat a bunch of teams they are supposed to beat this week, but that 5-1 win over Colorado really stands out.

12. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 16). As noted above, this is a really good hockey team right now. Start paying attention to them.

13. Dallas Stars (LW: 17). Tyler Seguin is starting to produce and they have an outstanding top line. Still a very confusing team with the inconsistency this season.

14. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). They have been struggling for a while now and their schedule the rest of the way is a challenge.

15. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 13). They do look a lot better since the coaching change but they have to do something to address the goaltending position.

16. Nashville Predators (LW: 15). They would really have to struggle here over the next couple of weeks to make a Filip Forsberg trade seem like a realistic possibility. As long as they look like a playoff team, they should keep him.

17. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 11). They do need to get healthy and get some better shooting luck, but this is not where anybody expected this team to be at any point this season.

[Related: Golden Knights on playoff bubble; How concerned should they be?]

18. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 22). Just when you think they are out of it, they manage to win enough games to stay in the race.

19. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 18). Patrik Laine and the Blue Jackets seem like a perfect fit. Hopefully they can work something out long term.

20. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 19). Kyle Connor is great, but this team is a disappointment overall.

21. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 20). It is kind of staggering how good Moritz Seider is already.

22. New York Islanders (LW: 22). Good news: Ilya Sorokin has been great this season. Bad news: Ilya Sorokin has been great this season and the Islanders are still having a season this bad.

23. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 21). They have lost a lot of games recently, and a lot of games they absolutely could not afford to lose (Seattle, Islanders).

24. Ottawa Senators (LW: 24). Even with some good young talent and improved goaltending this team still feels like it is miles away from contending, especially in that division.

25. San Jose Sharks (LW: 25). All eyes on Tomas Hertl right now.

[NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Tomas Hertl could be game-changer if moved]

26. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). It is still very early but Martin St. Louis has made an enormous difference here for both the team and individual players like Cole Caufield. This is going to be fascinating to watch the rest of the season.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 26). Something that does not get talked about enough is that this team did not fall apart simply because of the salary cap or an aging core. It was because of terrible management. In more ways than one it turns out.

28. New Jersey Devils (LW: 28). They are a different team with Dougie Hamilton back in the lineup. Jesper Bratt is also having an outstanding season.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). After starting 8-4-2 this season they have gone just 8-22-8 since then. They are 3-14-4 since the start of the new calendar year.

[Related: Will Flyers clean up start at trade deadline?]

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 27). Mark Giordano seems like a given to be traded, but what about veterans like Jared McCann, Yanni Gourde, and Jordan Eberle? Are any of them part of the long-term core here?

31. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 30). There are some good individual performances here, including a breakout season for Tage Thompson, but they are still losing a lot of games.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). They beat Colorado, Dallas, and Vegas in February which is probably not what anybody expected.

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

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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.