NHL Power Rankings: Top individual performances from 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs came to an end on Sunday night with the Colorado Avalanche defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. It capped off a dominant run by the Avalanche to give them their first Cup in two decades, and ending the Lightning’s bid for a third consecutive championship.

It also ended what was a sensational playoffs over the past two months.

The postseason was filled with drama, storylines, series comebacks, and great individual performances from a number of the NHL’s top players.

In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a look back at the 10 best individual performances from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Which players made the cut?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche. What a dominant season from start to finish. Makar won the Norris Trophy as the top overall defenseman during the regular season, and then followed it up with one of the best playoff runs we have seen from a defenseman in the history of the league to win his first Conn Smythe Trophy. It is just the fourth time a defenseman has won the Norris and Conn Smythe in the same season, putting him on a list that includes only Bobby Orr (who did it twice) and Nicklas Lidstrom (who did it once). Pretty elite company.

He also finished the playoffs with 29 points in 20 games, giving him a 1.45 points per game average. As a defenseman.

Among defenders that played at least 15 games in a single postseason, that 1.45 average is the fourth best in league history, trailing only Paul Coffey (2.06 in 1984-85), Orr (1.60 in 1971-72), and Brian Leetch (1.48 in 1993-94).

Along the with the offense he also posted absolutely dominant possession and scoring chance numbers and was one of the best play-drivers in the league. When he and Devon Toews were on the ice together the Avalanche were unstoppable.

[Related: Makar wins Conn Smythe Trophy]

2. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. McDavid did everything he could to drag the Oilers as far as possible, and it resulted in a run to the Western Conference Final where they just simply ran into a buzzsaw of an Avalanche team. McDavid finished the playoffs with 33 total points, leading the league, despite the fact he only played in 16 games. That is a 2.06 per game average, one of the best in NHL history. Only twice over the past 25 years did a player have more than 33 points in an entire postseason: Nikita Kucherov had 34 in 2019-20 with the benefit of the play-in/round-robin round to add some games to his postseason, and Evgeni Malkin had 36 in 2009 while playing in 24 games.

McDavid, again, played in only 16 games.

Every time he was on the ice he was a one-man wrecking crew for opposing teams.

[Related: Avalanche win Stanley Cup, end Lightning repeat bid]

3. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers. The Rangers are a very good team with a lot of top-tier players and a strong young core. But given how they actually played as a team in the playoffs? They had no business being within two wins of the Cup Final.

Igor Shesterkin was the reason.

Despite the fact the Rangers were badly outshot, out chanced, and mostly out played in every round and every game, they still put together a run to the Eastern Conference Final and even had a 2-0 series lead before the Lightning stormed back for four consecutive wins. Shesterkin was a force all postseason. He finished with a .929 save percentage despite facing more expected goals against (74.9) than any other goalie in the playoffs and playing behind a team that had some of the worst possession and scoring chance numbers we have ever seen from a conference finalist.

[Related: Rangers took big step forward but more work needed]

4. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. He may not have had the most goals or points, but if your team was playing the Avalanche the fear of god was put into you every time he stepped on the ice. Every game, every shift he looked like he was shot out of a cannon and was all over the ice. He still ended up scoring 13 goals with 24 total points in 20 games (awesome numbers) and also had 117 shots on goal. That is just an absurd number. It is also the most shots on goal any player has ever had in a single postseason since shots started officially being tracked, besting the 116 that Henrik Zetterberg had during the 2007-08 playoffs. Zetterberg reached his mark in 22 games. MacKinnon played only 20 games.

5. Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars. We only saw Oettinger play seven games over one series, but they were a dominant seven games. He finished with a .954 save percentage and nearly dragged the Stars out of their First Round series with Calgary. The Flames just absolutely bombarded him the entire series, dramatically outplaying the Stars, only to have Oettinger build a wall around his net. Do not let the First Round loss take away from the way he played. He deserved better.

Jake Oettinger
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

6. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. He nearly matched McDavid point-for-point, and did so while playing most of the playoffs at less than 100 percent. He does get put a little bit lower because his best production came while on a line with McDavid. His play, and the Oilers’ play, dropped off when he was running his own line. Most likely due to a combination of health and linemates. Still an amazing run as he and McDavid carried the Oilers on their best playoff run in more than 15 years.

7. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. He is one of the best goalies (and especially big game) goalies in league history, and it was another dominant run for him. The Lightning were not as good overall as they were the past two years, and needed to rely on Vasilevskiy a bit more. Especially early in the playoffs. He was more than up to the challenge, going 4-1 when the Lightning were facing elimination and finishing the playoffs with a .922 save percentage in 23 games.

[Related: Even with free agency questions Avalanche are built to last]

8. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. He had a slow start in the First Round, but then caught fire in Game 5 to help the Rangers overcome a 3-1 series deficit to start their run. He was money on the power play and had a 12-game stretch in the middle of the playoffs where he scored 10 goals and 20 points. That included a seven goals in eight-game stretch through the second and third rounds.

9. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were extremely top heavy this postseason and relied almost exclusively on their top line of Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat to carry the offense. Kucherov was, again, their top offensive force and not only led the team in scoring (while being one of the top scorers in the league) scored and set up some of their biggest goalies.

10. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. Like Oettinger in Dallas, we only saw him in one round, but what a round it was. Guentzel not only scored eight goals in the seven games, he finished the postseason 14th in goals, 25th in expected goals, and 35th in shots on goal despite playing in only one round. He is the only player to rank in the top-40 of each category to not play at least two full rounds. He was dominant.

11. Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild. The Wild did not get the result they wanted in the playoffs, but you can not blame Kaprizov for that. He scored seven goals in the Wild’s six games and was the most dominant player on the ice in that series. A true superstar. Minnesota’s first since Marian Gaborik.

David Berding/Getty Images

12. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers. The Panthers’ postseason may have been a massive disappointment, but he was not. He had 12 points in 10 games and was their best offensive player. He almost single handedly pulled the Panthers through the first round series against Washington.

13. Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche. He not only had a great regular season and postseason, he made himself a ton of money this offseason in free agency.

14. Adam Fox, New York Rangers. He is going to lead the Rangers’ blue line for years to come and had a great postseason offensively, while also playing top minutes on defense.

15. Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers. He finished as one of the top goal scorers in the playoffs. Somebody, whether it be Edmonton or another team, is going to look past all of the red flags and concerns and sign him because of that.

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    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 Sunday, 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 on Monday. 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 on Saturday 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 Saturday 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 on Monday.

    “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 on Thursday.

    Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

    They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

    “We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

    Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

    With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

    “Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

    The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

    METROPOLITAN DIVISION

    The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

    “This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

    The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

    “Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

    They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

    “I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.

    ATLANTIC

    The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

    But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

    “You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

    The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.

    CENTRAL

    Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

    “It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

    They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

    “Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”

    PACIFIC

    Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

    The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

    Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

    “It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

    Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

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    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

    General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

    Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

    The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

    Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.

    Rivals Crosby and Ovechkin relish being All-Star teammates

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have played dozens of regular-season and playoff games against each other since breaking into the NHL together in 2005.

    The longtime rivals and respective captains of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have also shared the ice at All-Star Games before. But with each superstar in his mid-30s, they know this trip could be their last together.

    They took advantage of it, with Ovechkin setting up Crosby for two goals Saturday in the lone game of the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament their Metropolitan Division team got to play.

    “I think we have fun to play together, not against each other,” Ovechkin said, flashing his gap-toothed smile. “Right now, we was on the same team, and it was pretty special, pretty good moment.”

    Crosby, who also had the secondary assist on Ovechkin’s goal, did not expect to get the puck back. That’s not unreasonable given Ovechkin has built a career on scoring and is only 82 goals back of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career record.

    “I was thinking I just did my job: gave it to him,” said Crosby, whose career numbers are so close to Ovechkin’s that he has just five more points overall. “I thought he was just going finish it, but he was kind enough to send me a couple back. We had some nice goals there.”

    Not enough to win the 3-on-3 semifinal against the Atlantic, which beat the Central in the final. Ovechkin lamented not scoring more and took some jabs at his goalie teammates for a day: fellow Russians Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Ilya Sorokin of the Islanders.

    “Obviously goalie could play better,” Ovechkin said.

    Crosby and Ovechkin being together at All-Star weekend for the first time since 2018 was one of the themes of the weekend, given how they shared the stage as faces of the NHL for much of their careers. But they don’t want this to be a Sid and Ovi swan song and could do this again as soon as next year when the festivities are in Toronto.

    “You try to go out there have fun and stay in the moment,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, it’s not our last one. That’s the best way to approach it.”

    HOMETOWN HEROICS

    The introductions for Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk were saved for last.

    And of course, the two Florida Panthers stars, representing the Atlantic Division, delivered in their home arena.

    “We play regular-season and playoff games here, but with this event, it’s even more special to be here representing the Florida Panthers,” Barkov said.

    Tkachuk was clearly comfortable playing in the same arena where has amassed 66 points (sixth in the NHL) this season with the Panthers. He had seven points (four goals, three assists) Saturday, including a goal and an assist in the Atlantic Division’s 7-5 win over the Central Division to take the All-Star game title.

    Tkachuk had a hat trick and a pair of assists in the Atlantic squad’s semifinal game against the Metropolitan division – tying a single-game points record for the 3-on-3 All-Star format. Two of those goals were assisted by his Panthers teammate to give their squad a win 10-6 and advance to face the Central division the final.

    By the time Barkov and Tkachuk came out for the All-Star game final, “Let’s go Panthers!” cheers were being belted throughout FLA Live Arena.

    Barkov, the beloved Panther in his 10th season, has 14 goals this year and 33 assists. He has 234 career goals and 600 points.

    BROTHERLY LOVE

    Brothers Matthew Tkachuk and Brady Tkachuk have played against each other plenty over the years. But with both players starting for the Atlantic division, they got to experience playing together as the 11th set of brothers to be All-Star teammates.

    The brothers each had a goal in Saturday’s semifinal game between the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions. And Brady assisted on his brother’s goal in the final against the Central division.

    Matthew, drafted in 2016 by the Calgary Flames, is a two-time All-Star with 177 career goals and 448 points.

    Brady, the younger Tkachuk sibling, was drafted in 2018 by the Ottawa Senators and has 110 career goals and 243 points.

    Both were All-Stars back in 2020 in their hometown St. Louis. Brady represented the Atlantic division, while Matthew represented the Pacific squad.

    WEATHER WOES

    It was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) outside FLA Live Arena when the All-Star 3 on-3 tournament started – more than 50 degrees warmer than 2024 host Toronto. That doesn’t mean this year’s event didn’t have a weather issue.

    The NHL All-Star Beach Festival – which had areas where fans could test their hockey skills, get a photo with the Stanley Cup and check out a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit, among other things – couldn’t open on Saturday.

    Rain in the morning delayed the opening on Fort Lauderdale Beach, and then 40 mph (64 kilometers per hour) wind gusts later in the day forced the NHL into keeping it closed and calling off a watch party for the All-Star Game.

    It was open Thursday and Friday.