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.

Scroll Down For:

    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
    3 Comments

    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.