Welcome to the 11th edition of my weekly NHL Power Rankings for The Hockey Writers, where the league’s top half is evaluated. These rankings will focus on how the teams have performed in the past week of play and will significantly factor in their overall strength and where they are at the time in the standings. With that said, let’s take a look at the top 16 teams in the league at this moment.
16. L.A. Kings (17-13-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 16
After losing Thursday night’s game to the Nashville Predators, the Kings bounced back in a big way on Saturday by defeating the Detroit Red Wings 4-0. They have now surpassed the Edmonton Oilers for sole possession of the final wild card position in the Western Conference.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 11
As mentioned last week, guys like Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick deserve huge props in the Kings’ success to this point. Another who deserves some credit is Adrian Kempe, who already has 15 goals on the season, and Viktor Arvidsson, who has been a nice addition from the Predators this offseason with 19 points in 28 games.
15. Anaheim Ducks (18-12-7)
Last Week’s Rank: 15
It was another solid week for the Ducks, who won two of their three games, including Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win against the Red Wings. This comes despite a tough go of things with COVID lately, as Hampus Lindholm, Derek Grant, Sam Carrick, and John Gibson are all currently unavailable, while rookie phenom Trevor Zegras was forced to miss multiple games for the same reason.
As they have been all season, the Ducks were able to get it done by committee on Sunday versus the Red Wings. That includes goaltender Lukas Dostal, who made the first start of his career and picked up a win thanks to kicking aside 33 of 36 shots. This team continues to surprise and should be fun to watch for the remainder of 2021-22.
14. Calgary Flames (17-10-6)
Last Week’s Rank: 10
This past week was a big test for the Flames, who had their three scheduled games against some of the top teams in the league in Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Carolina Hurricanes. If the test proved anything, it is that their roster needs to be improved upon before being considered a Stanley Cup contender. Not only did they lose all three games, but they were outplayed by a wide margin, being outscored 16-6 in the process.
Defensive play, which has been this team’s bread and butter in 2021-22, was lacking in a big way this past week. To make matters even worse, Jacob Markstrom was unable to play in their most recent game and is dealing with an injury. The good news is that he is being listed as day-to-day, and the Flames don’t play again until Thursday night, meaning he may not miss any additional time.
13. Boston Bruins (18-11-2)
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
It was another okay week for the Bruins, who defeated the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning but also fell to the Minnesota Wild. That has been the story of the Bruins season thus far, as they have beaten some of the league’s best teams but have failed to put together wins in bunches, which is why they sit well outside a top three position in the Atlantic Division.
The good news for the Bruins is that after a rough start to the season, Taylor Hall appears to be getting back on track as of late. If he can fully regain his form, he could be a major game-changer for this roster down the stretch of the 2021-22 season.
12. Minnesota Wild (21-10-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 14
After some struggles over the past month, the Wild got back on track this past week, winning both of their games against the Bruins and the Washington Capitals. They showed signs of the team many considered a Cup contender earlier this season.
The only reason the Wild didn’t climb further up the list this week was due to the injury to Kirill Kaprizov. The 24-year-old, who has 40 points in just 32 games this season, was forced to leave midway through Thursday’s game after taking a hit from Bruins forward Trent Frederic. The hope is that he will be good to go by their next game on Friday versus the Ducks, but if not, his absence will be a tough one for this team to overcome.
11. Vegas Golden Knights (23-14-1)
Last Week’s Rank: 11
Admittedly, the Golden Knights may have been a little lower on this list last week than they deserved. However, the reason for that was because of the injury to Max Pacioretty, and so far, it looks like that loss is hurting them.
The Golden Knights started their week with a loss to the Predators but rebounded with a win over a very good New York Rangers team a few nights later. However, they fell to Marc-Andre Fleury and the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, a very disappointing outcome given the Blackhawks struggles in 2021-22. This Golden Knights team is outstanding on paper and will get even better once Pacioretty and Jack Eichel are healthy. Still, despite their solid record, there have been some concerning inconsistencies in their game to this point.
10. New York Rangers (23-9-4)
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Though the Rangers won two of their games this weekend against the Oilers and the Ducks, they fell flat against the toughest opponent in the Golden Knights. The outcome against the Golden Knights was disappointing but somewhat expected, given that they were without both Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin due to COVID protocols.
The good news for the Rangers is that Panarin was taken off the COVID protocol list on Sunday, however, Shesterkin remains on. They will need their 26-year-old stud netminder back sooner than later as they try to chase down the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-9-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 8
The slight drop in this week’s ranking has less to do with the Penguins’ play and more to do with the play of others ahead of them. Though they did lose to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, they were able to pick up wins against both the St. Louis Blues and the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the week.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 10
Evgeni Malkin, who is nearing a return, was unable to suit up this past week but is expected to make his season debut in the very near future. That will be a massive boost for the Penguins, who have been playing their best hockey of 2021-22 over the past month.
8. Nashville Predators (23-11-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 13
Though they still aren’t getting much talk, the Predators are for real. They currently find themselves on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Golden Knights, Kings, and Arizona Coyotes this past week. They will look to make it five when they host the Colorado Avalanche next Tuesday.
Several players have been getting it done offensively for the Predators this season, but none have been better than Roman Josi. The 31-year-old has 34 points in 34 games and could be in line for his second Norris Trophy if he keeps his play up.
7. Washington Capitals (20-7-9)
Last Week’s Rank: 5
There haven’t been many down points for the Capitals this season, but after losing to both the Blues and Wild this past week they now find themselves on a three game skid. It is a frustrating brief stretch of play, but a justified one given that both T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom are on the NHL’s COVID protocol list.
There aren’t many things to be worried about with the Capitals, but if there is one area they could improve, it is their goaltending. Both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have been far too inconsistent to rely on this season. It is an area that management could and likely should try to improve before the trade deadline to give this team as much help as they can to compete for their second Stanley Cup.
6. St. Louis Blues (21-10-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 6
Though they kicked off their week with a loss to the Penguins, the Blues recovered with wins over the Capitals and the Wild. This roster won’t be fun for any team to match up against in the playoffs, as they are deeper than many fans realize.
Up front, they have several forwards playing at or near a point per-game pace, while on the back end, they have players like Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, and Justin Faulk, who can also help contribute offensively. The one concern at this point seems to be goaltending, as Jordan Binnington has been rather average this season with a 2.90 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .910 save percentage (SV%).
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-9-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 4
The Lightning were able to welcome back not only their best player but one of the best players in the league in Nikita Kucherov this past Thursday. Despite being out of the lineup for roughly six weeks, he looked no worse for the wear in his return against the Flames, registering two assists in a 4-1 victory.
Taking a look at the Bolts roster with Kucherov back would make them seem nearly unbeatable, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday as they fell 5-2 to the Bruins on Saturday. Though their play has been a little inconsistent since returning from the NHL stoppage, there is little to worry about if you are a Lightning fan.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (22-8-3)
Last Week’s Rank: 3
If there is one concern regarding the Maple Leafs right now, they haven’t played much hockey at all as of late. In fact, they have played in just three games since Dec. 14, making them a hard team to rank on this list.
The good news is that they have looked quite strong when they have played. With players like John Tavares and William Nylander looking very good to this point, perhaps this is finally the year they will be able to get past the first round. However, we still have a ways to go before that opportunity arises.
3. Colorado Avalanche (21-8-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 9
After a slow start to the season, the Avalanche have turned things around as of late and are now just four points shy of first place in the Central Division. They were once again fantastic this past week, winning all three of their games while scoring 16 goals in the process.
After yet another big week, Nathan MacKinnon now finds himself on a 13 game point streak and is playing like the best player in the world right now. He is a very scary forward to go up against for any team who will come across their path in the postseason.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (24-7-2)
Last Week’s Rank: 1
After defeating the Flames 6-3 on Friday, the Hurricanes had a huge test just a day later as they faced off against one of the league’s best teams in the Panthers. Though they ended up falling 4-3 in overtime, it was a commendable effort on the second half of a back-to-back.
Related: NHL 2021-22 Power Rankings: Week 9
In defense of this Hurricanes squad, it is also worth noting that in Saturday’s game versus the Panthers, they were forced to rely on third-string goaltender Alex Lyon due to an injury to Antti Raanta. The good news is that Raanta isn’t expected to miss much time, though given his injury history throughout his career the Canes may choose to be very cautious with him.
1. Florida Panthers (23-7-5)
Last Week’s Rank: 2
An excellent week for the Panthers has them back on top of not only this list, but the entire league standings. The one concern in their game has been their poor play on the road this season, but after defeating the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Saturday, they may be getting on the right track in that regard.
Their next scheduled game is on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks, which could be a harder test than some would think. Not only are the Canucks red hot since the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, but the Panthers currently have four players in Mason Marchment, Sam Reinhart, Spencer Knight, and Patrick Hornqvist on the league’s COVID protocol list. Luckily, they have plenty of depth if none of the listed players can go, but it could impact them in the short term.
Changes to Come
These rankings will continue to change each week throughout the season, as all teams go through highs and lows. Of course, the true contenders will like always remain on the list, but where they are ranked could change each and every week. Tune in at this time next week to see the changes.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.