The trade deadline is fast approaching on April 12. With the potential for the quietest and/or wildest deadline in recent memory, now’s a good time as any to go through my definitive NHL power rankings!
This is my first ever time doing a ranking like this, so I debated my methodology for a while. In the end, I decided to do what I usually do and go with my gut. Some of these picks aren’t in the same order as the standings, and some are not even ranked logically. What can I say, I like who I like, and I don’t like who I don’t like.
Aside from the backup goalie, the Avalanche are the titans of this season. Everything is clicking. They have three number-one defencemen, which doesn’t hurt either. Sam Girard for Norris anyone? He deserves a look at the minimum.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s almost unfair that the Lightning will be able to add Nikita Kucherov going into the postseason with no cap penalty, but I don’t make the rules. They’re primed for another run at the Cup, and hell hath no fury like it for any who dare stand in their path. This is THE powerhouse. Any true contender must forge their steel in the flames of Tampa Bay. Teams tremble to face them every night. Victor Hedman might be a top-5 player in the world. Brayden Point has been fantastic all year long. Stamkos looks electric. And keep in mind, all this is without their most skilled player. Opponents beware.
3. Caroline Hurricanes
There are few teams I like personally more than the Hurricanes. They’re just so much fun to watch. The Vincent Trochek acquisition is paying massive dividends. Andrei Svechnikov is starting to showcase that he’s only getting better. The goaltending has been the biggest question so far, but Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have held it down well. They now look to conquer the more well-established powerhouses of the league. This trade deadline shouldn’t be too busy for them unless they decide to move on to a Jonathan Bernier type. The emergence of Martin Necas has been a nice touch as well.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Even capped-out, I’m sure the Knights will be able to add an $8-million player at the deadline like they seem to do every year. They’ve struggled a bit lately, but this is a team that is more than capable of handling any of the league’s top dogs. Goblin-King and puck-stealer extrodinaire Mark Stone has been one of the best wingers in the league this season. Max Pacioretty’s goal-scoring and offence have been exactly what they pay him to do. Shea Theodore is a bona fide superstar on the backend.
5. New York Islanders
As I’m writing this, the Islanders have traded for Kyle Palmieri, essentially filling the hole left by Anders Lee. That’s a solid move that puts pressure on the rest of the division to either get aggressive or get out of the way. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech have been lights out all season and seem primed to lead the defence into the playoffs. With the added scoring of Palmieri, the Islanders are the first contending team to bare their teeth this trade deadline. Mat Barzal has been electric, but to compete, the rest of the team will need to keep pace.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
If you told me a team with Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey would be better than one with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, I would’ve laughed in your face.
7. Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov has been one of the most dominant forwards in the league this season. The Aaron Ekblad injury stings, but there’s still time to at least replace some of that production through the trade market. With Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky tag-teaming in net, alongside a striving Jonathan Huberdeau, this is a deep team that’s ready to shake up the league. Now they just have to get past the Lightning and Hurricanes…
8. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have one of the best Top-6 forward corps in the league, as well as the best goalie in Connor Hellebuyck. Their defence still raises questions for a deep playoff push. Would a Mattias Ekholm type answer those questions? Kevin Cheveldayoff already pulled his blockbuster move in moving Patrick Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois earlier this year. Either way, the Jets have put pressure on the Leafs for the top spot in the North Division.
9. Washington Capitals
This looks like a much more relaxed Capitals team than we saw last season. Ovechkin continues to score goals and the world keeps on spinning. All is right.
10. Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov for the Calder. That’s all.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
I have my doubts that the Penguins are contenders, but every time they look down-and-out, they play even better. Despite missing key pieces for extended parts of the season, they’ve remained in the hunt for a top playoff seed. Crosby is still a top-5 centre in the league and is producing at his above-a-PPG pace. This is a team that could surprise some in the first round or could get swept because they can’t get a save from Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry. Both are equally likely.
12. Boston Bruins
Can we get any depth scoring? No? That’s okay I swear, please don’t fight me Mr. Frederic sir.
13. Edmonton Oilers
The longer the season goes on, the more unfair it is to have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same team. It’s like in elementary school and the two tall kids got to put on the same recess basketball team. Besides those two having Hart Trophy level seasons, there isn’t too much to like with these Oilers. They seem to do just enough to win games, but with their games against Vancouver likely cancelled, they might struggle to keep pace with Toronto and Winnipeg.
14. Montreal Canadiens
How much will Brendan Gallagher’s injury impact the Habs? News is now that Carey Price is injured and could be out. Even with its young players performing much better and a potentially Norris-caliber season from Jeff Petry, the Habs are looking towards the future. Cole Caufield has arrived in Laval to get time in the AHL before his inevitable promotion. Success this season would be great, but let’s be real, the Habs’ window opens in the next two years.
15. St. Louis Blues
The Blues are in free-fall. Their offence is sputtering, the defence doesn’t look reliable and if you like the goaltending, have I got a 6-year contract you’re going to love! They’ll probably make the playoffs, but this is a far cry from the Cup Winners we say just two seasons ago.
16. New York Rangers
The return of Artemi Panarin has done A LOT for this Rangers roster. And while he should’ve won the MVP last season, his efforts might just be the start of a very competitive franchise, even if that doesn’t materialize in a playoff appearance this season. Add in Adam Fox as the Norris frontrunner, as well as players like Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller and Pavel Buchnevich all playing well, and the future looks bright in New York. Now they just need to make sure that Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere can both be put in positions to succeed.
17. Arizona Coyotes
Right down the middle. The Coyotes are like the two-day-old bagel in your fridge. Fine, but not what you want to dive into today.
18. Calgary Flames
The firing of Geoff Ward and the re-acquisition of Darryl Sutter has not been as fruitful as the Flames have hoped. At the end of the day, this team just looks lost. With some strong pieces in Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington, Dillon Dube, as well as incoming prospects Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier, the Flames look okay going forward. But the question is if the core of Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Michael Backlund will be around to see it.
19. Nashville Predators
David Poile holds most of the cards going into this Trade Deadline. Mattias Ekholm could fetch a ransom considering the weak D market. Would he move a Filip Forsberg? This season, we’ve seen just how handcuffed this team is because of some contracts on their roster. Despite a recent win streak, they should probably be sellers this trade deadline. Poile is likely nearing the end of his time as an NHL GM, so he might not be willing to sit through a rebuild.
At least they have the most handsome captain in the league.
20. Philadelphia Flyers
This one is disappointing. I had the Flyers as the East Division winners, but nothing’s gone right this season. Carter Hart has been struggling intensely in the net. The forwards can’t score and the defence looks lacklustre. This is not the team we thought it would be. That makes this Trade Deadline a difficult one for the Flyers. Do they try to power through the struggles and buy big? Or do they look to the future and Sell? Few teams stand on the precipice of choice like the Flyers do.
21. LA Kings
If these psychos give Drew Doughty the Norris I swear to god I’ll become a baseball fan I’ll do it.
22. Chicago Blackhawks
Please god, don’t let a potential playoff berth let you think that this is a well-built team. Do the right thing Mr. Bowman and sell big on whatever you can.
23. Dallas Stars
Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop should be back soon, but it may be too little too late for a Stars team that finished second last season. Anything can happen, but watching this team just doesn’t elicit the same kind of excitement we saw this past summer.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
If they ship Patrik Laine off at the deadline, it’d be the biggest buy high sell low in the history of the NHL. Jarmo Kekäläinen is likely on the way out anyway, but still, what a horrible job of managing assets the last few seasons. John Tortorella remains one of the most frustrating coaches in the league, and will likely leave Columbus at the end of the season. Thanks for coming Blue Jackets, but I’ll be honest, I almost forgot you existed.
25. San Jose Sharks
They’ve been better lately, but this is a team that should scare itself. Massive contracts for 30+ declining stars, no real prospects, choppy goaltending. There’s not a lot of good happening in California these days.
26. Vancouver Canucks
The situation with Vancouver is horrible. The COVID cases and possible variants involved mean that their season is likely over. I wish all the players and the affected families the best.
27. Detroit Red Wings
I would say blow it up, but like…who is there to sell? Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are the only pieces worth anything, and they’re not going anywhere. In the meantime, GM Steve Yzerman will likely continue to stock up the pantry with picks and prospects, but at this point there aren’t too many pieces that are worth much.
28. New Jersey Devils
I saw someone on Twitter propose a Jack Hughes-Nico Hischier trade for Jack Eichel-Rasmus Dahlin and I can’t think of a situation that makes four people less happy. Hi Jack? Remember how your team was awful? You’re going to love where we sent you!
29. Ottawa Senators
I love these Sens. The Sicko Sense meme has been phenomenal and the fact that losing to them means your head coach is getting fired is probably the funniest thing of the year. There’s just something about them that’s incredible. I mean, not the hockey, but something!
30. Anaheim Ducks
All that’s left to do now is wait for Trevor Zegras to mature as a centerman while the rest of the yutes achieve maturity on a pretty horrendous hockey team. Their chances will come in the next three years. But this season has been over for the Ducks since the end of January. They’re ranked below Ottawa and New Jersey because their ascension back to the top of the standings has a much longer way to go than the other two.
John Gibson deserves better.
31. Buffalo Sabres
Sell the farm. Ship off anyone you can. Give up an arm and leg to banish the Jeff Skinner contract. Do whatever it takes to acquire picks and prospects. The season (and likely the next) are write-offs. Kevyn Adams needs to put the “For Sale” in the front yard and do whatever he can to stock up for the future. There are maybe two untouchables on this whole roster. This whole franchise needs a restart. Buffalo hockey fans deserve better, and 10 years without a playoff appearance should’ve left this team without any fans. Alas, Sabres fans are loyal to a fault and are far better than their franchise deserves.
Thanks for reading, follow me on Twitter for more nonsense @Matthew_Coyte