Happy new year! 2017 is now in the books, and 2018 is finally here! 2017 was an exciting year in the hockey world, and 2018 is shaping up to be just as special. With the regular season in full swing, teams are approaching the half way point in their seasons. As we enter 2018, which teams are the hottest heading into the new year? Which teams are expected to contend for the playoffs in April?
Let’s dive in to the first top 10 power rankings for 2018:
1. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (1)
2. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (2)
3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (3)
4. WINNIPEG JETS (7)
5. LOS ANGELES KINGS (4)
6. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (8)
7. ST. LOUIS BLUES (5)
8. NEW JERSEY DEVILS (6)
9. BOSTON BRUINS (NR)
10. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (10)
Note: These rankings will change every week
*(#) indicates last week’s ranking
*“NR” indicates “Not Ranked”
THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEK’S TOP 10
-Let’s start off with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has been the top team in the power rankings for several weeks now. I am going to go ahead and declare them a lock for the postseason. They have won 28 of 38 games, and only have 8 regulation losses, 3 of which happened at home. The Atlantic Division is the Lightning’s to win, as they are 10 points ahead of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Besides those 3 teams, the Atlantic Division will likely not carry any other clubs into the postseason. The Lightning have a fantastic hockey club that is deep at all positions. They are getting great goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy, and a Norris Trophy caliber season from defenseman Victor Hedman. In addition to good goaltending and defensive play, forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are tearing up the scoring race. The Lightning could have a player or coach nominated for every individual award this season. This team is a heavy favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2018.
-The Winnipeg Jets rose in the power rankings this week. They had a good 3-game stretch, as they defeated the Oilers twice and the New York Islanders once. In the ultra-competitive Central Division, the Jets are in a battle with the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars. The Jets could improve on their 9-8-5 road record, but they are a very good home team. The Jets took a huge blow to their lineup over the last week, as forward Mark Scheifele will miss the next 6-8 weeks with an upper-body injury. Scheifele is a valuable center in their lineup, and was producing at a point-per-game pace.
-It was a pretty good week for the Washington Capitals. The Capitals stole a couple of wins against Boston and New Jersey before the New Year, and they are back at the top of the competitive Metropolitan Division. Defenseman John Carlson has elevated his play with more icetime this year. Carlson is among the league’s top defensemen with icetime, and his offensive production has increased too. Carlson has 31 points in 40 games this year, and is just 6 points shy of his point total from last year. The Capitals are returning to form and getting healthy, and that makes them a dangerous threat to win the Metropolitan Division for the third straight year.
-The Boston Bruins are new to the power rankings. They have won 7 out of their last 10 games. During this recent hot stretch for them, they have beaten teams like Winnipeg, New York (Rangers), and Columbus. They are also getting critical victories against their Atlantic Division rivals. The Atlantic Division is starting to separate, and the Bruins are in a good position to possibly make the postseason. Keep an eye on rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy for the Bruins. The 20-year old was a 2016 1st round pick of the Bruins and he looks like a steal. He is getting a lot of minutes for Bruce Cassidy’s club, and he looks like a very promising young defenseman.
By: George Foussekis