2020-21 NHL Pre-Season Power Rankings

Photo: Raw Charge

After a second wave of moves across the NHL over the past few weeks and training camps opening for teams this week, NoVa Caps presents the second edition of offseason power-rankings. You can see our first edition here.

Note: Some divisions are stronger than others so some worse teams are going to sneak into the top-four in their divisions since every team will play the same six-or-seven teams this season. Teams were ranked based on the quality of the teams, not necessarily how they are expected to finish in their division.

31. Chicago Blackhawks

Already heading into the season with arguably the NHL’s worst goaltending tandem in Malcolm Subban and Colin Delia, captain Jonathan Toews could be out for a while after Tuesday’s announcement that he will be out indefinitely with a medical issue and center Kirby Dach will miss 4-5 months after undergoing surgery to repair a right wrist fracture he sustained at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships. While the Blackhawks replaced Olli Maatta with Nikita Zadorov, that is arguably a downgrade from a defense that averaged 35.1 shots-against per game last season, a league-high.

Trending: Down

30. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks made a couple of nice additions with Kevin Shattenkirk and Jamie Drysdale to help their defense and center Derek Grant will help, but it won’t be enough to turn around an offense that ranked 29th with an average of 2.56 goals-per-game. Their core is getting older with center Ryan Getzlaf 35 and center Adam Henrique and forward Jakob Silfverberg 30, but they have some talented young forwards like Max Jones, Troy Terry, and Sam Steel. If the Ducks want a chance, goaltender John Gibson must bounce back from a year where he posted a 20-26-5 record, a career-worst .904 save percentage, a careeer-high 3.00 goals-against average, and a shutout. Gibson is certainly capable — prior to last season he posted a save percentage of at least .917 for four consecutive seasons.

Trending: Up

29. San Jose Sharks

After finishing last in the NHL with a .901 five-on-five save percentage and goaltender Martin Jones finished each of the past two seasons with an .896 save percentage, the Sharks acquired Devan Dubnyk, who is coming off of his worst season since 2013-14 as he went 12-15-2 with an .890 save percentage, a 3.35 goals-against average, and a shutout in 30 games with the Minnesota Wild last season. They also added center Ryan Donato, forward Patrick Marleau, and forward Matt Nieto but that will not make a big difference to an offense that averaged 2.57 goals-per-game last season. Defenseman Brent Burns is coming off of a season where his production fell off a cliff and he was a -22 rating and defenseman Erik Karlsson cannot seem to stay healthy. As many of their core players are getting older and the team declined last season, the Sharks are heading into a rebuild.

Trending: Same

28. Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings made a lot of improvements over the offseason, selecting forward Lucas Raymond at No. 4 and acquiring forward Bobby Ryan, forward Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Jon Merill, defenseman Marc Staal, defenseman Troy Stetcher, and goaltender Thomas Greiss while parting with goaltender Jimmy Howard after 15 seasons. The Red Wings have plenty of talented forwards and the addition of Namestnikov should help a team that averaged just two goals-per-game last season. An injection of youth with forwards Filip Zadina and defenseman Dennis Cholowski should help the Red Wings improve but they are still in the midst of paying the price for all of those trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1997 to 2016.

Trending: Up

27. Ottawa Senators

The Senators made a lot of improvements over the offseason with goaltender Matt Murray, center Derek Stepan, and forward Evgenii Dadonov amongst the many players acquired via trade or free agency this offseason. They also had three first-round picks at the 2020 NHL Draft, where they selected center Tim Stuetzle, defenseman Jake Sanderson, and forward Riley Greig. The Senators also have plenty of exciting prospects who are expected to make the jump to the NHL this season, including forward Drake Batherson, center Josh Norris, and center Logan Brown. While the Senators are trending up, they will be in a tough North Division and still need more time for their prospects and young players to blossom.

Trending: Up

26. Los Angeles Kings

The Kings showed promise by going out with a seven-game winning-streak last season and selected center Quinton Byfield with the second overall pick in the NHL Draft. They were not very active this offseason but did bolster their defense with the addition of Maatta from the Blackhawks, which should help guide youngsters Kale Clague, Matt Roy, and Mikey Anderson. Even with Byfield on board, the Kings’ offense is still amongst the worst in the NHL after averaging 2.53 goals-per-game (30th), and the team appears to be shifting towards Calvin Petersen in net. The Kings are on the rise with one of the best prospect pools but patience will be the key in Los Angeles.

Trending: Up

25. New Jersey Devils

After their .913 even-strength save percentage was the ninth-worst in the NHL last season, the Devils went out and signed two-time Stanley Cup Champion Corey Crawford to join MacKenzie Blackwood, who excelled in his first NHL season, to make up one of the better tandems in the league. This is a team still in a rebuild, with a defense that gave up an average of 3.25 goals-against per game last season. While the addition of Ryan Murray helps, he has not shown that he can stay healthy. The Devils also scored an average of 2.68 goals-per-game last season and do not have any additional firepower. Look for an improvement in New Jersey but it is doubtful that they will do much this season.

Trending: Up

24. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres made a lot of improvements this offseason, acquiring forwards Taylor Hall and Eric Staal and selecting Jack Quinn in the draft after the team averaged 2.80 goals-per-game last season. Goaltender Linus Ullmark had a breakout campaign last season as he posted a 17-14-3 record, a .915 save percentage, and a 2.69 goals-against average, but he will need to show he can continue to step it up. In a tough East Division, it will be challenging to move up in the standings but the Sabres should definitely take a step forward this season.

Trending: Up

23. Florida Panthers

The Panthers had a rough offseason as they saw forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman walk out the door, but the addition of forward Patric Hornqvist should help replace some of the lost production. While the Panthers have a lot of talent, they have not proven that they can defend as they have been near the bottom of the NHL in goals-against the past few years. The Panthers should have a shot in a weak Central Division but until they can finally defend, their offensive talent will not matter.

Trending: Down

22. Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes had an offseason full of drama as they saw Hall, Stepan, and center Carl Soderberg out the door and they signed only bottom-six forwards Derick Brassard, Drake Caggiula, center John Hayden, forward Tyler Pitlick, and forward Johan Larsson to replace them. The Coyotes have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta and a strong defense. They could be dangerous in a weak West Division but it may be tough to stay in the race after a rough offseason.

Trending: Down

21. Minnesota Wild

The Wild went 8-4-0 after head coach Dean Evason replaced Bruce Boudreau last season and they made improvements in the offseason, acquiring forwards Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, Marcus Johansson, and Marco Rossi in addition to goaltender Cam Talbot. They also traded Dubnyk, Donato, Staal, and center Luke Kunin in separate deals. Minnesota expects Kirill Kaprizov, who recorded 33 goals and 62 points in 57 games with the KHL’s CSKA Moskva last season, and Kaapo Kahkonen, who posted a 3-1-1 record with a .913 save percentage and a 2.96 goals-against average, to make the jump to the NHL this season. The Wild appear to be improving and they could be big beneficiaries of the new realignment in a weak West Division.

Trending: Up

20. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have a lot of talented forwards and improved on the backend this offseason with the re-signing of defenseman Dylan DeMelo and acquisition of Derek Forbort in free agency. They also finally solved their hole at second-line center with the addition of Paul Stastny. It will be harder for the Jets to make the cut in a talented North Division but with the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Connor Hellebuyck in the crease and plenty of talent, they could have a chance to make the top four.

Trending: Down

19. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets had a quiet offseason but they made some upgrades at forward, acquiring centers Max Domi, Mikko Koivu, and Mikhail Grigorenko, after finishing last season with an average of 2.57 goals-per-game (tied for the fourth-lowest), but center Pierre-Luc Dubois is still a restricted free agent. However, that came at a cost as they lost Murray and defenseman Markus Nuttivaara as their blueline, which gave up an average of 2.61 goals-per-game (tied for fourth), got worse this season. The hope is that Vladislav Gavrikov can establish himself as a top-four defenseman. The Blue Jackets should have a shot in a weak Central Division with one of the best goalie tandems in Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, who combined for a .928 five-on-five save percentage a season ago.

Trending: Down

18. Nashville Predators

The Predators had a rough start to the offseason but appeared to improve as they signed centers Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula in free agency and lost Bonino and forward Craig Smith. They appear to have some talented young forwards in Eeli Tolvanen and Philipp Tomasino ready to make the leap to the NHL and they still have one of the deepest bluelines in the league. They also appear to be undergoing a transition in goal as Juusse Saros took the No. 1 job last season and Pekka Rinne nears unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. The Predators should have a good chance to make the cut in a weak Central Division.

Trending: Down

17. Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers added some depth with the addition of forward Dominik Kahun, center Kyle Turris, and forward Jesse Puljujarvi after centers Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins accounted for 99 (over 44%) of the Oilers’ 223 goals last season. The team will be without No. 1 defenseman Oscar Klefbom for the entire season after he underwent shoulder surgery but the addition of Tyson Barrie should help. The Oilers have a lot of talent but the depth scoring and goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith, who combined for a .912 five-on-five team save percentage last season (seventh-worst in NHL) and a league-worst .855 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, could hold them back in a deep North Division.

Trending: Down

16. New York Rangers

The Rangers had a quiet offseason as they did not make any significant changes but got the crown jewel of the NHL Draft as they picked forward Alexis Lafreniere with the top pick. This is a young talented team on the rise but forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo were among the many Rangers to have career years last year — will they be able to do it again? This is a team that is trending up but has players that still need to learn the ropes of the NHL and it will be challenging to sneak into the top four in the East Division.

Trending: Up

15. Vancouver Canucks 

The Canucks underwent a lot of changes in the offseason with goaltender Jacob Markstrom, defenseman Chris Tanev, and forward Tyler Toffoli out the door and on division rivals for this season. They got goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman Nate Schmidt to replace Markstrom and Tanev, respectively, but the hope is that goaltender Thatcher Demko, defenseman Olli Juleolevi, forward Jake Virtanen, and forward Vasily Podkolzin are among the many talented prospects who are ready to graduate to the NHL this season. While there are questions about whether they can fill a couple of holes from within, the Canucks should be in a position to compete with center Elias Pettersson, forward Brock Boeser, center Bo Horvat, and defenseman Quinn Hughes.

Trending: Down

14. Boston Bruins

After winning the Presidents’ Trophy, the Bruins have been on the decline as they went 0-3-0 in the round-robin, fell in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, and lost defensemen Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara over the offseason. They added Smith to help an offense that relied heavily on their top trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, which combined for 107 (over 47.1%) of the team’s 227 goals last season. The big three should give the Bruins a chance but a lack of depth and questions in goal after Tuukka Rask left the Toronto bubble last August and is entering the final year of his contract could bump the Bruins out in perhaps the deepest division in the NHL.

Trending: Down

13. Calgary Flames

The Flames solidified their goaltending with the addition of Markstrom over the offseason and added a solid defensive defenseman in Tanev. They have a few holes in the lineup but they are hoping to see defensemen Oliver Kylington and Jusso Valimaki can fill in for Forbort and defenseman T.J. Brodie, who both left in free agency. The key for the Flames is going to be for forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to bounce back after down 2019-20 campaigns but they should squeeze into the top-four in the North Division.

Trending: Up

12. New York Islanders

The Islanders still have work to do as center Mathew Barzal is currently a restricted free agent and they had to give away defenseman Devon Toews to clear cap space. Goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who went 26-10-3 with a .935 save percentage, a 1.50 goals-against average, and nine shutouts in 40 games with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow last season, is expected to compete with Semyon Varlamov for playing time after Greiss left in free agency. They need to get Barzal signed as soon as possible but they should compete for a spot in the East Division with Barry Trotz as their head coach.

Trending: Down

11. Montreal Canadiens

After being an analytical darling during the regular season, stunning the Pittsburgh Penguins with a four-game victory in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and giving the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers a scare in the first round, the Canadiens are arguably one of the most improved teams this offseason as they acquired forward Tyler Toffoli, goaltender Jake Allen, defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward Josh Anderson, and forward Corey Perry this offseason. They are also expected to bring in some youth with Cale Fleury and Alexander Romanov ready to make the jump. Oh yeah, and they also have one of the best goaltenders in the world in Carey Price between the pipes.

Trending: Up

10. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins acquired forward Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs and added some depth players in forward Colton Sceviour and center Mark Jankowski while seeing forwards Patric Hornqvist, Conor Sheary, and Nick Bjugstad walk out the door. They might have the worst defensive pairing in the NHL after acquiring Cody Ceci and Mike Matheson and some questions in goal with Tristan Jarry entering his first season as the undisputed No. 1 and Casey DeSmith as the back-up. However, they are deep at forward, have a solid top-four defensive group, and one of the best 1-2 center punches in the league with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still around so they should be able to make the postseason even if they are on the decline.

Trending: Down

9. St. Louis Blues

The Blues lost their captain in Alex Pietrangelo this offseason but patched the hole by signing Krug and still have a deep blueline. They also have a deal in place to sign forward Mike Hoffman. Their power-play unit, ranked third in the NHL with a 24.3% efficiency last season, could have forward Vladimir Tarasenko out for a while due to shoulder surgery. Goaltending is the Blues’ biggest weakness after Jordan Binnington went ent 0-5-0 with an .851 save percentage and a 4.72 goals-against average during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and back-up Villie Husso has yet to make his NHL debut, but overall this is a very solid team.

Trending: Down

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs added some depth to their lineup with the additions of center Joe Thornton, forward Wayne Simmonds, and forward Jimmy Vesey and upgraded at defense with the free-agent signing of Brodie. This team has one of the best offenses in the game with center Auston Matthews, captain John Tavares, forward Mitch Marner, and forward William Nylander and an improved defense. Could this core finally break through the first round this season?

Trending: Up

7. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes did not improve this offseason as they lost Edmundson, defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk, forward Justin Williams, and perhaps defenseman Sami Vatanen but can fill those holes from within with defensemen Hadyn Fleury and Jake Bean ready to take the next step. Their young nucleus of forwards Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Tervainen, and Andrei Svechnikov in addition to defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton continues to improve but is goaltender Petr Mrazek good enough to lead this team deep into the postseason? The Hurricanes should be a top-three team in the Central Division.

Trending: Up

6. Washington Capitals

The Capitals turned their biggest weakness into a strength after signing defensemen Chara, Van Riemsdyk, Justin Schultz, and Paul LaDue in free agency and still have a deep offense with captain Alex Ovechkin, forward Jakub Vrana, center Nicklas Backstrom, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, and forward T.J. Oshie around. They acquired Sheary for forward depth and have one of the deepest center groups in the NHL. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark after Henrik Lundqvist announced that he will not play this season due to a heart condition and Ilya Samsonov heading into his first season as the No. 1 but the revamped blueline led by reigning Norris Trophy candidate John Carlson should help. This core is getting a bit older but the Capitals should still be a top team under new head coach Peter Laviolette this season.

Trending: Same

5. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers broke out in 2020 as they went 19-6-1 to finish the regular season, including 9-1-0 in their final 10 games, and earned the top-seed in the Eastern Conference in the round-robin. They did not undergo many changes in the offseason but the loss of top-pair defenseman Matt Niskanen is a big one, though the free-agent signing of Erik Gustafsson and the growth of Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg should help them recover. The Flyers are looking to take another step forward and hope players like forward Travis Konecny, defenseman Ivan Provorov, forward Joel Farabee, and goaltender Carter Hart develop even further. This team should compete for the top spot in the East Division.

Trending: Up

4. Dallas Stars

The Stars made nearly no changes after coming two wins short of the Stanley Cup as they acquired defenseman Mark Pysyk and lost only Perry and forward Mattias Janmark. This is a team that has one of the best goalie tandems as Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin combined for a .933 five-on-five team save percentage and best defenses, which averaged 2.52 goals-against per game (both second in NHL) led by Miro Heiskanen, who had a breakout performance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The offense may have not lived up to expectations but the Stars still have weapons upfront with Denis Gurianov, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Roope Hintz.

Trending: Up

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

The defending Stanley Cup Champions had a quiet offseason and did not add anyone significant but had to part with some valuable pieces in Shattenkirk, defenseman Braydon Coburn, and center Cedric Paquette to make room to sign center Anthony Cirelli, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, and defenseman Erik Cernak this offseason. Unfortuntely,  forward Nikita Kucherov, their leading scorer in each of the past four seasons, will miss the regular season with a hip injury.  Still, the Lightning will still be among the best in the league with defenseman Victor Hedman, center Steven Stamkos, center Brayden Point, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. While the danger of the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover looms, being the top gun in a weak Central Division and the unique circumstances of this season should benefit them.

Trending: Down

2. Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights landed the prize of the free-agent class in Pietrangelo and re-signed Robin Lehner to keep the NHL’s best goalie tandem of him and Marc-Andre Fleury intact. The Golden Knights have one of the deepest offenses in the league led by Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and one of the best defenses with a top pairing of Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore, who broke out during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After going into the NHL Pause on an 11-2-0 run, going to the Western Conference Final, and adding Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights appear to be ready to take a big step into Stanley Cup contention. Though, centers Chandler Stephenson or Cody Glass better be ready to fill their hole at second-line center after they dealt Stastny to clear cap space.

Trending: Up

1. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche could very well be the deepest team in the NHL after acquiring forward Brandon Saad to add to an offense that already averaged 3.37 goals-per-game (fourth in the league) and Toews to a defense, led by reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar, that held opponents to an average of 2.71 goals-per-game (sixth). They have the best forward trio in the NHL with center Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog but the main questions facing this team are their goalies, who struggled to stay healthy last season, and the rest of their team staying healthy. If they are, the Avalanche should be a threat to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

Trending: Up

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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1 Response to 2020-21 NHL Pre-Season Power Rankings

  1. Anonymous says:

    nothing, honestly

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