NHL power rankings: Avalanche roll to top spot, Predators crash the party

Check back here for our updated NHL power rankings, which will be frequently refreshed amid the shortened, 56-game season.

Now that the 2020-21 season is underway, it’s time for some updated NHL power rankings to get a sense of where teams really stand in the early going. Buckle up, because this could be a truly wild time, with numerous rankings fluctuations and maneuvers.

Due to the persistent uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, division realignment and shortened, 56-game schedule as opposed to the regular slate of 82, there’s a sense anything can happen. Even the best clubs could stumble out of the gates. On the other hand, continuity will likely bode well for some of the top Stanley Cup contenders.

Without further ado, here are Sportsnaut’s NHL power rankings, which will continue to be updated throughout the season.

1. Colorado Avalanche (Previous Ranking: 2)

NHL power rankings: Colorado Avalanche
Aug 31, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky (center) celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars with right wing Mikko Rantanen (left) and center Nathan MacKinnon (right) during the second period in game five of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. The Colorado Avalanche won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

With points in their last 11 games, the Avs are on fire. They’ve rallied to put themselves just one point behind the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and have tied the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best goal differential in the league (+41). Mikko Rantanen has scored 12 goals in the month of March alone, and Philipp Grubauer is putting on a goaltending clinic, posting a 1.74 goals against average and a .929 save percentage on the season so far. 

2. Washington Capitals (Previous Ranking: 7)

NHL power rankings: Washington Capitals
Aug 20, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) comes onto the ice against the New York Islanders during the second period in game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of winning ways, the Washington Capitals have gone 9-1-0 in their past 10 games to overtake the New York Islanders for the East Division lead. Tom Wilson returned from his suspension last week, and has put up five points in the four games he’s played since. Both their power play and their penalty kill are in the top 10 in the league, and their overall surge is largely responsible for the jump in the NHL power rankings. 

3. Vegas Golden Knights (Previous Ranking: 3)

NHL power rankings: Vegas Golden Knights
Aug 30, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights celebrate the power play goal scored by left wing Max Pacioretty (67) against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

A huge overtime win over the Avalanche kept the Knights clinging to their first place spot in the West Division, and they’re now tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the best win percentage in the league (.742). Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has returned to practice–wearing a no-contact jersey–and is apparently nearing a return. Just over halfway through the season, Vegas only has 8 regulation losses, and they likely won’t slow down for the final stretch. 

4. Edmonton Oilers (Previous Ranking: 5)

NHL power rankings: Edmonton Oilers
Aug 7, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) skates during warmup against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference qualifications at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Even though their set against the Montreal Canadiens was postponed by COVID protocols, the Oilers and Connor McDavid are making a run for the top spot in the North Division, looking to dethrone the Toronto Maple Leafs–and they’re now just two points out of the top spot. McDavid has a jaw-dropping 63 points through 36 contests (and 10 points in his last five games), and Leon Draisaitl has another 54 tallies. What’s more, goalie Mike Smith has only three losses on the season, and has posted a 2.41 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. 

5. Minnesota Wild (Previous Ranking: 6)

NHL power rankings: Minnesota Wild
Jul 15, 2020; St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason looks on during a NHL workout at TRIA Rink. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Exceeding all expectations, the Wild are very much in the conversation in the West division. The club has gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and has the third best penalty kill in the league with an 85.8% effectiveness rating. Linemates Kevin Fiala and Marcus Johansson seem to be clicking, too, with the duo connecting for a goal and an assist each in the club’s 4-3 shootout loss to San Jose. And, their big divisional win over the St. Louis Blues marked their 11th straight home victory.  

6. Pittsburgh Penguins (Previous Ranking: 11)

NHL power rankings: Pittsburgh Penguins
Aug 7, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) goes to pass the puck against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of Eastern Conference qualifications at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins are heating up, solidifying themselves as a top-three seed in the East Division and climbing significantly in the NHL power rankings. A pair of wins over the New York Islanders proved this club still has fight left, and their power play and penalty kill numbers are improving, a huge contributor to their increased game play. This club has breathing room going down the stretch–they’re nine points ahead of the Boston Bruins–and is playing like a real contender.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning (Previous Ranking: 1)

NHL power rankings: Tampa Bay Lightning
Feb 17, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) in the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This is the lowest the Tampa Bay Lightning have placed in our NHL power rankings. While they’re still leading in the Central Division, they have slightly slipped–they no longer have the best winning percentage in the league, and have gone 6-4-0 in their last 10 matchups. That doesn’t mean the Bolts have to fear, really, because they’re still among the best clubs in the league in goal differential, power play and penalty kill percentages, and win percentages. They just seem to be in a slight dip. 

8. Carolina Hurricanes (Previous Ranking: 8)

NHL power rankings: Carolina Hurricanes
Aug 15, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour talks with his team during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Canes have the best power play in the league with a 30.2% conversion rate, and have won their last three straight contests to climb within a point of the Lightning again. In those three victories, Martin Necas recorded four goals and three assists (including a game-winning goal and a game-winning assist) to earn himself the NHL’s second star of the week. In early March, he was the third star of the week, too, as the playmaker’s ability is a big factor in the club’s success. 

9. New York Islanders (Previous Ranking: 4)

NHL power rankings: New York Islanders
Jan 31, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After a two-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the once-hot Isles have been dethroned in the East Division. They’re now tied with the Pens in points (48), and really seem to be missing Anders Lee. With Semyon Varlamov struggling of late, too, the Islanders have sunk to the bottom third of the league on the power play. They’ll need Mathew Barzal to play the way he was at the beginning of the season if they’re going to re-climb the NHL power rankings. 

10. Winnipeg Jets (Previous Ranking: 11)

NHL power rankings: Winnipeg Jets
Jul 16, 2020; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) follows the puck during a NHL workout at MTS Iceplex. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now within one point of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets are making a hard push for the postseason. In a victory over the Calgary Flames, Mark Schiefele tallied two goals and, earlier in the week, Andrew Copp potted four to earn the Jets a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. With scoring abound and Connor Hellebuyck posting over a .910 save percentage in each of his last 5 starts, the Jets have set their sights on the top spot in the North Division.