Skip to content

NHL Power Rankings: Each team's biggest surprise so far

Photo illustration by Julian Catalfo / theScore

This is the fourth in-season edition of theScore's NHL Power Rankings for the 2023-24 campaign. Check back for updated rankings every other Monday.

In this edition, we look at each team's biggest surprise so far this season.

1. New York Rangers (18-4-1)

Previous rank: 3

Jonathan Quick turns back the clock. Quick struggled mightily in 2022-23, culminating with the Los Angeles Kings trading the franchise icon in a cap dump. Nobody saw a .918 save percentage and 7-0-1 record coming for the 37-year-old upon arriving in New York. His re-emergence has taken some of the workload off Igor Shesterkin.

2. Boston Bruins (17-4-3)

Previous rank: 1

No. 1 in the Atlantic. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Bruins fan who didn't think Boston would take a step back after a record-setting 2022-23, especially without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in the picture. But here are the Bruins atop their division again. It's business as usual.

3. Vegas Golden Knights (16-5-4)

Previous rank: 2

No Cup hangover. The Golden Knights haven't missed a beat since hoisting the Stanley Cup in June. Vegas rattled off seven straight wins to commence the campaign, and Adin Hill looks as dominant as he did in the postseason. If any team were expected to have a Cup hangover, you'd think it would be the club from Vegas.

4. Los Angeles Kings (14-4-3)

Previous rank: 5

Cam Talbot. The Kings have one of the deepest rosters in the NHL, but a massive question mark in net left many uneasy about Los Angeles' chances this season. Talbot has posted a .930 save percentage in 16 games, and his resurgent campaign has helped push the Kings into the top three in the league by points percentage.

5. Dallas Stars (14-5-3)

Glenn James / National Hockey League / Getty

Previous rank: 8

Wyatt Johnston. The 20-year-old has never heard of a sophomore slump, apparently. He only knows a sophomore surge. Johnston ranks fourth on the Stars with 17 points and second with nine goals in 22 games. At the rate he's going, he'll smash his offensive output from his rookie year (24 tallies, 41 points in 82 games).

6. Vancouver Canucks (16-8-1)

Previous rank: 4

Just ... all of it. No, really, take your pick. Quinn Hughes' Norris Trophy-worthy season. Elias Pettersson's Hart Trophy-worthy season. Thatcher Demko's Vezina Trophy-worthy season. The list goes on and on. We all knew these guys were good, but they are rolling right now. And the Canucks are moving right along with them.

7. Colorado Avalanche (15-7-2)

Previous rank: 7

Alexandar Georgiev's swift decline. After starting the season with six consecutive victories, Colorado's No. 1 netminder has gone 7-6-1 with a .884 save percentage.

8. Carolina Hurricanes (14-8-1)

Previous rank: 11

Goaltending woes. Coming into the season, you couldn't find a team that was three goaltenders deep like the Hurricanes. Two months into the campaign, Frederik Andersen's out for the foreseeable future, while Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta sport abysmal sub-.890 save percentages.

9. Florida Panthers (14-8-2)

Previous rank: 6

Matthew Tkachuk's scoring struggles. After dominating the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the talented pest has struggled to find the back of the net through the first two months of the new season. He scored just four times in 24 contests and ended a lengthy 10-game goal drought with a tally Saturday.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs (12-6-4)

Kevin Sousa / NHL / Getty Images

Previous rank: 10

Lack of regulation wins. The Maple Leafs finished with the third-most regulation victories in each of the past two seasons, so it's surprising that Sheldon Keefe's squad is having a hard time handling its business in 60 minutes this campaign. Toronto has just five regulation wins, tied with the Blackhawks and Kraken.

11. Detroit Red Wings (13-7-3)

Previous rank: 15

Patrick Kane pickup. GM Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings have shown they mean business by signing the coveted unrestricted free-agent winger. Detroit holds the third spot in the Atlantic Division and will have its eye on snapping a seven-year playoff drought.

12. Winnipeg Jets (13-8-2)

Previous rank: 9

Resilience. The Jets came out of a rumor-filled offseason with new life. Head coach Rick Bowness recently praised his team's tighter culture, and we're seeing exactly what he sees. The proof: Winnipeg went 9-2-2 during Bowness' month-long absence. That's cohesion, baby.

13. Washington Capitals (12-7-2)

Previous rank: 12

Alex Ovechkin's plummeting pursuit of Gretzky. If you were told during the preseason that the Capitals would be in a playoff spot come December, you'd likely anticipate Ovechkin being amid another remarkable goal-scoring campaign. But that isn't the case - his five goals in 21 games don't even have him on pace for 20 this season.

14. New Jersey Devils (11-10-1)

Previous rank: 16

Key injuries. The trio of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton missed a combined five games last season. However, they've already sat out 18 contests this campaign due to injuries. Hughes and Hischier are at least back in the lineup now, but Hamilton is out indefinitely. Ouch.

15. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-10-5)

Mark LoMoglio / National Hockey League / Getty

Previous rank: 13

Goals against. The Bolts were expected to be in tough without Andrei Vasilevskiy to start the season, but nobody could have foreseen Tampa Bay ranking 31st with 93 goals against. No player on the Lightning is above zero in plus-minus this season.

16. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-10-2)

Previous rank: 17

Dismal power play. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang. A man advantage featuring that collection of players somehow ranks in the bottom five of the NHL. The Penguins need to start operating above a 10.9% clip on the power play and do it quickly.

17. Arizona Coyotes (12-9-2)

Previous rank: 21

Connor Ingram takes starting gig. After Karel Vejmelka played 50-plus games over each of his first two NHL seasons, everyone anticipated the Czech native would again be the guy for the Coyotes. Well, everyone except for Ingram. The 26-year-old has been superb with a .926 save percentage. As a result, Arizona is rewarding him.

18. New York Islanders (10-7-6)

Previous rank: 24

Poor penalty kill. Success while down a skater has been a hallmark of Islanders hockey in recent years, but New York's penalty kill ranks 31st at a paltry 72.6%.

19. Philadelphia Flyers (12-10-2)

Previous rank: 14

Underlying numbers. Expectations for the Flyers this season were universally microscopic. However, Philly is sneakily playing some quality hockey, ranking fifth in expected goal share (54%) and third in expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.33).

20. St. Louis Blues (12-10-1)

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Previous rank: 18

Jordan Binnington. The Blues' oft-angered netminder looked to be at a major career crossroads after producing his worst season yet in 2022-23. He's rebounded nicely with a .910 clip and 3.6 goals saved above average this campaign.

21. Calgary Flames (10-11-3)

Previous rank: 25

Jonathan Huberdeau's struggles continue. After a 60-point drop in production upon Huberdeau's arrival in Calgary, a coaching change was hoped to rejuvenate the talented playmaker. But Ryan Huska hasn't managed to help Huberdeau find his form again, as the forward's scoring rate is even lower than a season ago. His minus-11 is also the worst on the team.

22. Nashville Predators (12-12-0)

Previous rank: 28

Juuse Saros. The backbone of the Predators hasn't been himself yet this season. After three consecutive campaigns earning Vezina Trophy votes, Saros is struggling to a .900 save percentage with minus-2.07 goals saved above average.

23. Edmonton Oilers (9-12-1)

Previous rank: 29

Connor Brown. To say everything about the Oilers' start would be low-hanging fruit, so we'll single out Brown. He was widely expected to be a key bargain signing and perhaps even ride shotgun to old junior teammate Connor McDavid, but he's managed a single assist in 16 games this season.

24. Minnesota Wild (8-10-4)

Previous rank: 27

Soap-opera start. There have been faulty goaltending performances, underperforming stars, a meeting with their very disappointed GM, a fired coach, and now a three-game winning streak under their new bench boss, John Hynes. The Wild aren't lacking for drama, but they are lacking victories.

25. Ottawa Senators (9-10-0)

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Previous rank: 19

Not enough progress. This is supposed to be the season the Senators enter the playoff mix, but Ottawa finds itself facing an uphill battle past the schedule's quarter mark. Although the Sens hold several games in hand, they're eight points back of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

26. Buffalo Sabres (10-13-2)

Previous rank: 23

Devon Levi not the answer (yet). Expectations for Levi as a rookie netminder were astronomically high coming into the campaign. Many pegged him as the man to take over the Sabres' crease and lead Buffalo back to the playoffs. After nine games and a dismal .876 save percentage, a demotion to the AHL will hopefully help the 21-year-old find his game again.

27. Montreal Canadiens (10-11-3)

Previous rank: 26

Josh Anderson's cold spell. The speedy power forward has been a 20-goal threat when healthy for most of his career, but he's stuck on zero this season through 24 appearances. His shots per-game rate is also well below his lifetime average, sitting at 1.92 compared to 2.3.

28. Seattle Kraken (8-11-6)

Previous rank: 22

Sputtering offense. Thanks to a well-balanced approach, Seattle finished fourth in goals last season en route to its first-ever playoff berth. However, the Kraken currently own the 24th-ranked attack this campaign and have only four forwards with more than five goals.

29. Anaheim Ducks (10-14-0)

Previous rank: 20

Roller-coaster ride of a season. We thought the Ducks would be pretty bad, but their first two months of the campaign have been more up-and-down than expected. Anaheim was on a high with a six-game win streak before falling back down to earth with eight consecutive losses. Please stop, we're getting nauseous.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (8-14-4)

Ben Jackson / National Hockey League / Getty

Previous rank: 31

Johnny Gaudreau. Even though the Blue Jackets underwhelmed in the standings last season, Gaudreau still operated at just under a point per game. This season? An astonishingly low 13 points in 26 contests, a far cry from his near Hart Trophy form two seasons ago.

31. Chicago Blackhawks (7-16-0)

Previous rank: 30

Kevin Korchinski. Connor Bedard isn't the only rookie impressing in the Windy City. Korchinski isn't generating as many headlines, but the 19-year-old defenseman has racked up two goals and seven points in 23 games while averaging 19:27 of ice time per contest. Not bad for a guy who's never seen any AHL action.

32. San Jose Sharks (6-17-2)

Previous rank: 32

Modest turnaround. All hope appeared to be lost when the Sharks allowed 10 goals in back-to-back games to fall to 0-10-1, but San Jose is a respectable 6-7-1 since its nightmarish start.

(Analytics sources: Evolving Hockey, Natural Stat Trick)

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox