NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs take top spot amid dominant stretch

NHL Power Rankings: Maple Leafs take top spot amid dominant stretch
1 Maple Leafs 2 16-6-1

The common refrain about this Maple Leafs team, "Wait and see what they can do in the playoffs." I hate that dismissal of regular season success. They rolling right now, and fans are supposed to sit on their hands for 82 games? Toronto is an incredibly fun team. It's OK to enjoy the journey to the postseason.

2 Hurricanes 1 15-4-1

Carolina has slipped out of the top spot because they've dropped three of their last four games. The Hurricanes' offense has dried up a little in that stretch, but that will happen to any team over a long season.

3 Oilers 1 15-5-0

I have made a lot about Alex Ovechkin's hot start to the season, and I will continue to do that later in these rankings, but Leon Draisaitl is just as hot. He has 40 points (20 goals and 20 assists) in just 20 games. There are a lot of NHL players who would take that in a full season without thinking twice.

4 Lightning -- 12-5-3

After losing Nikita Kucherov earlier in the season, the Bolts have now lost Brayden Point for four to six weeks. That's a big loss for Tampa, but it hasn't seemed to matter just yet. That's probably because Andrei Vasilevskiy is once again playing at a high level. Goaltending is usually a pretty volatile position from one year to the next, but that's not really the case with the Lightning netminder.

5 Capitals 1 14-3-5

Alex Ovechkin had the audacity to go without scoring a goal against the Canadiens, but he made up for it against the Panthers. Ovechkin scored a hat trick against Florida and added another goal in the Caps' win over the Hurricanes. He's now up to 19 tallies in 22 games. If I were an opposing team, I would simply guard Ovechkin.

6 Wild 1 14-6-1

Ryan Hartman already has more goals this season (12) than any other in his NHL career, outside of his rookie campaign in 2016-17. Hartman may have found another gear to his game, and that's a big reason the Wild are in first place in the Central Division. Now can he keep it rolling for the rest of the season?

7 Rangers 2 13-4-3

The Rangers had an impressive Thanksgiving week. First, they soundly beat their cross-town rivals, the New York Islanders. Then, the Rangers used a big third period to take down the Bruins in Boston. More importantly, the concerns I had about their underlying numbers are starting to fade as those steadily improve.

8 Avalanche 2 11-6-1

Despite the absence of Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche are scoring goals in bunches. That's because they are getting contributions from elsewhere in their ridiculously loaded lineup. In particular, early Norris Trophy candidate Cale Makar has 12 points in his last six games.

9 Flames 2 12-4-5

The Bruins have the best forward line in the NHL, and I don't really know if that is up for debate. However, Calgary has a line that is clicking on all cylinders in 2021-22. Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau are feasting on opponents this year. The Flames own 63.83% of the expected goals share with those three on the ice together, and they lead the team in scoring.

10 Panthers 5 14-4-3

Anthony Duclair has proven to be a brilliant addition for the Panthers since they signed him before the 2020-21 season. He is off to another great start for the team this year with nine goals and 17 points in 19 games played.

11 Golden Knights 3 12-9-0

After trading Marc-Andre Fleury in the offseason, Vegas went all-in on Robin Lehner. That may very well prove to be a good decision this season, but Lehner is off to a poor start, especially at five-on-five. In those situations, Lehner has stopped just 91.1% of the shots he's faced, which ranks 52nd in the NHL among goalies with at least two games played.

12 Bruins -- 11-7-0

Boston's top line is doing what it does best, which is grind opposing teams into bits, but Charlie McAvoy is steering this team from the blue line. He has 13 points in 18 games, and Boston is comfortably controlling play when McAvoy is on the ice.

13 Blues 1 11-7-3

Jordan Kyrou is playing a bigger role for the Blues this season, and the team is better for it. He already has 22 points in 21 games, and Kyrou has been the engine that drives this St. Louis offense. He has been incredibly fun to watch this year.

14 Blue Jackets 3 12-7-0

Columbus, to its credit, keeps finding ways to win hockey games and currently sits in a wild card playoff spot. Having said that, I keep wondering when the other shoe will drop. The Blue Jackets get out-chanced on a regular basis, and they are 21st in the league in expected goals share at five-on-five.

15 Stars 3 10-7-2

Dallas is climbing up the standings and these power rankings due to the play of Jake Oettinger in goal. He has gotten a lot of run recently - and for good reason. Oettinger has played in five games this season and has saved 5.30 goals above average at five-on-five.

16 Penguins 4 10-7-4

Pittsburgh has battled personnel issues for much of the young season, so it has needed certain players to step up in the meantime. Evan Rodrigues is one of those players. He has 15 points in 21 games and is one goal away from his career high of nine. Perhaps even more surprising than that is finding out the Penguins own nearly 70% of the expected goals with Rodrigues on the ice.

17 Red Wings 4 10-9-3

At this point, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic looks like another smart addition by Steve Yzerman. He has saved 2.42 goals above average in all situations and gives the Red Wings a chance to win every time he's in the crease.

18 Ducks 5 11-8-3

It seems as though the Ducks go as Troy Terry goes. His point streak ended at 16 games last week, and the team went 1-3-0. The only game Anaheim won was the one in which Terry tallied a point.

19 Kings -- 9-8-3

The Kings are 1-3-2 in their last six games. While I can appreciate Brendan Lemieux identifying the need for the team to get bite in its game, I can't condone how he went about remedying that issue.

20 Jets 5 10-7-4

The Jets have struggled to find consistency in their game, and that is because Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are off to miserable starts. Those two have combined for just two goals on the season. If Winnipeg is going to reach its potential, Scheifele and Wheeler need to break through offensively.

21 Flyers 5 8-8-4

Philadelphia is starting to slide. It's riding a six-game losing streak, and nothing is going right these days. The injuries are starting to pile up again, and the Flyers need to find a way to remain in the playoff race.

22 Devils -- 9-6-4

In many cases, there can be some buyer's remorse when a team drops big money in free agency. Count Dougie Hamilton as a clear exception there. Hamilton is still playing at a Norris Trophy level and has 12 points in 16 games. The Devils have to be happy with their big offseason investment.

23 Predators -- 11-9-1

Last week, the Predators got walloped by two really good teams (the Golden Knights and Avalanche) and played well in wins against two more mortal teams (the Ducks and Devils). That's kind of where Nashville is right now. It's not a real threat, but it's not awful either.

24 Sharks 1 11-9-1

Timo Meier has been a strong player for the Sharks in recent seasons, but he has yet to score at a point-per-game pace in his career. It's still very early, but that could change in 2021-22. Meier has 20 points in 16 games played, and his strong underlying numbers suggest that could be sustained.

25 Sabres 1 8-10-3

No one is surprised by where the Sabres are at this point in the season, but one thing that is concerning is the play of young defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The former No. 1 overall pick is struggling to keep his head above water at even strength, but that could also be due to the talent that surrounds him. Regardless, Buffalo will need to see some growth out of Dahlin this year.

26 Kraken 2 7-13-1

For much of this season, Jordan Eberle has kept the Kraken's offense afloat. He has 11 goals in 21 games and has been worth the price of admission for Seattle fans thus far. That said, Eberle is finding the back of the net on 22.4% of his shots. That's roughly nine points higher than his career average, so who knows how long the Kraken will be able to rely on Eberle to carry them?

27 Blackhawks -- 7-12-2

With Jonathan Toews coming back from missing the entire 2020-21 season due to illness, it was reasonable to expect a slow start from him. In 21 games played, he has yet to find the back of the net and has posted just nine assists. If he can get going, that will make a big difference for Chicago.

28 Islanders 2 5-10-2

With so many key players on the shelf due to COVID-19 protocols, the NHL finally decided to postpone two of the Islanders' games. The Isles are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and will need to to start stacking wins when everyone re-enters the lineup.

29 Canadiens -- 6-15-2

After an abysmal start to the 2021-22 season, the Canadiens have fired general manager Marc Bergevin. That's not terribly surprising given the team's struggles and some inflated expectations based on Montreal's Stanley Cup Final run last year.

30 Coyotes -- 4-15-2

For a second there, it looked like the Coyotes might be turning a corner. However, back-to-back losses against the Oilers and Stars showed us the Arizona team we are all much more familiar with.

31 Canucks 1 6-14-2

Young star Elias Pettersson is in the midst of a brutal slump right now. He has one point in his last nine games as the Canucks sink further and further behind in the standings. I'll go way out on a limb and say that Vancouver isn't making the playoffs this season, but it at least needs to get Pettersson going so it can have something to be excited about.

32 Senators 1 4-14-1

Between a rash of losses and a COVID-19 outbreak, the Senators haven't won a hockey game in just over two weeks. To top it all off, their players are getting bitten.

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