As teams are approaching 30 games into the season, our model has enough data to have a strong idea of how the season should shake out. That's right, we're doing the power rankings the PuckLuck way - through statistical projections.
These rankings are not based on only the season so far, but also the season to come. This means that players coming back from injury may raise a team's ranking, and player performing above or below expectation have regression baked into the final result.
Also of note, you'll notice the opponent difficulty and remaining schedule listed on each team's graphic, to help get a better idea of who's faced the toughest road so far and what teams face going forward. This, of course, factors into the rankings as well.
We'll also discuss the projected team MVP, which is based on the GDV (goal-differential value) that each player provides. This is the truly most impactful player on the team on the projected season standings, considering offensive value and defensive value in all game situations.
Buckle up, we're ready to go!
The Bruins stormed out of the gate red-hot and have never really let up. We were bullish on them in our preseason rankings despite missing Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy heading into the year, predicting that Boston would be a top-two team in the Eastern Conference. The goaltending's been stellar, and Patrice Bergeron remains as valuable as ever. We'll chalk this one up as a win.
The Jets are a surprise number two rank here, even though we were higher than most on them in the preseason (105 points). We projected Nikolaj Ehlers to be the biggest part of their success, yet they're doing it without him. Connor Hellebuyck, Kyle Connor, and Josh Morrissey were some of our best fantasy values heading into the season, and the latter's stellar overall play has proved to be invaluable.
The biggest riser in our rankings has been this impressive Devils team. 109 points may seem like a low projection based on their current record, but it should be noted that New Jersey has faced the third-easiest schedule so far and has the second-hardest remaining path. There's many strong team MVP candidates, but Dougie Hamilton has been everything the Devils needed in their number one defenseman.
It's no surprise that the Hurricanes rank as a top-five team in the NHL this season. The best part about using goal-differential value to measure player impact over box score stats is that guys like Jaccob Slavin who are continuously labeled as "underrated" or strong defensively can be recognized appropriately. He and Sebastian Aho are at the forefront of Carolina's success.
Plagued by injury and lack of forward depth, the Avalanche currently rank third in their division and seventh in the Western Conference. Colorado will eventually field a top-six forward group consisting of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen, which ranks among the league's best. Add in their top-ranked defensive unit led by perennial Hart Trophy candidate Cale Makar, and there shouldn't be any doubt that the Avalanche should comfortably make the playoffs.
The Lightning continue to coast in the regular season, which is a recurring theme over the better part of a decade now. Anthony Cirelli has returned to the team at a point-per-game pace, which is a welcome complement to his defensive value.
The Golden Knights have been riding its star players and rookie goalie Logan Thompson to the top of the Western Conference. Mark Stone continues his impactful play at both ends of the ice, and Jack Eichel, when healthy, has provided a big boost to the offense.
We were one of the voices of concern that the Maple Leafs' goaltending situation may hold them back. To the contrary, Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov have been great when healthy so far this season and have propelled this team forward. Star center Auston Matthews started slow, but is back to doing Auston Matthews things on a night-in night-out basis.
It's amazing that with all of the trouble the Rangers have seemingly had putting things together at even-strength, they're still currently on a playoff-worthy point pace. Our projections loved the overall outlook of this team in the preseason, and although they've faded in the rankings they're still top-ten. Adam Fox is a joy to watch every single night, and is really becoming the driving force of New York's success.
Stop me if you've heard this before - Sidney Crosby has been the centerpiece of the Penguins' triumphs this season. Pittsburgh went on a huge slide this season sandwiched between some strong runs, so maintaining consistency will ultimately determine their fate.
It's the same old story with the Oilers, where the usual suspects are carrying the team and the supporting cast is continuously brought into question. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been linemates of late, hoping to overpower teams by dominating a quarter of the game as opposed to carrying lines on their own.
The Cinderella goaltending's starting to regress a bit in Seattle, but the Kraken have plenty of depth and just enough talent up front to show that they have a real crack at making the playoffs in just their second season. Jared McCann is a shooter, and his shooting talent is one of the many reasons he's proven to be a valuable piece of this team.
The Panthers have gotten everything they hoped for in trading for Matthew Tkachuk, but missed time from Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov have really tested their thin depth. When fully healthy Florida can contend with the NHL's best, but it looks like the reins in net have been handed to the now-injured Spencer Knight. It will be interesting to see if the former first-rounder is up to the task.
The Stars have one of the league's best offensive players in Jason Robertson, one of the league's best top lines with Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski, and two rejuvenated veterans in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Hintz's play in transition is really a driving force for Dallas, who have went from a borderline playoff team to more of a shoe-in with a 68% chance of making it.
The Flames have fallen to fifth in their division and really have to get going. Luckily, they have the easiest remaining schedule in the NHL to try to piece together some runs. The goaltending needs to improve, and the forward group led by Elias Lindholm needs to start creating more offensively if Calgary is going to reach expectations this season.
The Islanders will likely be on the verge of playoff contention come season-end, with defense and goaltending carrying the team in true Lou Lamoriello fashion. Anders Lee has joined Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier this season to form a very effective line, but we'll see if the rest of the group can provide enough goal support to buy themselves additional games this season.
The Kings are low-event no longer, and their suspect defensive play and goaltending is really affecting their playoff chances per our model. Yes they have 35 points so far this season, but they also have a negative goal-differential. That's usually a sign that their point-pace is not sustainable. Matt Roy is a good underrated player, but when you have some big names in Los Angeles and he's on pace to be your team MVP, there's clearly some underlying issues.
The Capitals are barely above .500, have a negative goal-differential, and are currently missing their starting goalie Darcy Kuemper. On the bright side, they've faced the NHL's most difficult schedule so far, and have much easier road going forward. Steady Nick Jensen continues to be an analytics darling due to his defensive play at even-strength and on the penalty-kill, which certainly deserves a mention here.
The Wild were struggling to find someone to fill the top center role between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello even before Ryan Hartman was injured, and really have carried an underwhelming group of forwards in general this season. They project to have an outside shot at the playoffs, but players like Matt Boldy might have to carry the offensive load for the supporting cast.
Elias Pettersson has willed the Canucks back into the playoff race after Vancouver's disastrous start to the season. The hole may prove to be too deep, however, with five teams in the division to leapfrog.
Nino Niederreiter's making a solid impact, but it's been a bit of a disappointing season so far in Nashville. In order for the Predators to bounce back, they'll need more contribution from their top line in Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, and Matt Duchene now that they're back together.
Montreal being above .500 is somewhat deceiving, as they have a negative goal-differential and have faced the second-easiest schedule in the NHL so far. They have the hardest remaining opponents, so their "for-real-ness" will really be tested.
In his second season in St. Louis, Pavel Buchnevich has been the clear bright spot in a disappointing Blues lineup. The star power simply isn't there, and Jordan Binnington has been among the league's worst despite continually being trotted out in net.
We tried telling people to not overvalue the additions of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux this season, even though they are good players. The actual impact one forward brings to a previously poor lineup isn't all that much, as the Senators were not one or two pieces away from contention. Now if they can add more top-end talent next season and push good players into depth roles, we'll start to talk about playoffs.
The Red Wings are another case of a team who's current standings points do not properly reflect how good the team is actually. An easy schedule, difficult road ahead, and lack of good underlying metrics support this power rank. David Perron has been a nice addition, but there's really not much coming from the middle six forwards as a whole.
When you have perhaps the league's most dynamic offensive player right now in Tage Thompson and he's barely showing positive impacts at even-strength it's not ideal, and the Sabres are instead actually relying on the youngest line in the NHL with Jack Quinn, Dylan Cozens, and JJ Peterka as their most impactful in the goal-differential department. The foundation looks bright beyond this season, but they simply don't have the goaltending and defensive prowess to win now.
The Flyers have been rough to watch this season, as scoring is at a premium and they lack it completely. It's been a revolving door of replacement-level players on forward lines two, three, and four, leaving much to be desired and little in the form of answers.
Karel Vejmelka's been incredible, giving Arizona a lone bright spot on a otherwise punted season. They're in top-of-the-lottery contention, although they may be too good defensively right now to warrant it.
The Sharks are finding new depths in the standings, sinking quickly due to lack of offensive talent and quality depth at all positions. James Reimer has been performing above expected again this season, continuing his rebirth as a starting netminder in the NHL.
Whoever thought adding Johnny Gaudreau would change the fortunes of an otherwise mostly untouched roster was quite mistaken. Gaudreau's been great, but the Blue Jackets are trending to be spot-on our preseason projection of 64 points. Take this as proof that you really can't rebound from the league's worst goaltending, as Columbus really needs to overhaul the position completely.
The Ducks are the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season, and have performed well-below expectation. It's never a good sign when your team's backup goalie is the projected team MVP, and GM Pat Verbeek is really going to have to take a look at overhauling the roster. Of course, it's conveniently a good year to be bad, with one of the most heralded top end of the drafts looming after the season.
Before the season the Blackhawks were sending the signal that the tank is on, and the impending departure of one or both of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will only add to the rough start to the season. Chicago remains the frontrunner in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.