When the NHL announced it would be conducting a shortened 56-game season for the 2020-21 campaign, hockey fans knew it would be a season like no other. There have been shortened seasons in the past, most recently the 48-game shortened season of 2012-13, but none quite like this, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad obstacles it presents for the return of professional sports.
One thing remains the same though: 31 NHL teams will fight for a shot at the elusive Stanley Cup when the puck drops for the first time this year on January 13th, and one will be crowned the eventual 2021 Stanley Cup Champions. Who will it be? Only time will tell, so for now, here’s Seltytending’s official power rankings for the 2020-21 NHL season.
31. Detroit Red Wings
- Record in 2019-20: 17-49-5
It’s tough to put the Red Wings in this spot, because it’s never fun to see a club bottom out in the league two years in a row. But this Red Wings team finished with just 39 points in the standings last season, more than 20 points below the next worst team. Goalie Jimmy Howard was not brought back, and neither was any additional significant talent brought in. Role players and veterans like Bobby Ryan were signed, but not much else makes me think this Wings team can compete with…well, anyone else in the NHL. I feel bad for Dylan Larkin…
30. Chicago Blackhawks
- Record in 2019-20: 32-30-8
While the Blackhawks still ice two of the biggest names in hockey in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, two players a team does not make. The loss of Corey Crawford, their mainstay in goal for the better part of this past decade, leaves a gaping hole at the goaltender position with no immediate fix. An aging core and average defense group, plus a natural regression of the teams’ biggest stars, signal a dismal finish near the bottom of the league for this once-great Chicago roster.
29. Anaheim Ducks
- Record in 2019-20: 29-33-9
It pains me to have to put the Anaheim Ducks in the 29 spot, but the lack of depth and experience on their roster doesn’t give me much choice. It’s a shame that with a franchise goaltender like John Gibson in net, they seem to be trending downward – but losing veterans such as Corey Perry will do that for you. Their downturn might not last long, based on the immediate impact some of their incoming prospects could make, namely 2021 World Juniors MVP Trevor Zegras. Also a boon to their future will be Max Jones and defenseman Jamie Drysdale.
28. Ottawa Senators
- Record in 2019-20: 25-34-12
The Sens finished second from last in 2019-20, and I have them finishing near there again this year, with a slight improvement. Granted, they added some key pieces – specifically with Matt Murray in goal – however, I don’t think their roster is filled out enough to compete with the teams in their division. World Junior standout for Germany Tim Stutzle is close to arriving on the scene, and they have some great, young cornerstone players in Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot. Their time is soon, but not now.
27. New Jersey Devils
- Record in 2019-20: 28-29-12
I don’t know how else to put this…there is nothing exciting about the New Jersey Devils. Even with two former first-overall picks in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, and carrying a guy like PK Subban, I’m just not excited at the thought of the Devils hitting the ice. I’m not sure Corey Crawford will be much of a boost to the team’s performance, especially since MacKenzie Blackwood will be starting anyway. I can’t see this Devils team going far, which is what places them in the bottom of the league standings.
26. Arizona Coyotes
- Record in 2019-20: 33-29-8
You know, it was hard to pull the trigger on this one. I thought that the roster Arizona had last season was the best in a long time, and I genuinely thought they were headed in the right direction. But then they lost Taylor Hall, they traded Derek Stepan, and saw the departure of some other key players as well. Despite how incredible Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have been for the ‘Yotes, after watching them in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Playoffs last year, I just don’t have much faith in the players left to get the job done.
25. Los Angeles Kings
- Record in 2019-20: 29-35-6
The LA Kings had their time, and that was in the first half of last decade when they won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Since then, the going has gotten tough, as their once-great core players start to regress in their progressing age. Kings fans shouldn’t be too worried, though, because young prospects like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte will soon be the future of the organization when they break into the league. For now, LA might have a tough stretch of hockey ahead of them.
24. Minnesota Wild
- Record in 2019-20: 35-27-7
The Minnesota Wild would be ranked higher were it not for the loss of Devan Dubnyk in goal. While I think Cam Talbot is a fully capable goaltender, I’m not sure he’s the one who will energize an aging and slowing roster into chasing a playoff spot. I think the Wild have done some useful retooling that could help them get back on the right track for the future, but it’s hard to see them trading punches with the best of the best in the West Division this year.
23. Vancouver Canucks
- Record in 2019-20: 36-27-6
The Canucks had a heck of a run last year, especially considering that so many counted them out before the 2019-20 season had even started. The young, up-and-coming roster was able to put together enough points to make the Qualifiers, but unable to prove their worth any further than that, which doesn’t give much optimism for this season. The loss of Tyler Toffoli up front is a big detriment to their offense, and while they are still headed in the right direction, this year should be a downturn, even with a veteran presence in net like the newly-acquired Braden Holtby.
22. San Jose Sharks
- Record in 2019-20: 29-36-5
San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference last season, and was better than only two teams in the entire NHL: Ottawa and Detroit. For a team that had only missed the playoffs once in the past 15 seasons and was one year removed from the Western Conference Finals, this was not how anyone saw their season going. An injection of competition in net between Devan Dubnyk and Martin Jones, plus the return of key players like Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture, and Tomas Hertl, should help the Sharks be a bit more competitive. However, most of their top players are over the age of 30, and have shown significant signs of slowing, pointing to signs that their window might be all but closed.
21. Florida Panthers
- Record in 2019-20: 35-26-8
Florida is one of those teams that looks really good on paper, but just can’t seem to put together winning seasons consistently. Mike Hoffman didn’t re-sign with the team, so that’s about 30 goals less they have in offense, and when you subtract Evgeni Dadonov as well, it’s not looking so good for the Cats. Sergei Bobrovsky was shaky in net last season, and unless he turns it around big time, this Florida team could be in big trouble, which is what earns them their spot at number 21.
20. Buffalo Sabres
- Record in 2019-20: 30-31-8
The Sabres made a splash over the summer by acquiring veteran center Eric Staal from the Wild, and then signing top free agent Taylor Hall shortly thereafter. While these two players help shore up the top six of the forward group, the bottom six forwards and bottom four defensemen are still a question mark. A Linus Ullmark – Carter Hutton tandem in goal doesn’t do much to ease the nerves, either. It’s hard to place a Sabres group icing the likes of Eichel, Reinhart, Skinner, Hall, Staal, and Olofsson this low, but the other teams in the new East Division appear better suited to maintain a winning record over 56 games.
19. New York Rangers
- Record in 2019-20: 37-28-5
Talk about a heck of an offseason. The Rangers won the draft lottery to pick Alexis Lafrenière first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, who is expected to make an immediate impact on the club up front. This coming one year after the likes of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and others showed the Rangers’ rebuild might be close to done, and young guns like Kaapo Kakko and Pavel Buchnevich have yet to even realize their full potential. A Shesterkin – Georgiev tandem in net provides even more optimism for this team to move up in the rankings, however, it’s unclear whether they are a playoff team, leaving them in this “middle of the pack” spot.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins
- Record in 2019-20: 40-23-6
The Penguins are accustomed to being in the Stanley Cup conversation, so a predicted close miss of the playoffs is a new thing for them. After a strong finish in the league standings last year, the Pens weren’t able to put together much of a playoff run at all, something they’ve struggled to do since last winning in 2017. The team was forced to trade G Matt Murray due to cap issues, and are left with an inexperienced tandem in net. Their core players are aging and regressing while the influx of young talent has seemed to dry up a little bit, making for somewhat of a disappointing 18th place finish in these rankings.
17. Calgary Flames
- Record in 2019-20: 36-27-7
Goalie Jacob Markstrom was the biggest addition to the Flames’ roster in the offseason, and stabilizes a position that the club has struggled with in recent years pretty darn well. The lack of playoff success has cast Calgary out of the spotlight, but this is still the same team stacked with young talent and potential. Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and others make up a dangerous top-to-bottom forward group while the likes of Noah Hanifin and Mark Giordano solidify the D core. In my opinion, they are a bubble team with playoff potential.
16. Montreal Canadiens
- Record in 2019-20: 31-31-9
There are certain teams out there that I look at and say “the NHL is better when they’re a good team.” Montreal is one of those teams. The Habs made a heck of a run last year, and I think they are a legitimate playoff team this year – not quite a lock, but good enough as it is to slide into the last spot or two. Josh Anderson is an underrated pickup, and Max Domi was not too steep a price to pay for him. If their young guns really step up big time, this team could go places.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
- Record in 2019-20: 33-22-15
Columbus has been incrementally improving year-by-year, and got over the playoff series win hump when they swept the historically-good, President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning back in the first round in 2019. They were just edged out by the Bolts this past year, but have looked like a true playoff competitor for some time now. If the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade rumors are handled properly, I think this team has all the right pieces to be serious contenders this year.
14. Dallas Stars
- Record in 2019-20: 37-24-8
The Stars are coming off a visit to the Stanley Cup Final, where they fell just short of lifting the trophy in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars could very well compete again this year, especially if big names like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin show up when it counts most. The stellar season Anton Khudobin had in net last year lends some comfort to Stars fans, so when Ben Bishop falters or gets hurt, “Dobby” is right there to carry the load. Dallas might trail some other excellent teams in the standings, but if they can secure a playoff spot near the bottom of the top half of the league, they could be a dark horse for another deep playoff run.
13. Carolina Hurricanes
- Record in 2019-20: 38-25-5
Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov have added a ton of excitement to a team that hasn’t had any real star power in a number of years, and young defenseman like Jacob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton have helped make the ‘Canes blue lines one of the better ones in the league. The only question mark I would raise for this Hurricanes team is their goaltending – I’m not completely convinced that Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are enough to carry the team on a deep playoff run, but they are good enough to get them into the playoffs comfortably.
12. Nashville Predators
- Record in 2019-20: 35-26-8
The Predators suffered yet another disappointing playoff finish last season, but I’m willing to forgive that given the circumstances. The fact of the matter is, I still consider this one of the better hockey teams in the National Hockey League. I think leaning on Juuse Saros more than on Pekka Rinne, and the injection of some grit and two-way play into their center slot with the arrival of Erik Haula, this team can be a competitor once more. They still have that scoring touch, too (see Filip Forsberg).
11. Edmonton Oilers
- Record in 2019-20: 37-25-9
The Oilers are at that point in their franchise where they’ve finally returned to relevancy, and are expected to be competing for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. Despite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl constantly sitting atop the league in points, however, the Oilers just haven’t been able to “get there” – in fact, they’ve had trouble even making the playoffs. Some key additions to add depth in the offseason could make all the difference, though, as Edmonton looks to take the next big step toward a Stanley Cup.
10. Winnipeg Jets
- Record in 2019-20: 37-28-6
The Jets are such a good team, it’s a shame that they haven’t enjoyed any real postseason success since coming into relevancy again. Here is the biggest plus for this club right now: goalie Connor Hellebuyck is coming off a Vezina Trophy-winning season as the league’s best goaltender, and the team’s stars are as big and as good as any in the league. Mark Scheifele leads the forwards with his pure skill and leadership, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Kyle Connor follow, and that’s not even it. Watch out for this Jets squad in 2021.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
- Record in 2019-20: 36-25-9
The Maple Leafs are always a tough one to predict, so let’s do something different here. Let’s say we can write off last season as one full of turmoil and turnover, and let’s credit their shortcomings to that. Now that that’s done, it’s still hard to ignore some of the key departures in the offseason: Kasperi Kapanen, Tyson Barrie, etc. But the Leafs pulled in some new guys, such as “Jumbo” Joe Thornton and defenseman Zach Bogosian, along with depth forwards like Jimmy Vesey, to round out the roster after the big names. I think it’s fair to say Toronto could take a huge step forward this year, and is positioned as well as any team to make a deep run in the playoffs.
8. New York Islanders
- Record in 2019-20: 35-23-10
The New York Islanders are one of those teams that doesn’t have a huge number of star players, but doesn’t need it because they “score by committee.” Led by electric young forward Mat Barzal, the Isles are a cohesive group that boasts some of best two-way gameplay and tight game plans in the league, thanks to Head Coach Barry Trotz. The goaltending is my only concern for this team, as Semyon Varlamov has been known to falter after strong years. Enter Ilya Sorokin…
7. Washington Capitals
- Record in 2019-20: 41-20-8
Washington is still a perennial contender. I don’t care that they lost Braden Holtby, and I don’t care that Ovi and Nik Backstrom are getting older by the year. With the makeup of this roster, this just screams Cup contender, and Ilya Samsonov in net could very realistically be a solid enough rookie starter to take this team back to the promised land.
6. Philadelphia Flyers
- Record in 2019-20: 41-21-7
Philly has a great mix of players on their roster right now. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk…not to mention, they have former second-overall pick Nolan Patrick, who has yet to break out in any way so far in his career. There could be some added offense if he gets going, too. That coupled with their steady defense and a blossoming young stud in Carter Hart between the pipes, this team is going to be a real threat this season.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
- Record in 2019-20: 43-21-6
Call me a contrarian, but I just didn’t feel comfortable putting the returning Stanley Cup Champion Lightning in the first-overall spot. I know it’s customary to go with the “you gotta go through the champs” method of ranking teams, but I just don’t think that this team is better than the four ahead of them. At least not without Nikita Kucherov, who they will be without for the entirety of the regular season. That’s a big part of their offense gone, with other depth players gone as well. I expect them to be one of the best teams in the league this year, but missing a step from last year’s magic.
4. St. Louis Blues
- Record in 2019-20: 42-19-10
St. Louis suffered a bit of a down year last year, but hey, they won the Cup in 2019, so…you win some, you lose some. Besides, all the pieces they had in place that summer, they pretty much still have in place – besides Alex Pietrangelo. And even so, they added guys like Torey Krug to fill that gap. Expect Jordan Binnington to put up big numbers this year in response to last year’s minor slump, and for the return of Vladimir Tarasenko to add to an already deep Blues roster.
3. Boston Bruins
- Record in 2019-20: 44-14-12
The Bruins finished first in the league last season, and would likely have returned to that spot had it not been for the departure of longtime captain and defenseman Zdeno Chara. I’m just not convinced that the Bruins can ice six d-men better than Chara, and losing Torey Krug on the blue line only adds to that worry. However, their team remains largely the same, and is still chock full of veterans and star players that make the Bruins one of the biggest threats to lift Lord Stanley.
2. Vegas Golden Knights
- Record in 2019-20: 39-24-8
The Golden Knights have had one of the easier paths for expansion teams in the NHL, making the playoffs in each of their first three seasons, and reaching the Cup Final in their inaugural season. While falling just short each time, Vegas has still been knocking on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup. Handing the reins to a re-signed Robin Lehner in goal, and inking D Alex Pietrangelo to a long-term contract will help Vegas in the short term to hopefully capture the coveted hardware. To begin the season, they are undisputedly one of the top teams in the West, and in the entire league.
1. Colorado Avalanche
- Record in 2019-20: 42-20-8
If the Avalanche weren’t Stanley Cup favorites last year, they are now. This team boasts so much talent top-to-bottom that it’s hard to even pit another roster against theirs. The only pitfall I could see arising for the Avs is their relatively inexperienced goaltenders. I expect that category to improve from last year, however, as Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz can split until one emerges as “the guy.” The offense will be carried by MacKinnon and co., while Cale Makar holds the blue line for the D core. All signs point to hoisting the Cup for this 2020-21 Avs roster.
Agree with these power rankings? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow the discussion on social media, @seltytending on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
- Featured image created by Seltytending