NHL Power Rankings: The Carolina Reapers

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports.

We’ve still got playoff races as the season enters its final two weeks, but the “tragic numbers” for those on the outside looking in are dwindling rapidly. That al-division schedule? It is looming large for a number of squads, as are games in hand. But you still have to take things one game at a time and remember that’s a pretty good team over there, lest you give away precious points at the worst possible moment. The cream has officially risen to the top; now we’re just waiting to see who emerges from the murky middle. Let’s get to the power rankings.

1. Carolina Hurricanes: It’s incredibly close, but the Hurricanes are currently in the driver’s seat for the Presidents’ Trophy. Carolina has never won it, not even when they were the Hartford Whalers. Can you believe the Whalers never won it? Well, yes, I suppose you could.

2. Vegas Golden Knights: The Vegas buzzsaw continues to spin with terrifying velocity. Thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury and fantastic team defense, the Golden Knights have given up the fewest goals per game in the NHL.

3. Colorado Avalanche: Mikko Rantanen has 10 points in his past five games and could easily hit the 30-goal mark in this shortened campaign. The Avs continue to roll, but can’t take their foot off the gas with Minnesota breathing down their necks.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning: After a bit of a swoon, the Bolts are back with seven wins in their past 10 games. Brayden Point continues to lead the charge offensively but of course we’re all expecting that Nikita Kucherov bump come playoff time.

5. Minnesota Wild: Everyone’s new favorite team has a legit shot at home ice in the first round thanks to an 8-1-1 stretch in the past 10 games. Kevin Fiala is scoring some bonkers goals and Cam Talbot’s .920 save percentage is his best since the netminder’s days in New York.

6. Florida Panthers: Spencer Knight was everything we thought he would be – maybe even more? The rookie is undefeated in net and has given up just four goals in three outings. And don’t forget: he’ll be Calder-eligible next year.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins: Three Penguins have already hit the 20-goal mark: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Considering only 27 players in the NHL have done that so far, that’s pretty good. Pittsburgh hasn’t locked up first in the Division – but they’re almost there.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs: The most dangerous aspect of this Leafs team is the depth and how guys plug holes almost instantly. Adam Brooks, Rasmus Sandin and Nick Foligno are the flag-bearers for that right now.

9. Washington Capitals: Any success Washington has in the playoffs must start with a solid performance in net and the Caps don’t have a ton of experience back there. On the bright side, Ilya Samsonov has won four of his past five decisions.

10. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid should definitely go for 100 points this season. Heck, Edmonton’s next four games are against Vancouver – he might be able to do it this week.

11. Boston Bruins: Imagine winning the East and facing Boston in the first round. David Krejci hot, Taylor Hall fitting in perfectly, Tuukka Rask getting back on track at the right time. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

12. Nashville Predators: In all likelihood, Nashville holds on to the final playoff spot in the Central, but how do you even begin to explain this Predators season? Juuse Saros has mostly been a wizard, that’s all I’ve got.

13. St. Louis Blues: As elite as Vegas and Colorado are, I don’t think I’d be too jazzed about playing a veteran Blues squad that had to scrap its way into a playoff spot in the first round. ‘Welcome to the post-season, you have to beat Ryan O’Reilly’s team four times.’

14. New York Islanders: The Islanders are scuffling a bit, but they still have the second-best goal differential in the division and they’re still coached by Barry Trotz. So underestimate their chances of a solid playoff run at your own peril.

15. Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have lost six in a row and their only possible playoff opponents are Toronto and Edmonton, two teams that have stomped all over them. Connor Hellebuyck’s powers are only so great, Winnipeg.

16. Dallas Stars: If the Stars pass Nashville for the final playoff spot in the Central, it will be a massive feel-good story. Bigger than Tyler Seguin starting a doggie chew-toy company? The jury is still out on that one.

17. Montreal Canadiens: Montreal’s ace in the hole right now is that the Habs are not Winnipeg. They are still the Habs, however, and that is going to be a big barrier to success once the playoffs begin.

18. Arizona Coyotes: It was a good run, Desert Doggies. Now it’s time to re-sign Connor Garland to a long-term extension and take Arizona State commit Josh Doan, son of Shane, in the 2021 draft (he’s good, it’s worth it!)

19. New York Rangers: Ultimately, the Rangers are going to come up short (though mathematically they’re still alive), but this was a successful rebuild season. The kids started to find their way and Adam Fox blasted into the stratosphere.

20. Calgary Flames: Are they dead? Not yet. Are they close to dead? Yes. Has Sam Bennett turned into Pavel Bure since joining the Florida Panthers? Let’s just move on to another topic.

21. Philadelphia Flyers: Auditioning the likes of Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski and Jackson Cates is pretty much the only thing Philly can do at this point, but that’s kinda fun. Not ‘playoffs fun,’ but still.

22. San Jose Sharks: All things considered in San Jose, Evander Kane is having himself a pretty good season. Twenty goals, 43 points including four shorthanded points in 51 games and he’s been on the ice for as many 5-on-5 goals for and against.

23. Ottawa Senators: Not finishing last in the division would be a solid achievement for the Sens and they might pull it off. Thomas Chabot leads the entire NHL in average ice time, playing 26:46 per contest.

24. Chicago Blackhawks: Even though the Hawks are likely going to fall short of the playoffs, it’s worth noting they came close in a season with no Jonathan Toews and less than half a season from Kirby Dach. It was a good run.

25. Los Angeles Kings: In the end, we got awesome Retro Reverse jerseys, debuts from Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev and Rasmus Kupari, plus some turn-back-the-clock numbers from the vets. Not bad.

26. Vancouver Canucks: This season simply cannot end fast enough for the Canucks.

27. Detroit Red Wings: The rise of Jakub Vrana feels like an old-school Red Wings storyline. Based on how much those Detroit teams used to win, I’d say that’s a pretty positive sign for the future.

28. New Jersey Devils: Nolan Foote has two points in three games while averaging just nine minutes of ice time per game. If I was better (or worse) at math, I bet I could make a pretty good thesis based on those numbers.

29. Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks did right by Ryan Miller in his retirement announcement, so this year will go out on a nice note, despite the lack of wins in the standings. The rebuild is here and it is exciting.

30. Buffalo Sabres: Interim coach Don Granato has seemingly let light back into Rasmus Dahlin’s life. If that’s the only positive to come out of this season in Buffalo, it’s still a good one.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets have four games left on the schedule: two against Nashville, two against Detroit. They seem to have lost the will to win – but do they have one more for potentially-departing coach John Tortorella?