- Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.
With the one-month mark in the rearview mirror — with the requisite awards presented to their winners — teams are certainly beginning to show tendencies that are more than just early-season trends.
For this week’s power rankings — which saw a new No. 1 — we identify that key tendency for all 32 clubs.
How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.
Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to last week’s rankings, published on Nov. 10. Points percentages are through the games of Tuesday.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 0.733
Upcoming schedule: vs. WPG (Nov. 18), vs. CHI (Nov. 20), @ DAL (Nov. 23)
Most likely to end up on a highlight reel. Look, Edmonton had two players (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid) combine for 50 points in the first 12% of the season. McDavid can single-handedly destroy defenses. Draisaitl already has a league-high five game-winning goals. There’s a reason the Oilers have started so well this season and a big part of it is their top-end talent leading the charge (and generating video clicks!).
2. Carolina Hurricanes
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 0.857
Upcoming schedule: @ ANA (Nov. 18), @ LA (Nov. 20), @ SJ (Nov. 22)
Most likely to shut the door. The Hurricanes have been a tough out all season, thanks in large part to Frederik Andersen and a strong defense corps. Carolina averages the third fewest shots against (27.9 per game), and what is getting by hasn’t flustered Andersen a bit. He’s 9-2-0, with a .939 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average. No wonder the Hurricanes are allowing the fewest goals in the NHL (1.93). Andersen is locked in and locking it down.
3. Florida Panthers
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 0.781
Upcoming schedule: vs. NJ (Nov. 18), vs. MIN (Nov. 20)
Most likely to protect the house. There isn’t much the Panthers haven’t done well throughout this season. Like playing excellent hockey at home. Florida is 7-0-0 in Broward County, compared to 3-2-3 everywhere else, and the Panthers have outscored opponents 33-16 in their own building. So while their streak as the last undefeated NHL club may have come to an end last week, Florida’s dominance on home ice remains unmatched.
4. St. Louis Blues
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 0.600
Upcoming schedule: vs. SJ (Nov. 18), @ DAL (Nov. 20), vs. VGK (Nov. 22)
Most likely to be (wrongfully) overlooked. The Blues just go about their business. A blue-collar group, if you will. They also don’t get mentioned nearly enough when we talk of the top teams in the league. Granted, they had a rough weekend, losing three games in four nights (and a loss Tuesday to the Coyotes), and they’ve also started strong without a true star player courting headlines. On any given night, it could be Jordan Kyrou, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas or Jordan Binnington leading the way. And they’re still seventh overall in scoring (3.43 goals per game). Don’t sleep on St. Louis.
5. Washington Capitals
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 0.719
Upcoming schedule: @ LA (Nov. 17), @ SJ (Nov. 20), @ SEA (Nov. 21)
Most likely to make history. This is purely due to Alex Ovechkin and the absolute tear he’s on. The Capitals as a team are having a good season; Ovechkin is having a great one. The 36-year-old recently passed Brett Hull to take over fourth place on the NHL all-time scoring list with 742 goals, and he’s averaging nearly two points per game so far. It won’t be long before Ovechkin surpasses Jaromir Jagr’s 766 goals and moves into the top three. History in the making, every night.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 0.679
Upcoming schedule: @ PHI (Nov. 18), vs. NJ (Nov. 20), vs. MIN (Nov. 21), vs. PHI (Nov. 23)
Most likely to break the blah. It’s a lot of work winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. That could be why this season has been so (comparably) average for the reigning champs. Tampa hasn’t looked bad. But it hasn’t looked consistently great, either. The Lightning are middle-of-the-pack in scoring (3.07 goals per game) but their power play has been fumbling less of late (19.1%) as injuries continue to add up (Erik Cernak is the latest man lost). Through it all, Tampa has built a solid record (8-3-3) and plenty of past experience to use getting back on a hot streak.
7. Calgary Flames
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 0.656
Upcoming schedule: @ BUF (Nov. 18), @ NYI (Nov. 20), @ BOS (Nov. 21), vs. CHI (Nov. 23)
Most likely to smother you. Moving the puck against Calgary is hard. Darryl Sutter designed it that way. So the Flames will forecheck with the best of them, turn pucks loose in the neutral zone and force teams back (at 5-on-5 and the penalty kill) until frustration sets in. That’s helped Calgary to post the second fewest goals against per game (2.13) and fifth fewest shots against per game (28.8) this season. And in the meantime, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane are busy lighting the lamp.
8. Anaheim Ducks
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 0.676
Upcoming schedule: vs. CAR (Nov. 18), @ NSH (Nov. 22)
Most likely to outperform expectations. The Pacific Division has really heated up in November, and Anaheim is leading the way. Losing seven of their first nine games was a bad way to start the campaign, but suddenly these Ducks look unstoppable. Anaheim is 6-0-0 in November, it is fourth in league scoring (3.56 goals per game), fourth on the power play (28.3%) and Troy Terry has been sensational on a league-high 15-game scoring streak (he has 21 points in the span). And Terry has been good for linemate Ryan Getzlaf, who matched his same point total (17) from 48 games a season ago through 16 games this season (one goal, 16 assists).
9. Minnesota Wild
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 0.667
Upcoming schedule: vs. DAL (Nov. 18), @ FLA (Nov. 20), @ TB (Nov. 21)
Most likely to keep their composure. The Wild seem to relish being an underdog. Getting down in games agrees with them more than most. Minnesota leads the league in come-from-behind wins (7), have the second most wins after trailing first (5) and one of the best winning percentages (.625) when trailing first. It’s no wonder the Wild have been among the most successful third-period teams this season.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 0.676
Upcoming schedule: vs. NYR (Nov. 18), vs. PIT (Nov. 20), @ NYI (Nov. 21)
Most likely to ride (or die) on star power. Have you heard about the Core Four? Because Mitchell Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander and Auston Matthews have been having a moment in November. Toronto has scored 22 goals this month, 16 of which came from a star forward. It combined for eight goals through nine games in October (although Matthews only appeared in six). Point is, as their stars go, so do the Leafs — and everyone is flying high at 6-1-0 since Nov. 1.
11. Boston Bruins
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 0.615
Upcoming schedule: @ PHI (Nov. 20), vs. CGY (Nov. 21)
Most likely to humble you in the dot. It’s not just that Boston is one of the best faceoff teams in the league (54.9%). But the Bruins have good depth on draws, with eight players who are above 50% this season. That’s helped make the Bruins one of the top possession teams of the season too (54%).
12. Los Angeles Kings
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 0.600
Upcoming schedule: vs. WSH (Nov. 17), vs. CAR (Nov. 20), vs. ARI (Nov. 21)
Most likely to recapture the magic. It’s dangerous to make these statements, but here we go. L.A. has made the playoffs twice since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, falling in the first round both times. The Kings could be back on track now. The Kings did not start well (1-5-1) but they’ve been buzzing ever since (7-0-1). In that recent eight-game stretch, L.A. has given up more than two goals only once, outscoring opponents 26-14. The power play needs more — L.A. has given up the most short-handed goals of the season (4) — but all the pieces are lined up for success.
13. New York Rangers
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 0.719
Upcoming schedule: @ TOR (Nov. 18), vs. BUF (Nov. 21)
Most likely to trade for a defenseman. And no, it’s not because Connor McDavid recently carved through the team like a hot knife through butter. At least not entirely. The Rangers have relied on Igor Shesterkin to win too many games, while their defense corps could use a boost in general. They don’t have a single blueliner above 50 in Corsi for percentage or in expected goals for percentage, and they’ve been giving up too many high-danger looks. Shesterkin can only stop the bleeding for so long.
14. Colorado Avalanche
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 0.542
Upcoming schedule: @ VAN (Nov. 17), @ SEA (Nov. 19), vs. OTT (Nov. 22)
Most likely to weather the storm. Things were just starting to go right for Colorado when Cale Makar got hurt and Nathan MacKinnon was placed on injured reserve. Well, Makar is back and the Avalanche are a slightly better than .500 team. Do they have what it takes to rise, even without MacKinnon? Sure. Nazem Kadri is getting hot at the right time (10 points in six games), while Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are healthy and rolling. And Bowen Byram continues to blossom on the Avs’ blue line, skating with Makar or not.
15. Vegas Golden Knights
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 0.563
Upcoming schedule: vs. DET (Nov. 18), vs. CBJ (Nov. 20), @ STL (Nov. 22)
Most likely to close the place down. A spate of injuries this season has forced Vegas to do more with less. And that includes how it is locking up tight games. The Golden Knights are perfect this season in one-goal games (4-0-0), showing that even with their depleted lineup they can still hold down the fortress in a pinch.
16. San Jose Sharks
Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 0.567
Upcoming schedule: @ STL (Nov. 18), vs. WSH (Nov. 20), vs. CAR (Nov. 22)
Most likely to pray for penalties. When your penalty kill is as good as San Jose’s, do you even mind being in the box? Through 14 games, San Jose allowed only four power-play goals against (89.7%) while scoring two shorthanded goals, giving it a league-high net PK% (94.9). It’s enough to throw any opponent’s power play mojo off, knowing how quickly San Jose’s penalty kill can pounce.
17. New York Islanders
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 0.462
Upcoming schedule: vs. CGY (Nov. 20), vs. TOR (Nov. 21)
Most likely to be in your (shooting) lane. We can’t lie — the Islanders like big blocks. They’re at the top of the league in blocks per 60 minutes this season (17.5), and not because of one main contributor. It’s more like a team lifestyle. Ryan Pulock (8.04 blocks/60), Noah Dobson (7.77) and Scott Mayfield (7.03) are all top-20 in NHL shot blocks. That’s helped drive the Islanders to be among the top 10 teams in goals against.
18. Philadelphia Flyers
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 0.643
Upcoming schedule: vs. TB (Nov. 18), vs. BOS (Nov. 20), @ TB (Nov. 23)
Most likely to steal your thunder. If the Flyers were a house guest, no one would ask them back. Philadelphia has earned one of the best road records in the league this season (4-2-1), topping heavyweights like Carolina, Washington and Edmonton on their turf. In fact, it was the Flyers who handed the Hurricanes their first loss of the season at home, in comeback fashion no less. How rude.
19. Nashville Predators
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 0.594
Upcoming schedule: @ MTL (Nov. 20), vs. ANA (Nov. 22)
Most likely to stay in rhythm. From a town as glitzy as Nashville, the Predators slow build this season hasn’t earned much hype. They were streaky to start, but 8-1-1 since Oct. 24. Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund are top 20 in league scoring. Juuse Saros has the seventh-best save percentage (.925) among goalies with at least 10 starts. And Roman Josi is, well, Roman Josi. Duchene said last week there’s a “different vibe” to the Predators this season; it’s time to pick up on that.
20. Winnipeg Jets
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 0.700
Upcoming schedule: @ EDM (Nov. 18), @ VAN (Nov. 19), vs. PIT (Nov. 22)
Most likely to kill ’em with kindness. If you’re a talented offensive team (which the Jets are, averaging 3.23 goals per game) with an awful penalty kill (65.8%, 30th overall), what do you do? Well, you stop taking penalties. Winnipeg has taken the second fewest penalties in November, sitting around 2.4 per game compared to 4.7 per contest in October. Play to your strengths. The Jets get that.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 0.615
Upcoming schedule: @ ARI (Nov. 18), @ VGK (Nov. 20), @ BUF (Nov. 22)
Most likely to mount a third-period comeback. The Blue Jackets have been a little dramatic this season. They’ve earned the most victories (4) and boast the third-highest winning percentage (.571) when trailing after two periods.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 0.467
Upcoming schedule: @ MTL (Nov. 18), @ TOR (Nov. 20), @ WPG (Nov. 22)
Most likely to feel a little desperate. The Penguins haven’t seen anything close to a healthy lineup this season. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter have all missed significant time; even coach Mike Sullivan hasn’t been behind the bench for a stretch due to COVID protocols. The short-handed Penguins made a valiant effort to stay afloat, but are now 3-5-2 in their past 10 games. To contend in the competitive Metro Division, Pittsburgh has to pick up its pace.
23. New Jersey Devils
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 0.607
Upcoming schedule: @ FLA (Nov. 18), @ TB (Nov. 20)
Most likely to be most improved. The Devils have been a nice story this season. Rookie Dawson Mercer is on the rise, replacing the injured Jack Hughes. Jonathan Bernier is having a revitalized season in net for the injured Mackenzie Blackwood. Andreas Johnsson looks like a 20-goal scorer again. Nico Hischier is finding confidence. And that says nothing of the addition Dougie Hamilton has been (when healthy). New Jersey is on its way up.
24. Dallas Stars
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 0.500
Upcoming schedule: @ MIN (Nov. 18), vs. STL (Nov. 20), vs. EDM (Nov. 23)
Most likely to want extra time. The Stars didn’t win a game in regulation during the first month of the season. To get those four initial victories, Dallas needed three overtimes and one shootout. So while its post-regulation record was pretty solid (4-1), it’s the regulation record (1-6) that’s really held Dallas back.
25. Buffalo Sabres
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 0.533
Upcoming schedule: vs. CGY (Nov. 18), @ NYR (Nov. 21), vs. CBJ (Nov. 22)
Most likely to embrace the future. It’s no surprise Buffalo regressed (badly) from its terrific 5-1-1 start. The Sabres are 1-5-1 since, with a Jack Eichel trade slapped in there for good measure. The Eichel move was a long time coming and brought in Alex Tuch (who can help sooner than later) and Peyton Krebs, who will be a contributor down the road. GM Kevyn Adams said the Sabres are in a “build,” and their stats are middle-of-the-road across the board. Things could always change this season, but the Sabres may have to wait a little longer for their breakthrough.
26. Detroit Red Wings
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 0.500
Upcoming schedule: @ VGK (Nov. 18), @ ARI (Nov. 20)
Most likely to make you feel old. The Red Wings’ youth continues serving them well. At the forefront are 19-year-old Lucas Raymond and 20-year-old Moritz Seider, sitting one-two in NHL rookie scoring. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has the best save percentage among rookies (.918). Then there is a phalanx of 20-somethings in Dylan Larkin (13 points in 13 games), Filip Hronek (finding his form) and of course Tyler Bertuzzi (17 points in 14 games) all collaborating to make Detroit close to a must-watch group.
27. Vancouver Canucks
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 0.375
Upcoming schedule: vs. COL (Nov. 17), vs. WPG (Nov. 19), vs. CHI (Nov. 21)
Most likely to flush the first period. There’s a lot to unpack in Vancouver right now. But let’s talk about what’s happening — or not — in the first period lately. The Canucks have been outscored 18-8 in the first period this season. They have led after the first period once since Oct. 19 and scored first in a game twice since Oct. 21. It’s hard to win when you’re always behind early.
28. Ottawa Senators
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 0.300
Upcoming schedule: @ COL (Nov. 22)
Most likely to want a do-over. There was a brief moment there, when Ottawa was 2-1 out of the gate and future captain Brady Tkachuk signed a long-term deal, that the Senators were poised for a great start. And then, disasters struck. Plural. The Senators are 2-9-1 in their past 11 contests, with 10 players and one assistant coach in COVID protocols before they were finally shut down this week until Nov. 20. To top it off, the Senators also lost minute-munching defenseman Artem Zub to injury. Ottawa needed more than just an hour turned back on its clocks; it needed about a month.
29. Seattle Kraken
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 0.300
Upcoming schedule: vs. CHI (Nov. 17), vs. COL (Nov. 19), vs. WSH (Nov. 21)
Most likely to not be rewarded. Unless you’re the Golden Knights, it’s hard being an expansion club. Under coach David Hakstol, the Kraken have cultivated a defensive structure that’s allowing the fewest shots against per game this season (26.1), but their goaltending is poor (as Philipp Grubauer’s .880 save percentage can attest), and Seattle has lost the most games this season when outshooting their opponent (7). That’s a lot of victory salmon not being tossed.
30. Montreal Canadiens
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 0.278
Upcoming schedule: vs. PIT (Nov. 18), vs. NSH (Nov. 20)
Most likely to need a hot scorer. The Canadiens score fewer goals than almost any team in the league (2.11 per game, 31st overall). Their most productive player has been Nick Suzuki, whose 14 points in 17 games lead the team; his four goals are tied for the top spot for the club. It’s just not enough for Montreal. Cole Caufield is back in the AHL (for now) to find his game; can anyone step up in his absence to fill the void?
31. Chicago Blackhawks
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 0.333
Upcoming schedule: @ SEA (Nov. 17), @ EDM (Nov. 20), @ VAN (Nov. 21), @ CGY (Nov. 23)
Most likely to agree change is good. Jeremy Colliton is out, Derek King is in and suddenly the Blackhawks are winning games. They’re playing harder. They’re more organized. More energized. Patrick Kane is rolling. Jonathan Toews is re-establishing his game. The young players are making their mark. There’s reason to be optimistic about where Chicago is headed on the ice.
32. Arizona Coyotes
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 0.156
Upcoming schedule: vs. CBJ (Nov. 18), vs. DET (Nov. 20), @ LA (Nov. 21)
Most likely to win the draft lottery. Honestly, a shot at Shane Wright might be the best thing to come out of this season for the Coyotes.
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