NHL Power Rankings: Rangers knock Golden Knights off their No. 1 perch amid blistering start

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1 Rangers The emergence of Alexi Lafreniere has been huge for the Rangers this season, and it could be the key to getting them over the hump in the playoffs. Lafreniere has seven goals in 14 games, and he is already well on pace to set a new career high in that category. The former No. 1 overall pick has yet to have a true breakout at the NHL level, but he has found success, whether he is playing alongside Filip Chytil or Vincent Trocheck. 2 11-2-1
2 Bruins I was skeptical about how much James van Riemsdyk had left in the tank when he signed his one-year deal with the Bruins, but it was a low-risk gamble for the team. Thus far, it has worked out fairly well. With more talent around him in Boston, van Riemsdyk has been revitalized. He has 11 points in 15 games, and his five-on-five impacts are better than expected too. — 12-1-2
3 Stars The Stars’ offense has really started to heat up, and that’s especially the case for Wyatt Johnston. The 20-year-old has four goals and six points in his last five games, and it looks like he is building upon an excellent rookie campaign in 2022-23. With Johnston rolling, Dallas has now won four games in a row and passed the Avalanche in the Central Division standings. 1 11-3-1
4 Golden Knights The Golden Knights are an interesting team because their actual goal differential is plus-20. Their expected goal differential is minus-2.35. Look, the defending champs have the talent to outperform expected goal numbers, but by that much? I’m not so sure. Right now, Adin Hill leads the NHL with 9.42 goals saved above average, and Logan Thompson is also in the top 12 with 4.61. That duo has been excellent, but if they cool off at all, so will Vegas. 3 12-3-1
5 Canucks Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko deserve all the credit in the world for the Canucks’ hot start, but they have been getting plenty of help. Most notably, Brock Boeser has 12 goals, which is tied for third in the NHL. Considering Boeser scored 18 goals all of last season, that’s pretty amazing. Boeser has played well under coach Rick Tocchet, and while I don’t think he’ll keep shooting 27.9% all year, he is clearly performing at a higher level. 3 12-3-1
6 Panthers Speaking of red-hot goal-scorers, Sam Reinhart has also been lighting the lamp quite frequently. He had a five-game goal streak earlier this season, and he is already up to 12 on the season. Even more importantly, the process behind Reinhart’s success has been rock solid. His line, which also includes Aleksander Barkov and Evan Rodrigues, has been blistering opponents to the tune of a plus-12 goal differential at five-on-five. 7 10-4-1
7 Kings Los Angeles is banking on Quinton Byfield being a huge part of its future, and it looks like he has taken a big step forward in his development this year. Byfield is riding a six-game point streak in which he has nine assists. Byfield has only scored twice this season, but that’s just fine because his playmaking ability has been superb. With Byfield playing at this level, the Kings are a bona fide contender. — 8-3-3
8 Hurricanes Just as everyone predicted before the season, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leading the Hurricanes in points through the first 15 games. He has six goals and seven assists well before Thanksgiving, and his career highs in those categories are 18 and 25, respectively. In terms of his goal-scoring success, Kotkaniemi is simply pulling the trigger more often. His 2.27 shots per game is far and away the highest rate of his career. 1 9-7-0
9 Avalanche The Avs have hit a minor skid recently, and I think I know why. Over the last two weeks, Alexandar Georgiev has allowed 6.42 goals above average, which ranks 70th in the NHL. Only Jonas Johansson has been worse. Georgiev played well in his first season with Colorado last year, but he is off to a poor start this year. That will be something to monitor, especially with the Stars now atop the Central. 4 10-5-0
10 Penguins It took a few weeks, but the Penguins have finally joined the party. Pittsburgh has now won four straight games, and Evgeni Malkin is leading the way. Malkin has four goals and eight points in his last six games, and his 17 points are tied for the team lead with Jake Guentzel. There is still a long way to go this season, but Malkin looks much closer to 27 than 37. As long as he can keep playing at this level, you better believe in the Pens as a Stanley Cup threat. 9 8-6-0
11 Devils I’m inclined to give New Jersey somewhat of a pass for this start because no team in the NHL would play well without its top two centers in the lineup. Erik Haula and Michael McLeod aren’t exactly built for top-six minutes down the middle. The Devils need to get Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier healthy in a hurry because every game will be a slog until then. 5 7-6-1
12 Maple Leafs The Flames, Oilers, and Senators have really bailed out the Maple Leafs so far this season. With a lot of heat on those three franchises, Toronto’s early-season struggles have flown under the radar more than they normally would. The Leafs are 8-5-2 with some frustrating losses mixed in there, and that is no fluke. They rank 24th in five-on-five expected goals share at 47.3%. It doesn’t help that Ryan Reaves has been outscored 11-0 in those situations. 2 8-5-2
13 Ducks The 2023-24 Anaheim Ducks have now made NHL history. After coming back from down 2-0 to defeat the Predators on Tuesday, they are the first team ever to complete six third-period comebacks in the first 15 games of a season. Is that sustainable? I don’t know. Is it fun as hell? You betcha. The Comeback Quacks are must-see TV. 1 9-7-0
14 Jets Winnipeg lost a key player when it traded Pierre-Luc Dubois this offseason, but one player it got in return is already paying dividends. Alex Iafallo has already made a big impact on the Jets with 13 points in 15 games, and his 5.02 expected goals are second on the team. Iafallo is playing a bigger role in Winnipeg, and he is making the most of that opportunity. 2 8-5-2
15 Lightning Andrei Vasilevsiy has returned to the ice after offseason back surgery, and just in time for the Lightning. Jonas Johansson got off to a decent start in goal, but he has not been able to maintain it. In his last five games, Johansson has allowed 7.57 goals above average, which is the worst mark in the NHL over that span. Even Tampa will struggle to win with goaltending like that. 1 6-6-4
16 Coyotes Clayton Keller is on a mission to prove his 86-point season a year ago was no fluke. Keller has 16 points in 54 games, and he is doing the majority of his damage on an Arizona power play that has converted on 29.8% of its opportunities. Of course, that’s not to downplay Keller’s performance at five-on-five, which has also been spectacular. His $7.15 million cap hit is now one of the best deals in the league. 1 7-6-2
17 Sabres The Sabres might have jumped the gun by making Devon Levi the go-to guy in net. He’s still a very young player, and his college pedigree was excellent, but he may need more time to develop. Levi has allowed 4.00 goals above average and has really struggled against high-danger chances with a .757 save percentage on those shots. Buffalo might need to start looking outside the organization for solutions between the pipes. 1 7-8-1
18 Red Wings Detroit tweaked its blue line this past offseason, but there is still room for a more impactful upgrade at that position. Seven different defensemen have suited up for the Red Wings this season, and none of them have a five-on-five expected goals share above 49.84%. The biggest issue is that the defenseman getting the most five-on-five minutes, Ben Chiarot, has the worst underlying numbers. I would expect Steve Yzerman to be on the lookout for a defenseman on the trade market. 3 8-5-3
19 Islanders The Isles have now lost four straight games, and they have scored just six goals over that stretch. One of the biggest reasons for that sputtering offense is a brutally slow start from Anders Lee. After scoring 28 goals in each of the last two seasons, Lee has one goal through 14 games in 2023-24, and he is shooting a paltry 3.3%. Getting Lee out of this slump would go a long way toward getting the Islanders back on track. 8 5-6-4
20 Capitals Don’t look now, but the Capitals have won four straight games. Are they finally on the right track? Well, not really, but Charlie Lindgren has been exceptional in goal. Over the last two weeks, Lindgren has saved 6.65 goals above average, which leads the NHL over that stretch. Lindgren has bailed Washington out a couple of times, and he’ll have to do that some more to keep the team in playoff contention. 5 8-4-2
21 Blues The Blues have started to work their way up the standings over the last week or two, and that can be attributed to Robert Thomas going nuclear. Thomas is riding a seven-game point streak, and he has 11 points in that stretch. Thomas has shaken off a slow start, and now he has driven St. Louis to five wins in its last six games. 2 8-5-1
22 Flyers Travis Sanheim is off to the best start of his career with two goals and 12 assists in 15 games. He’s also thriving in top-pairing minutes for the Flyers. Sanheim has been on the ice for just over 281 minutes, and Philadelphia has generated 56.7% of the expected goals at five-on-five. Sanheim has been playing like a true No. 1 defenseman so far. 1 8-7-1
23 Oilers The Oilers fired Jay Woodcroft last week and chose to replace him with Kris Knoblauch, who coached Connor McDavid in the OHL. Edmonton has also collected two straight wins, and the team has finally gotten some saves, which is surely just a coincidence. In his last two starts, Stuart Skinner has stopped 49 of his 51 shots. 7 5-9-1
24 Wild Minnesota continues to lose, and Filip Gustavsson continues to struggle between the pipes. His -8.03 goals saved above average is tied for 72nd this season, which also happens to be dead last. That said, he hasn’t had much offensive support either. The Wild are generating just 2.4 xGF/60, which is 28th in the NHL. This is a discouraging start for a playoff hopeful. 4 5-8-2
25 Canadiens The Canadiens picked up some thrilling overtime wins against two Original Six rivals last week with 3-2 victories against the Red Wings and Bruins. Outside of that, this month has been a real struggle for Montreal, which has lost its five other games in regulation. The Habs are still sitting at .500, but they have backslid quite a bit. 1 7-7-2
26 Senators The Senators’ five-on-five game has completely cratered of late. Since the start of November, Ottawa has controlled just 39.9% of the expected goals in those situations, which is ahead of only the Blackhawks. Their general lack of defense has been especially concerning given the goaltending tandem the Senators are relying upon this year. 2 7-7-0
27 Flames The coach may have changed, but the vibes remain pretty suspect in Calgary. Last week, Jonathan Huberdeau was benched in the Flames’ win over the Predators, and the team has lost three straight since then. Huberdeau has just two goals and seven points in 15 games, which is not ideal for a player making $10.5 million through 2030-31. 1 5-8-2
28 Kraken Matty Beniers has hit a sophomore slump to end all sophomore slumps. He is stuck on one goal through 16 games after scoring 24 as a rookie. Even more discouraging than his slow shooting start is that Seattle is getting crushed with him in the game at five-on-five. The Kraken have been outscored 14-4 in those situations. 1 5-8-4
29 Predators Nashville has lost four straight games while plummeting to the NHL’s basement, and Juuse Saros has not been himself to start the season. Saros has allowed 4.06 goals above expected, and his high-danger save percentage is just .792. The Preds were already a longshot to make the playoffs, but they don’t have a prayer if Saros isn’t on his game. 7 5-10-0
30 Blackhawks Connor Bedard is absolutely cooking these days. He has four goals and two assists in his last two games, and he is now up to 13 points in 13 games. There are some games in which Bedard almost single-handedly makes Chicago competitive. That is wildly impressive for an 18-year-old without a ton of help around him. 1 5-8-0
31 Blue Jackets Johnny Gaudreau is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Bedard. He has one goal in the Blue Jackets’ first 16 games, and he is shooting 2.6%. There is no way that keeps up, but it’s the second straight season in which Gaudreau has underperformed expectations in Columbus. The Jackets have to find a way to get Gaudreau some confidence because they will stay near the bottom of the NHL without him. 2 4-8-4

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