In honor of the 2021-22 NHL pre-season’s commencement last night, here’s a power ranking of the Top 5 Teams this year.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
If this Tampa squad isn’t at the very top of your list, there’s something wrong. The back-to-back Stanley Cup Champs haven’t faltered much in their roster. Despite their seemingly limitless cap space, nothing to see here, they now have some breathing room on their depth lines by dumping Barclay Goodrow and losing Blake Coleman. The Bolts can now plan accordingly with draft picks Roman Schmidt (D) and Dylan Duke (F) and make changes where needed. Although they gave the entire league a run for their money the past couple of years with Goodrow and Coleman on the roster, there’s no reason to think they won’t do the same this year.
2. Florida Panthers
Ever think you’d see the day where both Florida teams crack the Top 5? Me neither. The Panthers are not to be scoffed at. The offseason addition of Sam Bennett from Calgary, the notable rookie Spencer Knight, and Joel Quenneville at the helm cements this club in the “elite” category. It seems Anthony Duclair has also made Sunrise, FL his home, a player who’s been somewhat of a vagabond the past few years. Finnish Captain Aleksander Barkov oozes talent and elevates his entire line’s level of play. With the aforementioned Bennett acquisition, his line alongside Jonathan Huberdeau will be putting up serious numbers night-in and night-out. Although they lost in the 2020-21 Eastern Conference Finals to their cousins in Tampa, the playoff run was a tremendous showcase for this lethal team with a bright future.
3. Colorado Avalanche
Albeit recent post-season disappointments, the Avalanche are nonetheless always atop the leaderboards in the regular season. To name a few, powerhouses Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar are still onboard. Unfortunately, they did lose Philipp Grubauer to free agency. Regarding his replacement, there are high hopes for Darcy Kuemper. After heated negotiations with management, Captain Gabriel Landeskog is also back with the team. When your captain threatens to leave such a promising group for more pay, that can negatively affect locker room morale. As with most things, however, we won’t know until we see for ourselves.
4. Boston Bruins
The Bruins, yet again, fell short of another Cup run last year. There seems to be a trend among their back-end sustaining significant injuries just short of, or during, the playoffs. Following the outstanding Taylor Hall deal a few months prior, GM Don Sweeney put on his big-boy pants for free agency negotiations. The Bruins bagged Linus Ullmark, Nick Foligno, Derek Forbort, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek. With the loss of the always-entertaining David Krejci and uncertainty of Tuukka Rask’s future, the Bruins have successfully created a wide safety net and may have even improved in some areas.
5. Seattle Kraken
I know what you’re thinking: “The Golden Knights were the first expansion team in a decade and a half. The odds that they’d make the run that they did were slim-to-none.” Hear me out. Among others, the Kraken selected offensemen Branden Tanev, Joonas Donskoi, Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, and Jared McCann… There’s your top-six. Once you add defensemen Vince Dunn and Mark Giordano to the mix plus elite goaltender Philipp Grubauer, you actually quite a team. That’s not to say they’ll win a Cup or follow in Vegas’ wake their inaugural year, but the Pacific Division just added another solid contender.