NHL Power Rankings: 1-31 poll, plus a bold second-half prediction for every team

ByEmily Kaplan via ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

We're past the midseason mark of this abridged 56-game 2021 NHL season, and the April 12 trade deadline is just around the corner. For this week's NHL Power Rankings, we offer up bold predictions for all 31 teams.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1 to 31 -- taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule -- and those results are tabulated in the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our Week 9 edition, published on March 17. Points percentages are through the games of March 23.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: .781

Next seven days: @ DAL (March 25); @ CAR (March 27, 28); vs. CBJ (March 30)

The Lightning are 4-0-1 in the second half of a back-to-back set of games this season. Look for Tampa Bay to go the entire season without losing in regulation when playing the day before. If any team can do it, it's the defending champs.

2. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: .750

Next seven days: @ COL (March 25, 27); vs. LA (March 29)

Max Pacioretty has led the Golden Knights in the goal department for most of the season, but Alex Tuch will make a late push to finish ahead. The 24-year-old Tuch can be a streaky scorer, and he's having a great season so far, with 13 goals to Pacioretty's 16.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: .726

Next seven days: @ CBJ (March 25); vs. TB (March 27, 28); @ CHI (March 30)

Martin Necas has been a delight to watch, and he has especially thrived when given the opportunity with Sebastian Aho on the top line. For the second half of the season, look for Necas to score the most of any Canes player not named Aho.

4. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: .688

Next seven days: @ CHI (March 25); @ DAL (March 27, 28); vs. DET (March 30)

Aaron Ekblad finishes as a Norris Trophy finalist. This is not what anyone would have predicted heading into the season, but the 25-year-old defenseman has been just that good for a very good Panthers team.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: .694

Next seven days: vs. VGS (March 25, 27); vs. ANA (March 29)

Philipp Grubauer will finish as a Vezina Trophy finalist. He's been sensational of late; in 11 March starts, he has nine wins (including three shutouts) and a .943 save percentage. Expect the Avs to ride Grubauer heavily down the stretch, especially if they can't land another backup at the deadline.

6. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: .710

Next seven days: vs. NJ (March 25, 26); vs. NYR (March 28); @ NYR (March 30)

The Rangers are the only team against which the Caps have a sub-.500 record this season (Washington is 1-3). The Caps have four more games against the Blueshirts but can't find a way to even the score.

7. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: .697

Next seven days: @ BOS (March 25); @ PIT (March 27, 29)

The Isles are going to find a way to replace captain Anders Lee (out for the season with an ACL injury) before the trade deadline. But Lou Lamoriello never telegraphs his moves, so expect the replacement to be someone unexpected.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: .656

Next seven days: @ OTT (March 25); vs. EDM (March 27, 29)

Frederik Andersen hasn't been at his best this season, and he has a nagging lower-body injury. Instead of acquiring a goalie, the Maple Leafs will finish the season and ride into the playoffs with Jack Campbell as their No. 1.

9. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: .650

Next seven days: vs. ANA (March 24); vs. STL (March 25); @ SJ (March 29)

The Wild look like a different team this season. Not only will Minnesota qualify for the postseason, but the Wild will win a playoff round for the first time since 2015; they are on their fourth coach and third GM since then, but the Dean Evason-Bill Guerin combo seems to have found a winning formula.

10. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: .643

Next seven days: vs. NYI (March 25); vs. BUF (March 27); vs. NJ (March 28, 30)

Ahead of the trade deadline, rumors about the Bruins are flying: Mattias Ekholm, Taylor Hall, P.K. Subbanand Kyle Palmieri have all been speculatively shipped to town. Watch the Bruins ... do absolutely nothing, and stick with the team they have.

11. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: .625

Next seven days: @ VAN (March 24); @ CGY (March 26, 27, 29)

Kyle Connor will finish among the top five in the NHL goal-scoring race. The 24-year-old Michigan native is just on the outside looking in right now. Since 2017-18, Connor quietly ranks No. 7 in the NHL in goals scored, above Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: .625

Next seven days: vs. BUF (March 24, 25); vs. NYI (March 27, 29)

Despite being tight on cap space, the Penguins will find a way to add to their roster ahead of the trade deadline. It will probably be a depth player, nothing splashy, but execsRon Hextall and Brian Burke want to put their stamp on the roster.

13. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: .618

Next seven days: @ TOR (March 27, 29)

Connor McDavid became the fastest player to reach 60 points since Mario Lemieux in 2002-03. Saying that McDavid will reach 100 points in this 56-game season isn't even that bold of a prediction, because he's nearly on pace.

14. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: .578

Next seven days: @ MIN (March 25); vs. ANA (March 26, 28)

David Perron will finish among the top 10 in the NHL in points. He's just on the outside looking in right now but has been a force along with linemate Ryan O'Reilly. Perron is averaging higher than a point-per-game pace for the first time in his 14-year NHL career.

15. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: .548

Next seven days: vs. NYR (March 25, 27); @ BUF (March 29)

A lot of folks are ready to write the Flyers off this season. Are we not forgetting the second-half run Philly went on in 2019-20, in which they went on a 19-6-1 run to get within one point of first place at the pause?The prediction here is that they go on a similar run this season.

16. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: .597

Next seven days: @ OTT (March 30)

Carey Price had a sub-.900 save percentage through his first 12 starts, and it cost longtime goaltending coach Stephane Waite his job. But Price (now under the tutelage of Sean Burke) will figure it out and look dominant in the second half.

17. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: .516

Next seven days: @ PHI (March 25, 27); @ WSH (March 28); vs. WSH (March 30)

Pavel Buchnevich will finish as the team MVP of the Rangers' season. The 25-year-old is having a major breakthrough while leading the team in points, and 22 of 29 of them have come at even strength.

18. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: .516

Next seven days: @ SJ (March 24); @ VGS (March 29)

The Kings have quietly built through the draft. Still, over the next few months, they'll present Buffalo with a massive offer for Jack Eichel ... which will be turned down, and we'll only hear details about it three years from now.

19. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: .530

Next seven days: vs. FLA (March 25); vs. NSH (March 27, 28); vs. CAR (March 30)

Kirby Dach will provide an immediate spark for the Blackhawks. He will score seven points within his first 10 games, adding an extra wrinkle to Chicago's playoff push this spring.

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: .500

Next seven days: vs. CAR (March 25); @ DET (March 27, 28); @ TB (March 30)

The Blue Jackets have started to turn the corner in March. Since the fourth Central Division playoff spot is well within reach, Columbus will not be a seller at the trade deadline after all.

21. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: .483

Next seven days: vs. TB (March 25); vs. FLA (March 27, 28); @ NSH (March 30)

The Stars have been lagging all season, but they have also played the fewest games of any team in the league. They'll still make a desperate push and qualify for the playoffs, with Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop making immediate impacts.

22. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: .500

Next seven days: @ OTT (March 24); vs. WPG (March 26, 27, 29)

Milan Lucic's ice time is already up nearly three minutes per game since coach Darryl Sutter took control. Look for Lucic to inherit an even bigger role down the stretch, as he's no longer as big of a defensive liability.

23. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: .486

Next seven days: vs. WPG (March 24)

The Canucks have already made waiver claims on two Toronto forwards this season: Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd. It's not outrageous that Canucks GM Jim Benning will go for No. 3 -- and then owe Leafs GM Kyle Dubas big time for making his life a lot easier.

24. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: .500

Next seven days: vs. SJ (March 26, 27)

With Conor Garland's $775,000-per-year salary expiring this summer, and the Coyotes worried about a new contract, they'll trade their 25-year-old leading scorer for a package of draft picks and/or prospects.

25. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: .470

Next seven days: vs. DET (March 25); @ CHI (March 27, 28); vs. DAL (March 30)

Mattias Ekholmis the Predators player everyone expects to be traded. But the Predators will also find new homes for Mikael Granlund and Brad Richardson, too. There will be some chatter about Filip Forsberg, but he'll ultimately stay put.

26. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: .467

Next seven days: vs. LA (March 24); @ ARI (March 26, 27); vs. MIN (March 29)

The Sharks will get at least one trade offer on Patrick Marleau, and it will be considered. But ultimately the 41-year-old stays in San Jose and breaks Gordie Howe's all-time games played record on April 19.

27. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: .467

Next seven days: @ WSH (March 25, 26); @ BOS (March 28, 30)

Only the Sabres have a worse home record than the Devils this season. The Devils have 11 home games remaining, and we don't have much confidence that they can win more than four of them.

28. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: .364

Next seven days: @ NSH (March 25); vs. CBJ (March 27, 28); @ FLA (March 30)

It's yet another year of the Red Wings selling at the trade deadline. "At some point here, hopefully we're not in this position for much longer," Dylan Larkin said. Bold prediction: The selling ends next season.

29. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: .368

Next seven days: vs. CGY (March 24); vs. TOR (March 25); vs. MTL (March 30)

Drake Batherson will get to 25 goals on the season. He's already at 11 now -- with all but one of them being scored after Feb. 15. If he keeps up this pace, the 22-year-old should have no trouble hitting the total.

30. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: .364

Next seven days: @ MIN (March 24); @ STL (March 26, 28); @ COL (March 29)

No Ducks player will crack 40 points this season -- which four NHL players have already reached at the midway point. And if Rickard Rakell is traded, make it that no Ducks player will crack 35 points (a threshold already reached by 11 skaters). It's been just that bleak for Anaheim offensively.

31. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: .267

Next seven days: @ PIT (March 24, 25); @ BOS (March 27); vs. PHI (March 29)

Nearly everything has been doom and gloom in Buffalo.Jack Eichel(neck injury) won't be rushing back in another lost season, but the bold prediction is that he'll return at some point, giving the Sabres something to build on for next season.