NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, each team's game of the month

ByTim Kavanagh ESPN logo
Friday, March 1, 2024

We're now one week away from the NHL trade deadline on March 8, and teams will be making moves between now and then to either bolster their Stanley Cup chances or build for the future as we saw with this week's Chris Tanev deal.

The Florida Panthers remain atop the Power Rankings this week, with some big moves elsewhere on the list. And this week, we've identified the most captivating game(s) in the month of March for each club.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors sends in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the previous edition, published Feb. 23. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 70.00%

Game of the month: March 26 vs. the Bruins. The Panthers shocked the sports world with their upset of the record-breaking Bruins in the 2023 playoffs. Boston won't need Paul Revere to let it know the Panthers are coming this time around, and this will be the penultimate matchup between the two Atlantic Division powers prior to the 2024 postseason tourney.

Next seven days: @ DET (March 2), @ NYR (March 4), @ NJ (March 5), vs. PHI (March 7)

2. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 69.17%

Game of the month: March 28 at the Avalanche. The Rangers have some big matchups against conference foes lined up this month, but this mile-high tilt could well be a Stanley Cup Final preview -- featuring a number of superstars currently in the mix for season-ending awards. The Rangers won the first matchup between the clubs, 2-1 in OT on Feb. 5.

Next seven days: @ TOR (March 2), vs. FLA (March 4)

3. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 69.17%

Game of the month: March 7 at the Golden Knights. "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." Ric Flair's famous quote isn't entirely applicable to the NHL -- teams won't always have to play the defending champ en route to winning the Stanley Cup -- but it certainly wouldn't hurt the Canucks' confidence to get a win against Vegas, particularly since they lost 4-1 in their lone matchup thus far.

Next seven days: @ ANA (March 3), @ LA (March 5), @ VGK (March 7)

4. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 68.10%

Game of the month: March 9 at the Canucks. There has been a flurry of big news in the hockey world in recent weeks, but perhaps none as big as the announcement that international best-on-best competition is coming soon! The NHL and NHLPA will stage a Four Nations tournament in 2025, and NHL players will be participating in the 2026 Olympics. The U.S. team will have their best shot at gold in recent memory, and one of the reasons is goaltending. Two of the potential netminders involved will be participating -- Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck and Vancouver's Thatcher Demko.

Next seven days: @ CAR (March 2), @ BUF (March 3), vs. SEA (March 5)

5. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 68.85%

Game of the month: March 9 vs. the Penguins. Sure, the B's will have some critical matchups when it comes to playoff positioning -- including a back-to-back set against the Panthers and Lightning on March 26 and 27. But we're highlighting this one because it's the second edition of the "Big City Greens Classic!" Last season's game was a blast, and this one will feature even more antics.

Next seven days: @ NYI (March 2), @ TOR (March 4), vs. EDM (March 5), vs. TOR (March 7)

6. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 65.32%

Game of the month: March 12 vs. the Panthers. How about a Stanley Cup Final contested entirely in the proverbial sun belt? In adding Chris Tanev this week, the Stars appear poised to make a deep run this spring, while the Panthers look like a juggernaut in the East after a surprising run to the Cup Final last year. The two top contenders get a final pre-playoff look at one another in this one.

Next seven days: vs. SJ (March 2), @ SJ (March 5)

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 64.41%

Games of the month: March 4, March 7 against the Bruins. The Leafs won a first-round series in 2023, which was an encouraging sign given the team's string of prior disappointments. But that was against the Lightning; to truly slay the proverbial dragon, they must beat the Bruins in a postseason series. That's a potential first-round matchup in the Atlantic Division bracket, so this home-and-home against Boston will serve as a measuring stick.

Next seven days: vs. NYR (March 2), vs. BOS (March 4), vs. BUF (March 6), @ BOS (March 7)

8. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 64.75%

Game of the month: March 13 at the Canucks. Is this a Western Conference finals preview? That's certainly the case in one possible future world. But if nothing else, this game will be a showcase for two of the league's best young defensemen, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, both of whom have drawn some Hart Trophy consideration to say nothing of all the Norris Trophy love.

Next seven days: @ NSH (March 2), vs. CHI (March 4), vs. DET (March 6)

9. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 65.00%

Game of the month: March 21 vs. the Flyers. As the standings lay today, the Canes and Flyers would square off in a first-round matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Circumstances can change, but this contest will give us another clue to which club has the edge should such a series transpire. The Canes have won two of three against the Flyers this season.

Next seven days: vs. WPG (March 2), vs. MTL (March 7)

10. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 63.16%

Game of the month: March 23 at the Maple Leafs. It is always an event when the world's best hockey player appears in the Centre of the Hockey Universe, and this edition is no exception: The get-in price as of today, per Vivid Seats, is $171 USD. (Compare that to $45 the next night in Ottawa.) Connor McDavid has had some great performances at Scotiabank Arena, too, including this doozy which was his first career NHL goal at the Leafs' home.

Next seven days: @ SEA (March 2), vs. PIT (March 3), @ BOS (March 5), @ CBJ (March 7)

11. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 60.83%

Game of the month: March 17 vs. the Devils. The Knights could make an addition or two before the deadline -- thus making a trade addition's return to his old home their must-watch game of the month -- but aside from that consideration, a return tilt against New Jersey should be a fun one. The two teams scored 11 combined goals in a 6-5 OT win for the Devils back on Jan. 22, and there's obviously no shortage of star wattage on the two rosters.

Next seven days: @ BUF (March 2), @ CBJ (March 4), vs. VAN (March 7)

12. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 60.00%

Game of the month: March 2 vs. the Panthers. The Red Wings are on a heater of late, and have a nice cushion in the first wild-card slot as a result. Saturday's matchup against the Panthers will be an apt litmus test as to just how good they are, now that the playoffs seem like a more likely proposition. Plus, we'll get to see Detroit's Patrick Kane, the long-time standard-bearer as the best American NHLer, take on a player who is making an argument for that crown in Matthew Tkachuk.

Next seven days: vs. FLA (March 2), @ COL (March 6)

13. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 57.50%

Games of the month: March 14-26. After some less-than-threatening matchups early on in the month, this stretch is the proverbial crucible that could sway the Flyers' ultimate standings position more than any other: vs. Toronto, at Boston, vs. Toronto, at Carolina, vs. Boston, vs. Florida and closing it out at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

Next seven days: @ WSH (March 1), vs. OTT (March 2), vs. STL (March 4), @ FLA (March 7)

14. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 59.32%

Game of the month: March 25 at the Canucks. As a wild-card team, the Kings will be matched up in the first round with one of the two Western division champs, a spot held down currently by the Canucks. By the final week of March, these two teams will look largely similar to their postseason editions, so this contest could be a preview of things to come in April.

Next seven days: vs. NJ (March 3), vs. VAN (March 5), vs. OTT (March 7)

15. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 57.38%

Games of the month: March 5, 7, 9 against the Canadiens, Sabres and Blue Jackets. A win is a win, and as the Predators continue their push to secure a wild-card playoff spot, getting the full six points in this stretch of games against lottery teams would be of great benefit.

Next seven days: vs. COL (March 2), vs. MTL (March 5), vs. BUF (March 7)

16. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 56.45%

Games of the month: March 14 vs. the Rangers, March 16 at the Panthers. Currently holding down a wild-card spot, the Lightning could match up against one of these clubs in the first round of the playoffs. We don't need to dwell on how incredible another Battle of Florida series would be, but Rangers-Lightning would also be superb: Andrei Vasilevskiy against Igor Shesterkin in a duel of two of the best Russian netminders in recent history; sneakily valuable Cup contributor Barclay Goodrow taking on his former teammates; ESPN analyst Ryan Callahan not being sure who to root for. It has got it all, and these two games will serve as a preview.

Next seven days: vs. MTL (March 2), vs. CGY (March 7)

17. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 54.24%

Game of the month: March 11 at the Rangers. After both eclipsing 100 points last season and staging an epic first-round playoff showdown, the Devils and Rangers were expected to both land in the postseason again, and both had their backers as legit Cup contenders. One of the two clubs has lived up to that billing. After the Rangers won 5-1 in the Devils' building on Feb. 22, the visitors from New Jersey might have some extra motivation heading into this clash.

Next seven days: @ ANA (March 1), @ LA (March 3), vs. FLA (March 5), vs. STL (March 7)

18. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 53.39%

Game of the month: March 30 vs. the Kings. Trading away Elias Lindholm in January and Chris Tanev this week are a sign that the Flames are perhaps looking to the future instead of a playoff race. We'll certainly know more a week from now, with Noah Hanifin and Jacob Markstrom also potentially on the move. But, Calgary remains within striking distance of a wild card, so this late March matchup against a team currently holding one could have an outsized impact on their final result.

Next seven days: vs. PIT (March 2), vs. SEA (March 4), @ TB (March 7)

19. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 54.39%

Game of the month: March 7 vs. the Capitals. The Penguins' rivalry against the Capitals isn't what it once was, with both clubs seeming like playoff long shots this season. But until Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are not on the ice against one another, this matchup will continue to have extra appeal.

Next seven days: @ CGY (March 2), @ EDM (March 3), vs. CBJ (March 5), vs. WSH (March 7)

20. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 51.67%

Game of the month: March 2 at the Blues. The Wild are one of a handful of teams for whom the games of late February and early March could determine their plans ahead of next week's trade deadline. And this one -- against a Blues team that is also chasing a wild card -- will be a strong measuring stick for that immediate future.

Next seven days: @ STL (March 2), vs. SJ (March 3), @ ARI (March 7)

21. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 54.31%

Games of the month: March 1 vs. the Flyers, March 22 vs. the Hurricanes. At this point of the 2023-24 season, the most vital storyline for the Caps is Alex Ovechkin's quest to catch Wayne Gretzky on the all-time goals list. Fun fact: in his career in the regular season, the two teams against whom Ovi has scored the most goals are, you guessed it, the Flyers and Hurricanes (47).

Next seven days: vs. PHI (March 1), vs. ARI (March 3), @ PIT (March 7)

22. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 53.39%

Game of the month: March 5, at the Islanders. Goalie fights in the NHL are rare. This game will feature a netminder who is a candidate to be in one in the near future (Jordan Binnington) against a team coached by a former NHL goalie who had a fight in his Hall of Fame career (Patrick Roy).

Next seven days: vs. MIN (March 2), @ PHI (March 4), @ NYI (March 5), @ NJ (March 7)

23. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 54.24%

Game of the month: March 17 at the Rangers. Although the postseason seems like less of a possibility for the Isles as the days dwindle before the end of the season, Rangers-Islanders games at Madison Square Garden are never a dull affair. Those in attendance should be in great spirits, too, given that this one falls on St. Patrick's Day.

Next seven days: vs. BOS (March 2), vs. STL (March 5), @ SJ (March 7)

24. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 53.39%

Games of the month: March 2-5. Like a few other teams around the league, the Kraken can make a logical argument to add or subtract ahead of the trade deadline. So perhaps the results of these games (home for the Oilers, then at the Flames and Jets) will sway GM Ron Francis one way or the other.

Next seven days: vs. EDM (March 2), @ CGY (March 4), @ WPG (March 5)

25. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 50.00%

Game of the month: March 2 vs. Golden Knights. Will he or won't he? Former Sabre Jack Eichel -- who returned to a cacophony of boos in his first game back in Buffalo -- is working his way back from a lower-body injury, skating this week in a no-contact jersey. Might he return to hear it again from the Buffalo faithful?

Next seven days: vs. VGK (March 2), vs. WPG (March 3), @ TOR (March 6), @ NSH (March 7)

26. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 46.49%

Game of the month: March 1 vs. the Coyotes. This game will have more of an influence on the draft lottery standings than playoff positioning. But the reason we're including it here is because it's country music night, and the first 10,000 fans in the building will get a Senators cowboy hat! Just putting it out in the universe in the hopes it will happen: Let there be a Senators hat trick in this game, followed by 10,000 Senators cowboy hats hitting the ice.

Next seven days: vs. ARI (March 1), @ PHI (March 2), @ ANA (March 6), @ LA (March 7)

27. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 45.83%

Game of the month: March 9 vs. the Maple Leafs. The Canadiens were not expected to mount much of a serious push for the playoffs this season, and that expectation has come to pass. But, there's always something special in the air when the Habs take on the Leafs. Plus, given that this is a day after the trade deadline, we may be seeing a different Montreal roster than the one that exists as of this writing.

Next seven days: @ TB (March 2), @ NSH (March 5), @ CAR (March 7)

28. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 43.22%

Game of the month: March 5 vs. the Blackhawks. Both of these teams were in the draft lottery last season -- the Blackhawks won it, landing the right to draft Connor Bedard -- and both are headed in that direction this season, with Macklin Celebrini as the likely No. 1 pick. But, this is also a reprise of the Coyotes' biggest offensive outburst this season, an 8-1 win over Bedard & Co. back on Halloween.

Next seven days: @ OTT (March 1), @ WSH (March 3), vs. CHI (March 5), vs. MIN (March 7)

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 40.68%

Game of the month: March 5, 28, 30 against the Penguins. Due to a quirk in the NHL schedule this season, three of the Jackets' four games against the rival Penguins are this month. While Columbus has had better seasons, the games against Pittsburgh are usually contested with some extra snarl, so here's hoping that's the case (especially given that the latter two are so close together).

Next seven days: @ CHI (March 2), vs. VGK (March 4), @ PIT (March 5), vs. EDM (March 7)

30. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 38.14%

Game of the month: March 1 vs. the Devils. Sure, it's possible that this month could see the Ducks playing against someone they traded off of the roster -- with Adam Henrique, Frank Vatrano and Ilya Lyubushkin among those potentially on the move. But we'll throw it back all the way to 2003 to call this one a Stanley Cup Final rematch. Ready to feel old? Rookie standouts Leo Carlsson and Pavel Mintyukov hadn't been born when that series was contested. Leading scorer Troy Terry was five years old.

Next seven days: vs. NJ (March 1), vs. VAN (March 3), vs. OTT (March 6)

31. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 30.17%

Games of the month: March 17, 23 against the Blackhawks. Chicago's rebuild was accelerated by winning the 2023 NHL draft lottery and the rights to draft Connor Bedard. San Jose, which has never won one, is hoping that the odds are in their favor in this year's event, in the hopes of giving their rebuild a boost with the No. 1 pick this summer. The results of these two games will influence which team has the best shot in this spring's lotto.

Next seven days: @ DAL (March 2), @ MIN (March 3), vs. DAL (March 5), vs. NYI (March 7)

32. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 29.17%

Games of the month: March 19-23, at the Kings, Ducks and Sharks. The road trip through the Western Canadian NHL cities is typically a challenging one from a logistical (and sometimes on-ice) perspective. While the weather one experiences during the California swing is generally more pleasant, it can be another challenge, particularly for a young player like Connor Bedard getting used to the rigors of pro hockey. And, well, the games against the Ducks and Sharks will certainly have an impact on the draft lottery standings.

Next seven days: vs. CBJ (March 2), @ COL (March 4), @ ARI (March 5)