NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, each team's reason for hope

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, January 5, 2024

The battle atop the Power Rankings continues again this week, with the New York Rangers ousted by the Boston Bruins.

Beyond the rankings, this week we have identified a reason for hope for all 32 NHL fan bases -- whether it's a current player or group, or perhaps a savior to arrive via the 2024 draft.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors each send 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 Dec. 22. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 70.27%

Next seven days: vs. TB (Jan. 6), @ COL (Jan. 8), @ ARI (Jan. 9), @ VGK (Jan. 11)

Boston has the sort of depth every NHL team wished for this Christmas. In 2024, the Bruins are hopefully going to keep making the most of it. Head coach Jim Montgomery loves adjusting his lineup based on Boston's matchups, and with skaters like Jakub Lauko and Oskar Steen ready to step in, this gives the Bruins an advantage beyond what their top players (see: David Pastrnak & Co.) bring every night.

2. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 71.62%

Next seven days: @ MTL (Jan. 6), vs. VAN (Jan. 8), @ STL (Jan. 11)

The Rangers will be hard-pressed to top their excellent play in 2023, but they can hope to sustain it. Backup netminder Jonathan Quick performing like the Jonathan Quick of old has been perhaps the Rangers' greatest surprise (and asset) of the season, and the potential of having both Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil back healthy at some point will only strengthen New York's case as a genuine Cup contender deep into the new year.

3. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 67.11%

Next seven days: @ NJ (Jan. 6), @ NYR (Jan. 8), @ NYI (Jan. 9), @ PIT (Jan. 11)

The Canucks have had a captivating season to date and hopes are understandably high for 2024 based on past performance. They lead the NHL in goals per game this season, have a Vezina Trophy-worthy goaltender in Thatcher Demko, a fired-up J.T. Miller leading the charge offensively and Quinn Hughes on track for a Norris Trophy. There's no limit to where Vancouver could wind up this season.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 67.95%

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Jan. 6), vs. BOS (Jan. 8), vs. VGK (Jan. 10)

Colorado has some stupendous top-end offensive producers like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. What the Avalanche need is more secondary scorers. The return of Artturi Lehkonen -- who's been sidelined with a neck injury since early November -- will be a huge boost to Colorado's depth and advance the Avalanche attack.

5. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 70.27%

Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 5), @ ARI (Jan. 7), vs. CBJ (Jan. 9), vs. CHI (Jan. 11)

The Jets wrapped up 2023 on a heater that included defeating some of the NHL's top teams -- some more than once! Their hopes in 2024 hinge upon more of the same. Winnipeg is already one of the league's stingiest teams defensively and the better Connor Hellebuyck performs in net, coupled with the Jets' surging third and fourth contributions, puts Winnipeg on a path to many more positive outcomes.

6. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 66.22%

Next seven days: vs. NSH (Jan. 6), @ MIN (Jan. 8), vs. MIN (Jan. 10)

Dallas might have been adrift when starting goalie Jake Oettinger was hurt -- until Scott Wedgewood answered the bell. He's given the Stars hope that not only will they continue to lead the Central Division while Oettinger recovers, but that Dallas won't need to rush its No. 1 back, either. It's a best-case scenario the Stars have to be loving as they resolve for an even brighter new year.

7. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 65.71%

Next seven days: @ WSH (Jan. 7), @ TB (Jan. 9), @ FLA (Jan. 11)

The Kings already have everything -- from offense to defense to goaltending -- dialed in. So just how much better will 2024 be when Viktor Arvidsson (yet to play in a game this season following back surgery) enters the chat? He's been a strong, consistent contributor for the Kings in the past, and the hope is he will be again to level L.A. up even further.

8. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 65.79%

Next seven days: @ COL (Jan. 6), @ STL (Jan. 9), vs. LA (Jan. 11)

Florida might be the best team no one talks about enough -- and that should all change in 2024 given how the Panthers are trending. They entered the new year on a four-game heater fueled by a red-hot Sam Reinhart (23 goals in 36 games), suddenly surging power play (with five goals in four games) and a top quality goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. The hope for Florida is they can stay this balanced while everyone else starts to take notice.

9. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 62.82%

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Jan. 6), @ COL (Jan. 10), vs. BOS (Jan. 11)

The Knights going through a recent -- and rather uncharacteristic -- slump could be a good thing for what's to come in 2024. This group has stayed mostly healthy but appeared fatigued; something a turn of the calendar (and a frustrating shutout Winter Classic loss) can possibly help to cure. Vegas always finds a resiliency to surprise us all; why should this new year be any different?

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 62.50%

Next seven days: @ SJ (Jan. 6), vs. SJ (Jan. 9), @ NYI (Jan. 11)

The Leafs finally made the change it needed in net by waiving Ilya Samsonov and putting their full faith in Martin Jones to carry the load until Joseph Woll can return. The hope is with a stable No. 1 netminder the Leafs see better results from their defensive efforts in 2024 and quit squandering an advantage like boasting the league's goal-scoring leader, Auston Matthews.

11. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 60.53%

Next seven days: @ WSH (Jan. 5), vs. STL (Jan. 6), vs. ANA (Jan. 11)

Carolina has been through the ringer with their goaltending situation this season (Antti Raanta struggled; Frederik Andersen is out indefinitely due to a blood clot issue) and it's been on rookie Pyotr Kochetkov to man the crease. Well, the Hurricanes are entering 2024 with a goalie on the rise as Kochetkov went 5-1-1 to close out last year and looks well positioned to keep building on that success as a true difference-maker.

12. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 60.53%

Next seven days: @ VGK (Jan. 6), vs. VAN (Jan. 9), vs. TOR (Jan. 11)

The Islanders are a constant enigma -- this season is no different in that respect -- yet they have plenty of high hopes for 2024 based on the consistency of their top-tier players. Ilya Sorokin? Still one of the league's best goalies. Mathew Barzal? Quieting the naysayers as a first-line star beside Bo Horvat. Special teams? On the rise. New York is impossible to pigeonhole, and there's abounding hope in the Islanders reaching their full potential by spring.

13. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 58.33%

Next seven days: vs. CHI (Jan. 5), vs. VAN (Jan .6), @ TB (Jan. 11)

New Jersey has Jack Hughes. When that's the case, there's no reason not to feel hopeful about what the new year will bring. Hughes is averaging nearly 1.50 points per game to power the Devils offense and can be a one-man wrecking ball as needed when skaters like Timo Meier are sidelined by injury. If New Jersey is to make the most of 2024, it'll be with Hughes at the forefront.

14. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 58.33%

Next seven days: vs. CAR (Jan. 5), vs. LA (Jan. 7), vs. SEA (Jan. 11)

Washington was hit by an injury bug late in 2023 that should hopefully resolve itself by early 2024. Goaltender Charlie Lindgren is doing better than expected in his recovery and Max Pacioretty (torn Achilles tendon) making his debut this week was a massive boost for the Capitals' offense given other missing players. The healthier Washington gets, the more hope there is for a happy new year.

15. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 55.71%

Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 6), @ CHI (Jan. 9), @ DET (Jan. 11)

The Oilers have truly turned their season around since replacing former coach Jay Woodcroft in early November. Their hopeful resolution in 2024 is to not let their momentum slide. Calvin Pickard has hopped in as a steady backup for a revamped Stuart Skinner in net, and Connor McDavid has registered a point in all but three games since coach Kris Knoblauch took over. There's hope yet for Edmonton to be a true contender this spring.

16. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 57.89%

Next seven days: vs. CGY (Jan. 6), vs. PIT (Jan. 8), vs. MTL (Jan. 10)

Philadelphia is already right in the middle of this season's playoff race -- and frankly, who saw that coming? The Flyers' hopes of staying there well into 2024 revolve around a continued buy-in to coach John Tortorella's system, and the high-level contributions from some of the team's youngest skaters, including Tyson Foerster and Cam York. There's good reason to believe Philadelphia can stay in play for a postseason slot.

17. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 54.05%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Jan. 7), vs. BOS (Jan. 9), vs. CGY (Jan. 11)

Arizona is a scrappy bunch that hasn't received enough credit for their gumption -- or how well they performed overall in 2023. Connor Ingram ranks among the league's top netminders behind a forward group benefitting from consistent performances by Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse. Arizona is surprisingly deep and decidedly confident; did you see the four-goal comeback against Colorado? There's reasonable hope in the desert for 2024 to include a playoff return for these Coyotes.

18. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 55.13%

Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 6), vs. ANA (Jan. 9)

The Predators needed some positivity to end 2023 and got in the form of 21-year-old goaltender Yaroslav Askarov earning his first NHL win. That's a big deal for the Predators' hopes going into 2024 -- and beyond. Askarov was Nashville's first-round pick (11th overall) in 2020; to see him succeed early on is a shot in the arm for the entire Predators' squad. And, maybe, their winning prospects over the next few months.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 53.75%

Next seven days: @ BOS (Jan. 6), vs. LA (Jan. 9), vs. NJ (Jan. 11)

Tampa Bay entered 2024 with the league leader in points -- that would be Nikita Kucherov -- tearing his way through opposing teams' defense in a way the Lightning must hope will continue well into this season's second half. And if the Lightning want to get real greedy, they'll resolve to have Kucherov's success be a rallying cry for steadier contributions from the club's bottom-six forwards, too.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 56.76%

Next seven days: vs. BUF (Jan. 6), @ PHI (Jan. 8), vs. VAN (Jan. 11)

Pittsburgh has been reinventing itself recently -- and that's a good thing for 2024. The Penguins have talent to spare but what they're establishing now is a new identity centered around more than just trying to beat teams off the rush. Pittsburgh's gone grittier, meaner and more physically imposing. The hope is that shift keeps translating into victories.

21. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 53.85%

Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 7), vs. EDM (Jan. 11)

The Red Wings gave up more goals per game in December than any team in the league. That makes their hopeful resolution for 2024 rather apparent: Stop doing that. Fortunately for the Red Wings, they are perfectly capable of righting the ship. A midseason slump is better than one in early spring, and if Detroit got that slip out of their system, then improved play by their goaltenders and a recommitment to the defensive side of the game will put the Wings back on their previous winning trajectory.

22. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 52.56%

Next seven days: @ BUF (Jan. 9), @ WSH (Jan. 11)

Seattle set the tone for 2024 with a resounding 3-0 win over Vegas in the Winter Classic to mark a first-ever shutout victory (courtesy of Joey Daccord) at the league's annual outdoor showcase. And the Kraken show no signs of cooling off their nine-game point streak. What Seattle lacks in flash it makes up for in work ethic (and strong goaltending from Daccord) that can carry the Kraken up those Pacific Division standings from here.

23. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 51.32%

Next seven days: @ PHI (Jan. 6), @ CHI (Jan. 7), vs. OTT (Jan. 9), @ ARI (Jan. 11)

Calgary has struggled all season to find chemistry up front, but it looks like first-year coach Ryan Huska has finally found some winning combinations for 2024. Top center Nazem Kadri is excelling with Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil, Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund seem to be in a groove and Elias Lindholm has settled into a rhythm with Yegor Sharangovich. If the Flames can keep stoking those fires into the new year, maybe the energy will eventually reach slumping star Jonathan Huberdeau.

24. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 52.70%

Next seven days: @ CAR (Jan. 6), vs. FLA (Jan. 9), vs. NYR (Jan. 11)

The Blues shuffled things up behind the bench, saying goodbye to Craig Berube and installing Drew Bannister. He, in turn, moved the Blues forwards around in late 2023 and found some chemistry that hopefully grows stronger in 2024. St. Louis' top line has been especially potent, and Jake Neighbours is making an impact in a second-line spot. New coach, new year ... what else is in store for the Blues?

25. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 48.65%

Next seven days: @ CBJ (Jan. 6), vs. DAL (Jan. 8), @ DAL (Jan. 10)

Minnesota got off to a rough start in 2024 when six players, including Jared Spurgeon,Filip Gustavsson and Kirill Kaprizov were moved to injured reserve. But here's hoping that adversity is what bonds the Wild together. Minnesota was turning a corner in December with their punishing style of play and there's no reason the Wild can't challenge one another to step up and stay focused while their netminder, top defenseman and top forward heal for the season's stretch run.

26. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 46.15%

Next seven days: @ PIT (Jan. 6), vs. SEA (Jan. 9), vs. OTT (Jan. 11)

The Sabres are brimming with talent ... that they simply didn't get enough out of in 2023. The hope is that 2024 is when that will change. Jack Quinn is finally back -- and producing -- following an Achilles tendon injury, and there's truly nowhere to go but up for Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens and Alex Tuch from here.

27. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 48.68%

Next seven days: vs. NYR (Jan. 6), @ PHI (Jan. 10), vs. SJ (Jan. 11)

Montreal is sticking to the plan laid out of by GM Kent Hughes that could (eventually) deliver results. It's the Canadiens' hope that their continued patience in developing the club's top skaters and learning from setbacks (like how poor the penalty kill has been of late) will pay dividends at some point in 2024, and for Montreal to be a long-term contender down the road.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 42.50%

Next seven days: vs. MIN (Jan. 6), @ WPG (Jan. 9)

Columbus selectedAdam Fantilli at No. 3 overall in last year's draft, and the hope is for 2024 to be a real proving ground for the Blue Jackets' new top-line center. The team had to fast-track Fantilli up the lineup once Boone Jenner and Patrik Laine were injured and the 19-year-old has held his ground between Johnny Gaudreau and Justin Danforth. All Columbus can hope for is to see that development continue well into the new year.

29. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 41.18%

Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 6), @ CGY (Jan. 9), @ BUF (Jan. 11)

The Senators changed most everything about themselves in 2023 -- new owner, new coach, new GM, etc. -- in the hopes that 2024 will deliver better outcomes. The Senators were supposed to be Atlantic Division risers, and there's believe that can still be the case this year with a renewed vision for the team in place.

30. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 36.49%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Jan. 5), vs. DET (Jan. 7), @ NSH (Jan. 9), @ CAR (Jan. 11)

Anaheim was blunted by injuries late in 2023 (including to top skaters Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish) and the hope here is that things can't possibly get worse come 2024. It's unlikely the Ducks will suddenly surge up the standings even when all their ailing parties return, but at least Anaheim can be hopeful about the organization's depth of young talent to power it through brighter years ahead.

31. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 31.58%

Next seven days: @ NJ (Jan. 5), vs. CGY (Jan. 7), vs. EDM (Jan. 9), @ WPG (Jan. 11)

Chicago's one great hope for 2024 (and 2025, and 2026...) is Connor Bedard continuing to be everything they expected -- and more. To watch the 18-year-old produce at nearly a point-per-game pace already on a team without much other star power is incredible. He'll be the Blackhawks' life force long after 2024 comes and goes.

32. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 26.92%

Next seven days: vs. TOR (Jan. 6), @ TOR (Jan. 9), @ MTL (Jan. 11)

San Jose ended 2023 on schedule for a draft lottery win. If all goes well in 2024, the Sharks' hopes of landing the No. 1 overall pick (for the first time in franchise history) will come to fruition.