NHL power rankings 2021: Golden Knights, Maple Leafs, Canadiens start strong; Oilers, Blackhawks not so much

The NHL’s 2021 season is as fresh as a newborn baby, but while it may be brand-spanking new, there’s already a whole lot of intrigue.

Just one week in and there are a few teams that have found their groove while others are struggling to get it back. The Senators have some people raising eyebrows while the Golden Knights and Lightning keep rolling along.

Smiles have been aplenty, including 2020 third-overall draft pick Tim Stützle, 2018 draftee Alexander Romanov and 41-years-young Joe Thornton, who have all notched first goals. Jack Hughes is another year older and his game has been ramped up while we’re still waiting on 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafrenière first NHL point.

Things are still fresh and young for the season but here’s a look at the first NHL power rankings for 2021.

1. Vegas Golden Knights, 3-0-0, 1st in West

Lehner. Fleury. Lehner. Regardless of who is in between the pipes, Vegas is rolling. It also doesn’t hurt when you’re outshooting opponents per game (30.0 to 25.3) and outscoring them too (11-5) — with none of the goals coming on the man advantage.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1-0, 1st in North

There’s no one having as much fun playing hockey right now as Joe Thornton. Happy Jumbo, happy Leafs.

MORE: Thornton scores first goal with Toronto

3. Montreal Canadiens, 2-0-1, 2nd in North

GM Marc Bergevin made some big moves this offseason and they’ve paid off so far — although the biggest one may be signing Jeff Petry to an extension in September. The defenseman is leading the team in points (five). 

4. Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1-0, 1st in East

You’ve got to love the craziness of the schedule when the Flyers get beat 6-1 by the Sabres on Monday and shut out those same Sabres 3-0 on Tuesday.

Plus, Gritty is in the building. 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0-0, 1st in Central

The Lightning had their first two games postponed, but that hasn’t stopped Jon Cooper and Co. from picking up where they left. It’s been 114 days since they lifted the Cup, but they’re clicking on all cylinders and outscoring opponents 10-3.

6. Calgary Flames, 2-0-1, 3rd in North

It’s been a “weird” start to the season for Jacob Markstrom. What’s weirder is that the Flames have looked really good but also really disconnected at times. If they can put together a full 60-minute effort, this team will be … fire.

MORE: Ex-Canuck Jacob Markstrom shuts out ex-buddies — ‘It was weird’

7. Washington Capitals, 2-0-2, 2nd in East

Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the season against the Penguins. He now has 707 career goals and is one behind ex-Capital great and Hall of Famer Mike Gartner. Only 187 till he ties Wayne Gretzky.

8. New Jersey Devils, 2-0-1, 3rd in East

Someone may have made a deal with the devil, but these Jersey boys are looking good. The squad has earned five out of a possible six points and, speaking of boys, a fired up 19-year-old Jack Hughes has six points in three games.

9. New York Islanders, 2-1-0, 4th in East

The Islanders have scored 1.67 goals per game. The Islanders have allowed 1.67 goals per game (via two shoutouts by Semyon Varlamov). Sounds about right for the guys on the Island.

10. Colorado Avalanche, 2-1-0, 2nd in West

The Avalanche have the best power play in the league and it’s pretty obvious when you go 5-for-7 against the Blues in an 8-0 win.

11. Florida Panthers, 2-0-0, 2nd in Central

The Panthers got a late start to the season but haven’t let that stop them. Sergei Bobrovsky may have started only one of the team’s two wins but the offense is rolling. Florida has the best Scoring Chances Goals For per 60 in the league at 3.91 and is fourth in High-Danger Chances For Percentage at 62.07 (per Natural Stat Trick).

12. Nashville Predators, 2-1-0, 3rd in Central

Three games. Three Filip Forsberg goals in each game. 

13. Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1-0, 4th in Central

Carolina’s season is currently on pause, but before things had to shut down, the Hurricanes were controlling play with a 58.09 Corsi For Percentage (second-best in the NHL) and 56.69 percent Fenwick For (also, second-best in the NHL) at 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick.

SCHEDULE CHANGES: List of games postponed, rescheduled because of COVID-19

14. St. Louis Blues, 2-1-0, 3rd in West

How will things shake out for the Blues this year without now ex-captain Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko out with more shoulder woes and Alexander Steen’s retirement? Jordan Binnington has not looked sharp in net and has a .883 save percentage, stopping just 68 of 77 shots.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-2-0, 5th in East

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Sidney Crosby is ridiculous.

16. Minnesota Wild, 2-1-0, 4th in West

The Wild have the best Scoring Chances For Percentage (60.98) and second-best Expected Goals For Percentage (62.93) in the league, according to Natural Stat Trick. Last season it was 51.17 and 51.31, respectively, in 69 games. Things are different in Minny and it starts between the pipes with Cam Talbot and his .926 save percentage.

17. Ottawa Senators, 1-1-1, 5th in North

Sporting News did not have the Senators in last place entering the season. It’s early, but they’ve shown that this is an all-new team. Matt Murray is 100 percent going to steal games, Stützle brings youthful energy along with, well, the majority of the rest of the team.

PREDICTIONS 2021: Final standings, awards, playoff projections, Stanley Cup pick

18. Boston Bruins, 1-1-1, 6th in East

At 5v5, according to Natural Stat Trick, the Bruins are at 55.56 Corsi For percentage. They have not scored a goal at 5v5 yet this season. Boston has also only potted a league-low three goals. Maybe when David Pastrnak returns the ship will be righted.

19. Arizona Coyotes, 1-1-1, 5th in West

Things have started off slowly for the Coyotes. They’ve allowed some fans in the building — which is just weird — but the extra support has not helped just yet.

20. Anaheim Ducks, 1-1-1, 6th in West

Things were not expected to be great on the West Coast in 2021 for any of the three teams. The Ducks have just four goals in three games and, to be fair, the best thing this season may be “The Mighty Ducks” reboot instead.

MORE: ‘Mighty Ducks,’ ‘Letterkenny’ star Dylan Playfair draws on hockey experience to become standout in front of the camera

21. New York Rangers, 1-2-0, 7th in East

The Rangers lead the league in shots per game (35.3) with 11.78 High-Danger Chances For per 60 (sixth in NHL). Considering how bad the team looked in the opener — it should be noted that this is the youngest team in the league this year with an average age of 24.96 — it’s only up from there. 

22. Detroit Red Wings, 2-2-0, 5th in Central

Bobby Ryan has four goals in three games. Awesome.

23. Buffalo Sabres, 1-2-0, 8th in East

The Sabres have scored 11 goals. Taylor Hall or Jack Eichel have recorded a point on seven of them — five goals with them both notching a point. 

24. Dallas Stars, 0-0-0, 8th in Central

The Stars have yet to play this season because of COVID-19 shutting down things for a bit, but expectations are high for the defending Western Conference champs.

COVID-19 CASE TRACKER: Updated list of players to miss games during 2021 season

25. Winnipeg Jets, 2-1-0, 4th in North

Patrik Laine was a force in the lid-lifter for the Jets as he potted two goals and an assist in the overtime. But he’s been on the shelf since that game and the Jets just haven’t looked the same without him. Not great news for Paul Maurice and crew if trade rumors continue to swirl around the Finnish star. 

LAINE INJURY UPDATE: Jets star listed as day-to-day 

26. Columbus Blue Jackets, 1-2-1, 6th in Central

The Pierre-Luc Dubois drama hangs pretty heavy over the Blue Jackets’ young season. 

MORE: PLD ‘wants out’ — Timeline, latest trade rumors

27. San Jose Sharks, 1-2-0, 7th in West

San Jose isn’t very good, but Tomas Hertl being tied for first in the NHL (six points) with six other guys is something positive.

28. Vancouver Canucks, 1-3-0, 7th in North

The Canucks have not looked good. Sure, they have a win under their belt but the team has looked undisciplined and out of sync amid the three-game losing streak since the lid-lifting win against Edmonton. Elias Pettersson has yet to tickle the twine, but when he does this team should take off.

29. Los Angeles Kings, 0-0-2, 7th in West

The Kings are California dreamin’ of the future — specifically, when studs Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte are dominating the NHL. It probably won’t be this year, but LA’s glory days are coming soon.

30. Edmonton Oilers, 1-3-0, 6th in North

The Oilers had a chance to upgrade their goaltending — and they didn’t — and now Mike Smith is out for a while. But, hey, at least Connor McDavid is fun to watch.

MORE: McDavid remains a cheat code

31. Chicago Blackhawks, 0-3-1, 7th in Central

Four games, three different goals but the same results: a team being outscored 9-20 this season. 

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