1. St. Louis Blues: The Blues have been dominant at home of recent and own the best record in the NHL. They will soon be getting back Colton Parayko and Sammy Blais while star forward Vladimir Tarasenko is still a couple months away. This team is the best in the west.
2. Washington Capitals: John Carlson is going to win a Norris with 56 points already in just 47 games as a defensemen. Ovechkin is on pace again for about 50 goals and Ilya Samsonov has a .925 save percentage, taking away the starting job from Braden Holtby
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: Despite no Crosby, Guentzel, Dumoulin Bjugstad Schultz and a litany of other injuries for large chunks of the season, the Penguins are still in the hunt for a tough Metro division title. Tristan Jarry has been outstanding and will have to continue to be.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning: Finally, the Lightning put it all together and have catapulted toward the top of the NHL. The Devils ended their 10-game win streak but once again the Lightning are looking like contenders.
5. Boston Bruins: The Bruins falling to five is nothing of their own doing. The four teams above them have just been wrecking shop over their last couple months while they have treaded water after an incredible start.
6. Dallas Stars: A season sweep of the Colorado Avalanche is an impressive feat for any team. The two appear to be on a collision course for the first round of the playoffs and home ice advantage will be big for the Stars.
7. New York Islanders: The Islanders are in the same spot as they were last year. Awesome defense, outstanding goaltending but questions about the offense. It was good enough to win one round in the playoffs last year, but can they go any further?
8. Colorado Avalanche: All season long they’ve been pegged as a top contender in the West and now people have questions. Their depth has been tested by injuries and goaltending has been questionable at times. With all the star power at the top of the roster, they are still a threat to win it all.
9. Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have slowed down a bit since acquiring Taylor Hall but they still sit in first place in the NHL’s Pacific Division. Hall has 13 points in 14 games. Part of the slide has to do with Darcy Kuemper’s injury and hopefully for the Coyotes he can remain Vezina caliber when he comes back.
10. Carolina Hurricanes: With how incredible the Metro division is, people forget about this team who just made the Eastern Conference Final. While Petr Mrazek has struggled in net, James Reimer has done a nice job as the backup. The top of their lineup can score like crazy but the depth is questionable.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have dealt with a lot this year and now their number one defensemen is out for two months. They are clinging to a playoff spot at the moment but have played well under new coach Sheldon Keffe, and Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are on pace for career best seasons.
12. Vegas Golden Knights: No idea why they fired their coach. The Golden Knights have been struggling to get a save and have a low shooting percentage. They should be getting more positive results in the second half of the season despite downgrading with their coach.
13. Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks are still young and are not quite a lock to make the playoffs but after a lengthy winning streak, they sit in a good spot. Elias Petterson has done the heavy lifting goal scoring wise and Jacob Markstrom needs to continue to be strong in net.
14. Calgary Flames: After firing Bill Peters, the Flames have improved mightily, going 13-6- 1 under Geoff Ward. They are in that log jam in the Pacific division that could see them in first place by the end of the year or out of the playoffs.
15. Philadelphia Flyers: Losing Carter Hart for a few weeks is going to hurt despite the All-Star break giving them some cover. They have been inconsistent all year but will battle for a playoff spot down the stretch due to their depth at forward and young defensemen.
16. Edmonton Oilers: How far can patchy goaltending, no depth at forward and iffy defense take you? As far as the best player in the world can take them. Watch the goal Connor McDavid scored on the Maple Leafs and Morgan Reilly last week. It is insane that a person can do that.
17. Winnipeg Jets: The fact that this team is in the hunt at all speaks volumes to coaching and goaltending. They are among the worst teams in the league at giving up high quality shots and that doesn’t bode well for the second half.
18. Florida Panthers: If they could just get a save, this team would easily be in the playoffs. The offense is amazing, led by Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov and the defense is okay, led by Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. However, no team is going to be good when the goalie they gave a massive $10 million a year contract to is posting a .895 save percentage.
19. Nashville Predators: After going all in and getting Matt Duchene in the offseason, the Preds have been highly inconsistent and fallen into that second tier of teams in the NHL. Some of their underlying numbers are pretty good, however, so don’t be shocked if they go on a run in the second half of the season.
20. Columbus Blue Jackets: After losing almost everything in terms of star power last offseason, the Blue Jackets sit just a couple points out of the playoffs in the brutal Metro. Give John Tortorella the Jack Adams if he gets the squad in.
21. New York Rangers: The Rangers won’t make the playoffs for a lengthy list of reasons, but Artemi Panarin has been worth every dollar he signed for. He has 67 points in 45 games and while the goaltending has been by no means bad, it hasn’t been enough to carry a leaky defense.
22. Buffalo Sabres: Is the Sabres make the playoffs, give Jack Eichel the MVP award. Without him they would be near the very bottom of this list. It is doubtful they do, but a good two or three weak stretch could put them back in talks.
23. Montreal Canadiens: A long losing streak killed this team. They were right near the Leafs and Lightning but, due to injuries and bad goaltending, have fallen off completely. Watch any of their games and it’s clear they play extremely hard, so firing the coach is not an option. Once again, Montreal has no real superstars at forward and it is costing them.
24. Chicago Blackhawks: Not quite sure where this team is on the NHL pedestal right now. Some nights they look okay and could be competing for a wild card spot, and other nights they looks like a tire fire that should sell everything. There is a world where this team as constructed could make the playoffs, but they need to go on a run after the break.
25. Minnesota Wild: The Wild were in the playoff hunt for longer than most expected but have fallen off after a rough stretch. There just isn’t enough talent to be serious competitors over a full season and their front office has some tough decisions to make.
26. New Jersey Devils: After firing Hynes and getting rid of Taylor Hall, they have played better. Their wins over the Capitals and Lightning prove that. I’m not quite sure what the plan is in New Jersey, but they do have two young centers to build around.
27. San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture is going to be out for a while and that may be the death knell for the Sharks’ season. They have a lot of money tied up to a lot of players long term and their first round pick belongs to Ottawa. Martin Jones is no longer the starter but they are stuck with him for a long time.
28. Ottawa Senators: There is hope in Ottawa. They own two first round picks this year and are loaded up on picks in the coming drafts. Their young guys at the NHL level are starting to establish themselves and despite a terrible month Ottawa fans are starting to get some hope.
29. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are another team in the midst of a long rebuild. They have some promising prospects on the way, but there isn’t much to say about this team other than they are pretty bad.
30. Anaheim Ducks: John Gibson can’t make every save and this team at times refuses to score goals. Their leading scorer has 30 points and appear to be ready to sell some pieces. They know they are in tank mode as they have told people they will take on bad contracts for draft picks.
31. Detroit Red Wings: This team is on pace for less than 50 points. There hasn’t been a lot of positives for this once proud franchise, but this is year one of what feels like a lengthy rebuild, so strap in Detroit fans.