Here are our preseason NHL power rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Back-to-back Cup champions who always play an electrifying style. Player to watch: Steven Stamkos.
2. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche has been a Cup favorite out of the West for a few years but hasn’t gotten over the hump. Player to watch: Nathan MacKinnon.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
Upset by Montreal in the Cup semifinals last season, they traded their Vezina-winning goalie for zero return. Player to watch: Mark Stone.
4. Boston Bruins
After going to the Cup Final in 2019, they’ve had a couple disappointing, early finishes. They had a rough offseason — losing David Krejci to the Czech Republic, and elite goalie Tuukka Rask is injured. Player to watch: David Pastrnak.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Certainly the most chaotic offseason in hockey, but will it pay off? They’ve been in the mix for a while but have made some questionable choices. Player to watch: Andrei Svechnikov.
6. Florida Panthers
Is this the year the Panthers finally make that leap? Tampa Bay was in their way last season, but they have a solid roster and more experience. Player to watch: Aleksander Barkov.
7. New York Islanders
Oh so close for the past couple seasons, if not for the Lightning. This Barry Trotz-led squad is built for the postseason, imagine if it was healthy for one. Player to watch: Mat Barzal.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
If you’re a gambler, watch for a first-round playoff exit, I promise. Player to watch: Mitch Marner.
9. Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin keeps going, and the Capitals are always a top regular-season team. They’re still kind of old, though, and since winning the Cup in 2018 have gone backward. Player to watch: Ovechkin.
10. Montreal Canadiens
Last year’s darlings who upset their way to the Cup Final. Can Carey Price maintain his playoff excellence in the regular season? Player to watch: Cole Caufield.
11. Minnesota Wild
It will be important for last season’s Calder Trophy winner, Kirill Kaprizov, to return, but this is a team heading in the right direction. Player to watch: Joel Eriksson Ek.
12. Winnipeg Jets
Last season’s playoff sweep by Montreal certainly set them back, but for the first time in a decade it feels like they have a defense. Player to watch: Connor Hellebuyck.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins
They’ve slipped in recent years with shoddy goaltending, but they’re one of those teams that always seem to find a way into big games and series. Player to watch: Sidney Crosby.
14. New York Rangers
Last season’s hot pick to make a run, the Rangers were too little, too late after a torrid end to the season. To make it this season, they need a more consistent push. Player to watch: Artemi Panarin.
15. Seattle Kraken
Will the Kraken follow in the expansion footsteps of the Golden Knights or find itself mired in playing catch-up? The most interesting team in the league. Player to watch: Jaden Schwartz.
16. Edmonton Oilers
The Connor McDavid show starring Leon Draisaitl, and yep, that’s it. Player to watch: McDavid.
17. St. Louis Blues
The Blues went backward in a hurry following their 2019 Cup Final win, and they’ve lost a lot since then. But hey, at least they locked up Jordan Binnington, that’s going well, for sure. Player to watch: Vladimir Tarasenko.
18. Dallas Stars
A disappointing campaign following its 2020 Cup Final appearance has Dallas as the enigma of the league. The Stars were burned out early last season dealing with COVID-19 and natural disasters. A normal-paced season should let their talent shine. Player to watch: Miro Heiskanen.
19. Philadelphia Flyers
The biggest disappointment in the league. Whether Carter Hart bounces back in net will make or break their season. Player to watch: Joel Farabee.
20. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings showed some spark last season, and adding Phillip Danault can only help. Player to watch: Anze Kopitar.
21. Chicago Blackhawks
The big question mark after they spent so much money in the offseason: will it even help? Player to watch: Marc-Andre Fleury.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets
They’ve been going backward since they upset Tampa in the first round in 2019. Player to watch: Max Domi.
23. Nashville Predators
No Pekka Rinne in net, and this team has to find itself an identity. Player to watch: Roman Josi.
24. Calgary Flames
Always in the mix, but they never seem to progress. Player to watch: Johnny Gaudreau.
25. New Jersey Devils
They’re young and have some direction, but they’re not quite a playoff contender. Player to watch: Dougie Hamilton.
26. Vancouver Canucks
Last season couldn’t have gone worse, and they haven’t really improved their cap situation. Player to watch: Quinn Hughes.
27. Ottawa Senators
The Senators have shown signs of life, but they aren’t close to being a contender. Player to watch: Brady Tkachuk.
28. San Jose Sharks
This team went down the drain so fast and it doesn’t have many signs of recovering. Player to watch: Erik Karlsson.
29. Detroit Red Wings
Is it a true hockey season in the 2010s-20s without the Red Wings being projected to be bad? Player to watch: Dylan Larkin.
30. Anaheim Ducks
Their youth might make them a little fun, but they’re an easy pick to finish last in the West. Player to watch: Trevor Zegras.
31. Arizona Coyotes
Not only are they not going to be very good, but they also have to leave Glendale. At least their new jerseys are nice. Player to watch: Clayton Keller.
32. Buffalo Sabres
It would be miraculous if they moved out of this slot at any point this season. Player to watch: Whoever they get for Jack Eichel.