October 12th will mark the start of the 2021-2022 NHL season when we see the battle of two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov versus a Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins.
Following that matchup, we have the much-awaited debut of the expansion Seattle Kraken, as they take on the other newest expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights.
But before those two games kick off the NHL season, it is important to look at who should sit at the top of the NHL hierarchy.
Can anyone dethrone the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning? Will a new team break through the mold? All of that is to be determined.
As of right now, here are my Top 10 teams heading into this new NHL season.
NHL Power Rankings Top 10
#10: Edmonton Oilers
This team has too many pieces not to be mentioned in the top crop of NHL teams. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will now be joined by Zach Hyman who will add some much-needed help to a team that lacks overall depth.
There was a massive overhaul on this roster, but additions of Hyman, Duncan Keith, Warren Foegele, and Cody Ceci should help make up for the losses of Dominik Kahun, Adam Larsson, and Ethan Bear.
One question mark lies in net where they will rely on the aging Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen to lead them to the promised land.
#9: Washington Capitals
There is not much to mention here besides the overall success this team has had, specifically in the regular season in the past decade and a half while Alex Ovechkin has been around. They have won 10 division titles since he joined the team in the 2005-2006 season, and tied for the lead in the East Division last season.
As long as Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom can continue to produce at a high level, and get assistance from key cogs such as T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson, they will be in fine shape.
Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek will also provide them with a solid enough 1-2 punch in net that is young and destined for growth.
#8: Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina finished atop the Central Division last season after the league shake-up due to Covid-19, and their showing was pretty impressive given the presence of the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning in that division.
They shook their team up more than they would’ve preferred this offseason though after losing Dougie Hamilton, Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, and Jake Bean.
However, replacements have come to the rescue in the form of two veteran goaltenders in Frederick Anderson and Antti Raanta, a feisty young forward in Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and solid backend offensive options in Tony DeAngelo and Ethan Bear.
#7: Toronto Maple Leafs
Once again we have a team that has too many talented players to not be mentioned among the best, and it seems like these players finally found some rhythm last season.
Replacing the significant loss of Hyman from the top line will be tough to do, but they have brought in pieces so that it can be done by the committee.
Jack Campbell will officially cement his role as the team’s starter in net this season, and with the departure of Freddy Anderson, the backup duties are to fall on recently acquired Petr Mrazek.
They have a top-tier core with players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Reilly, they just need to finally mesh it all together for playoff success.
#6: Florida Panthers
Florida is a dynamic team that will make some huge disruptions in the playoff standings this season in the Atlantic Division. The battle between Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, and Florida for the top three spots will be one to watch, and likely the closest race for the playoffs.
Their claim to fame heading into this season would be taking the Lightning to six games in the playoffs last year, and they will look to build off that success this season, especially with the return of Aaron Ekblad who they were missing for that series.
Goaltending may still be shaky, but their offense should be able to set the pace.
#5: Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask is gone, and that move along with the departure of David Krejci were the biggest changes to the Boston roster from the offseason.
Linus Ullmark will come in and assume the starter role in Boston after a few impressive statistical seasons behind a god-awful Buffalo defensive core and overall roster.
Secondary scoring will once again be a huge question mark, but as long as Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand can continue to carry this team, as well as Taylor Hall, then Boston will be a top contender.
#4: New York Islanders
Can this team finally slay the dragon that is the Tampa Bay Lightning?
They have met them in the Eastern Final the past two seasons, both times failing to make their long-awaited return to the Stanley Cup Finals. While their roster continues to look weaker than many other teams in the league, it is hard to deny what they have accomplished.
Barry Trotz is one of the great minds in the NHL, and as long as he is at the helm of this roster, they will be a top team come April.
#3: Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights have been to the Conference Finals/NHL semifinals in three of their first four years of existence, and it is hard to believe that their odds of making it there again will change much this season. They lost Marc-Andre Fleury to trade to Chicago in order to work around the cap, which leaves Robin Lehner as the undisputed #1 guy in goal for the Knights.
Adding Evgeni Dadonov and Nolan Patrick will provide some scoring help which is where they lacked when they reached the deeper points of last season.
Given their success the past few seasons, I doubt that they will not be near the top of the league again this year.
#2: Colorado Avalanche
While the current core stays intact in Colorado, I will continue to choose them as my Stanley Cup Favorite heading into every season. There is so much talent up and down their roster that they are bound to break through their current woes that have resulted in three straight second-round exits.
A slight change had to happen in goal after Philipp Grubauer was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft, but they replaced him with the above-average goaltending of Darcy Kuemper which will for sure be enough to keep them atop the league.
#1: Tampa Bay Lightning
Did you expect anything different to top off this list?
Tampa has won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, and despite the loss of some of their forward depth due to cap restrictions, causing them to lose Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, and Barclay Goodrow, they should still be in the running for the cup again this season.
They have the best goaltender in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy, perhaps one of the most talented offensive players in the league in Nikita Kucherov, and arguably the best defender in the NHL, Victor Hedman.
Perhaps young players with bright futures such as Mathieu Joseph or Alex Barre–Boulet can provide a young spark that Tampa would need.
Stay with Knup Sports for more NHL news and previews!