NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, biggest December games left

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, December 16, 2022

The big news of the week in the hockey world was Alex Ovechkin scoring a hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks to reach 800 goals, becoming the third player in NHL history to do so. As Ovi has been on this recent goal-scoring heater, his Washington Capitals have won eight of their last 11 games. How high did the Caps rise in this week's Power Rankings?

Find out the answer to that question, as well as our take on the biggest game of the next two weeks for each club, as we get ready to flip the calendar to 2023.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another -- taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule -- and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published Dec. 9. Points paces are through Thursday's games.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 82.76%

Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Dec. 17), vs. FLA (Dec. 19), vs. WPG (Dec. 22)

vs. Senators, Dec. 27. The Bruins are one of the league's undisputedly excellent teams. But when Boston met the Senators in October, they quickly fell behind 3-0 and stumbled to a 7-5 loss. Do the Senators have Boston's number? Or was that just a blip? Let's see what the sequel says.

2. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 73.33%

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Dec. 17), @ CAR (Dec. 20), @ FLA (Dec. 21)

vs. Bruins, Dec. 23. The Devils are neck-and-neck with the Bruins atop the Eastern Conference standings. New Jersey has a chance -- in one of two clashes with Boston over five days -- to prove why they should be the ones pulling ahead into the No. 1 slot.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 70.97%

Next seven days: @ WSH (Dec. 17), vs. TB (Dec. 20), vs. PHI (Dec. 22)

vs. Coyotes, Dec. 29. The Leafs' first tilt against Arizona was a chaotic mess: Toronto fell behind 2-0 (at home!), came back to tie, coughed one up on the power play (after an all-time egregious turnover), then appeared to tie the game again with 39 seconds left in regulation only to have the goal overturned by a controversial hand pass ruling. What could possibly await now in the desert?

4. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 70.31%

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Dec. 17), vs. BUF (Dec. 19), vs. ARI (Dec. 21)

vs. Sabres, Dec. 19. The Golden Knights have unique ties to Buffalo post-Jack Eichel trade. Whether or not Eichel (currently on IR) is available to play, there's added juice for the Sabres, with Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs being back in Vegas. And Buffalo will try bringing the heat after how they folded earlier this season at home to the Golden Knights.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 66.67%

Next seven days: @ CAR (Dec. 18), vs. NYR (Dec. 20), vs. CAR (Dec. 22)

vs. Rangers, Dec. 20. The Penguins haven't met New York since blowing a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series last May and bowing out with an overtime loss in Game 7. Pittsburgh is also battling the Rangers for position in a crowded Metropolitan. These are big points regardless.

6. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 68.97%

Next seven days: vs. DAL (Dec. 17), vs. PIT (Dec. 18), vs. NJ (Dec. 20), @ PIT (Dec. 22)

vs. Devils, Dec. 20. The Hurricanes finally face the Metropolitan mammoth that is New Jersey. Carolina has been jockeying with Pittsburgh (whom they'll see twice in the next week) for second in the division. So it's the perfect time for these Hurricanes to take the Devils' test -- and see how well they fare.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 67.24%

Next seven days: @ VAN (Dec. 17), @ SEA (Dec. 18), vs. OTT (Dec. 20), @ BOS (Dec. 22)

vs. Bruins, Dec. 22. The Jets have soared their way up the Western Conference standings. Boston has barely budged from leading the East. This will be a true heavyweight bout ... and possible Stanley Cup Final preview?!

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 67.24%

Next seven days: @ MTL (Dec. 17), @ TOR (Dec. 20), @ DET (Dec. 21)

vs. Maple Leafs, Dec. 20. The Lightning seem to enjoy playing Toronto. Their first clash this season was another drama-filled overtime victory for Tampa (shorthanded goal against, followed by two power-play scores and an Alex Killorn dagger 30 seconds into the extra frame). And who can forget last season's playoff comeback? Division rivalries don't get more fun than this.

9. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 66.13%

Next seven days: @ CAR (Dec. 17), @ CBJ (Dec. 19), vs. EDM (Dec. 21)

vs. Wild, Dec. 29. The Stars' comeback effort in Minnesota two weeks ago was epic: Dallas trailed 5-1 in the third period and roared back to get a point in the shootout loss. It's hard to imagine a more entertaining matchup, but with the last one fresh in mind these sides could make it happen.

10. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 60.34%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Dec. 18), vs. STL (Dec. 20), @ VAN (Dec. 22)

vs. Oilers, Dec. 30. The Kraken take on one of the Pacific Division's (other) high-powered offenses for the first time this season when the Oilers pay a visit. Seattle has been scoring in bunches, and Edmonton has got strikers to spare. How many goals should we expect that night?

11. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 57.14%

Next seven days: vs. NSH (Dec. 17), vs. NYI (Dec. 19), vs. MTL (Dec. 21)

vs. Maple Leafs, Dec. 31. The Avalanche close out 2022 with a late-afternoon matchup against one of the NHL's top teams in Toronto. It's on Colorado's turf, and while the Avs are banged up, so too are the Leafs (defensively, at least). It should put them on equal footing for a barn-burning end to the year.

12. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 58.33%

Next seven days: @ ARI (Dec. 16), @ VGK (Dec. 17), @ COL (Dec. 19), @ NYR (Dec. 22)

vs. Rangers, Dec. 22. The Islanders can sweep their season series with a heated rival in this third and final meeting. Their most recent win involved overcoming a 3-1 hole to steal key points on the road. Can the Isles make it a clean sweep?

13. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 59.68%

Next seven days: @ PHI (Dec. 17), @ CHI (Dec. 18), @ PIT (Dec. 20), vs. NYI (Dec. 22)

vs. Penguins, Dec. 20. The Rangers will meet Pittsburgh for the first time since last spring's first-round playoff series, when New York overcame a 3-1 deficit and eliminated its division rival with a wild overtime victory in Game 7; Jacob Trouba's hit on Sidney Crosby knocked the latter out for the majority of that comeback. Bad blood? We'll say!

14. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 58.62%

Next seven days: vs. CHI (Dec. 16), vs. OTT (Dec. 18), @ ANA (Dec. 21), @ SJ (Dec. 22)

vs. Blues, Dec. 31. The Wild can close 2022 on a high note (pun intended!) against the St. Louis squad that overcame a 2-1 first-round playoff series deficit to kick Minnesota out of the postseason mix six months ago. Revenge is best served cold.

15. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 53.13%

Next seven days: vs. TOR (Dec. 17), vs. DET (Dec. 19), @ OTT (Dec. 22)

vs. Senators, Dec. 22. The Capitals' last trip to Ottawa ended in an ugly loss when Washington blew a 2-0 second-period lead and couldn't stop the Senators from scoring five straight to the finish. Sure, they're not rivals or anything, but no one forgets difficult nights like that. How will Washington handle round two?

16. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 56.06%

Next seven days: vs. SJ (Dec. 17), vs. ANA (Dec. 20), vs. CGY (Dec. 22)

vs. Ducks, Dec. 20. The Kings' rivalry with Anaheim is always compelling, even if one (or both) teams are struggling. In their first Freeway Face-off of the season, L.A. will no doubt find extra motivation to perform, and the Ducks have surprised a few opponents this season with some plucky comeback wins.

17. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 56.45%

Next seven days: vs. ANA (Dec. 17), @ NSH (Dec. 19, @ DAL (Dec. 21)

vs. Flames, Dec. 27. The Oilers' third and final Battle of Alberta matchup already? 2022 has all the luck. The first two outings were decided by a single goal with results split down the middle. Who takes the (regular) season series? And might it be a prequel to a few more (postseason) meetings this spring?

18. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 55.17%

Next seven days: vs. OTT (Dec. 17), @ WSH (Dec. 19), vs. TB (Dec. 21)

vs. Sabres, Dec. 29. The Red Wings are revamped, but they've had their struggles against the Sabres. Detroit has been blown out 8-3 and lost in a shootout to its also-on-the-rise division rival. Are the Red Wings in line for another disappointing finish, or can they turn the tide on Buffalo before 2022 closes out?

19. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 51.61%

Next seven days: @ NJ (Dec. 17), @ BOS (Dec. 19), vs. NJ (Dec. 21)

vs. Islanders, Dec. 23. The Panthers have beaten New York twice already and go for the season sweep in meeting No. 3. Their prior tilts were tightly contested affairs played out over 10 days in October. Much has changed for both teams since then. Is Florida up to the task one more time on the Island?

20. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 53.33%

Next seven days: vs. STL (Dec. 16), @ SJ (Dec. 18), @ SJ (Dec. 20), @ LA (Dec. 22)

vs. Blues, Dec. 16. The Flames' Nazem Kadri (formerly of the Avalanche) had some headline-making drama with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington in the playoffs last season that won't soon be forgotten. (Kadri collided with Binnington in the crease causing injury; Binnington threw a water bottle at Kadri during a live postgame interview.) Will animosity carry over when those two (potentially) share the ice again?

21. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: @ COL (Dec. 17), vs. EDM (Dec. 19), @ CHI (Dec. 21)

vs. Avalanche, Dec. 17. The Predators have been at Colorado's mercy, from last season's first-round playoff sweep to Nashville dropping their initial meeting this season. But the Predators have improved since then, and with two meetings against the Avs in six days, are primed to settle the score.

22. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. TB (Dec. 17), @ ARI (Dec. 19), @ COL (Dec. 21)

vs. Stars, Dec. 23. The Canadiens are loaded with some of the league's best young talents (Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, etc.). Ditto Dallas (Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen, etc.). What's not to love about the potential of a high-octane matchup punctuated by the NHL's stellar up-and-comers?

23. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 48.28%

Next seven days: @ DET (Dec. 17), @ MIN (Dec. 18), @ WPG (Dec. 20), vs. WSH (Dec. 22)

vs. Bruins, Dec. 27. The Senators put together a wild 7-5 win over Boston back in October where the scoring came in bunches, and Ottawa was terribly fun to watch. History could well repeat itself as both teams come off their holiday breaks with a bang.

24. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Dec. 17), vs. STL (Dec. 19), vs. SEA (Dec. 22)

vs. Oilers, Dec. 23. The Canucks aren't far behind Edmonton in the tight Pacific Division. Banking points now over a rival can pay dividends down the road. And Vancouver hasn't seen the Oilers since falling 5-3 in the season opener. How far can the Canucks show they've come the last two months?

25. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: @ ARI (Dec. 17), @ VGK (Dec. 19)

vs. Blue Jackets, Dec. 27. The Sabres used Tage Thompson's five-goal night to drown the Blue Jackets 9-4 last week. What will Thompson do for an encore? Does another dominant performance await or can Columbus come up with a response of its own?

26. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 48.33%

Next seven days: @ CGY (Dec. 16), @ VAN (Dec. 19), @ SEA (Dec. 20)

vs. Kraken, Dec. 20. The Blues met Seattle in their second game of the season and had to stave off a spirited Kraken comeback to earn a narrow overtime victory. Will more theatrics ensue this time? Seattle has become one of the NHL's best teams in recent weeks, and St. Louis could certainly use more quality wins.

27. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 43.55%

Next seven days: vs. NYR (Dec. 17), vs. CBJ (Dec. 20), @ TOR (Dec. 22)

vs. Rangers, Dec. 17. The Flyers played their Metropolitan brethren tough in an early-season meeting that the Rangers won 1-0 in overtime. Does Philadelphia have more of that spunk in them for a second turn against the Blueshirts -- this time under the bright Manhattan lights?

28. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 37.93%

Next seven days: @ BOS (Dec. 17), vs. DAL (Dec. 19), @ PHI (Dec. 20)

vs. Sabres, Dec. 27. The Blue Jackets were embarrassed at home by Buffalo when Tage Thompson's five-goal explosion ended in a 9-4 blowout loss. How will Columbus respond? The Blue Jackets followed that drubbing with back-to-back wins. Can their next major victory be over Buffalo?

29. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 40.74%

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Dec. 16), vs. BUF (Dec. 17), vs. MTL (Dec. 19), @ VGK (Dec. 21)

vs. Maple Leafs, Dec. 29. The Coyotes often appear at their best facing the Maple Leafs. They've already bested Toronto once this season; ending 2022 with a season sweep would be quite the treat.

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 32.14%

Next seven days: @ MIN (Dec. 16), vs. NYR (Dec. 18), vs. NSH (Dec. 21)

vs. Blues, Dec. 29. The Blackhawks always have potential to spark against St. Louis given their shared history of Central Division clashes. As with the Kings and Ducks, it's a rivalry game both sides get up for no matter the standings.

31. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 40.33%

Next seven days: @ LA (Dec. 17), vs. CGY (Dec. 18), vs. CGY (Dec. 20), vs. MIN (Dec. 22)

vs. Canucks, Dec. 27. The Sharks have experienced Vancouver getting the best of them twice after regulation already this season. San Jose won't want to go through it again, and robbing the Canucks of one (or two) desperately needed points would be a nice post-holiday boost.

32. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 30.65%

Next seven days: @ EDM (Dec. 17), @ LA (Dec. 20), vs. MIN (Dec. 21)

vs. Kings, Dec. 20. The Ducks just need to have fun. And what's more enjoyable than trying to top your most hated rival in their building? Almost nothing!