NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, each team's biggest surprise

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, October 28, 2022

The first two weeks of the 2022-23 NHL season are in the books, and while some things haven't surprised us -- the Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights leading their divisions, and the Arizona Coyotes near the bottom -- there has been no shortage of shocks for every club thus far. This week alongside our updated power rankings, we'll identify the player, stat or trend that has surprised us most for all 32 teams.

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 last edition, published Oct. 21. Points paces are through Thursday's games.

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking:1

Points percentage: 0.750

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Oct. 28), @ PHI (Oct. 29), vs. WSH (Oct. 31), @ TB (Nov. 3)

A surprising linchpin to Carolina's early push has been its second line, centered by the emergent Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Hurricanes have been waiting to see the best of their young forward, and his unit with Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas is showcasing just that. Kotkaniemi has been a shockingly good two-way contributor, and is 57.5% in the faceoff dot.

2. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 0.875

Next seven days: @ CBJ (Oct. 28), @ PIT (Nov. 1), @ NYR (Nov. 3)

Simply put, this has been a surprisingly great start for a team who many believed was past its point of serious contention. Boston was missing Brad Marchand (their leading scorer from last season) and Charlie McAvoy (who generates ample offense from the blue line) for the first two weeks, and still managed a 6-1-0 record while tying for the most goals scored in the league (30).

3. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking:9

Points percentage: 0.643

Next seven days: @ NJ (Otc. 28), @ NYI (Oct. 29)

Colorado's power play has been shockingly good, and the Avalanche are employing an unconventional style to boot. While Colorado's top unit is the classic alignment (four forwards and one defenseman), they've tried a second unit with three (!) defensemen and two forwards. Surprisingly, that's been a winning recipe -- the Avalanche are at 50% on the man advantage, nearly 20 percentage points better than the next team.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking:5

Points percentage: 0.643

Next seven days: @ VAN (Oct. 28), @ SEA (Oct. 29), vs. BOS (Nov. 1), @ BUF (Nov. 2)

Sidney Crosby playing like a Hart Trophy candidate won't floor anyone. When Crosby's linemate Jake Guentzel got hurt though, the surprising pick to initially replace him was Danton Heinen, who is having an unexpectedly great start. The winger reeled off three goals and six points in his first seven games, and is playing some of his best hockey ever -- all on a $1 million deal!

5. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking:2

Points percentage: 0.833

Next seven days: vs. EDM (Oct. 29), vs. SEA (Nov. 1), vs. NSH (Nov. 3)

It's no great shock that Calgary is off to a franchise-best start after bringing on Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau over the summer. But the chemistry Kadri found so quickly with Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube on the Flames' second line? That's a welcome surprise for Calgary's offense. It's impossible to predict how players will mesh -- and getting in the groove can take time -- yet that trio has been perfectly complementary.

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking:8

Points percentage: 0.750

Next seven days: vs. ANA (Oct. 28), vs. WPG (Oct. 30), @ WSH (Nov. 1), @ OTT (Nov. 3)

How's this for balance? The white-hot Golden Knights have gotten at least one point from 19 of their 20 skaters this season. And Vegas has 14 different goal scorers already. For a club that struggled to stay competitive down the stretch last season, the Golden Knights' surprisingly robust offensive attack isn't letting any opponents off easy right now.

7. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking:6

Points percentage: 0.563

Next seven days: vs. OTT (Oct. 29), @ ARI (Nov. 1), @ SJ (Nov. 3)

Remember last spring, when Florida's woeful power play contributed to the President's Trophy winner's early postseason exit? Well, in a shocking twist, the subsequent special teams overhaul hasn't been good. The Panthers are averaging more power-play opportunities per game (4.71) than any team in the league, but are an awful 6.1% at converting them. Both man-advantage goals Florida scored came in the same period of the same game. Back to the drawing board.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking:12

Points percentage: 0.563

Next seven days: @ LA (Oct. 29), @ ANA (Oct. 30), vs. PHI (Nov. 2)

Toronto has looked shockingly out of sorts at times, from their many defensive miscues to concerns over streaky scoring. The Leafs' surprisingly stable spot? Goaltending. Matt Murray may be out with an injury, but Ilya Samsonov has been excellent, providing Toronto every opportunity to figure itself out. The goalie could use a little more help from his friends.

9. New York Rangers

Previous ranking:3

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ DAL (Oct. 29), @ ARI (Oct. 30), vs. PHI (Nov. 1), vs. BOS (Nov. 3)

The Rangers turned in some surprising results of late with losses to both Columbus and San Jose. But below the surface, New York's underlying numbers don't suggest catastrophe -- they're a top-five possession team (and dominate the face-off circle), average fewer than 30 shots against per game and more than three goals per game.

10. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking:4

Points percentage: 0.688

Next seven days: vs. NYR (Oct. 29), vs. LA (Nov. 1), @ ARI (Nov. 3)

It's a surprise that Roope Hintz is a surprise (to some). The center launched into a point-per-game pace this season that followed up on one of the most unheralded 37-goal seasons in the league in 2021-22. While Jake Oettinger (deservedly) draws headlines and Dallas' excellent overall start to the campaign is great, Hintz's role in that success shouldn't be catching anyone off guard.

11. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking:20

Points percentage: 0.625

Next seven days: @ CGY (Oct. 29), vs. NSH (Nov. 1), vs. NJ (Nov. 3)

For once, Edmonton's success isn't being driven entirely by just those two players everyone always talks about (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl). The Oilers have gotten surprisingly consistent contributions up front from their third line, led by Ryan McLeod and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and that bodes well for the team's direction this season.

12. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking:10

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: vs. MTL (Oct. 29), vs. LA (Oct. 31), vs. NYI (Nov. 3)

The encore to Jordan Binnington's truly tumultuous 2021-22 season has been a shockingly strong opening to this new campaign. The Blues' netminder started 3-1-0, with one shutout and a .936 SV% to his credit. St. Louis believed in Binnington even when he faltered; now the goaltender appears to be proving his mettle all over again.

13. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking:23

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: @ FLA (Oct. 29), @ TB (Nov. 1), vs. VGK (Nov. 3)

The Senators have exhibited an expected depth of scoring talent up front. The real surprise in Ottawa has been their impressively sound defense. It's not just the Thomas Chabot show, either. Artem Zub has been strong, Jake Sanderson is an emerging star, Erik Brannstrom has bounced back, and even Travis Hamonic is fitting in. No wonder Ottawa is off to an encouraging start.

14. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking:17

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: vs. CHI (Oct. 29), vs. DET (Oct. 31), vs. PIT (Nov. 2)

We knew Rasmus Dahlin would be good. But ... this good? Like, leading NHL defensemen in points (9), setting records (as the first blueliner in history to score a goal in five straight games to open a season) and generally dominating one opponent after another? That's a good surprise Buffalo can get behind.

15. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking:16

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: vs. MIN (Oct. 29), @ BUF (Oct. 31), vs. WSH (Nov. 3)

Detroit had a busy offseason, acquiring free agents who have contributed to the team's hot start. Elmer Soderblom is an in-house lineup addition who's been surprisingly effective early on. The rookie is an intimidating presence on the ice, at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, and uses that size to his advantage (see: Soderblom undressing Kings defenseman Sean Durzi with an alley-oop pass -- to himself). Soderblom's two goals in five games look like just the beginning of his run.

16. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking:26

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: vs. COL (Oct. 28), vs. CBJ (Oct. 30), @ VAN (Nov. 1), @ EDM (Nov. 3)

Jesper Bratt was tied for the league lead in scoring (three goals, 12 points) through seven games. Just like we all predicted. Bratt is the Devils' surprising standout so far in a start that included potting two goals and an assist in just 13 minutes of ice time against Detroit. That's some impressive efficiency.

17. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking:18

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ NSH (Oct. 29), @ CAR (Oct. 31), vs. VGK (Nov. 1, @ DET (Nov. 3)

The Capitals acquiring free agent goaltender Darcy Kuemper was their big swing of the offseason. Its netted surprisingly mediocre results. Washington is bottom-10 in goals allowed so far (3.43 per game) while Kuemper and his new teammates have worked to find a rhythm. These things can take time, but given Kuemper's championship pedigree and the veteran-laden lineup around him, it's been an unusually slow transition.

18. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 0.444

Next seven days: vs. TOR (Oct. 29), @ STL (Oct. 31), @ DAL (Nov. 1), @ CHI (Nov. 3)

There's been a surprising ascension in the Kings' ranks, and his name is Gabriel Vilardi. The 23-year-old had previously struggled to become a full-time NHLer, but that looks to be in the past as Vilardi led L.A. with seven points through seven games out of the gate -- which also matched Vilardi's 25-game point total from a season ago. Onwards and upwards.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking:13

Points percentage: 0.714

Next seven days: vs. CAR (Oct. 29), @ NYR (Nov. 1), @ TOR (Nov. 2)

The Flyers going 3-0-0 out of the gate? Shocker. The surprising backbone of their success? Carter Hart. The netminder's 4-0-0 start with a .949 SV% and 1.75 GAA powered Philadelphia to a respectable spot in the early-season standings.

20. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ SJ (Oct. 29), vs. OTT (Nov. 1), vs. CAR (Nov. 3)

Steven Stamkos leading the Lightning with seven goals in seven games? Not a surprise. That Tampa Bay scored only 17 goals total through its first eight games? More shocking. The Lightning offense has failed to catch fire through a below-average start to this season.

21. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking:25

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ DET (Oct. 29), @ CHI (Oct. 30), vs. MTL (Nov. 1), vs. SEA (Nov. 3)

The Wild have been a surprising enigma after a 113-point 2021-22 season. Minnesota went 0-3 out of the gate with a rusty-looking Marc-Andre Fleury in net (posting an .847 SV% and 5.25 GAA) while leading the NHL in goals against. Then Fleury rebounded, and the team somewhat followed suit in its next three -- with wins over Vancouver and Montreal and an overtime loss to Boston -- but what an unexpected roller coaster thus far.

22. New York Islanders

Previous ranking:14

Points percentage: 0.429

Next seven days: @ CAR (Oct. 28), vs. COL (Oct. 29), @ CHI (Nov. 1), @ STL (Nov. 3)

The Islanders' inability to score consistently isn't so surprising given the lack of offseason turnover. Ilya Sorokin's difficulties were more shocking. New York's starter went 1-3-0 to start, with a 2.84 GAA and .908 SV%. Then Sorokin posted a 41-save shutout against the Rangers. Will the real Sorokin please stand up?

23. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking:19

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: @ ARI (Oct. 28), @ VGK (Oct. 30), vs. MTL (Nov. 3)

From the small-sample-size department: When the Jets score four goals, they win. When the Jets score fewer than four goals, they lose. That's been the surprisingly consistent trend to start their first six games -- and is somewhat shocking given the presence of elite netminder Connor Hellebuyck. Let's see how long it holds.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking:24

Points percentage: 0.375

Next seven days: vs. BOS (Oct. 28), @ NJ (Oct. 30)

A not-so-fun surprise for the Blue Jackets: Not even Johnny Gaudreau could prevent them from being the last team in the NHL this season to score a power play goal (starting the season 0-for-20). Yikes.

25. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking:29

Points percentage: 0.571

Next seven days: @ BUF (Oct. 29), vs. MIN (Oct. 30), vs. NYI (Nov. 1), vs. LA (Nov. 3)

The Blackhawks have been a surprisingly resilient group. Despite a roster depleted of contributors from seasons past, Chicago has managed three come-from-behind victories already. That's not so bad, and certainly out-paces the low bar of expectations most pundits had for the Blackhawks this season.

26. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ STL (Oct. 29), @ MIN (Nov. 1), @ WPG (Nov. 3)

The rebuild may be on in Montreal, but the Canadiens' depth is surprisingly strong already. Sean Monahan and Kirby Dach have elevated Montreal up front even more than expected, while the freshman-heavy back end highlighted by Arber Xhekaj and Kaiden Guhle has been making strong, consistent contributions. That's a win.

27. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking:15

Points percentage: 0.438

Next seven days: vs. WSH (Oct. 29), @ EDM (Nov. 1), @ CGY (Nov. 3)

It's early, but seeing Nashville at the bottom of multiple league categories? Shocking. The Predators have consistently blown leads, and rank among the NHL's worst in goals, shots on net and in special-teams success. Nashville has talent in its depths, that talent just hasn't come to the forefront.

28. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 0.444

Next seven days: vs. PIT (Oct. 29), @ CGY (Nov. 1), @ MIN (Nov. 3)

The Kraken appear to be giving Shane Wright a surprisingly limited audition. The rookie averages fewer minutes (6:51 per game) than any other Kraken skater, and he hasn't had much chance to really get involved. Given the nine-game window Seattle has to decide about Wright's next move -- and the fact Wright could be playing big minutes in with his junior team -- it's an interesting strategy to take.

29. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking:31

Points percentage: 0.333

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Oct. 28), vs. NYR (Oct. 30), vs. FLA (Nov. 1), vs. DAL (Nov. 3)

Arizona averaged more goals (3.17 per game) through their first six games than the following clubs: Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto and the New York Rangers. Don't act like you're not (a little) surprised.

30. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking:32

Points percentage: 0.300

Next seven days: vs. TB (Oct. 29), vs. ANA (Nov. 1), vs. FLA (Nov. 3)

Did anyone have an Erik Karlsson resurgence on their Sharks' Bingo card? San Jose's early returns have been iffy, but Karlsson's shockingly good play has not been. The veteran looks better than he has in years, averaging over 23 minutes of ice time per game, and leading the Sharks in points. Talk about a bright spot.

31. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking:28

Points percentage: 0.250

Next seven days: vs. PIT (Oct. 28), vs. NJ (Nov. 1), vs. ANA (Nov. 3)

The Canucks have been shockingly bad at holding a lead (see: multiple, multi-goal advantages disappeared) during their historically poor 0-5-2 run to open this season. Vancouver was believed to be on the upswing, stocked with maturing young talent, stable goaltending and the right veterans. Surprisingly, nothing has added up yet.

32. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 0.214

Next seven days: @ VGK (Oct. 28), vs. TOR (Oct. 30), @ SJ (Nov. 1), @ VAN (Nov. 3)

John Gibson has been Anaheim's saving grace for a few seasons. It's surprising how often the Ducks still leave him out to dry. Anaheim is top three in goals against (4.50), and Gibson has a below-.900 SV%, but for a team that has some good talent overall, it's shocking how the Ducks can't offer more support to their goaltender.