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NHL Power Rankings – December 21st

The defending champs are back on top.

1 – Vegas Golden Knights (21-7-5) 

With a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games, the Golden Knights are back on top of our NHL Power Rankings. As of December 21st, they have the most points in the league and a goal differential of +29, which is third best among all teams. Statistically, Jack Eichel leads the team with 37 points in 33 games and has grabbed at least one point in each of the last eleven contests. Their goaltending has also continued to be fantastic, as Adin Hill is the only goalie in the league with a GAA of less than 2.00. The defending champs simply have a great roster that knows how to win, and I expect them to be spending all season near the top of our rankings.  

2 – New York Rangers (22-7-1)

Here’s another team that just keeps on winning. The Rangers have held the top spot in the Metro for basically the whole season, and I don’t expect them to lose their position anytime soon. With New Jersey and Carolina both struggling, the Flyers and Islanders are actually their closest competition as of December 21st. Now, these teams have had surprisingly good starts to the season, but I don’t think anyone is ready to predict that they’ll be overtaking the Rangers. Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick have been one of the best goalie tandems in the league, Artemi Panarin could be a Hart finalist, and Adam Fox headlines one of the best defensive groups around. It’s no wonder they’re so tough to beat! 

3 – Boston Bruins (19-5-6)

Even with only two wins in their last six games, no team in the league has fewer regulation losses than Boston’s five. They don’t necessarily score a ton of goals like a lot of other teams near the top of the standings, but they do a great job of limiting their opponents, and only Los Angeles has allowed fewer goals. Now that the Bruins have shown they really are here to stay at the top of the standings again, it’ll be interesting to see if they make any mid-season deals. Last year they picked up Tyler Bertuzzi and Dmitry Orlov for their playoff run, but it turned out to be all for not. At the moment, they’re firing on all cylinders, but management should still be looking for a top-end centre if they’re serious about another Cup run.  

4 – Vancouver Canucks (22-9-2)

No team has more goals than the Canucks this season and only two have allowed fewer against. With that kind of differential, it’s no wonder Vancouver continues to be one of the best teams in the league. The core four of Miller, Pettersson, Hughes and Boeser have been fantastic, but this season, their newer additions and depth have made a large difference as well. Filip Hronek has been great beside Quinn Hughes and has 29 points in 33 games, many players are chipping in with secondary scoring, and the defensive group is as good as it’s been in a long time. Also, since trading for Filip Zadorov and putting him beside fellow giant Tyler Myers, the Canucks are 7-1-1 with just 19 goals against. They’re for real.  

5 – Los Angeles Kings (18-7-4)

Like the Bruins, Los Angeles has lost four of their last six games. However, with a roster this solid, it won’t be long before they start rolling again. One of the more surprising reasons for their success this season has been the play of goaltender Cam Talbot, who’s enjoying a career year in basically every goaltending category you could ask for. Over 21 starts, his GAA sits at just 2.02, and the Kings have allowed the fewest number of goals in the NHL because of it. As of December 21st, the team still has no players at 30 points, but Kopitar, Fiala and Kempe lead the way with 29, 29, and 27. For the Kings, it’s not about the individual play, it’s about the team. They’re a group of experienced guys that know how to win games in a variety of ways, and come playoff time, they’ll be scary. 

6 – Dallas Stars (18-8-4)

Like the Kings, the Stars don’t get it done with one or two players, but they’ve got a lot of guys that are consistently chipping in. One of those guys this year has been offseason addition Matt Duchene. Duchene is third on the team with 27 points in 29 games and has 7 in his last four contests. He also joins a long list of seasoned veterans on this team that are running out of years to win their first Stanley Cup. With Pavelski, Benn, Seguin and Suter also getting on in age, it feels like the Stars might need to go all in this season if they think they could go the distance. They’re all still playing well enough to hang with the younger players, and that experience will certainly come in handy in the postseason.  

7 – Winnipeg Jets (19-9-3)

After all the offseason chatter of Hellebuyck and Scheifele leaving, the Jets decided to double down on their core group. Now, it’s paying off. Hellebuyck has been very solid in net, while Scheifele leads the team with 34 points in 31 games. New additions Gabe Vilardi and Alex Iafallo have also both played important roles, and as of December 21st, the team finds themselves first in the Central division with a record of 19-9-3. They may not have big names on the blueline outside of Josh Morrissey, but the group is getting it done in front of Hellebuyck, nonetheless. Some may still be sleeping on this team, but the Jets are for real. 

8 – Toronto Maple Leafs (16-7-6)

Sitting in second place in the Atlantic division with a record of 16-7-6, the Leafs find themselves in very familiar territory. Of course, the questions and concerns regarding different points of their game have been heard, but at the end of the day, they’re still winning more than they’re losing. William Nylander took the league by storm to start the season off, and now it’s Auston Matthews finding a new gear. Heading into a December 21st game against the Sabres, he’s tallied nine goals and three helpers in his last five contests. As always, the goaltending is a legit concern, especially with Joseph Woll still out. If Ilya Samsonov can’t find his games, Toronto could very well start sliding in the standings a little bit. For now, though, they’re in a perfectly fine spot. 

9 – Colorado Avalanche (19-11-2)

It’s hard to put a team this talented even ninth in the rankings, but things haven’t been 100% in Colorado recently. After a 3-2 loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks, Devon Toews did not hesitate to call out some of his teammates and their recent play. He didn’t say any names, but the comments were alarming. Thankfully, Nathan Mackinnon might be having a career year and is good enough to carry this team through a lot of mediocre play. As of December 21st, Mackinnon is on an NHL-best 16-game point streak. If he, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen can continue to produce, this team will still win more games than they’ll lose. With a record of 19-11-2 at this point in the season, it’s a little scary knowing how much better the Avs think they could be. 

10 – Florida Panthers (18-11-2)

Wrapping up our latest power rankings are the Florida Panthers. The team currently sits right behind Toronto in the Atlantic division, and while Matthew Tkachuk isn’t having quite the same effect he did last year, Sam Reinhart has been lights out all season. They’re also getting Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad back into the swing of things after both guys missed the beginning of the season with injuries. Of course, it takes time to get back up to speed, and I expect to see both of them make a large impact in the new year.  

Unlike years past, Florida hasn’t scored lot of goals, but they haven’t let in a ton, either. If Tkachuk can find his touch again and the team starts scoring a little more, this team could start winning a lot of games. The roster is still similar to last year’s, and I expect the Panthers to be right in the mix for the remainder of the season. 

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