Looking at the Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders

In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a little bit of a different look at the rankings since there have not been many games over the past week. This week we are going to simply take a look at where every team stands in the league and separate them into four different tiers of teams.

Those tiers include….

  • The Favorites. Teams that should be head and shoulders above the rest of the league and front runners to win the Stanley Cup.

  • The Contenders. Teams that still have a chance to win the Stanley Cup but are maybe a tier below the favorites.

  • The Pretenders. These teams might be playoff teams, they might be fringe playoff teams, they might be just outside of the playoff picture, but they are probably not going to win the Stanley Cup this season.

  • The Lottery Teams. Teams that are probably not going to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Where does your team sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

The Favorites (the elites)

Carolina Hurricanes. If Frederik Andersen stays healthy and keeps playing the way he has they can beat anybody.

Tampa Bay Lightning. They have all of the ingredients in place to three-peat and will have a rested, healthy Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point back come playoff time. They are still winning games without their two best skaters and after losing their entire third line in the offseason. Incredible team.

[Related: Lightning looking like team capable of three-peat]

Colorado Avalanche. By points percentage they have the best record in the Western Conference entering the week. They have not really had a fully healthy roster all season, either. Incredible team.

Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky will determine a lot, but even if he struggles they still have Spencer Knight waiting in the wings.

The Contenders (Stanley Cup is still realistic goal this season)

Toronto Maple Leafs. I know, I know. That recent playoff history will follow them around until they do something to change the narrative.

Minnesota Wild. Really like this team, but they need some good news on the Joel Eriksson Ek injury front in the short-term. He is a key cog for that team.

Washington Capitals. They are one of the best teams in the league and have been without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha for most of the season. Goaltending will be the key here.

Pittsburgh Penguins. They have better depth than most people around the league realize and have an Evgeni Malkin return (he has yet to play this season) looming. Goaltending will be the key here.

Vegas Golden Knights. Almost put them in the favorites category. When healthy, they are still outstanding and they have Jack Eichel‘s arrival to look forward to at some point.

New York Rangers. Still not sure exactly how good they are, and there are some question marks here, but they have superstars in the right places. Including the most important place (goalie). That can take a team a long way.

The Pretenders Part 1 (but still playoff teams)

Nashville Predators. Probably one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Juuse Saros gives them a chance every night and some big money players have bounced back in a big way. Playoffs are realistic goal. Maybe an expectation at this point. Stanley Cup? Probably not.

St. Louis Blues. Lot to like here, including the resurgence of Vladimir Tarasenko, but not sure how much the goaltending can be trusted.

Calgary Flames. Very hot and cold team this season. Darryl Sutter hockey is not the most entertaining, but it wins and keeps teams competitive.

Edmonton Oilers. It is a complete failure on the part of the front office that they are in this tier this far into Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s career, and given how good those two players are. The bottom-six is the worst in the league, defense has questions, goaltending is a concern.

[Related: Which teams have built around their stars the best (and worst)]

Anaheim Ducks. Love the progress they have made in a short period of time this season, love the way Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale look as young cornerstones. Could be a surprise playoff team. Just not a Stanley Cup team right now.

Boston Bruins. They are back to being a one-line team and really need to figure out how to fix that again.

The Pretenders Part 2 (fringe playoff teams or outside of the playoffs)

Winnipeg Jets. I could see them moving up a tier with a big second half from Connor Hellebuyck.

Dallas Stars. Thought the returns of Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin would make a bigger impact this season. They are right on the fringe between this tier and the one above.

Detroit Red Wings. If you are a Red Wings fan you have a lot of reasons to be excited about this team. Maybe not a playoff team yet, but they are in the hunt.

Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart has had a nice bounce back but the rest of the team has struggled. Wrong division for a slow start.

San Jose Sharks. Erik Karlsson is having a great bounce back season and James Reimer has been a great pickup in goal. Is that enough to get them in the playoffs?

[Related: Erik Karlsson is back]

Los Angeles Kings. Still a veteran group leading the way for a rebuilding team. Not out of it, but the real fun for this team starts when prospects like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte arrive.

Vancouver Canucks. Bruce Boudreau has clearly made a difference, but will they be able to sustain that? They are still facing an uphill climb here.

Columbus Blue Jackets. With strong goaltending and a healthy Patrik Laine they could be an interesting team, but probably not a playoff team in a tough division and Eastern Conference.

The Lottery Teams

New York Islanders. This has just been a tough season. They still have a lot of hockey to play but they need to play at a level they have not played at over the past three years (with better teams) to have a realistic chance at the playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks. There is nothing here beyond the top players on the lineup, and even they have struggled at times.

New Jersey Devils. Thought we would have seen more from this group by now. The injury to Jack Hughes obviously sidetracked things a lot this season.

Seattle Kraken. Wonder if they would like a re-do on the expansion draft. Wonder if they would do anything different with that re-do on it.

Ottawa Senators. They played a lot better in December, but this is a team that still has a long way to go.

Buffalo Sabres. They still seem to be years away from being a playoff team.

Montreal Canadiens. This season was always going to be a struggle, but not sure anybody expected it to be this much of a struggle.

Arizona Coyotes. The best thing to look forward to here is getting some solid returns on trading their veterans.

More NHL News

The perfect holiday gift for every NHL team NHL Draft: Top 32 prospect rankings for 2022 NHL announces players will not participate in 2022 Beijing Olympics

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Power Rankings: Looking at the Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders originally appeared on NBCSports.com