NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, one word describing each team

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, November 3, 2023

Another week into the NHL season, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights continue to roll. That's not a major surprise, though the hot starts for the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens do qualify as at least mild shocks.

For this week's Power Rankings, we tried to distill each team's season thus far into a single word -- whether good, bad or somewhere in between.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors each send in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the preseason edition, published Oct. 26. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 95.45%

Next seven days: vs. COL (Nov. 4), @ ANA (Nov. 5), vs. LA (Nov. 8)

In a word: Commanding. Vegas earned at least a point in each of its first 10 games (the only blemish an overtime loss to Chicago) while looking poised to not only repeat as Cup champions but get back to that pinnacle with gusto. The Golden Knights are the team to beat right now.

2. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 95.00%

Next seven days: @ DET (Nov. 4), @ DAL (Nov. 6), vs. NYI (Nov. 9)

In a word: Striking. Boston does love correcting its doubters. The Bruins once again silenced their critics with an impressive 6-0 start that has carried them back to the top of the standings -- where they'll likely remain if the team's suffocating defense and capable scorers have anything to say.

3. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 83.33%

Next seven days: @ VAN (Nov. 4), vs. BOS (Nov. 6), @ CBJ (Nov. 9)

In a word: Sublime. The Stars are fun. They're fast. They're competitive. Even when teetering on the edge -- the Stars have often played past regulation -- there's a spark to them that makes this a wonderfully watchable team. We'll see how far that pep can take it.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 77.78%

Next seven days: @ VGK (Nov. 4), vs. NJ (Nov. 7), vs. SEA (Nov. 9)

In a word: Engaging. Colorado smashed its way to a 6-0 start (while outscoring opponents 28-12) that put the league on notice about the recent Stanley Cup champions' continued ability to dominate. Then a pair of shutout losses to Pittsburgh and Buffalo? Didn't see that coming. The Avalanche will clearly be keeping us on our toes.

5. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 80.00%

Next seven days: @ MIN (Nov. 4), vs. DET (Nov. 7), vs. MIN (Nov. 9)

In a word: Entertaining. New York has been winning in all sorts of ways, with contributions from an impressive depth of talent. The Rangers have also shown their resiliency in tight matchups, the ability to win battles at 5-on-5 or on special teams, and benefited from electric performances via top skaters like Artemi Panarin. New York can seriously steal a spotlight.

6. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 75.00%

Next seven days: vs. DAL (Nov. 4), vs. EDM (Nov. 6), @ OTT (Nov. 9)

In a word: Surprising. Vancouver has turned heads -- in a good way! The Canucks reeled off solid wins to start the season and have continued to mesh in a way we haven't seen in years out of Vancouver's group. And Elias Pettersson's excellent start is leading the charge. This is a more stable, evolved and mature Canucks team.

7. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 72.22%

Next seven days: @ STL (Nov. 3), @ CHI (Nov. 5), @ COL (Nov. 7)

In a word: Compelling. New Jersey was an easy pick to go far this season. And Jack Hughes? He looks better than ever. The devil for these Devils is in the details -- mostly their defensive ones. If New Jersey can lock in consistently from the blue line and reap the reward of excellent goaltending too, then we'll know with increased certainty whether this is a legit Cup contender.

8. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 59.09%

Next seven days: vs. BOS (Nov. 4), @ NYR (Nov. 7), vs. MTL (Nov. 9)

In a word: Impressive. Detroit is a darling of the early season for good reason. The Red Wings have a dynamic forward group bolstered by the addition of Alex DeBrincat, their defensive play is showing improvement and the whole roster looks confident. As well the Wings should, given the success they've been earning.

9. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 70.00%

Next seven days: @ PHI (Nov. 4), @ VGK (Nov. 8), vs. PIT (Nov. 9)

In a word: Consistent. Los Angeles has kept an even keel. The Kings win when they should (mostly), stay in the fight up against the league's best, are terrific road warriors and play to a sound structure. They've got an unflappable, California cool.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 60.00%

Next seven days: vs. BUF (Nov. 4), vs. TB (Nov. 6), vs. OTT (Nov. 8)

In a word: Dramatic. Toronto is never dull. In less than a month there has been a goal song controversy, a goalie conundrum, baffling losses, chaotic wins, spectacular star showings (hello, William Nylander and Auston Matthews) and struggling newbies (see: Tyler Bertuzzi). It's a lot. But that's all in a month's work for the (solidly good) Leafs.

11. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 60.00%

Next seven days: @ STL (Nov. 4), vs. TB (Nov. 7), @ DET (Nov. 9)

In a word: Progressing. Montreal has consistently improved throughout the early slate. The Canadiens aren't bothered by a hiccup here or there; if anything, they seem to take actual lessons from their mistakes. Montreal's recent shootout loss to Vegas is a great example of how, when the Canadiens put together a full-team effort, they can stay close with anyone.

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 55.00%

Next seven days: @ OTT (Nov. 4), @ TOR (Nov. 6), @ MTL (Nov. 7), vs. CHI (Nov. 9)

In a word: Predictable. Tampa Bay is what we thought it would be: a middle-of-the-pack team leaning on its veterans while obviously missing its top-end goaltender. The Lightning have kept themselves in the mix with enough wins that when Andrei Vasilevskiy is able to return it's likely -- given recent history -- they'll start trending further upward.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 66.67%

Next seven days: vs. CAR (Nov. 4), vs. MIN (Nov. 7), @ BOS (Nov. 9)

In a word: Passable. New York is a one-man band many nights, and the star of the show is Ilya Sorokin. The Islanders' netminder can steal his team a point or two it likely didn't deserve. But that can't last forever. New York should be doing more to aid Sorokin in keeping the team on track.

14. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 54.55%

Next seven days: @ NYI (Nov. 4), vs. BUF (Nov. 7)

In a word: Perplexing. Carolina is a Cup favorite that hasn't exuded consistent championship form. The Hurricanes have been scattered defensively -- giving up six-plus goals in three of their first six games -- and the pendulum just keeps swinging between compelling wins and head-scratching losses. Who knows what's coming next?

15. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 60.00%

Next seven days: vs. VGK (Nov. 5), vs. PIT (Nov. 7)

In a word: Dogged. Anaheim might not be in the playoff hunt all season, but that hasn't stopped it from keeping up with its toughest opponents so far. The Ducks have beaten veteran teams (namely Boston and Carolina) and are pushing for two points most nights. It's a great experience for their young core to see some wins stacking up.

16. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Nov. 4), vs. FLA (Nov. 8)

In a word: Developing. Washington started poorly but has recently begun turning a corner. Where before the Caps couldn't buy a goal, they've begun finding the back of the net with regularity, and the wins are stacking up along with the Capitals' seemingly renewed confidence in their own system. The only question now is, how will Nicklas Backstrom's absence affect Washington's future prospects?

17. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 55.00%

Next seven days: @ CHI (Nov. 4), vs. CBJ (Nov. 6), @ WSH (Nov. 8)

In a word: Persistent. Florida started behind the eight ball with Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett sidelined by injuries. The Panthers managed those setbacks and after a couple of bad losses have pulled themselves together (mostly) to make the most of who is available. Florida's strength of character carried it far last season; that could be the case again in this one.

18. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: @ ARI (Nov. 4), @ STL (Nov. 7), vs. NSH (Nov. 9)

In a word: Developing. Winnipeg is like a Polaroid mid-shake. We're still waiting to see the final product, the foundation that makes this team tick. The Jets have good personnel in place, but the results have been too streaky to say what their identity might ultimately be.

19. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 55.00%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (Nov. 4), vs. SEA (Nov. 7), @ STL (Nov. 9)

In a word: Underrated. Arizona might not be a playoff hopeful, but it has some rising talents who can put the Coyotes back in that conversation sooner than later. Whether it's waiver-wire pickup Juuso Valimaki, breakout performer Michael Carconeor the bruising Liam O'Brien, these Coyotes get contributions from all corners (and types of skaters) across the board.

20. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: vs. PHI (Nov. 3), @ TOR (Nov. 4), @ CAR (Nov. 7)

In a word: Mystifying. Buffalo has been scattered from the start. Are the Sabres contenders? Pretenders? Ready to launch or still figuring it out? That narrative continues playing out nightly without a clear answer. Buffalo has undeniable potential. Can the Sabres reach it this season and get back into the playoffs?

21. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 45.00%

Next seven days: @ BUF (Nov. 3), vs. LA (Nov. 4), @ SJ (Nov. 7)

In a word: Purposeful. Philadelphia is better than expected -- while also staying true to its rebuilding principles. The Flyers have collected solid wins and aren't an easy out for any team. Maintaining a balanced mindset about present and future needs should allow the Flyers to have a little more fun this season, too, without upsetting their long-term aspirations.

22. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 44.44%

Next seven days: vs. TB (Nov. 4), @ TOR (Nov. 8), vs. VAN (Nov. 9)

In a word: Distressing. Ottawa has cooled off after a hot start. The Senators have had their share of distractions -- GM Pierre Dorion's exit, Shane Pinto's gambling suspension, the Evgenii Dadonov trade punishment -- and it will be a true showing of the club's tenacity if it can tune out the noise and eventually live up to those preseason playoff projections.

23. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 40.00%

Next seven days: @ EDM (Nov. 4), @ CGY (Nov. 7), @ WPG (Nov. 9)

In a word: Determined. The team has had its ups and downs, but credit to the Predators -- they've pressed forward to tackle some of their earlier deficiencies. When Nashville is dialed in on defense and Juuse Saros is on his game, there is a lot to like about the direction this team could be headed.

24. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 40.00%

Next seven days: vs. NYR (Nov. 4), @ NYI (Nov. 7), @ NYR (Nov. 9)

In a word: Inauspicious. The Wild have had terrible injury luck, and it's hurt them in the standings. Jared Spurgeon, Matt Boldy, Alex Goligoski and Frederick Gaudreau have all missed time already, and the Wild are scrambling most nights to fill the various voids. Those subsequent results haven't been strong.

25. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 43.75%

Next seven days: vs. NJ (Nov. 3), vs. MTL (Nov. 4), vs. WPG (Nov. 7), vs. ARI (Nov. 9)

In a word: Rough. St. Louis hasn't found its mojo. The Blues can't seem to strike a balance between good defensive habits (which they've shown) and scoring goals (which they haven't done enough). It's little wonder they oscillate so easily from winning to losing. St. Louis remains a work in progress.

26. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 45.45%

Next seven days: vs. CGY (Nov. 4), @ ARI (Nov. 7), @ COL (Nov. 9)

In a word: Baffling. Seattle earned one regulation victory in its first 10 games. Ouch. The Kraken were well-prepared to feed off last season's success but struggled to score goals and have lost too many tight games to not be feeling the frustration set in. Seattle simply can't let that become overwhelming.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: @ WSH (Nov. 4), @ FLA (Nov. 6), vs. DAL (Nov. 9)

In a word: Frustrating. Columbus can't afford to be dispassionate. The Blue Jackets have experienced injury troubles (with Patrik Laine, again) and that's all the more reason for everyone else to infuse more energy into every shift. It's not happening enough. The Blue Jackets' habits are at least within their control, and good ones could lead to more good outcomes.

28. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 33.33%

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Nov. 4), vs. NJ (Nov. 5), @ TB (Nov. 9)

In a word: Star-powered. Chicago has one station and it's tuned in to the Connor Bedard Show. He has made the Blackhawks a must-watch team, even if they're trailing overall in the win-loss columns. The win totals aren't really the point yet, anyway. Chicago is all about riding toward the future.

29. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 33.33%

Next seven days: @ SJ (Nov. 4), @ ANA (Nov. 7), @ LA (Nov. 9)

In a word: Dissatisfying. Pittsburgh made its mark with that Erik Karlsson blockbuster last summer -- and that's about where the excitement ended. The Penguins have come out flat too often already in a slow start unbecoming of the veteran talent they possess. It's not too late for Pittsburgh to try living up to the (previous; now waning) hype.

30. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 27.78%

Next seven days: vs. NSH (Nov. 4), @ VAN (Nov. 6), @ SJ (Nov. 9)

In a word: Unfathomable. Edmonton entered this season as a Cup favorite. And then the puck dropped. The Oilers haven't just been losing; they have been beat up by a wide margin multiple times and look increasingly out of sorts. They need to pivot back into the fast lane of contention before it's too late.

31. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 25.00%

Next seven days: @ SEA (Nov. 4), vs. NSH (Nov. 7)

In a word: Discouraging. Calgary should be better than this. But even with Darryl Sutter gone, and a fresh voice from new coach Ryan Huska, the Flames have shown little to no improvement over last season. The team's stars -- namely Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri -- are struggling offensively, and the Flames gathering just two wins in their first 10 games doesn't bode well for reaching their ultimate goal this season.

32. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 5.00%

Next seven days: vs. PIT (Nov. 4), vs. PHI (Nov. 7), vs. EDM (Nov. 9)

In a word: Awful. San Jose is ... not good. Nine straight losses to start the season (through which the entire team scored just nine goals) might be only the appetizer in a long, slow downturn the Sharks endure all season long.