NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, players who must improve

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, November 4, 2022

As the calendar flipped to November of the 2022-23 NHL season, some early-season trends flopped, while others have taken firmer hold. And as injuries have started to pile up, there are certain players who need to step into larger roles -- or just start producing more with the opportunities they've been given.

For this week's NHL Power Rankings, we identified one player for each club who must step up in the coming days and weeks.

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 previous edition, published Oct. 28. Points paces are through Thursday's games.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 0.909

Next seven days: @ TOR (Nov. 5), vs. STL (Nov. 7), vs. CGY (Nov. 10)

Trent Frederic has been getting opportunities with this red-hot Bruins team, and he could be doing more. Frederic plays with a kind of reckless abandon that can hurt him, but coach Jim Montgomery has tapped Boston's 2016 first-round pick over other options and seen him produce only three points in nine games. What more is there from him?

2. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 0.833

Next seven days: @ MTL (Nov. 5), @ TOR (Nov. 8), @ BUF (Nov. 10)

Zach Whitecloud is one of those young defenders right on the cusp. Vegas has been scary good to start this season, and it's the perfect time for Whitecloud to elevate his burgeoning talent further. The 25-year-old clearly tries to make something happen each shift; there's room for him to push his way up even further.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 0.750

Next seven days: vs. BUF (Nov. 4), vs. TOR (Nov. 6), @ FLA (Nov. 9), vs. EDM (Nov. 10)

Teuvo Teravainen is top-five in average ice time for the Hurricanes (over 17 minutes per game) but curiously managed only three assists through his first nine games. The winger is coming off a 65-point campaign, proving there's more Teravainen can offer to Carolina's offense (which has been middle of the pack, netting 3.25 goals per game).

4. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 0.556

Next seven days: vs. NJ (Nov. 5), @ NYI (Nov. 7), @ NJ (Nov. 8), @ BOS (Nov. 10)

Jonathan Huberdeau called himself out this week, claiming he's "way better than what I am right now." Calgary trusts that to be the case. Huberdeau hasn't caught fire with the Flames like Nazem Kadri has; the former Panther registered just one 5-on-5 point through eight games and hasn't been defensively sharp.

5. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 0.636

Next seven days: vs. DAL (Nov. 5), @ WSH (Nov. 7), @ TB (Nov. 8), @ CAR (Nov. 10)

Jack Campbell signed a big-ticket offseason deal to be Edmonton's next starting goaltender. The Oilers are still waiting on their full return. Campbell struggled out of the gate with an .881 save percentage and a 3.91 goals-against average through six starts (albeit with a 5-2-0 record). The veteran was shaky enough for coach Jay Woodcroft to start leaning on Stuart Skinner instead. But Campbell finding his form is of utmost importance for Edmonton.

6. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 0.583

Next seven days: vs. DET (Nov. 6), vs. NYI (Nov. 8), @ DET (Nov. 10)

Kaapo Kakko can do it all -- except score. The young winger has run into an abyss of bad bounces that overshadows his confidence with the puck and improved all-around game. The Rangers are bottom-third in goals this season and require more secondary scoring. It's players such as Kakko -- who has potted just two goals through 11 games -- who must start providing it.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 0.591

Next seven days: vs. BUF (Nov. 5), vs. EDM (Nov. 8)

Mikhail Sergachev didn't mince words this week discussing the "unacceptable" chances Tampa Bay have been giving up defensively. Now that Victor Hedman is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, it will fall even more on Sergachev to shore up the Lightning's back end. Sergachev has had a solid offensive start to this season, but more attention to detail in Tampa Bay's end and limiting those high-quality scoring opportunities against will be critical.

8. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 0.727

Next seven days: @ CGY (Nov. 5), vs. CGY (Nov. 8), vs. OTT (Nov. 10)

Jesper Boqvist is going to get a bigger opportunity in the Devils' lineup now that Ondrej Palat is sidelined by injury. It's the perfect time for Boqvist to reset. He has been a healthy scratch while New Jersey found its rhythm early, and as Boqvist reenters the chat, refreshed and ready, he can pick up where that successful 2021-22 season ended and contribute to New Jersey's surprisingly hot start.

9. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Nov. 4), vs. CBJ (Nov. 5), vs. NSH (Nov. 10)

Alex Newhook faced the unenviable task of filling Colorado's vacant second-line center role when Nazem Kadri departed in free agency. That's still a work in progress -- and the Avalanche need Newhook to complete the transition. He started with just one goal through nine games and was a minus-four, statistics that don't reflect what Colorado feels he's capable of with an expanded opportunity.

10. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 0.591

Next seven days: @ LA (Nov. 5), @ ANA (Nov. 6), vs. CAR (Nov. 9)

Sam Bennett has been an anomaly this season, generating one of the highest rates for expected goals per 60 minutes among forwards -- without the results to show for it. Florida would benefit from a change there. Bennett had one goal and four assists through 10 games while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game. The sooner Bennett can start capitalizing on his opportunities, the better.

11. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 0.682

Next seven days: @ EDM (Nov. 5), @ WPG (Nov. 8)

Scott Wedgewood has enormous skates to fill as Dallas' starter while Jake Oettinger is sidelined by a lower-body injury. Cap issues prevented the Stars from recalling veteran Anton Khudobin to back him up, so it's rookie Matt Murray -- fresh from signing his entry-level contract -- behind Wedgewood. Which basically means it's on the veteran to hold Dallas afloat in net until Oettinger returns.

12. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 0.700

Next seven days: @ CAR (Nov. 4), @ TB (Nov. 5), vs. ARI (Nov. 8), vs. VGK (Nov. 10)

Jacob Bryson got bumped up to the Sabres' top defense pairing with Rasmus Dahlin when a trio of Buffalo's blueliners got hurt. Now's the time for Bryson to show why it's worth it to give him more opportunity. Buffalo is among the top 10 in shots against this season, and it will be counting on Bryson, playing higher in the lineup, to help keep the back end stable until healthy bodies return.

13. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 0.636

Next seven days: @ DET (Nov. 5), vs. CGY (Nov. 7), @ NYR (Nov. 8), vs. ARI (Nov. 10)

Anthony Beauvillier scored a key go-ahead goal for the Islanders this week in a come-from-behind victory over the Rangers. Is that a sign of more impact plays to come? Beauvillier logs significant time for New York at 5-on-5, and he could be even more involved in the Islanders' growing success out of the gate. The winger logged three goals in his first nine games, but perhaps the floodgates are about to open.

14. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 0.545

Next seven days: vs. BOS (Nov. 5), @ CAR (Nov. 6), vs. VGK (Nov. 8)

Justin Holl has landed top-pair billing as Toronto tries to figure out its defensive issues. That position comes with hefty responsibilities and too often Holl looks like a liability. He's taken ill-timed penalties, struggled regularly on breakouts and can get turned around by too-quick competition. Jake Muzzin might not be back for a while; Holl has to give the Leafs more.

15. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 0.454

Next seven days: vs. SEA (Nov. 5), @ WSH (Nov. 9)

Kris Letang hasn't looked like Kris Letang. His early-season performances have been plagued by uncharacteristic mental mistakes, including egregious overpassing and forcing plays that aren't there, while being frequently caught out of position. Letang needs to find his way, though, and help Pittsburgh steer out of its recent skid.

16. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: vs. FLA (Nov. 5), vs. MIN (Nov. 8), vs. CHI (Nov. 10)

Cal Petersen might be the backup goaltender in Los Angeles, but the Kings need a solid tandem of Petersen and Jonathan Quick to reach the next level. Neither goaltender has been off to his strongest start thus far, and L.A.'s defense has been too porous. It's a tough combination. Petersen could help take some pressure off Quick with better performances.

17. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: vs. ARI (Nov. 5), vs. EDM (Nov. 7), vs. PIT (Nov. 9)

Evgeny Kuznetsov ha to get rolling. He failed to register a single goal through the team's first 10 games while averaging almost 18 minutes per contest, and this was while Washington has taken a beating injury-wise (Connor Brown is the latest forward to be knocked out of the lineup, possibly out for the season). The Capitals expect more from Kuznetsov.

18. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 0.600

Next seven days: @ OTT (Nov. 5), vs. STL (Nov. 8), @ CBJ (Nov. 10)

Travis Konecny responded well to being benched by coach John Tortorella last week. The Flyers forward should now increase his contributions further. Philadelphia has to take some pressure off Carter Hart to be the savior, and Konecny can do that by leveraging his 20-plus minutes per contest into a stronger 200-foot game that complements a continued point-per-game pace from here.

19. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 0.583

Next seven days: @ PIT (Nov. 5), vs. NSH (Nov. 8)

Alex Wennberg hasn't found his best offensive game this season with only one goal and five points in 11 games. Seattle has higher expectations than that considering Wennberg's prominent place (at 19-plus minutes of ice time per game) in the lineup. The Kraken are anxious to put the difficulties of their inaugural season behind them. Wennberg should be more involved in making that a reality.

20. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: @ LA (Nov. 8), @ ANA (Nov. 9)

Matt Dumba has long been a key player on Minnesota's defense, and the Wild want to see that continue. But their veteran defender has wrestled against some opponents' faster skaters, and he has paced all Wild blueliners in giveaways per 60 minutes (2.30) through 10 games. He's due for a breakthrough.

21. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 0.650

Next seven days: vs. CHI (Nov. 5), vs. DAL (Nov. 8)

Kyle Connor hasn't scored a goal since the Jets' first game of the season, marking his longest goal-scoring drought (seven games and counting) in over three years. It's a strange spot in which to find Connor, given he narrowly missed the 50-goal mark in 2021-22. Winnipeg is off to a decent start, but more contributions from Connor would keep the good vibes going.

22. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 0.600

Next seven days: vs. NYI (Nov. 5), @ NYR (Nov. 6), vs. MTL (Nov. 8), vs. NYR (Nov. 10)

Andrew Copp's offseason core surgery robbed him of valuable training camp and preseason experience, and that has likely contributed to his slow start on a new team. Detroit can't wait for Copp to pop off. He added just three assists through his first nine games in a top-six role, which is where the Red Wings want him. Copp is capable of more.

23. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 0.400

Next seven days: vs. PHI (Nov. 5), vs. VAN (Nov. 8), @ NJ (Nov. 10)

Nikita Zaitsev could see a rapidly increased role on Ottawa's blue line now that Artem Zub is injured. The Senators are counting on Zaitsev -- who's been in and out of the lineup this season -- to provide some stability and support as the team navigates this recent rough patch. Zaitsev has been capable of that before; will he rise to the occasion again now if called upon?

24. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 0.500

Next seven days: vs. VGK (Nov. 5), @ DET (Nov. 8), vs. VAN (Nov. 9)

Mike Hoffman apparently isn't feeding off the youthful energy in Montreal's forward ranks. The veteran netted just one goal and two points through his first nine games, a quiet start that hasn't complemented the Canadiens' impressive offensive openings from Nick Suzuki & Co. Montreal's sustainability up front depends on guys like Hoffman doing their jobs, too.

25. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 0.409

Next seven days: @ VAN (Nov. 5), @ SEA (Nov. 8), @ COL (Nov. 10)

Matt Duchene could be the spark plug Nashville needs to relight its offensive attack. He's coming off a career year that hasn't translated into this new campaign, in which Duchene registered just two goals through 10 games with a shooting percentage of 8.3%. The Predators are desperate for more offense -- they're averaging the fourth-fewest goals per game in the league -- and an emergent Duchene could do a lot for the club's overall confidence up front.

26. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 0.545

Next seven days: @ WPG (Nov. 5), @ LA (Nov. 10)

Jack Johnson has been thrust into a larger role for the Blackhawks now that Seth Jones is out three to four weeks with a thumb injury. What does the veteran -- and recent Stanley Cup champion -- have to give in that position? Johnson projects to see more power-play time and overall minutes in Jones' absence, so there's no time like the present to put on his best showing.

27. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 0.333

Next seven days: @ BOS (Nov. 7), @ PHI (Nov. 8), vs. SJ (Nov. 10)

Ryan O'Reilly decried his own "absolutely horrible" first few weeks to this season and the stats back him up -- the Blues' captain had just one goal in eight games and was minus-11. It's been that sort of start throughout St. Louis' lineup, and O'Reilly's words won't truly land without more action. The veteran can lead by example in righting the Blues' ship before it's lost to sea.

28. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 0.308

Next seven days: vs. ANA (Nov. 5), @ STL (Nov. 10)

Tomas Hertl turned last season's 30-goal outing into an eight-year extension with San Jose. Now the Sharks can't score -- they're averaging the second-fewest goals per game in the league -- and Hertl is largely absent from the action with one goal in 12 games. It's long past time he increases the output.

29. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 0.364

Next seven days: vs. NSH (Nov. 5), @ OTT (Nov. 8), @ MTL (Nov. 9)

Brock Boeser is back in the Canucks' lineup following a three-game absence, and Vancouver is desperate for him to produce. The star forward had just four assists in his first six games while the Canucks struggled in all facets. Now that the roster is getting healthy, Boeser needs to be at the forefront of the team's turnaround for it to have a shot at real improvement.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 0.300

Next seven days: vs. COL (Nov. 4), vs. COL (Nov. 5), vs. PHI (Nov. 10)

Erik Gudbranson signed a four-year, $16 million contract with Columbus in the offseason. The Blue Jackets are desperate for more dividends. Columbus' back end has been leaky with poor puck management leading to one of the worst goals-against averages (4.11) in the league. Gudbranson was acquired to be a veteran boost to the team's back end. There's ample room to improve.

31. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 0.318

Next seven days: @ SJ (Nov. 5), vs. FLA (Nov. 6), vs. MIN (Nov. 9)

Cam Fowler has made a career out of being Anaheim's defensive stalwart, and the Ducks will lean on that veteran presence more than ever now. Jamie Drysdale's upper-body injury leaves Anaheim light on right-shot blueliners, and it's Fowler who'll slide to his off side most of the time. Anaheim has had a rocky start to this season defensively already; Fowler stepping up here sends a message about staying resilient through adversity.

32. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 0.350

Next seven days: @ WSH (Nov. 5), @ BUF (Nov. 8), @ NYI (Nov. 10)

Barrett Hayton seemed on track for a breakout season that hasn't exactly materialized yet. The Coyotes' fifth overall pick in 2018 had 10 goals and 24 points in 60 games last season, but that momentum hasn't carried over, as Hayton sits with zero points through nine games while clocking over 15 minutes of ice time per contest.