The Puck Drops… A look at the 21-22 NHL Season

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. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Marvin A Azrak

My 2021-22 NHL Power rankings

1. Tampa Bay Lightning
This one is a given being the Bolts are the reigning two-time Stanley Cup champions, and have retained the core pieces where they can now go for a 3-peat; which is something that the sports world hasn’t seen since the 1998-2000 Yankees dynasty, and hockey hasn’t seen since the New York Islanders four-peat from 1980-1983.
Opening night: 10/12 vs Penguins
Player to watch: reigning Conn Smith winner Goaltender Andre Vaselski.

2. Vegas Golden Knights
If there wasn’t an abnormal Western conference last season, the Golden Knights would be at least a finalist. But alas, they were vanquished in six games by the captivating story that was the Montreal Canadians. Over the offseason, they stunningly dealt away their franchise goaltender(Even if they’ve only existed for four seasons) in reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury to the BlackHawks, clearing the way for Robin Lehner to take the reigns in net. They also acquired Evgenii Dadonov, Nolan Patrick, and Brett Howden, with Dadanov and Patrick coming in a three way trade with the Flyers, while Brett Howden was shipped off by the Rangers. Patrick scored 13 goals and 30 points his rookie season and replicated those numbers the following year (13-18—31), before injuries slowed him down last season. Howden meanwhile has been a disappointment after being a late first-round draft pick(disappointing is an understatement from a Rangers fan POV) but can provide depth at the center position for the Knights. Expansion Franchise cornerstones cornerJonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and William Carrier will be expected to rise up, and lead this team forward through to a Pacific division title, and a playoff run that can present Vegas with its maiden cup. Nevertheless, the starters in Chandler Stephenson centering Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone as the forwards should make havoc on a nightly basis.
Opening night: 10/12 vs Seattle

3. Colorado Avalanche
A high-octane offense led by Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan McKinnon backed by a strong defensive unit that has come up empty-handed as West favorites in back to back seasons. Is this the year they finally break through, and end the 21 year drought for this franchise?
Opening night:

4. Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina were the regular season champions of the Atlantic division, and survived the pesky Nashville Predators, but were bounced by the Bolts(As everyone else is) in five games to see their season end in the elite eight. But this past offseason, the losses of Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic in net, as well as Star defensemen Dougie Hamilton in free agency has made this team less intimidating on paper. Fredrick Andreson will start in goal for the Candy Canes, and journeyman Anti Raanta will back him up.
Opening night: 10/14 vs Islanders

5. New York Islanders
If it were for the Lightning, these guys would likely be your champs, as New York has been ousted in the final four in back to back seasons by Tampa Bay, with 2021 ending with a 1-0 loss on the road in game 7. This offseason, the Isels sighed veteran Zach Parise who stated “They’ve already established themselves as one of the best teams in the league and you just want to be a piece of that puzzle.” The franchise also agreed to a deal with 44 year-old Zdeno Chara who agreed with his childhood team on a one year pact. I love the game,” Chara said. “I have passion for the game and believe that I can still play.” Now we’ll see if he can prove it. The trade off in terms of cap room was losing Nick Leddy, who was dealt to the Red Wings , and Jordan Eberle who went to the Seattle Kracken in the expansion draft. The change in net from Semeyon Varlamov to Ilyu Sororkin is the only question mark with the Islanders, because otherwise I see a championship team.
Opening night: 10/14 @ Hurricanes

6. Florida Panthers
A young team that unexpectedly made the playoffs last season, before being upstaged in six games by their intra-state rivals in the Lightning. They’re only looking to build on that this season.

7. Boston Bruins
The B’s are annual cup contenders, and this season is no different. With one of the deepest rosters in hockey, they look to not only challenge Tampa for the Atlantic division, but also for lords Stanley Cup as well.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs
The sting of blowing a 3-1 series lead in the first round to Montreal, won’t go away unless they snap their 17 year drought of reaching the second round of the playoffs. If they do that, then we can have the conversation of them bringing home their first Stanley Cup since 1967.

9. Washington Capitals
Since winning it all in 2018, this team has gone backwards. However, they still posses one of the most electrifying offenses in hockey led by Alexander Ovechkin, and are tough to stop on a nightly basis.
Opening night: 10/13 vs Rangers

10. Minnesota wild
ROY Kirill Kaprizov and Young stud Kevin Fiala brought joy to Minneapolis last season, when they led the Wild into the playoffs introducing a new era in franchise history.
11. Winnipeg Jets
Led by goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets made a run to the north division finals last season, but were swept by the Canadians. In the off-season, they added offensive depth in Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon.

12. Montreal Canadiens
You may be wondering why a team who just made the Stanley Cup final is this low, well look at who they lost? Philip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tomas Tatar all walked in free agency, while Shea Weber is potentially out for the season with a foot injuy, and Carey Price is out indefinitely assisting with NHL player assistance program.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins
I won’t be foolish here, and go against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for they were the champs of the division last season, before being knocked out in six by the Cinderella Islanders. Whether you think this team can win a cup or not, they can certainly make the postseason.
Opening night: 10/12 @ Lighting

14. Edmonton oilers
Connect Mcdavid, and Leon Draisatel will look to rebound from one of the worst playoff performances of all time by a superstar NHL duo when they were swept in round one by the Jets.

15. Dallas Stars
This team endured a rash of injuries, and COVID cases last season, but isn’t too far off from their 2020 Cup final run. But whether that was just “Bubble hockey” or not will be determined by the Stars performance this season.

16. St Louis Blues
It seems like those 2019 days of winning the Cup are gone, but adding Pavel Buchnevich sure does help!

17. Philadelphia Flyers
No team gave up more goals last season than the Flyers. But they did get veteran defenseman in Ryan Ellis to help out Carter Hart, who is looking for a bounce back season after a woeful 2021 campaign. During AV’s stint as coach, they’ve usually bounced back after a season where they missed the postseason.

18. New York Rangers
The pressure is on new on head coach Gerard Gallant to make sure this team reaches the playoffs in earnest for the first time since 2017. They do have the talent to make that happen though in superstar Artemi Panarin, DPOY Adam Fox, a goal-scoring stud in Mika Zibanejad(Who they agreed to an 8 year $68 million extension with) and a young goaltender in Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers will literally be a tough team to face this season, as enforcers Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais, and Patrick Nemsmith were signed in the offseason.
Opening night: 10/13 @ Capitals

19. Seattle Kraken
Welcome to the most interesting and newest franchise in hockey. These guys will have the pressure of living up the expectations their new rival & opening night opponent in the Vegas Golden Knights set by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, their inaugural season.
Opening night : 10/12 @ Golden Knights

20. Los Angeles Kings
The way this rebuild is going, they can fly up the rankings if the youngsters produce this year.

21. Chicago Blackhawks
They added Marc-Andre Fleury. They added Seth Jones. But do they have enough depth to make a playoff run?

22. Calgary Flames
Losing Mark Giordano to the expansion draft is a big blow, but they’re nevertheless a team still stuck in the pool of mediocrity.

23. Vancouver Canucks
Great offense, but one of the worst defenses in the league. Who wins out?

24. Nashville Predators
The retirement of Pekka Rinne and the departures of Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis, has shown that Nashville is considering a rebuild, and rightfully so.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets
They cleaned house in the offseason which can only mean they’re taking things slow, especially because they continue to fall backwards since their playoff berth in 2020. New coach Brad Larsen has a lot of work to do.

26. New Jersy Devils
Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves definitely make this team better, but what about young studs Jack Hughes, and Nico Hischier?

27. San Jose Sharks
We will see what Adin Hill does in net, in a position this team badly needs to solidify a franchise number one going forward.

28. Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot will be fun to watch, but they’re still rebuilding.

29 Detroit Red Wings
Trading for winger Jakub Vrana and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic means Detroit is fully embracing their rebuild plan, bringing in young guns to help out the cause.

30. Arizona Coyotes
This team needs to move soon, because nobody here entices me, and the fans feel
the same way.

31. Anaheim Ducks
Goaltender John Gibson looks to return to form this year, and if he can than the Ducks can show improvement in this years power rankings.

32. Buffalo Sabres
An absolute mess, with no light at the end of the tunnel. When will captain Jack Eichel be traded?

Opening night:
10/12:
Penguins @ Lightning
Kraken @ Golden Knights
Both games on ESPN, who will broadcast hockey for the first time since 2004.
10/13:
Rangers @ Capitals (On TNT)
Canadians @ Maple Leafs
[email protected] Ducks
[email protected] Avs
[email protected] Oilers

10/14:
Canadians @ Sabres
Maple Leafs @ Senators
[email protected] Rangers
Penguins @ Panthers
Islanders @ Hurricanes
[email protected] Blue Jackets
[email protected] Red Wings
Golden Knights @ Kings

10/15:
[email protected] Devils
[email protected] Flyers
[email protected] Ducks

10/16:
[email protected] Bruins
Flames @ Oilers