NHL power rankings: Canadiens, Penguins, Oilers, Sharks, Blues round out Top 5

By Randy Sportak, The Sports Xchange   |   Nov. 1, 2016 at 9:48 PM
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Thanksgiving is just over three weeks away.

A rule of thumb for the National Hockey League is that holding a playoff position on turkey day -- this year it's on Nov. 24 -- bodes well come the Stanley Cup tournament. Generally, only a couple of teams fail to hold onto one of the 16 berths. Last year was something of an anomaly, with four teams grabbing playoff positions despite being on the outside on Thanksgiving.

Even though the league schedule is only about 10 percent complete, the clock is ticking for clubs to make their moves.

As everybody munches down all those mini chocolate bars, Skittles and Candy Corn from Halloween, we already have teams sitting where we expected to see them, teams surprising us more than Negan did by killing both Glenn and Abraham and teams already poised to become walking dead.

1. Montreal Canadiens (11)

It was on the eve of Thanksgiving Day 2015 when Carey Price suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New York Rangers and the Canadiens promptly plummeted. With Price fully healthy again, the Habs are flying high again.

Newcomer of note: Shea Weber leads the team with 10 points and -- flawed stat or not -- he's a league-best plus-12

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (3)

The defending Stanley Cup champs are perfect in three games since Sidney Crosby returned to action after suffering a concussion on the eve of the regular season and are boasting a balanced attack.

Newcomer of note: Scott Wilson, a seventh round pick in 2011, is the club's lone rookie and already has four points.

3. Edmonton Oilers (19)

Give them their due. They will fall off this pace, but the Oilers have started the season with a 7-2-0 mark in a year it appears they've finally found the map to get out of the desert and Connor McDavid has been sensational.

Newcomer of note: Milan Lucic is so far delivering to expectations alongside McDavid, with four goals and seven points prior to Tuesday's game.

4. San Jose Sharks (6)

No muss, no fuss. The Sharks keep on going strong, led by Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton up front and Brent Burns on the blueline. Pretty much pick an area of the game, and they're in the top grouping.

Newcomer of note: Who would have thought depth defensemen David Schlemko (three points) would have added more offense than second-line winger Mikkel Boedker (one point) prior to Tuesday?

5. St. Louis Blues (10)

Goalie Jake Allen is handling the full-time starter's spot just fine, thank you, with a 1.83 goals-against average prior to Tuesday's clash with the Rangers for a Blues squad that's once again humming along to start a season.

Newcomer of note: Nail Yakupov (two goals, four points) has given the third line some punch.

6. Washington Capitals (2)

Head coach Barry Trotz has sure made his mark on this team. The Capitals are the best team in shots allowed (a stingy 25 per game) and number-two in goals-against-average-per-game (2.00), while still boasting plenty of offensive stars.

Newcomer of note: Lars Eller has managed just one goal so far in a third-line role.

7. New York Rangers (15)

The NHL's most potent attack in terms of goals-per-game is lighting it up with all four lines, receiving big production from the likes of J.T. Miller, Michael Grabner and Brandon Pirri.

Newcomer of note: Jimmy Vesey is showing why the hype was warranted, with five goals in his first nine games.

8. Minnesota Wild (13)

The Wild sit second in the league in goals-per-game and tied for fourth in goals against, with netminder Devan Dubnyk having posted three consecutive shutouts. Things are going great, right? Well, maybe not. Zach Parise is now out on a week-to-week basis with a foot injury, this team has an unsustainable shooting percentage in five-on-five play to go with a poor power play.

Newcomer of note: Eric Staal (four goals, seven points) has so far bounced back from a dreadful 2015-16.

9. Chicago Blackhawks (5)

It took until Game 9 for the Blackhawks to have a perfect penalty kill, a two-for-two game against the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 win. They shouldn't be last in the league in that area. Even more promising was captain Jonathan Toews netting his first goal of the season.

Newcomer of note: Brian Campbell's return to the Windy City has gone as hoped, with six points and impact on the power play.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning (1)

Number-one goalie Ben Bishop has struggled to start the season, having allowed three or more goals in five of his six games, which is a reason the Lightning can't seem to gain any traction.

Newcomer of note: Rookie Brayden Point has no goals and four assists in nine games, but has provided plenty of energy.

11. Florida Panthers (12)

Being without Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau has affected the Panthers, but the mix of youth such as Aleksander Barkov and experience in the likes of Jaromir Jagr is holding strong for now.

Newcomer of note: The summer's big free-agent acquisition Keith Yandle has been middling, but Jonathan Marchessault (six goals, 11 points) and Colton Sceviour (five goals, seven points) have proven to be astute low-cost additions.

12. Ottawa Senators (27)

The performance last week of goalie Craig Anderson -- two shutouts bookending a spell away from the team while his wife, Nicholle, battles cancer -- is the kind of thing that galvanizes a team to big surprises.

Newcomer of note: Derick Brassard's five points in eight games in a second-line role is around his career average, but should improve once his shooting percentage increase.

13. Detroit Red Wings (23)

The Red Wings sit second in the Atlantic Division but that hot start doesn't feel like one that will continue. They are among the worst possession teams in the league. One positive looking forward is that Henrik Zetterberg (no goals) should find his mark soon.

Newcomer of note: Thomas Vanek was rolling along nicely with eight points in seven games before going down to injury that has him listed as week-to-week.

14. New Jersey Devils (22)

Another team you can't help but believe a fall is coming. The Devils still struggle to score goals, although Taylor Hall is holding up his end of the bargain with five goals, and rely so heavily on goalie Cory Schneider. Even though their win over Tampa Bay was impressive, they'll be hard-pressed to remain in a playoff spot.

Newcomer of note: Defenseman Johann Auvitu from France is a great story, making the NHL after many years in Finland.

15. Los Angeles Kings (8)

It's easy to say goaltending is the big issue with Jonathan Quick sidelined, and it's true to a point, but the likes of Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown must add more offence. Right now, the leading point producer is defenseman Alex Martinez.

Newcomer of note: Goalie Peter Budaj has a 1.99 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in Quick's absence.

16. Anaheim Ducks (7)

Once the re-signed Hampus Lindholm joins the team -- a work visa issue is now the delay -- expects the Ducks to improve, especially offensively. It may help John Gibson solidify his game between the pipes, too.

Newcomer of note: Antoine Vermette is starting to look like a player near the end of the line, with no goals yet in a third-line role.

17. Colorado Avalanche (25)

Another squad that appears destined for a fall out of a playoff position. The Avs remain a horrible possession team and rely too much on Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog up front and Tyson Barrie on defense, while getting middling, at best, goaltending.

Newcomer of note: Defensemen Patrick Wiercioch has already equaled his point total of last season in Ottawa with five.

18. Dallas Stars (9)

So many players are either struggling to find their offensive form -- Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza, for example -- or not been available due to illness or injury, such as Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp, Cody Eakin and Jiri Hudler for much of the season.

Newcomer of note: Rookie Devin Shore has six points, second most on the team, while free-agent additions Dan Hamhuis, Lauri Korpikoski and Hudler have all had minimal impact.

19. Boston Bruins (17)

Goalie Tuukka Rask missed four games due to injury and the Bruins lost them all while their netminders surrendered 18 goals. In Rask's four games, all wins, he's posted a 1.25 GAA and .958 save percentage. Boston is praying Rask can stay healthy, and that Matt Belesky and Torey Krug (both without a point so far) contribute soon, big reasons their power play is at a league worst 7.1 percent.

Newcomer of note: David Backes, signed from St. Louis, had two goals and four points in five games before suffering an elbow injury expected to keep him out for another week.

20. Calgary Flames (16)

After a rough first couple of weeks, goalie Brian Elliott has rounded into form. Now the Flames need their young dynamic duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to find their game -- especially on the road -- after basically missing all of training camp. That said, Alex Chiasson doesn't really seem the right player to have on their line.

Newcomer of note: Matthew Tkachuk, the sixth-overall pick in this year's draft, has one goal and four points in eight games. Whether he stays or returns to junior is up in the air.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (28)

Having played the fewest games in the league, it's easy to overlook the Blue Jackets, but they've shown real positives. Their special teams are near the top of the league and have received a balance attack. The big key has been the play of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who looks closer to his Vezina Trophy-winning form of a few years ago.

Newcomer of note: Defenseman Zach Werenski, the eighth-overall pick in the 2015 draft, has two goals and six points in eight games to start his career.

22. Philadelphia Flyers (18)

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are back to their old form and pacing a Flyers team that's third in the league in goals-per-game. However, the goaltending from Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth leaves plenty to be desired. Philly is ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes in goals-against on a per-game basis.

Newcomer of note: The 2015 first-round draft picks Ivan Provorov (five points in 10 games) and Travis Konecny (six points in 10 games) have started well in their career.

23. Buffalo Sabres (21)

With both Evander Kane and Jack Eichel sidelined, the Sabres needed somebody to step up. Matt Moulson has rebounded from a horrid 2015-16 season with four goals so far. Buffalo has also received the goaltending needed from Robin Lehner.

Newcomer of note: Kyle Okposo was brought in with a big ticket to produce, and he has, leading the team with four goals and seven points.

24. New York Islanders (14)

The Islanders have not had an easy schedule to start the season, but show signs of coming out of an early funk. That said, their 12 percent power play must be improved immediately to really get the ball rolling, especially for John Tavares.

Newcomer of note: Andrew Ladd, signed as a free agent to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract, has only one assist in nine games. By comparison, rookie Anthony Beauvillier has one goal and five points.

25. Winnipeg Jets (20)

Patrik Laine, the second overall pick in this year's draft, leads the Jets with six goals. However, this club just can't seem to gain traction with a winning streak in the tough Central Division. They need better goaltending but also more scoring depth.

Newcomer of note: Josh Morrissey has a couple of assists, but the 21-year-old is having his ups and downs on the top defence pairing while Jacob Trouba's contract dispute drags on.

26. Vancouver Canucks (29)

Yes, the Canucks currently hold a playoff spot, but look how it's already unravelling. After winning their first four games, the first three without actually leading during game action, they've dropped five straight (the last four in regulation). Vancouver is the only team scoring fewer than two goals per game and there aren't reasons to believe it will improve that much.

Newcomer of note: Loui Eriksson, signed to a six-year, $36-million deal in the summer, is yet to score a goal despite significant time skating with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

27. Nashville Predators (4)

By no means will the Predators finish this low in the standings, but this is where they deserve to be right now. Other than an awesome power play (league-best 35.7 percent), the Preds have been downright awful in every area. Their offense has been nowhere to be seen -- Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen have no goals, while James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have just one each, if you're looking for culprits -- and their defense and goaltending have been nowhere near up to snuff.

Newcomer of note: P.K. Subban has collected a pair of goals and five points but is also tied for a team-worst minus-7 rating.

28. Carolina Hurricanes (24)

The light at the end of the tunnel for Carolina is the Hurricanes are actually near the top of the league in possession numbers during five-on-five play. The problem is an obvious lack of talent up front and porous goaltending from Cam Ward and Eddie Lack.

Newcomer of note: While Lee Stempniak has four goals and six points, a rate the Hurricanes would hope for, Teuvo Teravainen has just two goals and three points.

29. Toronto Maple Leafs (30)

The kids are providing offence and optimism for the future, with William Nylander already at 11 points, Auston Matthews second on the team with 10 points, including six goals, and Mitch Marner at a half-dozen points. As a team, though, the Maple Leafs aren't very good.

Newcomer of note: Goalies Frederik Andersen and Jhonas Enroth are facing way too many quality chances, but have been awful.

30. Arizona Coyotes (26)

It's already looking grim in the desert. The Coyotes are the league's worst defensive team -- it doesn't help goalie Mike Smith is out due to injury -- while the power play and penalty kill is near the bottom. Anthony Duclair is truly struggling, with no goals and just one point so far.

Newcomer of note: Radim Vrbata has four goals but so many others, especially the rookies are having a tough go.

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