NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, expectations vs. reality

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, April 12, 2024

Less than a week remains in the 2023-24 NHL season, so we have a great sense of which teams overperformed, which teams underperformed and which teams were who we thought they were.

For this week's edition of the power rankings -- closing out the regular season -- we're comparing each club's preseason expectation (using the standings point over/under totals from ESPN BET as a proxy) to their actual number of standings points on April 12.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors sends 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 previous edition, published April 5. Points percentages and standings points are through Thursday's games.

1. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 68.13%

Preseason O/U: 105.5

Actual: 109

There were high expectations for this club, and Dallas stayed slightly above pace all season. It's made the Stars into an odds-on favorite to compete for the Stanley Cup. Will they exceed expectations on that journey as well?

Remaining games: vs. SEA (April 13), vs. STL (April 17)

2. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 68.75%

Preseason O/U: 103.5

Actual: 110

This team was supposed to be good; in reality, the Rangers have been great. Whether it was the coaching change or star performances (from Artemi Panarin in particular) or New York settling into a solid identity early on, the Rangers found a formula to set them apart.

Remaining games: vs. NYI (April 13), vs. OTT (April 15)

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 67.72%

Preseason O/U: 108.5

Actual: 107

Carolina began this regular season in such strange fashion -- allowing 33 goals in their first seven games? Yikes! -- that we couldn't help but wonder whether the Hurricanes were tracking towards disaster. Hardly. Carolina corrected to meet expectations and, after a busy trade deadline adding Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jake Guentzel, the Canes look stronger than ever going into the postseason.

Remaining games: @ STL (April 12), April 14 (April 14), @ CBJ (April 16)

4. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 66.46%

Preseason O/U: 89.5

Actual: 104

Rick Tocchet's club takes the cake as this season's largest overachiever. The Canucks have been beastly in ways the oddsmakers couldn't predict -- Quinn Hughes as a Norris Trophy front-runner? -- and they've maintained a sharp edge for most of the season. The next task is making a mark this postseason.

Remaining games: @ EDM (April 13), vs. CGY (April 16), @ WPG (April 18)

5. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 67.72%

Preseason O/U: 99.5

Actual: 107

The retirement of Patrice Bergeron tempered expectations for the B's, but they have proven skeptics wrong by blowing past their predicted pace to sit among the league's top teams. It's the Bruins' consistency that makes them a perennial threat, and after the sting of last season's first-round playoff loss, Boston is poised to turn up the heat this postseason.

Remaining games: @ PIT (April 13), @ WSH (April 15), vs. OTT (April 16)

6. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 65.82%

Preseason O/U: 107.5

Actual: 104

Colorado had another strong campaign that mirrored preseason expectations -- but that success was hard-won, too. The Avalanche weathered injuries to key players and their goaltending -- particularly from starter Alexander Georgiev -- was uneven at best. Still, Colorado stayed closely on pace. Impressive.

Remaining games: vs. WPG (April 13), @ VGK (April 14), vs. EDM (April 18)

7. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 66.25%

Preseason O/U: 99

Actual: 106

Matthew Tkachuk & Co. likely spooked some oddsmakers with all the offseason surgeries to top forwards and defensemen. The Panthers punched back to emerge as one of the NHL's best teams this season, with a rejuvenated Sergei Bobrovsky, unstoppable Sam Reinhart and enviable depth combining to make Florida better than advertised.

Remaining games: vs. BUF (April 13), vs. TOR (April 16)

8. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 65.58%

Preseason O/U: 106.5

Actual: 99

An underwhelming start to the season was so bad it cost Jay Woodcroft his job as head coach. The Oilers turned it around under Kris Knoblauch though, aided by the excellence of Connor McDavid and Stuart Skinner, specifically. Even if Edmonton doesn't quite hit the mark, at least they didn't get buried (too far) under it.

Remaining games: vs. ARI (April 12), vs. VAN (April 13), vs. SJ (April 15), @ ARI (April 17), @ COL (April 18)

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 63.92%

Preseason O/U: 106.5

Actual: 101

Toronto fumbled around enough (with inconsistent goaltending, special teams and defensive play) to fall short of the oddsmakers' high opinions. Could the adversity from their regular season ultimately fuel the Leafs' postseason goals? Stay tuned.

Remaining games: vs. DET (April 13), @ FLA (April 16), @ TB (April 17)

10. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 65.82%

Preseason O/U: 92.5

Actual: 104

The Jets showed the potential to far exceed any preseason predictions at times, and they will finish ahead of their preseason over/under. But it was a lack of consistency holding Winnipeg back from reaching higher altitudes in the regular season -- a problem the Jets hope to have licked when soaring into the playoffs.

Remaining games: @ COL (April 13), vs. SEA (April 16), vs. VAN (April 18)

11. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 60.13%

Preseason O/U: 87

Actual: 95

Music City's hockey team has been the feel-good hit of the season's second half. The Predators' prospects looked bleak in the beginning, but enough clicked for Nashville to put them past their expected points pace and right into the postseason mix -- was the canceled U2 concert the catalyst?

Remaining games: @ CHI (April 12), vs. CBJ (April 13), @ PIT (April 15)

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 60.76%

Preseason O/U: 93

Actual: 96

The Lightning hitting the over in the final stretch of a semi-tumultuous regular season very on-brand for them. This team just knows how to finish -- but can they do it again in the playoffs?

Remaining games: @ WSH (April 13), vs. BUF (April 15), vs. TOR (April 17)

13. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 60.13%

Preseason O/U: 100

Actual: 95

The Kings are playoff-bound again, but Los Angeles let itself go too often this season to be an expected, top-tier Western Conference contender. The Kings wrestled with underperforming stars, changed coaching and racked up a few too many losing streaks to hit the triple-digit mark in points.

Remaining games: vs. ANA (April 13), vs. MIN (April 15), vs. CHI (April 18)

14. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 56.33%

Preseason O/U: 93

Actual: 89

The Isles haven't quite reached full potential in a season stacked with familiar problems, from a dearth of scoring to general lack of direction. The coaching change to Patrick Roy was an attempted shot in the arm, and the Islanders do control their playoff fate after looking much more focused in recent weeks.

Remaining games: @ NYR (April 13), @ NJ (April 15), vs. PIT (April 17)

15. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 58.97%

Preseason O/U: 103.5

Actual: 92

The defending champs dipped into an inevitable midseason, post-Cup hangover that threw the Golden Knights off their preferred track. It wasn't quite the injury-riddled campaign of years past -- although Vegas did notably lose Jack Eichel and Mark Stone for stretches -- but the Golden Knights kept adding (that Tomas Hertl trade was a jaw-dropper) as they look towards a repeat Cup run.

Remaining games: vs. MIN (April 12), vs. COL (April 14), vs. CHI (April 16), vs. ANA (April 18)

16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 54.43%

Preseason O/U: 97

Actual: 86

Pittsburgh underachieved for, oh, about 70 games -- and then something happened to the Penguins. It started with Sidney Crosby refusing to be denied another shot at the postseason, and everyone else followed suit to put Pittsburgh back in the race. The Penguins won't meet that preseason points threshold but if they secure a playoff berth we're pretty sure they won't mind.

Remaining games: vs. BOS (April 13), vs. NSH (April 15), @ NYI (April 17)

17. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 56.33%

Preseason O/U: 83.5

Actual: 87

The Blues managed to get in the playoff race with an accelerated second-half points pace -- which could have been even stronger if St. Louis didn't play down to the competition on several occasions. Three loses to San Jose this season? Ouch.

Remaining games: vs. CAR (April 12), vs. SEA (April 14), @ DAL (April 17)

18. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 53.80%

Preseason O/U: 85

Actual: 85

Washington has walked a tightrope all season. Where the Capitals fall, well -- it's fairly close to the expectation! Washington leaned on young players to complement Alex Ovechkin and the other veterans, and that's naturally led to growing pains under first-year head coach Spencer Carbery. And yet, the Capitals remain in the playoff race to the bitter end.

Remaining games: vs. TB (April 13), vs. BOS (April 15), @ PHI (April 16)

19. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 53.80%

Preseason O/U: 86.5

Actual: 85

Dylan Larkin and friends are right on the (preseason) money. But will that be enough to put the Red Wings back in the playoffs? It's been a dogfight in the Eastern Conference to secure those final slots. When GM Steve Yzerman stood pat at the deadline it was with a belief in Detroit's current potential. A postseason berth would prove that prediction right.

Remaining games: @ TOR (April 13), vs. MTL (April 15), @ MTL (April 16)

20. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 53.21%

Preseason O/U: 97

Actual: 83

Minnesota quickly fell short of its own expectations this season (hence the November coaching change) but when injuries to critical players kept piling up there was simply no salvaging things. The Wild can seek better odds (and outcomes) next season.

Remaining games: @ VGK (April 12), @ SJ (April 13), @ LA (April 15), vs. SEA (April 18)

21. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 50.64%

Preseason O/U: 92

Actual: 79

Seattle went from being the league's No. 6 goal-scoring team a season ago to No. 29 this season. Clearly no one predicted that sort of tailspin by the Kraken.

Remaining games: @ DAL (April 13), @ STL (April 14), @ WPG (April 16), @ MIN (April 18)

22. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 50.63%

Preseason O/U: 106


After a series of unfortunate events -- including significant injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Jack Hughes, along with lackluster goaltending -- New Jersey slid well below expectations as one of the season's most disappointing teams. The Devils are stocked with young talent, but were doomed by compounding issues that even a coaching switch and trade deadline moves couldn't fix.

Remaining games: @ PHI (April 13), vs. NYI (April 15)

23. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 53.13%

Preseason O/U: 74

Actual: 85

It surprised many that Philly was in a playoff spot for much of the season. That the Flyers faded into the spring (and out of the postseason hunt) was closer to their anticipated outcome. Still, it's a positive for Philadelphia's future to know they're closer to turning a corner than we predicted.

Remaining games: vs. NJ (April 13), vs. WSH (April 16)

24. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 50.63%

Preseason O/U: 94


Some believed this was the year for the Sabres to end the NHL's longest playoff drought; that won't be happening. Scoring struggles, goaltending issues and, yes, too many injuries, doomed Buffalo to yet another long offseason.

Remaining games: @ FLA (April 13), @ TB (April 15)

25. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 48.08%

Preseason O/U: 95

Actual: 75

Calgary immediately underperformed with just four wins in its first 14 games. It set the Flames up for a seesaw of a season, where strong stretches inevitably faded into losing lulls. Oh, and stars like Jonathan Huberdeau still barely hitting double-digit goal totals aren't exactly helping Calgary excel. The Flames can only hope the current youth movement pays more dividends next season.

Remaining games: @ ANA (April 12), vs. ARI (April 14), @ VAN (April 16), vs. SJ (April 18)

26. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 46.20%

Preseason O/U: 77.5

Actual: 71

The Coyotes muddled their way to another mediocre season, with news this week that this could be their final one in Arizona.

Remaining games: @ EDM (April 12), @ CGY (April 14), vs. EDM (April 17)

27. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 46.84%

Preseason O/U: 93.5

Actual: 74

A team that underwent many off-ice changes within the past 12 months, Ottawa never came close to reaching the expectations set for them -- by anyone, really. The Senators said goodbye to their general manager and coach, dealt with the drama of a gambling scandal and are finding their way under new ownership and executives. Now, how will the Senators translate all those adjustments into success?

Remaining games: vs. MTL (April 13), @ NYR (April 15), @ BOS (April 16)

28. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 46.20%

Preseason O/U: 73

Actual: 73

Montreal stayed the course in its rebuild and it kept them on track with where the oddsmakers expected -- and that's right near the bottom of the standings. Again.

Remaining games: @ OTT (April 13), @ DET (April 15), vs. DET (April 16)

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 40.00%

Preseason O/U: 75

Actual: 64

Due to a number of factors, Columbus failed to be even average this season. That's what happens when the infirmary fills up with most of a team's top players. It also doesn't help that they went through a coaching change (before training camp even began), and are now searching for a new full-time general manager. Nowhere to go but up!

Remaining games: @ NSH (April 13), vs. CAR (April 16)

30. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 36.08%

Preseason O/U: 66.5

Actual: 57

GM Pat Verbeek took his team harder into rebuild mode than some envisioned. Where there was once Trevor Zegras as a beacon towards the Ducks' future, Zegras trade rumors popped up instead. That, in a nutshell, shows where Anaheim is at in the process of outlining its next chapter.

Remaining games: vs. CGY (April 12), @ LA (April 13), @ VGK (April 18)

31. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 32.69%

Preseason O/U: 71

Actual: 51

The Blackhawks might have been slightly less terrible if Connor Bedard hadn't missed almost six weeks with a fractured jaw. That hurt (in more ways than one). The Blackhawks don't appear in any rush to rebuild, though so it will be interesting to see how highly the bookmakers project them for 2024-25.

Remaining games: vs. NSH (April 12), vs. CAR (April 14), @ VGK (April 16), @ LA (April 18)

32. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 29.75%

Preseason O/U: 64.5

Actual: 47

San Jose overachieved at underachieving. That might be the best description for the Sharks this season.

Remaining games: vs. MIN (April 13), @ EDM (April 15), @ CGY (April 18)