2020 NHL Draft: The Lafrenière Power Rankings

I love all the people who think this is such an awful thing that happened on Friday night.  Look, I am with Brian Burke that this makes the NHL look bush league that a very damn good team could end up winning the draft lottery, and not only that, but it comes in a year where you have a STUD at the top.  But the problem for the detractors is…you have three other leagues looking at the NHL right now saying “FUCK ME!!!  They just stumbled onto some incredible drama!!!”

This is GREAT for the league!  The teams that didn’t make the play-in round had their night, the league probably had terrific ratings for the lottery, and now the buzz can continue about it as we wait to find out who will win Lafrenière.  It is PERFECT.  Not to mention, it actually adds a layer of intrigue to the play-in round.  Nobody’s fan base is going to do much crying about “not making the playoffs” because all those teams have a 12.5% chance to win a foundational player.

So who needs him the most?  Who needs him the least?  Glad you asked!  Welcome to the first…and last…Alexis Lafrenière power rankings!  All 16 possibilities ranked from “need him the least” to “need him the most”.

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16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Three Cups and possibly counting for Sid, Geno, and company.  I get the argument for them needing to replenish, but while the Packers went from Favre to Rodgers, and the Colts went from Manning to Luck, this would be more along the lines of Favre or Manning getting a rookie Barry Sanders while they still had a bit of their primes left.  They’ve had their success and Jim Rutherford has had more than his fair share of bounces while being a below-average GM who the hockey people will instantly put into the hall of fame for his FAKE three Cups.  Oh FUCK YES I said that.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs edge out the Oilers here basically for one reason: I think he would be a bit redundant for the Leafs.  It would be intriguing to see what Dubas would do with him though.  The door would be wide ass open to move Nylander or even Marner for that stud on the blueline.  Or better yet, sign that stud on the blueline named Alex Pietrangelo and deal a guy like Marner for a mountain of picks and prospects so you keep the cupboard stocked.  The problem with either of those moves though is once GM’s know you’re looking to do a move like that, they become much more miserable to work with.  No GM wants to be the guy who helps a team acquire that final piece to the puzzle.

14. Edmonton Oilers

What’s SO dumb, is that fans think they “don’t need to win because they’ve had their chances”.  That’s the kind of completely fucked logic from fans that created this mess in the first place!  The Oilers were legitimately an awfully run organization!  They weren’t ever tanking!  In fact, when they won McDavid, they finished 28th, they were the only team in the bottom four which were actually attempting to win games and weren’t icing awful lineups!  But people today don’t want to hear truths, they want to hear the narratives that justify the positions they take.  Anyway, past draft lottery luck aside, they’re now set up to be a contender.  The blueline is maybe the 2nd best in the league moving forward (I’d have the Avs first), and they have a one/two punch down the middle essentially fighting for the Hart trophy every season.  Lafrenière fits PERFECTLY given he’s a late 01 and is ready to step into every top six in the league for a 3.775 mil cap hit, and the one piece they lack is a top-six winger.  He’d instantly make them a Cup contender because he’s that good and fits that well.

13. Carolina Hurricanes

The last thing Eric Tulsky needs is a franchise player!  This team is so insanely well set up with their guys locked down and a loaded system as well, if they were to win Lafrenière they would go from fringe contenders to THE team in the East.  But if I’m going to make the case as to why they could use him, they might not have that go to horse up front.  They probably do, Aho is close to that, Svechnikov is close to that.  But with Lafrenière they definitely would.

12. Nashville Predators

As much as I find myself loving the crowds in Nashville, and just finding it one of the most lovable markets in the league at the moment, the fan in me loathes the thought of them getting Lafrenière given they’re playing on such an uneven playing field thanks to there being no state tax so they’re able to get all their guys on hometown discounts.  As far as fearing them though, Lafrenière definitely re-opens this group’s window to win a Cup, but I don’t believe it makes an aging core much more intimidating.

11. Winnipeg Jets

If I’m looking to make some sort of case for the Jets, the best I can say is that they deserve a bit of a break given that they were on the verge of winning a Cup and basically everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for them last off-season.  Lafrenière isn’t much of a need, but perhaps this would free them up to move a guy like Ehlers for that big-time D-man they covet?

10. Vancouver Canucks

You could maybe make the best argument for the Canucks of all the teams who “don’t” need him.  Why?  They’ve had shit luck in the lottery every year, always dropping.  It would be a tremendous landing spot for Lafrenière with such a young team that has most of their pieces already in place.  If this were to happen, what a battle it would be in the Pacific moving forward between the Canucks and the Oilers…and even as an Oilers fan, I’d probably have to give the edge to the Canucks as the better team moving forward.

9. Florida Panthers

My crystal ball has them much higher on this list than 9, but I don’t want to put all my money on just that.  What am I talking about?  Owner Vinnie Viola gave GM Dale Tallon a mandate to cut payroll at the trade deadline.  I believe the number was 10 million (basically saying go get the money back you made me piss away on Bobrovsky).  Well if they were that hard up for money pre-pandemic, what kind of financial shape are they going to be in post-pandemic?!  They could be in serious trouble, and therefore a kid like Lafrenière could afford them the luxury of moving one of their bigger contracts and getting down to the cap floor without overly hurting their ability to compete.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

It’s a bit like Pittsburgh in that they’ve had their success, but they also just caught a massive break in last year’s draft lottery winning the 3rd pick.  Having said this though, they still lack some big pieces to get back to where they were competing for Cups.  Lafrenière wouldn’t be the end of this rebuild, they’d still need more.  But a foundational piece like he will be is damn near impossible to find.

7. NY Rangers

I’m not nearly as high on the Rangers moving forward as most are.  Granted, they’re a little different from most teams with how easy it is for them to draw UFA’s, but if their rebuild is essentially done I honestly don’t see them being a team that’ll win.  A lot of good pieces, very few truly foundational pieces though in my opinion.  They win Lafrenière though, all of a sudden they have a stud up front, a stud between the pipes, and a rock-solid blueline moving forward.

6. Calgary Flames

If I’m tiering this, I’d say this is the start of the 2nd tier of teams that need him the most, and most wouldn’t think the Flames are hard up for him, but they not only badly need him…they might not be far from starting over if they don’t.  What a difference a year makes, in early April of 2019 the hockey world was pretty much unanimous in its belief that the Flames were on the brink of a 3-4 year run of being a Cup contender.  Now you look at it, and outside of Matt Tkachuk what is the prize piece they have to build around?  We’ll see what Gaudreau brings back in a trade (as it really sounded like he was set to be dealt this off-season pre-pandemic), but to me, it looks pretty damn bleak.  Winning the lottery would change that in a hurry though.

5. NY Islanders

One of two teams who not only need it from the standpoint of having a marquee piece to build around but also to avoid giving up what could be a very high draft pick if they don’t win it.  The trade for J.G. Pageau (that I will NEVER understand) gave the Sens the Islanders 1st round pick and is only top-three protected.  A combination of Lafrenière and Barzal to build around moving forward would be huge for the Islanders.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

They’ve lacked a star ever since Rick Nash was in town.  Ironically, I fear Lafrenière could be a lot like Nash in that he’s too good to ever be bad with, but as a winger will never be able to carry a team anywhere.  Anyway, Blue Jackets fans don’t care about that, they just badly want a guy to truly build around.  Lafrenière up-front, Jones and Werenski on the back-end, all of a sudden the Blue Jackets would have a pretty good thing going on.  If they don’t win him, as scrappy as they are, I think they’re just delaying the inevitable.

3. Minnesota Wild

It looks pretty obvious to me that owner Craig Leipold is desperately fighting to avoid the rebuild that badly needs to happen with the Wild.  So they end up third on my rankings because should they not win Lafrenière, I could see this team becoming a complete mess much the same way the Sharks currently are before Leipold simply has no other choice, in which case it goes from being a 3-5 year rebuild to a 5-10 year rebuild.  Win Lafrenière though, and while they’d probably have a tough time building a contender around him without sinking to the bottom of the standings, they’d be back to what they’ve been as a perennial playoff team.

2. Arizona Coyotes

The second of the two teams which need this for two reasons.  I might throw a third reason on it for the Coyotes though.  1) they need a marquee player to build around, 2) they lose their pick to Jersey if they don’t win it, 3) this pandemic is going to crush some of the weaker teams financially in the league.  Even with the solid job John Chayka has done there, they still lack a winner, are dreadful to watch and don’t have a star to come out and see.  If they don’t win this lottery, it really might be the beginning of the end of the Coyotes in Arizona (actually this time, not like the 20 times Pierre Lebrun reported it to be happening…).  Kessel has blown up in their face, Hall has REALLY blown up in their face, they legitimately might be better off losing the play-in round and taking their 12.5% chances.

1. Montreal Canadiens

For many more reasons than just to turn their franchise around that I have repeatedly said is stuck in neutral and badly needs to blow it up, winning Lafrenière would skip a few steps and be a HORRENDOUS example of how to properly build a franchise! (and you watch, teams would emulate it and say “all you need to do is get in the lottery” just like they say with the playoffs) Without a doubt part of this is me romanticizing the local kid playing at home, the Habs have not had a Quebec born star for 25 years (a franchise which prior to that ALWAYS had that guy), so it’s just a terrific fit.  As an Oilers fan, I’m obviously drooling at the idea of the Oilers winning this (while the rest of the hockey world is ready to riot if they do…blame yourselves for getting the lottery changed in the first place…).  But if the Oilers don’t, then I’m all in for the Habs to win this.  Before I finish this up, I’m well aware that I made the case for the Coyotes to actually be the team that needs him the most.  But Montreal is tops on the list for me because while they need him pretty bad, the LEAGUE also needs this scenario to happen because the Habs being relevant is better for the league.  The Coyotes winning likely wouldn’t move the needle, and if this were to happen and it was another nail in the coffin for Arizona, moving them to Quebec City (for example) would likely be a win for the league even though they have fought it for years.  The Canadiens being an upper-echelon team led by a francophone star, that’s massive.

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2020 NHL Draft: Mini Mock

What a dumb fuckin title, I know.  Anyway…

I’ve been waiting to do my next mock draft for a while now.  I thought that I was FINALLY going to have my chance to do it after Friday night!  Then the lottery happened, and I don’t feel like I can do a full one for a long time now!  Either that or I do a ton of them playing out the different scenarios, that is possible.  Anyway, I most of this ready to roll, so I thought I’d simply put out a mock for the top eight now that we know who’ll pick from 2-8, and we know who is going first.

Part of the reason I felt compelled to do a little one like this is that I’ve seen a few guys do this exercise in the last 24 hours, and they’re basically just going off their lists and not putting much thought into it.  Craig Button, who I don’t always say nice things about given he refers to himself as an “opinionista”, which I would suggest is code for “hot take guy”.  But if you look back at his mocks, he does nail quite a few.  This one he did though, just simply felt like he did quick and didn’t put much thought into it.  And hey, it could easily be said that with this one, I’ve over thought it.  Wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the case, but it’s currently how I feel the top eight is going to play out.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

Obviously we all know Lafrenière is going to be the top pick, so we don’t need to spend much time here.  Again though, I’d want him in the middle long term.  Playing the wing limits him in my opinion.  I saw the conversation with Ron McLean, Elliotte Friedman, Sam Cosentino, and later Pierre Dorion about how it doesn’t matter.  It does matter.  It doesn’t matter offensively, but for the purposes of maxing him out as a talent, I would want Lafrenière playing the middle and developing as a complete centre because I believe he has that ability.  A marquee centre is MUCH more valuable to a franchise than a marquee winger.  I will say though, now there is a solid chance he goes to a team that doesn’t need a centre, and in that case, I obviously have no problem with him staying on the wing.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Evgeni Malkin

SOH Rank: 2nd

I love this fit for several reasons.  The main one being that the Kings didn’t have a star to build around, and now they will.  They LOVE the OHL, though it remains to be seen if that was because of Mike Futa’s influence on the organization (he has moved on).  For Byfield to get to learn from a guy like Anze Kopitar is massive too as he has similar capabilities.  With the Malkin comp, keep in mind that is more style of play than anything.  I don’t believe anyone expects him to become Evgeni Malkin.  Ironically a comp that I used early on for Byfield was Jeff Carter, and that’s a pretty good expectation too.  He definitely can be better than that, but if he becomes that level of player, I think you’d call the pick a huge success.  Anyway, one final thing and it’s the elephant in the room with this one…I think it would be awesome for the sport to have a potential star player of African descent (in this case African Canadian) playing in a major US market like LA.  Every organization in North America right now is going to have a hard push for more diversity, and this would certainly help the league do just that.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 4th

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  For me, this is where it’ll get interesting, and this is one of three reasons I’m going to do a few different mocks here rather than one big one.  This is what I would do with the 3rd pick, and I believe this is what the Sens will do if I had to bet on it today.  But this shit is chess…not checkers.  There is a reason the Sens might go in a different direction at three and it’s because of a combination of need and the fact that they also own the 5th pick.  Stützle much like Lafrenière is debatably a centre, but I believe he also would thrive playing the middle and that’s where I’d draft him at (especially if I’m the Sens who are solid down the middle but lack that elite guy).  But for those who think it’s crazy that someone might go outside the top three…last year the clear cut top three was Hughes/Kakko/Byram.  2016 the clear cut top three was Matthews/Laine/Puljujarvi.  I don’t think it’ll happen this time, but crazier things have happened.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Hampus Lindholm

SOH Rank: 13th

For those who follow Corey Pronman on Twitter, ironically he used Lindholm the other day, but I’ve had him as my comp for Sanderson for over a month now so don’t think I did that just to copy what he had said.  Anyway, I’m going to say this now, and I’m going to say this a lot the next few months…DO NOT SLEEP ON JAKE SANDERSON!  On my next top prospects list, he is moving WAY up because I did more and more homework on him after seeing him so high for the more experienced scouts and I’m getting what they’ve been seeing.  With how his ascent is trending, I don’t have much doubt at this point that he will go ahead of Drysdale.  I wouldn’t do that, but it feels like that is where this is headed.  Also, Sanderson was in the Wings backyard all season.  This was the thought by many in 2018 as to why the Wings would take Quinn Hughes, and they passed.  Those same people thought the same last year with several USNTDP players (namely Zegras) and they passed again.  I didn’t think that, but most did.  This time, I believe it’s happening, although I don’t believe that will have much to do with it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 3rd

This would be huge for the Sens if he gets to them because I’ve maintained since probably January that the Sens will want to ensure they log out of the chatroom/draft with Drysdale.  He fits the bill for them PERFECTLY, especially if they’re getting one of Byfield or Stützle at three as most believe they will.  The right side of their D is weak moving forward.  The blueline is getting stronger with Chabot, Brannstrom, Thomson and Bernard-Docker.  Those latter two are RHD, but none of those latter three guys are sure things to make it.  Drysdale is.  And the other thing with D, you can trade them.  It’s not easy to make deals in the NHL, which is why I maybe put more of an emphasis on taking need than most do because I get why teams feel they need to draft that way.  Something to watch here (if you think two D in the top five is crazy…watch this), is the Sens taking Drysdale at three.  Why?!  Because then they ensure the D-man they want, and can then take a centre at five.  “But they’ll miss on Stützle!!!”  Yes…but they’ll be able to take Rossi at five, and you don’t think selling tickets in Ottawa matters?  Or that the owner might suggest they take the kid who has been playing in their own backyard?  He fits the bill perfectly for the Sens.  The only reason Rossi has people nervous to put him top five is the lack of undersized centres in the league.  It wouldn’t stun me at all to see the Sens ensure they get the D-man they want at three (which might be Sanderson, wouldn’t shock me either), and then be more than ok with taking Rossi at five.  But having said all this, I don’t believe they’ll be that extreme and instead be happy to get Stützle and Drysdale.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 5th

So I’m going with Raymond here, but I am telling you people DO NOT SLEEP ON KAIDEN GUHLE HERE!  This organization, which not that long ago had the best young blueline in the league, now lacks a stud D-man in their system and some of the kids on that amazing young blueline haven’t progressed the way most believed they would.  Add to this, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, another sneaky tie would be Josh Manson being from PA, his dad is tight with Raiders GM Curtis Hunt, Dave is tight with Bob Murray which is how Josh got drafted by the Ducks in the first place, I’m telling you, don’t sleep on that happening.  Anyway, I would put that at about 40% chance of happening, where the 60% goes is to one of the highly touted Swedish wingers, and I went with Raymond here over Holtz.  They haven’t taken a ton of kids out of Sweden in the last decade, but they’ve had some terrific picks with the ones they have taken.  Rossi would get consideration here, but I can’t see Bob Murray being ok with taking such an undersized centre (especially with the kids they have down the middle, size is needed), and they don’t go to the OHL well very often.  When they have (2014 Nick Ritchie, 2016 Max Jones) it hasn’t worked out too well.  So I wonder if that kills any chance of Cole Perfetti being considered here too?  So I’m saying Raymond, and the Paul Kariya comp I’ve been using for him all season comes full circle.

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7. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I repeat, this shit is chess…not checkers.  They possibly own three 1st round picks.  Barring Arizona winning Lafrenière, that will make two.  The Canucks have a tough first-round matchup with Minny, but I believe with a healthy Jacob Markstrom that they will beat Minny, so I’d say the chances are pretty strong the Devils will get all three picks.  Therein lies the rub.  The team picking at eight have a big need in net as well, so it is a good strategy to take the netminder while you can.  And for everyone shitting on taking a goaltender early, I get it.  Raw data shows that it’s risky.  But Askarov is much more so in the Luongo, DiPietro, Lehtonen, Fleury, and Price category.  Three of those five are hall of famers, Lehtonen had a solid career (much better career than most will remember) and people forget that DiPietro was on his way to a solid career but got derailed by injuries.  Then you look at the talent coming out of Russia between the pipes lately and it’s absurd, not to mention that the last two Russian goaltenders getting this type of pre-draft hype have either crushed it (Vasilevskiy) or looks like he’s about to (Samsonov).  It’s not exactly the risk some are making it out to be.  The fact is, he has franchise player type ability.  And the Devils need to sure up their netminding.  McKenzie Blackwood looked good, but he’s not nearly enough, and they don’t have anyone coming in the system.  You might say Gillies Senn, but just because he played in two games this season doesn’t make him a good prospect, it more so speaks to the lack of depth.  So I think it’s a strategic move here.  Take Askarov at seven because he might not be there with your other two picks.  But what will be there with those other two picks are talents similar to what you’d get at this point.

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8. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 7th

I love this pick for them.  They need someone in their system who can help Jack Eichel out with the heavy lifting.  Rossi is so far ahead of most kids with his 200 foot game at this age, and he’s ready to step in which isn’t a reason that I like him to go to the Sabres, but it’s a nice bonus.  Another nice bonus is that I hope Rossi is taken by a team in the East as he obviously would be if the Sabres get him.  Point, Aho, guys he compares favourably with, I’m not sure they would have been able to develop the way they have had they ended up in the West where you match up against a lot more power centres (Getzlaf, Kopitar, Toews, Scheifele, McKinnon, Draisaitl, O’Reilly, Johansen, etc).  If he’s here, I’ve really started to strongly believe that the pick will be Askarov.  If I’m Kevyn Adams, I’m doing EVERYTHING to ensure the goaltending position is shored up this off-season.  I’m well aware that they have a good one coming in Luukkonen, but he is far from a sure thing.  If you get Askarov, then things are a lot more settled at the position moving forward (not at all to suggest Askarov steps right in, he likely needs three more years of just development time alone).  But Rossi is a terrific fit for this organization given Casey Mittlestadt hasn’t progressed and they made the horrendous mistake of trading away Ryan O’Reilly.

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Soups Rankings: COVID-19 Break

This week SUCKS for me.  It’s starting to literally heat up outside.  I hate the heat.  I’m a fall/spring guy.  Friday was supposed to be the draft, which has become my Christmas, so I’m bitter that my Christmas got canceled (well, pushed back anyway).  Summer is here, which means a ton of people are going to try to convince me how life is so much better at the lake.  It is the most overrated thing on the planet.  If I can take the pontoon out and hang out, cool.  If I can go to the cabin and not work the whole day, cool.  If I can make BBQ a burger or two using a paper plate rather than having a five course meal with a sink full of dishes to wash after the fact, cool.  If I can go there and simply be bored rather than constantly have people who are unaware that they’re also so bored constantly on my ass to do something, cool.  None of that is ever possible, so I can’t stand the lake.  And many people in my life love the lake, so I am completely fucked.  I don’t hate the lake more than I love these people.  It’s CLOSE, but they scrape by for the win.

One good thing about THIS summer however is that we’re slowly moving towards sports starting up again!  MLB got their shit settled for now (I say for now, because I would bet big money that they don’t play in 2021 as they fight over the CBA), NHL training camps still seem as though they’re on track to start July 10th, and the NBA still seems to be going forward with their setup in Orlando.  So we’ll be getting back at it soon, and therefore I felt it was as good of time as any to put out my latest power rankings!

I did it a little differently this time.  We have two categories: the 24 teams who have a shot at the Cup, and the lottery teams.  With the lottery teams, I don’t rank how good they are, but rather where they’re at with their rebuilds.  And then of course the top 24 is pretty straight forward, though a ton of thought is given to things like their “play-in” round matchup, and the rust that I believe teams with a bye are going to have despite playing games while the “play-in” round is ongoing.

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Rebuild Rankings

I believe all these teams either are in a rebuild, or desperately need to rebuild.  There are a few teams who got into the top 24 who also qualify for this list, but for now I’m just going to stick to the seven teams who will be in the lottery on Friday (well…not San Jose…).

 

7. San Jose Sharks

This is a mess.  The cap is maybe the worst I’ve seen, they have nothing in the system, and they don’t own their top pick which has a great chance to end up top three.  This team might get back into the playoffs next season, but it would be completely hollow.  As it currently stands, at a minimum this team is completely fucked for the next five seasons.

 

6. Los Angeles Kings

They’re in a better spot than the Sharks that’s for sure, but it’s still rather bleak.  One thing I would say is that you shouldn’t get obsessed with a good system.  It’s nice, but you need elite pieces, and I don’t see any of the pieces they have becoming elite.  That isn’t to say they can’t get there, but all we can base it off of is what we know now.

 

5. Anaheim Ducks

Basically what I just said for the Kings, goes for the Ducks as well.  A couple of things that I like better about the Ducks though is the cap situation and guys like Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, and Gibson who are in their primes and on good contracts.  Their systems are about the same, so therefore I got the Ducks a spot ahead of them.

 

4. Detroit Red Wings

Not a whole lot different from the Kings and Ducks, as the Red Wings are still waiting for their big contracts to burn off the cap, and have yet to find those star pieces to build around.  The good news for the Wings though is they are guaranteed a top-four pick in this draft, which I believe will get them the first of those star pieces.

 

3. New Jersey Devils

The cap situation is great, and while they haven’t drafted a STAR player (though Hughes has that type of ability), they appear to be compiling the type of depth that can win in the league.  Also, the potential of three picks inside the top 20 is massive.

 

2. Ottawa Senators

What a difference a year can make.  Obviously the cap situation is great, but the depth of the organization is ridiculous, and they have a 25% chance of winning the 1st overall pick.  It’s not far fetched that the Sens own the 1st and 2nd picks in this draft.  Even if they end up with the 5th and 6th picks though, the amount of high-end talent this team is collecting is getting ridiculous.

 

1. Buffalo Sabres

I know this will be looked at as “WHAT?!?” with what has gone on there recently.  But the fact is that they have Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin to build around.  It isn’t impossible to find those pieces, but it’s damn near impossible.  So now it’s just a matter of filling out the roster, and that’s doable.  The new regime desperately needs to address the goaltending, but I believe that this team is a fringe playoff team with solid goaltending.  They simply just need to invest in it (which means make intelligent decisions, not just throw money at it).  Not to be forgotten, the cap situation is good too despite having 15 million tied up in Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo.  Even if the cap was as low as 80 million for next season, the Sabres will still have over 30 million in cap space.  It is a shit show organization right now, nobody knows that better than me as I’ve screamed for years now that people were jumping the gun on them.  But as long as Kevyn Adams isn’t a complete moron, they’re in a very good situation moving forward.

 

Playoff Rankings

Here’s the thing: We don’t know.  I can do these rankings 100 times over and still not have the correct order because nobody knows what in the actual FUCK we are going to see.  This is the most unpredictable hockey we will have seen since the 05-06 season.  I’ll do my best here to rank these teams in the order that I believe they should be in, but we don’t know who’ll be in shape, who won’t be, the impact the whole environment plays into it (the isolation, no crowds, etc) we just don’t know.  So when this is completely backward come October, I don’t want anyone hitting up @coldtakesexposed with this piece!  But if it’s spot on, then I want you all to kiss my ass and tell me how amazing I am…

 

24. Chicago Blackhawks

Some Oilers fans are worried about them, but the fact of the matter is that this team hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2016.  Toews, Keith, and Crawford aren’t what they once were.  Very good still, but not what they were.  And that experience doesn’t translate to empty arena’s and living in isolation, that part is all brand new for everyone.

 

23. Arizona Coyotes

The Taylor Hall experiment simply didn’t work.  Nor did the Phil Kessel experiment.  The belief was that the Darcy Kuemper injury derailed their season, but their goaltending was excellent while he was out.  So if they can’t win WITH amazing goaltending, then I’m not sure how they can do anything.

 

22. NY Islanders

This team was AWFUL after an amazing start.  From November 23rd on, they were 23rd in the league (points percentage).  From the start of 2020 on, they were 28th.  It’s not a good team on paper, and Barry Trotz can only do so much.  If Florida gets any kind of decent goaltending, I don’t see how the Islanders can beat them.

 

21. Montreal Canadiens

A fresh Carey Price…I’m not sure where this theory came from that a fresh Carey Price is unbeatable.  Has Carey Price put up incredible numbers in the month of October the last several seasons or something?  I will say though, I believe they’ll be a miserable out thanks to Price, their coach, and how miserable some of their guys can be to play against (Gallagher, Domi, etc).  Again I’ll say it, I hate the direction the Habs are going.  I strongly believe that they should have blown it up at the trade deadline and looked to truly rebuild it.  But they lucked out with the pause maybe more than anyone, and now they have a shot to do something.

 

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

They’re going to be fully healthy.  A fully healthy Blue Jackets club is going to give the Leafs problems.  They’re going to play their balls off, we know that, but do we seriously view them as any kind of threat to win it all should they get past Toronto?

 

19. Minnesota Wild

They were coming on STRONG down the stretch, but I have three pretty big concerns.  1) Bruce Boudreau always gets worked in the playoffs.  2) they got off to a dreadful start with this same roster.  3) Jacob Markstrom in the “play-in round”.  Can’t see them getting past Vancouver, and even if they did, can’t see them going far.

 

18. Florida Panthers

20 years ago we were asking if the real Slim Shady would please stand up.  Then, we would ask that of everyone.  Then, it got so annoying that it was stupid to say it.  Now 20 years have passed so I’m bringing it back and asking that the real Sergei Bobrovsky please stand up.  In other words, if he’s back to form, then the Panthers could go deep.  But given how he played this season, it’s a pretty big “if”.

 

17. NY Rangers

Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.  They have a chance to do some serious damage because of this tandem.  Panarin was incredible this season, but he can be shut down in a series.  Their goaltending was spectacular once Shesterkin arrived though.

 

16. Calgary Flames

They were playing their best hockey of the season when this all happened.  I was extremely hard on the Flames this season, but there was no denying that they had turned a corner.  Having said that, I still think that blueline is insanely overrated, and Johnny Gaudreau looked like a shell of himself all season.  You also have the question of whether or not they make the correct decision to start Cam Talbot, or their guy David Rittich?  I worry for them that they’ll go with the stick flipper, who was awful after that completely meaningless shootout win in Edmonton.  A Sv% of .885 in 11 starts following that night.

 

15. Dallas Stars

I strongly believe that everything which has happened is a disaster for the Stars.  They’re a heavy team that relies on wearing you down, and they can’t score.  We saw it early in the season, they got off to a dreadful start.  And then on top of that, the team they get is going to be conditioned much better.  I know they’ll play exhibition games and whatever the number of games the league has for the teams with a bye set to play, but it won’t be the same.  It’s all wrong for the Stars.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets and the Flames might be the biggest toss-up of all the “play-in round” series.  I like the Jets because I like their top-end talent better than the Flames, and I like their goaltending better than the Flames.  I have them playing the Blues in the “first round”, and while I like the Blues, the Jets match up extremely well with them.

 

13. Vegas Golden Knights

Every time I think they’re about to hit a roadblock, they pull something out of their ass and make me look very wrong!  But this isn’t just a Vegas thing, this is because of the bye which I don’t like for any of the eight teams which got one.  If things go the way I believe they will then the Knights play the Preds in the 2nd round…that’s not a good matchup for the Knights.

 

12. Vancouver Canucks

A healthy Jacob Markstrom and depth are the reasons I’d be pretty damn afraid of the Canucks.  I actually like how strong the Wild were coming on late in the season, and the Canucks were fading, but that was all injury-related.  They’ll have their MVP back along with Brock Boeser, and they’ll be tough.

 

11. Edmonton Oilers

I like this set up for them given how much Ken Holland improved the speed of the club, and how hard that Dave Tippett can ride his two horses.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oilers run 11 forwards and 7 D-men most nights.

 

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

There is basically only one reason I like the Leafs this high: the start of each of the last three seasons, they’ve been pretty lethal in October, and this is going to be a lot like October hockey.

 

9. Philadelphia Flyers

I very honestly apologize to Flyers fans if this seems too low for the team that was the best in the league from January 12th on.  But I just don’t see how they’re going to be much of a threat.

 

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Similar to the Flyers, but the two differences are that they proved themselves in the 2019 playoffs, and they have an incredible blueline.  If you read these power rankings throughout the season, you know I’ve been sky-high on the Canes the entire time, despite some of their struggles.  The Rangers are such an awful matchup for them, but if they can sneak by them, they’re in good shape.

 

7. Nashville Predators

They were my darkhorse team throughout the 2nd half of the season, and I believed that the adversity/struggle they faced all season was going going to be a blessing in disguise for such a well-rounded team come playoff time.  I’m not sure if that can carry over now, but the fact of the matter is that the Preds have one of the most complete rosters in the league.

 

6. Colorado Avalanche

It is a much more clear picture for me in the West than it is with the East.  I like the Avs to go deep, which is weird because I was telling people all season to pull back the reigns on them a bit as this was their first season emerging as a contender, which almost always results in a team being upset in the 1st or 2nd round.  But this setup looks great for them, and top to bottom this is just a damn solid club.

 

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

The question will be what will their goaltending give them.  From January 1st on, Matt Murray had a .905 Sv%, while Tristan Jarry who was amazing out of the gates, came crashing back to earth at .901.  If they get the goaltending, they’ll be lethal.  But that’s a big “if”.

 

4. Washington Capitals

It’s the same story for the Caps, except I trust Holtby to get back to what he’s capable of, despite the fact that he really hasn’t been the same goaltender since 2018 (and even that year it was just the playoff performance).  If they get the goaltending, they’re right there with my top three teams.

 

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

I feel very confident about the teams I have in my top three.  These three have the star power, depth, and goaltending to win.  The only thing I worry about for the Lightning is that I have them playing Toronto in the “first round”, and the Leafs or Jackets coming off a series could be a bitch for Tampa to handle.

 

2. Boston Bruins

The Bruins likely won’t have the concerns that the Lightning will with their “first round” opponent as they’re locked into the top seed.  It’ll be difficult for any of the top teams to play teams who have already played series, but I believe Boston will play the Panthers, and barring Bobrovsky getting his shit together, that series is all wrong for Florida.

 

1. St. Louis Blues

I worry about the speed factor out of the gates, but that’s about it.  I believe they’ll play the Jets in the “first round” which is a great matchup for the Blues.  Then they’d play the Preds which is another great matchup for them.  Now they’ve made it to the Conference final to play the Avs, and by that time I love the Blues playing playoff hockey.  So I love them to go to the final, and by that point it’ll truly be playoff hockey, so I really like the Blues to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

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