The calendars are poised to flip from 2022 to 2023, and while it’s not precisely the midpoint of the NHL regular season, it’s a good time to take stock of where teams fall short. For this week’s edition of the Power Rankings, we identify a New Year’s resolution for all 32 clubs.
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 most recent edition, published Dec. 23. Points paces are through Thursday’s games.
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 84.29%
Next seven days: vs. BUF (Dec. 31), vs. PIT (Jan. 2), @ LA (Jan .5)
Sign David Pastrnak to a long-term deal. Boston is, without question, having a sensational season. What can make 2023 even brighter is signing arguably its most important player of the present — and future — in Pastrnak. The Bruins’ electric goal scorer has earned a hefty new paycheck, and GM Don Sweeney can take a distraction off the table by getting that deal done.
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 74.29%
Next seven days: vs. FLA (Dec. 30), @ NJ (Jan. 1), @ NYR (Jan. 3), vs. NSH (Jan. 5)
Avoid complacency. Carolina is ending 2022 as an all-around powerhouse, solid from top to bottom and owning an ongoing, franchise-record 15-game point streak. The Hurricanes need to channel that same energy into 2023, while remaining adaptable to change. Max Pacioretty will enter — and alter — the lineup at some point. And is Carolina open to trade talks — perhaps around adding a top-nine center — to improve its odds come the playoffs? Never stop improving, right?
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 69.44%
Next seven days: @ COL (Dec. 31), vs. STL (Jan. 3), vs. SEA (Jan. 5)
Don’t overthink it. Toronto has a good thing going (like, two regulation losses since early November, good). The Leafs have weathered every injury storm with continued success, and now they’re getting healthier as Morgan Rielly returned from injury and Rasmus Sandin is recovering, too. More available options will require shuffling at 5-on-5 and special teams, but Toronto shouldn’t feel pressured to reinvent the wheel in 2023, reworking players into different rotations. Stay calm and carry on.
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 67.57%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Dec. 31), @ LA (Jan. 3), @ ANA (Jan. 4)
Bear down on defense. Dallas has been so electric offensively and enjoyed such solid goaltending that it’s been easy to overlook any defensive deficiencies. But if the Stars have a weakness it might be from their blue line, and ensuring that back end is in as good a shape as possible in 2023 should be a priority.
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 65.79%
Next seven days: vs. NSH (Dec. 31), @ COL (Jan. 2), vs. PIT (Jan. 5)
Learn to love home. Vegas is the NHL’s best road team (14-2-1). At home? Not so much (10-9-0). The Golden Knights don’t need to — or frankly have the salary cap space to — make sweeping changes on the ice. They’re leading the Pacific Division and have remained a solid top-tier team for months. So, being a mediocre home team isn’t the vibe Vegas wants to continue through 2023.
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 65.71%
Next seven days: @ PIT (Dec. 30), vs. CAR (Jan. 1), @ DET (Jan. 4), vs. STL (Jan. 5)
Take it slow. New Jersey’s incredible 13-game winning streak bred confidence. That’s what the Devils must tap back into. Losing seven of eight going into the holiday break stung, and it’s natural New Jersey wants to rebound fast. But there’s a reason quick fixes never work in the new year. It’s all about sustainable success for the Devils in 2023, and that comes through staying focused on each game as it comes.
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 66.18%
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Dec. 31), @ CHI (Jan. 3), @ MIN (Jan. 4)
Embrace the early grind. Tampa Bay has a potential make-or-break stretch to start 2023 — and that’s barely an exaggeration. The Lightning’s calendar flip includes 13 of their first 20 games on the road through a pair of extended Western Conference trips. It’s a tough way to start the new year, but Tampa Bay can succeed with a proper road warrior mentality.
Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 62.86%
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Dec. 30), @ BOS (Jan. 2), @ VGK (Jan. 5)
Fix the bottom six. Pittsburgh has star power leading its offense. What it needs is a better supporting cast. The Penguins’ third line could use a makeover now that Jeff Carter has cooled and Kasperi Kapanen has scored just five goals this season. Is it a retool? Is it a trade? Pittsburgh must be determined in resolving its most glaring issue.
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 60.00%
Next seven days: @ STL (Dec. 31), vs. TB (Jan. 4)
Go all-in up front. Minnesota overcame a slow start at the beginning of the season to end 2022 as one of the league’s hottest teams. The Wild can maintain their momentum in 2023 by scouring the trade market for the right top-six forward, who will bolster their offense through the winter and put them in position for a long spring ahead.
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 60.61%
Next seven days: vs. EDM (Dec. 30), vs. NYI (Jan. 1), @ EDM (Jan. 3), @ TOR (Jan. 5)
Exude (even more) attitude. Seattle seems to thrive as an underdog, with an us-against-the-league mentality worth carrying into 2023. When the Kraken didn’t have a Vegas-like start to their franchise history last season, it was easy to write them off as a long-term project. Now, Seattle is the playoff hunt with an unheralded top-10 offense. Talk about a turnaround.
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 61.54%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Dec. 31), vs. DAL (Jan. 3), vs. BOS (Jan. 5)
Protect Pheonix Copley (at all costs). Los Angeles went from 26th in goals-against average through early December to 13th in GAA since netminder Pheonix Copley took over on Dec. 6. Small sample size? Maybe. But when the Kings are executing so well defensively in front of a goaltender who’s coming up with timely saves, it’s the combination L.A. needs to extend its winning ways in 2023.
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 62.50%
Next seven days: @ EDM (Dec. 31), vs. CGY (Jan. 3)
Dig deep(er). Winnipeg has been decimated by key injuries. The Jets’ schedule has been tough. But ending 2022 with the first three-game skid of their season is motivation enough for the Jets to recapture their resiliency, encourage more role players to step up and start 2023 on a higher note.
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 59.21%
Next seven days: vs. MTL (Dec. 31), vs. BUF (Jan. 3), @ CBJ (Jan. 5)
Don’t change much. Washington helped Alex Ovechkin make history in 2022. In 2023, the Capitals’ only focus should be maintaining December’s full-team success. Washington went 10-2-1 into the final week of this month, winning in all manner of ways that showed how resilient this team can be. Having Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin back will help the Caps stay steady, too.
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 59.46%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 1), vs. CAR (Jan. 3), @ MTL (Jan. 5)
Keep on the kids. New York’s season took a turn when its young players stepped onto center stage. Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller and more have ramped up their contributions across the board. And yet, Lafreniere was a recent healthy scratch as coach Gerard Gallant continues shuffling his offense. Still, the Rangers will be at their best in 2023 if those talents can remain reliable and give the offense a depth it was lacking earlier.
Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 60.29%
Next seven days: vs. TOR (Dec. 31), vs. VGK (Jan. 2), @ VAN (Jan. 5)
Get — and stay — healthy. Colorado’s quest for back-to-back Stanley Cup titles hinges on health. The Avalanche need all their key parts — Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, Josh Manson et al — to actually be on the ice together. That’s where the true magic of 2023 will lie for this group.
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 54.41%
Next seven days: vs. OTT (Dec. 31), vs. NJ (Jan. 4)
Give Ville Husso a break. Detroit’s long-term success could hinge on a shorter-term decision, and that’s more nights off in 2023 for Ville Husso. The netminder has been among Detroit’s best players this season despite a heavy workload, starting 23 of its first 32 games. That’s unsustainable, especially if the Red Wings see a playoff berth in their future. One of Alex Nedeljkovic or Magnus Hellberg needs to be a better support system.
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 59.46%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 1), @ VAN (Jan. 3), @ EDM (Jan. 5)
Don’t wait for the deadline. New York GM Lou Lamoriello played it safe in the offseason by adding basically no one new to the roster. That strategy might not work again in 2023. Key injuries to players like Adam Pelech, Kyle Palmieri and even Semyon Varlamov have dropped the Islanders out of a playoff spot. New York shouldn’t hesitate to identify reinforcements right away.
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 55.56%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Dec. 30), vs. WPG (Dec. 31), vs. SEA (Jan. 3), vs. NYI (Jan. 5)
Lean into an identity. Edmonton’s success in 2023 will involve more than just a league-leading goal scorer in Connor McDavid. The Oilers’ focus should also be their team defense, where forwards are buying in like they did when Edmonton plowed its way through two playoff rounds last spring. More of that in the new year will make the Oilers truly dangerous.
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 55.41%
Next seven days: vs. VAN (Dec. 31), @ WPG (Jan. 3)
Be more disciplined. Calgary has taken the third-most minor penalties in the league this season and is bottom 10 in power-play goals against (27) even with a solid penalty kill (80.7%). The Flames have struggled to establish an identity after their extensive offseason changes, and any sort of penalty box parade inhibits their ability to build that chemistry and get back to a defense-first system that has served them well in the past.
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 54.55%
Next seven days: @ BOS (Dec. 31), @ OTT (Jan. 1), @ WSH (Jan. 3)
Stay the course. Buffalo might look at its recent run of success — including a season-high, four-game win streak and Tage Thompson‘s explosive first half — as a sign to push the pace on its rebuilding process. Really, it’s a lack of pressure that could be benefiting the Sabres. Expectations for 2023 should remain on improving and learning, even when it’s painful. That’s where continued growth will be.
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ CGY (Dec. 31), vs. NYI (Jan. 3), vs. COL (Jan. 5)
Make up your mind(s). Vancouver has had a lot to unpack this season. How much baggage do the Canucks want to drag into 2023? Bo Horvat‘s contract status (or trade potential) looms large. The Canucks’ on-ice inconsistency — entertaining offense supplemented by head-scratching defense — has been frustrating but also revealed flashes of Vancouver’s(potential for greatness. If they can iron out their execution — and maybe resolve Horvat’s situation sooner than later — there’s hope yet for the Canucks in 2023.
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Dec. 30), vs. NYR (Jan. 1), vs. ARI (Jan. 3)
More reliable goaltending. Florida leads the league in shots on goal (36.7 per game), averages a respectable 3.23 goals per game and is top five in expected goals … yet the results are inconsistent. Improved goaltending would help. This season, Sergei Bobrovsky is 7-11-1 with an .895 SV% and Spencer Knight clocks in at 8-5-3 with a .909 SV%. One of them needs to regularly step up so the Panthers can achieve their full potential.
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ ANA (Dec. 30), @ VGK (Dec. 31), vs. MTL (Jan. 3), @ CAR (Jan. 5)
Establish some stability. Nashville sits 30th this season in goals scored (2.48 per game). The Predators’ top players have produced sporadically, setting up a feast-or-famine scenario that’s not helping anyone. Nashville must resolve to start spreading the wealth more evenly.
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 51.39%
Next seven days: vs. MIN (Dec. 31), @ TOR (Jan. 3), @ NJ (Jan. 5)
Find solid ground. St. Louis takes top prize as 2022’s most dramatic NHL team (on the ice, at least). What the Blues want in 2023 is a real leg to stand on. Too often St. Louis is shooting itself in the foot, delaying its own progress while failing to sustain the highs and limit the lows. It’s time to get off the roller coaster.
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ DET (Dec. 31), vs. BUF (Jan. 1), vs. CBJ (Jan. 3)
Buy-in from the blue line. Ottawa has a defensive-minded coach in D.J. Smith. The Senators also have a banged-up back end that narrowly avoided losing Jake Sanderson earlier this week. Smith preaches regularly about the need for improved team defense, and short of trading for another defender, that’s the Senators’ best path toward more optimal results in 2023.
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 45.83%
Next seven days: @ WSH (Dec. 31), @ NSH (Jan. 3), vs. NYR (Jan. 5)
Enjoy the ride. Montreal’s surprising strong play early this season tapered off in December. That’s no reason for the Canadiens to hang their heads going into 2023. Montreal has an impressive depth of young talent — on its roster now and waiting in the wings — plus there are those increased draft lottery odds that come with a fall down the standings. These ups and downs are teachable moments from which the Canadiens stand to benefit down the road.
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 43.06%
Next seven days: @ LA (Dec. 31), @ ANA (Jan. 2), vs. ARI (Jan. 5)
Appreciate the good things. Philadelphia’s luck isn’t all bad. The Flyers dodged a major bullet with Carter Hart‘s recent injury (he’s practically back already), Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk are playing well (could either be key trade bait?), Morgan Frost and Cam York are breaking through, and the Flyers are headed for a high draft pick. Plenty of potential positives ahead for the Flyers in 2023.
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 45.59%
Next seven days: @ TB (Dec. 31), @ FLA (Jan. 3), @ PHI (Jan. 5)
Play the spoiler. Arizona might not be on a playoff track — but it can beat teams that are. The Coyotes topped the Bruins, Islanders, Kings and Avalanche in December, an impressive run through some good clubs. So while Arizona figures out what to do with Jakob Chychrun — an outcome we’d all like to witness in 2023 — the team can enjoy its role as an underrated opponent.
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 39.19%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Dec. 31), @ CHI (Jan. 1)
Look forward to the future. San Jose might swing a massive Erik Karlsson trade that returns impactful young players. But the Sharks already have a slew of burgeoning talents worth appreciating, from William Eklund to Thomas Bordeleau. The organization’s depth is what should have San Jose excited for 2023, and all the possibilities those newcomers could have down the line.
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 32.35%
Next seven days: vs. CHI (Dec. 31), @ OTT (Jan. 3), vs. WSH (Jan. 5)
Stay in the fight. Columbus was dealt a tough hand with injuries. That shouldn’t stop the Blue Jackets from staying competitive in 2023. During a season in which seemingly no lead is safe, the Blue Jackets are 3-16-1 when giving up the first goal this season, pointing to a lack of confidence in their ranks to overcome adversity. Regardless of the standings — or other hardships faced — the Blue Jackets have to bring real belief in each other to the new year.
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 29.41%
Next seven days: @ CBJ (Dec. 31), vs. SJ (Jan. 1), vs. TB (Jan. 3)
Cut the cord (or don’t). Chicago has been in will-they-or-won’t-they limbo on trading Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for a while. The team’s lack of success makes it a front-runner in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, and the team’s veteran pillars deserve a chance to play elsewhere (if they want). Chicago should be earnestly assessing how that could play out in 2023.
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 33.33%
Next seven days: vs. NSH (Dec. 30), vs. PHI (Jan. 2), vs. DAL (Jan. 4)
Keep an eye on the prize. Anaheim has been perched near the bottom of the standings most of this season. Losing is about as un-fun as it gets. However, the prospect of landing that No. 1 overall pick in 2023 draft is exhilarating when the likes of Connor Bedard will be there waiting. That possibility is worth the struggle for this young team.