Into the second week of the second month of the 2021-22 NHL season, two Western Canadian teams have continued their climb up the power rankings, making homes in the Top 5 this week.
Plus, which players are the most underrated for each team? We’ve identified one for all 32 clubs here.
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 last week’s rankings, published on Nov. 3. Points percentages are through the games of Nov. 9.
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 0.808
Upcoming schedule: @ PIT (Nov. 11), @ TB (Nov. 13), vs. NYI (Nov. 16)
Anthony Duclair. It’s fashionable to say Aleksander Barkov is the most underrated of underrated players, but his teammate Duclair deserves a lot more love than he gets, too. The winger has a point in 10 of 13 games this season, and his eight goals are tied for fourth most in the NHL. Oh, and that’s with a $3 million cap hit.
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 0.909
Upcoming schedule: vs. PHI (Nov. 12), vs. STL (Nov. 13), @ VGK (Nov. 16)
Ethan Bear. No one expected Bear to fill Dougie Hamilton’s skates on Carolina’s blue line. All Bear had to do was be himself, a reliable, minutes-crunching guy who slots easily next to Jaccob Slavin on the Hurricanes’ second pairing. With little fanfare, Bear has delivered. Through Carolina’s first 10 games, Bear was getting the fewest offensive zone starts (37.5%) but had the best possession totals (57% Corsi for percentage) among the team’s defenders.
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 0.818
Upcoming schedule: @ BOS (Nov. 11), @ BUF (Nov. 12), @ STL (Nov. 14), @ WPG (Nov. 16)
Mikko Koskinen. Koskinen started as the Oilers’ No. 2, despite being paid like a No. 1 ($4.5 million cap hit). And he is fortunate to play behind two of the league’s most elite scorers (that’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) who provide solid goal support. But that shouldn’t take away from Koskinen’s own strong start. He’s stepped up since Mike Smith was injured in late October, producing a 7-1-0 record, with .920 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average. He’s tied for the second most wins in the league.
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 0.708
Upcoming schedule: @ MTL (Nov. 11), @ TOR (Nov. 12), @ OTT (Nov. 14), @ PHI (Nov. 16)
Elias Lindholm. We don’t talk enough about what Lindholm has been up to this season. First off, he’s been one of the Flames’ most consistently hard-working forwards. Then there’s the production: Lindholm got on the scoresheet in 10 of Calgary’s first 11 games, coming away with a team-leading seven goals while tying Johnny Gaudreau for the lead in points, with 14. And he was a league-leading plus-12 in that stretch, too.
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 0.773
Upcoming schedule: vs. NSH (Nov. 11), @ CAR (Nov. 13), vs. EDM (Nov. 14), vs. ARI (Nov. 16)
David Perron. The Blues have had a low-key great start to this season, and Perron has flown under the radar helping them do it. His six goals and 11 points lead the team while he was chewing up nearly 18 minutes per game at 33 years old. Perron was an asset when Ryan O’Reilly missed time early as well, keeping St. Louis on track for it’s 7-2-1 record through 10 games.
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 0.667
Upcoming schedule: @ DET (Nov. 11), @ CBJ (Nov. 12), vs. PIT (Nov. 14), @ ANA (Nov. 16)
Daniel Sprong. Anthony Mantha was pretty under-appreciated before being sidelined indefinitely by shoulder surgery last week. Which opens the door for the under-discussed Daniel Sprong to potentially do more for the Capitals. So far, Sprong has made the most of his opportunity playing just over 12 minutes per game and pocketing a couple goals. One of those was a breakaway on Florida’s phenom Spencer Knight, showcasing just how quick Sprong can move up the ice — and finish it when he gets a chance.
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 0.727
Upcoming schedule: @ ARI (Nov. 10), @ VGK (Nov. 11), @ SEA (Nov. 13), vs. SJ (Nov. 16)
Jonas Brodin. Brodin has been an unheralded piece of the Wild’s success this season. The top-pairing defenseman had two goals, six points and 27 shots on net through 11 games, along with the second most blocks on the team (18). Brodin has also produced strong overall stats, including 54.0% Corsi for percentage and 55.0% expected goals for percentage while averaging over 23 minutes of ice time per game.
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 0.625
Upcoming schedule: vs. FLA (Nov. 13), vs. NYI (Nov. 15)
Erik Cernak. Everyone on Tampa’s blue line lives — at least a little — in Victor Hedman’s shadow. So some of what Cernak’s doing well is bound to be lost. The 24-year-old has a definite presence on the ice, leading all Lightning skaters in hits (34) and is tied with Hedman for the second most blocks (24). Cernak also takes among the most defensive zone starts for Tampa, while still being on the right side of possession metrics.
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 0.600
Upcoming schedule: @ NJ (Nov. 11), @ TB (Nov. 15), @ FLA (Nov. 16)
Ryan Pulock. The Islanders are one of the NHL’s stingiest clubs (giving up 2.40 goals per game). Pulock has a lot to do with that. The defenseman has been criticized for sub-par numbers this season, but playing with 44-year-old Zdeno Chara is an adjustment. And still, Pulock recorded a team-leading 29 blocks in 10 games, leads the Islanders in average ice time (21:42 per game) and had some solid underlying stats, including a 50.0% expected goals for percentage.
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Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 0.654
Upcoming schedule: @CBJ (Nov. 13), vs. NJ (Nov. 14), vs. MTL (Nov. 16)
Chris Kreider. The Rangers rely heavily on their marquee players (that’s Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin) to produce. Kreider is right there with them, too. The winger netted eight goals (tied for fourth most in the NHL) and 10 points through 12 games, and levied the most hits among Rangers forwards (30). If Kreider doesn’t always demand the same spotlight as his peers, he certainly should.
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 0.577
Upcoming schedule: @ PHI (Nov. 10), vs. CGY (Nov. 12), @ BUF (Nov. 13), vs. NSH (Nov. 16)
Jason Spezza. When the Maple Leafs looked dead in the water this season, Spezza dragged them to shore. The 38-year-old was not only the Leafs’ leader in goals with three through five games, he has continued to be Toronto’s backbone while the Leafs’ stars picked up their pace. When the team’s power play was struggling, Spezza was a catalyst on the second unit to get things rolling. He’s being paid at a veteran’s minimum, but giving star-level effort.
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 0.625
Upcoming schedule: vs. SJ (Nov. 11), vs. LA (Nov. 13), vs. EDM (Nov. 16)
Kyle Connor. Connor is the new Barkov: He’s the best player on his team who just never seems to get enough attention anywhere else. But he should. Connor put up eight goals and 16 points in 11 games, led the Jets in shots (46), and already has five multi-points games. Connor certainly isn’t underrated by his team, and what he does for them should merit more conversation around the league.
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 0.625
Upcoming schedule: @ WPG (Nov. 11), @ COL (Nov. 13), @ MIN (Nov. 16)
Tomas Hertl. Perhaps Hertl would garner more talk if not for a slow start to the season. He’s been making up for lost time though. Hertl has been quietly consistent of late, gathering three goals and five points in four games after opening the season with three points in seven tilts. San Jose has been shorthanded due to COVID issues, and Hertl’s surge has been a big reason they’re staying on track.
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 0.700
Upcoming schedule: vs. TOR (Nov. 10), @ CAR (Nov. 12), @ DAL (Nov. 13), vs. CGY (Nov. 16)
Derick Brassard. Brassard, 34, chose to sign a league-minimum contract with Philadelphia last summer. He could have just been a depth piece, another center to complement Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton. Instead he unexpectedly became the Flyers’ second-line center, skating with Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee, taking a lot of neutral and defensive zone draws while tied for third in team points (7) through 10 games.
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 0.577
Upcoming schedule: @ OTT (Nov. 11), @ WPG (Nov. 13)
Alex Iafallo. Iafallo is a hidden gem this season. He’s second on the Kings’ in goals (5) and points (10) but has been their best forward possession-wise (61% Corsi for percentage) and is near the top in expected goals for percentage (56%). Iafallo drives play as well as anyone in L.A. this season, and has the high-end work ethic to be a difference-maker every night.
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Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 0.600
Upcoming schedule: vs. EDM (Nov. 11), @ NJ (Nov. 13), vs. MTL (Nov. 14)
Curtis Lazar. Though Lazar was hurt to start the season, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy still identifies him as someone stepping up for the Bruins in their time of need. Lazar hasn’t been lighting up the scoresheet (two assists in five games), but he’s a good support piece who’s been physical (11 hits) and excels in the face-off circle (55.6%). Boston will continue relying on him for more.
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 0.450
Upcoming schedule: vs. VAN (Nov. 11), vs. SJ (Nov. 13)
J.T. Compher. While the injury bug has been biting madly in Colorado, Compher has been making the most of his opportunity. Sliding all the way up to the Avalanche’s top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, Compher can go from center to the wing while bringing the same tenacious forecheck and responsible 200-foot game. And, his five goals through 10 games paced all Colorado skaters.
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 0.700
Upcoming schedule: vs. WSH (Nov. 12), vs. NYR (Nov. 13), vs. DET (Nov. 15)
Oliver Bjorkstrand. The American Midwest’s version of Kyle Connor, Bjorkstrand has been terrific in an under-appreciated start. He led the Blue Jackets through 10 games in goals (5) and points (13) while averaging a career high in ice time per game (18:21). Bjorkstrand has been putting NHL goalies on notice with his lightning-fast snapshot release and seems to show more of an improved two-way game every night.
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 0.545
Upcoming schedule: vs. FLA (Nov. 11), @ OTT (Nov. 13), @ WSH (Nov. 14), vs. BUF (Nov. 16)
Evan Rodrigues. The Penguins probably didn’t plan on using Rodrigues as a top-six center. Yet with the injuries piling up, Rodrigues has emerged with little fanfare as probably Pittsburgh’s best forward to start the season. He scored three goals in 10 games, was tied for the team lead in points, with seven, and has put the second most shots on goal (30). He’s an unheralded creator on the ice, too, with good zone entries that set the Penguins up for success.
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 0.542
Upcoming schedule: @ DAL (Nov. 10), @ STL (Nov. 11), vs. ARI (Nov. 13), @ TOR (Nov. 16)
Juuse Saros. There’s an unsung hero in Nashville, and his name is Juuse Saros. The Predators may be struggling in front of him, but Saros gives his team a better-than-good chance to win each night. Saros’ 5-4-1 record through 10 games did not reflect the terrific individual stats (.925 save percentage, 2.31 goals-against average after 10 games) or overall consistency he produced; since Nashville’s season opener, Saros hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a game.
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 0.607
Upcoming schedule: @ SEA (Nov. 11), vs. VAN (Nov. 14), vs. WSH (Nov. 16)
Troy Terry. Terry had 20 points in 48 games last season. Over a 12-game point streak to start this season, Terry already has 15. That’s the longest scoring run in the NHL this season, and yet Terry hasn’t drawn much chatter for his accomplishments. Don’t count on that lasting much longer though if Terry can keep up his torrid pace — and perhaps earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team?
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 0.636
Upcoming schedule: vs. NYI (Nov. 11), vs. BOS (Nov. 13), @ NYR (Nov. 14), vs. OTT (Nov. 16)
Dawson Mercer. For a 20-year-old still getting his feet wet, Mercer looks ready to jump all the way in. His game has some edge to it, and on a New Jersey team that doesn’t score a ton, Mercer has been keeping pace with three goals and seven points through 11 games, both of which are top five on the team.
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 0.500
Upcoming schedule: vs. EDM (Nov. 12), vs. TOR (Nov. 13), @ PIT (Nov. 16)
Craig Anderson. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Anderson was felled by an upper-body injury last week and has been unavailable in recent games. But the Sabres wouldn’t have been 5-1-1 to start the season without Anderson’s play. Take out a poor showing against San Jose, and Anderson has been rock solid, going 4-2-0 and sitting top-20 among NHL goalies in save percentage (.921) and goals-against average (2.50). Anderson has been doing it a long time, and this has been some of his better work.
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 0.455
Upcoming schedule: vs. NSH (Nov. 10), vs. PHI (Nov. 13), vs. DET (Nov. 16)
Michael Raffl. Dallas has star power in its ranks. But Raffl has been worth noticing. It’s not because the winger is anything flashy (Raffl had two goals and four points through 11 games), but rather his consistency that’s telling. Raffl rarely starts a shift in the offensive zone, but is workmanlike in his effort to get pucks back, and still hovers near 50% in possession. He’s also one of Dallas’ more physical players (with 24 hits) and was especially solid early for the Stars when others were not.
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 0.571
Upcoming schedule: vs. WSH (Nov. 11), vs. MTL (Nov. 13), @ CBJ (Nov. 15), @ DAL (Nov. 16)
Vladislav Namestnikov. The Red Wings’ rookies — and red-hot Tyler Bertuzzi — have pulled headlines, but Namestnikov is having a sneaky-good start of his own. His seven goals and nine points are both top five for the Wings. For a team that’s been seriously lacking in secondary scoring, Namestnikov has been the one to consistently answer that call.
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 0.538
Upcoming schedule: vs. MIN (Nov. 11), vs. VAN (Nov. 13), vs. CAR (Nov. 16)
Nicolas Roy. The Golden Knights have had forwards falling like flies due to injury. The quiet emergence of Nicolas Roy is lessening the pain. Since being elevated to play with Jonathan Marchessault, Roy recorded one goal and five points in three games, and peppered the Red Wings recently with seven shots on goal. Roy’s ice time has steadily increased to nearly 20 minutes per game, and the added responsibility shows how valuable an asset he’s become.
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 0.462
Upcoming schedule: @ COL (Nov. 11), @ VGK (Nov. 13), @ ANA (Nov. 14)
Nils Hoglander. Don’t judge Hoglander entirely on the scoresheet. His one goal and four points through 12 games hardly look impressive. In reality, Hoglander has been one of Vancouver’s best forwards. He’s a dynamic skater who makes crisp zone entries that lead to really good possession numbers (56% Corsi for percentage, best on the team) and creates a lot of opportunity (52% shots for percentage). Vancouver is out-attempting their opponents 107-91 when Hoglander is on the ice; all he has to do now is bury a few more pucks himself.
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 0.292
Upcoming schedule: vs. LA (Nov. 11), vs. PIT (Nov. 13), vs. CGY (Nov. 14), @ NJ (Nov. 16)
Artem Zub. Thomas Chabot gets a lot of love in Ottawa (and rightfully so). His defense partner Artem Zub, on the other hand, could use more limelight. Zub can eat up clock with the best of them (he’s averaging 23:23, top 20 in the NHL) and throws out more blocks (30) than anyone on the Senators’ roster. To top it off, when Zub is on the ice Ottawa consistently has one of the league’s best expected goal percentages.
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 0.346
Upcoming schedule: vs. ANA (Nov. 11), vs. MIN (Nov. 13)
Brandon Tanev. Tanev has been anything but a ghost for Seattle. In the Kraken’s first 12 games, Tanev pumped in a team-leading six goals, and handed out the most hits (43). Tanev doesn’t draw the same noise as a Jared McCann or Jordan Eberle (or even Yanni Gourde), but he’s consistent, physically imposing and gets the job done.
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 0.250
Upcoming schedule: vs. CGY (Nov. 11), @ DET (Nov. 13), @ BOS (Nov. 14), @ NYR (Nov. 16)
Artturi Lehkonen. Listen, things are tough all over in Montreal. But let’s give Lehkonen some due. He produced just one assist in 12 games, but had really good underlying numbers — the Canadiens are out-chancing opponents 96-61 when Lehkonen was on the ice and had a 64% expected goals for percentage, while his possession numbers were also great (61% Corsi for percentage). Those positives just haven’t translated where it counts.
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 0.286
Upcoming schedule: vs. ARI (Nov. 12)
Brandon Hagel. Before Hagel hurt his shoulder this week, he was something of a bright spot for the beleaguered Blackhawks. Hagel tallied three goals in five games prior to the injury, and has put in the effort night after night to earn more ice time. His overall stats (including a solid 55% Corsi for percentage) reflect that energy, too.
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 0.125
Upcoming schedule: vs. MIN (Nov. 10), @ CHI (Nov. 12), @ NSH (Nov. 13), @ STL (Nov. 16)
Karel Vejmelka. The Coyotes finally earned their first win of the season on Nov. 6 in what was Vejmelka’s worst game of the season (as in, he was pulled after allowing two goals in less than a minute kind of bad). However, Vejmelka has to be the most underrated part of Arizona’s season. Despite his 0-7-1 record behind a struggling Coyotes’ team, Vejmelka’s own stats (.920 save percentage, 2.60 goals-against average) were pretty top-notch. Chalk up that poor outing to some early-season exhaustion from carrying the team.
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