NHL Power Rankings: 1-31 poll, plus every team’s X factor in the final month


It’s hard to believe, but we’re staring down the final month of the 2019-20 NHL regular season. For this week’s ESPN power rankings, we identified the X factor for each team down the stretch.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1-31, and those results are tabulated to the list featured here. Teams are rated through Tuesday night’s games, taking into account overall record, recent success and other factors such as injuries.

Last week’s rankings

Note: Standings point pace is based on games through March 4. Many stats are courtesy of Hockey Reference.

Previous ranking: 1
Standings point pace: 117

Jake DeBrusk (in a contract year) has been a streaky scorer in his three seasons with the Bruins. His goal total is down a bit this season, but he still has a chance to get hot, which would add an extra dimension to Boston’s middle six.

Previous ranking: 5
Standings point pace: 110

No question, Vladimir Tarasenko‘s return is the biggest X factor for the Blues. The fact that St. Louis was quiet at the trade deadline signals it expects its sniper back sooner rather than later.

Previous ranking: 6
Standings point pace: 110

A huge part of the Avalanche game plan is their ability to stay disciplined. They lead the league with a plus-34 in net penalties. But they need to be better on the power play; they’re a bottom-third team, converting at only 18.2%.

Previous ranking: 2
Standings point pace: 108

GM Julien BriseBois traded for Barclay Goodrow because he believed he’s an underrated player. Many balked at the price (a first-round pick) for a 27-year-old whose career high is 25 points. Here’s to Goodrow being the X factor down the stretch for Tampa.

Previous ranking: 3
Standings point pace: 108

The Caps acquired Brenden Dillon ahead of the trade deadline for depth, in part because Michal Kempny has been struggling. If Kempny finds his game again, Washington will be extra dangerous heading into April.

Previous ranking: 8
Standings point pace: 105

The Flyers have been without Nolan Patrick all season, as the 21-year-old manages a migraine disorder. If he returns at any point this season, it will give Philly the No. 3 center it has long coveted.

Previous ranking: 7
Standings point pace: 102

Denis Gurianov leads the Stars with 20 goals this season, but his usage has been puzzling (he averages less than 13 minutes per game). Could an expanded role lead to even more production?

Previous ranking: 9
Standings point pace: 99

Over the past month, the Golden Knights have the second-worst penalty kill in the league (67.6%) and it has been just as bad at home as on the road. They’ll need to clean that up before the playoffs.

Previous ranking: 4
Standings point pace: 103

There are a few factors behind the Penguins’ recent six-game slide. But maybe it’s no coincidence that once Pittsburgh got blueliners John Marino and Brian Dumoulin back, they were able to snap it.

Previous ranking: 13
Standings point pace: 98

We know Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have been producing at wicked rates this season, but the rest of the Oilers have struggled to keep pace. The Oilers are hoping speedy trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou can be that guy.

Previous ranking: 10
Standings point pace: 98

The Isles’ “identity line” of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin have played in fewer than 20 games together so far. Get them back together down the stretch — Cizikas remains out — and the Isles are in better shape.

Previous ranking: 14
Standings point pace: 95

Ice-time leader Morgan Rielly hasn’t played since Jan. 12 because of a broken foot. Reilly’s projected return next week could be the perfect boost for this defense-challenged team (during Reilly’s absence, only the Red Wings have given up more goals per game than the Leafs).

Previous ranking: 11
Standings point pace: 96

How the Canes fare in back-to-backs could seal their playoff fate. Of Carolina’s remaining 18 games, eight are back-to-back sets. The Canes have gone 6-3-2 in games with zero days rest so far this season.

Previous ranking: 12
Standings point pace: 93

Vancouver fans are anxious to know how serious Jacob Markstrom‘s injury is, and if he can return this season. The Canucks have looked flustered since he has been out, and their once-stable playoff hopes are now in jeopardy.

Previous ranking: 19
Standings point pace: 92

After both scoring at a pace higher than a point per game last season, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau‘s production has regressed. Both are still dangerous offensively, and can be game-breakers.

Previous ranking: 16
Standings point pace: 92

Chris Kreider was playing some of the best hockey of his career when he broke his foot. Finding a competent left wing replacement for Mika Zibanejad‘s line is crucial for a team on the playoff bubble.

Previous ranking: 15
Standings point pace: 95

I asked GM Jarmo Kekalainen this week what he believed the X factor for his team would be: “We’ve got to keep believing. That’s the only way we’re going to get any success, that’s the only reason we’ve succeeded so far.”

Previous ranking: 21
Standings point pace: 89

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has helped the Jets — and their pedestrian blue-line group — stay afloat this season. Hellebuyck has the second-most starts in the league, trailing only Carey Price, and you can bet the Jets will use him a ton in their wild-card push.

Previous ranking: 23
Standings point pace: 91

There are few players hotter in the NHL right now than Kevin Fiala. The Wild are within reach of a playoff spot, and if they keep getting goals from the once-prized Predators prospect, Minnesota might just have a shot.

Previous ranking: 17
Standings point pace: 91

It hasn’t been pretty for the Panthers lately. If they have any shot at the playoffs, they need to play better at home. Since the All-Star break, Florida has lost seven straight home games. They have eight games in Sunrise remaining.

Previous ranking: 18
Standings point pace: 89

When Ryan Ellis was injured during the Winter Classic, he was playing like a Norris Trophy candidate. Ellis missed 20 games, but his return has been seamless, and could help separate the Preds from the pack in the wild-card race.

Previous ranking: 20
Standings point pace: 88

Fans have put a lot of pressure on splashy acquisitions Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel to preform, but the X factor on offense might be homegrown Clayton Keller, who has been amping up his production of late.

Previous ranking: 22
Standings point pace: 86

Since it’s looking like a lost season, we’ll be monitoring a move for the future. Will the Habs sign Cole Caulfield after his freshman season in Wisconsin, or convince him another year in college will be better for his development?

Previous ranking: 25
Standings point pace: 84

Dylan Strome will be due a big extension this summer. It’s going to be expensive, but how he finishes the season might determine just how pricey. It has been at times a frustrating campaign for Strome, though strong play last season proved he can be a centerpiece for this retooling team moving forward.

Previous ranking: 24
Standings point pace: 82

The Sabres went 2-12-2 in March last season, which resulted in the firing of coach Phil Housley. Similar results could also provoke change, but this time we’re looking at GM Jason Botterill.

Previous ranking: 27
Standings point pace: 80

We’ll be keeping an eye on 23-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood for the next month. The restricted free-agent-to-be has been making his case lately that he’s New Jersey’s goaltender of the future.

Previous ranking: 26
Standings point pace: 75

Over the final month of the season, the Ducks have a keen interest in 35-year-old David Backes. There wasn’t a role for Backes anymore in Boston, but Anaheim is hoping he can still contribute in the NHL.

Previous ranking: 28
Standings point pace: 77

All of a sudden, the Sharks are showing signs of life with a nice three-game winning streak. Can Martin Jones (.950 save percentage over his past three) build momentum to bring into next season?

Previous ranking: 29
Standings point pace: 71

Marcus Hogberg was the Senators de facto No. 1 goaltender, but he is back in Sweden for personal reasons. Ottawa will now turn to 38-year-old Craig Anderson — probably in his swan song — to finish out the season.

Previous ranking: 30
Standings point pace: 70

A team squarely in the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes will spend the final month seeing what they have in 25-year-old goaltender Cal Petersen, whose path to being a full-time NHLer was cleared by the Jack Campbell trade.

Previous ranking: 31
Standings point pace: 42

The Red Wings were the first team to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention before the trade deadline since the 2003-04 Penguins. Now we’ll see if Detroit can pull off a full-on tank, like those Pens did (which landed them Evgeni Malkin No. 2 overall).

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