NHL Power Rankings: Top injury concern for all 31 teams
We’re just a few games into the 2018-19 season, but there’s already been some movement in the ESPN NHL Power Rankings. Here’s our latest rundown, along with the top early health concern for all 31 teams.
Note: These rankings reflect which teams our voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams would be favored against lower-ranked teams.
Preseason ranking: 3
There are no early injury concerns to report in Toronto right now. There are early concerns about a defense that’s let up 20 goals in five games, but hey, the offense is as good as advertised.
Preseason ranking: 4
It’s been a healthy early going for the Predators. The only thing the Predators are ailing from is criticism for their curious banner-raisings. (Regular-season Western Conference champions? Really?)
Preseason ranking: 5
It’s been minor maintenance so far for the defending Stanley Cup champions. The only current injury is a lower-body designation for Travis Boyd (who was seen in a protective boot). Boyd battled with Nic Dowd for the fourth-line center job in camp, so Dowd assumes the role by default.
Preseason ranking: 2
The Lightning have only played two games thus far (weird scheduling quirks) but will get a boost with the return of Tyler Johnson. Ryan Callahan is still rehabbing his right shoulder. He’s skating, but aiming for a November return.
Preseason ranking: 1
Well, a healthy team is usually a successful team — especially when that healthy team also happens to be one of the NHL’s most stacked. So far, so good for Blake Wheeler & Co.
Preseason ranking: 9
Defenseman Torey Krug remains on injured reserve with an ankle injury he sustained in a preseason game. Krug, who has been wearing a walking boot, will be re-evaluated in a little over a week. Krug usually quarterbacks the power play, which has still been effective early (four goals on nine opportunities in four games).
Preseason ranking: 18
Great news: Ryan Kesler scored in his return, and his dragged-out comeback from hip surgery in summer 2017 might finally be complete. Bad news: Ryan Getzlaf is out, but general manager Bob Murray says the veteran’s groin injury is not as bad as feared. He could be back next week.
Preseason ranking: 8
It’s concerning that 24-year-old Matt Murray has been diagnosed with a concussion for the third time in his NHL career. (Last February, the goaltender was concussed in practice and missed nearly a month.) Murray was skating Thursday; in the meantime, Pittsburgh will rely on its in-house backups, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.
Preseason ranking: 22
Amid all the fun in Carolina is a goalie shuffle! Scott Darling‘s comeback season has been halted by a lower-body injury (no timetable to return), which led the team to pick up Curtis McElhinney on waivers. What does McElhinney’s strong debut mean for Darling and Petr Mrazek? We don’t know, but we’re grabbing the popcorn.
Preseason ranking: 11
The blue line is getting healthier. Scott Harrington came back from injured reserve and No. 1 defenseman Seth Jones (knee) isn’t far off at all. Brandon Dubinsky‘s oblique injury — he’ll be out at least a month — is a damper, because his line looked great early.
Preseason ranking: 6
The Sharks are spreading good news about Joe Thornton‘s latest knee setback. It’s only an infection, coach Peter DeBoer said, with no structural damage. That means Jumbo Joe’s stint on injured reserve should not be prolonged.
Preseason ranking: 13
The Kings are without starting goaltender Jonathan Quick, who is still not skating with the team after sustaining a lower-body injury. Backup Jack Campbell doesn’t have a ton of experience (five NHL starts prior to this season), but the No. 11 overall pick in 2010 posted 36-plus saves in each of his first two starts before a 40-save shutout of the Canadiens.
Preseason ranking: 14
It’s an important season for Martin Hanzal, who has now undergone three back surgeries in his career and played only 109 games over the past three seasons. The 31-year-old center, who carries a $4.75 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season, is looking at a late November return, optimistically.
Preseason ranking: 20
The Avalanche have stayed relatively healthy, but the injury history with Conor Timmins is worrisome. He’s currently out with a concussion. The defenseman is an important part to the Avalanche’s future, and the absence not only limits his chance of making an impact this season, but could hamper his development.
Preseason ranking: 17
Cory Schneider is back practicing with the team, which means the Devils could get their top goaltender back soon. The big question is if Schneider will automatically assume the No. 1 role or if he’ll begin by platooning with Keith Kinkaid.
Preseason ranking: 24
Any minor injuries pale against the status of goalie Corey Crawford, who has been sidelined since last December after a concussion. Coach Joel Quenneville keeps circling Oct. 18 as the date for a return, and Blackhawks fans are antsy as free-agent plug-in Cam Ward has been underwhelming (including an .867 save percentage).
Preseason ranking: 12
Preseason ranking: 10
Robby Fabbri is a promising talent, but his career has been sidetracked by injuries (he last played in a game Feb. 4, 2017). This was the season he was supposed to be healthy, but the Blues are taking a patient approach as he rehabs his knee. He has yet to play in a game.
Preseason ranking: 15
A team that was decimated by injuries last season begins the season with … nobody on the injury report? That’s all we’ll say, because we don’t want to jinx anything.
Preseason ranking: 7
Paul Stastny will miss at least three games with a lower-body injury, which should be minor. Alex Tuch, also with a lower-body injury, is in a bit of a murkier situation. The middle-six winger isn’t with the team on its current road swing, and it’s unclear when he’ll be debuting.
Preseason ranking: 19
Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson hit heralded Flames rookie Dillon Dube in the season opener — and Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic took umbrage. Hamonic fought the (much bigger) Gudbranson and is now week-to-week with a facial fracture.
Preseason ranking: 26
It appears Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) is nearing a return. He’ll likely slide onto the Islanders’ third line, at wing alongside Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov. New York’s bottom-six talent remains an area of concern.
Preseason ranking: 16
Roberto Luongo is out two to four weeks because of an MCL strain, which once again thrusts James Reimer into a bigger role. Reimer is a capable backup goaltender — and kept the Panthers afloat in extended action last winter — so no reason to fully fret.
Preseason ranking: 25
A lower-body injury has sidelined defenseman Zach Bogosian for the first three games. Injuries have plagued the 28-year-old throughout his career (he’s played more than 72 games only once in his 10-year career, and played only 18 games last season).
Preseason ranking: 28
We were worried about the Canadiens’ blue line in the preseason, and now we’re really worried about it. Star defenseman Shea Weber is out until at least December, and David Schlemko is out six weeks with a knee injury. Another rough start for Schlemko, who didn’t make his debut last season until Nov. 29 (hand).
Preseason ranking: 23
For a team struggling with offense (two goals in three games) there are great expectations for newly acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk, who sustained a lower-body injury in training camp. Updates from coach Rick Tocchet have been vague, and Galchenyuk’s not yet practicing — not great.
Preseason ranking: 29
Free-agent acquisition Antoine Roussel missed training camp with a concussion, but on Thursday coach Travis Green said he’s getting closer. When he’s ready to play, the Canucks will have to decide which young player gets bumped out (for now).
Preseason ranking: 31
Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau tore his Achilles tendon during fitness testing on the first day of training camp. That’s just the way things have been for these Senators. Surgery sidelines Pageau roughly four to six months; he’s hopeful he can return this season.
Preseason ranking: 30
The blue line is looking thin, but the biggest absence has been Mike Green. The veteran D-man is out for undisclosed time after battling a virus attacking his liver (the worst appears to be over). Rookie Dennis Cholowski took Green’s spot on the top pairing — and now he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Preseason ranking: 27
Fans might take Kevin Shattenkirk‘s healthy-scratch designation Thursday night against the Sharks as a benching, but coach David Quinn wants to remind us all that New York’s highest-paid defenseman is still recovering from major knee surgery — and his shaky start is likely a byproduct of that.
Preseason ranking: 21
The season hasn’t started out great for the Oilers in the standings, but at least everyone’s healthy at the moment! So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.