2021 NHL Power Rankings: Analyzing all 31 teams as new season begins

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Hockey is almost here!The 2020-21 NHL season will begin Wednesday, Jan. 13. The league successfully completed the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by using bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. The new season will not take place in a bubble, but several changes have been made to combat COVID-19. One of them is scheduling, and another is divisional realignment. The league has reorganized its teams into four new divisions for the 2020-21 campaign, including one division that includes each of the seven Canadian franchises.Here's our final preseason 2021 NHL power rankings before the puck drops this week.

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1/31

The Red Wings haven't made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, which is the team's longest drought since the early 1980s. Barring a miracle, that streak will extend in 2021. This will be another rebuilding year in Detroit.

2/31

The Kings came in at No. 2 on NHL Network's ranking of the top prospect pipelines. It's likely going to be another difficult season in Los Angeles, but the good news for the Kings is that plenty of help is on the way.

3/31

Free agent defenseman Ben Hutton reportedly is headed to Anaheim on a PTO. He'll add much-needed grit and experience to the Ducks' blue line.

4/31

It's been a while since a prospect arrived in Ottawa with as much fanfare and promise as Tim Stuetzle -- the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. He has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for a rebuilding Senators group.

5/31

The Jonathan Toews news was a tough blow for the Blackhawks. Not only is Toews still a really good player, he's the captain and leader of the franchise. 

If the Blackhawks believe they're headed for a rebuild, it would make sense to start one sooner rather than later.

6/31

Clayton Keller will be expected to take his game to a higher level with his eight-year, $57.2 million contract extension beginning this season. He has not scored 20 or more goals since the 2017-18 campaign.

7/31

For the Sharks to go anywhere in 2021, they need veteran defenseman Erik Karlsson to rediscover his previously elite form. Injuries have hampered him in recent years, but now that he's healthy, the Sharks should expect a bounce-back performance and plenty of scoring from him. 

8/31

The Devils signed Corey Crawford to a two-year contract worth almost $8 million in the offseason to be the team's starting goalie. Last week he retired from the NHL after a 10-year career that included two Stanley Cup titles with the Blackhawks.

9/31

The Wild are a fringe playoff team that probably needs one or two more additions before the trade deadline to give themselves a strong chance to earn a spot. 

10/31

Realignment didn't help the Sabres. They are in a very competitive East division and should have a tough time ending their nine-year playoff drought. That said, it will be fun to watch Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall form a connection on Buffalo's top line.

11/31

Veteran goaltender Carey Price posted a .909 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA last season, both of which need to improve in 2021 for Montreal to make the playoffs from the All-Canadian division. He still has six years left on his contract.

12/31

The Panthers paid former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky a lot of money in 2019 free agency to upgrade the team's goaltending, and he failed to do that with a 23-19 record, a .900 save percentage and a 3.23 GAA last season. Florida needs an improved Bobrovsky to return to the playoffs.

13/31

The future is bright at Madison Square Garden. NHL Network recently ranked the league's top prospect pipelines and the Rangers were in the No. 1 spot, led by 2020 first overall draft pick Alexis Lafrenière. 

14/31

The Predators lost some key forwards in the offseason, but the blue line anchored by Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis remains strong, and the goaltending tandem of Juuse Soros and Pekka Rinne is one of the league's best. Expect a lot of tightly contested low-scoring games in Nashville this season.

15/31

Patrik Laine showed up to Jets camp ready to play after an offseason full of trade rumors. Laine scored 44 goals in his second season, but he hasn't been able to duplicate that success over the last two years. Don't be surprised if the star right winger bounces back with another 40-goal campaign. He certainly has plenty to prove.

16/31

The Penguins aren't entering the season among the top contenders to win the Stanley Cup, but any team led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin must be taken seriously.

17/31

One of the best restricted free agents still unsigned is Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Blue Jackets should do everything possible to sign the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to a long-term contract. If that proves difficult, then a trade has to be considered. 

18/31

Mathew Barzal is no longer a restricted free agent after reportedly agreeing to a three-year contract worth $21 million over the weekend. The 23-year-old center is the Islanders' best player and tallied 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) in 68 games last season.

19/31

The Canucks were forced to cancel practice and workouts Sunday because of potential exposure to COVID-19. Before the announcement, the intensity in practices was pretty high, including a fight between teammates Adam Gaudette and Tyler Motte on Saturday (click here to watch the fight).

20/31

The Hurricanes had little chance to beat the Bruins in the first round of the 2020 playoffs when Andre Svechnikov suffered an ankle injury that ended his playoff run. Luckily for Carolina, the star winger is back on the ice and ready to begin the 2021 campaign. Don't be surprised if Svechnikov hits the 30-goal mark for the first time.

21/31

The Stars will open the defense of their Western Conference title with a 2020 Stanley Cup rematch against the Lightning on opening night followed by back-to-back games versus a pesky Predators squad. 

Dallas will need starting goalie Anton Khudobin to carry the team early in the season -- just like he did for most of the last year's playoffs.

22/31

Few teams will have more pressure to win in 2021 than the Oilers. They've reached the playoffs in only two of Connor McDavid's first five seasons and advanced past the second round zero times over that span. 

23/31

The Flames have reached the second round of the playoffs only once (2014-15) since losing Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.

For Calgary to make a deep run in 2021, it needs newly signed goalie Jacob Markstrom to improve the team's goaltending and star left winger Johnny Gaudreau to rediscover the form that helped him score a career-high 36 goals in 2018-19.

24/31

The Leafs are the best team in the All-Canadian division, which bodes well for their chances of winning a playoff round for the first time since 2004.

25/31

A lot of the buzz surrounding the Flyers involves Nolan Patrick, who's hoping to enjoy a bounce-back season after missing all of 2019-20 with a migraine disorder.

"(Patrick) came here in phenomenal shape. Since Day 1, he's been one of our best players on the ice," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault recently told reporters, per NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Patrick was the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and has high-end offensive talent.

26/31

The Blues wisely signed Mike Hoffman to a cheap professional tryout contract. The veteran winger should upgrade St. Louis' scoring depth in a meaningful way. Hoffman has scored 20 or more goals in six consecutive seasons.

27/31

The Bruins' brutal offseason continued in late December when Zdeno Chara signed with the Capitals in free agency following a 14-year career in Boston. His departure created a captain vacancy that has been filled by Patrice Bergeron. The B's will replace Chara with a group of mostly young defensemen trying to make a name for themselves at the NHL level, including former first-round draft picks Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen.

28/31

Signing veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara in free agency last month gives the Capitals blue line more leadership, toughness, experience and penalty killing skill. It was a tremendous low-cost addition for a Washington team in win-now mode.

29/31

Back-to-back playoff exits in the second round have Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon setting high goals for the upcoming season.

“Our expectation is to win the Cup, not just to claw and scrape our way into the playoffs,” MacKinnon told reporters last week, via the Denver Post.

30/31

Oddsmakers have pegged the Golden Knights as the favorites to win the Western Conference and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the franchise's brief history. It's not an unfair expectation, either, especially when you look at Vegas' excellent goaltending tandem of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.

31/31

Losing elite winger Nikita Kucherov for the regular season because of injury is a tough blow, but the Lightning should still have plenty of offensive firepower to finish atop the new Central Division.

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