NHL Power Rankings: 2017-18 Way-Too-Early Edition, Part I

DENVER, CO - APRIL 04: Matt Duchene
DENVER, CO - APRIL 04: Matt Duchene /

After all the moving and shaking this offseason, the dust has finally settled to the point where we can produce some way-too-early NHL power rankings

The NHL expansion draft helped shape this season in a very different way. The NHL Entry Draft produced plenty of youngsters worth looking out for. The last prospect camp this offseason started Monday. With all of this in mind, these NHL power rankings are way too early.

Here are the teams we’ve ranked Nos. 30-21 anyway, with Nos. 20-11 coming tomorrow and 10-1 appearing here Sunday.

31. Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights assembled their team for the future. They made deals to not take players teams valued while taking on lesser players. The Knights will be bad next season, but next season was not the goal of general manager George McPhee.

McPhee flipped several players acquired in the expansion draft for future players. McPhee is going to put out a team that will be close to the bottom of the barrel in the league with a few respectable names. Here is its roster. 

30. Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche headed into this offseason as supposed big sellers. The Avalanche were supposed to move Matt Duchene off their roster and start the rebuilding process. The Avs did not deal Duchene and appear to be standing pat.

Key additions: Colin Wilson (trade); Jonathan Bernier (free agent signing); Nail Yakupov (free agent signing).

Key losses: Calvin Pickard (expansion draft); Francois Beauchemin (bought out).

First-round pick: Cale Makar. He was the best defenseman on the board, a dynamic skater. He is going to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season.

This team will be bad again next year.

29. Detroit Red Wings

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The Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. After this offseason, it appears the Wings will start a streak of not making playoffs. This team has too much money tied up old veterans and not enough young talent. The Wings have also angered one of their young stars in Tomas Tatar. It rumored this will be his last contract with the Wings.

Many scouts and analysis believe the Red Wings had the worst draft this year. I believe general manager Ken Holland does not have a solid plan for the future.

Key additions: Trevor Daley (free agent); Xavier Ouellet (free agent); Tom McCollum (trade).

Key losses: Thomas Vanek (free agent signing), Brendan Smith (free agent signing).

First-round pick: Michael Rassmussen. He is a big guy with question marks. People love him on the powerplay, but not so much at 5-on-5.

I hope everyone enjoyed the last 25 years because it is going to be dark for a while now.

28. New Jersey Devils

The Devils had the first pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. They selected Nico Hischier with the first pick. Hischier gives the Devils faithful hope for the future. In addition to getting the first pick, the Devils had a decent draft according to many scouts. Hischier has already signed his entry-level contract.

In free agency, the Devils made some savvy moves to add veterans to their young core. The Devils also gained a good player in Washington Capitals salary dump Marcus Johansson. The Devils are still in a long ways away, but they are getting closer.

Key additions: Marcus Johnasson (trade); Brian Boyle (free agent signing); Brian Gibbons (free agent signing); Mirco Mueller (trade)

Key losses: Mike Cammalleri (bought out); Jon Merrill (expansion draft)

First-round pick: Nico Hischier. He was viewed as the most explosive offensive player in the draft class. He was viewed as the best raw talent in the draft. It also helped that he had a breakout year in juniors last season.

The Devils are building toward something in the future, but the future is not next year.

27. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are nearing the end of the Sedins’ run in the NHL and appear to be in a rebuild. The Canucks fired Willie Desjardins and his entire staff. They hired Travis Green as their new head coach. They will be a mixture of veterans and young players.

Their big free agent signing was Sam Gagner to a three-year deal. They are hoping he can help with powerplay scoring. They also bolstered their defense with the signing of Michael Del Zotto.

Key additions: Sam Gagner (free agent signing); Michael Del Zotto (free agent signing).

Key loss: Ryan Miller (free agent signing)

First-round pick: Elias Pettersson. Smallish, fast defenseman with offensive imagination.

The Canucks are rebuilding, but they are not going all in.

26. Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets did their best to keep their current roster in intact. The Jets made a deal with the Golden Knights to take Chris Thorburn in the Expansion draft. Thorburn was a unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Jets also sent the 13th overall pick in 2017 and a third-rounder in 2019 for 24th overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.

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  • The Jets protected their young roster for this season and hope they are building toward something with Patrick Laine, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. The Jets also addressed a big hole on their roster in goal. The Jets signed Steve Mason to a two-year contract to help fill their goalie void. Goalies seems to struggle under Paul Maurice, so we shall see if Mason can buck the trend.

    Key addition: Steve Mason (free agent signing)

    Key loss: Mark Stuart (buyout)

    First-round pick: Dylan Samberg. He has a rangy, athletic frame and a good shot.

    Can Mason be the difference for the Jets next season?

    25. Florida Panthers

    The Florida Panthers organization has me scratching my head. I cannot figure out what they are doing. They have re-instated Dale Tallon as the general manager, a year after removing him from that role. They hired Chris Pronger as senior as adviser to the team president.

    After shuffling the deck in the front office, they let Jonathan Marchessault go in the expansion draft after he scored 30 goals for the first time. The Panthers then traded Reilly Smith to Vegas.

    The Panthers then brought in Evgeny Dadonov on a three-year contract. Dadonov spent last season in the KHL. And I nearly forgot that the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr was not re-signed and does not want to return.

    Key addition: Evgeny Dadonov (free agent signing).

    Key losses: Jonathan Marchessault (expansion draft); Jussi Jokinen (bought out); Reilly Smith (trade); Jaromir Jagr (not signed).

    First round pick: Owen Tippett. Scouts believe he is a flat out goal scorer.

    I’m not sure what is going on here. Marchessault scored 30 goals, Jagr scored 16 goals and Reilly Smith scored 15 goals last season and NONE were replaced. Hopefully the Panthers’ direction will become clearer to me.

    24. Buffalo Sabres

    The Sabres were not happy with last season. The Sabres decided to blow up the organization. Management fired general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma and replaced them with Randy Sexton and Phil Housley. Once Sexton and Housley were in place, they pulled off a trade. The Sabres acquired Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella from Minnesota for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno.

    These moves are confusing to me. I am not sure how they are much better because of them.

    Key additions: Jason Pominville (trade)l Marco Scandella (trade); Benoit Pouliot (free agent signing); Chad Johnson (free agent signing).

    Key losses: Tyler Ennis (trade); Marcus Foligno (trade).

    First-round pick: Casey Mittelstadt. He is believed to be a speedy, electric offensive player,with good hands.

    The Sabres have a generational talent in Jack Eichel and they need to build a team around him.

    23. Los Angeles Kings

    The Kings decided to go in a different direction with their management. The Kings fired coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi. The Kings are now run by President Rob Blake and coach John Stevens.

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    This was the right move as the Kings were headed in the wrong direction under Lombardi. Lombardi did not manage the cap well and overpaid several players that Blake must now try to unload. The two prime examples are Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik.

    Blake made a smart move by signing Tyler Toffoli to a three-year contract extension. Blake took chances on Mike Cammalleri and Darcy Keumper for next season. He also signed Christian Folin, Cal Peterson and Stepan Falkovsky to contracts.

    This is a new direction for the L.A. Kings.

    Key additions: Mike Cammalleri (free agent signing); Darcy Keumper (free agent signing).

    Key losses: Brayden McNabb (expansion draft); Matt Greene (bought out).

    First-round pick: Gabriel Vilardi. He is the natural gifted shooter and a steal of a pick for the Kings.

    The Kings need Anze Kopitar to play better in order for the team to succeed. He needs to get closer to 25 goals a season.

    22. New York Rangers

    The Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild on the fly. They made several moves to change the direction of the team.

    The Rangers lost Oscar Lindberg to the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The Rangers then did some house cleaning. They bought out Dan Girardi from his contract, which was a good move. They then traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona for Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick. I’m not overly impressed by this move.

    The Rangers then got the one of the best defensive free agents on the market in Kevin Shattenkirk. The best part of the Shattenkirk deal is that the Rangers did not overpay for him. They got him at respectable $6.5 million cap hit.

    The loss of Kevin Klein to retirement could be a big blow. He was a steady defenseman at affordable cap hit.

    Key additions: Brendan Smith (free agent signing); Kevin Shattenkirk. (free agent signing); David Desharnais (free agent signing).

    Key losses: Antti Raanta (trade); Derek Stepan (trade); Kevin Klein (retirement).

    First-round pick: Lias Andersson. He’s viewed as a solid two-way center who can also play wing in spite of standing just 5-foot-11.

    After all the moves, I would argue that the Rangers are worse off. Any team that signs Ondrej Pavelec to a contract is worse off in my book.

    21. New York Islanders

    The Islanders hired Doug Weight as their new coach. This team underachieved in 2016-17, and now this season is very important to future of the franchise. This whole season is going to revolve around keeping star John Tavares happy.

    Their offseason took shape around the expansion draft. The Islanders lost Jean-Francois Berube to Vegas. The Islanders also had a side deal in place to send to Vegas Mikhail Grabovski and Jake Bischoff as well as first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft (No. 15) and a second-round pick in 2019.

    So the Islanders lost bad salaries and draft picks to keep Vegas off their forwards.

    Garth Snow then flipped one of his forwards, Ryan Strome, to the Edmonton Oilers for Jordan Eberle. This is a disapointing forward for disappointing forward move in my book.

    Key additions: Kristers Gudlevskis (free agent signing); Jordan Eberle (trade).

    Key losses: Mikhail Grabovski (trade); Ryan Strome (trade).

    First-round pick: Robin Salo. He makes smart offensive plays and is sound on defense.

    Any way you can keep Tavares around is good for the Islanders right now.

    Next: Blackhawks Recent Returning Player History

    Check back in tomorrow for the next several teams in our way-too-early NHL power rankings for the 2017-18 season.