NHL power rankings 2022-23: One burning question for all 32 teams heading into the season

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Welcome to the 2022-23 NHL season. After a long summer with plenty of exciting storylines and news, it is finally here.

As we head into the season, a number of exciting clubs are coming in with championship aspirations and expectations. The Avalanche, coming off a Stanley Cup win over the Lightning, have their eyes on Lord Stanley again. The Maple Leafs are primed to be great in the regular season again, but can they do it in the postseason?

Meanwhile, the Panthers and Flames were a part of a blockbuster trade that may have resulted in a win for both sides. 

There are also teams that seem to have their focus on a different prize — Connor Bedard, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks, Coyotes and Canadiens do not have particularly impressive rosters and are going to be at the bottom of the league's standings. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 20 centers for the 2022-23 season

With the season beginning Tuesday in North America, The Sporting News looks at the 32 clubs in the league, ranks them from 1-32, and presents one question about each team. 

1. Colorado Avalanche

Is the goaltending tandem of Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz good enough to go back-to-back?

The Avalanche lost a number of players from their star-studded Stanley Cup roster, including Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Darcy Kuemper. With Kuemper leaving in free agency, the Avalanche needed to find a new plan in net, and they did that by acquiring Georgiev in a trade with the Rangers. 

Goergiev was the backup to Igor Shesterkin and has never been a true starter. Neither has Francouz, who has served as the No. 2 option in Colorado for two seasons. The Avs are confident in the duo working as a tandem, but it's an interesting strategy for a team aiming to go back-to-back to enter the season with goalies that have never been starters. The rest of the roster is talented enough, so it may not matter. 

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

Who takes over the goaltending duties — Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov?

The Maple Leafs elected to revamp their goaltending tandem from last year. They let Jack Campbell walk in free agency and traded Petr Mrazek to the Blackhawks. In their place are Murray and Samsonov. They are tasked with being the backbone of a team that has not received consistent goaltending in quite some time. 

Both goaltenders struggled last season, but each has shown flashes of being successful. The plan is for one of them to eventually take over as the starter, The best-case scenario is that both play well and can be rotated. Either way, the Maple Leafs have Stanley Cup aspirations again and will need one or both of them to perform well in the crease. 

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Who steps up on offense and provides more goal scoring?

Carolina's defense was sensational last season. The team led the NHL with a 2.44 goals-against average. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta won the William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest GAA. But the offense held the team back, especially in the playoffs where the Hurricanes averaged just 2.64 goals per game. 

Newcomer Max Pacioretty was supposed to be one of the team's top weapons this year, but a torn Achilles will sideline him until potentially after the All-Star break in early February. Sebastian Aho is coming off an 81-point season and Andrei Svechnikov had 69 points, but the supporting cast needs to be better. Players like Martin Necas and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be called upon to provide more offense. 

MORE: Ranking the league's best 23 players under 23

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

How much do the losses of Ryan McDonagh and Ondrej Palat hurt?

When a team jumps through cap hoops as much as the Lightning do, it will lose talent due to financial restrictions. That was the case in the summer when they had to trade McDonagh and could not re-sign Palat. 

The moves leave a hole in the top six for the forwards and the top four on defense. Tampa Bay has bodies to fill the gaps, but Palat was a perennial 40- to 50-point scorer when healthy and excelled in the playoffs. McDonagh was a strong, defensive blue liner whom coach Jon Cooper could rely on to play tough minutes. There hasn't been enough discussion as to how crucial those losses will be for the reigning Eastern Conference champion. 

5. Calgary Flames

Do the offseason additions make the Flames a better team than they were last year?

Times looked bleak in Calgary when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, both coming off 100-plus-point seasons, elected not to re-sign. Gaudreau walked for nothing, but general manager Brad Treliving worked some magic and traded Tkachuk to the Panthers for a package that included Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. He later signed Nazem Kadri, fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Avalanche. 

All of a sudden, the Flames went from facing a potential rebuild to having one of the best rosters in the league. Huberdeau gives them a premier passer to play with Elias Lindholm and Weegar bolsters what was already a deep back end. Calgary won the Pacific Division last year but faltered in the postseason. Is it possible that despite losing Gaudreau and Tkachuk, this team is in better shape than last year's?

6. New York Rangers

Where do Alexis Lafreniere and Kappo Kakko fit in the forward group?

The Rangers are finally getting consistent, solid production out of their young group. But two of youngsters, Lafreniere and Kakko, have yet to break out. They bounced up and down the lineup, ending the season on the third line alongside Filip Chytil as the "Kid Line." But there is an opportunity for them this year to have an increased role. 

There are vacancies at right wing on the top two lines, and Lafreniere and Kakko are candidates for those spots. But the Rangers also have a healthy Sammy Blais, Jimmy Vesey and Vitali Kravstov as options. By the end of the preseason, coach Gerard Gallant was keeping the "Kid Line" together and using Vesey and Kravstov in the top six, but there will be chances for Lafreniere or Kakko to move up as the season goes along. 

7. Florida Panthers

Is the defensive group deep enough for the team to be a legit Cup contender? 

The Panthers made a big move in the offseason, bringing in star forward Matthew Tkachuk to give them a top-line winger. But it came at the cost of not only Jonathan Huberdeau but also MacKenzie Weegar. Now, Florida heads into this season with a fairly weak blue line. 

While Aaron Ekblad is the clear No. 1 defenseman, the group that follows is not impressive. Radko Gudas and Brandon Montour sit behind Ekblad on the right side. On the left, Gustav Forsling is slated to play top minutes and the other two spots are up for grabs between Lucas Carlsson, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal and Anthony Bitteto. The team relied heavily on its offense to win a season ago; it looks as if the Panthers will again be giving up defense for more scoring. 

8. Edmonton Oilers

Is Jack Campbell the answer to the Oilers' defensive problems?

The Oilers have been known to play a high-flying offensive style, allowing forwards to jump up on the rush and beat teams by outscoring them. Edmonton's 3.06 goals allowed per game trailed only Toronto's 3.07 rate among the teams that made the postseason. Neither Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen was impressive in net. That led the Oilers to sign Campbell as a free agent from, ironically, the Maple Leafs.

The hope is that Campbell finds the dominant form he showed at the beginning of last season, but his struggles in the back half are a major concern. The Oilers are gambling on him being the goalie who can help Connor McDavid and Co. to get to the finals, despite the fact that 2021-22 was his first season as a starter. 

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9. St. Louis Blues

Can Jordan Binnington get back to his 2019 form?

The Blues had a decision to make in the offseason between Binnington and Ville Husso as the starter going forward. Binnington was not impressive last year; he lost the starting job to Husso before regaining it during the first round of the playoffs. That was enough for the team to decide he was the man for the job. 

Binnington's numbers have gotten progressively worse after his sensational first season in 2018-19, and it's not a coincidence that the Blues have not enjoyed much playoff success since the 2019 Cup win. St. Louis once again fields a strong roster, but the club needs Binnington to find his 2019 self for a deep playoff run. 

10. Pittsburgh Penguins

Was bringing the gang back the right call?

When the Penguins were eliminated in Game 7 of the first round of the 2022 playoffs, many thought that the core of Sidney Corsby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang had played its last game together. Malkin and Letang were set to become free agents and it was unclear what Pittsburgh's plans for them were. 

Fast-forward to July, and no one went anywhere. In addition to Malkin and Letang re-signing, Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell also signed new deals to stay in the Steel City. Despite their ages, the Penguins are going to run it back with the group that brought them back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Injuries are the concern, especially with Malkin, who hasn't played close to a full season in four years. 

11. Minnesota Wild

Who will replace Kevin Fiala's offensive production?

Cap constraints forced the Wild to trade Fiala to the Kings in the offseason. He was set to become an RFA and the team was not going to be able to afford him. That left the team without one of its top point scorers from the last three seasons, and it did not add a clear replacement. 

Fiala finished first or second in scoring each of the three full seasons he played in Minnesota. Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy are expected to take on expanded roles, but it's unlikely they can replicate his production. After the 2021 buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, it was known that the Wild would be facing cap troubles in the future. The Fiala loss is the first domino. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 20 defensemen for the 2022-23 season

12. Boston Bruins

Can the Bruins survive the beginning of the season with a number of stars out injured?

With Detroit and Ottawa making moves this offseason and Buffalo getting better each year, there is a feeling that Boston will be the team to take a step back in the Atlantic Division and possibly miss the playoffs. The beginning of the season may very well dictate the Bruins' fate. 

Boston will be without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk at the start , in addition to possibly Taylor Hall. It will be critical for the team to stay afloat while those skaters are sidelined and not fall far behind in the division. The Bruins don't want to suffer the same fate as the Islanders did last year, when a 13-game road trip to start the season and COVID issues put the Isles behind the 8-ball and the team could not recover. 

13. Nashville Predators

Can Juuse Saros continue to shoulder a heavy workload in net?

No goaltender played in more contests last season than Saros, who appeared in 67 games. It's understandable why Nashville leaned on the Finn so heavily — Saros was one of the best goalies last year, finishing second in Vezina voting, while backup David Rittich was quite shaky. 

It looks to be more of the same heading into this season. Nashville did upgrade his partner in the crease, signing Kevin Lankinen to replace Rittich, but Saros will once again be asked to carry a heavy workload. Prior to last season, Saros' career high in games played was 40, so this year will test his ability to play at a high level for that many contests.  

14. Washington Capitals

How much closer will Alex Ovechkin get to Wayne Gretzky's goal record?

While the Capitals enter the season with Cup aspirations, the fans' focus will be on tracking Ovechkin's career goals. He heads into the 2022-23 season with 780, which is 114 shy of Gretzky's 894. 

It is one of the lone records Gretzky holds that may be broken, and the Russian winger has a chance to do it. He has shown no signs of slowing down; he put up 50 goals last year, the ninth 50-goal season in his career. Ovechkin won't break the record this season, but he can pass Gordie Howe for second place all time. He needs just 22 to move ahead of Mr. Hockey. 

15. New York Islanders

Was last year a fluke, or is this team not good enough to make the playoffs?

Two years ago, the Islanders were a game away from the Stanley Cup Final. They were one of, if not the best defensive team in hockey. Last season, with essentially the same roster, the Islanders faltered and missed the postseason. Part of the underwhelming season can be attributed to a 13-game road trip to begin the season and COVID ripping through the locker room, but it was a disappointing season nonetheless.

GM Lou Lamoriello elected to fire coach Barry Trotz and not make any significant moves in the offseason, instead riding with the same roster that made it to back-to-back conference finals. He is putting his trust in the core group to find postseason success again. 

16. Vegas Golden Knights

Can they stay healthy enough this season?

This one is pretty simple. Vegas was arguably the biggest disappointment last season. It came in as Cup favorite but then missed the playoffs entirely. While some of that had to do with underwhelming performances, injuries ran through the team. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner all missed significant time. 

The 2022-23 season isn't exactly off to a great start in terms of injuries. Lehner is already out for the year and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit is hurt to begin the season. Vegas has the talent to be one of the better teams in the West, but staying healthy will be critical. 

17. Los Angeles Kings

Can Drew Doughty turn back the clock again?

Doughty was once one of the premier puck movers and offensive defensemen in the game. He played a large role in the Kings' Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014. But his production fell off the past few seasons. Then last season, he had 31 points in 39 games and a career-high 0.79 point-per-game rate. 

Injuries cut into the defenseman's bounce-back; the 39 games mark a career low. But he looked like the Doughty of old on the ice, jumping up in the play and contributing on the power play. Doughty's re-emergence helped the Kings speed up the rebuild and make the playoffs last season. They'll need the same from him this season. 

18. Dallas Stars

Can Jake Oettinger rediscover his magic from the 2022 playoffs?

While the Stars did not win a round in the playoffs, Oettinger's stellar play left a major impression on hockey fans. The 23-year-old was the sole reason Dallas was a goal away from advancing to the second round. He stood his head against the Flames. His 10.1 goals saved above expected trailed only Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilesvkiy in the postseason, and both played significantly more games than Oettinger. 

While Oettinger's playoff performance grabbed the national audience's attention, his regular season was only solid. He posted a 2.53 GAA, 11th in the league, and his .914 save percentage was tied for 17th. It's unlikely that the Oettinger can maintain his play in the Flames series, but he proved he's a No. 1 goalie and will be a good one. 

19. Vancouver Canucks

How will Andrei Kuzmenko transition from the KHL to the NHL?

Vancouver was the winner of the Kuzmenko sweepstakes in the summer and it signed the 26-year-old Russian star to a one-year deal. Kuzmenko was regarded as the top available free agent outside North America. He comes to the Canucks fresh off a 56-point campaign in the KHL in 2021-22. 

A number of KHL stars have made successful transitions to the NHL, such as Kirill Kaprizov and Artemi Panarin. There also have been plenty of flops, like Nikita Gusev and Vadim Shipachyov. Vancouver is hoping that Kuzmenko trends more toward the performances of Kaprizov and Panarin, although it's unlikely he'll be as productive as those two. 

20. Winnipeg Jets

How much can Rick Bowness change the culture?

A culture change is desperately needed in Winnipeg. The team has as strong a top-six group as any in the league and also has one of the best goaltenders, so things should be going differently. The club wanted Barry Trotz to be its next coach, but he decided to take a year off. That resulted in Bowness being hired after he stepped down from his position with the Stars. 

Bowness has made immediate changes, in particular stripping Blake Wheeler of his captaincy. He has made it clear to the media that he wants more out of the veterans in the room. For afar, it appears as though Bowness is doing his part to try to right the ship, but it will be up to the team's leadership group team to help turn things around. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 10 goalies for the 2022-23 season

21. Ottawa Senators

Is the defense strong enough for the Senators to make a playoff push?

There's no denying that the Senators enter the season with one of the best top-six groups in the league. The additions of Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat were a statement that the rebuild is over and the time to win is now. 

But the blue line remains extremely weak. The Senators don't have a ton of high-end talent outside of Thomas Chabot. Prospect Jake Sanderson could make the team and surprise everyone by immediately becoming the top-four player he is expected to be. 

22. Detroit Red Wings

How much will the offseason additions improve the defense?

The Red Wings made waves in the offseason by signing a number of free agents to help finish the rebuild. The blue line underwent a complete overhaul, with Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, Mark Pysyk and Robert Hagg all signed by GM Steve Yzerman. The team traded for Ville Husso to give Detroit a strong 1-2 duo in net with Alex Nedeljkovic.

Detroit needed to upgrade its defense. The team allowed the second-most goals per game last season and had the worst penalty kill in the league. The Red Wings want to be contenders, and the additions they made put them in that direction. Now, new coach Derek Lalonde has to get this group to buy in on defense. 

23. Columbus Blue Jackets

How well does Johnny Gaudreau fit?

The Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world on the first day of free agency when it signed top free agent Gaudreau. Columbus was not regarded as a potential destinations for the former Flames winger, but GM Jarmo Kekalainen got the deal done. 

Is it a great get? Absolutely. How does Gaudreau fit on the team? Well, that remains to be seen. He immediately gives them a top-line winger and an excellent playmaker, but the team doesn't have nearly as strong a supporting cast as the Flames did. Gaudreau was playing with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm in Calgary; in Columbus, he'll be with Patrik Laine and one of Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic, Kent Johnson or Cole Sillinger. 

Gaudreau helps the Blue Jackets get closer to being a playoff contender, but does he give them enough of a push?

24. New Jersey Devils

Can Vitek Vanecek give the Devils stability in net?

Teams deal with injuries all the time, but a goaltending corps hasn't been decimated quite like the Devils' last season. Jonathan Bernier was ruled out for the year by January and Mackenzie Blackwood missed most of the back half. As a result, seven different goalies suited up for New Jersey last season — Bernier, Blackwood, Nico Daws, Akira Schmid, Scott Wedgewood, Jon Gillies and Andrew Hammond. 

New Jersey traded for Vitek Vanecek from the Capitals in the offseason. He doesn't have a ton of starting experience as he and Ilya Samsonov split the crease in Washington, but he is an upgrade from what New Jersey had. The Devils are looking to make strides in becoming playoff contenders; having a reliable and healthy goalie is the only way that is attainable. 

25. Buffalo Sabres

Which of the kids takes a leap forward?

The rebuild is almost over in Buffalo. The light is at the end of the tunnel as the prospects are slowly turning into everyday NHL players. The Sabres saw Tage Thompson break out last season with 38 goals and 68 points. Dylan Cozens looks more comfortable. 

There are a few candidates to take the next step forward this season. The most obvious is Owen Power, the No. 1 pick in 2021. He looked strong in his small sample size at the end of last season and should have a top-four role right out of camp. Peyton Krebs will finally get a full season in Buffalo after being acquired from Vegas in the Jack Eichel trade. Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka can earn more playing time.

There's a lot to like about the direction the Sabres are going, a statement that could not be associated with the team the past few seasons. 

26. Anaheim Ducks

How will Mason McTavish perform in his rookie season?

There's no denying the buzz around McTavish, not just in Anaheim but around the league. The skilled center had a sensational World Juniors performance, winning tournament MVP and helping lead Canada to a gold medal. After a short stint in the NHL last season, it's time for McTavish to become a regular in the Ducks' lineup. 

It's likely that McTavish will start the season playing wing, because he can get more playing time there than at center. Regardless, he looks like someone who should be playing every game and will likely be at the forefront of the Calder Trophy race. 

27. Seattle Kraken

How much will the team improve from last year?

The Kraken's inaugural season did not go as planned. Instead of replicating the Golden Knights' expansion success of 2018, the Kraken finished 30th in the league. The lack of offense and poor goaltending made for a disappointing first year. 

The expectations this season aren't as lofty, but improvement is expected. GM Ron Francis added Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the summer, drafted Shane Wright at No. 4 overall and got Matty Beniers from the NCAA ranks. Philipp Grubauer has to be better in net, and Seattle needs to find a go-to scorer. 

28. San Jose Sharks

Who is the starting goaltender?

San Jose is shaping up to be a bottom-feeder in the West. The core group is getting older and the prospects haven't broken onto the scene yet. Yet it's possible that everything comes together and the Sharks get enough out of the older players to contend in a weaker Pacific Division. 

The biggest issue will be in net, where there is no clear starter. James Reimer, Kappo Kahkonen and Strauss Mann are all candidates to start. Reimer could get the job by default as he is the only one with starting experience, but he's at the tail end of his career. Kahkonen had decent numbers for the Sharks last season after coming over at the deadline. San Jose has rotated its goalies the past couple of years, and it doesn't appear there will be stability this season, either. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL top 20 wingers for the 2022-23 season

29. Philadelphia Flyers

How much does the John Tortorella hiring change things?

Tortorella's hard-nosed style of coaching may turn off some players and teams, but when the Flyers announced he would be their next coach, it made perfect sense. Philadelphia seemed like the kind of team that needed someone to push and get the most out of each player. 

But how much does the move change things? The roster is one of the weakest in the league, and the team will start the season without its top forward, Sean Couturier, and one of its top defensemen, Ryan Ellis. Tortorella may be saying and doing all the right things, but he can only do so much with what he has been given. 

30. Montreal Canadiens

How will the team perform in Martin St. Louis' first full season?

The 2021-22 season was not kind to Montreal. After a Cinderella run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens ended last year with the worst record in the league and not many bright spots. 

One positive was the hiring of St. Louis, who took over for Dominique Ducharme in February. The team won nearly twice as many games under St. Louis (14) as they did under Ducharme (eight), despite St. Louis coaching in fewer contests. There are low expectations in Montreal, but after seeing improvement from players like Cole Caufield under St. Louis, there is intrigue about how the coach performs in his first full season. 

31. Arizona Coyotes

Will Jakob Chychrun still be on the team by the end of the season?

I considered pondering the question of how bad it will look for the league once the Coyotes are playing home games in a college barn, but I think the answer is obvious. 

Instead, the question shifts to Chychrun, who reiterated in the preseason that he does not want to be a part of the rebuild and would like to be traded to a playoff contender. His trade value isn't as high as it was after his breakout 2020-21 season, but he's still a young right-handed defensemen whose team-friendly contract has three more years to run. With a modified no-trade clause kicking in next season, Arizona would be smart to move Chychrun and get back prospects and picks for the rebuild. 

32. Chicago Blackhawks

When will Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews be traded?

The rebuild is here in Chicago. The Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach trades made that clear. Now, the Blackhawks look to be fighting it out for worst record in the NHL. It's understandable why Kane and Toews want out as well. 

Both have agreed to begin the year in Chicago and see how the season starts to play out. But it's almost inevitable that the two pending free agents will be elsewhere by the end of the season. Kane is still one of the more talented wingers in the league and will likely be the top target for contenders at the deadline, if he hasn't been moved by then. Toews' health and play are on the decline but he still could be a decent depth option for teams. Both have full no-movement clauses, but if waiving them means getting out of Chicago and going to a contender, neither player will hesitate.

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