NHL Power Rankings: Way-too-early edition for the 2024-25 season

The end of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs ran right up to draft week, as the Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup less than four full days prior to the start of the selection process at Sphere. And less than two days after the final draft pick was made, the free agency frenzy began.

And yeah, we also got the full NHL schedule release too.

It’s been a jam-packed calendar, but now it’s time to take a step back and assess just how we feel about all 32 teams, looking ahead to the fall. Who will be the top Cup contenders? Who will be in the running for the draft lottery? Here’s how the winds are blowing as of early July.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors sends in a 1-32 poll based on where they rank each club, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the final regular season edition, published April 12.


Previous ranking: 7
2023-24 finish: Stanley Cup champs

If we borrow the lineal champion concept from the world of boxing, then it’s logical that the Cats remain in the No. 1 spot, having just won the first title in franchise history. The Panthers retained Sam Reinhart, who was set to make a mint as an unrestricted free agent, and extended “Baby Barkov” Anton Lundell, along with several other moves.


Previous ranking: 8
2023-24 finish: Lost in Stanley Cup Final

GM Ken Holland — a future Hall of Famer — is out of the Oilers’ front office, but the club made some wise moves thus far this summer to give the team he helped build a strong chance at glory next spring. Re-upping with Adam Henrique and Mattias Janmark gives them two proven playoff performers, and inking Jeff Skinner following the veteran’s buyout by Buffalo should ensure that he’ll finally get to skate in a playoff game.


Previous ranking: 1
2023-24 finish: Lost in conference finals

Remember the name Emil Hemming. The Stars have a knack for turning picks from the late first round (and later) into NHL stars thanks to a superb development system. Hemming, a Finnish forward taken No. 29 overall, is next in that pipeline.


Previous ranking: 2
2023-24 finish: Lost in conference finals

The big moves to which Rangers fans had become accustomed have yet to materialize this offseason, save for the trade to add Reilly Smith. To be fair, this team as currently constructed won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular season record in 2023-24, and gave the Panthers a tough series in the Eastern Conference finals. Adding around the edges — and leaving some room to do a bit more at the trade deadline — might be the best strategy.


Previous ranking: 6
2023-24 finish: Lost in second round

The Avs haven’t been beyond the second round for two straight postseasons; then again, the last time they were they won the Cup. So give the front office a bit of a pass here, given that the core of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar remains in place. And while fans don’t always go wild for re-signings, the new deal for Casey Mittelstadt might wind up being the best piece of business this entire offseason.


Previous ranking: 3
2023-24 finish: Lost in second round

Perhaps the most consequential moves this offseason happened in management positions: Eric Tulsky took over as GM, and head coach Rod Brind’Amour was signed to a new contract. At least, that’s the type of stability on which fans should hang their hats; many on-ice personnel changes took place as well, including two key defensemen in Brett Pesce (NJ) and Brady Skjei (NSH).


Previous ranking: 5
2023-24 finish: Lost in second round

One of these years, the Bruins might take a big step backwards. But not this upcoming season, according to our voters. The Bruins had one of the more intellectually satisfying summers, as they needed a top-line center and shutdown defender — then signed Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov to handle those duties, respectively. The trade sending Linus Ullmark to Ottawa raised some eyebrows, but now this is officially Jeremy Swayman’s crease following an impressive postseason.


Previous ranking: 11
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

The Preds haven’t historically been a top free agent destination. That changed in 2024, as Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Marchessault and Brady Skjei all signed long-term deals on July 1. A team that surprised some onlookers in 2023-24 has set a higher bar for performance in 2024-25.


Previous ranking: 4
2023-24 finish: Lost in second round

A cavalcade of playoff-tested ex-Bruins found its way to the Pacific Northwest, bolstering a core of players that all seemed to perform at career-high (or near career-high) levels in 2023-24. The Canucks are clearly not ready to cede the Pacific Division to the Cup Finalist Oilers.


Previous ranking: 9
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

The Leafs have been a consistently great regular season hockey team in recent campaigns — and then the playoffs roll around. Although much of the on-ice personnel remains in place from last season — including all of the “Core Four,” in spite of Mitch Marner trade rumors — the club did make a coaching change, subbing in Craig Berube for Sheldon Keefe, as well as investing in veteran defensemen Chris Tanev and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Will it be enough?


Previous ranking: 22
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Had the Devils received league average goaltending in 2023-24, it’s likely they would’ve qualified for the postseason, if not won a round or two. To help matters in that department, they traded for Jacob Markstrom this summer; to help Markstrom, they signed Brett Pesce and Brenden Dillon, and will get back a healthy Dougie Hamilton. Our voters are bullish on them getting back among the playoff contenders.


Previous ranking: 15
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

It’s easy to forget because it feels like it was years ago, but the Knights’ first-round matchup against the Stars was one of the best of the entire postseason. There were some significant losses from the on-ice group due to Vegas’ ever-present salary cap crunch, but we’re not convinced they’re done making summer moves yet either.


Previous ranking: 12
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

Have the Panthers gained a long-term upper hand in the Battle of Florida? It would seem so, based on how the regular season finished, and what happened in Round 1. For the first time in over a decade, the Lightning will not have Steven Stamkos as their captain. Can they jump back ahead of the Panthers without him?


Previous ranking: 13
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

New uniforms, new starting goalie, different results? It’s been three straight first-round playoff losses to the Oilers for L.A., and in order to get by Connor McDavid & Co., they inked former Edmonton forward Warren Foegele (in addition to other moves).


Previous ranking: 10
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

Thanks to an impressive goal suppression system, the Jets charged up the standings and looked like one of the strongest teams in the 2024 playoffs. Then the system appeared to fail, whether it was goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the players in front of him or both. They’ll run it back with essentially the same crew this season, hoping to maintain that dominance from regular season into postseason.


Previous ranking: 19
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

At some point, the Yzerplan must result in the Red Wings’ return to the playoffs. Will it happen for them in 2024-25? Detroit brought back Patrick Kane for another kick at the can, and wisely added two-time Cup winner Vladimir Tarasenko as well. But was that enough?


Previous ranking: 14
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

This is not a team that makes splashy moves during the Lou Lamoriello era, and this offseason was in line with that trend. Nevertheless, Isles fans should be encouraged by one move for the short term (signing Anthony Duclair), and one for the long term (drafting Cole Eiserman).


Previous ranking: 18
2023-24 finish: Lost in first round

Many thought the Caps would be content watching franchise icon Alex Ovechkin chase down Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal-scoring record, and wouldn’t be otherwise too competitive. After a surprising run to the 2024 playoffs, the front office has not stood pat, trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois, Jakob Chychrun and Logan Thompson, and signing Matt Roy. Those are not moves made by a team content to be in draft lottery position.


Previous ranking: 23
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

The Flyers were one of the NHL’s pleasant surprises for much of 2023-24, holding a playoff position well beyond the trade deadline. Unfortunately, a late-season tailspin sent them back to the draft lottery. And they didn’t really add anyone of note in free agency either. Then again, by signing Matvei Michkov, they made the biggest on-ice addition in recent team history — and one of the most consequential additions league-wide this summer.


Previous ranking: 20
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Entering the final season of $14.743 million in dead cap space due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, the Wild didn’t do a ton in free agency. However, they did land perhaps the steal of the draft in Zeev Buium, who somehow fell to them at No. 12. So at least there’s help on the way!


Previous ranking: 16
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Outside observers were pretty sure that the Penguins would be looking to get a little younger this offseason. While Anthony Beauvillier and Matt Grzelcyk sort of help in that cause, the trade for Kevin Hayes was a bewildering one.


Previous ranking: N/A
2023-24 finish: N/A

It’s the first season for the NHL’s newest team! You might recognize some familiar faces from the Arizona Coyotes, but Utah GM Bill Armstrong made some major additions this offseason too, trading for Mikhail Sergachev and John Marino and inking veteran d-man Ian Cole and Cup champ Kevin Stenlund. This team could surprise in 2024-25.


Previous ranking: 17
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

The Blues remained on the fringes of the playoff race well past the deadline last spring, and made some wise moves to shore up the forward depth this summer, including adding Radek Faksa and Alexandre Texier. Is that enough to keep pace with the Central heavyweights?


Previous ranking: 24
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

For a team that faces immense pressure to end the NHL’s longest playoff-less streak, the Sabres didn’t really do too much this offseason (unless one believes that Jason Zucker can find a new gear). Perhaps the switch to Lindy Ruff behind the bench will spark something.


Previous ranking: 27
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Do the Senators get a mulligan for the entire star-crossed 2023-24 campaign? New ownership yielded new front office personnel yielded a new coaching staff. The team made a major upgrade in goal in landing Linus Ullmark in trade, and a young core should be entering its prime seasons.


Previous ranking: 21
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

After a run to the second round of the 2023 playoffs, the Kraken were quite underwhelming in Year 3. That cost Dave Hakstol his job, and Dan Bylsma (recently of the club’s AHL team) is taking over. From an on-ice perspective, they made some significant additions in center Chandler Stephenson and defenseman Brandon Montour, members of the two most recent Cup champs.


Previous ranking: 25
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

With the trade of Jacob Markstrom — coupled with the many veteran deletions ahead of the 2023-24 trade deadline — it’s clear that the rebuild is on (whether management wants to use that word or not). However, the Flames left Las Vegas with one of the best draft classes, so help is assuredly on the way.


Previous ranking: 28
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

The Canadiens are most definitely doing the “slow and steady” version of a rebuild, and the club’s most significant move this summer was inking 2022 first-round pick Juraj Slafkovsky to an eight-year contract extension. Can they catch up to the Senators, Sabres or Red Wings this season?


Previous ranking: 31
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Connor Bedard earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie last season, and GM Kyle Davidson rewarded him by adding another strong batch of veteran free agents to the roster this summer. It’ll continue to be tough sledding in the stacked Central Division, but maybe the games will be a bit more competitive this time around.


Previous ranking: 29
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

With a new GM and new coach heading into 2024-25, it’s a bit of a clean slate for the Blue Jackets. With one of the more impressive young cores in the NHL led by Adam Fantilli, Kirill Marchenko and Dmitri Voronkov, they could be a sleeper.


Previous ranking: 30
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

The Ducks were not a very good team in 2023-24. While they didn’t do a ton to change the personnel this season, they did make a significant upgrade to their logo and uniforms, so at least they’ll look better doing what they’re doing.


Previous ranking: 32
2023-24 finish: Missed the playoffs

Although the Sharks weren’t record-setting in their poor performance last season, they were a country mile out of a playoff spot. After adding Macklin Celebrini with the No. 1 pick, signing 2023 first-rounder Will Smith, and inking an impressive collection of veteran free agents — including Tyler Toffoli and Alex Wennberg, along with trade additions Jake Walman and Carl Grundstrom — they won’t be such an easy out in 2024-25.

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