It’s difficult to take any NHL power rankings seriously in early August. However, it didn’t stop Sportsnet from dropping their newest power rankings this week. Surprisingly enough, the current Stanley Cup winners were ranked second behind the 2022 NHL champions.
1. Colorado Avalanche:
The 2022 champs didn’t advance past Round 1 in 2023, but the Avs are poised to make noise again. Colorado knows captain Gabriel Landeskog is going to be on long-term injured all season, so it can stuff his $7-million salary there. Ryan Johansen and Ross Colton give a nice, new look to the centre crew and Jonathan Drouin is a fun bounce-back bet. Unlike last season, the Avs should be rested and hungry when the puck drops in October. –Ryan Dixon on Sportsnet.ca
By no means was Sportsnet’s Ryan Dixon taking a swipe at the Golden Knights by anointing the Avalanche as the league’s best team going into next season. Let’s be honest, the past two NHL champs are not far away from each other. Both have an elite center, game-changing wingers, dynamic defensive units, and strong coaching. Would anyone be surprised if Colorado and Vegas faced off in the 2024 Western Conference Finals?
The Golden Knights will try to not stub their toe like the Avalanche did this past postseason by being eliminated in the opening round. Of course, four playoff series, a championship parade, and dozens of “Day with the Cup” parties may create a hangover but VGK’s overall talent should keep them in contention. Sportsnet agreed.
2. Vegas Golden Knights:
Recency bias? Maybe. But the Knights have largely kept the band together and Jack Eichel just had his coming out party in the 2023 playoffs. Mark Stone missed half the season last year and the Knights still managed to win the Pacific Division. This balanced squad is going to be right back challenging for the Cup. –Dixon on Sportsnet.ca
With the exception of Reilly Smith’s departure to Pittsburgh, the core of Vegas’ Stanley Cup roster is fully intact. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Pietrangelo are all returning for a back-to-back attempt in 2024. Coach Bruce Cassidy will need repeat performances from all of his players, especially in net from Adin Hill, who was handsomely paid after his all-world postseason performance.
Expectations are high for Eichel and his linemates to lead the Golden Knights’ offense as they did in the playoffs. Pietrangelo will be relied upon to carry a heavy workload again and Stone will try and stay on the ice for as many regular season games as he can. As long as all of them are dressed for Game 1 of the 2024 NHL playoffs, Vegas will be considered a favorite to repeat, no matter where the out-of-town media has them ranked by April of next year.
For the record, Edmonton was listed third on Sportsnet’s power rankings. Considering how that econd round series played out, Vegas shouldn’t worry about dropping beneath them.