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NHL Power Rankings: Bringing March Madness to Hockey

Get your brackets ready: Matching each NHL squad with a team from the men’s NCAA tournament.

March Madness is upon us. And while of course that refers to the three straight weekends packed with college basketball, the NHL will have some madness of its own this March as the season reaches the home stretch.

This week’s power rankings match each NHL team with a comparative squad from the men’s NCAA tournament field (…and a couple of teams that came just short of a berth). Get your brackets ready.

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32. Philadelphia Flyers

Last week: 29
Record: 18-30-11

Texas A&M–Corpus Christi (First Four No. 16 seed, Midwest Region). The worst team in the NCAA tournament field, Texas A&M–Corpus Christilost its First Four game Tuesday to Texas Southern. Still, unlike the Flyers, at least that loss came after a Southland conference tournament championship.

31. Seattle Kraken

Last week: 32
Record: 18-38-6

Longwood (No. 14 seed, South Region). The Lancers are making their first NCAA tournament appearance in program history. The Kraken aren’t there quite yet, but they can root for a fellow newbie.

30. Arizona Coyotes

Last Week: 31
Record: 20-36-4

Jacksonville State (No. 15 seed, Midwest Region). Bellarmine, not Jacksonville State, won the Atlantic Sun tournament, but was ineligible for the NCAA tournament as a program in transition from Division II. So instead, the Gamecocks received the bid from the conference. The only way the Coyotes could sniff the playoffs would be a similar technicality.

29. Buffalo Sabres

Last week: 30
Record: 20-32-8

Iowa State (No. 11 seed, Midwest Region). The Cyclones started the season 12–0, but that was a long time ago. The Sabres started the season with a three-game winning streak, but again, that was a loooooong time ago.

28. Montreal Canadiens

Last week: 27
Record: 16-36-8

Richmond (No. 12 seed, Midwest Region). The Spiders won four games in four days to win the Atlantic 10 tournament and surge into the NCAA field. The Canadiens lost 10 games in a row starting in late January, but since that streak ended, they are 8-3-1 in their last 12 contests.

27. Detroit Red Wings

Last week: 26
Record: 24-29-7

Georgia State (No. 16 seed, West Region). Georgia State is perhaps better than its seed, and the Red Wings are perhaps better than their record indicates, but whining about either won’t change them.

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26. Chicago Blackhawks

Last week: 28
Record: 22-30-9

Davidson (No. 10 seed, West Region). The Wildcats made the regional final in 2008 (led by Steph Curry), but it will be difficult for them to repeat that run. The Blackhawks are basking in former glory themselves as they try to rebuild.

25. Ottawa Senators

Last week: 23
Record: 21-34-5

Wyoming (First Four No. 12 seed, East Region). The Cowboys lost 24 games in 2019 and ’20. This year they went 21–3. That’s the type of turnaround the Senators would like to see. But Wyoming ended the season 4–6, including a First Four loss to Indiana; Ottawa is 3–7 in its last 10.

24. New Jersey Devils

Last week: 25
Record: 22-34-5

Notre Dame (First Four No. 11 seed, West Region). The Devils and the Irish struggle defensively; the former allows 3.50 goals per game, seventh worst in the NHL, while the latter ranks 105th in D-I in scoring defense.

23. San Jose Sharks

Last week: 24
Record: 26-25-8

Ohio State (No. 7 seed, South Region). The Buckeyes have lost four of their last five games; the Sharks’ current slump stretches back even further. San Jose has lost 10 of its last 16 games.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets

Last week: 21
Record: 31-27-3

Marquette (No. 9 seed, East Region). Shaka Smart brought a new look to the Golden Eagles in his first year with the team, and Brad Larsen has done the same with the Blue Jackets. A No. 9 seed for Marquette and fifth place in the Metro for Columbus is, if not impressive, at least serviceable.

21. Anaheim Ducks

Last week: 19
Record: 27-25-11

Michigan State (No. 7 seed, West Region). The Spartans are just 8–10 in the last two months; the Ducks are 8-11-4 in the same span.

20. New York Islanders

Last week: 22
Record: 24-24-9

San Diego State (No. 8 seed, Midwest Region). The Aztecs looked mediocre to start the season, and the Islanders looked worse than that. Both teams have played better in the second half of their seasons, but it’s probably too late for New York to follow SDSU to the postseason.

19. Winnipeg Jets

Last week: 20
Record: 28-23-10

Loyola Chicago (No. 10 seed, South Region). Don’t the Jets feel like a mid-major? Like the Ramblers, the Jets aren’t in position to make as much noise as they did a few years ago, but they could still play spoiler.

18. Vancouver Canucks

Last week: 18
Record: 30-24-7

Texas A&M (N/A). The Aggies were left out of the tournament field despite ending the year with a run to the championship game of the SEC tournament. The Canucks still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs—as of right now they sit just outside a wild-card spot in the Western Conference—but Vancouver most likely will find itself in the same boat as Texas A&M.

17. Dallas Stars

Last week: 15
Record: 32-23-3

Dayton (N/A). Dayton was the first team left out of the tournament by the NCAA selection committee, and right now, the Stars are in the same place—just one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Still, Dallas has time to gain ground on the Wild and the Golden Knights.

16. Nashville Predators

Last week: 17
Record: 35-21-4

Rutgers (First Four No. 11 seed, West Region). The Scarlet Knights received one of the last at-large bids for the tournament, and there’s a case to be made that their spot should’ve gone elsewhere. The Predators, two points ahead of the Wild for third place in the Central but with two more games in the books, are one of the weaker NHL teams currently in playoff position.

15. Vegas Golden Knights

Last week: 13
Record: 32-26-4

Houston (No. 5 seed, South Region). Both the Cougars and the Golden Knights have been impressive year in and year out since 2018. While injuries have hampered both teams this season, they could come on strong when it matters.

14. Edmonton Oilers

Last week: 16
Record: 33-23-4

Michigan (No. 11 seed, South Region). The Oilers and the Wolverines have talent enough for the postseason, but both have endured up-and-down seasons that leave them looking shaky.

13. Washington Capitals

Last week: 14
Record: 33-18-10

Illinois (No. 4 seed, South Region). Kofi Cockburn averaged at least 20 points and at least 10 rebounds per game, the only player in the country to do so. The imposing Illini center’s physical presence and scoring ability bring to mind Alex Ovechkin, who surpassed Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday to move into third all-time on the NHL goal-scoring list with 767.

12. Los Angeles Kings

Last week: 10
Record: 33-21-8

Miami (No. 10 seed, Midwest Region). A streaky Miami team secured a March Madness berth with a scorching 12–2 run earlier this season, but have been middle-of-the-road since then. The Kings have had several strong runs themselves punctuated by stretches of mediocrity.

11. New York Rangers

Last week: 9
Record: 38-17-5

Providence (No. 4 seed, Midwest Region). The Friars enter the Big Dance with a 25–5 record, but Ken Pomeroy ranks Providence as the luckiest of all teams in the tournament. Underlying metrics have led to major doubts about the Rangers as well, but for not, both teams are chugging along.

10. Minnesota Wild

Last week: 12
Record: 35-20-4

Saint Mary’s (No. 5 seed, East Region). The Gaels earned the best seeding in school history, but in return they get a likely Round of 32 matchup against UCLA and then a likely Sweet 16 matchup against Baylor. The Wild are still battling for seeding in the Central Division, but at some point they’ll probably have to face the league-leading Avalanche.

9. Boston Bruins

Last week: 11
Record: 37-19-5

Iowa (No. 5 seed, Midwest Region). The Hawkeyes arrive in the NCAA tournament fresh off a Big Ten tournament win, and yet they have a No. 5 seed to show for it—the same seed they had in the conference tournament. The Bruins, too, could end up victims of a beastly division; they’re currently in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

8. St. Louis Blues

Last week: 8
Record: 34-17-8

Purdue (No. 3 seed, East Region). The Boilermakers have the sixth-best field goal percentage in D-I at 49.33%, and the Blues have the best shooting percentage in the NHL at 11.5%. If both teams keep picking their spots well, they could be deadly.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Last week: 6
Record: 38-17-5

Kentucky (No. 2 seed, East Region). Bluebloods in their respective sports, the Wildcats and the Maple Leafs have skilled squads but tough roads through the postseason. To get out of its region, Kentucky will likely need to beat Baylor in the Elite Eight; to get out of the first round, the Maple Leafs will likely need to outlast the Lightning.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

Last week: 7
Record: 36-16-9

Duke (No. 2 seed, West Region). Other fanbases love to hate these perennial powerhouses.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

Last week: 5
Record: 39-15-6

Baylor (No. 1 seed, East Region). Defending champions? Check. Still formidable title contenders? Check. Both could go far again, but they’ll face stiff competition in their corners of the brackets.

4. Calgary Flames

Last week: 3
Record: 37-16-7

Tennessee (No. 3 seed, South Region). The Pacific Division–leading Flames have just three regulation losses dating back to Jan. 29. They’re rolling, much like the SEC tournament champion Volunteers.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Last week: 4
Record: 41-13-5

Kansas (No. 1 seed, Midwest Region). The Hurricanes have battled through a bruising division, just like the Jayhawks in the Big 12, which should make them well prepared for the postseason.

2. Florida Panthers

Last week: 2
Record: 41-13-6

Arizona (No. 1 seed, South Region). These cats (Wildcats and Panthers) possess all-around skills that should help them make deep runs in their respective tournaments.

1. Colorado Avalanche

Last week: 1
Record: 43-13-5

Gonzaga (No. 1 seed, West Region). The Avalanche are in line for the No. 1 overall seed, and like the Bulldogs, they’ll be hard to top. As Flames coach Darryl Sutter said of whichever team draws Colorado in the first round, “It’s going to be a waste of eight days.”