NHL Power Rankings: Ridiculously small sample size edition

Here's what you need to know from a light Wednesday night in the NHL, where the Flyers gave the Bruins a little Philly treatment, and the Blues swept their mini 3-game road trip, winning in Vegas for a perfect 3-0-0 start to the 2021-22 campaign.

We’re just over one week in to the 2021-22 NHL season, and everything is totally normal.

The Sabres sit atop the league standings while sure-fire contenders like Colorado, Vegas, Winnipeg, and the Islanders are in the bottom third; the Red Wings are lighting up the scoreboard and the Sharks have one of the NHL’s most favourable goal-differentials; and last year’s Cup Finalists have a combined two wins on the year.

Yup, totally normal.

Luckily, this week’s NHL Power Rankings are here to bring us back down to earth by pointing out some totally predictable*, completely sustainable* and absolutely realistic* trends and projections for each team based on a really large* and super accurate* sample size.

*Overreacting? In October? In this league? Never!

It's funny, the whole point of this week’s theme is to point out the ludicrousness of small-sample-size projections and the flaws inherently found in overreacting while having some fun with early-season outcomes... and then here we are, prone to doing exactly that as we assess each team's record and try not to overreact to everyone's records so far.

Who knows? With the parity we see every year in this league, maybe the NHL's upside-down standings might actually stay awhile, and could turn this very power ranking on its head, too. So, with that in mind, let’s dig in and have some fun.

1. Florida Panthers (3-0-0)
The Stanley Cup stays in Florida.

After the Panthers learned a few lessons from their in-state rivals about depth scoring, the Cats got plenty of exactly that – all but four Panthers skaters have already registered at least one point this season.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (2-0-0)
Frederik Andersen struggles in October.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-2-0)
An underwhelming start is all part of the plan. The three-peat is on, and Jack Eichel’s about to be a Stanley Cup champion.

4. Colorado Avalanche (1-2-0)
This season’s MVP belongs to a member of this team.

It's team points leader J.T. Compher, obviously. (...Wait, who'd you think we were talking about?)

5. Minnesota Wild (3-0-0)
The Wild set a league record for most wins while never actually holding a lead.

Undefeated through three games, Minnesota has held a lead in-game for just a combined 28:53. (In Tuesday’s overtime thriller against the Jets, they never once held the lead but got it when it mattered most.) In other words: The 2021-22 Wild are not for the faint of heart. Buckle up!

6. Edmonton Oilers (3-0-0)
Four goals and eight points has Connor McDavid comfortably on pace to become the first player not named Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux to eclipse 160 points in a season.

(If you’re searching for an overreaction in that one, you won’t find it.)

7. New York Islanders (1-2-0)
Oliver Wahlstrom's breakout campaign sees him upgrade last season's goals total (12) by about 600 per cent.

8. Vegas Golden Knights (1-2-0)
Unfortunately, Vegas is the early challenger for the hardest-hit by the injury bug. (And, also unfortunately, this doesn't feel like an overreaction.)

9. Washington Capitals (2-0-1)
With four goals in three games so far, our calculations tell us that at this rate, Alex Ovechkin is poised to catch Brett Hull on the NHL's all-time goals list by Halloween, pass Jaromir Jagr in time for the holidays, and be within reach of Gordie Howe by the time he’s boarding a plane to the Olympic Games.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs (2-1-1)
A rookie out of Arizona is winning the Calder.

Michael Bunting, 2014 fourth-round pick by Arizona and scorer of two goals and one point so far with the Leafs, made the age cut-off by two days and qualifies as a rookie by a margin of just one game left unplayed in 2018-19 while with the Coyotes.

11. Dallas Stars (2-2-0)
Move over, Anton Khudobin. Step aside, Jake Oettinger. Not yet, Ben Bishop. This crowded crease belongs to Braden Holtby.

12. St. Louis Blues (3-0)
Jordan Kyrou finishes the season with 191 points, and considering Vladimir Tarasenko's shot volume, it's only a matter of time before the Russian winger joins him.

13. Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-1)
On pace for nearly 1,400 penalty minutes and averaging a league-high 5.33 goals per game. The Broad Street Bullies are back, baby.

14. Boston Bruins (1-1-0)
Depth scoring? Yeah, that's gonna be an issue again.

15. Winnipeg Jets (0-2-1)
Winnipeggers on pace to debate Cole Perfetti's readiness approximately, oh, ten billion times this year.

16. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-2)
On a team that has Sidney Crosby* and Evgeni Malkin*, your goal-scoring leader is… Danton Heinen, scorer of three goals in Pittsburgh’s first three games.

(*Yes, Crosby and Malkin are both sidelined with injuries to start the season, but we’re overreacting here! Just go with it.)

17. New York Rangers (2-1-1)
On pace for 41 three-on-three overtime periods, and we are HERE FOR IT.

18. New Jersey Devils (2-0-0)
Jack Hughes’ breakout year is here, his 82-goal campaign so impressive tha-- oh, no.

19. Vancouver Canucks (1-2-1)
Sure, Alex Chiasson was a nice affordable veteran pick-up, but have you seen this Alex Chaisson guy? Dude's on pace for a multi-point game with every appearance, though his attendance has been spotty.

20. Los Angeles Kings (1-2-0)
Between his three-goal, five-point season debut and his total five goals and eight points through three matchups so far, simple math tells us Kings captain Anze Kopitar is on pace for a cool 109 goals and a breezy 218 points.

21. Nashville Predators (1-2-0)
On pace for more wins off-ice than on it.

22. Ottawa Senators (2-1-0)
Who says you have to shoot to score?

Senators leading goal-scorer Chris Tierney is out here challenging the laws of hockey.

23. Calgary Flames (0-1-1)
Averaging a whopping 45 shots through two games -- the league's highest average -- with just four goals to show for their efforts (that's the second fewest), the club's collective 4.4 per cent shooting percentage has them starting up a campaign for bigger nets.

24. Anaheim Ducks (2-2-0)
Scoring woes? What are those? One year after posting a league-low 124 goals all season, these Ducks are on pace for a cool 266.

25. Buffalo Sabres (3-0-0)
The disastrous 2021 campaign and the messy off-season that followed was all just to tee up an M. Night Shyamalan-like twist: The perfect season.

26. San Jose Sharks (2-0-0)
It makes total and complete sense that the lone shutout of the season so far was posted by the club that registered just two such games all of last season.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-0)
A year after posting career lows across the board, Patrik Laine’s on pace for 109 points and a GQ Cover.

28. Detroit Red Wings (2-0-1)
Hat sales reach an all-time high in Hockeytown.

29. Seattle Kraken (1-3-1)
And here we thought their fiercest rivals would be in the Pacific.

And with 106 penalty minutes taken on the season so far, the Kraken aren't messing around.

Fear not, Pacific dwellers: Word is, they're still accepting rival applications:

30. Chicago Blackhawks (0-3-1)
Reports surface that maybe Marc-Andre Fleury actually did retire.

(Sorry. That physically hurt to write.)

31. Montreal Canadiens (0-4-0)
First team in history to follow up a Stanley Cup Final appearance with a winless season. Keeping us on our toes.

32. Arizona Coyotes (0-2-1)
Three games in, the Coyotes have suffered three losses while giving up 16 goals for a league-high average of 5.33 per game. That puts them on pace for… well, a very painful year. But fear not! The Karel Vejmelka era has arrived.

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