NHL Power Rankings: Paying tribute to minutes munchers like Makar, Rielly

Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar (8) protects his net during the first period of an NHL hockey game. (Frank Franklin/AP)

As businesses bean-count for the end of Q1, the NHL season is chugging for home through a Q4 that will basically take us to the end of April.

At this point in the calendar, the toll of a long grind is inescapable. That got us thinking; with the regular-season finish line so close, who’s been under the most duress on each club?

Minutes played will always take a back seat to snazier stats like goals and points because they seem so mundane by comparison. But let’s never discount the value of those people who are showing up all the time to do their job. Whether it’s a high-scoring forward or a D-man who just never seems to take a rest, this week’s power rankings squirt a little water in the direction of players who’ve been all over the ice this season.

1. Colorado Avalanche (47-14-6) Cale Makar has played more than any other Avalanche skater, but it’s worth noting his average ice per game (25:33) is only three seconds per contest more than breakout boy Devon Toews (25:30).

2. Florida Panthers (45-15-6) MacKenzie Weegar has overtaken Aaron Ekblad in terms of total ice time thanks to the latter’s recent injury. With Ekblad sidelined, newcomer Ben Chiarot is already averaging 22:01 per night.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (44-15-8) Jaccob Slavin has more total minutes than every other Cane and averages nearly two more per night than the second-most used player on his squad, Brett Pesce.

4. New York Rangers (44-19-5) Two right-shot defencemen lead the way, with Adam Fox clocking in at 24:04 per game and Jacob Trouba coming in at 22:33.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (42-18-6) Victor Hedman, as usual, is a beast, playing the third-most total minutes in the league. Up front, only one forward from a loaded group averages more than 20 minutes a night: It’s Nikita Kucherov, clocking in at 20:09. (If you’re wondering, only 23 forwards in the league play 20 minutes per game).

6. Minnesota Wild (41-20-4) Kirill Kaprizov is third in total ice behind Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, but no forward on Minny — not even ‘Dollar Bill Kirill’ — averages 19 minutes per game.

7. Calgary Flames (40-18-8) Two-way gem Elias Lindholm is one of just 10 players in the league to average at least two minutes of power-play time per game and in addition to at least two minutes on the penalty-kill. The other nine are Connor Brown, Andrew Copp, Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Aleksander Barkov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Mitch Marner, J.T. Miller and Ryan O’Reilly.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs (42-19-5) At 24 minutes per game, Morgan Rielly is the Maple Leafs’ leader in that category, just as he has been five of the past six seasons. Sheldon Keefe has actually reeled in his top forwards a bit, playing Mitch Marner nearly two minutes per night less than last year and having Auston Matthews on the ice about a minute less per game compared with last season.

9. Boston Bruins (41-20-5) Charlie McAvoy is the only Bruin who started the year in Boston averaging 20 minutes per night, coming in at 24:34. That is almost five minutes per game (!) more than the next-busiest B, Brandon Carlo. No wonder they went out and snagged Hampus Lindholm — 22:23 per night in three games with Boston so far — at the deadline.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-18-10) Given how hard it has been for him to stay in the lineup historically, it’s great to see Kris Letang logging a team-high 1641:47 this year.

11. Washington Capitals (37-21-10) There’s no taking the foot off the gas for Alex Ovechkin: only defenceman John Carlson (23:51) averages more ice than ‘Ovie’ (21:04).

12. St. Louis Blues (37-20-19) What a leap Robert Thomas had made this year. The 22-year-old is averaging 18:51 under coach Craig Berube, compared to 13:36 last year. The only forward Berube leans on more is Ryan O’Reilly.

13. Nashville Predators (39-24-4) It took some time for him to become the man in Nashville, but Juuse Saros is taking full advantage of his opportunity now. With 3321:59 in the crease this year, Saros has played more than every goalie except Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Roman Josi, by the way, has played more total minutes than all but four guys in the league.

14. Edmonton Oilers (38-25-5) No forwards in the NHL have played more than Leon Draisaitl (1547:55) and Connor McDavid (1494:26).

15. Los Angeles Kings (36-23-10) Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar have been minutes monsters since entering the league. Doughty — who’s had an injury-plagued campaign — leads the team with 25:44 per night, while Kopitar has seen the most total time at 1434:12. Kopitar has had more ice time than any forward in the league since he entered the NHL in 2006-07.

16. Vegas Golden Knights (37-28-4) Let’s flip this around and talk about who hasn’t been playing: Nine Vegas forwards have seen more ice this year than Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. That offers at least some explanation for why the Golden Knights are fighting for their playoff lives.

17. Winnipeg Jets (33-25-10) We just mentioned those two mega-stars in Edmonton; well, Draisaitl and McDavid are the only two forwards who’ve been on the ice more than Kyle Connor this season.

18. Dallas Stars (37-25-3) The Stars really lean hard on their top 4; Miro Heiskanen (24:42), Ryan Suter (23:29), John Klingberg (22:24) and Esa Lindell (22:21) all see a lot of ice.

19. New York Islanders (29-27-9) Noah Dobson is a bright spot in an otherwise lost year. The 22-year-old defenceman has played more than any Islander this season during a breakout campaign.

20. Vancouver Canucks (32-28-9) Quinn Hughes is the clear minutes leader in Vancouver, while only seven forwards in the league average more time than J.T. Miller (20:59).

21. Buffalo Sabres (24-33-11) Rasmus Dahlin is far and away the pace-setter for this squad, but what a nice fit Alex Tuch has been with his boyhood club since coming over from Vegas. In 36 games with Buffalo, Tuch is averaging 18:55 per night, more than any other forward on the squad.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets (32-30-5) With Seth Jones now in Chicago, Vladislav Gavrikov and Andrew Peeke have seen a notable minutes bump. Only Zach Werenski plays more than those two D-men.

23. San Jose Sharks (29-29-8) All hail Brent Burns, your NHL minutes played leader this year at 1731:12. Since 2007-08, the only guys who’ve logged more time than Burns are Suter, Duncan Keith and Doughty.

24. Chicago Blackhawks (24-33-10) Patrick Kane is playing a ton once again this year; since entering the league in 2007-08, Kane has turned in more even-strength minutes than any forward in the NHL.

25. New Jersey Devils (24-37-5) Jack Hughes’s game has been taking off the past few months and his deployment reflects that. Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Hughes has been averaging 20:36 of ice, more than any Devils forward. That’s up about two minutes per game from what he was averaging in the first three months of the season, when he missed some time with a dislocated shoulder.

26. Ottawa Senators (23-37-6) Thomas Chabot basically plays five minutes a night more than any other Senator and leads the entire NHL at 26:23 of ice time per contest. He also holds the highest single-game ice time number this year, turning in 35:39 in an overtime loss to the Flyers on Dec. 18.

27. Philadelphia Flyers (21-35-11) Ivan Provorov has been playing at least 24 minutes per night since his second year in the league — 2017-18 — and this season is no exception, as the defenceman is at 24:50. There will be more minutes to go around the forward group the rest of the year with Claude Giroux and his 20 per night now in Florida.

28. Detroit Red Wings (26-32-8) Consider this an evergreen note (at least for the next 15 years): Moritz Seider leads the Red Wings in ice time.

29. Montreal Canadiens (18-38-11) With Shea Weber’s career likely over, Joel Edmundson hurt most of the year, Jeff Petry also dinged up and Chiarot traded, your total minutes leader in Montreal is … centre Nick Suzuki. Sophomore Alexander Romanov has played more than any other defenceman.

30. Anaheim Ducks (27-30-11) Cam Fowler has always hauled big minutes, but he’s up over 24 per game this year after a couple years of being below 22. The load won’t be getting any lighter with Lindholm and Josh Manson traded at the deadline.

31. Seattle Kraken (21-40-6) The Kraken signed Adam Larsson last summer to be a workhorse and he’s lived up to expectations, playing more than anybody on the first-year squad.

32. Arizona Coyotes (21-41-5) You had to feel for Clayton Keller on Wednesday night, as he was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a leg injury during his team’s 5-2 win over San Jose. Keller is averaging over 20 minutes a night during a break-through campaign, about four minutes per game more than he saw in either of the past two seasons.

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