NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, each team's best rookie

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Friday, April 5, 2024

April has begun, and the end of the 2023-24 regular season looms on the 18th. Which teams are heating up at just the right time -- and which are falling off?

Our voters have cast their ballots, with some major shifts yet again as one of the closest Presidents' Trophy races in recent history is unfolding. Plus: Because it's awards season, we created a hypothetical: If there were a Calder Trophy given out for each team's rookie of the year, who would the 32 winners be? We answer that question this week as well.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors sends in a 1-32 poll based on the games through Wednesday, which generates our master list here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the previous edition, published March 29. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 69.08%

Logan Stankoven was a dominant AHL skater. And he has been more than ready for a big league chance. The 21-year-old found immediate chemistry with linemates Jamie Benn and Wyatt Johnson upon being added to the Stars roster, and he put up five goals in his first tenure to prove it. If Stankoven only gets better from here? That's a gold rush for Big D.

Next seven days: @ CHI (April 6), @ COL (April 7), vs. BUF (April 9), vs. WPG (April 11)

2. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 69.74%

Sure, New York has one headline-generating freshman in Matt Rempe. But in terms of on-ice impact, the Rangers' Calder Trophy goes to Will Cuylle. The 22-year-old winger settled into a fourth-line slot where he pairs a physical, forechecking punch with offensive upside (12 goals in 73 games) to give the Rangers' depth a boost.

Next seven days: @ DET (April 5), vs. MTL (April 7), @ NYI (April 9), vs. PHI (April 11)

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 66.45%

Carolina has rallied around rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. When the Hurricanes' veteran netminders were injured (Frederik Andersen) or struggling (Antti Raanta), Kochetkov made his mark. The 24-year-old leads all freshmen goalies with four shutouts, and boasts an impressive 20-13-4 record with a 2.38 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Next seven days: vs. WSH (April 5), vs. CBJ (April 7), @ BOS (April 9)

4. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 68.18%

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery can put Mason Lohrei anywhere and watch him thrive. Lohrei has taken on top-pairing minutes and penalty kill responsibilities, and averages over 16 minutes per game as an integral piece of Boston's back end. Add to that Lohrei's penchant for shot blocks and well-timed hits, and it's enough to earn him some Calder attention.

Next seven days: vs. FLA (April 6), vs. CAR (April 9)

5. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 67.11%

The Canucks haven't sent many rookies over the boards this season, but Arshdeep Bains did enough in the minors to intrigue Canucks coach Rick Tocchet. With Vancouver on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth this week, Bains got a call-up to build on his solid seven-game stint earlier this season. What Bains does with his opportunities now is critical.

Next seven days: @ LA (April 6), vs. VGK (April 8), vs. ARI (April 10)

6. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 67.11%

Scary as it is to imagine, Colorado could (eventually) have a second Cale Makar-type defender in rookie Sam Malinski -- but no pressure, kid. The 25-year-old impressed early this season with three goals and 10 points in 23 games, drawing Makar comparisons along the way. That's enough to earn him the Avalanche's Calder nod.

Next seven days: @ EDM (April 5), vs. DAL (April 7), vs. MIN (April 9)

7. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 64.19%

Edmonton knows who to (re)call when filling a gap at the NHL level, and it's often James Hamblin. The rookie forward has weathered the minors-to-majors see-saw with fine results in a fourth-line role. Dependability and versatility are solid qualities to have at any level, and Hamblin has provided it for the Oilers.

Next seven days: vs. COL (April 5), @ CGY (April 6), vs. VGK (April 10)

8. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 65.58%

There's a bright future for forward Mackie Samoskevich. While he hasn't collected any points over seven NHL games this season, Samoskevich has dominated in the AHL (45 points in 55 games), and it's only a matter of time before he translates that to a significant role with the big club.

Next seven days: @ BOS (April 6), vs. OTT (April 9), vs. CBJ (April 11)

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 63.33%

It's scary to fathom what would have befallen Toronto without Joseph Woll stepping up in the crease. When starter Ilya Samsonov struggled, it was the rookie Woll providing steady coverage and confidence back there. And even on a Leafs' team that has been inconsistent defensively, Woll's stats (2.87 GAA, .910 SV%) have stayed solid.

Next seven days: @ MTL (April 6), vs. PIT (April 8), @ NJ (April 9), vs. NJ (April 11)

10. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 61.33%

Vegas got key contributions from rookie Pavel Dorofeyev during a recent surge that cemented his status as the Golden Knights' Calder pick. Dorofeyev is a play-driving forward with incredible offensive skill who has turned up the heat lately with near-nightly goal scoring. He's everything Vegas could want.

Next seven days: @ ARI (April 5), @ VAN (April 8), @ EDM (April 10)

11. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 61.18%

Defenseman Emil Lilleberg stood out from the pack of impressive first-year pros in Tampa Bay. Lilleberg debuted in January on a Lightning blue line decimated by injury and had an immediate impact infusing some youthful energy -- and hard-hitting play.

Next seven days: @ PIT (April 6), vs. CBJ (April 9), vs. OTT (April 11)

12. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 60.53%

Nashville saw something special in Luke Evangelista last season, and the forward has proved himself further in his official rookie campaign. The winger shows up consistently on the scoresheet (15 goals and 33 points in 72 games), produces on special teams and has evolved into an all-around performer.

Next seven days: @ NYI (April 6), @ NJ (April 7), vs. WPG (April 9)

13. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 64.47%

Winnipeg has one candidate to qualify for this discussion, and it's Declan Chisholm. The defenseman was plucked off waivers from Minnesota in January, though Winnipeg has used him in only two games since. But Chisholm did net an assist in that stretch, and that'll earn you trophy consideration in these parts.

Next seven days: @ MIN (April 6), @ NSH (April 9), @ DAL (April 11)

14. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 59.87%

The Kings have leaned heavily on Alex Laferriere -- and for good reason. The 22-year-old is one of a dozen rookies around the league to appear in more than 60 games, and he has become one of the Kings' most productive players at 5-on-5 while generating 11 goals and 22 points through 72 games.

Next seven days: vs. VAN (April 6), @ ANA (April 9), vs. CGY (April 11)

15. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 54.67%

Washington slotted rookie Hendrix Lapierre into a top-line center spot earlier this season and watched the 22-year-old become one the Capitals' top performers. That's the power of Lapierre. He has gathered eight goals and 18 points through 42 games, helping Washington in its playoff push.

Next seven days: @ CAR (April 5), vs. OTT (April 7), @ DET (April 9), @ BUF (April 11)

16. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 55.26%

First-year pro Joel Hofer stepped in to support Jordan Binningtonand has been serviceable throughout the season (13-12-0, .915 SV%, 2.74 GAA), backstopping an often uneven Blues' team. And that's not easy.

Next seven days: @ SJ (April 6), @ ANA (April 7), vs. CHI (April 10)

17. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 54.00%

Minnesota might see defenseman Brock Faber win the actual Calder Trophy. Faber has excelled for the Wild, taking on top-pairing responsibilities (and tough matchups), averaging over 25 minutes per game while recording seven goals and 41 points through 73 games. Round of applause.

Next seven days: vs. WPG (April 6), @ CHI (April 7), @ COL (April 9)

18. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 54.67%

Here's to you, Simon Edvinsson, the lone rookie skater for the Red Wings this season. It was Edvinsson getting the nod recently when the Red Wings needed help for their playoff push, and the 6-foot-6 defenseman has not disappointed. Coach Derek Lalonde praised him for bringing "a big boost" to the club.

Next seven days: vs. NYR (April 5), vs. BUF (April 7), vs. WSH (April 9), @ PIT (April 11)

19. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 54.61%

Philadelphia has leaned on rookie netminder Samuel Ersson, and he has answered the bell. Ersson leads all freshmen goalies in starts (43) and has a 21-16-7 record with 2.79 GAA. It wasn't the Flyers' plan to have Ersson manning the cage so often, but he has grown with the Flyers through their surprisingly strong season.

Next seven days: @ BUF (April 5), @ CBJ (April 6), @ MTL (April 9), @ NYR (April 11)

20. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 54.61%

The Isles gave Kyle MacLean a six-game audition to start. That lit a fire under the rookie to earn himself another recall -- and he's not looking back. The Islanders' recent fourth-line center has clearly shown why he's NHL ready, producing three goals and six points through 23 games.

Next seven days: vs. NSH (April 6), vs. NYR (April 9), vs. MTL (April 11)

21. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 53.29%

Valtteri Puustinen will push his way toward a permanent spot next season. The 24-year-old winger capitalized on his NHL chances this season with 18 points in 43 games, and he won't be the odd man out among the Penguins (a team desperate to get younger) for much longer.

Next seven days: vs. TB (April 6), @ TOR (April 8), vs. DET (April 11)

22. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 50.00%

New Jersey can be sure Luke Hughes will be an integral long-term piece of its blue line. The 20-year-old has played beyond his years this season, averaging over 20 minutes and putting up nine goals and 41 points through 74 games. If that's the ground floor for Hughes, then the Devils have every reason to be hopeful about his next steps.

Next seven days: @ OTT (April 6), vs. NSH (April 7), vs. TOR (April 9), @ TOR (April 11)

23. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 50.66%

Zach Benson has joined Buffalo's top six, and the rookie has elevated his game accordingly. Benson -- still just 18 years old -- skates over 14 minutes per game, and has produced nine goals and 23 points through 64 games. For someone still so early in his development this has been a transformative year for Benson.

Next seven days: vs. PHI (April 5), @ DET (April 7), @ DAL (April 9), vs. WSH (April 11)

24. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 50.00%

Kraken fans caught a glimpse of Tye Kartye in the playoffs last season, and the rookie has translated that taste into a full-blown spread of opportunity this season. Bringing a physical edge and adding offense (with nine goals and 17 points through 68 games) is Kartye's calling card, and Seattle will keep dialing in on what he can offer.

Next seven days: @ ANA (April 5), vs. ARI (April 9), vs. SJ (April 11)

25. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 48.67%

Calgary has benefitted from Connor Zary's breakout rookie season that has generated serious leaguewide Calder buzz for the top-six forward. Zary rose from a brief AHL stint to start the season into a stalwart among the Flames' forward group -- a position he'll hold well into the future.

Next seven days: vs. EDM (April 6), @ SJ (April 9), @ LA (April 11)

26. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 46.67%

Ottawa has unlocked great potential in Ridly Greig's rookie season. He has been a firecracker up front and is a burgeoning scoring threat with 12 goals and 24 points through 63 games. The Senators are attempting to chart a successful new course and should be glad Greig's along for the ride.

Next seven days: vs. NJ (April 6), @ WSH (April 7), @ FLA (April 9), @ TB (April 11)

27. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 46.67%

Cayden Primeau just had his best stretch of his rookie campaign in March, with a 3-1-1 record, 1.97 GAA and .939 SV%. The 24-year-old could be a valuable part of the Canadiens' hopeful resurgence in coming seasons.

Next seven days: vs. TOR (April 6), @ NYR (April 7), vs. PHI (April 9), @ NYI (April 11)

28. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 44.67%

Arizona might be uncertain about its next arena location -- but there's no doubt Logan Cooley could light that place up, too. The freshman has had a dazzling season, producing 17 goals and 39 points through 74 games (and is fresh off his first career hat trick, too). Cooley has been better than advertised for the desert dogs.

Next seven days: vs. VGK (April 5), @ SJ (April 7), @ SEA (April 9), @ VAN (April 10)

29. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 40.79%

Columbus is the NHL home to underrated rookie forward Dmitri Voronkov, and his stats speak for themselves. The durable forward is top 10 in rookie scoring (17 goals and 31 points through 68 games) with an impressive shooting percentage (13.2%), and he's a real asset for the Blue Jackets along the boards. Voronkov could be just scratching the surface of his potential in Columbus, a club that also has top-tier Calder material in 2023 No. 3 pick Adam Fantilli.

Next seven days: vs. PHI (April 6), @ CAR (April 7), @ TB (April 9), @ FLA (April 11)

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 32.67%

Not even a fractured jaw could hold Connor Bedard back from being a Calder Trophy front-runner this season. Despite missing time, Bedard paces the rookie scoring field with 21 goals and 57 points through 60 games. And to think this is just the beginning for the newest face of the franchise in Chicago.

Next seven days: vs. DAL (April 6), vs. MIN (April 7), @ STL (April 10)

31. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 35.53%

Anaheim has one of the league's top rookie blueliners in Pavel Mintyukov, and he should be a perennial bright spot for the Ducks. The 20-year-old has hardly looked out of place leading Anaheim's back end with eye-opening (if under-the-radar) play and production (four goals and 28 points in 63 games). It's hard to stick out in a season that also saw Faber and Hughes debut, but Mintyukov is on track to be an impact player.

Next seven days: vs. SEA (April 5), vs. STL (April 7), vs. LA (April 9)

32. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 28.00%

Henry Thrun was missed greatly when he was hurt in late January. Fortunately the blueliner has healed -- and picked up where he left off with an ever-evolving game that has given the Sharks something to be excited about for their future.

Next seven days: vs. STL (April 6), vs. ARI (April 7), vs. CGY (April 9), @ SEA (April 11)