1-32 poll, plus early takeaways for every team

We’re two weeks into the 2021-22 NHL season, and there have been many surprises in the early going — both positive and negative.

Here is our updated ranking of all 32 clubs, plus the key takeaways that stand out most for each.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our preseason rankings, published on Oct. 8. Points percentages are through the games of Oct. 26.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 1.000
Upcoming schedule: vs. BOS (Oct. 27), @ DET (Oct. 29), @ BOS (Oct. 30)

There are a lot of reasons why the Panthers are 6-0 thus far, none bigger than the razor-sharp goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight. While they’ve been securing the fort, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett are blowing things open at the other end. It’s early still, but Joel Quenneville’s group looks like a top Stanley Cup contender.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 1.000
Upcoming schedule: vs. BOS (Oct. 28), vs. CHI (Oct. 29), vs. ARI (Oct. 31)

Forward depth? Check. Smothering defense? Check. Outstanding goaltender? Check. Coach pushing the right buttons? Check. Most talked-about social media post of the season? Yes, that too. Carolina jumped out to a 6-0-0 record and has all the pieces in place for a special run.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 1.000
Upcoming schedule: vs. PHI (Oct. 27), @ VAN (Oct. 30), vs. SEA (Nov. 1)

The Oilers are one of the last four undefeated teams, and it’s not just because of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The addition of Zach Hyman has been a perfect fit up front. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are a solid tandem in net. And there’s the power play, which is clicking at an incredible league-high 47.1% to start the season.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 1.000
Upcoming schedule: vs. COL (Oct. 28), vs. CHI (Oct. 30)

The concern was whether St. Louis could still contend — keyword being “was.” The Blues are a perfect 5-0-0, lead the league in scoring and have an enviable depth of offensive options. Along with excellent special teams (including the league’s second-best power play at 37.5%) and Jordan Binnington’s hot start, it all combines to make St. Louis look like the real deal.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 0.833
Upcoming schedule: vs. DET (Oct. 27), vs. ARI (Oct. 29), @ TB (Nov. 1)

Nicklas Backstrom has yet to debut this season due to a hip injury, but the Capitals aren’t missing a beat. Alex Ovechkin shares the league lead in goals with seven through six games, and Washington has allowed the second-fewest shots on net (27.5 per game) this season. The only hiccup has been a sluggish power play, gone quiet after a three-goal opening night.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .667
Upcoming schedule: vs. MTL (Oct. 28), vs. WPG (Oct. 30), vs. BUF (Nov. 2)

Erik Karlsson looks better than he has in years, and the Sharks seem to be following his lead. San Jose opened 4-0-0, and has been one of the league’s stingiest teams defensively while sitting in the top 10 in scoring. And that success has stemmed from a real balanced attack up front, led by captain Logan Couture.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .667
Upcoming schedule: vs. CGY (Oct. 28), vs. NJ (Oct. 30)

Pittsburgh hasn’t let the absence of stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang hurt its confidence. Mike Sullivan’s team is thriving in the face of adversity, scoring the third most goals in the league and allowing more than two goals against only once. With Crosby expected back next week, there’s plenty more these Penguins will have to show.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .643
Upcoming schedule: vs. CBJ (Oct. 29), @ SEA (Oct. 31), @ VAN (Nov. 2)

When your goaltender is playing lights-out like Igor Shesterkin, there’s a little more breathing room elsewhere. So while the Rangers break in a new coach and get comfortable with a few new faces, the sensational Shesterkin has been stealing the spotlight. All signs point to the Rangers’ team game around him continuing to pick up.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .500
Upcoming schedule: vs. ARI (Oct. 28), vs. WSH (Nov. 1)

If any other team had failed to hold a lead in regulation through their first five games — which is true about the Lightning — it’s unlikely they’d still have a 2-2-1 record. Tampa is no ordinary team, but even they have a limit. Losing Nikita Kucherov indefinitely to a lower-body injury hurts, and a 5-1 drubbing to Buffalo stings too.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .750
Upcoming schedule: @ FLA (Oct. 27), @ CAR (Oct. 28), vs. FLA (Oct. 30)

The season has barely begun and Boston is already dealing with injuries to Curtis Lazar, Nick Foligno and Craig Smith. It’s fallen on youngsters like Oskar Steen and Jack Studnicka to step in and contribute, which so far has helped the Bruins to another good start in the competitive Atlantic Division.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .833
Upcoming schedule: @ SEA (Oct. 28), @ COL (Oct. 30), vs. OTT (Nov. 2)

The Wild have been living close to the edge. They started 4-0-0, but in each game had to regain a blown lead. That kind of luck is bound to run out eventually, and it did for Minnesota against Nashville. What’s remained consistent is that the Wild’s best unit is proving to be a scrappy fourth line anchored by Nick Bjugstad.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .625
Upcoming schedule: @ EDM (Oct. 27), @ VAN (Oct. 28), @ CGY (Oct. 30), vs. ARI (Nov. 2)

The Flyers want to be harder to play against, in what’s shaping up to be one of the NHL’s toughest divisions. Despite a decent 2-1-1 start to the season, Philadelphia sits sixth in the Metropolitan Division by points percentage. Emphasizing their grit while continuing to score at a strong pace (the Flyers are averaging 4.50 goals per game) could help Philadelphia climb the ladder.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .750
Upcoming schedule: @ PIT (Oct. 28), vs. PHI (Oct. 30), vs. NSH (Nov. 2)

Calgary’s offence has been on fire early — Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm are tied for the league lead in goals, with seven, and Johnny Gaudreau has tossed in eight assists. A tough 0-1-1 start for the Flames has given way to a 4-0-0 run on the road, and Calgary hasn’t trailed during regulation in a game since their season opener.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .583
Upcoming schedule: @ NSH (Oct. 30)

The Islanders started the season 0-2-0 but quickly righted themselves to earn seven of eight points in their next four games. New York appears to be settling in defensively, and that’s helped Ilya Sorokin go from giving up 10 goals against in his first two games to going 3-0-1 in his next four. And No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov is on the way back too.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .500
Upcoming schedule: vs. VGK (Oct. 27), vs. OTT (Oct. 29), @ WPG (Nov. 2)

The Stars have won games they probably shouldn’t have, or wouldn’t have, if not for Braden Holtby holding them in. Dallas needs to clean up its shots against (currently fifth-most in the NHL at 34.6 per game) and give their goaltender some goal support, even while working several new faces into the lineup.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .600
Upcoming schedule: @ PIT (Oct. 30), vs. CBJ (Oct. 31), @ ANA (Nov. 2)

The loss of Jack Hughes to a dislocated shoulder will be tough for New Jersey to overcome long term. The Devils are markedly weaker down the middle without Hughes, and Michael McLeod may not be the answer. But at least until now, New Jersey racked up an early 3-2-0 record and generated more than 31 shots per game on average, all things on which to build.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .333
Upcoming schedule: @ STL (Oct. 28), vs. MIN (Oct. 30)

Nathan MacKinnon is back, and the Avalanche have weathered a dismal early-season road trip where they were outscored 13-7. Now Colorado’s racked up a few wins (including over Tampa) and it looks like they have a dynamic young defense pairing in Cale Makar and Bowen Byram.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .429
Upcoming schedule: vs. NYI (Oct. 30), @ CGY (Nov. 2)

The Predators have had three rookies make their debuts this season, causing some understandable growing pains for the group. Roman Josi has continued pulling Nashville along from the back end and up front, with help from a strong start by center Ryan Johansen.

Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: .750
Upcoming schedule: @ ANA (Oct. 28), @ LA (Oct. 31), @ SJ (Nov. 2)

The Jack Eichel drama rages on, yet the Sabres haven’t seemed too bothered. Buffalo earned points in four of its first five games and just blew out the defending Stanley Cup champions. The rise of defenseman Colin Miller has been perfectly timed for a Sabres’ team that doesn’t always score a ton, and Craig Anderson is the solidifying presence Buffalo needed in net.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .583
Upcoming schedule: @ LA (Oct. 28), @ SJ (Oct. 30), vs. DAL (Nov. 2)

No Mark Scheifele or Blake Wheeler due to COVID-19 protocols? Enter Pierre-Luc Dubois — finally making his presence felt for Winnipeg — and Kyle Connor. The Jets got over a 0-2-0 start and losing two veterans thanks to explosions of offense from their young stars. Now they just need goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to round back into form.

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .500
Upcoming schedule: vs. PHI (Oct. 28), vs. EDM (Oct. 30), vs. NYR (Nov. 2)

If the Canucks have been uneven in their 3-2-1 start, by the looks of it, they might be leveling out as of late. Vancouver is ninth in league scoring, with Conor Garland (eight points in six games) leading the way. Special teams have been an early area of concern, as Vancouver sits near the bottom of the league on the penalty kill.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .583
Upcoming schedule: @ WSH (Oct. 27), vs. FLA (Oct. 29), @ TOR (Oct. 30), @ MTL (Nov. 2)

After five years of missing playoffs, the Red Wings’ youth movement is helping them turn a corner. Tyler Bertuzzi’s scoring at a goal-per-game pace already, and Detroit’s got a pair of rookies — Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider — who are top five in rookie scoring. Add in a solid start from captain Dylan Larkin and it’s a little less surprising to see Detroit humming early.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .667
Upcoming schedule: @ NYR (Oct. 29), @ NJ (Oct. 31)

Elvis Merzlikins has been the heart and soul behind Columbus’ 4-2-0 start, aided by excellent offensive output from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Patrik Laine. The Blue Jackets haven’t scored as consistently at 5-on-5 (an 8-2 rout of Arizona accounted for four of their first six even-strength goals) but getting more contributions from their depth will change that.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .357
Upcoming schedule: @ CHI (Oct. 27), vs. DET (Oct. 30), vs. VGK (Nov. 2)

The Leafs are coming dangerously close to 18-wheeler-off-a-cliff territory. Four straight losses. Outscored 18-6. Mitch Marner looks defeated. John Tavares is a ghost. Auston Matthews isn’t himself. Toronto’s entire blue line is leaky, and Jack Campbell can’t hold the doors alone. Someone other than Jason Spezza needs to step up.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .250
Upcoming schedule: vs. WPG (Oct. 28), vs. MTL (Oct. 30), vs. BUF (Oct. 31)

Drew Doughty is out for at least a few weeks with a knee strain, and the Kings’ first game without him was a 7-3 blowout in St. Louis. At 1-4-1, Los Angeles has a long climb ahead of them already — but fortunately, playing in the lowly Pacific Division provides the Kings a little reprieve as they figure it out.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .333
Upcoming schedule: @ DAL (Oct. 29), @ CHI (Nov. 1), @ MIN (Nov. 2)

The Senators hoped to build off a strong end to last season and got Brady Tkachuk signed on a long-term deal to help do it. But instead of piling up wins, it’s been injuries adding up for Ottawa, to Colin White, Shane Pinto, and Clark Bishop. Dylan Gambrell was brought in via trade to try and keep the Senators on some kind of course.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .333
Upcoming schedule: @ DAL (Oct. 27), vs. ANA (Oct. 29), @ TOR (Nov. 2)

There’s been something lost in Sin City, and it’s the Golden Knights’ once-potent offence. It’s not the chances that aren’t there — they are, and good ones too — but Vegas’ stars aren’t doing anything with them. And the Golden Knights’ power play has yet to turn up a goal. Now with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone out with injury, putting pucks in the net gets even tougher. Tuesday’s win over Colorado is a step in the right direction.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .357
Upcoming schedule: vs. BUF (Oct. 28), @ VGK (Oct. 29), vs. MTL (Oct. 31), vs, NJ (Nov. 2)

It’s not how the Ducks are starting that’s the issue; it’s how they finish. In that, they don’t. Anaheim has already let two games this season slip away in the third period, as they search for a more consistent overall team game. Rickard Rakell and Troy Terry are doing an admirable job up front, but they’ll need more support.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .357
Upcoming schedule: vs. MIN (Oct. 28), vs. NYR (Oct. 31), @ EDM (Nov. 1)

The NHL’s newest team already has an engaged fanbase and state-of-the-art arena. Next up for Seattle is finding its game. Blown third-period leads and too many high-danger chances allowed are slowing the Kraken early, which isn’t altogether surprising for a team that’s never played together before this fall.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .143
Upcoming schedule: @ SJ (Oct. 28), @ LA (Oct. 30), @ ANA (Oct. 31), vs. DET (Nov. 2)

An 0-5-0 start might be the second-most painful thing Montreal has endured so far. The drama surrounding Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s return with Carolina — and then subsequently being trolled by the Hurricanes Twitter account — must take the cake. Regardless, Montreal has got to find scoring from somewhere to pull themselves out of an early-season hole.

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .083
Upcoming schedule: vs. TOR (Oct. 27), @ CAR (Oct. 29), @ STL (Oct. 30), vs. OTT (Nov. 1)

It’s not just that Chicago hasn’t won a game yet. They haven’t even held a lead. The Blackhawks were supposed to be better than this (see: signing Seth Jones to a massive eight-year, $76 million contract and wooing Marc-Andre Fleury into the crease). But things are only getting more bleak (see: Chicago’s sellout streak ending at 535 games), and the seat under Jeremy Colliton already feels on fire.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .083
Upcoming schedule: @ TB (Oct. 28), @ WSH (Oct. 29), @ CAR (Oct. 31), @ PHI (Nov. 2)

Andre Tourigny is in a real battle to earn his first NHL coaching win. Arizona was outscored 20-8 in their last four games, and sit as the lowest-scoring team in the league, while also giving up the most goals. It’s a brutal combination, and Arizona has been particularly bad in the second half of games where opponents have easily pulled away.

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