NHL Watchability Rankings: The top 16
As one would expect, a bulk of the NHL's most watchable teams are also among the league's best. Though some have had difficulty achieving playoff success, the entertainment value they provide is undeniable.
Some clubs are watchable because of their high-octane style of play or their superstars, while others will draw attention because of new acquisitions, or in one obvious case, the novelty of being an expansion franchise.
As a reminder, these aren't typical power rankings, nor are they purely based on the squads expected to finish at the top and bottom of the standings. This is all about how appealing they'll be from the viewer's perspective.
Here are the 16 teams we expect will be the most compelling. Tap here to see the bottom 16.
16. New York Islanders
The Islanders are undoubtedly a very good squad, but head coach Barry Trotz's defensive system doesn't make it easy to watch New York regularly. Mathew Barzal is a threat to make the highlight reel at any moment, but the club's dull but effective approach isn't the most conducive to viewership.
15. Dallas Stars
The Stars were in the middle of the NHL pack in terms of goals per game last season, but they ranked third in expected goals for percentage at five-on-five. Tyler Seguin's healthy again, and while Dallas' core is aging, Calder Trophy finalist Jason Robertson is another reason to pay attention to this squad.
14. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have a versatile group of forwards, including underrated sniper Kyle Connor and speed demon Nikolaj Ehlers. Winnipeg was the league's ninth-worst possession team in 2021, but the club should improve in that department thanks to a bolstered blue line.
13. Minnesota Wild
What will Kirill Kaprizov do for an encore following his impressive Calder-winning campaign in 2021? The electric winger has proven he can singlehandedly make the Wild a must-watch team, and he should ascend to new heights with two-way wizard Joel Eriksson Ek now centering Minnesota's top line.
12. New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox lead a pretty fun Rangers side that would be higher on this list if youngsters Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko were further along in their development. New York didn't drive possession in 2021 but will be worth viewing more often than not this season.
11. Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin's mere presence ensures the Capitals will frequently be worth a live look-in, especially when they go on the power play. Ovi, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, and T.J. Oshie are all in their 30s, while Evgeny Kuznetsov will turn 30 in May. So Washington's window may be closing, but this squad is still reasonably entertaining for now.
10. Seattle Kraken
The Kraken made some splashes in their first-ever offseason, and their branding has been a major success. While the team itself is a bit underwhelming, the expansion factor and curiosity about the Seattle market will keep many tuned into Kraken broadcasts throughout the club’s inaugural campaign.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks will be far more watchable than they were last season after adding Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones over the summer to complement Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. Much like 2021, Chicago still might not be a playoff team, but there's plenty of star power here, and it'll be worth seeing if the club's bold moves pay off.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
Removing proven puck-mover Dougie Hamilton and Calder finalist Alex Nedeljkovic from the equation made the Hurricanes worse, but they still project to be among the NHL's best possession teams while boasting game-breakers Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov.
7. Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have long been a dynamic duo, and Aaron Ekblad is healthy again after having his 2021 campaign cut short. The Panthers ranked fourth in the league in expected goals for percentage at five-on-five last season. Florida should again be among the most exciting teams, especially if goaltending phenom Spencer Knight gets extended playing time.
6. Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand make up one of the absolute best lines in the NHL, and the Bruins’ 10th-ranked power play will be even better with the rejuvenated Taylor Hall contributing over a full campaign. Boston overhauled its goaltending, but the seventh-ranked possession club in 2021 should again be one of the league’s most appealing.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs will be worth watching as they've been in recent years due to their skilled (and expensive) top four forwards led by "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews. But it'll also be compelling to see if Toronto - the NHL's second-best team in terms of expected goals for percentage last season - can finally silence the critics and win a playoff series with this group.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury's gone, but the ever-potent Golden Knights are still largely intact. Mark Stone is fun to watch wherever he is on the ice, while defensemen Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo are adept at creating offense. Vegas remains deep from top to bottom, and the club that tied for the lead in league points last campaign should again be a can't-miss team in 2021-22.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl make the Oilers worth watching no matter how the squad itself is faring. The NHL's two most recent Hart Trophy winners are the definition of appointment viewing, frequently scoring highlight-reel goals while racking up huge numbers. And as usual in the era of this supremely gifted duo, Edmonton will also be worth viewing to see if the club can avoid wasting its talents.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Remember, this isn't about which team is best. The Lightning are loaded with exciting players like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos, and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions would be the most watchable NHL squad if not for their thrilling Central Division counterparts.
1. Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog make up the best line in hockey, and Cale Makar has a convincing case as the league's most dominant defenseman despite Fox's claim to the Norris. Forget about Colorado's playoff failures - the Avalanche were the NHL's No. 1 possession team in 2021, and there's no reason to believe they won't be the most tantalizing club yet again.
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)
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