Power Rankings: No. 1 Vegas continues to defy the odds, while Lightning lurk and Predators strike

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With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror, it's time to gear up for the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26. With so many teams still in the hunt -- especially in the uber-competitive Central and Metropolitan divisions -- we might have more buyers than usual. For this week's Power Rankings -- voted, as always, by ESPN's panel of experts -- we offer the lowdown on where every team stands.

How we rank: We use a panel of voters, and these rankings reflect which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams are favored over lower-ranked teams. A run of wins doesn't guarantee a jump, and a couple of losses don't guarantee a fall.

Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

1. Vegas Golden Knights

Record: 33-12-4
Week 16 Ranking: No. 1

Vegas is officially the best expansion team (by points) in NHL history. The Golden Knights are dazzling with style points, too. Scoring the game-tying and go-ahead goals within a 10-second span of the third period to knock off Calgary on Tuesday? Yeah, we were impressed.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 34-13-3
Week 16 Ranking: No. 2

It's encouraging that top defenseman Victor Hedman has returned to the lineup. It's discouraging that Tampa Bay hasn't scored on the power play in four consecutive games. The man advantage was a Lightning super-strength for the first half of the season.

3. Nashville Predators

Record: 29-12-7
Week 16 Ranking: No. 5

This was a team that was doing just fine. And now the Predators have lured Mike Fisher out of retirement, adding to an embarrassment of depth at center. All other GMs are probably hoping this was David Poile's big midseason splash. Imagine if the Preds GM has something else up his sleeve ...

4. Winnipeg Jets

Record: 30-13-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 3

It's crazy, but Winnipeg hasn't missed a beat without No. 1 center Mark Scheifele (going 8-2-2 in his absence). Losing another top player -- defenseman Jacob Trouba is out six to eight weeks with an ankle injury -- is not ideal, but the Jets have weathered adversity all season. Expect them to replace from within.

5. Washington Capitals

Record: 30-15-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 4

Death, taxes and a Barry Trotz-coached Capitals team leading the Metropolitan Division at the All-Star break. Although this season is quite unexpected. Alex Ovechkin's renaissance (53 points in 50 games) probably deserves more credit.

6. St. Louis Blues

Record: 31-18-3
Week 16 Ranking: No. 7

Potential big development: Have the Blues solved their power-play woes? After a 12-game stretch in which St. Louis was 1-for-27 with the man advantage, it has gone 5-for-12 in its past four games.

7. Boston Bruins

Record: 29-11-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 6

The 18-game point streak is over, and it's concerning that Charlie McAvoy could be shelved for a week or two. Let's relish in the good, however: In the 19 games leading up to the All-Star break, goalie Tuukka Rask went 16-0-2 with a .939 save percentage and a 1.63 GAA.

8. Dallas Stars

Record: 28-19-4
Week 16 Ranking: No. 8

The Stars put up a stinker (a 3-0 loss to the Kings) in their return from the All-Star break. The good news: It's only the third time Dallas has been shut out this season. Offense has come in surges for the Stars; they need more consistency to cling onto a wild-card spot.

9. Los Angeles Kings

Record: 27-18-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 16

Through the ups and downs of this season, the Kings have maintained their defensive identity. Their defense is buoyed by the penalty kill; at 86.21 percent, it's the best mark in the league.

10. San Jose Sharks

Record: 26-16-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 10

If this team can weather Joe Thornton's absence (he suffered a right knee injury last week), it will prove it is a formidable threat in the West. The pressure really falls on Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski to adapt to new roles.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 29-18-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 9

All eyes are on GM Lou Lamoriello as the trade deadline nears. Will he give his troops any reinforcements -- or deal any of them? The most vulnerable Maple Leafs are the three with expiring contracts: Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk.

12. New Jersey Devils

Record: 25-16-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 12

It's clearly a problem when Taylor Hall isn't in the lineup. He elevates the play of everyone around him. A team with so many youngsters might not be able to sustain its early success; good thing they banked so many wins early.

13. Colorado Avalanche

Record: 27-18-4
Week 16 Ranking: No. 11

If Nathan MacKinnon's injury is serious, this Cinderella team could come crashing back to reality very soon. The MVP candidate has 61 points this season. Besides Mikko Rantanen, no other Colorado player has more than 40.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 26-21-3
Week 16 Ranking: No. 20

Reports of the Penguins' demise have been greatly exaggerated. As we all predicted, the Penguins are in second place in the Metropolitan Division. Also: How could you not feel for Matt Murray? The goaltender was spectacular in stopping 40 shots in a win on Tuesday, following time away after his father's death.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 27-19-4
Week 16 Ranking: No. 14

It's tough to figure the Blue Jackets out, and they might just be a mediocre team. They might be sunk by a stagnant offense. Columbus is third-worst in the league in goals per game (2.54).

16. Anaheim Ducks

Record: 25-17-9
Week 16 Ranking: No. 17

A feel-good story at All-Star weekend was the bond between Rickard Rakell and a 17-year-old Ducks fan, Katie Hawley, who is fighting cancer. Rakell, a 24-year-old center, is quietly putting together a terrific season. He leads a banged-up Anaheim team in goals (18) and points (38).

17. New York Rangers

Record: 25-20-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 15

The Rangers are in a precarious spot. They're well within playoff contention, yet reportedly looking to sell. Rick Nash's days in New York may be dwindling, even though he and linemates Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich have combined for 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in the past six games.

18. Minnesota Wild

Record: 27-18-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 19

The Wild have been terrific at home (17-4-4) but need to play much better on the road to fend off other wild-card contenders. (They've won only two of their past seven games away from St. Paul.) An upcoming road trip will be telling.

19. Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 24-19-7
Week 16 Ranking: No. 22

You might not have noticed, but the Blackhawks are transforming before our very eyes. Throughout the season they have become faster and younger, highlighted by the Anthony Duclair trade, plus promotions of Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza. But, of course, they're still out of playoff contention.

20. Calgary Flames

Record: 25-17-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 13

Well, the Jaromir Jagr experiment didn't work out as planned. It could be a rough week for the recently surging Flames: After a stinging loss to the Golden Knights on Tuesday, Calgary faces another league elite, Tampa Bay, on Thursday.

21. Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 24-18-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 18

Meet the league's streakiest team (or is that the Kings?). Either way, Philadelphia has put itself in playoff position midway through the season. Yet once again -- stop us if you've heard this before -- the Flyers are wading through goaltenders.

22. Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 23-19-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 23

The Hurricanes could still make the playoffs, but new owner Tom Dundon is doing everything he can to ensure that fans care. He's offering discounted tickets and is determined to fill the lower bowl -- and he even might bring back the Whalers jersey, at least for a few games.

23. New York Islanders

Record: 25-22-5
Week 16 Ranking: No. 21

Defense is still plaguing the Islanders. It's not just goaltending, but injuries to the blue-line corps. New York has allowed more goals (188) than any other team -- and it's not really close. (The Coyotes are next at 172.) The Islanders likely need to make a move to stay in the playoff picture.

24. Detroit Red Wings

Record: 20-21-8
Week 16 Ranking: No. 24

Among the only intriguing storylines surrounding the Red Wings these days: Where will defenseman Mike Green end up, and what type of return can Detroit command?

25. Florida Panthers

Record: 20-22-6
Week 16 Ranking: No. 28

The Panthers have a few bright spots. Jonathan Huberdeau is maintaining a point-per-game pace (48 points in 48 games). Meanwhile, third-string goalie Harri Sateri, a 28-year-old rookie, posted his first career win.

26. Vancouver Canucks

Record: 20-24-6
Week 16 Ranking: No. 26

America was introduced to Brock Boeser at All-Star weekend. The Minnesota native cleaned up, winning MVP honors and more than $550,000 in prize money -- plus a car. He also won fans over with humility. He's thinking of giving the car to his sister.

27. Montreal Canadiens

Record: 20-24-6
Week 16 Ranking: No. 25

Will Max Pacioretty stay or go? Who knows what Marc Bergevin is thinking these days. If there are no signs of progress, the GM could be out of a job very soon.

28. Ottawa Senators

Record: 15-24-9
Week 16 Ranking: No. 29

All updates on the Senators this season seem to focus on off-ice drama (and really, whatever owner Eugene Melnyk will say next). The owner conducted a media tour this week with a much less abrasive tone, especially toward fans. That's a start.

29. Buffalo Sabres

Record: 14-27-9
Week 16 Ranking: No. 31

Hey, the Sabres put together a three-game winning streak! It's over now. And it's probably not a good sign that this has been one of the highlights of the season. Buffalo hasn't won four straight games since December 2014.

30. Edmonton Oilers

Record: 22-24-3
Week 16 Ranking: No. 25

Goalie Cam Talbot recently told Sportsnet that the Oilers are going to make the playoffs. That's nice. It's unclear if Talbot is aware that in the past 12 seasons, only three teams have made the postseason when they had less than 50 points after 49 games.

31. Arizona Coyotes

Record: 12-29-9
Week 16 Ranking: No. 30

The Calder Trophy race is really between Mathew Barzal and Boeser, because Clayton Keller has hit a wall. After a torrid start, the 19-year-old has just three goals in his past 34 games.