NHL Power Rankings: The midseason MVP for all 31 teams

NHL

Time is a warp these days, but believe it or not, we’re at the halfway mark of the NHL’s abridged 56-game 2021 season. For this week’s ESPN Power Rankings, we identified the MVP on every team at the midseason point.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1 to 31 — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated in the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our Week 7 edition, published on March 10. Points percentages are through the games of March 16.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .750
Next seven days: vs. NSH (March 18, 20); @ TB (March 21); @ CHI (March 23)

The Panthers had a handful of terrific performances in the first half, but their MVP is captain Aleksander Barkov, who does everything, and does it well. Honorable mention to Jonathan Huberdeau, who has been nearly as impressive.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .732
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (March 18, 20); @ CBJ (March 22)

Vincent Trocheck has been a rock star through the first half (13 goals and a point-per-game pace through 24), though he’s injured right now. Keep an eye on Sebastian Aho, who is about to turn up to next-level mode.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .750
Next seven days: vs. CHI (March 18, 20); vs. FLA (March 21); @ DAL (March 23)

Andrei Vasilevskiy has been head and shoulders above his peers this season. According to Natural Stat Trick data, Vasilevskiy leads the league in goals saved above average at 5-on-5 with 13.35. The next-closest goalie? Kevin Lankinen (8.66).

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .750
Next seven days: vs. SJ (March 17); @ LA (March 19, 21); vs. STL (March 22)

For the first half of the season, Marc-Andre Fleury was the team’s MVP — which is ironic, considering there was trade speculation this summer after the Golden Knights inked Robin Lehner to a long-term deal. This is the best goaltending tandem in the league.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .700
Next seven days: vs. PHI (March 18, 20); @ PHI (March 22); @ BOS (March 23)

Captain Anders Lee had been the first-half MVP. Besides a team-high 12 goals, teammate Matt Martin lauds Lee for having the “best net-front presence in the league.” Lee, unfortunately, is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Next man up.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: .724
Next seven days: vs. NYR (March 19, 20)

The perennially underrated Nicklas Backstrom is having an on-brand season. The 33-year-old is quietly leading the team in points, and he is tracking for his best goals- and points-per-game averages in a decade.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .685
Next seven days: @ COL (March 18, 20); vs. ANA (March 22)

Kirill Kaprizov has been the star of the Wild’s season so far, in part because he helps make their games appointment viewing. Of forwards to debut over the past 10 seasons, only four players put up more points through 25 games than Kaprizov’s 23 (which is also a Minnesota franchise record).

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .638
Next seven days: @ NJ (March 18, 20); vs. NJ (March 21)

The Penguins are in win-now mode because Sidney Crosby is still around. At 33, Crosby is still the team’s best player — and had seven points in the team’s recent five-game winning streak — but is tracking for his lowest points-per-game average of his career.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .667
Next seven days: vs. CGY (March 19, 20)

Auston Matthews leads the NHL in goals by a decent margin, entered the week on pace for 64 goals in a full season and already posted a 16-game point streak (including an eight-game goal streak). All of this while managing a wrist injury.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: .667
Next seven days: vs. MIN (March 18, 20); @ ARI (March 22, 23)

Philipp Grubauer is playing the best hockey of his career. The 29-year-old trails only Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins, save percentage and goals-against average. Plus, Grubauer has one more shutout (four) than the Lightning netminder.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: .630
Next seven days: @ BUF (March 18, 20); vs. NYI (March 23)

There’s a legitimate case to be made that Charlie McAvoy is the Bruins’ first-half MVP, shouldering the No. 1 defenseman role while adding more offense. But Brad Marchand‘s overall impact — and 31 points through 25 games — is hard to ignore.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: .643
Next seven days: vs. MTL (March 17); @ EDM (March 18, 20); @ VAN (March 22)

Winnipeg’s MVP so far has been its No. 1 center, Mark Scheifele, who has 36 points through his first 27 games. That said, here’s an official nomination for Nikolaj Ehlers to inherit Aleksander Barkov‘s old title of the NHL’s most underrated player.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: .589
Next seven days: @ LA (March 17); @ SJ (March 19, 20); @ VGS (March 22)

The team’s first-half MVP is also their bounce-back of the year candidate: Justin Faulk. The defenseman inherited Alex Pietrangelo‘s No. 1 minutes, and he is playing like the player St. Louis believes it traded for (and immediately extended) in 2019.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .581
Next seven days: @ CGY (March 17); vs. WPG (March 18, 20); @ MTL (March 22)

This might be the best hockey we’ve ever seen Connor McDavid play. He tallied his 50th point of the season before the 30th game, the second straight season he’s achieved the feat. The last player to do it in back-to-back seasons? Wayne Gretzky.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .589
Next seven days: @ WPG (March 17); vs. VAN (March 19, 20); vs. EDM (March 22)

It’s been a renaissance season for 33-year-old Jeff Petry, who was the first defenseman this season to hit 10 goals. At the halfway point, Petry led the Habs in points (25) and Montreal had a plus-20 goal differential with him on the ice.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .596
Next seven days: @ NYR (March 17); @ NYI (March 18, 20); vs. NYI (March 22); vs. NJ (March 23)

Sean Couturier has played only 15 games (missing 10 with a rib injury), but an argument can be made for him to still be the team’s MVP thus far. His Corsi for percentage at even strength (61.22) is more than 10 percentage points higher than the team average.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .534
Next seven days: vs. EDM (March 17); @ TOR (March 19, 20); @ OTT (March 22)

Andrew Mangiapane has been a delight this season, but Calgary’s MVP is its big offseason investment: Jacob Markstrom. The Flames have lacked a reliable No. 1 goaltender since Miikka Kiprusoff left, and they sure are using Markstrom (19 starts, .911 save percentage, two shutouts) as a workhorse.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .550
Next seven days: @ TB (March 18, 20); vs. FLA (March 23)

Patrick Kane reached his 1,000-game milestone this season, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. If Chicago remains in the playoff race, Kane will be in the MVP discussion. Kane trails only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in points, and he has 12 more than any other Blackhawk.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .519
Next seven days: vs. STL (March 17); vs. VGS (March 19, 21); @ SJ (March 22)

If you’ve watched a Kings game this season, you’ve probably noticed Anze Kopitar is still dominating. “It’s pretty amazing to watch, especially for a guy of his size,” teammate Jeff Carter said. “Literally every night you know what you’re getting with Kopy, controlling the game. He’s always on.”

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .483
Next seven days: @ ANA (March 18, 20); vs. COL (March 22, 23)

Conor Garland leads the Coyotes in points at the halfway point, but he also might be the most entertaining Arizona player to watch. Undersized but full of effort, he keeps carving a bigger role.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .481
Next seven days: vs. PHI (March 17); @ WSH (March 19, 20); vs. BUF (March 22)

With Artemi Panarin out for a decent chunk of the season, Chris Kreider — the team’s longest-tenured veteran — has been the MVP. Kreider leads the team in goals (14 through 26 games) and trails only Panarin in expected goals for percentage (65.2%).

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: @ DET (March 18, 20); vs. NSH (March 21); vs. TB (March 23)

This isn’t the start anyone in Dallas expected. Alexander Radulov returned after a month out, and Tyler Seguin is still sidelined. In their absence, it has been Joe Pavelski carrying the load with double the number of goals (14) than his next-closest teammate.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .483
Next seven days: @ CAR (March 18, 20); vs. CAR (March 22)

Oliver Bjorkstrand probably should be the team’s MVP so far, but his usage remains questionable. Cam Atkinson has proved he still has the goal-scoring touch, and he has been the most consistent offensive producer, so it’s probably him.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .481
Next seven days: @ VGS (March 17); vs. STL (March 19, 20); vs. LA (March 22)

It has been a dismal season in San Jose, but Logan Couture has been producing. He leads the team with 13 goals (11 at even strength) while still playing a hard brand defensively. The captain is leading the way with effort.

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .469
Next seven days: @ OTT (March 17); @ MTL (March 19, 20); vs. WPG (March 22)

Thatcher Demko is putting up a good late case, but Brock Boeser has been consistent the entire season, leading the team in points and goals. He’s looking more and more like a lock for next year’s U.S. Olympic roster.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .431
Next seven days: @ FLA (March 18, 20); @ DAL (March 21); vs. DET (March 23)

The Predators continue to disappoint. Filip Forsberg (10 goals, 27 points through his first 28 games) has put up the best individual performance. It’s why he would generate the biggest return package of any Nashville trade options.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .423
Next seven days: vs. PIT (March 18, 20); @ PIT (March 21); @ PHI (March 23)

New Jersey may be off to its worst start in a decade, but there have been some silver linings. A year ago, most Devils fans would be fine with the team trading Pavel Zacha. Now, the 23-year-old is leading the team in points, looking like he might not be a bust after all.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .344
Next seven days: vs. VAN (March 17); vs. CGY (March 22)

The Senators aren’t on most people’s must-watch list, but they have a few players who are legitimately exciting to watch. Brady Tkachuk (11 goals, 21 points through 31 games) is the best player to me. He leads the league in shots taken — by a wide margin.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .367
Next seven days: vs. ARI (March 18, 20); @ MIN (March 22)

Max Comtois had a hot start, but suddenly Rickard Rakell is performing up to expectations. The better he plays, the more trade value he has — but also the unlikelier a trade is, as the asking price might be too rich for most teams.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .367
Next seven days: vs. DAL (March 18, 20); @ NSH (March 23)

Dylan Larkin plays hard every time he’s on the ice, but the player who has bailed the Red Wings out the most thus far this season is Jonathan Bernier. He ranks 11th in the league in goals saved above average at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick data.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .286
Next seven days: vs. BOS (March 18, 20); @ NYR (March 22)

There aren’t many Sabres having good seasons. Linus Ullmark is sidelined at least a month with injury right now. But through 12 starts, his 5-4-2 record and .919 save percentage are hard to ignore — especially while he plays on a team that’s so bad.

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