NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup contender tiers as 2021-22 season begins

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a preseason look at the top Stanley Cup contenders for the 2021-22 season.

We put all 32 teams into different tiers based on what the level of expectation should be for this season.

Where does your team sit at the start of the season?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

The Top Contenders

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. They lost a lot this offseason but they still have the same core in place. And that core has been the best team in the league for the past seven years and has won back-to-back Stanley Cups. You can not count them out from winning a third in a row.

2. Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps the most talented team in the NHL on paper. They have to break through the Second Round, but if they stick with it and trust the talent they will get there. Talent eventually wins.

3. Vegas Golden Knights. The big question will be center depth and if Robin Lehner plays at a Stanley Cup level all season as the No. 1 goalie. Great team with huge expectations and a ton of pressure.

4. Carolina Hurricanes. Losing Dougie Hamilton hurts and they have some questions in goal but they should absolutely be one of the best teams in the league. Their time has arrived.

5. New York Islanders. Here is how this is going to go: They will win 10 games in a row at some point, probably as part of a 15-or 16-game point streak, stumble along for the rest of the season, everybody will question how good they actually are, and then they will shut everybody down in the playoffs and be playing in the Eastern Conference Final. Just accept it.

It is possible if some things go right

6. Florida Panthers. This might be the first time this team has entered the season with real expectations. The game-changer here could be Spencer Knight. If he overtakes Sergei Bobrovsky and plays to his potential, this team will be tough to beat.

7. Boston Bruins. The goalies are a question right now (maybe Tuukka Rask comes back?) and the second-line center spot is a concern, but that top line and Charlie McAvoy will take them far.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs. They should be in this tier. Whether or not they do anything to validate that preseason belief remains to be seen. At some point they have to actually, you know, do something.

9. Minnesota Wild. They have some questions at center, but Marco Rossi could be a game-changer there. They were one of the most exciting teams in the league last year. That is a sentence that has never been said about the Minnesota Wild.

10. St. Louis Blues. A lot of this depends on if the good version of Jordan Binnington makes an appearance and if the defense is a little better.

11. Washington Capitals. A lot of this depends on if Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov bounce back. Not going to bet against them or this core making one more run.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins. They need Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to be healthy come playoff time and for Tristan Jarry to not self destruct. But like the Capitals, am not going to bet against this core making one more run.

13. Dallas Stars. With a healthy Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov they make the playoffs a year ago. They should both be healthy this season.

14. Winnipeg Jets. They gave one of the best goalies in the league a little more help defensively. Combined with their top line forwards this could be an interesting team.

The complete wild cards

15. Philadelphia Flyers. If Carter Hart is good this team will be very tough to beat. If Carter Hart is not good this team will struggle again.

16. New York Rangers. You will hear a lot about their offseason moves but the deciding factor in this team will be the progress and development of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Igor Shesterin. The pressure is on. But the upside is immense.

17. Edmonton Oilers. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in their primes and as good as they are they should be in the top tier. But the rest of the team is, quite honestly, not great. That defense and goaltending are problems.

18. Calgary Flames. They are not contenders, they are not a clear lottery team. They just exist in a perpetual state of mediocrity.

The mystery teams

19. Seattle Kraken. They should have good goaltending and play in a weak division. Those two things should keep them in it.

20. Chicago Blackhawks. They spent a ton of money this offseason and are getting Jonathan Toews back, but nearly every addition carries some risk and the team itself is still not that great on paper.

21. Montreal Canadiens. They lost a lot from last year’s team, Shea Weber is not going to play, and Carey Price‘s situation is unknown. They also do not get to play in the North Division.

22. New Jersey Devils. They made all of the right moves this offseason and Jack Hughes is ready to become a superstar but they play in the wrong division to make a big jump.

23. Vancouver Canucks. They have a great young core of talent, but can their defensive play be trusted? Or their depth? Feels like a team that should be better.

24. Los Angeles Kings. Do not count them out as a potential playoff team. Great center depth and a weak division could help them arrive a year early.

Likely lottery teams

25. Nashville Predators. They will go as far as Juuse Saros can take them. Losing Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson from an already flawed team is not going to help.

26. Ottawa Senators. The only concern right now is getting the Brady Tkachuk contract situation resolved. There is talent here, but can you trust ownership to take advantage of it and build something? Probably not.

27. Detroit Red Wings. Losing Jakub Vrana for more than half of the season is a loss they could not afford.

28. San Jose Sharks. An aging core, some bad contracts, the Evander Kane situation, and questionable goaltending is going to make for a long season.

29. Anaheim Ducks. The good news is Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale might be real long-term building blocks to offer some real hope for the future.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets. On paper they look like the worst team in a tough Metropolitan Division. Elvis Merzlikins might be able to keep them competitive on most nights, and Patrik Laine could bounce back, but there are a lot of questions here.

31. Arizona Coyotes. They are clearly building for the future and trying to stockpile as many draft picks and future assets as they can. This will not be a good team this season.

32. Buffalo Sabres. These fans deserve better than this lousy product being thrown at them every year.

Price on leave from Canadiens, enters player assistance program

The NHL and NHLPA announced that Carey Price will be away from the Montreal Canadiens after voluntarily entering the player assistance program.

The league’s announcement noted no further comment, and didn’t provide additional details about Price’s decision. There’s no specific timetable for Price’s return to the Canadiens.

On Wednesday, Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme announced that Price wouldn’t be able to practice with the team before the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

Price underwent knee surgery during the offseason. The Canadiens raised eyebrows when Price wasn’t protected from the Kraken’s expansion draft. While Price is on leave, the Canadiens’ goalie duo is likely to be Jake Allen – Sam Montembault.

The Canadiens aren’t certain if Shea Weber will play again, and also expect to start the season without Joel Edmundson.

Angela Price shared this post on Instagram following the announcement:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines for 2021-22 NHL season (Part 2)

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we continue counting down the 30 biggest storylines to watch across the league for the 2021-22 season.

We are looking at 10 storylines each Monday until the start of the season. We continue today with storylines 20-11, including looks at the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, the top rookies, pending free agents, the salary cap, and new Stanley Cup contenders.

[You can read Part 1 here]

What stories make the list this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

20. The Philadelphia Flyers offseason. Now this is the type of offseason you expect from the Flyers. Big moves! Bold moves! Maybe even crazy moves! The trades for Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson have the potential to be huge additions, but the Rasmus Ristolainen trade is a little difficult to figure. Do they think they can turn his career around? Of course, all of these moves will be rendered pointless if Carter Hart does not play better in goal this season.

19. What do the Montreal Canadiens do for a repeat? The Canadiens shocked the NHL by making a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final. Carey Price found the fountain of youth and helped lead them to upsets over Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vegas before running into the Tampa Bay Lightning buzzsaw.

They are bringing back a very different roster, however. Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are gone, Tomas Tatar left in free agency, Shea Weber will not play this season, while Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak, and David Savard join the team. They are also getting Jonathan Drouin back after he missed most of the 2020-21 season and all of the playoffs. They also have potential breakout seasons for Nick Suzuki and Cole Caulfield to look forward to. But is this roster good enough to even get back in the playoffs in a tough division?

18. The salary cap situation in the NHL. We are still looking at a situation in the league where salary cap increases are going to be minimal in the coming years. There are obvious ramifications for contending teams close to the cap and with pending free agents to sign. It could also make more players available in trades and allow teams with excess salary cap space to utilize that in trades.

17. Potential unrestricted free agents. A lot of significant players are entering the final year of their contracts this season with Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Alexander Barkov, Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl, John Klingberg, Johnny Gaudreau, Morgan Rielly, Ryan Pulock, Patrice Bergeron, Claude Giroux, Mattias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper, and Mika Zibanejad leading the way. Many of those players will re-sign with their current teams. Some might even retire (Fleury? Bergeron?). But there are a few players that they could end up changing teams, including Forsberg, Hertl, Gaudreau, and maybe even Rielly.

16. The rookie of the year race. Always one of the more intriguing individual award races because it highlights new stars coming into the league. This year’s favorites have to include Caufield in Montreal, Spencer Knight in Florida, Moritz Seider in Detroit, Quinton Byfield in Los Angeles, and Vasili Podkolzin in Vancouver.

[NHL Power Rankings: Calder Trophy candidates for 2021-22 season]

15. Can Islanders break through to the Stanley Cup Final? It has been three decades since the New York Islanders played in a Cup Final, but they are getting closer every year. They just can not seem to get over the final hurdle that is the Lightning, having lost to them two years in a row in the Eastern Conference Final/Semifinal round. They are bringing back mostly the same roster, but will have a full season of Kyle Palmieri, a returning Anders Lee, and the offseason additions of Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara. Not to mention one of the league’s best coaches and a sensational goalie duo with Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin.

Their regular season performances never look impressive. But they are probably one of the last teams you want to see in a best-of-seven series in the playoffs.

14. New York Rangers changes. The Rangers’ rebuild was not going fast enough for ownership, so a lot of changes were made this offseason in the front office, coaching staff, and even on the roster. Chris Drury takes over for Jeff Gorton in the GM chair, Gerard Gallant replaces David Quinn behind the bench, and the team attempted to get tougher this offseason by trading Pavel Buchnevich, while also acquiring Ryan Reaves, Patrik Nemeth, and Barclay Goodrow. It is the Tom Wilson impact. The Rangers can say it is not all about Wilson all they want, but it is pretty clear that is what this is about. Is that the right step for a team that has a Hart Trophy candidate (Artemi Panarin), a Norris Trophy-winning defender (Adam Fox), and an impressive collection of young talent? We are about to find out.

In the end, though, the success or failure of this season will depend on the development of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Igor Shesterkin. If that quartet becomes impact players, the Rangers will be very good. If they do not, the Rangers’ rebuild will remain stuck in neutral.

13. Panthers becoming a Cup contender. This might be the first time ever that the Florida Panthers are entering a season with real, championship level expectations. This is a really good roster with a couple of All-Stars at the top of it (Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) coming off the best regular season in franchise history They also added Sam Reinhart to the mix this offseason. If Spencer Knight can take over the goaltending job and play to his potential this could be a sleeper Cup team.

12. Can Avalanche get through Second Round ceiling. On paper the Colorado Avalanche might have the best team in the NHL. They are loaded from top to bottom with a deep, talented group of forwards, an excellent defense with young stars, and a strong goalie with the offseason addition of Kuemper. They have been Cup contenders and favorites for a couple of years now. But they remain stuck in the Second Round, having lost their three years in a row.

When a team like this can’t get through a particular round, or can’t take that next step, it is easy to get frustrated and think that some kind of change needs to happen. We heard it constantly with the Washington Capitals and how they needed to change and who they needed to trade. We heard it all the time with the Lightning. Eventually talent breaks through and wins. The Avalanche have the talent to get there. They just need to be patient and stick with the process and talent they have. It is championship caliber, and still has its best days ahead of it.

11. Can the Oilers finally take advantage of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid and Draisaitl are the two best offensive players in the world. They are both league MVPs, winning the award in three of the past five seasons. Most teams will go decades, maybe even their entire existence to this point, without getting one player like this, let alone two of them together at the exact same time. You can not waste that luck. The Oilers are wasting it. Badly.

They made some significant changes this offseason with the additions of Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Duncan Keith, and Cody Ceci. But even with that depth still looks suspect, as does this defense (largely due to the changes there with an aging Keith and Ceci replacing Ethan Bear and Adam Larsson), and they are counting on a 39-year-old Mike Smith to have another strong year when he has only had one good season in the past three seasons. Still a lot that can go wrong here, even with two megastars at the top of the lineup.

NHL Injury Roundup: Evgeni Malkin to miss two months; Backstrom sidelined

NHL training camps opened on Thursday and we are starting to get some early injury information on who will be ready for the start of the season, and who might not be ready.

The big news on Thursday was probably the expected update on the Jack Eichel situation in Buffalo where he failed his physical, there remains a difference of opinion on surgery options, and the team stripped him of his captaincy. Bad situation all around. But that is not the only significant news of the day.

Here are a few other significant updates.

Evgeni Malkin to miss at least two months

The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to open the 2021-22 season without their two-headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at center.

Crosby is going to miss a few weeks as he recovers from a recent wrist procedure, while Malkin will remain sidelined as he continues to make his way back from offseason surgery. Malkin’s absence has been expected, we just did not have any idea on the timeline for a potential return. General manager Ron Hextall confirmed on Thursday morning that it will be at least two months.

With Crosby and Malkin sidelined at the start that will means Jeff Carter will open the season as the team’s No. 1 center with Teddy Blueger likely sliding into the second line role until Crosby is able to return.

Not an ideal situation by any means, and certainly makes the offseason trade of Jared McCann (something that was almost certainly forced by the expansion draft) seem even more significant.

The Penguins have found some success in the past with Crosby and Malkin sidelined, but it is still going to be a significant challenge to open the year.

Nicklas Backstrom dealing with hip issue

Crosby and Malkin are not the only centers dealing with some injury issues at the start of the season. The Washington Capitals announced on Thursday morning that top center Nicklas Backstrom willl miss the start of training camp and is currently listed as “week-to-week” as he continues to rehab a hip issue that has bothered him since this past season.

Backstrom has had hip issues in the past, so it is a bit of a concern that he is currently sidelined to start the season.

If it turns out to be something that lingers into the season the team does still have Evgeny Kuznetsov on the roster to take over that top spot. Kuznetsov was the subject of trade rumors and speculation all offseason but said on Thursday he is not surprised to still be in Washington and is motivated to have a big season.

Whether Backstrom is healthy or not, the Capitals need Kuznetsov to return to the form he showed two years ago.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

Mike Hoffman doubtful for start of season

The Montreal Canadiens underwent a lot of change this offseason and Mike Hoffman was one of the more significant additions. But coach Dominique Ducharme announced on Thursday that Hoffman sustained a lower-body injury before arriving in Montreal and is doubtful to start the regular season on time.

He scored 17 goals and 19 assists in 52 games for the St. Louis Blues a year ago.

In other Canadiens news, starting goalie Carey Price failed his physical at the start of camp. The Canadiens are hopeful he can appear in at least one preseason game and be ready for the start of the regular season, but that is not yet a guarantee.

Ben Bishop not yet cleared for game action

After missing the entire 2020-21 season Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop is able to participate in training camp, but he is not yet cleared for game action according to general manager Jim Nill.

He missed last season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.

The Stars are still pretty set in goal with Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger returning, while also having signed veteran Braden Holtby to a one-year contract in free agency.

The Stars also anticipate forward Roope Hintz to be ready for the start of the regular season as he continues to work his way back from offseason surgery.

Devon Toews expected to miss some games

Some significant news for the Colorado Avalanche as they will be without one of their top defenseman, Devon Toews, for the start of the season as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

The Avalanche acquired Toews before the start of the 2020-21 season for two draft picks and he immediately became one of their top defenders. He scored nine goals with 22 assists in 53 games, while also posting tremendous possession numbers. He has been a steal for general manager Joe Sakic and the Avalanche.

The Avalanche also lost Ryan Graves this offseason, trading him to the New Jersey Devils.

They still have Cale Makar and Sam Girard to lead the defense, while top prospect Bowen Byram (the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft) is knocking on the door. So it should still be an elite defense.

Montreal Canadiens 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. Over the next month we’ll be examining best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Montreal Canadiens.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 24-21-11 (59 points) fourth place in North Division
• Postseason: Lost Stanley Cup Final in five games to Lightning
• Offensive leader: Tyler Toffoli (52 games, 28 goals, 16 assists, 44 points)

• Free Agent Additions: David Savard, Christian Dvorak (trade with Arizona), Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perrault
• Free Agent Subtractions: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Hurricanes offer sheet), Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault

Biggest question facing the Montreal Canadiens?

• Have they done enough to replace what they have lost?

The Canadiens stunned the hockey world this postseason by going on a shocking run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, beating Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vegas along the way. Carey Price played a huge role in that, but a couple of the players that contributed are no longer going to be around this season. Phillip Danault, a consistent Selke Trophy contender, is now in Los Angeles. Tomas Tatar did not play much in the playoffs but has been the Canadiens’ leading scorer the past three seasons, is now in New Jersey. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a Hurricane after signing a restricted free agent offer sheet. They will also be without veteran defender Shea Weber, whose career seems to be in jeopardy at this point thanks to injuries.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

That is a lot of talent either leaving or not being available.

There is also the inevitable regression that might come from a player like Tyler Toffoli who had a career year.

Hoffman can score goals, but they might lose a little on the defensive end with him. Dvorak might be a short-term upgrade over Kotkaniemi, but he does not have the long-term upside. Weber to Savard is a pretty big downgrade on the blue line.

Then there is the fact they are going from the North Division back to an Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, and Florida. Finishing above fifth place is going to be a real challenge.

What’s the salary cap situation?

The Canadiens are pressed right up against the upper limits of the league salary cap and have a lot of long-term contracts on the roster. They will get some relief with Weber going on LTIR, but beyond that they do not have a lot of flexibility in future seasons while players like Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov are restricted free agents after this season (and Cole Caufield in two years).

They have 11 players signed for at least the next three seasons, with eight of them counting more than $4 million against the salary cap. Most of those players are in their late 20s or 30s. That includes the $18 million they have committed to Price (34) and Weber (36).

Breakout Candidate

• Cole Caufield

The obvious breakout candidate here. We only saw Caufield for 30 games last year (10 regular season, 20 playoffs) but they were very exciting. He scored eight goals and 17 total points in those games, which comes out to a 22-goal, 45-point pace over 82 games. Not bad for a 20-year-old in his first taste of NHL action.

He is one player on this team that has game-breaking ability and superstar potential. He can be a one-man highlight reel when he is on the ice and should be considered one of the early favorites for the Calder Trophy.

Best-Case Scenario

If Carey Price and Jake Allen give them quality goaltending they are going to have a chance to compete every night, and there is a solid core of forwards in place here. Suzuki and Caufield taking big steps forward will be the biggest X-factor here, as will the return of Jonathan Drouin. Brendan Gallagher is one of the most underrated players in the league and an elite play driver, so you know his line will perform, but they also need Toffoli to duplicate his 2020-21 performance and for Josh Anderson to find some consistency. Making the playoffs in this division is going to be tough, and expecting a repeat of last year’s playoff run is expecting way too much, but they should be competitive.

Worst-Case Scenario

While Price is clearly still capable of putting the team on his shoulders and carrying it for long stretches of time, he does not do that as consistently as he once did. If the goaltending is not there for this team, it is going to make it awfully difficult to stay competitive in that division. Even with young talent like Suzuki and Caufield at the top of the roster.

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Flyers’ Hayes among NHL players to start 2021-22 season injured

The Philadelphia Flyers announced injury updates on Tuesday, including that center Kevin Hayes is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks following abdominal surgery.

With 2021 training camps and preseason games rapidly approaching, this seems like a reasonable time to review injuries that could spill into the 2021-22 NHL regular season. Such a refresher might not be such a bad thing for fantasy hockey enthusiasts, among others.

Kevin Hayes among Flyers injury updates

That six-to-eight week window could put Kevin Hayes at about a mid-November return for the Flyers. It could mean that Hayes might miss anywhere from 7-15 games. That announcement indicates that Hayes underwent surgery on Tuesday (Sept. 21).

The Flyers noted that Samuel Morin (right knee surgery) also faces a six-to-eight week recovery window. Meanwhile, Wade Allison is out indefinitely due to a right ankle sprain.

The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor believes that the ideal scenario would be Morgan Frost sliding into the 2C spot while Hayes is recovering (sub required). Unfortunately, that might not be the most realistic scenario. After recovering from injury issues of his own, Frost might struggle to prove he’s truly ready for NHL action.

If Frost can’t make that jump and temporarily replace Hayes, then O’Connor points to Claude Giroux. At this point in his career, Giroux seems best off staying on the wing. Even so, he has plenty of experience at that position.

[If nothing else, Giroux has contract year motivation.]

There could be a domino effect without Hayes, especially if Frost sputters. In Hayes’ absence, the Flyers might feel forced to lean upon Derick Brassard and Scott Laughton more than they’d like.

While we’re in the early portion of preview/prediction season, the Flyers already inspired an interesting range of expectations. Some believe that some big changes (Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen) will mean big improvements. Others aren’t so sold, especially those who don’t really think Martin Jones serves as great insurance if Carter Hart struggles like he did last season.

Losing Kevin Hayes, even for a portion of the 2021-22 regular season, certainly doesn’t help the Flyers. That said, if he comes back healthy, maybe he can make a bigger impact than he did last season?

Crosby, Malkin, other NHL injuries likely to spill into 2021-22 regular season

For a more comprehensive injury list, check out NBC Sports Edge’s list. Also note that more injury announcements could surface, as teams are ramping up for training camps.

Anyway, here are some refreshers on some of the NHL injuries likely to spill into the 2021-22 regular season (and in some, sadder cases, possibly beyond).

  • The Penguins could be primed for a slow start of their own. Sidney Crosby underwent wrist surgery in early September, with the initial estimate being a six-week absence. If that window holds, Crosby might not miss too many games. It might not help his rhythm, though, and he’s one of many athletes who are creatures of habit.

Evgeni Malkin‘s status is also murky after he underwent knee surgery in June. The Penguins are no strangers to Crosby and/or Malkin missing time with injuries, but that’s still not the most promising way to start the 2021-22 NHL season.

  • It can’t be denied that Jack Eichel‘s unresolved neck surgery situation is a key factor in any trade, or lack thereof. What happens if the Sabres ask Eichel to play, even if it’s to assure potential trade partners? Which surgery route would he take? Eichel’s preferred method could theoretically mean a much quicker recovery time, while the typical fusion route would eat up most of the 2021-22 NHL regular season.
  • On one hand, Carey Price‘s likely to be ready (or close-to-ready) after knee surgery. On the other hand, it’s unclear if Shea Weber will ever play for the Canadiens again, including in 2021-22.

[PHT’s 2021 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

  • Could Ben Bishop miss the 2021-22 season for the Stars, or even be heading toward retirement? The Stars haven’t made that clear just yet. Signing Braden Holtby only fuels speculation about Bishop’s availability.
  • Tuukka Rask indicated that he’d like to eventually sign with the Bruins. His injury status keeps that murky, however.
  • For all of the Oilers’ changes on defense, losing Oscar Klefbom possibly for all of 2021-22 could nullify most/all gains.
  • Like with Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews‘ progress is worth watching after wrist surgery. He could be fine, but the timeline is tight enough that a setback could cost some games. It’s remarkable that Matthews won the Maurice Richard Trophy despite nagging wrist issues.
  • As savvy as it was for the Kraken to pick Yanni Gourde, he needs time to recover from shoulder surgery. Not ideal for a Kraken team that’s fairly aggressive in trying to compete (to an extent) right off the bat.
  • Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch could miss about six months after shoulder surgery.
  • Reports indicate that the vast majority of NHL players are getting vaccinated heading into the 2021-22 season. That said, the occasional coach and player decided not to, including Zac Rinaldo.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.