The NHL is always full of surprises. One thing is for certain, Gary Bettman wanted parity and for the most part he got it.
From year to year, there are always a few teams expected to be playoff contenders that falter. There are also fast risers that have some folks scratching their heads.
Here are the top 3 most surprising teams this season
Anaheim Ducks: 10-5-3 (3rd place in the Pacific Division)
The up and coming Ducks have opened eyes around the NHL. It’s not just their start, which has them in third place in the difficult Pacific Division, it is also who is leading them.
Troy Terry is front and center for Anaheim. He’s currently riding a 16 game point streak which has him tied for 4th in the league for scoring with 22 points. The young forward has also helped Ryan Getzlaf find the fountain of youth with 19 points of his own. Throw in promising rookie Trevor Zegras with his 10 points in 16 contests for added measure.
Of course, the Ducks have one of the game’s best backstops in John Gibson. The 28 year-old is 9-3-2 with a 2.31 GAA and .926 SV%.
Will the Ducks be able to hold on and make the playoffs? That remains to be seen. The Vegas Golden Knights are just one point behind them despite dealing with loads of injuries. Plus Jack Eichel will be in the mix for the stretch run.
Anaheim is in prime position to claim a Wild Card berth thanks to their great start. Not bad for a team some felt would be one of the top candidates to win the Draft Lottery in 2022.
New York Rangers: 11-4-3 (3rd place in the Metro Division)
Despite having a team of young and talented players that also boasted superstars in Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, the Blueshirts came into this season with a lot of questions.
Could Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière replace the lost scoring of Pavel Buchnevich? Kakko is riding a four game points streak after going scoreless to start the season, so there’s some positivity building. Lafrenière has been good in spurts but coming along.
Will the Rangers defense finally take the next step in their development? Adam Fox won the Norris last season and is certainly in the mix for another with his league leading 18 points for defensemen. K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba are looking better than last season as well. There’s questions about the third pairing of Patrik Nemeth and Nils Lundkvist but it’s coming together.
However, the Rangers have a great record not because of either Panarin or Zibanejad but due to Chris Kreider and Igor Shesterkin. Kreider’s 13 goals rank third in the NHL and his 8 PPG are good for second. Meanwhile, Shesterkin is posting Vezina like numbers with a 9-3-2 record to go with a GAA of 2.33 and a .931 SV%.
The Rangers were a team projected to be a borderline Wild Card possibility. As we approach Thanksgiving, they are battling it out for the top spot in the hardest division in hockey. The Blueshirts are one point behind the Capitals and three behind the Hurricanes.
Quite a start indeed.
Calgary Flames: 11-3-5 (1st place in the pacific Division)
The Flames missed the playoffs last season, and didn’t look good in the process.
Calgary made some big changes after missing the postseason starting with losing eight-year captain Mark Giordano to Seattle. Otherwise, the departures are small parts, such as Derek Ryan and Josh Leivo.
The big addition is free agent forward Blake Coleman from the Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as Trevor Lewis, Tyler Pitlick to provide forward depth and defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Those moves along with the sizzling hot play of Canada’s WC hero Andrew Mangiapane have the Flames at the top of the division. Mangiapane has recorded 15 goals in just 19 games this season. Johnny Gaudreau who is a pending UFA leads the team in scoring with 22 points.
In goal, Jacob Markstrom has been all they could’ve hoped for this season. He’s 7-3-4 with an outstanding .942 SV% and a stellar 1.71 GAA.
This bubble team for a Wild Card looks like a lock to make the playoffs this season.
*Stats via NHL.com