NHL: The Weekend Update: Auston Matthews; Steven Stamkos; Ottawa Senators

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By: Rossy Pasternak

Here on SportsNak, we will be doing weekly updated power rankings, with features about three teams each week. The season is now in full swing, and things are starting to heat up in the NHL. These rankings are not only based on the standings, but also the level of team play. All stats are taken from NHL.com. (GD stands for goal differential, the difference between goals scored and goals against)

The Bottom Feeders (30-21):

30. Buffalo Sabres (11-15-3, 25 pts, -12 GD)

29. Columbus Blue Jackets (11-17-2, 24 pts, -18 GD)

28. Carolina Hurricanes (10-14-4, 24 pts, -23 GD)

27. Colorado Avalanche (12-16-1, 25 pts, -6 GD)

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (10-13-5, 25 pts, -12 GD)

25. Calgary Flames (8-12-1, 17 pts, -25 GD)

24.Arizona Coyotes (13-14-1, 27 pts, -14 GD)

23.Edmonton Oilers (12-15-2, 26 pts, -10 GD)

22.Anaheim Ducks (11-12-5, 27 pts, -13 GD)

21.San Jose Sharks (14-13-1, 29 pts, -1 GD)

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Credit: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=727866

The race for Auston Matthews is heating up. There are currently 6 teams within 2 points of last place, which guarantees the best odds of picking first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Matthews, playing for Zurich in the Swiss-A league, has put up 23 points in 20 games. Don’t forget, this isn’t like junior hockey where Matthews would play with other players near his age – he is playing with full grown men. Matthews is leading a team with former NHLers Ryan Shannon and Marc-Andre Bergeron in points. Zurich coach Marc Crawford is also highly regarded around the NHL, so any team drafting Matthews would know that he has been well coached. There is now no debate whether or not Auston Matthews will go #1, but who will take him. I think this is a 6 team race between all the six teams currently occupying the last 6 spots in the standings. Make no mistake, Matthews is no McDavid or Crosby, but he is the real deal. With the World Junior Championships coming up, Matthews will look to impress scouts who have not ventured to Zurich to watch him play. Last year, an 18 year-old Matthews impressed in the Tournament alongside Jack Eichel. This year, he will look to lead Team USA to the gold. I could not be more excited to see the future crop of NHL stars during this tournament.

The Middle of the Pack (20-11):

20.Philadelphia Flyers (12-11-6, 30 pts, -16 GD)

19.Vancouver Canucks (11-11-8, 30 pts, -3 GD)

18.Winnipeg Jets (14-13-2, 30 pts, -7 GD)

17.New Jersey Devils (14-10-4, 32 pts, +2 GD)

16.Tampa Bay Lightning (14-12-3, 31 pts, +4 GD)

15.Florida Panthers (14-11-4, 32 pts, +4 GD)

14.Pittsburgh Penguins (15-10-2, 32 pts, +1 GD)

13.Minnesota Wild (14-7-5, 33 pts, +6 GD)

12. Boston Bruins (15-9-3, 33 pts, +12 GD)

11. Chicago Blackhawks (15-10-3, 34, +4 GD)C

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Credit: http://www.tbo.com/storyimage/TB/20141110/ARTICLE/141119916/EP/1/1/EP-141119916.jpg

Steven Stamkos favourited a TSN tweet about the chances he signs with Toronto this offseason – and the hockey world went nuts. I am not going to comment on whether I think this was on purpose or just a ‘slip of the finger’ as Stamkos says. I will however give my two cents on whether I not I think the Leafs, or any other team, has the chance of prying Stamkos away from the Lightning. The first thing you have to deal with when trying to figure out if there is a realistic chance is this; star players have rarely changed teams in free-agency recently. You would have to go back to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2012 to find a star that changed teams. Also, you have to look at whether or not the Leafs or any of the other teams have the appeal to tempt Stamkos. Thirdly, and most importantly, do the teams have the money it will take to sign him away, and are they willing to spend it? For the first concern, I think this year will be an anomaly when it comes to free-agency. Not only do I think Stamkos could end up changing teams, but also Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings. Both of these players have not signed extensions yet, which is very uncommon for players of their calibre. For the second concern, the appeal, I think there are only two realistic teams that could pry Stammer away from Tampa, and those teams are the Leafs, and the Flames. Stamkos has been connected with the Leafs ever since he has been drafted thanks to his roots in Toronto, and it seems like he has done everything he can to add smoke to the rumour; and where theres smoke, there is fire. Stamkos could join Mike Babcock in leading the Leafs, his hometown team, to their first Stanley Cup since 1967. What is more appealing than bringing your home city it’s first championship in 48 years. The roster isn’t there yet for the Leafs, but with cap space and prospects, the future looks bright in Toronto if they manage to bring Stamkos in. The Flames have cap space, budding stars Johnny Gudreau, Dougie Hamilton, and Sam Bennett, as well as grizzled veterans like Mark Giordano who still contribute at a high level. Although Hamilton, and the Flames in general, are having a down year, Calgary still has a very attractive young roster that is capable of competing for a Cup very soon. If any team was one player away, this would be the team. With Brian Burke at the helm, you know that the Flames will be in on Stamkos. The problem is, would Stamkos really prefer to play in Calgary over Tampa Bay or Toronto? Only Steven Stamkos knows. The last issue is if the teams have the money and would spend it on Stamkos. Toronto obviously has the money, cap space, and the willingness to spend on a star like Stamkos; that isn’t up for debate. The Lightning have the money to spend on Stamkos, but the cap may become an issue in these negotiations. Tampa’s GM Steve Yzerman has to be conscious that he will have to re-sign Tyler Johnson, Oscar Palat, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman in the near future – a daunting task without one player earning $10+ million already. The Flames have both the money and the cap space to spend, but will also have to be conscious of it’s spending because of impending extensions for Gudreau and co. All-in-all, I predict that if Stamkos does not sign an extension, or get traded, by the deadline, he will become a Toronto Maple Leaf in early July 2016.

The Best of the Best (10-1):

10. Nashville Predators (15-9-5, 35 pts, +2 GD)

9. St. Louis Blues (16-9-4, 36 pts, +2 GD)

8. Ottawa Senators (15-9-5, 35 pts, +4 GD)

7. New York Islanders (16-8-5, 37 pts, +12 GD)

6. Detroit Red Wings (16-8-5, 37 pts, +2 GD)

5. New York Rangers (18-8-3, 39 pts, +21 GD)

4. Los Angeles Kings (18-8-1, 37 pts, +14 GD)

3. Montreal Canadiens (19-8-3, 41 pts, +28 GD)

2. Washington Capitals (19-6-2, 40 pts, +22 GD)

1. Dallas Stars (21-5-2, 44 pts, +24 GD)

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Credit: http://i.cbc.ca/1.2494534.1389628179!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/murray-bryan-00495982.jpg

The Senators have quietly had an excellent start to the season. Continuing their success from the late-season surge, Ottawa has cemented their spot among the league’s top tier. Erik Karlsson is making yet another case for the Norris Trophy, racking up 32 points in just 30 games, an amazing feat for a defensman. Bobby Ryan is earning his huge extension with 28 points in the same amount of games, and the supporting cast is coming up huge once again. With youngsters Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Mika Zibanejad, the Senators are positioned well not only for the present, but also the future. Solid goaltending from Craig Anderson is also helping the cause. An interesting development is Andrew Hammond, last year’s saviour, having a very diminished role in this years success. To go from hero to backup in less than half a year must be tough for the Hamburgler, but it seems as if it is not effecting the team dynamic or chemistry. Anderson, in my opinion, is the better goalie by far, and is getting the majority of the starts, rightfully so. Chris Phillips, the veteran defensive leader for the Sens, has not played a game this season, and it seems like he will not, due to his back injury. GM Bryan Murray has put together a competitive squad that works hard and does what it takes to win. Credit to him, as he is battling cancer, and is still able to do his job at an exceptional level. Murray has come out and stated there is no cure for him, but has been terrific in advocating and promoting for cancer awareness. Thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do, Bob Murray. Much appreciated.

That concludes this week’s rankings. Check back next Saturday for the updated rankings and stories.

Do you agree, or disagree with our picks? Comment below!

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