Eric Stephens’ NHL preseason power rankings – Orange County Register

It is a new NHL season and to welcome it in, we’ll do something new with great fanfare. Well, maybe some fanfare.

This is the start of weekly power rankings that may you leave in agreement or, more than likely, have you wonder if we’re a couple cards short of a full deck. You may wonder why your team is ranked too high — or too low — but if it has you talking, then that’s part of the fun.

So start the conversation as the 2017-18 season starts with four games Wednesday night. Last year’s regular-season records are listed next to each team.

1. Pittsburgh (50-21-11) – Replacing valuable Nick Bonino won’t be easy but the reigning two-time Stanley Cup champs have playoff star Jake Guentzel for a entire season and deservedly start on top.

2. Nashville (41-29-12) – Last year’s Cup finalist has Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala back to start another run at it. Alexei Emelin isn’t Ryan Ellis but he’ll help offset the lengthy loss of the big-minute defender.

3. Tampa Bay (42-30-10) – Steven Stamkos is healthy and this might be Victor Hedman’s turn to win a Norris Trophy but the defense still has question marks. And is Andrei Vasilevskiy ready to be the man?

4. Ducks (46-23-13) – May be a bit of a struggle in the first couple of months until they get all the injured back but we’ve seen this act before. Oft-hurt goalie John Gibson looks ready after a sharp preseason.

5. Edmonton (47-26-9) – This group seems poised to take the next step after taking the experienced Ducks to the limit last spring. Pressure is on Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Co. to deliver now.

6. Columbus (50-24-8) – The Blue Jackets are clearly in win-now mode – something rare in their history. Will they keep responding to Coach John Tortorella’s means and ways to push buttons?

7. Calgary (45-33-4) – Travis Hamonic should fit nicely on the blue line, Mike Smith should be rejuvenated playing behind it and now they’ve got Jaromir Jagr. Battle of Alberta is must-see…

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