NHL watchability rankings: Grading all 32 teams

·12-min read
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers fights for the puck against Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche in the first period at the Pepsi Center on November 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers fights for the puck against Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche in the first period at the Pepsi Center on November 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

If you're like me, you don't like to just watch your favourite NHL team, but you'll go out of your way to watch all sorts of hockey.

Late night on a Wednesday or early afternoon on a Sunday, you don't care when, you just want to be entertained.

The first thing you look at when scoping out the best games to tune into are the teams, obviously. So, using advanced analytics like fun rating, entertainment factor, and skill, I created a comprehensive watchability ranking that includes all-32 NHL squads.

From least watchable to most, here it is:

32. Arizona Coyotes

I love me some Jakob Chychrun, but there are very few reasons to invest your time in the Coyotes. Heck, even the city of Glendale, home of the team's arena, has seen enough and is kicking the team out after this season.

31. Buffalo Sabres

Dylan Cozens and Rasmus Dahlin are alright, but have you seen the rest of this Buffalo team? The good people of Western New York deserve better.

At least No. 32 and 31 on this list have good NFL teams they can cheer for.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets will probably bounce back after a really disappointing 2020-21 season, but the team won't be required viewing for NHL fans.

Firing John Tortorella and no longer having a chance to witness one of his patented meltdowns at any time is a big blow to the team's watchability grade.

29. San Jose Sharks

Watching a bunch of players past their prime really isn't my thing, but I am intrigued by seeing how William Eklund and Mario Ferraro develop. 

Actual sharks > hockey Sharks again in 2021-22.

28. Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has some intriguing young talent in guys like Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider who are making the jump to the NHL this season, but its roster is still pretty talent-barren. It's getting close, though.

27. Nashville Predators

An okay team? Yes. Entertaining? No. One glance at Nashville's forwards tells you that this team doesn't want to play exciting hockey. Its roadmap to the playoffs last season was unearthly play from Juuse Saros, and watching a guy get feverishly peppered for 60 minutes isn't that exciting.

26. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks may not be very good, but they have some fun, youthful talent on the rise. The dynamic Trevor Zegras is technically entering his rookie season and he figures to be in the Calder Trophy race.

25. Los Angeles Kings

The Kings would've been higher on this list if it wasn't for the injury Quinton Byfield sustained in the preseason.

The promising prospect fractured his ankle and was placed on injured reserve. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Drew Doughty all showed last season that they still have some quality play left in them. 

24. St. Louis Blues

Vladimir Tarasenko's return after an offseason full of trade and expansion speculation will be worth tuning in for. Does he still have that wicked release?

Outside of that, I'm mainly interested in seeing Ryan O'Reilly play hockey with this thing.

23. New Jersey Devils

I still don't view the Devils as a playoff team, but there are a couple of things I want to see from New Jersey.

After taking a step forward in his sophomore season, I'd like to see how Jack Hughes follows it up in his third year. Additionally, I'm interested in seeing how Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves combine to form the squad's top defence pairing after both were added this offseason.

22. New York Islanders

Islanders fans, you know it and I know, this team isn't going to wow viewers. Mathew Barzal is good, the Identity Line is cool, and Barry Trotz does that thing with his eyebrows, but that's it.

21. Minnesota Wild

Minnesota was one of the best teams in the league last year, but not even Kirill Kaprizov's brilliance can make up for the defence-first style head coach Dean Evason employs. Wild games are anything but that most of the time.

20. Montreal Canadiens

Watching the Canadiens without Carey Price won't be the same for as long as the netminder is in the NHL's player assistance program, but seeing how the team navigates his absence on the ice will be intriguing. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are exciting young talents, and Jeff Petry is one of the absolute best defencemen in the league to watch.

19. Calgary Flames

The Flames are clearly a much better team offensively than defensively, which means they'll probably be in their fair share of high-scoring contests. Additionally, Matthew Tkachuk is typically a good bet to do something that'll grab my attention.

18. Ottawa Senators

The Sens aren't playoff-ready, but they're a feisty squad with fun players like Tim Stuetzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Thomas Chabot. 

If only thei could come to a contract agreement with Brady Tkachuk already...

17. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers were a mess in 2020-21, but the team did its best to fix some sore spots this offseason. It added Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle on the backend while swapping Jakub Voracek for Cam Atkinson up front.

Mainly, I want to see how Carter Hart holds up with an improved blue line after a highly disappointing year.

16. Winnipeg Jets

Not many offences are deeper than Winnipeg's, with stars like Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers littered across the top-six. 

I'll be following Pierre-Luc Dubois's second season with the Jets closely. He severely underwhelmed after joining the team via trade early in the campaign, but a bounce-back should be expected.

15. Dallas Stars

Dallas missed the playoffs in 2020-21, but I doubt that happens again. There's just too much talent on this team.

Hope you haven't forgotten about Tyler Seguin. After playing just three games last season while recovering from hip labrum surgery, the star forward is near full health and will be ready for the start of the year.

14. Vancouver Canucks

I personally find teams that are all offence and no defence more exciting to watch, and the Canucks are a good example of that. With talents like Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes, Vancouver is worth staying up for.

13. Pittsburgh Penguins

With every year that passes, I increasingly appreciate watching Sidney Crosby play hockey. Now 34 years old, it's hard to say how many more peak seasons we'll see from Crosby. He'll miss the start of the 2021-22 campaign with a wrist injury, but when he returns, I'll be carving out time to watch him play.

12. Washington Capitals

Similarly to Crosby, I've been more and more appreciative of what Alex Ovechkin does as time passes. With Ovi entering his age-36 season off the heels of a disappointing goal-scoring effort in 2020-21, we'll likely have to temper expectations for the Russian sniper moving forward. 

His race up the league's all-time goals leaderboard continues to be one of the best storylines to follow. He's 36 markers behind Jaromir Jagr for third. Can he get there this season?

11. Boston Bruins

Nos. 11 through 13 may as well be considered the legacy part of the rankings. All three teams, including the Bruins, are likely past their glory days. Boston is still a fun watch though with Patrice Bergeron continuing his two-way dominance, David Pastrnak maintaining his goal-scoring skills, Charlie McAvoy developing into one of the league's premier blue-liners, and Brad Marchand still being Brad Marchand.

Love him or hate him, you feel some way about the league's most effective pest.

10. New York Rangers

With Gerard Gallant now behind the bench, I expect the Blueshirts to take a big step forward in 2021-22. The talent this team has is just silly with guys like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox running amok.

After an underwhelming rookie season, I fully expect Alexis Lafreniere to dominate in his sophomore campaign. It doesn't really matter who this team is playing, you'll just want to turn the game on and enjoy.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

There's nothing Maple Leafs fans want to see more than their team win, and there's almost nothing the rest of Canada wants to see more than Toronto lose.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you care about the Maple Leafs. With the Buds coming off another postseason disappointment, I'm interested in seeing how the squad responds.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

I'm not a believer in the Blackhawks. In fact, I think the team will struggle this season, but I'm fascinated in seeing how it all plays out.

Jonathan Toews is returning after missing all of the 2020-21 campaign with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, and Chicago added Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, and Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason in a bid to compete in 2021-22. It'll be worth keeping close tabs on Chicago to see how its season unfolds.

7. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes' watchability grade took a hit this offseason when they lost Dougie Hamilton and Alex Nedeljkovic, but the team is still worth your time.

Led by its first line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen, one of the best in hockey, Carolina should find itself in a lot of highly entertaining battles in the Metropolitan.

6. Seattle Kraken

Every hockey fan will want to see how the Kraken perform in their first-ever season.

Although the roster itself isn't chock-full of elite talent, Seattle could find itself competing for a playoff spot in the weak Pacific Division. 

On an unrelated note: Please enjoy this video of Shaq wearing a Kraken jersey while riding a scooter.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

With the exception of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights will largely be returning the same team they had in 2020-21, and that's a very good thing for those who enjoy quality hockey.

This team has a little bit of something for everyone. Any hockey purist will marvel at Mark Stone's ability to impact a game in a number of ways. Those who enjoy watching natural goal scorers can appreciate Max Pacioretty's release, and if you like elite two-way defencemen, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore have what you're looking for.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

The back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Lightning come in at No. 4, and would rank higher if they didn't treat the regular season like a preseason last year.

In all seriousness, it'll be nice to see Nikita Kucherov play a full season again, and even though the Bolts' third line was completely dismantled, this team is still as talent-rich as any on offence and defence.

Oh yeah, and Tampa Bay still has the Big Cat between the pipes.

3. Florida Panthers

The Panthers are about to put everybody on notice this upcoming season.

With NHL fans so focused on their own division during the 2020-21 campaign, it was easy to overlook the stellar year Florida had. The Cats finished second in the top-heavy Central Division, just one point back of the Canes for the top spot. 

Led by bonafide studs like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad, Florida possesses a lethal lineup. Throw in a full season of intriguing rookie netminder Spencer Knight, and you'd be foolish not to tune into every single Panthers game available in your broadcast region.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Explaining the Oilers' spot on the watchability rankings won't take up much of your time.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

1. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche finish in the top spot of the watchability rankings because nobody has a roster that is more talented on paper.

Size, speed, and skill, the Avs have it all. Nathan MacKinnon is a horse, Mikko Rantanen continues to be a problem for opposing defenders, Gabriel Landeskog is a captain that does anything to win, Cale Makar is the odds-on favourite for the Norris Trophy, and the rest of the roster is loaded with more depth than any other squad.

A lot of people view the move from Philipp Grubauer to Darcy Kuemper as a downgrade in net, but I see it as an upgrade.

Colorado is legit, and this may just be the year it cashes in on its potential.

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