Welcome to part two of The Hockey Writers‘ NHL entertainment rankings, created after a month’s worth of games have given us a decent sample with which to evaluate each team in the league. To save time, I won’t go too deep into my methodology for creating these rankings here. Instead, check out part one of the rankings for a more thorough explanation of my reasoning.

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In short, this is meant to serve as a viewing guide for the average, neutral fan free of rooting interest. Each team is placed according to how likely their games are to be exciting fast-paced affairs filled with higher rates of goals and scoring chances, including both for and against that team.

Whether that’s your definition of an exciting game is subjective. Yet, more casual fans may not appreciate a battle of two heavyweights with a suffocating defensive structure and who create offence by patiently cycling the puck down low. When the stakes are high — such as in the playoffs — even tight, low-event games become all the more intriguing, but that’s not what I’m going for here.

Each team is accompanied by their rank in several categories as well as a quick blurb as to why you should watch each particular team on any given night. With that, let’s dive into part two of the NHL entertainment rankings and count down the top 16 clubs to watch on a nightly basis this season.

16. San Jose Sharks

Goals Rank: 27

Expected Goals Rank: 17

Scoring Chances Rank: 2

High-Danger Chances Rank: 1

For better or for worse (and it’s often worse), the San Jose Sharks have been one of the most entertaining teams this season, despite getting off to one of the worst starts in NHL history. Their games feature the highest rate of scoring chances and high-danger opportunities on either side.

The Sharks’ recent win over the Edmonton Oilers (dubbed the OilerShark Bowl) likely initiated the firing of head coach Jay Woodcroft and heightened the early-season drama around a preseason Stanley Cup favourite.

There are some fun players to watch in forwards Tomas Hertl and Anthony Duclair, as well as youngsters in William Eklund and Calen Addison, but the roster is otherwise pretty barren. Most of their entertainment value is derived from the fact that they rank the lowest in almost every defensive metric available, and that even the weakest of opponents are piling up goals and scoring chances against what is clearly the league’s piñata this season.

For what it’s worth, goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood actually owns a positive mark in goals saved above expected (GSAx), which also gives Sharks’ games the potential to see a goalie stand on his head. Don’t fret, Sharks fans, I’ve heard Macklin Celebrini is pretty good.

15. Boston Bruins

Goals Rank: 31

Expected Goals Rank: 26

Scoring Chances Rank: 14

High-Danger Chances Rank: 10

The Boston Bruins, who are currently first in the league by points percentage, come in at the mid-way point of our entertainment rankings. Sure, they boast the likes of David Pastrnak (fifth in the league in goals since 2016-17) and NHL super-pest Brad Marchand (16 points in 15 games), but the Bruins don’t get into track meets. Their games have averaged 5.26 goals per 60 minutes this season, with only games featuring the Washington Capitals averaging fewer this season (4.94).

A major reason for that is their unbeatable goaltending tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, who have combined to post the league’s best team save percentage (SV%) in all situations (.936). The pair has backstopped the Bruins to winning 77 of their last 97 games, including breaking the previous NHL record for wins (65) and points (135) in a season last year. They’re impressive, but their dominance leads to Bruins games being low-scoring affairs more often than not.

An interesting mix of veterans in James van Riemsdyk, Charlie Coyle, and Pavel Zacha has been bolstered by 19-year-old center Matthew Poitras, who won a job out of camp and is holding his own with eight points in 15 games. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy (11 points in 11 games) is once again in contention for the Norris Trophy and leads a complete Boston blue line.

The Bruins boast some of the league’s best at almost every position and while that’s conducive to compiling wins, they don’t necessarily have the personnel to play run-and-gun hockey with all four lines.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets

Goals Rank: 18

Expected Goals Rank: 11

Scoring Chances Rank: 7

High-Danger Chances Rank: 22

Like the Sharks, the Columbus Blue Jackets sit in the upper-half of these rankings not because of what they bring to the table, but how wide-open their games can become due to allowing the sixth-highest rate of scoring chances against. It doesn’t help their chances at success that an already weak defensive club has gotten middling goaltending (18th in team SV%), but it sure helps their standings when it comes to providing entertainment for the typical viewer.

Though Johnny Gaudreau hasn’t been as productive as expected since joining the Blue Jackets as a free agent, he’s still capable of pulling off the odd electric play, and the team has a few other individual pieces worth watching every night.

Adam Fantilli, the 2023 third-overall pick, ranks third on the team in even-strength scoring, and joins the plucky Kirill Marchenko and three-time 30-goalscorer Patrik Laine in a forward group that also counts Cole Sillinger and the veteran Boone Jenner among its ranks.

Defenseman Zach Werenski (nine points in 14 games) has long anchored the Blue Jackets’ blue line, which got some offseason reinforcements in Ivan Provorov, Damon Severson, and prized prospect David Jiricek.

The Blue Jackets have suffered from not being a great free-agent draw for their entire existence, but a few strong drafts have started to bear fruit and injected the market with some young pieces worth the price of admission.

13. Nashville Predators

Goals Rank: 13

Expected Goals Rank: 4

Scoring Chances Rank: 15

High-Danger Chances Rank: 18

The Nashville Predators are another organization that has had to shake off a reputation for playing safe, boring hockey. This season, their games rank within the top five by cumulative expected goals, which is an unexpected departure from years past.

Roman Josi remains one of the NHL’s most exciting defensemen with the puck despite approaching his mid-30s. Add in Tyson Barrie and Dante Fabbro and you’ve got half a defensive core who enjoy having the puck on their stick while advancing the play. It doesn’t hurt Nashville’s watchability ranking that their blue line group struggles to suppress shots and scoring chances, either.

The Predators have gotten inspired play from young contributors in Thomas Novak (12 points in 14 games) and 21-year-old Luke Evangelista (nine in 15) to go with steady production from veteran figures. Filip Forsberg (18 in 15) and Ryan O’Reilly (14 in 15) are both above or near point-per-game scoring averages and both bring some physicality on the ice.

One of the biggest reasons for the Predators’ place in the rankings is the uncharacteristically poor play of their regular Vezina Trophy candidate in Juuse Saros. The Finnish netminder has never posted a SV% below .914 in a single season over his career, but he currently owns an .892 SV% through 13 games. The Predators don’t score much themselves (21st in goals per game), so Saros returning to form would diminish their entertainment value if goals are what you’re after.

12. Minnesota Wild

Goals Rank: 1

Expected Goals Rank: 21

Scoring Chances Rank: 13

High-Danger Chances Rank: 11

The Minnesota Wild have played in the highest scoring games this season, an honor that is driven by middling defensive numbers and a surprisingly leaky goaltending tandem unable to overcome them.

Filip Gustavsson (one of the breakout stars of the 2022-23 season) and Marc-Andre Fleury have combined for a league-worst .870 team SV%, which contributes to and explains why the Wild also own the league’s worst penalty kill at 63.5 percent. Only the Sharks are allowing more goals per game than Minnesota (4.20), which doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances, but makes their games way more exciting for the neutral observer.

Enough with the bad surrounding the Wild, it’s time to highlight the good. Kirill Kaprizov has singlehandedly upped the team’s entertainment value since coming over from Russia ahead of the 2020-21 season. Despite a relatively slow start by his standards (15 points in 15 games this season), the electric winger has scored at an 82-game pace of 45 goals and 94 points for his career.

Mats Zuccarello continues to be one of the NHL’s best playmakers at 36 years old (12 assists in 15 games) while Selke Trophy contender Joel Eriksson Ek (14 points in 15 games) and Ryan Hartman (11 in 15) offer some scoring in a pinch. I can’t forget to mention the Wild’s budding stars-in-waiting, with Matthew Boldy (31 goals in 2022-23), Marco Rossi, and Brock Faber all playing significant roles while aged 22 or younger.

After starting their NHL existence under the tutelage of the legendary Jacques Lemaire — famous for his love of the neutral zone trap — the Wild are fun again.

11. New York Islanders

Goals Rank: 28

Expected Goals Rank: 7

Scoring Chances Rank: 1

High-Danger Chances Rank: 6

The New York Islanders have not shed their reputation as a defensive juggernaut, a reputation that was forged during the Barry Trotz era even while not posting strong defensive metrics for several seasons. Current head coach Lane Lambert has instilled a more free-flowing style, and the numbers bear out that trend.

If it weren’t for Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov in goal, the organization would likely be perceived in a different light around the league. Collectively, the Islanders own a .909 team SV% in all situations (ninth in the NHL) despite conceding scoring chances at a bottom-three clip. If you don’t mind seeing a goalie duel and can appreciate teams trading opportunities, Long Island is the place for you.

The team is short on players with brand-name appeal, but budding All-Star defenseman Noah Dobson (13 points in 15 games) leads an otherwise unremarkable blue line.

Up front, speedster Mat Barzal teams up with Brock Nelson and Bo Horvat to offer some scoring punch, but there’s not much else to work with in terms of offense. The problem has been compounded since captain Anders Lee isn’t producing at his usual 20-30 goal pace, with the 33-year-old only counting one goal to his name through 15 games.

Regardless, the Islanders play a style that is conducive to fast-paced action, for both them and their opponents. These rankings are meant to help you look past preconceived notions of certain teams and the current iteration of the Islanders definitely help to put on a show.

10. Montreal Canadiens

Goals Rank: 17

Expected Goals Rank: 3

Scoring Chances Rank: 3

High-Danger Chances Rank: 5

The Montreal Canadiens are arguably the weakest team to feature in the top 10, but earn their place due to being one of only three teams to rank in the top five of three or more categories.

Apart from playing under a loose defensive structure, which heightens the entertainment value of games that they are involved in, the Canadiens offer some pieces of their own that help merit such a high ranking.

Cole Caufield has thrived under head coach Martin St. Louis, scoring at a 44-goal pace since he was first appointed on an interim basis in February of last year. The winger’s partnership with tenacious center Nick Suzuki as well as the resurgent Sean Monahan (both with 13 points in 16 games) gives the Canadiens a scoring threat every time they hit the ice and forces opponents to be honest.

On the blue line, Mike Matheson has taken his new role as a top-pair defenseman and the Canadiens’ power play quarterback in stride. He’s tallied 12 points in 16 games on the season (nine with the man-advantage) and sits sixth among all NHL defensemen in shots (44) while playing nearly four minutes more per night than any of his teammates.

Sophomore rearguard Arber Xhekaj is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and continues to throw his weight around (10th among defensemen in hits per game) as one of the last of a dying breed.

If close games are your thing, the Canadiens are getting decent goaltending (12th in team SV%) so they usually don’t get blown out, which considerably increases their ability to grab the attention of prospective viewers.

9. Ottawa Senators

Goals Rank: 3

Expected Goals Rank: 14

Scoring Chances Rank: 16

High-Danger Chances Rank: 23

Fresh off the heels of a drawn-out ownership saga, the Ottawa Senators have done their part to increase the NHL’s entertainment quotient on and off the ice.

Their new owner took a not-so-subtle dig at the league in a recent press conference, an uninspiring 6-7-0 start has put head coach D.J. Smith’s job in jeopardy, and team captain Brady Tkachuk pushed back against the fans’ collectively voiced frustration. If intriguing narratives and storylines play a part in your viewing choices, the Senators are an early contender for best original screenplay.

Fortunately, the Senators’ young core has come out guns ablaze to at least give fans a great show amidst the chaos. Tkachuk is firing at a 50-goal pace while providing his usual level of extra-curricular involvement with 34 penalty minutes in 13 games. Tim Stützle is following up his 39-goal, 90-point effort in 2022-23 by producing at a 107-point clip through the first month of play. Jakub Chychrun, Thomas Chabot, and Jake Sanderson headline a skilled, but defensively flawed blue line contingent that has helped kick the Senators’ offence into overdrive.

The Senators have also imported a handful of veterans over the past two seasons to help insulate and support those leading their rebuild. The additions of 35-year-old Claude Giroux (15 points in 13 games) and 31-year-old Vladimir Tarasenko (11 in 13) have given the team one of the deepest forward groups in the league and it’s no surprise that the team is averaging the third-most goals per game this season (3.85).

Mix in an offseason addition in goal (Joonas Korpisalo) hasn’t worked out as anticipated (.907 SV% in 10 games) and a decent power play (12th at 21.8 percent) and you’ve got all the ingredients for high-scoring games every night.

8. Colorado Avalanche

Goals Rank: 12

Expected Goals Rank: 16

Scoring Chances Rank: 11

High-Danger Chances Rank: 19

Any team that can trot out a three-headed monster of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar has to rank highly when it comes to entertainment.

MacKinnon has navigated an unlucky run of finishing luck to still be on pace for 109 points this season after setting new career highs of 42 goals and 111 points in 2022-23. After setting a Colorado Avalanche record with 55 goals last season, Rantanen is once again challenging for 60 goals with 10 tallies in 15 games to date. Together, the pair form one of the NHL’s best forward duos, often toying with their defensive matchups with ease.

The Avalanche forward group underwent significant offseason surgery, with the new additions achieving varying degrees of success so far in 2023-24. Ryan Johansen and Ross Colton (both with five goals in 15 games) have joined Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen as effective complementary pieces. The Avalanche also own one of the best fourth lines in the league, with the speedy Logan O’Connor (three shorthanded goals) a threat in all situations.

Few teams around the NHL boast a more dynamic top-four group on the blue line than the Avalanche, with Makar, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, and Bowen Byram continuing to drive head coach Jared Bednar’s energetic style from the back end. Makar recently set a new NHL record for the fewest games needed to accrue 250 career points by a defenseman, eclipsing Hall-of-Famer Bobby Orr in the process. If you want to get in on the ground floor of a legendary career, tap in to an Avalanche game whenever possible.

An inconsistent start to the year from starting goaltender Alex Georgiev (.890 SV% in 13 games) has also introduced some uncertainty into Avalanche games, with the team consistently struggling to establish or hold leads. They rank 23rd in goals against per-60 at 5-on-5; that vulnerability coupled with the team’s potential for scoring in a hurry has helped maintain their status as one of the most entertaining clubs in the NHL.

7. Los Angeles Kings

Goals Rank: 7

Expected Goals Rank: 18

Scoring Chances Rank: 9

High-Danger Chances Rank: 25

It took a while but the Los Angeles Kings have finally shed the grinding, defense-first reputation they forged during the peak of their powers in the 2010s under the reins of Darry Sutter. They rank eighth or higher in terms of shots (seventh), expected goals (second), scoring chances (second), and high-danger chances (eighth) generated per-60 in all situations. These guys are fun.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, two of the three pillars of that quasi-dynasty (save for goaltender Jonathan Quick), are still spearheading the present-day operation (they lead the Kings in average ice-time at their positions), but are now responsible for shepherding along a blossoming group of young stars.

Behind Doughty, the Kings have drafted and developed several defenders who are capable of kick-starting breakouts and evading pressure from oncoming forecheckers with Mikey Anderson and Jordan Spence.

Kevin Fiala has scored 25 goals and 86 points in 83 games since being acquired in a trade with the Wild. The pair of exciting wingers in Adrian Kempe (16 points in 14 games) and Trevor Moore (12 in 14) are some of the most effective attackers in transition. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Phillip Danault join Kopitar in solidifying the spine of the team and are a major reason behind their Stanley Cup aspirations.

By far the most interesting figure on this roster is 21-year-old forward Quinton Byfield who, in his third full NHL season, is finally displaying the production that made him the second-overall pick in 2020 with 13 points in 14 games. If he can take a significant leap in his development, the Kings suddenly muscle in front of the Cup favorite crowd, rather than standing around with the other dark horses.

6. Vancouver Canucks

Goals Rank: 9

Expected Goals Rank: 6

Scoring Chances Rank: 19

High-Danger Chances Rank: 14

In J.T. Miller (first), Elias Pettersson (second), Quinn Hughes (third), and Brock Boeser (10th), the Vancouver Canucks boast four of the NHL’s top-10 scorers in their lineup. They’re powered by a volcanic 33.3 percent power play (second in the NHL) that’s been a key driver in their league-leading 4.4 goals per game.

Pettersson and Hughes are early Hart and Norris Trophy contenders, if not favorites, and are surrounded by an exciting mix of veterans in Ilya Mikheyev (six goals in 12 games), Filip Hronek (17 points in 16 games), and Andrei Kuzmenko (14 in 16), among others.

If power-play minutes accounted for more than 15-25 percent of any given game, the Canucks would rank much higher on this list, but they don’t. They’re a much more ordinary team at 5-on-5 in terms of expected goals and scoring chances, which keeps their overall pace lower than expected.

Thatcher Demko’s early Vezina bid (first in GSAx; sixth in SV%) has kept their defensive numbers respectable which is great for their record (third-overall in points percentage), but prevents them from ranking higher in cumulative goals per-60. It’s a flaw of these rankings, but the Canucks sit comfortably within the top 10 due to their high-powered offence and bottom-10 rates of expected goals and high-danger chances allowed per-60, making every game a potential firefight.

Head coach Rick Tocchet also has the Canucks tied for the Pacific Division lead with the Vegas Golden Knights, so things haven’t been this positive in Vancouver in a long time.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

Goals Rank: 16

Expected Goals Rank: 2

Scoring Chances Rank: 8

High-Danger Chances Rank: 8

Though the Pittsburgh Penguins — one of the closest things to an NHL dynasty we’ve seen this century — have undergone a face lift in recent seasons, many of the same names still run the show even in their mid-to-late 30s. Think of it as hockey’s version of the Chicago Bulls dynasty’s final hurrah. A last dance of sorts, if you will.

Adding 2023 Norris winner Erik Karlsson (age 33) to an aging core starring Sidney Crosby (36), Evgeni Malkin (37), and Kris Letang (36) was one of the biggest stories this offseason as new general manager Kyle Dubas made his mark on the roster. Through the first month of play, the experiment has reaped positive results as the Penguins work towards winning the fourth Stanley Cup of the Crosby-Malkin-Letang era.

The Penguins lead the NHL in shots and expected goals per-60 in all situations as well as ranking seventh or better in creating goals, scoring chances, and high-danger opportunities. Their power play also leads the league in expected goals per-60, though the efficiency hasn’t synced up with the chance generation.

The increased emphasis on offense, which has coincided with integrating Karlsson (15 points in 14 games) into the lineup, has reinvigorated Pittsburgh’s veteran stars. Crosby owns 10 goals in 14 games, Malkin has 17 points in 14 games, and even Letang has chipped in with eight points in 14 games despite ceding the role of power-play quarterback to Karlsson.

Top-six wingers Jake Guentzel (18 points in 14 games), Bryan Rust (13 in 14), and Reilly Smith (12 in 14) have provided their customary levels of offensive support. A new-look third line of Radim Zohorna, Lars Eller, and Drew O’Connor (5-2 goal margin) has given the Penguins the bottom-six depth they’ve sorely lacked in recent years.

A refreshed roster with the stars turning back the years has Pittsburgh in the mix for a wildcard spot on the back of playing an exciting brand of hockey.

4. Edmonton Oilers

Goals Rank: 10

Expected Goals Rank: 5

Scoring Chances Rank: 10

High-Danger Chances Rank: 7

Would it be too harsh to say that the circus has arrived in Edmonton? The Oilers were considered Stanley Cup favorites entering the season, but have done all they can to extinguish that goodwill in the span of a month.

An underwhelming start pushed the organization to fire the coaching staff and the rumored internal power struggle has turned the conversation to what the future holds for their superstar duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. A three-game win streak has cooled things down slightly in the market, but keep an eye fixed on the Albertan capital.

In terms of on-ice entertainment, the Oilers are a top-five club in every meaningful shot- and chance-generation category, and an .876 team SV% (29th) makes every game a must-watch. Their power play only ranks seventh so far (25 percent); the Oilers own three of the best six power-play efficiency rates of the past three seasons, including setting a new NHL record with a 32.4 percent mark last season.

McDavid and Draisaitl promise goals galore as they sit first and second in NHL scoring respectively since the Oilers’ captain made his NHL debut in 2016-17. Zach Hyman, Evander Kane, and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins round out an enviable forward group that has powered the Oilers to a top-10 finish in goals per game in each of the past three seasons.

Their enviable forward group is supported by a skilled blue line led by Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard, and Mattias Ekholm, but the club has struggled to function as a collective defensive unit for what seems like an eternity.

In net, Jack Campbell ranks 77th out of 85 qualified goalies (minimum 10 games played) in SV% since the start of last season, but has been banished to the minors for the time being. It’s not as though the other member of the tandem (Stuart Skinner) has been much better, with an .880 SV% through 11 games punctuating a frustrating sophomore slump.

No matter what, the Oilers promise to be one of the NHL’s flagship organizations in terms of narrative and on-ice excitement.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs

Goals Rank: 6

Expected Goals Rank: 13

Scoring Chances Rank: 6

High-Danger Chances Rank: 2

Is there a more entertaining team in the NHL both on and off the ice than the Toronto Maple Leafs? It seems that every other game a new controversy emerges and old narratives are extinguished only to be reborn not too long after. Whether it’s been inconsistent goaltending, a lack of depth scoring, or uninspiring performances from their offseason additions, the Maple Leafs have continued to be a goldmine for content this season.

Two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy-winner Auston Matthews holds a share of the lead in the NHL’s goal-scoring race with 13 goals in 15 games, putting him on pace to tally his second 60-goal campaign in three seasons.

The other three members of the “Core Four” have all delivered on their hefty price tags through the first month of play. William Nylander (22 points in 15 games), Mitch Marner (17 in 15), and John Tavares (16 in 15) are all producing above a point per game, with Nylander only four points off the overall NHL scoring lead.

Rookie Matthew Knies (eight points in 15 games) and 21-year-old Nick Robertson (four in four) add some youthful exuberance to the familiar forward group. Offseason additions in Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi have increased the Maple Leafs’ physicality quotient, but have yet to see the offensive numbers to match.

Just because the Maple Leafs can (and have) outscored their defensive problems doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Morgan Rielly (12 points in 15 games) leads a blue line that continues to suppress opposing attacks, and the one-dimensional John Klingberg has struggled immensely to start his tenure. As a result, the Maple Leafs have posted bottom-half metrics in almost every defensive category, with no help from a struggling Ilya Samsonov (.870 SV%).

If Toronto hopes to finally end its nearly 60-year Stanley Cup drought, general manager Brad Treliving, who is no stranger to big trades, must reshuffle the blue line group in some capacity. Until then, the Maple Leafs promise to be one of the most entertaining shows on ice this season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Goals Rank: 4

Expected Goals Rank: 9

Scoring Chances Rank: 5

High-Danger Chances Rank: 3

Like the Penguins, this version of the Tampa Bay Lightning are approaching the end of their competitive window, though not as far along as their Eastern Conference contemporaries. The four players, and future Hall-of-Famers, that have been mostly responsible for two Stanley Cup championships and four appearances in the Cup Final since 2015 are all currently aged 29 or older.

Nikita Kucherov (seventh in the NHL with 23 points) continues to carve open opposing defenses with his vision and playmaking with a sprinkling of his under-discussed nasty streak. Steven Stamkos (five goals in 14 games) is on pace to add another 30-goal season to his resume, which would be his ninth as he heads into the twilight of his Hall-of-Fame career. The towering Victor Hedman has turned the page on a difficult 2022-23 campaign by scoring at an 87-point pace to start the season.

Brayden Point (18 points in 16 games), Brandon Hagel (15 in 16), Nick Paul (nine in 16), and Mikhail Sergachev (eight in 16) form one of the league’s best supporting casts, though the salary cap has kneecapped their depth elsewhere.

The Lightning have had to navigate Andrei Vasilevskiy’s absence to start the year, so their entertainment value might go down once Jonas Johansson (.896 SV% in 13 games) is no longer the starter.

A robust power play (fourth at 30.2 percent) helps overcome poor goaltending and a shaky defensive structure (fourth in goals-against per-60), so fans can tune in knowing a real duel of gunslingers can happen on any given night.

1. New Jersey Devils

Goals Rank: 2

Expected Goals Rank: 1

Scoring Chances Rank: 4

High-Danger Chances Rank: 4

The New Jersey Devils were the talk of the NHL before their top two centers in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier went down with injury, with a 2-4-0 record in November putting a slight damper on the team’s early success.

Before his injury, Hughes was making an early statement in the Hart Trophy race, and still leads the league in points per game after tallying 20 points in 10 games. Jesper Bratt (20 points in 14 games), Tyler Toffoli (14 in 14), Timo Meier (40 goals in 2022-23), and Ondrej Palat also feature in one of the NHL’s most dangerous forward groups. There’s a reason that the Devils still own the league’s best power play (38.6 percent) despite Hughes’ absence.

New Jersey’s deep forward core is backed up by a collection of blue line rovers in Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, and Luke Hughes who are responsible for pushing the pace from the defensive zone. Being comfortable in possession and regularly connecting on breakout passes has helped the team sit first in scoring chances and high-danger chances per-60 at 5-on-5.

For all of their offense, the Devils have a clear weakness in their goaltending. Despite ranking in the top-half of the NHL in chances and expected goals against, they own the second-worst team SV% in all situations, which often forces them to play an even riskier style to compensate.

Hughes’ return is imminent so the Devils should get back to their winning ways before too long. With or without their offensive talisman, they are almost guaranteed to entertain whether it’s through erupting for a handful of goals or being on the wrong end of a heavyweight bout.

2023-24 NHL Season Providing Great Entertainment

The NHL is seeing an average of 6.36 goals scored per game so far this year, a rate that is tied with the 2022-23 campaign for the highest league scoring pace since the 1993-94 season. The sport is in a good spot and has moved into a truly exciting era defined by skill and high-flying styles.

As always, let me know your personal rankings in the comments as well as what you consider to be an exciting game of hockey. Enjoy the rest of the season and happy viewing!

Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and the NHL. Statistics used for rankings collected after games played on Nov. 12. Other cited statistics accurate as of games played on Nov. 15.

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