Power Rankings: Players who are victims of Olympics gamesmanship

From ESPN - December 7, 2017

Olympic hockey is on everyone's mind this week, what with the Russia drama, which means many fans are crying into an entirely new bucket of tears over the fact that the NHL is not participating in the 2018 Winter Games.

For this week's Power Rankings -- voted, as always, by ESPN's panel of experts -- we focus on one player from each team who we truly, deeply lament will not be taking part in the men's hockey tournament in South Korea. Many because they have not gotten the chance before. Others because we have never had the chance to see them with gold around their necks.

How we rank: We use a panel of voters, and these rankings reflect which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams are favored over lower-ranked teams. A run of wins does not guarantee a jump, and a couple of losses does not guarantee a fall.

Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 19-6-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 1

Steven Stamkos. Sigh. He was a snub in 2010 and then his broken leg kept him out on 2014, with Team Canada winning gold in both. He will still be young enough in 2022 to participate, if the NHL goes to Beijing as expected. But as Stamkos knows, there are no guarantees.

2. Nashville Predators

Record: 18-7 -3
Week 7 Ranking: No. 6

Filip Forsberg. The 23-year-old forward was too young to make the squad for Team Sweden in Sochi in 2014, but his point-per-game season -- as well as the aging out of other Swedish forwards -- would have earned him a top role in the upcoming Olympics. Which would have afforded him a platform for a star-making performance.

3. Winnipeg Jets

Record: 17-7-4
Week 7 Ranking: No. 2

Patrik Laine. This not been an outstanding season for the 19-year-old sniper so far, although he appears to be heating up now. But Laine loves the big stage: In 54 international tournament games, he has 49 goals. That includes seven goals in 10 world championship games. He would have rocked Pyeongchang.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 18-10-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 4

Auston Matthews. So let's get this straight: The Americans finally have a generational talent and a game-dominating scorer who can match any other star in the world, and suddenly the NHL is not going to the Olympics? We do not traffic much in Canadian conspiracy theories here, but ...

5. St. Louis Blues

Record: 18-8-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 3

Vladimir Tarasenko. The Tank rolled through Sochi for five games but only picked up an assist. He has not exactly been a standout internationally, with four goals in 14 games, but he's a better player now that he was four years ago.

6. Los Angeles Kings

Record: 18-8-3
Week 7 Ranking: No. 10

Anze Kopitar. The Kings star only had three points in five games during the Sochi Games, but was the leader of a Slovenia team that shocked Slovakia and was competitive in pool play. Let's hope they wear these sweet jerseys again.

7. New Jersey Devils

Record: 16-7-4
Week 7 Ranking: No. 8

Nico Hischier. The Swiss are always an interesting team to watch in the Olympics, what with their propensity for upsets. Hischier would have given them an offensive weapon the likes they rarely have. Now, how many games could Reto Berra steal?

8. Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 15-11-3
Week 7 Ranking: No. 11

Tom Kuhnhackl. This is a tricky one. Sidney Crosby? Been there, seen it twice. Evgeni Malkin? Three times. Jake Guentzel would not be cemented in that Team USA lineup, with his lack of international starts. Phil Kessel ... well, sure, if USA Hockey got over itself and invited him back. So we are going with Kuhnhackl, because Germany is in this tournament, he only represented his country in three games and he is the second-leading scorer among German NHL players this season. (We will get to the top scorer in a bit, because his team is terrible right now.).

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 17-10-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 4

Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob had a 1.15 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage in Sochi, so it was not his fault that Russia did not medal. He deserved another shot.

10. Washington Capitals

Record: 17-11-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 13

Alex Ovechkin. Who else, right? He has never won an Olympic medal. He hs never played in a championship round in the NHL. Maybe away from the pressure cooker of Sochi, the Russians could have thrived. He has eight goals in 17 Olympic games.

11. Vegas Golden Knights

Record: 17-9-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 9

William Karlsson. Sometimes, players earn their spots on Olympic teams based on their play during the regular season before the Games. It would have been interesting to see if Karlsson became such a case, considering that he has been nearly a point-per-game (25 in 27 games) guy for the Knights.

12. New York Islanders

Record: 16-9-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 7

Jaroslav Halak. Hey, remember Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey? Put Halak on a big stage and he will do his best to steal a game or two when the odds are heavily against his team, as they would have been for Slovakia.

13. New York Rangers

Record: 15-10-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 17

Mats Zuccarello. There's no denying that Zuc, who was once known as the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard, is a highlight reel who loves repping his country.

14. Dallas Stars

Record: 16-11-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 14

Tyler Seguin. His teammate, Jamie Benn, played six Olympic games in the Sochi. Seguin never has. He also has 249 points in his last 253 NHL games, ninth most in the league. This could have been his turn.

15. Calgary Flames

Record: 14-12-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 18

16. Chicago Blackhawks

17. Vancouver Canucks

18. Anaheim Ducks

19. Minnesota Wild

20. San Jose Sharks

21. Montreal Canadiens

22. Boston Bruins

23. Carolina Hurricanes

24. Philadelphia Flyers

25. Colorado Avalanche

26. Edmonton Oilers

27. Ottawa Senators

28. Florida Panthers

29. Detroit Red Wings

30. Arizona Coyotes

31. Buffalo Sabres


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