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Power Rankings: Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers are early Stanley Cup favorites

NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights

The preseason is over, and the real hockey is here. It's time to get down to business. This season, we've gathered a committee of 20 hockey experts to vote every week on which teams they feel have risen, fallen and stayed about the same. Can the Penguins repeat? Will the Avalanche get out of the basement?

Behold the first Power Rankings of the 2017-18 season. 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, last season: 50-21-11

Can the Penguins really win three straight Stanley Cups? Our panel seems to think so. When you have Sidney Crosby as your No. 1 center, a healthy Kris Letang as your No. 1 defenseman and two-for-two Cup winner Matt Murray as your No. 1 goalie, it's hard to argue the point.

2. Edmonton Oilers, 47-26-9

Yes, Connor McDavid is as good as everyone says he is. With the confidence the team gained behind him with last season's playoff run, it will be tough to hold back the charging Oilers.

3. Washington Capitals, 55-19-8

Alex Ovechkin & Co. are outside their self-imposed two-year window to go all the way. Expectations are lowered, so maybe this could be the season they actually do it.

4. Anaheim Ducks, 46-23-13

The Ducks lost defensemen to Vegas and still have decent depth back there. That, plus an older John Gibson and bear of a captain in Ryan Getzlaf mean this team is going places.

5. Nashville Predators, 41-29-12

The Predators are looking at big skates to fill with the absences of Ryan Ellis (injured), captain Mike Fisher (retired) and James Neal (taken in the expansion draft). They stepped up in the playoffs without star center Ryan Johansen, so this is nothing new. Big question: Can they fight the tradition of the team that loses the Stanley Cup Final struggling to keep it up the next season?

6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 40-27-15

Odds are good that Auston Matthews will not hit the sophomore slump wall under the steady tutelage of coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello. That means the Leafs will be pretty good this season.

7. Chicago Blackhawks, 50-23-9

Jonathan Toews is coming off a terrible season, which you know is going to fire up Captain Serious. Patrick Kane can still score, even without Artemi Panarin riding alongside. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook can still play solid D in front of star-stopper Corey Crawford.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets, 50-24-8

John Tortorella's team will continue to head in the right direction, especially if goalie Sergei Bobrovsky comes close to last season's Vezina-winning performance. Then there's Seth Jones, who is set to have a breakout season.

9. San Jose Sharks, 46-29-7

Joe Thornton will need to find a new go-to guy with Patrick Marleau gone to the Leafs. But stud D-man Brent Burns is not bowed by pressure or expectations and will continue his scoring prowess. 

10. Dallas Stars, 34-37-11

Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop ... and coach Ken Hitchcock. This wild ride is going to be interesting to watch all season.

11. Montreal Canadiens, 47-26-9

Jonathan Drouin and Karl Alzner bring in new blood and a different attitude, which will afford the Habs well. And there's always Carey Price to save the day.

12. New York Rangers, 48-28-6

Henrik Lundqvist needs a bounce-back season, and the Rangers need a center to step up and score. Kevin Shattenkirk will be good on the power play, but is he a top-two guy defensively? He's going to have to be.

13. Minnesota Wild, 49-25-8

Some feel this team is good enough to win the Central, but nagging injuries to Zach Parise and the many hard miles ridden by defenseman Ryan Suter give one pause.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning, 42-30-10

Steven Stamkos to the rescue! Count on Victor Hedman having a bounce-back season, too.

15. St. Louis Blues, 46-29-7

Coach Mike Yeo will get a full season behind the bench for the Blues, but he's going to need some players to step up so that Vladimir Tarasenko doesn't have to do all the scoring.

16. Los Angeles Kings, 39-35-8

If Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar can return to dominance, the Kings will bounce back. But the fragile depth of the Kings means if any of them slip, we could be looking at another playoff-less season.

17. Carolina Hurricanes, 36-31-15

Scott Darling and Justin Williams are being counted on to right this wobbly ship. But the defense should get much of the acclaim if the Hurricanes rise this high in the standings.

18. Calgary Flames, 45-33-4

The defense of this team looks great on paper, especially with the addition of Travis Hamonic. But a lot hinges on how well Mike Smith stops pucks at 35.

19. Winnipeg Jets, 40-35-7

Patrik Laine is one of the purest goal scorers in the league and is a hoot to watch. And don't forget about Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien. 

20. Ottawa Senators, 44-28-10

Erik Karlsson's injury, surgery and subsequent recovery time cannot be understated when it comes to the fate of last season's overachieving playoff team.

21. Buffalo Sabres, 33-37-12

Jack Eichel and the mortal Sabres will get a grace period to adjust, but after that, it's time for this team to show some progress.

22. Boston Bruins, 44-31-7

Having David Pastrnak signed is a good thing, but the defense is ragged, and Tuukka Rask can play only so many games. What's going on in Boston?

23. Philadelphia Flyers, 39-33-10

Are the shoulders of goalie Brian Elliott broad enough to bear the weight of one of the heaviest goalie gigs in the league? The pressure will be on early in Philly.

24. New York Islanders, 41-29-12

That little matter of wondering whether your superstar captain will re-sign during the season is going to be a major distraction. That and wondering if you're going to get a good seat on the LIRR after the game.

25. Florida Panthers, 35-36-11

The Panthers lost 29 percent of their offense when Jonathan Marchessault (30 goals), Jaromir Jagr (16 goals), Reilly Smith (15 goals) and Jussi Jokinen (11 goals) went in different directions over the summer. That adds up to a lot of pressure on the talented kids left behind.

26. New Jersey Devils, 28-40-14

The Nico Hischier factor could help make this team more entertaining, but the loss of Travis Zajac before camp and Cory Schneider's weirdly bad play last season are cause for concern.

27. Detroit Red Wings, 33-36-13

Little Caesars Arena is pretty much the only thing that isn't old about the Red Wings, so it will be another challenging season in the Motor City.

28. Arizona Coyotes, 30-42-10

The dry spell in the desert will continue, but with veterans Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson working alongside a cast of talented kids, the light at the end of the tunnel is, for once, not a train. Now about that arena distraction ...

29. Vancouver Canucks, 30-43-9

Bo Horvat is being counted on to bust loose, Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner are the hired scorers, and the Sedins are riding into the sunset. Ho, boy.

30. Colorado Avalanche, 22-56-4

Matt Duchene reluctantly reported to camp. And there isn't a lot of confidence, based on recent history, that if he is traded the Avs will get much of value in return. That's too bad because Nathan MacKinnon is a pure talent.

31. Vegas Golden Knights

But they'll be tops when it comes to selling merchandise!

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