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The NHL season is really starting to heat up, especially when it comes to the wild card races. One team not involved in a wild card race is the Vancouver Canucks, as they have been arguably the best team in the NHL from wire to wire.

The Canucks have been running hot all season, but they have shown no signs of slowing down, and the underlying process has steadily improved. Between Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko, Vancouver has a few different players who could be in and around the Hart Trophy discussion.

The first two -- Pettersson and Hughes -- have combined for 40 goals and 135 points. Demko is third in the NHL with 16.6 goals saved above average, and .849 high-danger save percentage is right up there too. That trio has been leading the way for Vancouver, but the team's NHL-best 32-12-6 record has been a team effort.

Players like Brock Boeser, Filip Hronek and Dakota Joshua have all set new career highs in several categories, and more players are well on their way to doing the same.

The Canucks have also struck first with a big move ahead of the trade deadline. They added center Elias Lindholm right before All-Star Weekend, and he potted two goals in his debut with the team.

I was skeptical about the Canucks for too long, but that ends now. The updated NHL Power Rankings are in with Vancouver sitting atop the league.

Biggest Movers
7 Rangers
5 Kraken
1 Canucks In his debut with the Canucks, Elias Lindholm scored a pair of goals, which is only fitting how well everything has worked out for them this season. Vancouver is making all the right moves, and it might not be done with the NHL trade deadline in just a few weeks. We'll see how GM Patrick Allvin approaches that situation with the Canucks vying for the Presidents' Trophy. 1 50-23-9
2 Oilers Last season, Zach Hyman hit a career high with 36 goals. He is already approaching that number, and we aren't even halfway through February. Hyman has found terrific chemistry with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and as a result, he has 31 goals in 47 games. That puts him on pace for 54 this year. Hyman is worth every penny of the $5.5 million the Oilers are paying him -- and more. 1 49-27-6
3 Panthers Aleksander Barkov ended what felt like an endless goal drought with a tally against the Avalanche on Saturday. Prior to that, Barkov hadn't found the back of the net since Dec. 16. Whether it was Matthew Tkachuk's slow start or Barkov's ice cold two-month stretch, it feels like the Panthers haven't had everyone clicking at once, and that only makes their success that much more impressive. 1 52-24-6
4 Stars Despite being perhaps the best defensive team in terms of limiting expected goals and high-danger chances against, the Stars haven't really been getting stellar goaltending this season. Budding star Jake Oettinger has dealt with an injury, and backup Scott Wedgewood has been so-so. Those two have combined to allow 4.91 goals above average this year. That just illustrates how good Dallas has been, even without stellar netminding. 3 52-21-9
5 Bruins The Bruins have scored 180 goals this season, but 32.2% of that production has come from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, who have combined for 58 goals. Those two are all-world players capable of carrying a team, but that doesn't necessarily feel like a recipe for the Bruins to get through a deep Eastern Conference in the postseason. Pastrnak and Marchand probably need more help for the Bruins to really challenge for a Cup. 2 47-20-15
6 Rangers The Rangers have now won five games in a row, and there was a highly encouraging development in their 2-0 win over the Flames on Monday. Igor Shesterkin, who has been riding the struggle bus for much of the season, turned in a sparkling shutout performance. Shesterkin stopped all 30 shots he faced, and allowed all of zero goals on 3.14 expected goals against. Was that a return to form for Shesterkin? The Rangers have to hope so. 7 55-23-4
7 Golden Knights In the absence of Jack Eichel, 2023 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault has elevated his game to help keep the Golden Knights in the thick of the Pacific Division race. In those 11 games, Marchessault has notched 10 goals and four assists. Marchessault has an uncanny knack for heating up at the right time, and he is doing just that for Vegas right now. 2 45-29-8
8 Hurricanes The Hurricanes have reportedly been in the market for a goaltending upgrade, and it's not hard to see why. Carolina has started four different goalies this season, and they have allowed 17.29 goals above average, and the team save percentage is .905, which ranks 29th in the NHL. That won't cut it for a squad hoping to make a deep playoff run this spring. -- 52-23-7
9 Jets The Avalanche are 1-3-1 in January, and Nathan MacKinnon needs some help. MacKinnon has been a Hart Trophy frontrunner, but he can't take the Avs to a Stanley Cup on his own -- at least I don't think so. With MacKinnon in the game at five-on-five, Colorado has a plus-15 goal differential and a 55.0% expected goals share. Without him, those numbers dip to minus-7 and 48.4%, respectively. 4 52-24-6
10 Avalanche Like the Avalanche, the Jets have hit a rough patch lately. Their struggles have been the result of an ice cold offense that has found the back of the net six times in the last six games. Winnipeg has been shutout twice in that stretch. The Jets did add Sean Monahan during the All-Star break, but it does seem like the forward group might need a little more pop ahead of the trade deadline. 4 50-25-7
11 Lightning Brandon Hagel has been cooking over the last month. Hagel is riding a seven-game point streak, and he has six goals and eight assists since Jan. 14. Hagel had a breakout season with the Bolts in 2022-23, and he has continued that success this year. Hagel is now on track to set new career highs in assists and points, and he has found a nice connection with Anthony Cirelli on the second line. 1 45-29-8
12 Red Wings Jake Walman has unlocked some offensive ability this season, as he has already set a new career high in goals (11) with 30 games remaining. I'm not sure Walman will keep shooting 14.5% from the blue line, which is 7.7% higher than his career average, but he has really given the Wings some unexpected firepower on the back end. Plus, he has brought the griddy to the NHL, so hopefully that inspires more unique goal celebrations. 1 41-32-9
13 Flyers Philadelphia has rattled off four straight wins, and that has put the team eight points ahead of the Devils for third place in the Metro Division. If any Eastern Conference teams have been waiting for the Flyers to relinquish their grip on a playoff spot, they can probably forget about it at this point. This Philadelphia team has proven itself, and GM Danny Briere has some very tough decisions to make at the trade deadline. 2 38-33-11
14 Maple Leafs Toronto is not a playoff lock at this point, and it doesn't help that the team will be without Morgan Rielly for four more games. The Leafs' margin for error is relatively thin right now, so perhaps giving Ridly Greig some free dental reconstruction after an empty-net goal was probably not the wisest move from Rielly. Maybe losing to the Senators is a bigger problem than Greig blasting a slap shot into an empty net. 2 46-26-10
15 Blues The Blues continue to pick up wins, and they now find themselves in the second wild card spot. That is despite their ugly expected goals share at five-on-five (44.4%), which is ahead of only the Blackhawks and the Sharks. St. Louis has also been outscored 111-97 with both teams at full strength. Strong goaltending and red-hot power play is keeping the Blues in it at this point. 3 43-33-6
16 Devils Going into Tuesday night, Timo Meier had gone 12 games without lighting the lamp. Then, he punched home the game-winning goal against the Predators with just over five minutes remaining in the third period. Meier couldn't have broken out of his slump at a better time, and he helped New Jersey pick up a critical two points in the postseason race. Now, can he start scoring a little more regularly down the stretch? 2 38-39-5
17 Flames Is Jacob Markstrom auditioning for Stanley Cup contenders on the trade market? It sure seems that way because he has been at the top of his game for a while now. Markstrom is now sixth in the NHL at 12.1 goals saved above average. His .872 high-danger save percentage ranks third, and it's first among regular starters. Markstrom has kept Calgary in the playoff race, but how much longer will he be on the roster? 2 38-39-5
18 Senators The Senators waited just a little bit too long to start playing up to their potential. Ottawa is 7-2-2 in the last 11 games, and the team's five-on-five metrics have been highly encouraging over that span. On top of that, Brady Tkachuk has really started to roll. He has six goals and seven points in his last five games. If only the Senators could have found this groove about six weeks ago. 6 37-41-4
19 Predators Nashville is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games, and a lot of those losses have been due to an anemic offense. To be fair, the Predators have underperformed their expected goals numbers by a comfortable margin in that time, but a lack of finishing talent on the roster plays a role in that. The Predators are still very much in the race for the second wild card spot, but GM Barry Trotz's focus needs to remain on next season and beyond. 1 47-30-5
20 Kings After the Kings shut out the Oilers on Saturday, it seemed like they might be back on track. Then they got absolutely smoked by the Sabres, 7-0, on Tuesday. It was another ugly performance from a team that has had quite a few of those in recent weeks. Los Angeles has to find some answers rather quickly because missing the playoffs is a very real possibility at this point. 3 44-27-11
21 Kraken Scoring goals is a key part of winning hockey games, and the Kraken are not very good at that. Outside of Jared McCann, Seattle doesn't have anyone it can rely on to put the biscuit in the basket with any kind of regularity. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Eeli Tolvanen, tied for second in scoring, have combined for three goals in the last 11 games. That won't get the job done. 5 34-35-13
22 Penguins I've remained optimistic about the Penguins' playoff chances for most of the season, but things look very bleak right now. The Pens were already hanging by a thread, and now Evgeni Malkin has gone relatively cold. As a team with some of the worst depth in the NHL, Pittsburgh can't afford for its big guns to go silent, especially right now. The Penguins might wind up as sellers at the trade deadline. 5 38-32-12
23 Wild Now that Connor Bedard has been sidelined for a while, the Calder Trophy race has opened up a bit. I will go ahead and plant my flag for Brock Faber, a 21-year-old who is playing No. 1 defenseman minutes and handling them well. In addition to that, his 33 points are now tied with Bedard for the most among rookies. It's hard to oversell how good Faber has been this year, and he his closing in on the 2024 Calder Trophy. 3 39-34-9
24 Coyotes Secondary scoring has really become a problem for the Coyotes. By that, I mean offense from anyone not named Clayton Keller has become a real problem. Arizona is a young team, and as fun as it was earlier in the season, the results have started to slip. Now, the Yotes are eight points out of a playoff spot, and they have a lot of ground to make up if they want to remain in the race. 3 36-41-5
25 Islanders Ilya Sorokin's stats really underscore the Islanders' struggles this season. His traditional stats -- a 3.04 GAA and .911 save percentage -- don't indicate a strong season. However, only Alexandar Georgiev has faced more expected goals against, and Sorokin ranks ninth with 9.46 goals saved above average. Sorokin hasn't gotten much help this year. 2 39-27-16
26 Sabres Casey Mittelstadt might be one of the biggest prizes of the NHL trade deadline. Mittelstadt is one of the few Sabres having a strong season, and he will be a restricted free agent this summer. As a solid middle-six center under team control for a couple more years, Mittelstadt should be extremely valuable to multiple Stanley Cup contenders around the league. 4 39-37-6
27 Capitals Some people said Alex Ovechkin's pursuit of the all-time goals record was over amid his slow start, but he was apparently just trying to build some drama. Ovechkin has now scored in six straight games, and he needs only 58 more goals to tie Wayne Gretzky. A strong finish to this season could set him up to break the record next year. 2 40-31-11
28 Canadiens In the process of the Canadiens' 5-0 beatdown of the Ducks on Tuesday, there was a positive development. Juraj Slafkovsky recorded his first three-point game with one goal and two assists. His production has picked up lately, and he now has a six-game point streak. It seems like Slafkovsky might really be turning a corner in his NHL development. -- 30-36-16
29 Sharks The issue for the Sharks right now is that the trade deadline is approaching, and it's fair to wonder how much they will be able to sell. Anthony Duclair is an obvious candidate, but he has just two goals since the Christmas break. That's not ideal for a team looking to acquire draft capital and prospects. 1 19-54-9
30 Ducks Leo Carlsson's rookie campaign got off to a strong start, but he hasn't scored in his last 16 games. Those types of ups and downs are to be expected from a young player, and that's been the story of this season for the Ducks. The consistency hasn't been there from their budding stars, but perhaps head coach Greg Cronin can pull more out of them in the last couple of months. 1 27-50-5
31 Blue Jackets Johnny Gaudreau hasn't scored in 15 games, and he's stuck on seven for the season. In fairness to Gaudreau, he hasn't had any help this year, but that's still extremely disappointing from a player making $9.75 million. After this season, Columbus has to focus on adding another player who could slot alongside Gaudreau and help give his production a boost in 2024-25. -- 27-43-12
32 Blackhawks The Blackhawks are bad at home, but they still resemble a competent hockey team at the United Center. Get them outside of Chicago, and it's really a disaster. The Blackhawks are a shocking 4-23-1 on the road this season, and that comes with a minus-63 goal differential. That is impressively bad, even for Chicago. -- 23-53-6