After 1,312 games, the 2023-24 NHL regular-season has finally reached its conclusion. And served its primary purpose: cutting the 32-team field down to 16. After nearly seven months of hockey, it's time for the greatest postseason in all of sports to begin. And what better way to kick off the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs than with ClutchPoints' inaugural NHL Playoff Power Rankings.

If there had been PRs last season, the Florida Panthers likely would have begun in the bottom-three. When the dust settled, they were three wins away from a Stanley Cup. It goes to show that anything can happen in a seven-game series, and all regular-season storylines are out the window once the puck drops in the playoffs. Only one team can capture Lord Stanley come the middle of June, but more than a dozen have legitimate aspirations. And that's why we love the game.

All eyes will be on the Vegas Golden Knights as the franchise begins the title defense in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars. It's a heavyweight matchup, and headlines a plethora of storylines in both conferences. One of the more interesting aspects will be seeing if any of the four Hart Trophy frontrunners — Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid — will be able to drag their team to a championship in 2024.

It truly has been one of the most memorable regular-seasons in recent memory, from the insane President's Trophy race, to a photo finish in the Eastern Conference, to the final game of hockey in Arizona — for now. If the postseason brings that same level of energy, it is going to be absolutely phenomenal. And why shouldn't it be? It's the best time in the world to be a hockey fan. Here's where all 16 NHL franchises rank ahead of Round 1, Game 1 on Saturday.

Previous 2023-24 NHL Power Rankings: Week 27 | Week 26 | Week 25 | Week 24 | Week 23 | Week 22 | Week 21 | Week 20 | Week 19 | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3Week 2 | Week 1

1. New York Rangers

It took until their final contest of the 2023-24 regular-season, but the Rangers capped off a franchise-best NHL campaign by securing the team's first President's Trophy since 2015. They'll enter the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the league's best team — at least on paper. And also in the inaugural edition of ClutchPoints' NHL Playoff Power Rankings, which has been fond of the Blueshirts all year long. The big question is whether the stars will come to play (as they did in 2022, leading to a trip to the Eastern Conference Final), or will disappear completely (the catalyst of a first-round exit at the hands of the Devils last year). If Artemi Panarin can continue his incredible campaign and Igor Shesterkin can find the superstar form that New York fans know he is capable of, this squad has as good a chance as any to come out of the East. That's especially true if the blue line can stay healthy.

A first-round matchup against a Capitals team that finished the season an astounding -37 will be a challenge, but is probably one of the better matchups the Rangers could have hoped for in Round 1. They're deeper, have a better goalie, and the core has been more effective in the postseason over the last few years. The experience in Washington should keep the series close, and Alex Ovechkin can be a beast in the meaningful games. But anything less than the Rangers moving on would be a huge surprise, and it's the first test for the team to beat this postseason.

2. Dallas Stars

Like the Rangers, the Stars just completed one of their most impressive seasons in franchise history — and it's going to lead to a date with the defending champions in Round 1. On one hand, if Dallas can get past Vegas, they'll have all the confidence necessary to make a potential organization-defining run. This is a scary roster from top to bottom with a core that marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. The Stars can beat anyone. On the other hand, it's a nightmare matchup. It's a Golden Knights team that got the better of them last year, one that is getting healthy right before the postseason. That's not to mention the injection of Anthony Mantha, Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl into the equation.

This promises to be one of the best series' of the first-round. While Vegas had a tough regular-season that was marred by injuries, they'll be hungry for back-to-back championships in 2024. But the Stars are as deep this year as maybe they've ever been, with a great group of veterans mixed with a few excellent young talents. They also have Jake Oettinger, who has elevated his game considerably as of late and helped Dallas win 12 of their last 14 games. If this team can get through the first-round, they'll be the team to beat in the West. Although that's a big if, this roster deserves to be called the best in the conference.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes center Jake Guentzel (59) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After another disappointing playoff exit in 2023 — winning two rounds meant next to nothing to the passionate fans in Raleigh — the Hurricanes enter another NHL postseason as one of the league's top teams. Frederik Andersen has been a wall since returning to the crease, Jake Guentzel fits like a glove alongside Seth Jarvis and Sebastian Aho, and Carolina boasts a top-three blue line — and it isn't third. But none of that matters if this core can't get past the dreaded Eastern Conference Final.

The Canes have been to three of those since 2009, and won exactly zero games. Last year, it was a shocking sweep at the hands of the Panthers, although all four games were decided by one goal. It goes without saying that it's Stanley Cup or bust for this club in 2024, and winning seven of nine to close out the regular-season is encouraging. So is the Round 1 opponent, a rematch of last season that saw Carolina handle the New York Islanders in six games. The Hurricanes have improved over the course of the year, while the Isles should just be happy to get in. Barring a masterclass from Ilya Sorokin, Carolina should cruise to the Eastern Conference second-round, and a potential Round 2 meeting with the Rangers is a mouthwatering prospect.

4. Florida Panthers

The Panthers were the cinderella story of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, absolutely stunning the 65-win Bruins before dispatching the Leafs and Hurricanes with ease. It was an incredible run for a team that was one regular-season loss away from missing out on the dance altogether. Although it ended at the hands of a healthier and better Knights team in the Finals, it gave the roster confidence that it could beat anyone. And it almost did.

This time around, NHL fans know all about Florida. There's no more underdog story, and that's especially true in a first-round matchup against the Lightning. Inject that one right into the veins. The Battle of Florida treated hockey fans to two truly spectacular playoff series in 2021 and 2022, with the Bolts winning both and going on to make the Stanley Cup Final both years. While the Cats have had a better regular-season, they'll now have to deny a potential dynasty that is looking for three championships in five seasons. Is there any way this isn't the series of Round 1? Of course, it's a toss up. But whichever team wins the battle will be well-positioned to make a deep run, something both of these teams are no stranger to.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning finished 13th in the regular-season in 2023-24, not even managing to secure a top-three berth in the Atlantic Division for the first time since 2017. So what is this club doing at No. 5 in the NHL Playoff Power Rankings? There's just a feeling that, in the midst of the best year of his career, Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov can lead this team out of the East once again. As well, Andrei Vasilevskiy looks dialled in ahead of the postseason, while Steven Stamkos surely realizes this could be his final playoff season with the only team he's ever known.

A six-game loss to the Leafs was a tough pill to swallow in 2023 — and Tampa Bay's first defeat to an Eastern Conference team in the postseason since 2019. After three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, it was an unfamiliar feeling for the entire organization. And based on what Tampa Bay has done in the 2020s, they have a great chance to upset the top team in the division in Round 1. This is going to be an absolute war, but the Bolts are experts at facing adversity. If they can find a way to triumph, they should be considered top contenders to come out of the East.

6. Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill (33) makes a save against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at T-Mobile Arena.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Knights begin their title defense as the No. 6 seed in the NHL Playoff Power Rankings, and that's due to a few key question marks. Will Mark Stone, who has been out of the lineup for weeks with a lacerated spleen, be good to go for Game 1? Will it be Logan Thompson or Adin Hill between the pipes? And will the pressure of being the defending champs affect the team's play? There's no room for error against a Stars team that is hungry for revenge after what happened in the last Western Conference Final. Vegas led that series 3-0, and although it ended in six, the Central Division's top team will be preparing for a completely different result this time — starting with home-ice advantage.

Still, the Knights are a wagon, and if they want to get out of the West again, they probably would have played the Stars at some point no matter what. It's true that facing a 52-win, 113-point team in Round 1 is not ideal, but to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Golden Knights earned that title last NHL postseason, and the Stars earned it this regular-season. Two behemoths will clash beginning at American Airlines Center this weekend, and if it's anything like the 2023 WCF, it's going to be electric.

7. Winnipeg Jets 

The Jets enter the 2024 postseason as the hottest team in the National. With Connor Hellebuyck as the catalyst, Winnipeg has won eight games in a row at the absolute perfect time. They'll enter the NHL playoffs without a loss since the calendar flipped to April, and they'll have home-ice advantage in Round 1 against the Avalanche. Everyone is buying in on this roster right now, and it's clear the team is bursting with confidence. Hellebuyck will likely win another Vezina Trophy, and he's been otherworldly as of late — and a key reason they are favorites against a strong Avalanche team.

Although Colorado has the talent to outclass Winnipeg in a seven-game series, they've been floundering recently. Part of that was a 7-0 Jets beatdown of the Avs a couple of weeks ago, which should only inject the home team with even more confidence. What the Jets don't have is a guaranteed Hart Trophy finalist like Nathan MacKinnon, but that might not matter if the blue line and Hellebuyck continue the elite play. While at one point this season the Avalanche would have been heavy favorites over the Jets, that's no longer the case. There's nothing but question marks in goal with Alexandar Georgiev and Justus Annunen, and defense and goaltending wins series. For that reason alone — and also considering that these teams ended the season going in very different directions — you've got to give Winnipeg the edge.

8. Boston Bruins

The weight of the world rested on the shoulders of the Bruins in 2023 — or at least all of New England. After two unsuccessful trips to the Stanley Cup Final after winning the NHL's top prize in 2011, last year was supposed to be the campaign Boston brought the championship back to Massachusetts after a franchise-altering 65-win season. Instead, it was heartbreak. And there's no more Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to turn to in the big moments.

But could the B's have asked for a better Round 1 matchup? It could have been the surging Lightning, but instead it'll be a team that Boston has dominated in the dance. Even just looking at this year, the Bruins were 4-0 against the Maple Leafs. Certainly, Toronto will want revenge after three Round 1, Game 7 losses in 2013, 2018 and 2019, but they're in tight against a roster that just has their number. And while it was Linus Ullmark playing the first game last year, this time it should be Jeremy Swayman getting an opportunity to carry this team. Boston-Toronto is always phenomenal, and let's see if history repeats itself once again between the two longtime NHL rivals.

9. Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) during a stop in play against the Calgary Flames in the second period at Rogers Arena.
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Following one of the best regular-seasons in franchise history, the Canucks enter the 2024 postseason with high hopes — and high expectations in British Columbia. Vancouver has won just a single seven-game series since coming within one win of capturing the 2011 Stanley Cup, and the fanbase is desperate for success. Thatcher Demko is back to full health, and that's a great start. The key will be the core — led by JT Miller, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson. All three were excellent in 2020, helping the Nucks upset the defending champion St. Louis Blues in six games before coming within one win of another huge upset against the Golden Knights. And after three brutal seasons of playoff-less hockey, this club has consistently been up there with the cream of the Western Conference crop in 2023-24.

And it's a very manageable Round 1 matchup. It's a Predators team that many expected to miss the postseason, but superstars Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi had something to say about that. This is likely to be a goaltending duel between Demko and Juuse Saros, and we figure to see some low-scoring games. But for Vancouver, they'll be happy to get away from playing the Knights in the opening round, and Nashville was certainly one of the more desired opponents. The Canucks beat the Preds in Round 2 in 2011, and 13 years later, two franchises without a Stanley Cup will do battle again to try and change that.

10. Colorado Avalanche

What a fall from grace it's been for the Avalanche over the last three weeks of the NHL season. After winning nine straight in March and looking like a juggernaut in the process, the wheels have fallen off in Denver. The Avs won just four times over their last 11, were absolutely embarrassed by their Round 1 opponent, and when it comes down to it, they just can't get a save. Darcy Kuemper was fantastic when Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 2022, and he needed to be. Below league-average goaltending is drastically holding this roster back, and even MacKinnon is going to have a tough time beating a locked in Connor Hellebuyck.

But it seems like, right now at least, many in the hockey world are writing off Jared Bednar's club. And they shouldn't be. Colorado was expected to make a deep run in 2023, only to bow out in stunning fashion to the upstart Kraken in Round 1. This time around, much less attention and expectation could work for this roster as they look to capture two their second championship in three years. It's going to be tough to get out of the Western Conference without a huge turnaround between the pipes, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Avalanche won this series. And if they do, another long postseason could be in the cards in the Mile High City.

11. Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers chased the Canucks for the Pacific Division crown all season long, but came up just short after stumbling through the final couple games of the NHL regular-season. And with that, it'll be a third straight Round 1 matchup between Edmonton and Los Angeles. That entire locker room is probably breathing a sigh of relief; the Kings are a much more manageable opponent than the defending Stanley Cup champions. And it's a rival that the Oilers know well, and have the capability to beat in a seven-game series. LA will be looking to avoid back-to-back-to-back losses, but do they have an answer for Connor McDavid, who just became the fourth player in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season?

It's hard to bet against McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and co. in Round 1, especially with a very similar playoff setup to last season. Two years ago, the Oil got to the West Final before bowing out to the eventual champion Avalanche. No, Edmonton is not looking like a top team right now, but McDavid can change any series in the blink of an eye. But the X-factor here could be Stuart Skinner, who has been up-and-down in his short playoff career and will need to be excellent against a strong Kings team. Still, in a very difficult conference, this was probably the exact matchup the Oilers wanted.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) looks on against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Amerant Bank Arena.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

After failing to win a playoff series for nearly two decades, the 2022-23 Leafs finally got over the hump — in emphatic fashion. Toronto beat Tampa Bay in a thrilling six-game series, with the winner coming in overtime at Amalie Arena. That could have been the start of something special for a team that hasn't won Lord Stanley since 1967, but instead, it was followed by a disappointing five-game loss to the other Florida franchise. And although it's been another solid NHL campaign for the Leafs, who secured another top-three finish in the Atlantic Division, the Round 1 opponent is concerning.

Forget all of the past between the Leafs and Bruins — Toronto hasn't beaten Boston in a series since 1959 (!) — and flip back to this year. Four games, zero wins. It's difficult to imagine that anything will change in the postseason, but we have to acknowledge that Auston Matthews — fresh off an outrageous 69-goal season — can drag his team to success. He hasn't been able to the last two times these teams met in the postseason, but maybe third time's the charm. To their credit, the Leafs did exorcise some demons in 2023. And after 65 years of futility against their rivals, they have another incredible opportunity to reverse decades of suffering at TD Garden this weekend.

13. Nashville Predators

The Predators aren't just happy to get into the postseason. They're riding a franchise-best season from Filip Forsberg, who snapped to the tune of 48 goals and 94 points. He looked like a completely different player this year, but we got the same perennial Norris Trophy-caliber season from Roman Josi, who continues to lead this franchise. Those two, along with Juuse Saros, will decide how far Nashville can go in the NHL playoffs. But after a campaign that exceeded all expectations, and a fanbase that hasn't experienced a series win since 2018, there will be a buzz across Tennessee over the next little while.

And the Canucks are a solid matchup. They're deep but not overwhelming, and don't have the experience of a team like the Avalanche or Golden Knights in the postseason. Although Nashville was 0-3 against Vancouver this year, they stack up well on paper and promise to make it an interesting series. Most likely, it will come down to Demko vs. Saros. Expect every game to be close for one of the harder Round 1 matchups to predict.

14. Los Angeles Kings

It was another strong regular-season for the Kings, who ended the campaign with six wins in eight tries and leapfrogged the Golden Knights for the No. 3 berth in the Pacific Division on the last day of the year. That's a nice story in Los Angeles, but Anze Kopitar's time is winding down — and the captain hasn't won an NHL playoff series since leading his club to the 2014 Stanley Cup. He's hungry, as are a few other veterans (Drew Doughty, Trevor Lewis, etc.) on this team who realize that the twilight of their careers are probably approaching.

After back-to-back Round 1 losses at the hands of the Oilers, it's all hands on deck to make sure it isn't three consecutive defeats. It's going to be another tight series, and the caliber of goaltending we see from Cam Talbot is going to go a long way in determining how competitive this one is. If he can stand tall and the Kings can win the special teams battle, they have a chance. But as the underdogs — and without home-ice advantage, unlike last year — it's going to be straight into the fire in Alberta for Game 1.

15. Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and right wing T.J. Oshie (77) celebrate win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

How on earth did the Capitals advance to the postseason with a -37? And how are they not the No. 16 team in the NHL Playoff Power Rankings? The answer to the first question is that nothing else matters once you're in. The answer to the second is that, although Washington was the last team to advance, they have a plethora of playoff experience to draw on as they look to climb the massive mountain that is the Rangers.

Some might say the Caps had no business making the playoffs. Well, they wouldn't have if John Tortorella hadn't pulled his goalie in a tie game in contest No. 82. That's how close it was. But you know who doesn't care about that? Alex Ovechkin. You could tell The Great Eight he's the No. 1 seed, or the No. 8 seed. It doesn't matter. Nor does the opponent. As his career winds down — and after missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade in 2023 — he will be a wrecking ball come Game 1. No, the Capitals are nowhere near as good as the Rangers. They're worse at every position, and not many will give this roster a chance. But led by the deep experience that Ovi brings — along with John Carlson and TJ Oshie — they're not looking any further than stealing Game 1 at MSG. And what an atmosphere that promises to be.

16. New York Islanders

The Islanders have been absolutely fantastic over the last couple of weeks, solidifying their hold on the No. 3 berth in the Metropolitan Division in convincing fashion. New York has won eight of nine entering the postseason, but they'll begin in the basement of the NHL Playoff Power Rankings, and that's mainly due to their Round 1 opponent.

Although the Isles and Hurricanes split the season series in 2023-24, one team didn't get better at the deadline, while one brought in superstar Jake Guentzel and complemented it with Stanley Cup champion and 2018 postseason leading scorer Evgeny Kuznetsov. Carolina has meshed into a behemoth as they look to exorcise the Eastern Conference Final demons, while the Islanders will be trying to avenge last year's six-game loss. New York probably has the worst statistical chance of any team of coming out of the first-round, and that's especially true with Noah Dobson's status in question. Just getting into the playoffs is a win after an up-and-down season — although no one around the team will admit that — and beating the Canes would be nothing short of a massive upset. But don't be surprised if we see a few of those ahead of what promises to be a terrific 2024 postseason.