Teams at the bottom see the future as a way to climb higher than their current station. Teams in the middle see the future as a way to break through to reach the elite. Teams at the top see the future as a chance to sustain their success or stave off the inevitability of potentially returning to the bottom.
This is why the future matters. It can bring promise, it can bring results or it could bring a team to its knees if it's not careful.
With opening night of the 2022-23 NHL season approaching on Oct. 11, it's time for another edition of the Future Power Rankings.
To determine which NHL clubs are in the best shape for the next three seasons, we had a panel of writers and editors rate each team in four categories -- roster (with an emphasis on players 26 and under); prospects; cap situation and contracts; and front office, ownership and coaching -- using this scale:
100: A+ (Elite)
90: A (Great)
80: B (Very good)
70: C (Average)
60: D (Very bad)
50: F (Disastrous)
After averaging the results from the panelists, each of the four categories was weighted to create the overall score: roster (35%), prospects (25%), cap/contracts (20%) and owner/GM/coach (20%). The result is a comprehensive ranking based on how well each team is positioned for the future, plus insights on every team from Ryan S. Clark, Kristen Shilton and Greg Wyshynski.
Read through the entire file from No. 1 to No. 32, or jump ahead to your team by using the quick links below:
1. Carolina Hurricanes
Overall score: 85.2
Why they're here: The No. 1 team in the ESPN Future Power Rankings has a championship-caliber roster, a strong pool of young reinforcements and an enviable managerial staff. The Hurricanes have the third-ranked current roster, having made the playoffs for four straight seasons and posting a points percentage above .700 in two straight. They rank ninth overall in prospects thanks to young players on the roster and others such as AHL forward Jack Drury and KHL defenseman Alexander Nikishin who are on the way. Coach Rod Brind'Amour and an analytics-driven front office ranked No. 7 overall, although the Canes' cap outlook was middle of the pack (16th). Still, it all added up to Carolina having the brightest future in the league. -- Wyshynski
Points of concern: Canes GM Don Waddell and his staff have decisions to make in the next two seasons. They have eight players who are pending UFAs at the end of the 2022-23 season, which will force decisions with Max Pacioretty and Jordan Staal. Determining a plan in goal will also be a priority because Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are also UFAs at the end of the season. The Canes will have a projected $30.7 million next summer, yet must also remain prudent given Sebastian Aho, Brent Pesce, Brady Skjei and Teuvo Teravainen will be pending UFAs after the 2023-24 campaign. Meanwhile, Seth Jarvis will be coming off his rookie deal, whereas Martin Necas will be a pending RFA. -- Clark
Reason for hope: Carolina has achieved an enviable balance -- the Hurricanes are a great team now set up to be a great team later. What could be more appealing? The Hurricanes can maximize their limited cap space by drawing in players who want opportunity with a great coach, stable roster and chance to win every night. It's the core in Carolina doing the real work of holding top spots in the standings, and keeping Raleigh a desirable destination moving ahead. -- Shilton