NHL style power rankings: ‘Bear Grylls’ appears, Sabers rally around Damar Hamlin

Welcome to 2023, and a very Happy New Year to all! We’re already off to a hot start around the NHL, as players clearly put some thought into getting their best outfits together when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1.

There’s a little bit of everything from the last two weeks. We had some strong finishes to close out the holidays. One player looked like he came out of the forest in his Sunday best (see below to understand), and the Buffalo Sabres showed the collective fortitude of their city and the way their town always shows up whenever anything happens in the community.

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Welcome to The 6, as Toronto native, rapper and October’s Very Own (OVO) founder Drake regularly says on his tracks. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward is sporting the OVO/Faze Clan Varsity Jacket, which says “The New Athletes” on the back. I don’t have many opportunities to talk about my deep love for bomber and varsity jackets with the NHL style rankings, but I’m here for more NHL players getting into their bag in this area. He breaks out the red, white and black lows, because the jacket has flashes of red, and it’s very well done. I usually expect a strong sneaker game from Auston Matthews, but I would enjoy seeing more players show off their kicks and especially if they’re going to do it with this much finesse.

We’re here for the brimmed hat, and the brimmed hat only. No tie, no socks and no problem, as the Colorado Avalanche center breezes in with his head-turning centerpiece. Of course, the cobalt blue suit is fantastic. As is pairing the hat with the black vest and shoes, and opting for a white pocket square to go with the dress shirt. The hat is what really elevates this particular fit, though.

I really love that as a society we’re eschewing the whole no white after Labor Day “rule.” Plus, when you’re one of the best defensemen of this generation and find yourself at No. 52 on The Athletic‘s NHL 99 rankings, you’re allowed to wear whatever you want. As I often quote, “You do what you want, when you’re poppin’.” This is a dapper fit by the Tampa Bay Lightning leader. The pinstripe shirt is a great decision and works in unison with the beige three-piece suit, while the black tie and dress shoes round out the ensemble.

Not everyday that I see an all-velvet suit — as you all will see below. The Washington Capitals defenseman gets the nod for that intriguing dark-brown paisley suit jacket he wore. The details jump out immediately. The texture in the coat is very obvious. I love the velvet component to add even more elements to an otherwise suit outfit, and my only criticism is to give me a tie with a similar color or texture pattern. Let’s take it all the way in this new year!

Maybe I should’ve saved my James Bond reference for this particular photoset. I can’t make the same jokes and observations every two weeks, you know? And right now, I’m looking at the Flames defenseman and center Mikael Backlund and thinking they may have deserved that nod a little more. But! We move, and what we have before us is a strong team effort to dress sharply for 2023. Zadorov, who doesn’t ever really miss, comes in with a deep evergreen velvet suit jacket and the black bowtie, while Backlund goes with the exact same concept, except his velvet suit jacket is pitch black. While center Jonathan Huberdeau tries stealing the show later in the slideshow with his three-piece copper suit and soft gold tie.

This level of color symmetry is so pleasing, and the Winnipeg Jets knew it when he strolled in. That is the gait of someone who knows they nailed the first catwalk of the new year. Seriously, check out the grin as Lowry approaches with his baby blue hat, tie and pants to match and then throws on the salmon pink blazer for a little extra razzle dazzle. The whole team put together a strong showing heading into their game against the Flames, and it translated to the ice as the Jets kicked off the year with a 3-2 win.

The second photo should’ve been the leader in this slide. The first one is the perfect encapsulation of an ideal family photo. Everyone is in their holiday sweaters. We see our Santa and elf hats in the back row, and all eyes are trained on the camera. There are smiles all around. Flawless execution. The second photo gives me “Step Brothers” vibes. There’s personality there, and Horvat’s hand on Miller’s shoulder looks almost identical to that movie’s lead image. The only way to make it closer is for him to stand up and emulate the pose. The variety of sweaters from a Weiner dog to Santa to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a chimney all add to the overall fun. I do wish we could’ve gotten more of a personality or silly photo. That would’ve truly put this over the top.

Let me start by saying, the suit jacket on the Los Angeles Kings forward immediately grabbed my attention. I’m not a flowers kind of woman, however, send me a blue rose, which we see here, and I quickly change my tune. A gray, white and black plaid background under the rose makes it pop because of the lighter background, but fantastically, these two things don’t clash. Unfortunately you can’t see his pants in this shot, but what really would’ve done it for me is if Byfield had worn matching pants and a dress shirt playing off the color of the flower.

My editor and I were downright giddy when I threw this photo in our Slack channel. For the creativeness alone, the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, “rancher (or) zoologist,” as my editor said, easily earns the second-highest spot in this week’s rankings. Now, the NHL asked what it looks like Burns does, and my answer would be masquerading as British explorer, traveler and survivalist Bear Grylls. Real ones know “Man vs. “Wild” on the Discovery Channel was must-see TV back in the day. Especially if you were a kid like me who loved games like that Yukon Trail, Amazon Trail or any show zookeeper Steve Irwin was on. From the fur hat to the forest brown blazer, the vest and the bowtie, this one gets a 10 out of 10 from me for allowing me to travel down memory lane.

1. Buffalo Sabres

There was no chance that anyone else or any other group would take the top spot this week. In the days after Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed during the team’s Monday Night Football game, there has been an overflow of support as he remains in critical condition. The city of Cincinnati lit its building in blue, residents put together a candlelight vigil to pray for him and people around the world have donated to his charity.

If I have learned nothing else about the city of Buffalo, the people there rally around theirs. I have seen this countless times with Josh Allen’s charity, digging players out of the snow and how the teams showed up after the grocery store shooting. The people in this city give their unwavering support. This is no different with the Sabres, who traveled to Washington, DC, and, as a team, sported shirts with Hamlin’s jersey number. The focus is on praying and wishing him well as he continues to make progress from his injury.

(Photo of Brent Burns: Josh Lavallee / NHLI via Getty Images)

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