The Metropolitan Division is the third division that I will look at going into this season. The Metro has been an extremely competitive division over the last couple of seasons. It features the last two Stanley Cup winners in Washington and Pittsburgh. There are also a lot of young up and coming teams that will push for playoff spots this season and in the coming years. With the depth and quality of teams, it is sure to be a dogfight this season for those three spots in the division. Let’s take a look at each teams chances this season.
The Carolina Hurricanes took a small step back last season despite larger expectations from many people in the hockey world. They finished 23rd in GF and 22nd in GA despite being 1st in shots against per game.
Carolina is known for their defensive depth, they have drafted defense heavy over the years and now have an overwhelming pipeline of very good young defensemen. I thought they did very well bring in Dougie Hamilton in a deal involving Noah Hanifin and he’s going be a very good defender for them for a long time. Adding him to a group with Slavin, Pesce, Faulk, De Haan, as well as guys like Fleury and Bean coming up, Carolina might have the strongest blueline in the entire NHL.
However, lots of questions surround everywhere else in their lineup. They’ve had around league-worst goaltending for years and Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek both haven’t proven that they can be consistent #1 goaltenders. They have good young wingers in Teravainen and Aho with Svechnikov being recently drafted. They traded Skinner to Buffalo for a prospect and three draft picks, replacing his offense from within to improve will be a tough task.
IN: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland, Adam Fox, Calvin De Haan, Petr Mrazek, Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook
OUT: Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan, Noah Hanifin, Lee Stempniak, Marcus Kruger
Sebastian Aho – Jordan Staal – Justin Williams
Teuvo Teravainen – Victor Rask – Andrei Svechnikov
Jordan Martinook – Martin Necas – Michael Ferland
Brock McGinn – Lucas Wallmark – Valentin Zykov
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Calvin De Haan – Dougie Hamilton
Hayden Fleury – Justin Faulk
A few things need to happen for Carolina to compete for a playoff spot this season. They need guys like Svechnikov and potentially Necas to have significant impacts as rookies next season. They need to replace Skinner’s offense and even more in order to improve in the GF department. They also need league average goaltending from Mrazek and Darling. Carolina doesn’t give up many shots and chances with their blueline and if one of Mrazek or Darling steps up and becomes a serviceable starting goaltender that will be huge for them. With the blueline that they have, I think they will be competitive this season, but they have too many questions up front and in goal for me to have them as a playoff team right now.
The Columbus Blue Jackets came off another solid regular season making the playoffs for the second season in a row. They were only middle of the pack in terms of GF at 17th but they were 10th in the league in GA. Their power play wasn’t as strong as the previous season at 25th and their penalty kills dropped from 9th the previous season to 27th so those are areas they need to fix for this season.
The contract uncertainty of Artemi Panarin is hanging over their heads and will continue to the longer it drags on. He stated that he won’t negotiate during the season and theirs no guarantee that he signs after the season. Since he doesn’t have an NTC or an NMC and seeing what happened with Tavares this summer if the Jackets can’t get him signed before training camp do they consider trying to move him before the deadline?
The Blue Jackets are a deep team and made some smart moves this offseason bringing in Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair on cheap contracts. Sergei Bobrovsky is a world-class goaltender. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski is probably the best defense pairing in the NHL but Werenski is expected to miss at least a month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. They will look for continued growth from guys like Dubois and Bjorkstrand. They will also look for more consistency from guys like Foligno and Wennberg who both took steps back last season.
IN: Anthony Duclair, Riley Nash, Dillon Simpson, Adam Clendening
OUT: Matt Calvert, Thomas Vanek, Jack Johnson, Ian Cole, Mark Letestu
Artemi Panarin – Pierre Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno – Alex Wennberg – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Boone Jenner – Riley Nash – Anthony Duclair
Sonny Milano – Brandon Dubinsky – Josh Anderson
Ryan Murray – Seth Jones
Marcus Nutivaara – David Savard
Gabriel Carlsson – Adam Clendening
It is very hard to tell with the Panarin uncertainty. With Panarin I think they are easily a playoff team, they have really good core pieces, I really like the Nash and Duclair signings and I think their depth is solid. Without Panarin I still think they can squeak in but its not as much of a guarantee. Panarin was the only Blue Jackets forward last season that even broke 50 points. If they move him they need a lot of players to have big increases in their production to try and make up for his loss. With their blueline, Bobrovsky and their depth up front, as of right now I have them making the playoffs this season.
After a disappointing 2016-17 season, the New Jersey Devils exceeded all expectations last season with a 27-point improvement in the standings. They squeaked into the playoffs with 97 points and ran into the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning who took care of them in 5 games. They were middle of the pack in GF at 15th and 17th in GA, but they were also top 10 on both the power play and penalty kill.
Taylor Hall led the Devils in scoring by 41 points and won the Hart Trophy as League MVP. The Devils inserted several young players onto their team last season that gave them more speed and skill that they have lacked for a long time. 2017 1st overall pick Nico Hischier had 20 goals, 52 points and was the teams #1 center as an 18-year-old.
Guys like Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt also added speed up front and Will Butcher had a very good season on the backend quarterbacking the 10th best powerplay in the league. Sami Vatanen proved to be a good acquisition in a trade with Henrique earlier in the season. Their goaltending could be in question if Schneider doesn’t return to form and after offseason hip surgery it’s unclear whether he will start the season.
OUT: John Moore, Drew Stafford, Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner
Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Kyle Palmieri
Marcus Johansson – Pavel Zacha – Jesper Bratt
Blake Coleman – Travis Zajac – Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood – Brian Boyle – Michael Mcleod
Andy Greene – Sami Vatanen
Will Butcher – Ben Lovejoy
Mirco Mueller – Damon Severson
New Jersey barely squeaked into the playoffs despite an MVP type season from Taylor Hall. There are question marks surrounding their depth and goaltending. There are several teams in the East that are better then them and other teams around them have upgraded their team, where as the Devils have done nothing this summer. Their young players should be better, and Hall should still be fantastic this season. However, with Florida on the rise and too many teams in the Metro ahead of them, I don’t think the New Jersey Devils will make the playoffs this season.
After a devastating offseason that saw them lose John Tavares in free agency, the New York Islanders will be looking to move forward without their captain and face of the franchise. Scoring was not a problem for the Islanders last season as they finished 7th in the league in GF and 6th on the powerplay. Their ability to defend was, however, a major concern as they ranked dead last in the league in GA and on the penalty kill.
The Islanders brought in goaltender Robin Lehner thinking he can be a #1 goaltender and with the hiring of well-decorated coach Barry Trotz, they are hoping that he can add structure and help improve the way the team plays defensively in front of their goaltenders.
Losing Tavares is a massive blow to any organization, but the Islanders do have a lot of good young players on the team and coming up in the system. Mathew Barzal is going to be a fantastic player in this league for a long time and will have a lot more responsibility going forward without Tavares. Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Ho Sang, Kieffer Bellows all have an opportunity to potentially be full-time NHLer’s this season. Recently drafted Oliver Wahlstrom as well as Noah Dobson and Body Wilde on the backend, the Islanders should have a bright future.
IN: Matt Martin, Robin Lehner, Tom Kuhnhackl, Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula
OUT: John Tavares, Calvin De Haan, Jason Chimera, Dennis Seidenberg, Nikolai Kulemin, Chris Wagner, Shane Prince, Brandon Davidson
Anthony Beauvillier – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anders Lee – Valtteri Filppula – Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd – Brock Nelson – Leo Komarov
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey – Ryan Pulock
Adam Pelech – Scott Mayfield
The Islanders missed the playoffs by 17 points last season and didn’t do anything significant to address their weaknesses aside from a coaching change. I don’t see them knocking anyone who made the playoffs last season out and you don’t just lose a player like Tavares and not expect to experience a setback. There are a lot of pieces to look forward to for the Islanders, but it’s not likely to come this season and they will most likely be on the outside looking in.
The New York Rangers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and are headed in a much younger direction. They finished 22nd in GF and 28th in GA, their special teams were decent as they were 14th on the power play and 12th on the penalty kill. The team told the fans before the deadline that they were going to be sellers and headed in a new direction. They did very well selling off players at the deadline and got plenty of assets in return so this process might not take as long as it potentially could.
Henrik Lundqvist is still a very good goaltender and having him in net will give them a decent shot every night. They have good pieces on the blueline like Brady Skjei, Kevin Shattenkirk and young defensemen like Pionk, Deangelo, and Bigras who will be big parts of their team going forward.
They’re still fairly deep up front, Zibanejad, Spooner, Hayes up the middle with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil coming up who can also both play center. Zuccarello, Kreider, Namestnikov, and Buchnevich are all proven producers on the wing. No superstars but a lot of good players and it will be interesting to see how they play this season.
IN: Frederik Claesson, Marek Mazanec
OUT: David Desharnais, Ryan Sproul
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarello
Vladislav Namestnikov – Ryan Spooner – Pavel Buchnevich
Jimmy Vesey – Kevin Hayes – Lias Andersson
Matt Belesky – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast
Brady Skjei – Kevin Shattenkirk
Marc Staal – Neil Pionk
Frederik Claesson – Anthony Deangelo
The Rangers have a lot of good pieces already, but they also have holes as of right now that they will have to fill over time. Even though the process might not take as long as some might think, it will still take some time. I think they will be competitive, however, there are too many teams ahead of them in order to make the playoffs this season.
The Philadelphia Flyers are a team that is on the rise after making the playoffs this season and with all the very good young players that they have. They finished 12th in GF and 14th in GA, their powerplay was middle of the pack at 15th and their penalty kills really struggled at 29th. With their core, they will be looking to take another step forward this season and establish themselves as a top team in the East.
They added James van Riemsdyk in free agency who will help boost the Flyers offense, especially on the powerplay. He will join an already talented top 6 forward group with Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, Simmonds, and Konecny. Nolan Patrick had a slow start to the season but started to come on late and he will be looking to take another step this coming season.
Their blueline is solid with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Ghostisbehere as their top pairing. They have other young defensemen like Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg as well as Samuel Morin and Phillipe Myers looking to make the team soon. The biggest question I feel for the Flyers is their goaltending situation. Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth both can play well but have shown inconsistency in the past. Carter Hart is going to be fantastic in the future but he’s at least a season or two away.
IN: Christian Folin, James van Reimsdyk
OUT: Valtteri Filppula, Brandon Manning, Matt Read, Johnny Oduya
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
James van Reimsdyk – Nolan Patrick – Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl – Scott Laughton – Wayne Simmonds
Oskar Lindblom – Jordan Weal – Dale Weise
Ivan Provorov – Shayne Ghostisbehere
Travis Sanheim – Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg – Christian Folin
The Flyers added good pieces in the offseason and have a lot of young pieces that will be even better this coming season. The only real question is maybe goaltending, but I believe that Elliott and Neuvirth will be decent enough. Since the 2011-12 season, the Flyers have alternated making and missing the playoffs every season. I think they will break that trend this year as I think they will make the playoffs again this season and will challenge for one of the top spots in the Metropolitan division.
After their 23-month reign as champs came to an end, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be hungry to bounce back and make it three cups in four seasons this year. Their season ended in the second round following a 2-1 OT loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
The Penguins were 3rd in the league in GF last season and had the leagues best powerplay at 26.2%. The biggest problem for the Penguins last season was their inability to keep the puck out of there own net and generate at 5v5. They were 20th in GA and were 17th on the penalty kill, they also had a 5v5 GF% of 47.77%, which was 20th in the league despite finishing 2nd in their division.
They still have the horses up front to have a strong powerplay and contend for years but if they want to get back to the finals and winning, their 5v5 play must improve. That was the biggest reason for their success the last two seasons, having the ability to put Crosby, Malkin and Kessel on three different lines to just run over teams got them two Stanley Cups. I’m sure some fatigue played a part but there 5v5 numbers dropped off tremendously last season.
IN: Derek Grant, Jimmy Hayes, Stefan Elliott, Matt Cullen, Jack Johnson
OUT: Conor Sheary, Ian Cole, Matt Hunwick, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Daniel Sprong
Brian Rust – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin – Derek Brassard – Phil Kessel
Riley Sheahan – Matt Cullen – Zach Aston Reese
Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Justin Schultz
Jamie Oleksiak – Jack Johnson
The Penguins looked fatigued last season and against Washington in the playoffs. They are still incredibly deep up front with Crosby, Malkin, and Brassard down the middle and Kessel on the wing. Their blueline is good enough if it can stay healthy with Letang, Schultz, Dumoulin, and Maata. Matt Murray struggled in his first season as the clear starter and he will most likely be better this coming season. With the extra rest, they got this offseason, I think they will come back ready to go and ready to compete for another Stanley Cup.
The Washington Capitals finally broke by the second round and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era. They finished 9th in GF and 7th on the power play during the regular season as well as being 16th in GA and 15th on the penalty kill. After keeping their roster intact this summer, the Capitals will look to go for the repeat this season.
Braden Holtby struggled during the regular season but was fantastic throughout the playoffs like he’s been his whole career, I expect him to have a bounce-back regular season this year. Ilya Samsonov has dominated the KHL the last few seasons and with Grubauer gone, he could push to be the backup this season behind Holtby. The re-signing of Michal Kempny to a four-year contract will keep their strong top 4 of Kempny, Carlson, Orlov, and Niskanen together.
Up front, Ovechkin is still the best goal scorer in the league and will continue to be for years to come. Kuznetsov, Backstrom, and Eller gives the Capitals depth up the middle that can compete with almost anybody. Their young players like Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky both had huge moments in the playoffs and could take big steps forward this coming season, adding to Washington’s depth.
IN: Nic Dowd
OUT: Phillip Grubauer, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Nathan Walker – Chandler Stephenson – Devante Smith Pelly
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Christian Djoos – Brooks Oprik
The Washington Capitals are poised for another playoff run and they will do it with a new head coach. Barry Trotz decided to part ways in the offseason and associate coach Todd Reirden is expected to carry on where they left off. Pittsburgh will still be there, and Philadelphia is on the rise, so the Capitals will be battling with them all year for the division. The Washington Capitals will be back in the playoffs this season and the quest for the repeat begins.
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