Hockey Preview Part 1: Ranking the Metro Division

Believe it or not, we’re less than two weeks away from the start of a new season. A time for new beginnings. That’s especially true in the Metro Division, where as many as six of the eight teams should be competitive.

Not to discount the rebuilding Rangers under first-year man David Quinn. But it would be a shock if they topped 80 points and are in the playoff hunt. If both Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil play, they’ll be fun to watch along with Pavel Buchnevich. Who stays? Kevin Hayes or Mika Zibanejad.

I also have similar doubts over the Hurricanes, who might have the worst goaltending in the league. They may have added Dougie Hamilton to aid the blueline, but are very young up front. It should be a joy to watch Russian Andrei Svechnikov, who should make fans in Raleigh forget Jeff Skinner.

The Islanders are no longer where John Tavares plays. He took his Maple Leafs pajamas and went home to Toronto. It’s now a tighter ship run under the watch of ageless wonder Lou Lamoriello and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz. Can Mathew Barzal carry the team under a more structured system? What are the plans for Anders Lee? Is Robin Lehner a comeback story? A lot to answer.

The defending champion Capitals will finally have a target on their back. How will Conn Smythe winner Alexander Ovechkin and company deal with the pressure of a repeat? Evgeny Kuznetsov could make a run at the Hart.

Are the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin Penguins the Caps’ chief competition, or are one of the Blue Jackets or Flyers ready to step up? There might finally be a change on the horizon.

What about the MVP Taylor Hart Hall and the Devils, who hardly did anything to improve off the first postseason appearance in six years? Miles Wood is unsigned. Cory Schneider might not be fully recovered to start the season. That means more of Keith Kinkaid. How much will Nico Hischier improve in Year Two? Are the Devs in or out next Spring?

As we draw nearer, it’s time to have a little fun with preseason division rankings.


Team To Beat: Washington Capitals

Dark Horse: Philadelphia Flyers

Team With Most Pressure: Columbus Blue Jackets

Best Player: Sidney Crosby PIT

Best Finisher: Alexander Ovechkin WSH

Sweetest Finisher: Phil Kessel PIT

Sickest One-Timer: Alexander Ovechkin WSH

Highest Scorer: Evgeny Kuznetsov WSH, edging Claude Giroux and Geno Malkin

Top Defenseman: Seth Jones CBJ, edging Ivan Provorov and John Carlson

Top Goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ

Calder Contender: Andrei Svechnikov CAR

Best Passer: Nicklas Backstrom WSH, edging Kuznetsov and Josh Bailey

Best Playmaker: Jakub Voracek PHI

Best Hands: Sidney Crosby PIT

Most Exciting: Artemi Panarin CBJ, edging Mathew Barzal

Great Skater: Artemi Panarin CBJ, edging Kuznetsov and Zach Werenski

Most Valuable Forward: Taylor Hall NJD

Most Valuable Defenseman: Kris Letang PIT

Most Valuable Player To A Team: Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ

Top Defensive Forward: Sean Couturier PHI, edging Backstrom

Player Who Could Be Moved: Artemi Panarin CBJ

Breakout Player: Nolan Patrick PHI, edging Pavel Buchnevich

Underrated: Kyle Palmieri NJD

Overrated: Dougie Hamilton CAR, edging Mika Zibanejad

Player With Most Pressure: Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ

Player With Something To Prove: Chris Kreider NYR


G Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ

C Evgeny Kuznetsov WSH

LW Alexander Ovechkin WSH

RW Phil Kessel PIT

D Ivan Provorov PHI

D Seth Jones CBJ


G Carter Hart PHI

C Filip Chytil NYR

C Lias Andersson NYR

C Martin Necas CAR

LW Kieffer Bellows NYI

RW Andrei Svechnikov CAR

D Ty Smith NJD ‘if’ they keep him

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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