2015-16 Metropolitan Division Preview

FTHN continues its divisional previews before the start of the 2015-16 NHL season.

Lundqvist  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

Lundqvist (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

New York Rangers

Record: 53-22-7 (113 Points) (Lost in ECF to TBL)

Projected Finish: 1st in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Victor Stalberg, Emerson Etem, Jarret Stoll, Antti Raanta, Raphael Diaz, Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna

Who’s Out: Martin St. Louis, Cam Talbot, Carl Hagelin, James Sheppard

Players to Watch: Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash

Season Outlook: The New York Rangers won the President’s Trophy last season and came oh so close to reaching their second straight Stanley Cup Final. This season, look for this team to be just as dominant and once again win the division. With the additions they made over the summer, the Rangers are primed to be even better than they were last year.

If used right, Emerson Etem could provide a scoring touch Carl Hagelin never did. Jarret Stoll shores up the bottom six and gives the Rangers two centers with over 50 percent faceoff averages for their careers. Going into this season it seems the Rangers will have a center corps of Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Jarret Stoll and Dominic Moore. That’s top notch. Antti Raanta will be a more than capable backup for Henrik Lundqvist. A full season with Keith Yandle on the blueline will only help their already league-best defense.

The Capitals, Penguins and Blue Jackets all improved over the offseason but the Rangers depth and goaltending will once again help them win the division. This team is still a Stanley Cup contender and this could be the season they take the final step.

Ovechkin celebrates. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Ovechkin celebrates. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Washington Capitals

Record: 45-26-11 (101 points) (Lost in second round to NYR)

Projected Finish: 2nd in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Dan Ellis, Taylor Chorney

Who’s Out: Mike Green, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Curtis Glencross

Players to Watch: T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams

Season Outlook: This team will only be second to the New York Rangers in the division. The additions of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to the top six forward group are really great additions. In Oshie, the Capitals have finally found their man to play the coveted right win spot alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. In Williams, the Capitals have gained one of the premier playoff performers in the NHL. Williams has been referred to as “Mr. Game 7” and if any team needed someone like that it’s the Capitals. Could Williams and Oshie be the final pieces to the Capitals puzzle? Possibly. Look for Evgeny Kuznetsov to continue his development and really blossom into the second line center role. Look for Braden Holtby to continue to get even better between the pipes as well; locking him up to a five year deal was great for the Capitals.

Crosby and Malkin. (USA Today)

Crosby and Malkin. (USA Today)

Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 43-27-12 (98 points) (Lost in first round to NYR)

Projected Finish: 3rd in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Phil Kessel, Eric Fehr, Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, Tim Erixon, Sergei Plotnikov, Matt Cullen, Steve Oleksy, Tyler Biggs

Who’s Out: Paul Martin, Daniel Winnik, Brandon Sutter, Thomas Griess, Steve Downie, Craig Adams, Max Lapierre, Nick Spaling, Blake Comeau, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington
Players to Watch: Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Olli Maata

Season Outlook: The Penguins went through many changes this offseason, I mean just look at the roster changes above and the team will have a much different look than it did year. Obviously the big acquisition was Phil Kessel and he should be a lock for 40-50 goals no matter if he plays with Crosby or Malkin. Nick Bonino will make a great number three center for the Pens as he can provide a nice scoring spark for the bottom six. Their defense still needs work and younger players will have to contribute on a more consistent basis. Look for Olli Maata to have a huge year for the Pens and show why the team the covets him so much.

At this point look for the Pens to finish third in the division behind the Capitals and Rangers as both of those teams are much more solid at this point and their defense pushes them ahead of the Pens.

John Tavares (NYI)

John Tavares (NYI)

New York Islanders

Record: 47-28-7 (101 Points) (Lost in first round to WSH)

Projected Finish: 4th in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Thomas Greiss

Who’s Out: Lubomir Visnovsky, Tyler Kennedy, Michal Neuvirth, Matt Donovan, Griffen Reinhart
Players to Watch: John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic

Season Outlook: They are a young team on the rise and, arguably, if they’re number one defensemen, Travis Hamonic, wasn’t injured before the first round, might’ve advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

Make no mistake, last year’s team was no fluke. The Islanders will return to the playoffs and are primed this year to make some noise. Led by captain John Taveras, the offense will once again click on all cylinders and with another year of experience, their defense will be that much better.
This roster didn’t change much over the summer but that isn’t a bad thing as GM Garth Snow is content to let this team keep growing together and letting their great prospects fill holes when needed.

New York Islanders  v Columbus Blue JacketsColumbus Blue Jackets

Record: 42-35-5 (89 Points) (Finished 5th in Metropolitan Divison)

Projected Finish: 5th in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Brandon Saad, Gregory Campbell

Who’s Out: Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Mark Letestu, Corey Tropp

Players to Watch: Brandon Saad, Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno

Season Outlook: The Jackets are a team on the rise and if this team doesn’t get hit by the injury bug again, watch out. They have solid forward depth and a budding defense corps that will continue to get better. Let’s not forget they have a former Vezina Trophy winner between the pipes in Sergei Bobrovsky. Brandon Saad is obviously the huge acquisition here and if he develops chemistry with center Ryan Johansen early on, they are going to give opposing teams headaches. Realistically the Jackets, Penguins and Islanders will be fighting for the third to fifth place spots in the division. It’s going to be an interesting race.

Claude Giroux (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Claude Giroux (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 33-31-18 (84 points) (Finished 6th in Metropolitan Division)

Projected Finish: 6th in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Sam Gagner, Tim Brent, Michal Neuvirth, Ivan Provorov, Jason LaBarbera

Who’s Out: Nicklas Grossmann, Ray Emery, Carlo Colaiacovo, Blair Jones

Players to Watch: Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Steve Mason

Season Outlook: The Flyers have some great offensive talent on their roster but their defense is sorely lacking. They have some amazing defensive prospects in the pipeline in Samuel Morin, and Ivan Provorov among others and once they develop, the Flyers will have a dominant defense. Will Jakub Voracek score 80 points again? Maybe but it’s unlikely. Will Brayden Scheen develop further? the Flyers sure hope so. This team still has some horrible contracts to shed and needs to get a little younger before they will be a true threat again.

Eric Staal Carolina - NHL

Eric Staal Carolina – NHL

Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 30-41-11 (72 points) (Finished 8th in Metropolitan Division)

Projected Finish: 7th in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Noah Hanifin, Eddie Lack, James Wisniewski

Who’s Out: Alexander Semin, Anton Khudobin

Players to watch: Noah Hanifin, Eddie Lack, Eric Staal

Season Outlook: Even with the recent trade for Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, I don’t see the hurricanes finishing higher than seventh in the division. They have some good pieces in Noah Hanifin, Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Elias Lindholm and Eric Staal but this team is still years away from being a threat again. The Hurricanes will once again have a high draft pick this upcoming year as they continue to look toward the future.

Make no mistake, in a few years, this team will be someone nobody once to face once they draft a few more offensively talented players and their young defense comes along. The Rangers, Capitals, Penguins, Islanders, Jackets and Flyers will all finish higher but at least Hurricanes fans will be happy that they wont be in the cellar again, that accomplishment belongs to the New Jersey Devils.

Cory-Schneider-Devils-e1385600398288New Jersey Devils

Record: 32-36-14 (78 points) (Finished 7th in Metropolitan Division)

Projected Finish: 8th in Metropolitan Division

Who’s In: Kyle Palmieri, Pavel Zacha, Yann Danis, John Moore

Who’s Out: Martin Havlat, Scott Gomez, Scott Clemmensen, Bryce Salvador, Michael Ryder, Steve Bernier, Danius Zubrus

Players to Watch: Pavel Zacha, Cory Schneider, Mike Cammalleri

Season Outlook: Unfortunately for Devils fans, this team is still years away from being respectable again. The goaltending of Cory Schneider can only help them so much. Their young defense still needs time to grow and they show a lot of potential with guys like Adam Larsson and Damon Severson still on the rise.

Their offense will once again be stagnant. Even with pieces such as Mike Cammalleri and the newly drafted dynamic center Pavel Zacha, the Devils offense just needs time to develop and they just plainly need more offensively minded players who know how to put the puck in the net. The organization is also hoping that Zacha will be the offensive dynamo they need for years to come but his development will take place over the next few seasons and the team needs to be patient.

Another high draft pick is in this team’s future which will continue to be rebuilding for the next few seasons to come. They will most likely be in the bottom of the division this year as I don’t see them being better than any other Metro team.

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