When the NHL revealed the four new super-divisions a few months ago, it was clear that the new Metropolitan was one of, if not the strongest in the entire league. Boasting some of the games biggest stars, the “Metro” is basically the old Atlantic Division plus Washington, Carolina, and Columbus, and aside from the awkwardly feminine title, it should be one of the most exciting divisions to watch.
To show just exactly how much talent there is in here, I put together an All-Star team for the new division using the four best (at least I thought) players at each position from teams in the Metro.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins- This was a no-brainer. Sid the Kid is the best center in the division, as well as the best player in the entire world. Even though he has had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons, his production is unparalleled when he is able to take the ice. He leads all active players in points-per game average, is consistently towards the top of the Pens roster in average ice time, and has won just about every major award and trophy in hockey. He is the standard by which all other NHL-ers are compared to.
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins- Another Penguin whose had his production reduced by injury in the past, few would deny that Geno is one of the three or four most talented forwards in the league. A testament to his talent, the former Hart and Art Ross trophy winner has drastically increased the production of line-mate James Neal.
3. John Tavares, New York Islanders- Tavares has long been considered “the next one”, the guy who would help bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island. A gifted playmaker with a finishing touch, Tavares has led the Islanders in scoring every year since he first broke into the league in 2009. What’s more, the 23-year-old was recently named the 14th captain in Islanders history, and was nominated for his first Hart trophy last season.
4. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers- This is perhaps the greatest testament to the individual talent in the Metropolitan Division. Where else would Claude Giroux only be the fourth best center in his own division? The 2006 1st round draft pick had his coming-out party against cross state rival Pittsburgh in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, and has seen his production increase steadily every year he’s been in the league.
1. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals- This one is interesting, considering Ovechkin has only played right wing for one season. For years, Ovi was considered the only other NHLer who was even in the same ballpark as Sidney Crosby. While he is sometimes knocked for issues with consistencey and effort, you can’t deny that The Great 8 is one of the most gifted and electrifying players in the NHL. Last season, Ovechkin won his third Hart and Rocket Richard Trophy and was a first team All-Star for the fifth time.
2. James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins- After coming to Pittsburgh from the Dallas Stars in 2011, the 25-year-old Neal has enjoyed a bit of a career renaissance, scoring 40 goals in his first full season with the Pens and adding 21 in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. While he’s no doubt been a beneficiary of playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin, Neal has proven time and time again that he can pick corners when he wants and make you pay on the power play.
3. Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets- I know, I know. Gaborik is getting older and has struggled to find the success he had two years ago when he put up 40 goals with the Rangers. However, the Slovakian sniper is still loaded with skill, and I believe getting out of the Big Apple and John Tortarella’s defense-first system will give Gabby a new lease on his career. He could be the perfect replacement for Rick Nash and a Blue Jacket’s team that has struggled with scoring in the past.
4. Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers- Voracek had his best season of his career in 2013, putting up 22 goals and 46 points in all 48 games, and if he’s able to put up similar numbers again this year, he’ll overtake Gaborik for #3 on the list. At only 23, Voracek saw a huge bump in ice team last year and was lethal on the power play, scoring eight goals and putting up 17 points on the man advantage.
1. Rick Nash, New York Rangers- Broadway Rick had his prayers answered last summer when he was traded out of Columbus to the big-market New York Rangers, and to his credit, he didn’t disappoint, putting up 42 points in 44 games. The 28-year-old power-forward has appeared in five All-Star games and has always been tough to shut down. As of right now he is the Blueshirt’s top offensive threat.
2. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes- Here’s to hoping that last season was an anomaly for Jeff Skinner. After suffering two separate concussions in 2012, the 2013 season saw Skinner’s even-strength production take a dip. Having said that, this will be only the 4th season for the 21-year-old Skinner, who has twice led the ‘Canes in points/60 minutes played. The two-way forward still has the skill to be a top-six threat for Carolina, and if he stays healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see him towards the top of the scoring leaderboards this season.
3. Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins- The 33-year-old Kunitz had an outstanding 2013 campaign, putting up 52 points in 48 games for the red-hot Penguins’ offense. The power forward found uncanny chemistry with linemates Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, particularly on the power-play, where he was able to notch 18 points, good enough for third on the team. He was rewarded in the offseason by signing a 3 year, $11.5 million contract.
4. Matt Moulson, New York Islanders- The gritty winger meshed perfectly with All-Star center John Tavares, posting a 15-29-44 stat line, finishing second in team scoring to Tavares for the third season in a row. Moulson, who is easily one of the most underrated players in the league, is a three-time 30-goal scorer who has only missed one game since 2009.
1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins- Along with Erik Karlsson of Ottawa, Letang is the premier offensive defenseman in the NHL. The smooth skating Letang has one of the prettiest strides you’ll ever watch, and his points-per-game average was tied with Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, even though Letang played seven fewer games. While he is criticized for not being as defensively sound as most would hope, you can’t deny his offensive upside. Go inside Kris Letang’s insane summer workout
2. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers- Perhaps one of the best all-around defenseman in the game, the workhorse blueliner is the Blueshirts’ go-to-guy in all situations. Even strength, power-play, penalty kill, you name it, he does it. His +13 rating was 4th-best for the Rangers, and he was huge reason the Rangers were fourth in average goals against.
3. Mike Green, Washington Capitals- Another exceptional talent whose had trouble staying healthy, the 6-foot-1 Green brings a full range of skills to the table. Green led all Cap’s D-men in points last year with 26, despite the fact that he missed 13 games. A power-play quarterback with a bomb from the point, Green is seeking to find the even-strength success he had in 2008-2009 that saw him score 31 goals.
4. John Carlson, Washington Capitals- The third-year pro bounced back from a slow sophomore season to post his best offensive numbers to date (9-23-32), along with increases in ice time and quality of competition. Making these stats even more impressive is the fact that he did it in his first season without usual partner Karl Alzner.
5. Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders- At only 22, Hamonic has already impressed many as one of the best up-and-coming stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL. While his numbers (3-7-10) don’t exactly jump out at you, Hamonic routinely faces the best the opposition has to offer and has proven he is responsible enough to play big minutes night in and night out.
6. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins- Without a doubt the most improved player on the Penguins roster, Martin went from parriah to Norris trophy considerate in 2013. After a shaky 2012 playoffs, Martin worked out non-stop all summer, and the results were staggering. 23 points and a +14 rating were second for all Pen’s defenseman, behind only Kris Letang. He played tough minutes and formed the Penguins top shut-down pairing with Brooks Orpik.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers- Another no-brainer, King Henrik has proven year after year that he is still deserving of the moniker. Still in his prime at age 30, Hank is still considered by most to be the top goalie in the world. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner and three-time All-Star posted a .926 SP and 2.05 GAA, pretty standard lines for Lundqvist. As of now, the crown is his to lose.