It’s time to keep getting ready for the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, and we contninue today with a look at the top-15 forwards in the Metropolitan division.
A couple of Penguins make the cut, as well as players from six other Metropolitan Division teams. Philadelphia is the only Metropolitan Division team that did not have at least one player to make the list. That is not because of some anti-Flyers bias, either. But have you seen that roster? With Claude Giroux playing elsewhere, Sean Couturier’s career starting to decline, and players like Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny not quite breaking out the way they planned it is a very thin roster.
But enough about the players that did not make the list. We are here to look at the players that have made the list.
We will take a look at the top defenders and goaltendings over the next couple of Wednesdays.
Here is today’s list, which look at the forwards.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. Even going into his age 35 season Crosby remains one of the league’s elite players and most dominant forwards. He can still score at close to a 100-point pace per 82 games, while also playing a sensational two-way game. He still has it, and there is no sign it is going away anytime soon.
2. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers. In three seasons as a member of the Rangers, Panarin has been an elite scorer, averaging a 110-point pace per 82 games in his time with the team. That is about as good as you are going to get in the NHL these days and puts him on a top-tier level. He is a sensational playmaker and passer, while also consistently close to a 30-goal rate. He is one of the key cornerstones of the Rangers and their current rebuild.
3. Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaudreau is new to the division after signing a shocking seven-year deal with the Blue Jackets in free agency. He might not repeat the exact numbers he had this past season with the Calgary Flames, but he is still an elite scorer and one of the most creative players in the league. He gives the Blue Jackets a bonafide superstar to build around.
4. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. Aho is the total package as a player. He scores at a point-per-game pace, is a strong defensive presence, and an elite possession driver. He is the best player on one of the league’s best overall teams.
5. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. Ovechkin might be a bit of a one-trick pony at this point in his career, but it is the most important trick in the sport and he remains amazing at it. He is still a 50-goal threat and is rapidly closing in on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record.
6. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. Just an outstanding overall player. He scores 40 goals, is a smart player, an underrated playmaker, and a legitimately great winger independent of playing next to Sidney Crosby all of the time. He might even have a shot at 50 goals at some point.
7. Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes. Svechnikov has become a cornerstone player in Carolina and one of the league’s most creative scorers, but I still think he has another level to reach. He is a 30-goal scorer and another strong possession driver in the Carolina lineup, and I feel like he is just a small spike in shooting percentage away from a 40 or 45 goal season. He is still only 22 years old even though it seems like he has been around for way longer than that.
8. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Maybe this is a little premature to have Hughes this high based on what he has actually accomplished, but he was outstanding this past season when healthy and I think he is on the verge of having an absolutely dominant season. Like, top-10 scorer in the league dominant.
9. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins. Malkin may not be the MVP and Art Ross level player he was during his peak, but he is still going to produce big offensive numbers and score a lot of goals. His 5-on-5 goal scoring remained close to his normal level this past season. Better play from his linemates might get his overall production back up even higher this season.
10. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers. Zibanejad has really erupted offensively over the past four years and become one of the league’s most productive centers. Over 82 games he is going to average around 40 goals and 80 points and really help drive the team’s offense. He and Panarin are elites and a great veteran core for the Rangers to build around.
11. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders. Barzal might not be the superstar he looked like he might become after his rookie season, but he is still a bonafide top-line talent and producer, and by far the Islanders’ best player. He needs some help and a better system to really unleash his true potential offensively.
12. Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils. The question is whether or not Bratt’s breakout 2021-22 season was an outlier in a solid career, or a jumping off point in him becoming a star. I think it was the latter.
13. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals. With Nicklas Backstrom’s immediate (and long-term) playing future in question, Kuznetsov becomes the No. 1 center in Washington for the time being. Fortunately for the Capitals, that is a role he is perfectly capable of playing. He bounced back in a big way this past season and was again a top-line scorer.
14. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers. Kreider is a really good player, but I do not think he is going to repeat his 50-goal performance from this past season. That was the perfect storm of everything going his way at the exact right time. But even if he regresses back to a 25-30 goal scorer and remains a strong two-way presence, he is still going to be an extremely valuable player.
15. Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets. Easy to forget the Laine is still only 24 years old because it seems like he has been around forever. Getting away from John Tortorella was a huge breakthrough for Laine this past season and helped him return to being a top-line scorer. Him and Gaudreau are at the very least going to help make the Blue Jackets worth watching this season and beyond.