Sebastien Wiertz

Taking a look back. Photo by Sebastien Wiertz.

2017 Metro Division Review

Hands down the best division in the NHL this year, the Metropolitan Division did not disappoint. Unless you are a fan of the Penguins and Blue Jackets, of course, who have to face each other in the first round of the playoffs despite having the second and fourth most points respectively in the entire league. The Capitals won their second consecutive President’s Trophy, and the Rangers also had over 100 points. The Islanders made a late playoff push, but it was not to be.

1st Star: Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins

Yes, Crosby is still the best player in the league. He won his second career Rocket Richard Trophy with 44 goals (which is a pretty low total for a league leader, but he still led the league), and he finished over a point per game yet again. His 45 assists weren’t among the league leaders, but nobody is complaining. It is very hard to believe that Crosby isn’t even 30 yet. He still has at least a decade left in the tank.

2nd Star: Braden Holtby, G, Capitals

While the reigning Vezina winner did not come close to his win total from a season ago, he tied for the league lead with 42 victories. His ratios (2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage) were elite, and he led the league in shutouts with nine. He will be one of the frontrunners for the Vezina Trophy again this year. Remember when the Capitals had to decide between Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Holtby? I think they made the right choice.

3rd Star: Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals

Yes, he doesn’t shoot that much, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be an elite fantasy player. Backstrom finished second in the league with 63 assists, and he was first with 35 points on the power play. His 23 goals were the most goals he’s had in a season in almost a decade. Backstorm is one of the best passers in the league, and as long as he has Alexander Ovechkin on his wing, he should continue to put up numbers.

Biggest surprise: Sam Gagner, C/RW, Blue Jackets

Considering that Gagner had eight straight seasons of at least 37 points entering last season, the 2015-16 season was a nightmare for him. He only tallied eight goals and eight assists for a totla of 16 points in 53 games. The former top 10 pick has seemingly been around forever, but he is still only 27 years old. Playing mostly bottom six minutes and on the power play, Gagner tied a career high with 18 goals. He also set a career high in points with 50 and plus/minus with a +10. He also had 18 points with the man advantage.

Biggest breakout: Justin Schultz, D, Penguins

A free agent bust in Edmonton, Schultz was traded to the Penguins for a third round pick at the 2016 trade deadline. He showed the talent that made him such a highly sought after free agent after not signing with the Anaheim Ducks. He set career highs in every single standard fantasy category: goals (12), assists (39), points (51), plus/minus (+27), penalty minutes (34), power play points (20) and shots on goal (154). Injuries hit the Penguins’ defense corps hard this year, but Schultz stepped up big time.

Biggest bust: Andrew Ladd, LW, Islanders

After signing a seven year contract worth $38.5 million, big things were expected out of the two time Cup winner. Despite scoring 20 goals for the sixth season in a row (not including the lockout shortened season), he only had eight assists. Eight! He also had an ugly -14 rating and only five points on the power play. He also didn’t even average two shots on goal per game. It’s only one year in, but the Islanders may want a refund.

Top rookie: Matt Murray, G, Penguins

This one was close. Even though he played 21 games in the playoffs, the 22 year old was still considered a rookie by the NHL’s definition. Last year’s Cup winning netminder went 32-10-4 with a 2.41 GAA, a .923 save percentage and four shutouts. If there was any doubt about which goaltender the Penguins were going to protect from the expansion draft, there isn’t any anymore. Murray should be a key piece for the Penguins for years to come.