The Metro Division had the usual suspects in Washington and Pittsburgh at the top. But the teams that picked one and two in last June’s draft also made the playoffs. Columbus also made it, which marked the first time in franchise history that they made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The Rangers, who were a popular playoff pick, stumbled to a last place finish. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs for a ninth straight season. And the Islanders probably just allowed another goal.
1st star: Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins
Malkin was a fantasy monster this season. He finished tied for fourth in goals with 42, tied for 14th with 56 assists, fourth with 98 points, tied for 12th with 87 penalty minutes and tied for third with 38 power play points. He finished a “lousy” 33rd in shots on goal, but with the numbers he put up, people that had Malkin this year shouldn’t be complaining. As you can see, Malkin is one of those players that contributes in every standard category. He was the number one overall player (to finish the year) in most formats, and he should be a top five pick in the fall. It’s hard to believe that Malkin was left off the top 100 NHL players list.
2nd star: Taylor Hall, LW, Devils
How did the Devils acquire Hall again? Seriously, everybody in the world except Peter Chiarelli thought that the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade was awful at the time. And boy, does it look awful now. The former first overall pick set career highs in almost every single offensive category including goals (39), assists (54), points (93), rating (+14) and power play points (37). He should be a finalist for the Hart Trophy this season, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he won it. The Devils are very lucky to have him.
3rd star: Claude Giroux, LW, Flyers
Apologies to Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel, but the third star goes to Giroux, who was taken a lot later in drafts than the other three. Giroux finished tied for the league lead in assists with Blake Wheeler (68), and his 102 points were good for second in the league. His 36 power play points tied for sixth. And for those of you in leagues that count faceoffs, Giroux took plenty of them even though he primarily played left wing this year. He probably won’t get a Hart nomination in a wide open year, which is a shame. Giroux only hit 90 points one other time in his career, and that was in the 2011-12 season. After a not so good 2016-17, Giroux probably ended up on a lot of winning teams this year.
Biggest surprise: Sean Couturier, C, Flyers
Where did this come from? After totaling just 191 points in 416 career games entering this season, Couturier had 76 points for Philly. He was originally taken with the eighth overall pick by the Flyers in 2011, and it looked like he was going to top out as a third line center. The Flyers also got Jakub Voracek in that trade along with the Couturier pick and a third rounder from Columbus for Jeff Carter. Woof. While the extra ice time helped, Couturier finally had a big NHL season after six seasons of not so great production. Will this season be an outlier, or will it be a sign of things to come?
Biggest breakout: Seth Jones, D, Blue Jackets
Jones was the consensus best defenseman available in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and while he didn’t get that much ice time in Nashville (relatively speaking), the training wheels have been taken off in Columbus and then some. Acquired straight up from the Preds for Ryan Johansen (that’s worked out for both sides), Jones has blossomed into one of the best two-way defensemen in the game, yet he’s still very underrated. He should be one of the finalists for the Norris Trophy this season, as he’s set career highs in almost every fantasy category. Jones finished in the top ten among defensemen in goals, points, power play points and shots on goal.
Biggest bust: Braden Holtby, G, Capitals
Holtby was the second goalie off the board in most leagues behind Carey Price. Holtby, like Price, really had an awful season. Holtby’s 2.99 GAA and .907 save percentage were by far the worst of his career. Sure, he had 34 wins, but that was the lowest total of his career in a season that he’s played in at least 50 games. And those wins came with awful ratios.
Top rookie: Mathew Barzal, C, Islanders
The Islanders acquired the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft (and the 33rd overall pick) from Edmonton in exchange for Griffin Reinhart. Oh, another failed trade by Peter Chiarelli… Barzal took the league by storm in his first full season, leading all rookies with 63 assists and 85 points. Among all NHL players, the 63 assists ranked 5th, and the 85 points ranked tied for 13th. The former Seattle Thunderbirds standout was a prolific junior scorer in limited action, and he’s carried that success into the pro ranks. He’s definitely going to win the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.