Last week’s article broke down the key players in the NHL’s Atlantic Division for the upcoming season. It’s time to tackle the key players in the NHL’s Metropolitan division for 2016-17. These players performing to the best of their abilities will go a long way toward the success of their clubs.
Key Players in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division for 2016-17
Carolina Hurricanes – Jeff Skinner
While off the ice there are a lot of ownership issues, on the ice the future is bright for the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina finished just seven points out of the playoffs last season. A big key for the Hurricanes will be their offense as they finished 27th in goals scored per game last year.
That brings Jeff Skinner into the picture. Last season the Toronto native had a big bounce back season. Skinner played in all 82 games and had 28 goals and 51 points. Health is always a big concern with the two-time 30 goal scorer as he has suffered numerous concussions. For the Hurricanes to surprise people and make the playoffs next year a healthy Skinner is a must.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Sergei Bobrovsky
A couple of years ago the Columbus Blue Jackets made a splash by making the playoffs and pushing the Penguins in a tough first round series. Since then there has been a lot of turmoil in Columbus. Being in the tough Metropolitan Division doesn’t help.
It’s critical that the Blue Jackets get off to a good start this upcoming season. Something they have failed to do the last two years. They need their #1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to stay healthy and play at a high level.
The Russian goaltender is the second highest paid net minder in the NHL (cap hit of $7.425 million). Yet the last couple of years his play has been one of injuries and inconsistency. That needs to change if Columbus is going to have a good season.
New Jersey Devils – Kyle Palmieri
When the New Jersey Devils acquired Kyle Palmieri last off-season in their heart of hearts they probably never thought they were landing a 30-goal scorer. However, the Devils need a repeat performance in 2016-17.
Despite having two 30-goal scorers last season (Adam Henrique was the other one) New Jersey finished last in the league last season averaging 2.22 goals per game.
Adding Taylor Hall this summer will help immensely. Even with Hall, the Devils need another strong year from Palmieri, who grew up in Montvale, New Jersey.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) July 20, 2016
New York Islanders – Ryan Strome
The biggest disappointment the New York Islanders had in terms of their players last season was clearly Ryan Strome. In his first full season, the former 5th overall pick had 17 goals and 50 points. However, last year was a big step backward. Last season the Mississauga native had 8 goals and 28 points in 71 games.
Strome’s season last year included watching games from the press box as well as an AHL stint. For the Islanders to take the next step they need a big bounce back season from Strome.
New York Rangers – Marc Staal
Not that long ago the New York Rangers were the envy of the league with their blue line. After a lot of games, minutes played and wear and tear, the Blue Shirts blue line is not the same.
Ryan McDonagh is still a top defenseman, while Dan Girardi is now a third-pairing blue liner at best. That leaves Marc Staal. Staal last year was plagued with inconsistent play. Staal played at a high level too infrequently. For the Rangers to get back to contender status, Staal needs a big 2016-17 season.
Philadelphia Flyers – Brayden Schenn
When the Philadelphia Flyers traded for Brayden Schenn from the L.A. Kings they envisioned they were acquiring a young core forward for their organization. That vision finally came to fruition this past season. The 24-year-old center had 26 goals and 59 points last year. The Saskatoon native was one of the Flyers best players this past season.
Philly’s rebuilding program was fast-tracked by making the post-season last year. Remember it took the Flyers until the last weekend of the regular season to secure a playoff spot. Schenn needs to repeat his performance in 2016-17 if the city of brotherly love is going to have a hockey team return to the playoffs.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 27, 2016
Pittsburgh Penguins – Kris Letang
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of star power both at forward and in between the pipes. The guy who gets over-looked on this team is Kris Letang. Anyone who watched the Stanley Cup playoffs this past season knows how important Letang is to Pittsburgh, as he logged nearly 30 minutes a night.
It’s not just the minutes logged that Letang brings to the table but his experience, leadership, tenacity, intangibles, as well as his play in his own zone and on the offensive end. If the Penguins lose one of their star forwards or goalies they can get through that rough patch with their depth. Letang is another matter.
Washington Capitals – Braden Holtby
Given how much Braden Holtby plays it is critical he stays healthy for the Washington Capitals success. Last season Holtby played in 66 games and in 2014-15 the Vezina-winning goalie played in 73 games. The Capitals might be the deepest team in the league from top to bottom. But the one player the Caps can’t lose for a long period of time is Holtby.