Welcome to part two of my series comparing the Canes’ position groups to the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Last week, I did centers; today, it’s the wingers.
The Canes are in an interesting spot at this position. With Sebastian Aho moving to center, the Jeff Skinner trade leaves the Canes a little light on the wing. Teuvo Teravainen, coming off a breakout, 23-goal, 64-point season, is a lock for a spot on the first line with his countryman Aho. Joining them will likely be Valentin Zykov, who had three goals and seven points in 10 games during a late-season call up last year.
The second line will see No.2 pick Andrei Svechnikov on the right side; the Canes will be expecting a big first season for the Russian rookie. Newly acquired Micheal Ferland, coming off a 21-goal, 41-point season, will be in the mix on the left side, as will Brock McGinn.
On the left side of Jordan Staal on the third line will be either Ferland or McGinn, with Justin Williams, coming off a 51-point output in his first season back in Carolina, flanking them on the right. Jordan Martinook, acquired in a trade with Arizona, will get one of the fourth line spots, with the likes of Phil Di Giuseppe and Warren Foegele in the mix for the other one.
What the Canes get out of their wingers will largely depend on what Svechnikov does in year one, if Zykov can build on last year, when he led the AHL in goal scoring and how Ferland fits in. If the Canes get at least 20 goals from each of those players, and similar output to last year from Teravainen and Williams, this is a solid group. If not, it’s lacking.
But how does it compare to the rest of the division? Let’s take a look.
Washington Capitals- The Capitals have the obvious best winger in the division, with Alex Ovechkin coming off another stellar season with 49 goals and 87 points. Following him is T.J. Oshie, who is coming off a down year with 18 goals and 47 points, but has 30-goal potential playing with Ovi and Backstrom.
The Caps also have $5-million(!) man Tom Wilson, who adds sandpaper and secondary scoring, albeit at a bit of a high price. Andre Burakovsky spent a good chunk of the year injured, but will look to build off a solid playoff run. Jakub Vrana will try to improve on a decent first full season.
Rounding out the group are Devante Smith-Pelly, Nathan Walker and Shane Gerisch.
The Canes obviously don’t have anyone who can match Ovechkin, and the Capitals as a whole have better depth on the wing.
If Washington has the best winger in the division, Pittsburgh has the second best. Phil Kessel is coming off his best season as a Penguin with 34 goals and 92 points. Patric Hornqvist is an agitator extraordinaire and good net-front presence, and is coming off a 29-goal, 49 point season.
Jake Guentzel gives the Pens another good top-six option.
The trade of Conor Sheary leaves the Pens looking for another body in their top-six. That could be Carl Hagelin, coming off a 10-goal, 31-point season, or it could also be rookie Daniel Sprong, who will push for a spot. Bryan Rust will also be in the mix. Jimmy Hayes and Dominik Simon will compete for fourth-line spots, and the Pens’ glut of centers will force either Riley Sheahan or Matt Cullen to the wing.
The Canes are outmatched again here, especially when you factor in Kessel.
The Flyers’ winger group got a big boost last year from shifting Claude Giroux to the wing. He responded with a career, season, putting up 34 goals and 102 points. Jakub Voracek had yet another stellar season in Philly, with 20 goals and 85 points.
Wayne Simmonds is always a good top-six guy and power-play guy, and is coming off his fifth-straight 20-plus goal season. The Flyers also bring back James van Riemsdyk, who is coming off a 36-goal output for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is the best group of top-six wingers in the division, and probably one of the best in the league.
Michael Raffl, Dale Weise, Jordan Weal and Oskar Lindblom round out the bottom six.
Philly’s bottom six is unimpressive, but the Canes can’t compete with that kind of fire power up top.
Artemi Panarin may not be in Columbus much longer, but for now, he remains one of the best wingers in the division and is coming off a 27-goal, 82-point first season as a Jacket. Cam Atkinson missed 17 games last year, but still had 46 points in 65 games. Oliver Bjorkstrand hit the 40-point mark in his first full season, and will look to build on that.
After that, the drop-off is steep, with Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson all failing to hit the 40-point mark and looking for bounce-back years. Sonny Milano had 22 points in 55 games and will be in the mix, and Anthony Duclair is an interesting reclamation project.
The Canes don’t have a Panarin (yet, unless Svechnikov has a stellar rookie year), but it’s at least closer here.
Edge: Columbus, narrowly
In case anyone needs a refresher, Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy after a 39-goal, 93-point season in which he pretty much dragged the Devils into the playoffs. Kyle Palmieri has been good as a Devil, and had 24 goals and 44 points in 44 games last year. Marcus Johansson spent most of the season injured and will look to recapture his Capitals form if he can stay healthy.
After that? No Devils winger beyond Hall and Palmieri hit 40 points, and Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Blake Coleman and Curtis Gabriel round out the group.
The Canes don’t have a Taylor Hall (again, not yet anyway), but have much better depth on the wing than New Jersey.
New York Islanders: The Islanders may be pencil thin down the middle sans John Tavares, but they do still have some good wingers. Josh Bailey (71) and Anders Lee (62) both had strong seasons, but it will be interesting to see what they do without Tavares. Ditto for Jordan Eberle, who had 25 goals and 59 points in his first season in Brooklyn. At least two of those will get to play with Matt Barzal, so their production shouldn’t suffer too much.
Brock Nelson failed to hit the 20-goal mark (he had 19) for the first time in four seasons. The Andrew Ladd signing has been a disaster for the Isles, and is not likely to look better with age. The Islanders reacquired Matt Martin, and will round out the group with him, Cal Clutterbuck and Ross Johnston, because grit.
It’s easy to say the Islanders have an edge at the top based on raw numbers, but at least one of those wingers’ production will suffer with Tavares gone.
Mats Zuccarello leads the way here (for now), with 16 goals and 53 points last season. Pavel Buchnevich will look to build on his 43-point output as a rookie. Chris Kreider missed 24 games due to a blood clot, but still hit 37 points in 58 games. The Rangers signed Matt Beleskey, coming off a rough stint in Boston, as a free agent.
Jimmy Vesey had 28 points and will need to show more in his third season, and Jesper Fast will be in the mix as well. It’ll be interesting to see if Ryan Spooner, acquired from Boston last year in the Rick Nash deal, plays center or wing. With the Rangers in a rebuild, there will likely also be a number of young players fighting for spots.
Overall, I think the Canes have a better group here, especially if Zykov and Svechnikov are up to snuff.
Final verdict: The Metro has some darn good wingers. Every team except the New York teams has a top-tier option, and the Flyers, Penguins and Capitals have some of the best groups in the league. The Canes will need Svechnikov and Zykov to be productive as rookies to stack up well at this position, and even if they do, they probably can’t match those top three, but should be able to push ahead of Columbus, New Jersey and both New York squads.