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State of the Division: Breaking down the Metro’s wingers

The Metropolitan division is chock full of superstar wingers, but how does each team’s depth compare to the Hurricanes?

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes are returning home to the Metropolitan Division for the 2021-22 season after winning the Central Division title last year.

The return to the division is also the return of a lot of old faces, but still a lot of new ones as well.

From top-heavy groups with generational talents to more balanced teams with unproven youths, the winger depth for many Metro teams runs the gambit, but how does it compare to the Carolina Hurricanes’ wings?

Let’s look at the wingers in the rest of the Metropolitan division:

Columbus Blue Jackets

CBJ

LW RW
LW RW
Patrik Laine Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist Jakub Voracek
Alexandre Texier Emil Bemstrom
Eric Robinson Yegor Chinakov
Projected Columbus Blue Jackets Winger Depth

Columbus is projected — by most parties — to finish last in the Metropolitan Division and a big part of that is the lack of clear superior talent in all three positions.

However the biggest issue in their forward group is down the middle, with the wings actually not being too bad.

They have an elite sniper in Patrik Laine, but he has seen steady regression in the last two seasons and without a clear number one center to work with, there’s a big question mark in regards to if he will be able to reach his earlier heights.

While Laine gets a lot of attention, the name that should be noted is Oliver Bjorkstrand’s. The Danish winger is a criminally underrated player who is strong on and off the puck and it’s safe to call him Columbus’ best forward.

Past those two, Columbus’ middle six is composed of two 32-year-olds in Gustav Nyquist, who missed all of last season but is normally a consistent goal scorer, and Jakub Voracek, who has been a 50-60 point player for many seasons now. However, both will nonetheless be battling the age curve.

The rest of the middle-six is composed of younger players like Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom and Eric Robinson who have not been able to take the next step in their developments yet.

The group will more than likely be rounded out by a prospect, such as Yegor Chinakov, who could see himself moving around the lineup.


New Jersey Devils

NJ

LW RW
LW RW
Janne Kuokkanen Yegor Sharangovich
Pavel Zacha Jesper Bratt
Miles Wood Tomas Tatar
Andreas Johnsson Marian Studenick
Projected New Jersey Devils Winger Depth

The Devils are still another year or two from really competing, but if their young players continue to make strides, they could quickly become a really good team.

It’s still up in the air whether or not some of these players can be consistent impact players but the potential is there.

Every winger in their top-nine managed to reach 25+ points last season and while there hasn’t been any player who has emerged as a true number one winger yet, the consistency bodes well for a team looking for balanced offense.

Jesper Bratt, Janne Kuokkanen and Yegor Sharangovich are all only 23 with so much more room to develop, Miles Wood has shown a consistent scoring touch and Tomas Tatar has been one of the most consistent 5v5 producers the last few seasons.

While Andreas Johnsson has not panned out nearly as well for New Jersey, they have a wealth of young prospects who can see playing time throughout the lineup this year.


New York Islanders

NYI

LW RW
LW RW
Anders Lee Kyle Palmieri
Anthony Beauvillier Josh Bailey
Zach Parise Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin Cal Clutterbuck
Projected New York Islanders Winger Depth

Probably the team with the best depth down the lineup in the Metro — outside the Hurricanes — the Isles have put together a strong forward group full of veteran presence but supplemented with key young contributors.

While their biggest offensive strength is their center group, their wingers bring so much to the table.

Losing Jordan Eberle to Seattle hurts their offense, but the addition of Kyle Palmieri should help to ease that pain and the veteran winger should see a bounce-back year alongside a talent like Mathew Barzal and the return of Anders Lee to full health certainly won’t hurt either.

Josh Bailey continues to produce as a strong playmaking wing and Anthony Beauvillier has gotten consistently better and could see a big year for himself.

While Zach Parise is far from what he once was, he can still chip in offensively, and depth scoring is all he needs to provide. And if Wahlstrom continues on a positive development trend, it will just keep making the Islanders better at winning the matchup battles.

Then there is the Isles’ identity line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck whose job is to get pucks in deep and make opponents’ lives hell. The line has had great defensive metrics and finds itself on the scoresheet more often than one might think, so it’s always one to keep in mind.


New York Rangers

NYR

LW RW
LW RW
Artemi Panarin Kaapo Kakko
Chris Kreider Vitali Kravtsov
Alexis Lafreniere Samuel Blais
Barclay Goodrow Ryan Reaves
Projected New York Rangers Winger Depth

It was a surprising offseason for the Rangers in terms of the direction they decided to go with their forward group.

They traded away an all-around top liner in Pavel Buchnevich for a much worse player in Sammy Blais and the only other forwards they brought in were bottom sixers.

The Rangers bottom six had largely been ineffective the last few seasons, so the addition of Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow will make them harder to play against in terms of physicality, but New York will be banking heavily on their youngsters to carry a large part of the burden.

Alex Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov will all have a lot riding on them with having to carry the middle-six scoring and the need for one of them to fill in the top line vacancy all while worrying if there will be more growing pains ahead.

The only dependable veteran wingers the Blueshirts will have to carry the offensive load will be Chris Kreider — who should be able to provide another 20 goal season — and Artemi Panarin, who will probably be one of the league’s leading scorers again, so a pretty good duo.


Philadelphia Flyers

PHI

LW RW
LW RW
Claude Giroux Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee Cam Atkinson
James van Riemsdyk Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Oscar Lindblom Wade Allison
Projected Philadelphia Flyers Winger Depth

The Flyers are one of the most unpredictable forces in the NHL. One second they look like a top-five team and the next they look like they should be picking first overall. As such, it’s really hard to predict what they will be this year, but their winger depth does give them a lot of potential hope.

The top line features two players who should have bounce-back seasons as both Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny are high-end talents who can do better than last season showed.

Joel Farabee is the name to watch for though as the Flyers showed that they were very high on him, handing out a large contract after just one 20-goal season.

Cam Atkinson was one of the best players in Columbus, being an excellent play driver and scorer and, as such, should do very well for himself in Philadelphia

The Flyer group also has some quality middle-six pieces in Nicolas Aube-Kubel — a defensive specialist — and Oscar Lindblom — an offensive play driver.

James van Riemsdyk is the biggest question mark for the winger group as he can be a 25+-goal player or a 10-15 goal player at this age. There is no telling where he will go this year.

The group would also be rounded out most likely by a prospect who impresses in training camp.


Pittsburgh Penguins

PIT

LW RW
LW RW
Jake Guentzel Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese Brock McGinn
Projected Pittsburgh Penguins Winger Depth

The Penguins are racing against time to capitalize on the last little bits of impactful hockey Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have left and the evidence of consistent high finishes has left them lacking young, prospering talent.

While the talent down the middle is obvious, the Penguins are also lacking a lot more on the sides.

Jake Guentzel is the one exception to that as he’s truly a top-end scoring talent, capable of scoring 30+ goals as well as racking up just as many assists.

And while there are questions of whether or not Bryan Rust would be as successful playing without Crosby or Malkin, the fact is that he is a 40-50 point player who provides the team with a lot of offense.

The bigger question marks are with Kasperi Kapanen, who has had good flashes while wearing the black and yellow sweater but not enough consistently, and Jason Zucker, who, on the other hand, has not looked at place in Pittsburgh at all.

If those two can’t get it going for the Penguins, then the team could be in serious trouble as the talent really drops past those players.

Danton Heinen was good in Boston, but has really fallen off since, and Evan Rodrigues hasn’t shown much outside of two seasons of 20+ assists in Buffalo a few years back.

Then you have Zach Aston-Reese and Brock McGinn who are simply defensive specialists without much else.


Washington Capitals

WSH

LW RW
LW RW
Alexander Ovechkin Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha TJ Oshie
Conor Sheary Daniel Sprong
Carl Hagelin Garnet Hathaway
Projected Washington Capitals Winger Depth

When your team employs the greatest pure goal scorer in hockey history, you’re going to do pretty well for yourself and the Capitals still probably have another year or two left in their competitive window because of it.

Alex Ovechkin is still capable of pumping out 30-plus goal seasons — which will probably be the case for another few years — and that goes a long way for a team.

And regardless of the fact that he is one of the most controversial players in the game, Tom Wilson is still a very effective scorer who can hurt a team in multiple ways on the ice (so long as he doesn’t get suspended for half a season).

T.J. Oshie is probably the biggest question mark for the Capitals as the winger is rapidly approaching 35 years of age. Oshie has been a consistent 20 and 20 player, but his age could see a decline in play, however the addition of Anthony Mantha will probably make up for any dip in production.

Washington has also found good depth with quality scoring coming from both Conor Sheary and Daniel Sprong and having two defensive and penalty kill specialists in Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin.