Editorials

Picking our Metropolitan Division All-Star Teams

With the National Hockey League (and the entire sports world) on hiatus, people are coming up with tons of different ways to keep people involved in the sports world. One way that we are doing it here at Drive4Five is by surveying our staff on what their All-Star teams would look like by division. For this week’s All-Star Survey, we take a look at how everyone’s Metropolitan Division teams look like. Before getting into the teams, two rules were set in stone, one being that it had to be a full 12-6-2 roster, and the other being that each team in the division had to have at least one representative. So, here are everyone’s Metropolitan Division All-Star teams.

Defenseman Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets represented the Metropolitan Division in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game

David:

Alex Ovechkin – Sidney Crosby – Artemi Panarin
Sebastian Aho – Evgeni Malkin – Mathew Barzal
Sean Couturier – Nicklas Backstrom – Mika Zibanejad
Teuvo Teravainen – Claude Giroux – Travis Konecny
John Carlson – Kris Letang
Jaccob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Carter Hart
MacKenzie Blackwood

“This was a very difficult choice. I wanted to put Igor Shestyorkin on my team because I truly believe he is the future, but MacKenzie Blackwood fulfills the Devils requirement and has had an unbelievable year behind a bad team. I wanted to include more Flyers, a surprisingly elite team in terms of talent, so I considered Ivan Provorov and Jake Vorachek. Evgeni Kuznetzov and Andrei Schvenikov also got some consideration, as did top-shutdown defenseman Adam Pelech. All in all, I am happy with my team and feel confident I chose most of the top Metropolitan Division stars.”

Matt:

Ovechkin – Zibanejad – Panarin
Chris Kreider – Aho – Bryan Rust
Konecny – Barzal – Andrei Svechnikov
Jakub Vrana – Malkin – Jakub Voracek
Werenski – Carlson
Slavin – Tony DeAngelo
Ivan Provorov – Ryan Pulock
Hart
Blackwood

“Three honorable mentions I have are Sean Couturier, Adam Fox, and Elvis Merzlikins. Couturier is having another strong two-way campaign for the Flyers. His yearly goal total isn’t on pace with previous seasons, but his strong playmaking and two-way ability are still there. He is likely to break his career-high in assists, and he is top-twenty in the league in plus-minus. It was a tough decision to make between him and Malkin for the final center spot. The Rangers were going to have a representative on defense, but it was a close decision between Fox and DeAngelo for a roster spot. In this case, I sacrifice some defense prowess for offensive skill on the defense. Both are talented young defensemen, but DeAngelo has had a stronger offensive campaign. Fox still deserves credit for his development. At the young age of 24 and in his first year in the league right out of college, he has shown that the Rangers have another young star on defense. When Joonas Korpisalo got hurt in December, things were looking bleak for the streaking Blue Jackets. Merzlikins, the 25-year-old never started an NHL game going into this season. Expectations were low, but Elvis turned into a brick wall. He has a sub-2.50 goals-against average and over a .920 save percentage to pair with five shutouts. His performance was historic, and he kept the Jackets in the playoff race. With Korpisalo back in the fold, the Jackets may boast the best young goalie rotation in the league that no team should take lightly.”

Will:

Ovechkin – Crosby – Giroux
Panarin – Malkin – Aho
Kreider – Zibanejad – Cam Atkinson
Kyle Palmieri – Backstrom – Konecny
Slavin – Carlson
DeAngelo – Pulock
Fox – Jones
Hart
Henrik Lundqvist

“My honorable mentions include some really talented players that unfortunately couldn’t fit on the roster. Sean Couturier is one of the most underrated players in the division and has been a fantastic top-six, two way forward for the Flyers. He is their best center when Giroux is on the wing. Evgeny Kuznetsov is part of the other one-two center punch in the division and almost replaced Nick Backstrom as Alex Ovechkin’s center after over a decade. He is the future down the middle for the Caps, although Backstrom will be around for a while. Zach Werenski is part of the Blue Jackets’ top pair and has become an anchor next to Seth Jones. His abilities in all three zones combined with fantastic skating and a great shot make him one of the best rising stars in the division. Dougie Hamilton was having the best season of his career before suffering a broken leg before the trade deadline. Now on his third team, Hamilton came over from Calgary in the Elias Lindholm trade and has made it look good for Carolina. His offensive abilities make him a power-play threat while his strength makes him formidable in his own zone. MacKenzie Blackwood is the only reason the Devils don’t average four-plus goals against per game. His work in goal has been overshadowed by his team’s deficiencies and he has stepped into the starting role as the best player on the team. Blackwood is still young and makes goaltending the one thing New Jersey doesn’t have to worry about in its rebuild.”

New Jersey Devils forwards Nico Hischier (13) and Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrate after the Devils scored a goal versus the Edmonton Oilers in Sweden. Both were mentioned as members of Metropolitan Division All-Star Teams

Shawn:

Giroux – Crosby – Ovechkin
Panarin – Malkin – Aho
Barzal – Kuznetsov – Zibanejad
Nico Hischier – Couturier – Jake Guentzel
Jones – Carlson
Werenski – Letang
Hamilton – Slavin
Braden Holtby
Hart

“For my honorable mentions, I included two forwards, one defenseman, and one goaltender. First, I selected TJ Oshie as he has been a key offensive contributor for a very strong Washington team for years on end. He has excellent hands in front of the net, a laser of a wrist shot, and excellent vision that allows him and his linemates to be offensively productive on one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. Bryan Rust is an underrated player who has really found his game this season when playing with Evgeni Malkin. Rust has turned from a solid depth player to a top-line player and his stat line proves that. He also is involved in scoring a lot of clutch goals, like the two goals in Game 7 against Tampa Bay in a 2-1 win in the 2016 ECF. On defense, I included the Islanders’ own Ryan Pulock. Known best for his lethal slapshot, Pulock is one of the best offensive defensemen in the division as he also has excellent ice vision and is the root of lots of offensive opportunities. He also has become solid as a rock on the defensive side under Barry Trotz and has proven himself as a top-pairing defenseman on all areas of the ice. Even though this may seem out there, I included Ilya Samsonov as an honorable mention between the pipes. He has been miles better than Holtby this year, as Holtby is probably leaving Washington in free agency. Samsonov has emerged as an excellent goaltender in his inaugural season with some key wins against top teams and all-star level numbers.”

Scott:

Ovechkin – Crosby – Panarin
Aho – Zibanejad – Barzal
Giroux – Malkin – Svechnikov
Teravainen – Couturier – Konecny
Werenski – Jones
Slavin – Hamilton
Carlson – Provorov
Hart
Blackwood

“This wasn’t too hard for me at the top. The top line features arguably three of the ten most talented players in the league, including the best goal scorer and best player of our generation. The top four defensemen are paired with their teammates, and that is not by coincidence. My honorable mentions for the Metropolitan Division All-Star Team included a trio of Capitals in Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo, Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, Blue Jackets forwards Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois, Islanders forwards Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and defenseman Ryan Pulock, and Devils forwards Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier. I found my biggest debates to be for the last forward spot, mainly between Teravainen, Backstrom, Guentzel, Hischier, Palmieri, and Dubois. I ended up choosing Teravainen due to his strong presence on one of the best lines in hockey and his ability to both pass and score like a top-tier NHLer. Provorov was my final choice on defense due to his ability to move the puck all the way down the ice and for his ability to finish the majority of offensive rushes that the Flyers open up for him.”

Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho (20) celebrates with linemate Teuvo Teravainen (86) after scoring a goal against the Edmonton Oilers

Lexi:

Ovechkin – Crosby – Panarin
Aho – Barzal – Oshie
Giroux – Zibanejad – Palmieri
Anthony Beauvillier – Backstrom – Atkinson
Letang – Carlson
Jones – Hamilton
Slavin – Werenski
Hart
Matt Murray

“My honorable mentions include players ranging from decade-long veterans to rookies. Before the NHL season paused, Andrei Svechnikov was definitely having a breakout-type season and was slowly becoming a known name in the Metropolitan Division. He presents skill and speed when thrown on the ice. For being only 20 and on almost a point-per-game pace, I believe that he could definitely mature into a player to watch out for.  The Blue Jackets were not projected to be a contender this season, but because of Elvis Merzlikins, he gave them a chance. Many were excited to see how his success would transfer from his Swiss team into the NHL. Once Merzlikins gains more experience and becomes comfortable with the game, he is definitely capable of standing out. P.K. Subban deserves more recognition. Points definitely don’t define a player, he is always playing his role. He maintains a strong presence in the defensive zone and has contributed offensively as well. Subban makes it look easy when he is denying entries into his zone. No Islanders fan is going to forget what Jordan Eberle did for his team during the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. Eberle is always looking for an open slot or someone ready to receive the puck. He generates plays but can also get a decent shot off. Jacob Trouba plays shut-down defense when needed the most. Trouba knows how to properly make use of his frame to shut down anyone coming his way. Jakob Voracek’s play was lacking at the beginning of the paused season but he hit a turning point in his play. After Thanksgiving, he began to average a point per game. His veteran presence and knowledge of the game could definitely benefit any team. Evgeni Malkin was averaging a point-per-game this season before the shutdown. Many believe this is a bounce-back season for Malkin because of his struggles in 2018-19. His size definitely benefits the Penguins in the offensive zone. Evgeny Kuznetsov was seen on a line with Alex Ovechkin in early March and became a pass-first player, but he still logs ice time and scores goals on the Capitals’ first power-play unit.”

Aidan:

Panarin – Malkin – Ovechkin
Guentzel – Crosby – Barzal
Giroux – Couturier – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Svechnikov – Zibanejad – Teravainen
Pulock – Pelech
Hamilton – Slavin
Fox – Provorov
Shestyorkin
Blackwood

“As elaborated upon in my most recent article, the key to constructing a successful team is not to fill it with offensive superstars. Rather, as evidenced by the 2018-19 New York Islanders, the key is to create an identity to which the players can buy-in. In creating this team, I ensured that my main focus would be to build around a plethora of two-way players, whom I defined as players who are above replacement-level both offensively and defensively according to Expected Goals Above Replacement. I made three exceptions, however, understanding that there are situational aspects of hockey for which one must account, such as the power play or the penalty kill, during which either offense or defense is prioritized. I included offensive stars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin despite their lackluster defensive play – both have been below replacement-level defensive players for the majority of their respective careers according to Expected Even-Strength Defense Goals Above Replacement per 60 Minutes (xEVD/60). Similarly, I included a shut-down defenseman, Adam Pelech to pair with his regular defensive partner, Ryan Pulock, against opposing top offensive lines. During the 2018-19 season, Pelech’s last full one, he ranked first in xEVD/60 out of all Metropolitan Division defensemen who played at least 700 minutes during the season. It may seem illogical that John Carlson was left off the team, but there was no room for a defenseman who has been below replacement-level on the defensive end in each of the last four seasons. Similarly, Sebastian Aho lost his spot on the team because he has been below replacement-level defensively during every season of his career, while every player on the third and fourth lines has proven to be above-replacement level both offensively and defensively, and every player on the second line has been spectacular defensively for at least one season. In terms of goaltending, I locked in MacKenzie Blackwood as my back-up goaltender to include a New Jersey Devil. For my starter, I debated between Igor Shestyorkin and Semyon Varlamov, but I ultimately selected Shestyorkin because, as a rookie, he has been the best goalie in the Metropolitan Division this season in terms of Goals Above Replacement per 60 Minutes (GAR/60).”
All stats are courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Rangers players Mika Zibanejad (93), Artemi Panarin (10), and Tony DeAngelo (77) celebrate after DeAngelo’s third goal of the game versus the New Jersey Devils.

Max:

Panarin – Crosby – Ovechkin
Zibanejad – Malkin – Barzal
Konecny – Giroux – Aho
Anders Lee – Kuznetsov – Kreider
Jones – Carlson
Letang – Subban
Slavin – Hamilton
Holtby
Murray

“For my honorable mentions for the Metropolitan Division All-Star Team, I decided to pick one forward, one defender and one goalie. Two of the three honorable mentions happen to be Islanders. At forward, I picked Anders Lee. Lee has shown that he could score 40 goals, doing it two seasons ago. He’s a great leader and I’m excited to see what he will do on the island for years to come. On defense, I picked Ryan Pulock. Pulock is a strong defender with a booming slap shot. As he continues to grow, he could grow into the Islanders’ true top defenseman. Finally, at goalie, I picked Carter Hart. Hart is a young goalie with plenty of potential and he has shown he can start in the NHL as the Flyers starter the past two years. As he gets older, he will become one of the strongest goalies in the NHL.”

Jared:

Ovechkin – Crosby – Giroux
Panarin – Malkin – Barzal
Aho – Kuznetsov – Svechnikov
Voracek – Backstrom – Zibanejad
Carlson – Jones
Subban – Pulock
Hamilton – Letang
Merzlikins
Hart

“The top line is arguably three of the best players in the NHL at this time. However, it became difficult to create the rest of the lineup. Teuvo Teravainen of the Carolina Hurricanes, Cam Atkinson and Alexander Texier of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders, and Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils all honorable mentions whose skills are elusive and are integral parts of their team. As we move to the back end, it got difficult. PK Subban is a fantastic defenseman and deserves to be on this list, however, he is on there because he is a New Jersey Devil and that was needed in the lineup. The honorable mentions for defense are Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes. In net, Elvis Merzlikins is just electric. Whenever he is in net, the Blue Jackets rally around him and he is one of the reasons they are performing so well this season after losing their best assets. The same can be said for Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers. The young netminders are nothing less than outstanding in net. Their age and skill are admired by lots of players and goaltenders across the league. The honorable mentions for goalies are MacKenzie Blackwood of the New Jersey Devils and Igor Shestyorkin of the New York Rangers.”

Thank you to all of our writers for participating in this week’s Metropolitan Division All-Star article! Come back next week for our Atlantic Division All-Star teams!

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