Wingers: 6-10

6 – Brad Marchand

The progression of this player over the past five years has been astounding. Marchand has gone from being a really good top-six option you can pencil in for 25-30 goals to a complete 200-foot forward that can play in every situation and gives you 30-40 goals. In today’s NHL, that puts you right at the top of the pack. The 29-year-old is fifth in the league in goals over the last two seasons behind Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

7 – Artemi Panarin

One of the bigger storylines around the league is the curiosity about what Panarin will look like in Columbus, away from Kane, Anisimov, Toews, and all the great options Panarin has been able to ride shotgun to in two seasons in Chicago. Panarin put up 151 points in 162 games over that span before being traded to the Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a draft pick. His numbers have been pretty consistent since coming into the league regardless of who he’s skated with, so I wouldn’t expect too big a drop-off.

8 – Blake Wheeler

The promise he showed in flashes while he was in Boston has come to fruition in Winnipeg. Wheeler, who has played 697 of a possible 704 games going back to the start of the 2008-09 season (his rookie season), has emerged as a force in the few seasons. He followed up a career-high 78 points in 2015-16 with 74 last season. The 31-year-old is one of the top two-way forwards in the league.

9 – Phil Kessel

Just a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game. The thing I always say about Devils forward Taylor Hall is once he’s on a great team you’ll see how good a player he is. That was true with Kessel, who suffered through six seasons in Toronto after forcing his way out of Boston in 2009. In two seasons since being dealt to Pittsburgh, the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups (first team to do so since 1997-98 Red Wings, in case you didn’t hear), and Kessel has played an integral role on both those title teams. He was the best player on the HBK line with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs before riding shotgun to 2017 SCP leading scorer Evgeni Malkin a year later. The 29-year-old has played 610 straight games, not missing a game since October 2009.

10 – Taylor Hall

Unfortunately Hall has been stuck on bad teams throughout his seven-year career, so he’s never had a chance to truly showcase how good a player he is. The lack of success in Edmonton – and last season, New Jersey – has come despite Hall’s production. The one problem with Hall has been his ability to stay on the ice. Only once has he played 82 games in a season, and he’s 87 games during his seven seasons in the league.

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Metro Division: Facts, Figures, Predictions

*The Flyers are one of just seven teams to not have a Calder Trophy winner.

*The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Only Edmonton, who lost to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final, its most recent postseason appearance, has a longer drought.

*The Capitals are one of just four franchises that were in business prior to the 1979 WHA merger that have no Stanley Cup to its name. The others: Buffalo, St. Louis, Vancouver.

*Philadelphia has the second-highest all-time point percentage (.577) trailing only Montreal (.589). Columbus is the lowest, at .467. The Flyers have the second-most playoff appearances (38) among non-Original Six franchises. The Blues take the cake in that category, with 40.

*The Islanders recorded back-to-back 100-point campaigns the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 1980-81, 1981-82; the meat of the Al Arbour era in which the halls (or the LIE) were decked with Stanley Cups.

*John Tavares sits in just 12th place on the Isles all-time scoring list at 471 points, but he can do some serious damage over the next couple seasons. If he matches the 156-point output over the last two seasons (which he should do easily), Tavares will move into the top five on the Islanders scoring list. He’s within 200 of fourth place, a perch held by Clark Gilles, who put up 663 from 1975-86.

*Top three active players in points per game: Sidney Crosby (1.327), Evgeni Malkin (1.18), and Alex Ovechkin (1.151). Nicklas Backstrom is seventh, scoring at a rate of 0.985 in 652 career games going back to 2007.

*Crosby ranks fifth on the all-time list; behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr.

*Assists per game: Crosby (0.849), Backstrom (0.732), and Malkin (0.722).

*At an average age of 27.2, the Capitals were tied with the 2006-07 Sabres for the third-youngest team to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

*Taylor Hall has posted more than 65 points just once (80, 2014), has played more than 65 games just twice. Thirty goals remains on the bucket list. Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade Jari Kurri.

*Ovechkin’s 525 goals since 2005-06 lead the NHL. But you knew that. The next closest? That would be Jarome Iginla, with 361. 361!!

*Here’s something you didn’t expect: Of the ten 52-goal seasons assembled in that time, Ovechkin accounts for just four. Remember that time Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals? Yeah didn’t think so.

Predictions

1- Washington: Best team in the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom.

2- Pittsburgh: No team has repeated since the 1998 Red Wings. Hearing the Penguins really, really want to be that first team to defend a title since then.

3- Rangers: Jeff Gorton acquires Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade deadline deal.

4- Philadelphia: Warning to college campuses – NHL executives are going to begin raiding your hockey programs.

5- Islanders: Lots of questions marks on the Island.

6- Carolina: Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make the playoffs.

7- Columbus: Ditto the Jackets. Zach Werenski wins the Calder Trophy.

8- New Jersey: Not a bad team, just victims of a killer division.