Projecting 2023-24 Metropolitan Division Standings

The New Jersey Devils celebrates a first period goal by Jack Hughes #86 against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on May 09, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New Jersey Devils celebrates a first period goal by Jack Hughes #86 against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on May 09, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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With most of the offseason moves completed by the New Jersey Devils and their division foes post NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy, let’s assess where this team lies when compared to the rest of the Metropolitan Division. There could be a shift in the standings going into the start of the new season. Given the nature of the Devils’ schedule, there will be some favorable and tougher matchups, but that mix of teams in the division will keep this team battle-tested.

After all the recent NHL Drafts and past and present additions and extensions, the New Jersey Devils have plenty of top skill, talent, grit, and depth with youth and veteran presence to make it through a really tough 82-game season. Going into this projection, there will be a bit more reasoning in why certain teams might be lower or higher.

1) Carolina Hurricanes 

This is a very similar slightly amended Hurricanes group from the one that eliminated the Devils last season. This older more seasoned group of Devils players is very familiar with Carolina’s defense and goaltending. The Devils will need to play Michael Bunting more carefully because he does the dirty little redirects that lead to sneaky goals. The worst enemies for Carolina to dip from their perch would be injuries to key players or guys like Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta could have a bit below average seasons that could hold them back.

2) New Jersey Devils

With a full season of Timo Meier, Tyler Toffoli added into the mixture and the addition of Travis Green as Associate Coach on the Devils offense, this will look like a very different team than the one that started opening night last season. The Green strategy could be just what Tom Fitzgerald is looking for in establishing less passing and shooting more mid and high-danger areas. The smoother the power play transitions and passes will bring that “Bombs Away” mentality. A lot of teams will regret not having enough grit, speed, talent, and skill to go along with the Devils high endurance levels, going from a 60-minute game.

Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes likely make the team together at some point during the season while Kevin Bahl goes to step in Ryan Graves’ spot. Lindy Ruff and his staff have so many high-quality tools in that toolbox, and it will be interesting to see how he can properly adjust them going into a deep grind of a season.

3) New York Rangers

Despite the Rangers getting a bit more aged, they still pose a threat with elite-level shooters on their wings and Adam Fox on the blue line. It is only a matter of time before Father Time catches up to their veterans like a newly-signed Blake Wheeler and even Artemi Panarin and Nick Bonino. Can Igor Shesterkin get enough goal support and defensive effort to try and keep the Rangers in a playoff spot or will someone on the other side of New York in Long Island take over? This is a question along with backup Jonathan Quick being able to perform better than Jaroslav Halak.

4) New York Islanders

Old man Lou Lamoriello and that defensive system over on Long Island will most certainly benefit from a long-extended Ilya Sorokin and being backed up by fellow Russian netminder in Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders are truly a strong and physical team on their backend that can shut down opponents in that end but can also collapse opponents more upfront in transition. Can Bo Horvat and a few other Islanders step up again in the clutch and clinch another Wild Card spot? That is a question for Lou Lamoriello to try and make a few acquisitions to try and catch the Rangers off balance. The Islanders’ forward core is very much the same and not anywhere as old as Pittsburgh or Washington’s.

5) Washington Capitals

This group will try and remain as competitive as possible for as long as Alexander Ovechkin is playing. He wants to shatter Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goals record. Players from the 2023 NHL Draft like Ryan Leonard might not be in the lineup right away, but they have guys like Hendrix LaPierre, Ivan Miroshnichenko, and Connor McMichael that could be ready sooner rather than later. These prospects are all on entry-level contracts that might not all be ready to be injected to the big club just yet but could make a difference. The goaltending isn’t all that much to write home about since the departures of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek last season, but Darcy Kuemper is still a household name.

6) Pittsburgh Penguins

Like the Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins on offense and defense are older than 30 years on average, according to Cap Friendly. Goaltending will be an issue going between Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith, and Alex Nedeljkovic. That can be hit or miss depending on their matchups. Pittsburgh does have a bit of size and a former Devil in Ryan Graves playing with Jan Rutta, Kris Letang, and Jeff Petry can really rip the puck on net. The biggest concerns for the Penguins will be the health of Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin for another 82 games.

Next. Miller and Toffoli Help Devils Growth. dark

7) Columbus Blue Jackets

From what Columbus has on their blueline potentially by just adding David Jiricek out of camp and seeing what he does for his first nine games could show that he might be ready for the NHL. He will now take on the power play and add a physical presence too.

Speaking of physical and young, Adam Fantilli was the world’s best consolation prize for Columbus not winning Connor Bedard. He makes this team very tough team to play against down the road. The Blue Jackets in net are led by Latvian netminder Elvis Merzlikins. He has a lot of offensive support in front of him. On the defense, there isn’t much of a stay-at-home presence that raises a lot of questions. This will be another Draft Lottery season from what the current group has.

8) Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia pieced together a strange roster outside of Carter Hart. He’s the true number-one goalie on the roster. They hope Cal Petersen digs them out of a goalie depth rut. The Flyers have had issues with trying to trade guys like Travis Sanheim and Tony DeAngelo. As of now, we should expect them to be on the team.

Philadelphia doesn’t really bring a scary threat on defense other than their offensive prowess, but it is a wait-and-see approach with what Danny Briere can do as GM for the Flyers. The Flyers have a good amount of depth on offense, however, players like Tyson Forrester and Bobby Brink can come up and add an offensive punch.

The Philadelphia Flyers made the surprise of the draft when they took Matvei Michkov. However, we expect it to be at least three years until he is allowed on North American ice.

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Conclusion

If the New Jersey Devils go on to have another banner year and make it to the Conference Final with the Tom Fitzgerald “Fitz Magic,” Devils fans will call his player additions and team-friendly extensions the catalyst for this run. This man needs to be GM of the Year the way he turned a team from Draft Lottery to hell raisers in the playoffs. Stockpiling draft picks and parlaying a few into deals that have become guys like Timo Meier and moving Sharangovich plus a 3rd rounder for Toffoli are all trade trees that keep on giving like dividends being reinvested.

The top five teams in the Metropolitan Division will certainly be interesting as candidates for the playoffs. This Metropolitan Division is the “Division of Death” because if your team doesn’t put up a good showing during the regular season, your team could be put to rest early before the season truly finishes.

Having the blend of youth, veterans, prospects, and liquid assets to help improve your team in the near term will be very important going forward this season before the trade deadline.