Fantasy Fresh Starts: Metropolitan Division

Fantasy hockey season is just around the corner and many leagues are gearing up to draft their teams. With all the changes that inevitably happen in the offseason, fantasy values can change from season to season. Trades, free agent signings, and new teammates throw a wrench into any draft strategy.

Related: 2019-20 NHL Fantasy Guide

So, who do you pick? The fantasy team here at THW has got you covered! Throughout September we will be looking at each division’s key additions and the fantasy impact they could have on their new team. Hopefully, this will make it easier to choose players on draft day. Last on our list, the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina Hurricanes

After taking the hockey world by storm (pun intended), the Carolina Hurricanes spent this offseason bolstering their forward lines and making plenty of trades. On top of bringing in a few new skaters, the team also found a veteran goaltender, James Reimer, to back up Petr Mrazek.

Ryan Dzingel (F, LW, RW)

Ryan Dzingel took a huge step forward with the Ottawa Senators last season, scoring 22 goals and a career-high 44 points in 57 games before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. There, he scored just 13 points in 30 regular and postseason games. With the Hurricanes, the 27-year-old will get consistent top-six minutes, likely on a line with Jordan Staal and Nino Niederreiter. Expect this season’s scoring numbers to look more like they did in Ottawa than Columbus.

Columbus Blue Jackets Ryan Dzingel
Can Ryan Dzingel ignite the Hurricanes’ offense this season? (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Erik Haula (F, C, LW)

The Hurricanes picked up another veteran winger in Erik Haula with the Vegas Golden Knights looking to dump salary. After a career-high 55 points during the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, the Finn appeared in just 15 games during the 2018-19 campaign before a lower-body injury ended his season. Haula should be healthy to start this season but it’s hard to gauge the impact he’ll have with his new team. He should be worth a late-round flier.

Jake Gardiner (D)

After months of playing the waiting game, Jake Gardiner finally found a new home with the Hurricanes. The 29-year-old blueliner is coming off a 30-point campaign (his lowest total since 2015-16) with just five power-play points (lowest since 2012-13) in 62 contests. He should have a similar role with the Hurricanes, skating in a top-four role with a spot on the top power-play unit. Should he stay healthy, expect a strong bounce-back season with an increase in shots for Gardiner.

Columbus Blue Jackets

After going all-in during last year’s trade deadline, the Blue Jackets’ roster was obliterated this offseason, losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Sergei Bobrovsky, and others to free agency. Even with plenty of cap space to replace them, Columbus couldn’t replace most of that production. Still a work in progress, the Blue Jackets will look to some younger players to pick up some slack.

Gustav Nyquist (F, LW, RW)

The one big free agent signing to land in Columbus was winger Gustav Nyquist. He reached the 60-point mark last season for the first time, scoring 49 with the Detroit Red Wings before he was dealt to the San Jose Sharks. The 30-year-old winger should get a spot on the top forward line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson to start out. With that group, Nyquist has a shot at hitting that 60-point mark again.

San Jose Sharks Gustav Nyquist
Gustav Nyquist will play a big role in the Blue Jackets’ depleted forward group (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Emil Bemstrom (F, C)

With Columbus losing so many players to free agency and not bringing many back in, rookie Emil Bemstrom could have a big impact this season. He notched 23 goals and 35 points during his age-19 campaign in the Swedish Hockey League before collecting six points in five games during the 2019 U20 World Junior Championship. Bemstrom has much more value in dynasty leagues, but if he manages to crack the lineup out of training camp, he should be worth a speculative late-round pick in most formats.

New Jersey Devils

Another very busy team this offseason, the New Jersey Devils made plenty of noise just by drafting superstar prospect Jack Hughes with the top pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. They weren’t done there, though. The Devils made two huge trades as well as staying active on the free agent market, giving them a roster that might contend in 2019.

P.K. Subban (D)

Arguably the biggest trade acquisition this offseason was All-Star blueliner P.K. Subban. The Devils’ defense was a mess last season but the 30-year-old will improve that group tremendously. He’ll eat up minutes on the top pair and slot into the top power-play unit. Subban has appeared in over 70 games just once in the last four seasons; assuming he can stay healthy, he’ll easily bounce back from his career-low 31 points last season.

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban
Former Nashville Predator P.K. Subban (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Nikita Gusev (F, LW)

After flirting with the idea of playing in the NHL for years, Nikita Gusev is finally heading to North America. The 27-year-old winger has been crushing his KHL competition for years, topping things off with an 82-point campaign last season. The scoring should translate well to the Devils’ top-six and he’ll have a chance at some power-play time. Gusev could cross the 20-goal mark skating next to a generous distributor like Hughes or Nico Hischier.

Wayne Simmonds (F, RW)

While he may not be the offensive threat he was just a few seasons ago, Wayne Simmonds can still add value to the Devils and in the fantasy realm. The 31-year-old winger will skate in a middle-six role in an improved forward group in New Jersey which should give him an opportunity to surpass his 30-point total from 2018-19. Simmonds’ has much more value in leagues that count hits as he’s averaged over 140 over the last three campaigns.

New York Islanders

After a surprising 103-point season in 2018-19, the New York Islanders had a fairly quiet offseason, focusing primarily on retaining its core players such as Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson. The team also added some forward depth and replaced Vezina-contender Robin Lehner with free-agent signings.

Semyon Varlamov (G)

After a few up-and-down seasons to end his Colorado Avalanche tenure, Semyon Varlamov was brought in by the Islanders to patrol the crease with Thomas Greiss. He posted a 2.87 goals-against average and .909 save percentage during the 2018-19 campaign before watching the entirety of Colorado’s playoff run from the bench in favor of Philipp Grubauer. Varlamov can still provide some fantasy value if he retains the starting job over Greiss but he’s certainly a risky play this season.

Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov has big shoes to fill after Robin Lehner’s Vezina-worthy campaign (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/David Zalubowski)

Derick Brassard (F, C, LW)

The Islanders will be the fifth team that Derick Brassard has played for over the last three seasons and seventh in his NHL career. All the bouncing around between different franchises and positions in the lineup has caused inconsistency for the 31-year-old forward as he scored a career-low 23 points last season. He’ll likely start out in a bottom-six role with the Islanders that will severely limit his fantasy value. Brassard does chip in a decent amount of hits but it won’t be enough to make him relevant in standard leagues.

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers had one of the best offseasons of any team, landing prized free agent Artemi Panarin andstar prospect Kaapo Kakko as the second-overall pick. On top of that, they made a couple of splashy offseason trades to bolster the blue line.

Artemi Panarin (F, LW)

Maybe the biggest free agent of all this offseason, Artemi Panarin is looking to change the downward trend the Rangers have been on. As one of the game’s best wingers, he’s an elite fantasy asset and that won’t change this season. The 27-year-old racked up 55 goals and 169 points over the last two seasons with the Blue Jackets. Panarin will remain a top-line winger and a key power-play tool; look for him to score 30 goals for the first time since 2015-16.

Jacob Trouba (D)

Prior to last season’s monster 50-point campaign, Jacob Trouba had never scored 35 points in a single NHL season. Part of that is that he’s played 65 games or fewer in four of his six seasons, but when healthy, the 6-foot-3 blueliner is among the game’s best. He’ll be a minute-eater as a top-pair defenseman as well as quarterbacking the Rangers’ top power-play unit. Throw in his hitting and shot-blocking abilities and Trouba will be a serious fantasy asset assuming he stays on the ice.

Jacob Trouba Winnipeg Jets
Jacob Trouba will be the Rangers’ defensive leader in 2019 (James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Fox (D)

After a three-year career at Harvard and some drama before even touching the NHL ice, Adam Fox looks poised to finally reach the big leagues. The 5-foot-10 blueliner provides plenty of offensive upside and should have a role as a second-pair defenseman with limited power-play time this season. Obviously, Fox has high value in dynasty formats, but even in standard leagues, the 21-year-old should warrant a late-round pick.

Philadelphia Flyers

While the Philadelphia Flyers had a pretty strong draft, the team also quietly improved the current roster this offseason as well with a handful of trades. The team competed for a postseason spot last season before tailing out towards the end of the season. Entering the 2019-20 season, the Flyers should inch a bit closer to a playoff berth.

Kevin Hayes (F, C)

The Flyers acquiring Kevin Hayes from the Jets was one of the most interesting moves this offseason as he was a pending unrestricted free agent. After signing a long-term deal, the 27-year-old should be a big part of Philadelphia’s offense. He’ll have a top-six role after scoring a career-high 55 points with the Jets and Rangers last season. Hayes should score at a similar pace but don’t count on him to produce a whole lot on the power play.

Winnipeg Jets Kevin Hayes
Former Winnipeg Jets forward Kevin Hayes (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

Justin Braun (D)

Justin Braun will beef up the Flyers’ blue line this season but he’ll be far more impactful for the team than he will be for fantasy owners. He scored 33 points during the 2017-18 season sandwiched in between a pair of sub-20-point campaigns. Braun will log plenty of ice time and should rack up a fair amount of blocked shots and hits but he shouldn’t be expected to make much noise on offense.

Matt Niskanen (D)

Matt Niskanen has seen his point total steadily drop over the last three seasons, notching just 25 with the Washington Capitals last season. However, he laid down a career-high 167 hits while blocking 137 shots. After averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game over the last four seasons, the 32-year-old will likely be relegated to a smaller role with the Flyers. Niskanen will be a physical presence but won’t provide much in the offensive zone.

Pittsburgh Penguins

With very little cap space to work with, the Pittsburgh Penguins focused more on the trade market this offseason. A couple of important pieces during the team’s recent Stanley Cup runs, Phil Kessel and Olli Maatta, were shipped out to the Western Conference, bringing back some new forwards and prospect depth.

Alex Galchenyuk (F, C, LW)

Alex Galchenyuk has big shoes to fill in the Penguins top-six as he was the main piece coming back in the Phil Kessel trade with the Arizona Coyotes. After breaking out for 30 goals during the 205-16 campaign, the 25-year-old has missed the 20-goal mark for three straight seasons. Jumping on to a line alongside Evgeni Malkin should help turn things around. Galchenyuk should be a guarantee to top last season’s production but won’t replace all of Kessel’s impact.

Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk
How much of Phil Kessel’s production can Alex Galchenyuk replace? (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Brandon Tanev (F, LW, RW)

While Brandon Tanev’s contract may have been a bit puzzling, he will provide some value for the Penguins’ bottom-six. He tallied 14 goals and 29 points in a similar role with the Winnipeg Jets last season. However, Tanev will shine in leagues that count hits; he finished third in the NHL with 278 during the 2018-19 campaign. He’ll continue to grind and likely score around a dozen goals this season.

Dominik Kahun (F, LW, RW)

Acquired in a deal that sent Maatta to the Chicago Blackhawks, Dominik Kahun makes for a very intriguing forward in Pittsburgh this season. Realistically, he could see time on any of the four forward lines and, should he primarily skate with Malkin or Crosby, his value obviously increases dramatically. As a rookie last season, Kahun scored 13 goals and 27 points with most of his even-strength time coming alongside Jonathan Toews. He has a good chance at scoring at least 15 goals regardless of what line he ends up on, but the 24-year-old may not be too consistent if he slips to the bottom-six.

Washington Capitals

One year removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Capitals are still a major force in the Eastern Conference with stars like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The team didn’t make too much noise this offseason but instead opted for a few small moves to bolster their depth.

Richard Panik (F, LW, RW)

After breaking out for 22 goals with Chicago during the 2016-17 campaign, Richard Panik has scored 14 in each of the last two seasons. Suiting up in a strong Capitals’ lineup this season should give him a boost in the offensive end. The 28-year-old journeyman has also racked up over 130 hits in each of the last three seasons, giving him some added value.

Arizona Coyotes' Richard Panik New York Islanders Robin Lehner
Richard Panik will provide a nice boost to Washington’s bottom-six (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Radko Gudas (D)

Mostly known for his physical edge, Radko Gudas has gathered over 250 hits in three of the last four seasons. Unfortunately, he’s only scored 73 points in 290 games during that span. The 29-year-old defenseman will add another menacing presence to Washington’s lineup but he won’t provide much fantasy value.

Brendan Leipsic (F, LW, RW)

Joining his fourth team in the last three seasons, Brendan Leipsic is looking to add a spark to Washington’s bottom-six. The 25-year-old winger scored 23 points last season and 22 in 2017-18. A third straight 20-point performance should be attainable but shouldn’t garner much fantasy interest.