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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Top 10 in Metropolitan Division

NHL.com writers make selections to highlight NHL Network weekly countdown

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL Network will air the second episode of "Top 50 NHL Players Right Now," a five-part series, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. ET. New episodes will air each Sunday through Sept. 30. 

Before the network unveils 10 players on its list in each episode, an NHL.com writer will reveal his or her top players in one of the four divisions the previous Friday. Today, NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti ranks his top 10 players in the Metropolitan Division.

 

[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers]

 

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Though Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid may have moved slightly ahead of him in the debate over who is the NHL's best player, Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, remains the top player in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins' run of winning back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (with Crosby winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs each time) appeared to catch up with them last season, but the 31-year-old center played in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his 13-season NHL career and his 89 points last season (29 goals, 60 assists) equaled his total from 2016-17, when he led the NHL with 44 goals.

Video: Sidney Crosby is named No. 2 on the list

 

2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Some thought Ovechkin's days as an elite goal scorer were over when he dipped to 33 goals in 2016-17, but he rebounded to lead the NHL for the seventh time with 49 last season. The Capitals forward, who will turn 33 on Sept. 17, took his game to another level in the playoffs, when he scored an NHL-high 15 goals, and played the best two-way hockey of his career to help Washington win the Cup for the first time in its 43-season history.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm5: Ovi draws penalty, sets record with PPG

 

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin has combined with Crosby the past 12 seasons to give Pittsburgh a 1-2 punch at center few teams can match. The 32-year-old ranked fourth in the NHL last season with 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists), his most since he led the League with 109 (50 goals, 59 assists) in 2011-12. He played in 78 games, his most since he played in 82 in 2008-09. He topped 40 goals for the third time in the NHL and surpassed 30 for the sixth time.

Video: PIT@PHI, Gm4: Crosby ties club record on Malkin's PPG

 

4. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils 

Hall was the driving force last season that carried New Jersey to its first playoff berth since 2011-12 and became the first Devils player to win the Hart Trophy as League MVP. The 26-year-old forward established NHL career highs with 39 goals, 54 assists, 93 points, a plus-14 rating, 37 power-play points and a shooting percentage of 14.0. He also equaled his NHL career highs with 13 power-play goals and seven game-winning goals. Hall had a personal 26-game point streak with 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) from Jan. 2-March 6, a New Jersey record. He set a Devils record with a 19-game point streak during that span, with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists), from Jan. 30-March 6.

Video: NJD@TBL, Gm1: Hall lights the lamp in playoff debut

 

5. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

After a down 2016-17 season when he had 58 points (14 goals, 44 assists), Giroux shifted from center to left wing in 2017-18 and rebounded with a career season and finished fourth in the Hart Trophy voting. The 30-year-old set NHL career highs with 34 goals, 68 assists, 102 points (second in the League behind McDavid's 108), a plus-28 rating, 17.6 shooting percentage and 58.6 face-off winning percentage. 

Video: Claude Giroux comes in at No. 7 on the list

 
6. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets 

A two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goaltender, Bobrovsky wasn't as consistent last season, but went 37-22-6 with a 2.42 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and five shutouts. Bobrovsky, who turns 30 on Sept, 20, has won at least 30 games in four of the past five seasons.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm5: Bobrovsky denies Ovechkin's one-timer

 

7. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets

Jones, who turns 24 on Oct. 3, continued his emergence as one of the NHL's best defensemen in his fifth season. He had NHL career highs last season in goals (16), assists (41), points (57), power-play goals (seven), power-play points (24), game-winning goals (four), shots on goal (249) and rating (plus 10), and averaged 24:36 of ice time to lead the Blue Jackets.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Jones buries PPG to tie the game late

 

8. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals

Kuznetsov's breakout 2017-18 season, when he had NHL career-highs with 27 goals and 83 points, carried into the playoffs. The 26-year-old center scored in overtime in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round in Pittsburgh to put Washington in the conference final for the first time since 1998, and led the NHL in playoff scoring with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists).

Video: Reviewing Evgeny Kuznetsov's playoff performance

 

9. Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets 

After being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks last summer, Panarin proved to be the dynamic offensive player the Blue Jackets needed and set a Columbus record with an NHL career-high 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists). The 26-year-old left wing has 233 points (88 goals, 145 assists) in 243 games over his first three seasons, seventh most in the NHL over that span.

Video: WSH@CBJ, Gm3: Panarin finishes off give-and-go

 

10. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

The 30-year-old center's 799 points (209 goals, 590 assists) since entering the League in 2007-08 are fifth most in the NHL and his 590 assists are second most behind Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin's 600. Backstrom's two-way play continues to be underrated; he has never finished higher than seventh in the voting for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive player and cracked the top 10 only twice (seventh in 2016-17 and 10th in 2009-10).

Video: Niklas Backstrom is named No. 14 on the list

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