Since before the Pandemic season and shift in division, there’s been a changing of the guard in the Metropolitan Division. For a while it was dominated mostly by the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, teams that combined to win three straight Stanley Cup championships from 2016-2018. Now, it’s a division that has been dominated by the Carolina Hurricanes, who have won three straight division titles, going back to 2020-21 before realignment after the pandemic.
The Hurricanes got a run for their money last season from the New Jersey Devils, who went from 63 points in 2021-22 to 112 points in 2022-23. New Jersey is expected to challenge Carolina for the Metro title this season after coming within two points of winning last campaign. The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins should also be in the mix. Below we’re going to go over the odds to win the Metro on DraftKings Sportsbook and make some predictions for this season.
2023-24 NHL predictions: Metropolitan Division
Metro Division odds
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
The Blue Jackets aren’t going to be nearly as bad as these odds suggest. Dare I say Columbus could contend for a Wild Card spot. With that said, the Jackets winning the division is still farfetched. The sudden coaching change from Mike Babcock to Pascal Vincent before the season doesn’t help. What will help Columbus is Adam Fantilli. The Michigan product was the team’s top draft pick in 2023 and he should evolve into the top-line center. Between Fantilli, Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson, the Blue Jackets have a few solid young pieces to put around Boone Jenner, Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. If nothing else the Jackets should be more exciting offensively. Plus, the defense is much deeper.
Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson were brought in and each should provide a steady presence on the blue line. Zach Werenski hasn’t played a full season since 2018-19 due to injuries and the pandemic. If Werenski can stay healthy, he’ll be the X-Factor for the Blue Jackets. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins has seen his numbers fall since his rookie season in 2019-20. That has more to do with Columbus not being a very good hockey team. This roster should play better in front of Merzlikins. Again, it wouldn’t shock me of the Jackets made the playoffs. Winning the division? That would.
The Flyers, to be honest, should have the worst odds to win the division. Philly had a bottom-3 offense, the worst power play in the NHL and 26th-ranked penalty kill last season. The Flyers may have the worst defense in the League and are still figuring out where some young forwards fit in. Unless Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Owen Tippett and Noah Cates all take a big step forward, this team should be underwhelming again.
I’d also put Columbus ahead of Washington. The only thing holding the Capitals up is determination, mostly led by Alex Ovechkin. But this roster is OLD. I don’t mean that to be disparaging to aging hockey players but there are going to be nights the Capitals get skated out of the building by teams like the Devils and Hurricanes. It happened last season. Washington has 10 players on its roster over the age of 30 and none of its young forwards are key contributors. Rasmus Sandin was acquired from the Leafs last season and is 23 years old. He could be the future on the blue line. But that’s about it. The Capitals will win games through competitiveness and grit but it should be difficult to compete in the East.
As much as I hate to say it, I’d lean the Islanders over the Penguins in terms of odds. New York is built to win, at least in the regular season. It all starts with Vezina contender Ilya Sorokin. Having Sorokin and good defensive structure should keep the Islanders in more games. Adding Bo Horvat helps down the middle but there’s still a gross lack of speed and offensive talent on the wing. The Isles are deep if you wanna call it that and will grind out wins. At +1500, it’s not a bad line but one that I’d wait and see on. The Isles came close to winning the division back in 2018-19. Other than that, this franchise hasn’t won a division title since the ‘80s.
Which brings us to the Penguins, who are like the Caps in terms of an aging roster but it’s much, much more talented. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are all in the twilights of their careers but are motivated to try and win another Cup before it’s all over. Pittsburgh added Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson via trade with the Sharks. The Pens had been lacking on the blue line behind Letang for some time now. Reilly Smith is also an underrated addition and the forward group will be pretty deep once Jake Guentzel returns from injury. The Penguins have the type of veteran team that just needs to get into the postseason. With that said, Pittsburgh could be more focused on that than winning a division title. Plus, the Pens will also struggle with New Jersey and Carolina.
The Rangers feel a bit in No Man’s Land heading into this season. The roster is riddled with talent but that also wasn’t enough to get by the Devils in the first round last year. Plus, New York blew a lead over New Jersey in the regular season and finished in third place. Peter Laviolette was brought in to replace Gerard Gallant as head coach. Lavy has been here before and has won but this roster is also aging and lacks skill outside of Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox. Really, the only path to New York finishing first in the Metro is Igor Shesterkin standing on his head all season and Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko reaching their potentials. I don’t really see it happening. The Rangers can make the playoffs but it’ll be tougher this time around.
Which brings us to the Hurricanes and Devils. It would be very surprising if this isn’t the two top teams in the Metro. Last season, the Devils came within a game of beating out Carolina for first place. The Hurricanes are just super deep, super steady and play relentless hockey. We saw it in the second round vs. the Devils. All Carolina did was add more depth with Michael Bunting and Dmitry Orlov. The ‘Canes have great leadership, will play solid defensively and really wear the other team out. Plus, you’ve got forwards like Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, whom all have potential to grow. The ‘Canes also won the division last season with injuries at goalie all season and no Andrei Svechnikov late in the season.
And finally we get to the Devils. Admittedly I’m bias, but there’s no denying this team has the potential to win the Presidents’ Trophy. New Jersey made that astronomic leap from 63 points to nearly winning the division last season. There’s also no turnover on the roster. The Devils added veteran forward Tyler Toffoli to help the power play, which was mid-range last season. Jack Hughes’ brother Luke should be a mainstay on the blue line and we could even see Simon Nemec, a top pick a few season ago, on the Opening Night roster.
Akira Schmid took over in net during the playoffs last season for starter Vitek Vanecek. Schmid is now the full-time backup, which should be an upgrade over the 22 games of Mackenzie Blackwood. Damon Severson and Ryan Graves are out but Collin Miller was brought in, plus Luke Hughes and Nemec could develop into top-end defensemen. Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt signed long-term contracts. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier could become one of the top 1-2 punches down the middle in the NHL. The Devils should have a player competing for every major award this season, including D Dougie Hamilton and the Norris. The Devils are a jump into the top-5 on the PP away from blowing past the rest of the NHL.
Again, some bias here, but I think the Devils are just too good. It will still be tight between New Jersey and Carolina at the top. I could see the Islanders and Penguins also competing early on for the lead in the division. Ultimately I think the Devils go on a run and leave the rest of the teams behind at some point. New Jersey’s 13-game winning streak early in the season really carried it the rest of the way. More wins and consistency throughout the season would have helped the Devils win the division last season. I think if the Devils reach their potential with Luke Hughes, Nemec, Schmid and on the power play, this team wins the Metro.