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NHL Division Preview: Metropolitan Division Preview
Team Most Likely to Win: New York Rangers, +225
The New York Rangers won the Metropolitan division last season by the largest margin of any team in the league – 12 points – and took home the President’s Trophy for team with the best record in the league. The Rangers offseason was not very exciting, generally a good thing for a team as talented as the Rangers. With 8 players scoring 15 goals or more last year, the Rangers have superb offensive balance. Of course most fans and analysts would argue the strength of the Rangers lies between the pipes. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist – who was limited to only 46 games in 2015 – has been one of the top players in the league over the last half decade and a major reason for the Rangers success over that span. At +225, the Rangers are not biggest division favour of all-time, but a great option with a larger payout than many others.
Team Most Likely to Challenge for the Division Title: Pittsburgh Penguins, +350
If there is a likely favourite to lead the league in goals scored this year, it is the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the Penguins picked up Phil Kessel this offseason, they added another potential 35 goal scorer to a team already stacked with three. Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz, along with Kessel, are all capable of scoring 70 points apiece, something few if any teams can boast. The defense is lacking depth, the biggest thing holding them back in 2016. Still their goaltender Marc Andre Fleury – a 2015 All-Star – gives them a reliable veteran able to keep them in games when the offense stalls. The Penguins' team is filled with veterans who know the importance of home-ice adavantage in the playoffs and at +350, the Penguins are a good pick to pull everything together and claim their second Metropolitan title in three years.
Biggest Sleeper Team to Win the Division: New York Islanders, +450
The Islander made a big leap forward in 2015, finishing second in the Metropolitan division and finishing with the franchise's highest point total in over 30 years. John Tavares made the necessary improvements in his game to become of the NHL’s most elite players and a serious MVP candidate in 2016. Tavares, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome – to just name a few – are all 25 years of age or younger and improving each subsequent season. With as much youth as the Islanders have the team is situated to be a highly competitive franchise over the next half decade at least. As this season starts, the team seemingly does not have enough talent on the blue line or in the crease to be the favourite to win the division, but should the team remain in the divisional hunt come the end of February, a swing move to land an elite defenseman or an upgrade at goaltender could very well be enough to give the Islanders’ their first division title since 1988. With the continual improvement of their youthful team, the Islanders are not an unreasonable bet at +450 for any bettor looking for a modest sleeper.
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