Returning for the fourth and final installment of the Next in Line mini-series, I’m thrilled to present to you the Metropolitan Division!
If you’re interested in hearing how the past few editions of the series have gone, I welcome you to reference back to any of the previous divisional articles here:
By now, almost every team in the NHL has completed one, if not several transactions with their minor-league teams. Many of those transactions have included players who we would consider to be fantasy relevant, and have therefore been subject to the scope of this series. With the near-literal angle that the series was focused on, we’ve seen some hits, and a few misses, but all-in-all, I think there have been some valuable lessons learned.
As I have in the last two segments of the series, prior to beginning our discussion of teams in the Metro Division, I thought it would be valuable to review my choices from the Central and how they’ve fared.
*Tampa Bay, Toronto and Montreal were featured in the second edition of this mini-series (October 28), however, at the time that the last article (November 9) was written, they had not yet made any recalls.
Using some color coding, I’ve indicated the accuracy of my predictions. So… again, there’s a lot of red up there. Making exact predictions in this case can prove difficult simply because many of the transactional decisions that are made at an NHL level involves several working and unpredictable factors including team health and roles required. Because of this flaw, I’ve begun planning a revised scope so that I can follow up on this mini-series later in the year. So more on that after we cover the fourth and final division: the Metro.
Week 4: The Metropolitan Division
The Washington Capitals have been one of the league's hottest teams to kick off the year, featuring the league's indisputable hottest blueliner. They’d be much happier to keep their roster in a stalemate, however, that’s against the grain of this article. Washington’s farm club in Hershey, PA, hasn’t had quite the same level of success as the Caps have to this point, but what they’ve certainly had going for them is the emergence of two rookie defensemen playing key roles – the more prominent of whom is 20-year-old Martin Fehervary.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Slovak’s first year in North America has thus far offered a relatively impressive amount of offense. Typically regarded as a defensively poised and offensively lackluster blueliner, Fehervary has kept that side of his game intact while debuting with the Bears while also contributing regularly and deservingly to the team’s offense. A 2019 NHL debut for the rookie would be ahead of schedule by most accounts; however, from what we’ve seen at this point, it shouldn’t be ruled out.
New York Islanders – Sebastian Aho
It’s been over a year since Aho last served time in the NHL, and while another potential recallee in Oliver Wahlstrom certainly holds the higher ceiling of the pair, it seems like it still might be a little early for the Islanders to be putting the rookie forward into a questionable position at the NHL level. Aho’s consistency in the American League should be considered a worthy penance for another opportunity in the NHL, should a position become available.
There was some anticipation prior to the acquisition of Jake Gardiner that McKeown would be the de facto successor to the available position in the Canes’ bottom-four. The 23-year-old continues to be one of the Checkers’ more consistent 200-foot players from the back end, playing heavy TOI and chipping in offensively as well. While his point ceiling is a little dull, McKeown could quickly become a valuable rotisserie-style fantasy asset once in the NHL. The role seems imminent, given the defensemen’s evident refusal to go cold, and from an asset management perspective, it’s in Carolina’s best interest to open the door to McKeown sooner rather than later.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Sam Miletic
It’s tough to put this nicely, but… the Penguins don’t have a lot of players to choose from when it comes to considering which fantasy-relevant prospects might be the next to see time in the NHL. Those who have historically tended to move the dial on fantasy radars have stumbled out of the gate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leaving little to choose from. The lone standout in this category seems to be 22-year-old Sam Miletic. The Penguins’ forward prospect was nabbed by the organization as an OHL graduate and NHL free agent after his slightly pedestrian major junior career split between the London Knights and the Niagara IceDogs. The high amount of effort displayed by Miletic on a nightly basis could be enough to earn him an opportunity in the NHL; however, his ceiling will likely be limited by an inaptitude for playing a skilled game at NHL speeds.
Philadelphia Flyers – Mikhail Vorobyev
Early on in the year, the Flyers have made a testament to their young and developing players that positive play and results will be quickly rewarded with opportunity. The success that the team has seen from some of these players could make it tempting for them to push the envelope on the trend even further. With Nolan Patrick remaining on the LTIR, the team’s exposure at forward is high. Vorobyov’s three-point night this week versus Charlotte certainly can’t hurt his cause either.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Andrew Peeke
For a team that is already considered to have one of the strongest blulines in the NHL, the emergence of Peeke at the professional stage is a spoil of the excellent USHL scouting by the Blue Jackets. While it’s an excellent sign to see Peeke having early success with the Cleveland Monsters, his playing style will require a thorough review at the NHL level prior to the team considering his selection a bonafide success.
New York Rangers – Joey Keane
The spoils of the Rangers’ most recent headline transactions may be the foundation of what puts the team back in playoff contention in the coming years, but it may just as likely be players like Keane who are the ones to make a difference for the team night in and night out. The Hartford Wolfpack rookie has been one of the American League’s most impressive defensemen to begin the year, owning a lion’s share of the team’s offense and boasting a level of confidence that seems to be swelling by the day. His consistency as a green blueliner straight out of the CHL is quite rare, and something the Rangers may look to capitalize on, should they see a need for a shuffle on their already young NHL blueline.
New Jersey Devils – Brett Seney
It’s hard to imagine that the struggling New Jersey Devils don’t consider some kind of internal shuffle in an effort to spark their offense in a last-ditch effort. The team who was expected to have new offense from every angle of the ice this fall has come up extremely short, only to see the same phenomenon plaguing their farm club in Binghamton. Fortunately, however, the baby Devils have been privy to the services of a red-hot 23-year-old in Seney. The small, skilled forward has been a bright spot for the AHL squad through the first seven weeks of the season, and could be a valuable addition in New Jersey to provide a jolt before it’s too late.
With the conclusion of this series, I’m hoping to hear some feedback from readers. Looking back on how the content was presented and arranged, I’m quite happy with the pace of each piece, however, in hindsight, I might have presented the scope a little differently. Not immediately but later in the year, look for a revised approach on the Next-in-line mini-series, where I plan on introducing the scope a little differently. In particular, I plan on making the series less about literal predictions, and more about evaluating the probabilities of the next player to make the full-time transition to the NHL.
If you’ve been following along for the entire series, I want to extend my sincere gratitude, and once again, welcome any and all feedback on the content. – find me on Twitter @olaf1393