Goalies and defensemen have gotten their due. The centers and right wingers have had their day in the sun. Now all that remains to close out our look at the best the Metropolitan Division has to offer is the guys lining up on the left. And away we go...
Honorable mention: Andre Burakovsky, Nick Foligno
10. Carl Hagelin
Last year's rank: N/A
Hagelin's 2015-16 was really a tale of two seasons, and it was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. Luckily for him, the worst came first, as he struggled to find a place in the Ducks lineup from the start and managed just four goals and 12 points in his 43 games with Anaheim. That led to a trade to Pittsburgh, where the best came into play, as his game and his new team's were both given new life. And it certainly didn't hurt that he got to skate alongside "third-line" winger Phil Kessel. Hagelin has never been known for his offensive prowess, yet finished the season on pace to almost double his career-high in points, accumulating 27 points in the season's final 37 games, and 16 more in the playoffs as part of a dominant third-line trio that propelled the Pens to a Cup.
9. Scott Hartnell
Last year's rank: 6
|2015-16 (Blue Jackets)||79||23||26||49||-11||112||13||10||1||150||15.3|
Amid the big personality and the penchant for falling down, it's almost easy to forget just how consistently productive Hartnell has been over the course of his 15 seasons in the NHL. Only once in the last 10 (full) seasons has he fallen short of 20 goals or 40 points (and those weren't in the same season), regardless of what team he's played on or what role he's taken on. Even with a playing style that could easily be described as - well, let's go with "feisty" - he's managed to mostly avoid long-term injuries, particularly over the last decade. To maintain that level of production, and health, at the age of 33 is impressive.
8. Marcus Johansson
Last year's rank: 10
Over the course of his six seasons in the NHL, Johansson has proved himself to be a pretty vital player for the Caps, providing secondary scoring at a pretty decent rate of just over a point every two games. He's also become a key piece of an already dominant power play, and has turned out to be surprisingly adept at setting a screen in front of goalies and picking up loose change - part of the secret to his six power-play goals last year, third on the team behind Alex Ovechkin (19) and T.J. Oshie (11). In fact, the 50 power-play points he's accumulated in the last three seasons trail only Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin, and John Carlson among all Caps over that span.
7. Chris Kreider
Last year's rank: 5
In his short time in the NHL, Kreider has established himself as a consistent, sometimes flashy scorer who is capable of putting up about a point every other game... and of being a pain in the rear to goalies everywhere. Despite getting off to a slow start last year (one that saw him score just six goals through the first half of the season), he finished strong to have his second-consecutive 20+ goal and 40+ point season. He's not always a consistent player, perhaps to the frustration of Ranger fans, but with his speed and size he's always a threat to make something happen.
6. Rick Nash
Last year's rank: 2
Speaking of frustration for Ranger fans... Nash has had some good moments and flashes of brilliance since moving to New York, and he did set a new career high in goals with 42 just two seasons ago, but has struggled to maintain his consistency. Last year it seemed like he was on the right track before a leg injury forced him out of the lineup for 20 games, and it took him awhile to get his rhythm back (although he did put up four points in the Rangers' five-game series against the Penguins). Still, through all of his ups and downs he's managed to produce offense at the highly respectable rate of .75 points per game as a Ranger, just a shade under his career pace, and continues to be a thoroughly dangerous power forward when all is said and done.
5. Jeff Skinner
Last year's rank: 4
Last fall we posited that "if [Skinner] can stay relatively healthy again this year, there's no reason to think he can't get back into the 20-30 goal range where he's been most of his career." Well, he did, and he was, rebounding big time from an off-year in 2014-15 to not only play a full 82-game slate but pot 28 goals to lead his team - with almost all of his offense (44 of his 51 points) scored at even strength. On top of that, he's added some defensive prowess to his game, becoming better at shot suppression and becoming more of an all-around player for the 'Canes. At only 23 years old, that's a great sign for a Carolina team moving in a new direction.
4. Andrew Ladd
Last year's rank: N/A
Ladd spent the better part of last season, the final year of his contract, as the subject of trade rumors before ultimately being dealt back to the Blackhawks at the deadline. Despite the potential distractions, he still managed to do what he's done for the better part of the last decade, finishing the year with 20-30 goals and anywhere from 40 to 60 points (in this case, 25 and 46, respectively). Good thing, too, because that consistent success translated into a big seven-year deal with the Islanders. It's a bit of a gamble considering Ladd will be 31 in December, but he doesn't seem to be slowing down just yet.
3. Brandon Saad
Last year's rank: 3
|2015-16 (Blue Jackets)||78||31||22||53||1||14||25||6||7||233||13.3|
Saad's surprise trade to Columbus last year was supposed to be the kickstart that the middling Blue Jackets needed to move into being contenders. Well... that didn't exactly happen, but based on the season Saad had, it's certainly not on his shoulders. In fact, he went out and had his best offensive season of his young career, reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time and sharing the team scoring lead with Cam Atkinson. Saad is only 23, part of an extremely young group of Blue Jackets, and should the rest of his team turn things around he could be in line for much bigger and better things ahead.
2. Taylor Hall
Last year's rank: N/A
If Saad's trade was a shock last summer, it was nothing compared to the stunning move that sent Hall - one of the many top picks being horded by the Oilers - to the Devils a few months ago. He'll have his work cut out for him, going to last year's lowest-scoring team and a squad whose average age is closer to 30 than 25, but there's a reason that they brought him in and there's no doubt that he's got the skills to make it work. Hall has struggled in his young career with injuries, having missed the equivalent of almost a full season over his six seasons, but when he's been healthy he's produced almost a point per game, racking up 328 points in 381 games overall.
1. Alex Ovechkin
Last year's rank: 1
It's pretty amazing to think that Alex Ovechkin is about to start his 12th season in the NHL. It's gone by fast, and yet so many of his most incredible accomplishments are easy to recall - and they continued last year, as he helped propel his team to the top spot in the League with yet another prolific season of highlight-reel goals and milestones aplenty. He picked up his seventh 50-goal season, one of just three players in NHL history to achieve that. He led the League in total goals, power-play goals, and even-strength goals - just the second time in his career in which he's been the League leader on the power play and at even strength.
Last season he became the greatest Russian goal-scorer of all time, passing Sergei Fedorov with #484; a few months later he became the 43rd player to ever hit 500 goals. Now he sits just 34 points shy of 1000 in his career, and is on pace to be not only one of just five active players to hit that milestone but one of the 30 youngest in NHL history to do so.
In short, he has been and remains one of the greatest to play the game. Enjoy it.