1) Evegny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
The 25 year old from Chelyabink, Russia enters his fourth full season with the Washington Capitals after an offseason that started after the Capitals once again lost to the Penguins in the second round. Following rumors that Kuznetsov was seriously considering signing in the KHL in order to play for Team Russian in the upcoming 2018 Olympics, he signed an eight-year, $62.4 million dollar contract with the Capitals.
On a team with some of the best players in the league, from Alex Ovechkin to Nicklas Backstrom to Braden Holtby, the Capitals fate rests with Kuznetsov more than anyone else on the team. While Backstrom will be centering the Capitals first line, with wingers T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov will be starting the season on what might be the most skilled line in the division, centering Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana.
In last season’s campaign, which saw Kuznetsov take on an increased role with the Capitals, he put up 59 points, parlaying chemistry with fellow countryman Ovechkin into points. With a less than pleasing offseason for the team and their fans, the expectations for the Capitals have never been lower, allowing players like Kuznetsov to fly under the radar. Additionally, with Backstrom drawing opponents top pairings in most games, the Kuznetsov line will have a chance to rack up opportunities to win games and that’s why Evgeny Kuznetsov is the player to watch this year in the Metropolitan Division.