The Metro Division has been very good for a long time. Three of the last four Stanley Cup winners came from the Metro Division, and before that, the New York Rangers knocked on destiny’s door in an unsuccessful attempt. The division has also become an oligarchy of star power as the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals have dominated with aging, but potent rosters. And now a young crop of defensemen including the Penguins John Marino have arrived, too.
It may not be fair the next crop of young defensemen in the division is centered with divisional powers, the Penguins, Capitals, and New York, too. John Marino, Adam Fox, who has burst into the NHL after a three-year tour at Harvard, and Noah Dobson leads the Metro top-six crew.
The Pittsburgh Penguins found a gem with Marino. Scout Kevin Stevens has begun to prove his hockey eyes with recent spots like Marino and Drew O’Connor. GM Jim Rutherford scooped Marino for a conditional sixth-round pick from Edmonton. Think about that–a conditional pick for a defenseman who barged into the Penguins top-four and supplanted Justin Schultz, a $5.5 million defenseman.
The 22-year-old rookie upended the Penguins expected blue line rotation, and his training camp performance was enough for Rutherford to deal one of the Penguins defensemen. It was nearly Jack Johnson, but eventually, the Penguins shipped thumper Erik Gudbranson to Anaheim for a minor league depth.
Marino’s smooth-skating, quick puck movement, and a bit of muscle in the battle areas have made him one of the top rookies in the league and an expected mainstay on the Penguins blue line for a long time. One thing Marino has which the new crop of defenseman lacks is size. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 pounds, John Marino is more competitive against bigger NHL forwards.
If there was a Metro Rookie of the Year, Fox might be it. He is one of the leading defenseman scorers (15th) and is third among rookie defensemen. Fox has 42 points (8g, 34a) in 70 games, and just as important is a +22. New York has surged to the cusp of the Eastern Conference wild-card spot, and to a +12 goal differential, which makes Fox’s goal margin even more impressive.
The slick defenseman was a standout for Team USA at the 2017 and the 2018 World Junior Championships and even played for Team USA in the 2019 World Championships before he played his first NHL game.
The Calgary Flames drafted Fox in 2016, but Calgary traded his rights with Dougie Hamilton to Carolina in 2018. However, Fox informed Carolina he would not sign, and his rights were traded last April to New York for a 2019 second-round pick and a conditional pick which has become Carolina’s 2020 second-round pick because Fox played more than 30 games this season.
Fox, 22, is a puck wizard. His playmaking ability and skills on the top of the power play will make him a New York mainstay.
The Swiss defenseman barged past Christian Djoos on the Washington depth chart. Pittsburgh Penguins fans may consider him similar to Marcus Pettersson. Siegenthaler is not a thumper and keeps his game simple. Quick, smooth puck movements keep the game going, and the puck on his talented forward’s sticks. He is positionally sound and reliable but lacks a shot that can break glass.
Siegenthaler, 22, has nine points (2g, 7a) in 64 games this season. For a cap-strapped top-end team, he is the right kind of steady third pair defenseman.
The 24-year-old Russian is playing his first NHL season. Penguins fans are forgiven for not noticing Gavrikov, or even knowing his name. He’s played in three games against the Penguins this season but has only two shots.
The big Russian defenseman has some snarl in his game. At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, Gavrikov knows how to leverage his frame in tight spaces. He’s not a prolific hitter but does have 79 hits in 69 games, with 18 points (5g, 13a), too.
Columbus boss John Tortorella has doled more ice time as the season has progressed.
Myers is the next young defenseman to emerge in Philadelphia, though he won’t achieve the status of Shayne Ghostisbhere or Ivan Provorov. Myers is a quiet, steady defender with an all-round game. At 6-3, 210-pounds, Myers is a bit skinny, but he has a booming shot from the point. While the other Philadelphia young defensemen were more offensively inclined, Myers will make a name for himself as a defender.
Philadelphia snagged Myers as an undrafted free agent in 2015, while he still played in the QMJHL. Scouts believed he would have been a high pick in the 2016 Draft if he didn’t sign.
The New York Islanders selected Dobson with the 18th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The NYI flag bearer arrived in the NHL this season. Dobson will be a player to watch next season (whenever that is) because he can skate–really skate. He’s got hockey IQ and vision to go with his skates, too. There is some question if he’ll be a great defender, but if he can tap into his offensive potential, perhaps only callers to sports talk radio and message board posters will be upset.
In 34 games this season, Dobson scored his first NHL goal and has seven assists. Expect a lot more next year.